What Are You Chasing?

October 2, 2017

I have the privilege to speak to the students of Clarks Summit University in chapel, Tuesday, Sept 26. I challenged the students to chase after godliness with purpose from 1 Timothy 4:6-8. The message can be found here.

 

 

You will want to read the update by Dr. Mark McGinniss regarding the strategic changes to the Journal of Theology & Ministry that is published by Baptist Bible Seminary. Click here for the story.

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The annual Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics is upon us again this year. The topic will be Dispensationalism and the Glory of God. The Council begins Wednesday, Sept. 13 and runs through Thursday, Sept. 14. This is the tenth year for the event. Please click here for more information.

Now with Jesus

July 4, 2017

Today I wish to honor a friend, mentor, professor, and colleague. Dr. William Arp went home to be with his Savior on Sunday, July 2. I am selfishly saddened because I will no longer have the opportunity to learn from him. I joined the faculty of Baptist Bible Seminary, Clarks Summit University two years ago (June 2015) and have enjoyed learning from Bill. His knowledge of God’s word was not just taught to others in a Seminary classroom, but also lived as an example in front of others. I had the privilege to watch and learn, his office was beside mine – what a joy.

I also grew in God’s word as a member of his ABF (BYKOTA) at Heritage Baptist Church. His teaching was clear and practical; you learned the word of God in his class. I recall Dr. Mike Stallard’s (former BBS dean) comment regarding Bill’s handling of God’s word; that is, “Bill can exegete the Pauline Epistles like nobody’s business.” And Mike was right. The words clear expositional teaching and preaching continue to come to mind when I think of Bill Arp. Bill, you will be missed dearly. Thank you for your honesty, gracious and guiding spirit. I personally know God’s word and handle it better today because of you. God bless you and one day I’ll see you again. Praise the Lord. You can read more of his story here.

Each year at Easter I am challenged to consider what I could do to involve my family in a meaningful reflection of the risen Savior, Jesus Christ. This year I have chosen to use a day-to-day reading of Jesus’ last days as it is recorded in the Gospel of Mark. The readings go from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. It is a great way to meditate upon the resurrection throughout the week and provide a great family devotion time.

Please see the link here for the day-to-day reading.

I recently preached a Christmas sermon at NorthValley Baptist Church (Mayfield, PA) and used Luke 1:46-56 as my text. I began the message asking the congregation, “What’s worth celebrating to you?” As they sat there contemplating the question, I encouraged them to make a list. (before continuing to read this blog post, you, . . . yes you, create your list). I’m sure the majority of our lists include graduation ceremonies, weddings, birthdays, baptisms, salvations, one’s first job, accomplishments of our children, etc. But I wonder, would “God’s grace” make our list? Would we even stop and think about His grace as something to celebrate; is it even of the celebratory nature? To many, probably not.

But I want you to consider Luke’s recording of Mary’s Song of Praise. Luke interrupted the normal flow of his biblical narrative to engage the audience to join in the celebration of what God has done; and did so using Mary’s song of praise. This passage (1:46-56) follows closely on the heels of Luke’s recording of Gabriel’s announcement to Mary (1:26-38) and then Mary’s eager departure to visit Elizabeth (1:39-45). These two preceding portions of Luke’s story demonstrate the gracious hand of God; that is, Mary is with child, namely the Messiah, and Elizabeth, who is full of the Holy Spirit, discerns that Mary is blessed among women. Now, what does Mary do? Well, Darrell Bock in his commentary summarizes Mary’s response. He states, “Elizabeth’s blessing produces a reaction from Mary. She bursts into praise, offering a hymn of thanksgiving. The hymn gives thanks for God’s gracious dealings with her, actions that reflect how he has treated humanity through all generations,” (BEC, 142).

Mary declares that God is great and He is Savior (1:46-47). There are two reasons (ὅτι-clauses) for her praise. First, Mary praises God because of His loving care to use her to bear the child. She is privileged and graced by God. She also declares that “from now on, (ESV)” all generations will call her blessed. This is the cool part = ‘from now on,’ things will be different. Once Mary was touched by the gracious hand of God, things are and will be different. They are never the same! Amen!

Second, Mary praises God because He is holy; the mighty one (v. 49). God’s holiness is not an afterthought; rather it is an explanation of His sovereign authority as the ruler over his people. This description, ‘mighty one,’ refers to a warrior who fights on behalf of His people and delivers them.

Mary also declares that God is merciful and righteous (1:50-53). He is merciful because his mercy extends to those who fear Him; that is, those who acknowledge God’s rightful position and authority over them. His mercy (ἔλεος) is similar to the Hebrew term hesed – royal-covenant/faithful love. He is righteous because He extends His power and removes His enemies from His path. He exalts the humble and supplies need to the hungry.

Lastly, Mary praises God for His loyal love (1:54-55). It is God’s covenant mercy and remembrance of His promises to Abraham that Israel is and will be blessed. Bock states, “The point is that God’s action is motivated by his loyal love. He remembered mercy declaring that God’s actions grew out of his faithful regard for his covenant promises,” (BEC, 159). But it begins with Jesus, of whom Mary will deliver. She celebrates with an anthem of praise.

God’s act of salvation, isn’t this worth celebrating? What is your plan this Christmas season to do so? His act is rooted in grace and faithfulness, will you pause this Christmas season to praise the Lord for His faithfulness?

Diagram of Luke 1

When I come to this time of the year, the thanksgiving holiday, I’m reminded of Paul’s thanksgiving sections within his letters. In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul highlights their faith and endurance under extreme difficulty. He does not hesitate to boast to other churches that God is working in and through them. These prayers are a great example of how we as believers can also pray.

In 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12, he begins by stating his obligation  to pray for the Thessalonians. He saw his opportunity to pray as a personal responsibility before God on their behalf; a sense of proud boasting, if you will. Paul prayed for them because of the further development of their faith in God (cf. 1 Thess 1:3), the faith in God that produces action. He says that their faith grew abundantly and their love increased (2 Thess 1:3). As a result of this growth, Paul took the opportunity to boast to other churches. In fact, Paul’s motivation for boasting was the Thessalonians’ steadfastness and faith (v. 4), again, even amidst severe hostility. Mike Stallard in his commentary on the Thessalonian letters states,

Paul had noted this quality of the Thessalonians in his first epistle when he mentioned their ‘steadfastness of hope’ in Jesus (1 Thess 1:3). In the last chapter of the second epistle, the apostle prays that the Lord may direct their hearts into the ‘steadfastness‘ of Christ (3:5). This again shows the apostle’s constant teaching that there was always room for growth in the qualities that he acknowledged in the Thessalonians” (pp. 137-38).

I think the question that comes to my mind is, would Paul boast about my growth? I could also ask myself, what plan do I have in place this week for continued growth to occur?

Paul does not stop there. He continues in verses 5-10 to expand on the persecutions & afflictions. These terrible times were evidence of the righteous judgment of God (v. 5); that is, their suffering is a demonstration of the genuineness of their faith (their identity – cf. 1:1). They endured this suffering to be counted worthy of the kingdom of God. And, because God’s judgment is “just,” it’s “right;” it is right of him to repay those who trouble the Thessalonians. He will also give relief to the those who are being afflicted (vv. 6-7). One could say that a picture of this relief is the ‘slackening of a string on a bow.’ The relief He gives is when His Son is revealed and gives/hands-out vengeance to those who do not know God & who do not obey the gospel. It is a punishment that is eternal; it lasts forever (vv. 7-9).

Another question, knowing that one day Jesus will punish those who do not have a relationship with Him – does this motivate me to love others and share the gospel? What am I doing with the truth?

Paul concludes with a short prayer (cf. 1:11-12). His prayer is that God will help them to continue to display their true standing; their calling. It is an evaluation of their conduct in light of His calling; but all the time realizing that God enables them to do what is good and right. God’s calling is the foundation/basis for their conduct . . . now display it. However, they were not left to do it themselves. Paul states that this work of faith comes by the means of His power (v. 11). Ultimately for the purpose of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to be glorified, and we, as believers, be glorified in Him. To be glorified in Christ is possible only because the most exalted God and Lord is the one who stands as the true source of all things (v. 12).

The focus of Paul’s prayer is living in the present while having knowledge of the hope of a future. Rest, relief, and honor is coming to the believer; whereas judgment, destruction, and separation from God awaits the unbeliever. This provides the reality for us to live day by day as we do the work of faith; and can only be carried out by God’s enabling grace. The suffering of one’s present life is to be one day replaced with glorification. This is Paul’s incentive for the believer to live a life worthy of his status, for the Spirit indwells him. Those who bear Christ’s name must also glorify God in that name. This is dependent upon the supply of grace that is sourced in the Spirit of God.

Click the link for the diagram of 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12.

 

Blessed and Thankful

September 7, 2016

I am amazed at how God utilizes circumstances, children, and every day life to conform, challenge, and care for his own. This morning I stepped back and thought to myself, “Thank you God for the opportunity and privilege to rear children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Please place a hedge of protection around them as they begin a new school year.” God is a caring and loving God; He’s doing it through my children, Jack (14 years of age, Freshman in high school) and Nick (10 years of age, 5th grade in middle school).

My boys are a blessing to Missy and me; we are thankful. The boys love the Lord, love soccer, and strive, each in his own way, to honor and glorify God. These boys, . . . they are dependent upon their parents to provide, guide, and love & care for them. Missy and I are happy to take the mantle of shepherding our boys. Is it easy? No, not quite – but certainly a joy. My prayer for my two boys is Paul’s prayer to the Colossians,

“. . . asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God”  (Col 1:9-10).

I am blessed and thankful.

Nick - 5th grade Jack - Freshman

There is little doubt the Church today faces a culture that is very different than 20 years ago. As a matter of fact, the Church is to engage and minister to a culture that typically does not value biblical truth, does not accept biblical truth, and certainly does not live according to biblical truth. How does the Church engage a culture like this? Simple, . . . engage this culture with not our truth, but with God’s authoritative Word; and do so with all accuracy and relevancy.

Following the results of the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), Newsweek published a cover story in 2009 titled “The End of Christian America.” The ARIS results indicated a decline of 10 percentage points (86% to 76%) of self-identified Christians from 1990 to 2009. Another survey, from the Pew Research Study in 2012 published results that the self-identified Christians fell another 5 percent, and did so in only 5 years.

This looks to present a problem for the Church. Are there going to be any Christians to impact and engage this culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ? Ed Stetzer, in his blog titled “The Exchange” published in Christianity Today, states that the church is not dying, despite what others may report. The church is in transition, but not dying. Ed also states that the current cultural shift is bringing clarity that will assist in defining who we are as Christians; that is, potentially most of the 86% of those who checked the “Christian” box on a survey in 1990 were likely not genuine followers of Jesus Christ.

Being American and being Christian are NOT one-in-the-same. The Scriptures define Christian very differently than culture at large. It is quite possible that those people who checked the “Christian” box on a survey are no longer doing so; quite frankly because they no longer feel the societal pressure to be “Christian.” To them, shedding the label “Christian” makes sense.

What is facing the Church today? What crises present themselves as potential obstacles to the Church? Why is it important, and necessary, for the Church to be aware of them? While a faculty member at Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary in Springfield, MO I was asked by the President of the College to speak at the annual meeting of the Baptist Bible Fellowship International in May of 2014. I spoke to hundreds of pastors in order to help prepare them to minister the gospel of Jesus Christ to an ever-changing, postmodern culture. I presented the Theological Crises Facing the Church Today. Since then, I have constructed some additional thoughts and resources in a paper (Preparing for Theological Issues) that I hope communicates the seriousness of what faces the Church today. May God provide us with the wisdom necessary to impact and engage today’s culture with the gospel.

Below is a “brief review” of the new intermediate Greek grammar. Although I have not thoroughly read the entire grammar, I have skimmed it and provided some assessments at the end of the review.deeper

Going Deeper with New Testament Greek: An Intermediate Study of the Grammar and Syntax of the New Testament. By Andreas J. Köstenberger, Benjamin L. Merkle, and Robert L. Plummer. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2016. 550 pp.

Seasoned New Testament scholars, Köstenberger, Merkle, and Plummer have provided an intermediate Greek textbook that is sure to assist both professors and students with a current resource for the study of the grammar and syntax of the Greek New Testament. Their goal is to provide a resource that is accessible and fun to students. They claim this is a textbook, not a reference guide/resource; a hands-on, practical guide to assist in the proper interpretation of God’s word.

The format of the textbook is straightforward and user-friendly.

First, each chapter begins with a section titled, “Going Deeper.” The purpose of this section is to introduce the student to a practical illustration that applies the material found within the chapter. For example, chapter 3 – which discusses the Genitive case, walks the student through common wording that is often found on Christmas cards (“peace on earth, good will toward men,” ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας). Is this an accurate translation of the Greek text? There is also a text-critical issue with this verse; should the text read εὐδοκίας (gen case), or εὐδοκία (nom case)? And, is Luke (2:14) suggesting that good will go to all men, humanity at large?

Following the “Going Deeper” section, each chapter states the objectives and introduces the material. Several biblical examples, written in Greek and translated into English for the ease of the student to follow along & see the relevant syntactical forms, illustrate the grammatical and/or syntactical category discussed in the chapter.

Third, and probably one of the unique sections of the grammar, is the inclusion of practice sentences. These are carefully chosen to provide students with the ability to practice the skills they have learned. This feature is unique because it is unlike the typical intermediate grammar; that is, most grammars either do not include practice sentences or publish them in a separate volume. This grammar includes them.

Fourth, this intermediate grammar offers vocabulary for students to memorize. In the introduction (p. 4), it states that the student who memorizes all words in the New Testament that occur 15 times or more will have memorized 830 words.

And last, this grammar offers a built-in reader. By reader it is meant that there are New Testament texts for students to translate at the end of each chapter. These texts were carefully selected so that students were exposed to the following: (1) grammar & syntax discussed in the chapter, and (2) a pastorally relevant/theologically foundational/or doctrinally debated text that is 10-12 verses in length. The reader sections also provide helpful notes to guide the student through the translation process.

One of the benefits to this grammar for professors is the available resources. There are a number of teacher aids from weekly quizzes to PowerPoint presentations to chapter summaries. These resources are accessible at www.deepergreek.com

As the reader thumbs through the table of contents, he will not be surprised to find typical chapter titles for an intermediate grammar (e.g., Genitive Case, Dative Case, Participles, Infinitives, etc.). However, the authors have also incorporated recent studies within the fields of verbal aspect and discourse analysis into chapters 7 and 13 respectively. They have consulted a number of NT scholars (e.g., Campbell, Decker, Porter, Black, Huffman, Runge) to provide the latest information and/or techniques; especially in these fields.

“Keeping current” is a must in New Testament Greek grammar. With a publication date of 2016, Going Deeper with New Testament Greek is sure to have the latest information on key grammatical and syntactical concepts. I am especially impressed with chapter 15 (Continuing with Greek) because it offers resources for students of the Greek NT. The writers of this Greek grammar strongly encourage their readers to invest time into recommended resources and tools such as websites (e.g., ntresources.com), exegetical commentaries (e.g., EGGNT series, Handbook on the Greek Text series, etc.), lexicons (e.g., BDAG), and grammars.

This is an all-in-one grammar that will be a great help to the student or pastor who desires to advance his understanding of the Greek New Testament. If you plan to learn or continue to learn Greek, you will want this text on your shelf.

The semi-annual Minister’s Enrichment Day is two weeks from today (April 5). This is a day of learning and fellowship that Baptist Bible Seminary of Clarks Summit, PA develops on behalf of pastors, youth pastors, missionaries, and other ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This year’s purpose of ME Day is to explore and discuss controversial issues within society. In other words, how can we faithfully exegete our culture and communicate biblical truth without violating the Bible?

The two keynote speakers are: Dr. Ken Davis, Director of Project Jerusalem and Dr. Mike Stallard, Seminary Dean and Professor of Systematic Theology. Dr. Davis is a missionary kid from Guyana, brings over 35 years of church-planting experience, and has served in numerous multi-cultural environs. Dr. Stallard is the founder and director of Mission Scranton, an urban outreach to the city of Scranton, and founding pastor at New Life Baptist Church. He brings a balance of theological expertise and real-world experience in multi-ethnic settings.

The Featured Sessions are:

The Need, the Biblical Imperative and the Pitfalls of Cultural Exegesis by Dr. Davis

Recognizing the Theological Difficulties Involved in Exegeting Culture for Ministry by Dr. Stallard

You can read more about Minister’s Enrichment Day at BBS here; including a schedule for the day and a list of the workshops. I will be offering a workshop titled, “The Confessions of a Church Planter.” I will highlight the opportunity that God gave me to be a part of a team church-plant in the Springfield, MO area for 14 years. The workshop will focus on 3 crucial aspects of healthy church planting, such as: the involvement with the community, the importance of outreach, and the interpretation & exposition of God’s Word.

ME Day

A Tribute to a Pastor

March 13, 2016

Consistently ministering to a flock, of which God has given you the privilege to do so, is an incredible opportunity. Ministering for 40+ years, is even more amazing. I am writing this blog post on behalf of my father-in-law, Bob Baker, who has been faithfully ministering to God’s people for the last 4 decades or so . . . Wow, what a heritage. What an example. Today, however – he retires.

So, what do you say to someone who has left this kind of legacy? Well, you offer biblical reasons to appreciate and value him as a pastor; a shepherd. I would like to review two passages of Scripture that I think best describe my dad’s life and ministry. First, is Paul’s admonition to Timothy in his first letter (4:12-13). Here Paul admonishes Timothy to be an example. This means to offer oneself as an impression; an impression that is used as a mold to shape someone or something else. Paul’s point here is that Timothy should not so much be an example that others can emulate, but that he is to be a mold that should be pressed into the lives of others so they too can attain the same shape. How is this to be done? It is to be done in one’s everyday speech, everyday life, through a selfless love – expecting nothing in return, through a trustworthiness in God, and through a pure life. This represents a faithful servant, minister of God’s word. This exemplifies dad’s character; his life as a godly example for others.

Paul continues in verse 13. Timothy is also to read God’s word, exhort others using God’s word, and teach God’s word. Basically he is admonishing Timothy to immerse himself in the biblical text, encourage others to godliness and while doing so, emphasize the centrality of the text through study, devotion and life. His lifestyle is to be characterized as a devotion to, and immersion in, the biblical text. Again, I cannot think of a better way to describe my father-in-law’s ministry to others and characterize his life lived before others. As Paul states later in the text (v. 16), dad paid close attention to his life and continued in the teaching of God’s word. He and his ministry exemplified Paul’s admonitions to Timothy.

The second passage comes from the first letter written by Peter. Here (5:1-4), Peter admonishes the elders (pastors) with some challenging pastoral responsibilities. The pastor is to feed the flock; that is, consistently use the word of God to grow your people toward godliness. He is also to look after, or inspect the flock. Inspecting the people to ensure that their lives are God-pleasing to the church and community at large. How is the pastor to do these things? Willingly, eagerly, and with humility; exhibiting the godly character for others to emulate.

This is not always easy. But over the years I have watched, and carefully observed these qualities in dad’s life and ministry. He has loved people. He has shared the gospel with many, and by God’s grace, had the privilege to experience God’s working in and through people as they humble themselves and accept Jesus as their Savior. He is an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor 5:20). He has paid careful attention to and devoted his life to the Scriptures. He has taught the Scriptures in order to exhort others to growth in godliness. He has done it without complaint. Why? Because he loves his Lord, and the Lord’s people. He truly understands Hebrews 13:17; that is, to watch over God’s people knowing he would one day give an account for them and he did it with joy. Thanks dad for your example. Thanks for being a Paul to this Timothy.

Pastor Bob Baker and wife Donna

Pastor Bob Baker and wife Donna

 

My Son is 10 today

March 1, 2016

Once again, this is not New Testament related; but it is an opportunity for you all to meet my family. My younger son Nick is 10 years old today. He is smart, witty, energetic, and funny. Nick has interests in math, reading, and sports; basketball and soccer (see picture below). I am thankful to God for his tender heart and willingness to grow in God’s word. He loves Awana. May God bless you son. I love you “little man.”

Nick as the goalie

Nick as the goalie

My Son is 14 today

February 9, 2016

I realize this is not New Testament related, but I love the opportunity to share about my family. My son Jack is 14 years old today. He is my older son, Nick is the younger one. Jack has interests in math, social studies, and sports; specifically soccer (see picture below). I am proud of the young man Jack is becoming and the spiritual growth that God and his word continues to foster. May God bless you son. I love you buddy.

Jack and coachesFrom L to R (me, Jack, & his Missouri soccer coach)

When the clock strikes midnight to usher in a new year, typically celebrations and excitement abound. Many of us, might seize the moment and seriously consider a new beginning and make a New Year’s resolution. The most common New Year’s resolutions involve getting healthier, making better financial decisions, and striving to make better use of our time. But do we think about our relationships? Specifically, our relationship with God. In all the excitement of making our resolutions, do we consider our relationship with God?

The author of Hebrews admonishes his readers to consider their relationship with Christ. I want to take a brief moment to do the same. Admonition by the author is not an uncommon occurrence in Hebrews, for the author desires to encourage and strengthen the weak believers of a small community (13:22) so that they might stand fast in their faith during times of affliction (4:14; 10:23). The author writes to a congregation in crisis (10:32-33) pointing them to the superior and great high priesthood of Jesus Christ (5-10).

He introduces Jesus as the superior mode of revelation (1:2) and the superior means of redemption (1:3). Because of our personal relationship with Him, Jesus calls us brethren (2:11), makes reconciliation possible between us and God (2:15-18), extends grace and mercy at the appropriate time (4:14-16), continually intercedes on our behalf (7:25-28), offers a one-time sacrifice that qualifies us to worship Him (10:10-14), and He is the author and finisher of our faith (12:2).

As the author concludes his letter, he focuses on endurance in chapter 12. He is urging patient and trusting perseverance even in spite of hardship. He admonishes this endurance through an athletic metaphor; running a race (12:1). We all have a race to run, that race is life. Experiences in life are not only full of friendly interaction and joy, but also include opposition and suffering, for all are providentially designed and serve as a fruitful role in the maturing of our relationship with God.

The author states how we should run the race. He urges us to “fix our eyes on Jesus,” or ‘have a concentrated attention on Jesus’ that turns away from all other distractions and focuses on Him (12:2). Jesus Christ, the one to whom we focus, is the “author and finisher of our faith.” In other words, He is the champion of our salvation; the example of supremacy in bringing faith to complete realization and the perfect example of trust in God. He perfectly finished the race.

So why look to Jesus? The author of Hebrews continues his admonition by providing the basis for the believer to endure; that is, consider Him (12:3a). He is emphatically stating, “by all means consider Him,” or ‘seriously think about His endurance’ and do so in such a way that we evaluate and assess our own life with the utmost care. In other words, for Jesus “to endure the cross and despise the shame, the opinions and values of the world were not worthy for Him to take into consideration when it was a question of his obedience to the will of God.” We are to consider Him because he is the epitome of faithful obedience.

The author then concludes with the purpose for considering Jesus; “that we will not grow weary and lose heart” (12:3b). By considering Jesus, we will not grow fatigued and discouraged; rather we will press on in the Christian life. As you consider the New Year, what will grab your attention? What comforts of this world will keep you from the appointed course? Will you consider Jesus this year?