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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.

 

 

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.

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.

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

 

It has been almost six months since I last added a post. It is time for an update as there are a couple things I would like to share. First, I would like to update how we are doing as we complete our first year and secondly, update on the status of this blog.

A year ago today I stood at an intersection on life’s road which left me traveling the road alone. At least that is the way it appeared then and the way it appears to many who find themselves alone after the death of a mate. However, upon the completion of this year, I want to share how different I found the journey. Perhaps I do not fit the norm (I’ve been like that most of my life) but found the journey much easier than I anticipated. I realized as I stood at the intersection that although Rod was no longer traveling life’s road with me, I was not traveling it alone. God’s presence has been evident each day. Finding the strength to face each day comes from God. His Word promises He will never leave us so when moments come that I miss Rod, I realize I switched focus to “poor me” rather than on God’s bigger plan for me. We lost much when Rod died but there’s so much more to life than looking at our losses.
God has blessed me and the family in so many ways this year. Some of the blessings I’ve shared in past posts and space does not allow for me to share them all. His faithfulness has been GREAT. He has provided above all I need. He’s blessed me with great children & grandchildren who make living so special; with a great church family and friends who have encouraged me with their support, prayers and love. A friend of Rod’s sent an email this past week saying he can hardly believe a year has passed and it expressed my sentiments. The out pouring of concern and love, especially during the “firsts” (first anniversary, birthday, holidays, etc.) one faces during the first year was so encouraging and yet there were times when the “firsts” slipped up on me unnoticed until someone reminded me of their concern and support through it. These were a reminder that God was indeed walking with me to help me cope with the changes.

God alone receives the credit for the growth through this year of “firsts” in my life, as well as with the children. I feel we’ve grown closer as a family and appreciate times together even more than in the past just because we know life is short and we never know what the future holds. One thing that has amazed me is the fact that people continue to pray for us. We are so thankful for all the prayers and this update might help in a small way to say thanks and let you know God is answering.

As we start year two, I praise God for all he has done and look forward to another year of growth with him and service for him. There has been much change in the past year and I see new changes coming. One of those I want to share with you relates to this blog. Rod did not know what to do with it during the last days of his life. He had talked with a friend about it but no decision was made. As you have seen over the past year, I do not have the things to offer his readers on the level he wrote. His heart was to give men material that would challenge them to grow in the knowledge of God’s Word and the languages. Unfortunately, I can not maintain that. In the coming months (not sure exactly when) I will be transferring this site to a man who desires to continue Rod’s legacy. In saying that, please know that all Rod’s previous material will remain available.

I would like to introduce him to you now. Dr. Wayne Slusser will be arriving in Clarks Summit in June to become Rod’s replacement at BBS. I hesitate using that word (replacement) as it tends to make one think they have to fit the shoes of the one before. Rod had small feet so there’s no way Wayne (or anyone) would “fit his shoes” and he would never intend for someone to do that. His desire would be for the person to teach the Word and get men excited about teaching the Word to others. Wayne comes to BBS from a Bible College in MO. We first met Wayne & his wife, Missy, when Wayne applied to BBS for the doctoral program in New Testament. Wayne was one of the first PhD grads and is a fine man. It gives me great joy to know he will be filling the hole left by Rod’s death. Wayne has a desire to carry on Rod’s vision. He will be busy settling in to the area and preparing to teach here so please be patient and pray for him as he begins this new chapter in his life. He’s a bit overwhelmed with the thought of being Rod’s replacement, but I know God has put him here–not as Rod’s replacement, but as His servant to teach men to love Greek and to know the Word of God.

This might be my last post on NTResources but not sure how the dynamics will work in the next month or so. Thank you all for letting me share God’s working in our lives over the past year. Most of all, thank you for your prayers and words of encouragement.

To God be the glory, great things he has done!

A Tribute

December 5, 2014

Many men have paid tribute to Rod over the past 6 months. The family appreciates the kind words given on behalf of Rod and his ministry. We are thankful that God can continue to use his work in years to come–but much of that has been said in previous posts.

Those who knew Rod, knew he was a family man and enjoyed his children and his grandchildren. Tonight I would like to share a couple tributes that God has given our family as a remembrance of Rod. On May 29, just a few hours after we had placed Rod’s body in the grave, our youngest daughter-in-law gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. What a precious ending to the day! They named her Autumn Joy and she has been a joy to our family but especially to Grandma. God in his wisdom and grace allowed Sherry to wait through the last few weeks of Rod’s life to give us joy upon his departure. One would think God had a sense of humor.

Then on Dec. 4 at 1:30 in the morning, our oldest son called and informed me they were leaving for the hospital in preparation for the delivery of our 13th grandchild. Later in the day, Sarah Mae was born. Here again it could have been a hard day as Dec. 4 would have been Rod’s 62d birthday, but God’s humor gave a special gift in tribute to Rod. I will never forget these two birthdates. So the family has lost one life but gained two. Our prayer is that these two young ladies will grow up to love the God their grandfather served even though they never knew him.

On another note, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the two volumes from Baylor of Rod’s Handbook on Mark. My apologies to Baylor for the slowness in giving honor to them; serving has kept me very busy! The folks from Baylor were so gracious at the end when Rod no longer had the strength to proof the final copies. Marty Culy did a great job with editing as well as Wells Turner, Mark Mills, and others who stepped in to assist. Word of the impact Rod’s books generated at the annual ETS meeting was passed on to me. How exciting to hear that these two books, as well as his Koine Reader from Baker, were so well accepted. To God alone goes the praise and glory for this.

At times, it has been so overwhelming to see God’s work over the past six months; not just in the books and work Rod had done, but how God’s been working in my own heart and life. When a couple works together as a team for almost 40 years, it seems like any service was done by both. Having grown up on a farm, my father always had a team of horses to do some of the field work. I can remember how important it was to him to have a team that was matched and worked well together. That picture of teamwork so impressed me that I thought 1/2 a team wasn’t a team at all. But it’s not that way with God as he uses a couple as a team but can also use the one left behind. I praise God for being able to find work for this 1/2 of the team so I can serve him still. It remains to be seen what he will do with me, but I’m excited to be a useful servant even though not a team any longer. I praise him too for helping me keep things in focus and to think on Him rather than him (Rod). Many people say that the firsts are the hardest after a death of a loved one and that holidays are hard. I can agree with that, but am also coming to realize that it can become a crutch and cause one to focus on what’s been lost rather than moving on and allowing God to lead and direct as well as fill the void.

Soli Deo Gloria

Arrangements

May 26, 2014

Many have asked what the arrangements are for Rod’s funeral. As many of you know, Rod had unique ideas regarding death and burials. His desire was to have a direct burial–not because we couldn’t afford otherwise, but because so much to do is made about the person and he didn’t want the focus to be on him.There will be a grave side service for family and a few close friends on Thursday (no that’s not two days but there were some schedule conflicts so that had to be altered but we are honoring the rest of his wishes). There will be a memorial service at the Northmoreland Baptist Church on June 7 at 2:00 that any who can attend may do so.

Rod’s desire in both services is that God be the focus and that he would be the one honored–not Rod Decker. I guess that should not be a surprise since that was the way he lived. God alone is the one to whom glory and honor should be given. Rod was just an instrument used by God and the kids and I count it a privilege that we reaped even more than most of you.

On another note, the family thanks each of you for your prayers and notes of encouragement. We are coping well most of the time and it’s easier than I expected it would be to deal with the loss. Knowing he is pain free and with the Savior allows us to rest and know that God will care for us and fill that void. Personally, I’m looking forward to getting involved in our church once again after a few months away as I cared for Rod. One doesn’t realize how much the body of Christ/local church means until you can’t be a part of it. I’m thankful I was able to care for Rod to the end and don’t regret a minute of it or that I “had” to miss church, but I am now ready to return and pick up my responsibilities and add new ones from what I’ve learned through this journey.

Our final promotion

May 25, 2014

Oh death, where is your sting? Death is swallowed up in victory.

It is through hurting hearts (the frail, selfish side of us) that I write this post to inform our dear friends that Rod has been promoted to glory. He is now absent from a body consumed by cancer and is at rest and present with the Lord. We hurt for our loss but are rejoicing that the battle is over and the victory won. God granted Rod the desires of his heart and he died as he lived. He was fearful of dishonoring God in the last days and I can praise God that he remained faithful to the one he loved and served to the end. He went peacefully in his sleep on May 25, 2014.

The children and I are doing as well as can be expected at this point. Even though we knew death was coming and inevitable for us all I don’t think we can ever be fully prepared when it actually happens. We feel God’s strength even in our tears as we cling to each other and talk through the “need to’s”, the plans, and laugh as we realize that it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t fit in his best suit to be buried. Rod was never a person who did things for show and we will honor that in his death. We talked much over the past couple years and the past few months especially and his (& our) desire is that all the focus will be put on God and Christ for his memorial service. Rod did not want any attention drawn to himself as a man or to anything he might have accomplished on earth. It was all done for God and to God goes the glory.

We all have lost a man of integrity, a man of humility, a man much wiser than even he knew but we’ve gained so much more in his death. Heaven is more real and our perspective of losing his earthly body is much different from what we thought. He has just begun life while we remain on earth to experience more suffering, death, and human perspectives. His goal in life was to lead people to the Word and understand that it makes a difference in how we live. If he has accomplished that in lives other than his own family then the honor goes to God for using a humble man as an instrument to carry that message. Rod would say, “Go deeper, don’t grieve for me but take what I’ve taught and grow more in tune with God.”

We as a family thank you for your prayers over the past months. God has answered even if we don’t know who you are. He continues to strengthen us and we plan to continue the legacy Rod left behind and serve to the end.

Praying for those with terminal disease. you must hold two things in tension: God can (and often does) choose to heal through medical means. This appears to be his normal method of bringing healing. But it is also true that God can heal supernaturally apart from such human means. When he works in this way, we call it a miracle. Just because God can heal in either of these two ways, does not mean that he is obligated to do either. He may choose either means of healing or he may not choose to heal at all—even if many Christians pray asking him to do so. God is not a cosmic vending machine waiting for us to put in the right change. Instead we trust the Good, Sovereign Creator of the Universe to do what he knows best.

So how does one pray for someone who appears to be securely in the incurable column, someone whom it does not appear that God is going to heal? We can’t know that for sure, of course, but when the terminal condition persists, the doctors appear to be unable to anything more, and God does not show any indication of intervening, then what? You may continue to pray, hoping that God will heal “at the last minute,” or you might consider praying for that person’s physical and spiritual needs as they face death. Or both.

A few suggestions (for prayer and otherwise), not in any particular order… (See the pdf for suggestions.)

PrayingForTerminalPatients.pdf

I was very surprised and greatly honored to be asked to preach Dick’s funeral message. There are far more capable preachers than me. But to open the Word of God at the memorial service for one of my long time mentors and friends was a special privilege. I prayed, and my church family at Northmoreland prayed with me, that God would give me both the physical strength to stand to preach and also the emotional strength to do so in an honorable way. My oncologist also worked with me in advance to prepare my weakened body for the physical challenge; his help is appreciated.

Dick had given specific written instructions as to what the preacher was to do. (I explain them in the message). In one of his last lucid moments 2 weeks ago he asked his wife to contact me to be that preacher. So, for what it is worth, here is a pdf manuscript of the message. It comprised about the last half hour of a two-hour memorial service.

(If you have no idea who “Dick” is, see the previous post on this blog.)

Funeral_RichardWEngle_2014.pdf

Amazon is currently selling the Kindle edition of Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies for $3. If you like to read in that format and don’t have this book, it’s a good deal (pbk. is $11.59). I would not want to see a student graduate—from any school that teaches Greek for the purpose of exegeting the NT—without having read this book. It’s a good read and has a lot of sane advice about how to use Greek. It’s not a complete handbook of how to do exegesis, but it will disabuse beginners (& perhaps embarrass some veterans!) of some of the unjustified (& unjustifiable) things that have been done with Greek in the name of exegesis or preaching.

I spoke in our seminary chapel today on Luke 20:27–38. It is not a profound sermon and may not many qualities of a sermon per se.

My thoughts on this passage were stimulated a year or two ago when a friend of mine, John Makujina, asked me to proof an article that he was writing. That article will appear in the next (?) edition of Filologia Neotestamentaria, “‘Till Death Do Us Part,’ Or the Continuation of Marriage in the Eschaton? Answering Recent Objections to the Traditional Reading of Γαμέω-Γαμίζω in the Synoptic Gospels,” 25 [2012]: 57–74. (FN runs well behind, so yes, 2012 is the correct year, though not yet in print that I know.) It’s well worth reading when it is available; quite technical. Another helpful discussion is found in Bock’s BECNT comm. on Luke. Were this an academic paper rather than a sermon, there would be footnotes to both Makujina and Bock.

So, FWIW, here’s a transcript, slightly edited and abridged from the oral presentation.

Luke20_marriageResurrection_Blog.pdf

When Your World Crashes Down

November 22, 2013

A week ago my OT colleague and good friend, Mark McGinniss, and I shared the seminary chapel to talk about our personal journeys over the past year—a year which might well be titled “When Your World Crashes Down.” Our situations are, in one sense, quite different. They are similar in that we have both had to face some unexpected realities in life. I’ve mentioned my circumstances here before, so I will not rehearse them again. Mark is dealing, not with a terminal diagnosis, but with “TN”—a nonterminal condition that produces some of the most excruciating pain known to medical science, and that on a very frequent basis. At this point there is no medical hope for any change in his condition and he (and his wife) must anticipate living with it for the rest of his life. Mark is younger than me. A few weeks ago we talked about addressing these situations in chapel so that our young “pastors in training” could grapple with issues they would one day face in ministry. It sounded like a good idea at the time, but it was a very emotional hour for both Mark and me. Below you will find a transcript of our initial presentation. The rest of the hour was Q&A format. We have been told that it was a helpful discussion, though we are not in a good position to judge. So, FWIW, here’s what we said up front.

When Your World Crashes Down (pdf)

For those who do not know Mark, his specialty is OT poetry, especially the Song of Songs. He blogs at Outside My Door.

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John G. Paton

October 28, 2013

I just finished reading a fascinating autobiography of John G. Paton, pioneer missionary to the New Hebrides Islands in the 19th century. Thanks to Tim Raymond for his review and recommendation on the Credo blog: An Ordinary Pastor’s Five Favorite Biographies. Tim wrote the following, and I figured that I should read it. It was well worth it.

This book is really in a class by itself. It’s not only my favorite biography but one of my favorite books of any kind. John Paton was a Reformed Presbyterian missionary to the primitive cannibals of 19th century Vanuatu and, after losing his wife and son a couple weeks after settling on the tropical island of Tanna, single-handedly faced down death threats and attacks probably 200 times. This book is sort of like real-life Indiana Jones stories except Paton believed the Bible and loved Jesus and some of his encounters make Indiana Jones seem like a fairy princess. Imagine standing in the rain at night as your barn behind you is on fire while you’re surrounded by a mob of savage, spear-wielding, hungry cannibals and fending them off all alone with nothing but a hatchet and an unloaded 6-shooter. Paton was one tough brother. If you’re looking for a strong, masculine, humble, godly, Calvinist, evangelistic role-model to set before your sons of going all-out for Jesus, you can do no better than John G. Paton.