Not Your Typical Orphan

Posted: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 in Culture, Orphan Care

I know. The title of the blog seems to be a bit odd. What is a “typical orphan” as opposed to an “atypical orphan”? Perhaps I can help by borrowing my friend’s definition of an orphan:

An orphan is a child left without  adequate familial provision and protection from evil. [Samuel J. McLure, The End of Orphan Care, p.20, not yet published]

I like the definition. It covers both the child who is neglected and/or impoverished and the child who is abused, whether it be physically and/or emotionally. It serves the classic definition that the courts consider when determining whether or not a child should be taken from the custody of parent(s) or family and placed into state care, temporarily or permanently. This is a “typical orphan.” While the determination of care is sometimes not as clear cut from case to case due to all sorts of different circumstances, the safety and well-being of a child is something that is the child’s constitutional right.

Why do I point this out – now. You don’t have to know me very long to know how passionate I am about orphan care. Our family has had a number of these orphans in our home, some for a day, others for a year or more. We, and many of our friends and church members, are involved in orphan care. Whenever I see a tragedy on the news or any sort of catastrophe where a parent of a child is lost, I immediately think of the child.

Such was the case a week ago when Muslim parents in San Bernardino, CA left their six-month old child with grandma and then committed the premeditated, senseless acts of terror. That child, who the government will not name for the purpose of safety and security, is now in state custody as an orphan. And if we take Sam’s definition above, certainly a typical orphan.

But where it gets a little dicey, “atypical,” is that now an aunt and uncle have stepped up and requested care of the child and will pursue adoption. That is not the “atypical” part. In fact, it is common for a family member to seek custody. What makes this different, potentially, is the outright clash of religious worldviews that the state will need to consider because of the backlash from Americans, while remaining constitutionally indifferent to those competing worldviews – in the face of the despicable acts of terror by the parents in the name of religion. The parents were radicalized terrorists – this we now know – with ties to radical Islamists for at least two years. But we don’t know that about the aunt or the uncle. It will be interesting to see how a judge rules in this matter – in upholding the rights of the aunt and uncle as U. S. citizens, again, in the face of what will certainly be an outcry against the family from many in the court of public opinion. We as a nation cherish “innocent until proven guilty.” Shouldn’t that be true for the aunt and uncle as well? If they clear the background checks that are deemed reasonable by the courts, shouldn’t they be granted custody? And if they don’t, then they should not have custody unless or until safety, security, and adequate provision can be established, if it is possible. Of course, those background checks will need to considered in light of this as well, just as there is now debate on the entire vetting procedure for passports and visas.

But more importantly, perhaps, are the rights of the six month-old child as a U. S. citizen. That child needs his/her family first. One of the first things we learn in foster care is that the children we take into care, if reunited with family which is the goal, will probably return to a home that is less than we would want for them. But we are not their family.

Does the radical Islamist worldview of the child’s parents make this a case that is a bit different, on many levels? I can think of no greater evil that exists today than the evil of radical Islam. And if that family is involved in such ideology, in its extreme form, then the child needs protection. I think you would agree, this is not your “typical orphan” situation.

J. A. “Brother” Bryan

Posted: Tuesday, December 1, 2015 in Missions, Preaching, Sermons

Statue of Brother Bryan

One of the great joys I have in ministry is the opportunity to preach every Tuesday night at the Brother Bryan Mission in B’ham AL and seeing others in our church involved in the lives of the men to help fulfill the Missions’ purpose in “serving the the economically, emotionally, and spiritually impoverished men of the Birmingham area.”

The mission was birthed out of the heart of a local minister, the Reverend James Alexander Bryan, who came to Birmingham in 1889 to pastor the Third Avenue Presbyterian Church, where he remained as pastor until his death in 1941. Shortly before his death, “Brother” Bryan made a request to a few of his closest friends to establish a place that would take the poor and down-trodden men of Birmingham off the streets and give them food, shelter and care. An in-depth look at his life and remarkable ministry can be read in his biography, Religion in Shoes.

Recently I came across a little book of Brother Bryan’s sermons preached in 1927. His heart for kingdom ministry is seen in the foreword: “I prayerfully and gratefully submit these few sermons to the public, hoping that anyone who reads them may be helped in his Christian life. This is done, I know, for God’s glory.” The following is his sermon titled “The Fruits of the Resurrection of Christ.” I hope you are blessed, and that you are helped in your Christian life., to the glory of God.

The resurrection of Christ is the cornerstone of the Christian’s faith. It is one of the undeniable facts in the history of the world, because it is the best witnessed fact in all history, sacred or profane. That Christ was dead even scientists would not deny. After the thrust of a Gentile spear, blood and water came out of Christ’s heart. which, to sensible people, was the death certificate of a criminal. At the request of friends, His body was placed in Joseph’s new tomb, in Joseph’s garden. His resurrection was prophesied, even foretold by Christ Himself.

The resurrection of Christ is emphasized in the teachings of the New Testament in the startling fact that it is recorded over one hundred times. That Christ rose from the dead is borne by witnesses numbering over six hundred people. Unbiased, unbought, truthful witnesses. Heaven testified to His resurrection like it dis His birth, the angel stood at the empty tomb, and said to the women “Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified, He is not here, He is risen, come see the place where the Lord lay.” Heavenly witnesses, earthly witnesses.

We are to study this morning not only the facts of the resurrection, but the fruits of the resurrection of our Lord. One fruit of His resurrection is that it proved His Deity; anyone who could triumph over death, in His only power, over the tomb with its darkness, command angels to come from Heaven and move a grave stone, enormous in size and weight, was none less than the Son of God, truthfully, God Himself.

Secondly, another fruit of the resurrection of Christ is the change of the Sabbath from the seventh day to the first day of the week. The only day on which He rose was to those who loved Him a day of worship. That evening you find the apostles and disciples in the upper room; they were worshipping by prayer. In their worship Christ appears to them. Remember that this is the first day of the week and that they were worshipping the risen Christ, and that day has continued to be the Christian’s Sabbath. The next first day of the week you will find the Christian church worshipping the same risen Lord. Paul urges the Corinthian Christians in his inspired letter to them to lay aside on the first day of the week by a act of worship, gifts as God had prospered them, to be given in the name of the Lord, to the poor. This day continues in New Testament history. It is frequently called the first day of the week, and also the Lord’s Day.

When John was on the Island of Patamos (sic) he was in the spirit of the Lord’s Day, he was in the attitude of worship. The resurrection of Christ is the cause for this undeniable fact.

Third, another fruit of the resurrection of Christ is the final resurrection of the body of believers in Him. Paul in writing to us in his letter to the Thessalonians distinctly says: “I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them who are asleep, that ye sorrow not even as others that have no hope, for if we believe that Jesus dies and rose again from the dead, even so them also who sleep in Jesus, will God bring with Him.” This is the most comforting fruit of the resurrection of Christ because Christ rose, our loved ones will rise, our bodies will be like Christ’s  in Heaven. Spiritual, immortal, incorruptible, unchangeable, recognizable bodies.

We will be like Christ and with Him forever. Another fruit of the resurrection is the fact that Christ said: “If I got not away the Comforter will not come unto you.” He meant by the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has worked in all ages of the world, even in the creation, but not until after Christ rose from the dead, ascended unto God, is He sent unto us, without measure and in great power. Jesus Himself said, “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”

We read in the Book of Acts that the apostles gave witness of the great of the resurrection of Christ, our belief in that helps us to die for Christ, to be martyrs for His Kingdom.

If Christ be not risen our faith is in vain, our preaching is forceless, He could not forgive or sins. The three outstanding fundamental facts in world history, in the history of the church, in God are these: The virgin birth of Christ, His death on the cross for our sins, His resurrection from the tomb. All the blessings that we have, spiritual or material, are fruits of this great fact.

Book Review: A Lost God in a Lost World

Posted: Wednesday, November 25, 2015 in Book review

51er7-q4yhl-_sx318_bo1204203200_If you are a fan of David Wells’ writings on the effect of culture on the church and evangelicalism, then you will not want to miss A Lost God in a Lost World by Melvin Tinker. It is an excellent series of biblical expositions that will enhance your preaching (if you are a preacher) and your listening (if you are a parishioner) – and both preacher and parishioner will profit in their study.

Tinker offers the following expositions to show how God is lost in a lost world – and the necessary corrective to get Him back:

(1) When God is Weightless (The Problem of Idolatry – Isaiah 44:9-23)

(2) When God is Replaced (The Problem of Pride – Ezekiel 28)

(3) When God is Revealed (The need for the grandeur of God – Isaiah 40:1-31)

(4) When God is Crucified (The necessity of the Cross – Philippians 2:5-11)

(5) When God enters a Life (The work of the Holy Spirit – John 14:1-31)

(6) When God is Proclaimed (The necessity of Gospel proclamation – Romans 10:12-18)

(7) When God is Embraced (The need for effective grace – Acts 16:11-15)

(8) When God Returns (The Necessity of the Second Coming – 2 Peter 3)

(9) When God Makes All Things New (The Need to be Heavenly Minded – Isaiah 65:17-25)

You can see that Tinker agrees with Wells – the main problem in the world is a low view of God and a high view of self, which produces idolatry and pride. The corrective is to reverse that view by the grace of God through the power of the Spirit changing lives through the proclamation of Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and return – when order, God’s order, will then be restored.

I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.

Book Review: The Martyrs of Malatya

Posted: Friday, October 2, 2015 in Book review, Books, Missions

We live in dangerous times in the West. The attacks of ISIS and radical Islamists around the world are real. These attacks are born out of a misguided understanding of Christianity and the Word of God. These misunderstandings are brought to light in this excellent biographical work on the martyrdom of three men in eastern Turkey city of Malatya. This is the story of Necati, Uğur, and Tilmann, three men who gave their lives to Christ and for Christ in the land they loved.

James Wright (pen name) gives to us a valuable tool for evangelism to Muslims through the testimonies of these men. First, he reveals the key tenets of Islam against Christianity. Many in the West think the Islamic animosity is founded solely on the Crusades centuries ago where ruthless men took the lives of thousands of Muslims “in the name of Christ.” However, the Crusades are only mentioned once in this book, and then indirectly. The major disagreements of Islam over against the Christian comes from what they are taught – a teaching that is incorrect and if compared to the Scriptures are found to be so. They are taught that the Scriptures have been changed from the original writings, that Christians worship three gods, and that the Christians real agenda in missions is to “undermine the political and social unity of the state by setting religious sects against one another and partnering with the PKK and Israel” (p. 184 – part of one of the murderers “defense”). These are things that children are taught in their textbooks (at least the first two) at an early age. Radical Islam would take these things to an extreme and embrace the falsehood of evil intentions of missionaries from the West, as illustrated by the “onion” (p. 96 – you will need to see for yourself!). Wright also offers a good historical background for how these beliefs came to be. As part of that history, however, Wright shows how the seeds of faith were planted along the way in the very region where this tragic event took place.

Wright also shows how these men came to faith in Christ. Tilmann, being a German, had what we might consider a more typical testimony whose heart for the Muslims was formed while in Indonesia and further by his future wife. Necati, a Turk, came to faith in Christ as a young woman patiently listened to his questions about Christianity and led him to Christ. She also became his wife! And Uğur, a Turk, who followed Christ after a self-study about Christ and the Word of God where he determined that what he had been taught as a child about both were incorrect. In all three men, we find the power of God at work.

Their martyrdom ranks with all the great saints whose lives were taken because of their testimony in Christ. Faithfulness, Jesus said, will come with suffering and persecution in this world – to test our faith, the faith of others, and to provide and example to others of the love of Christ. While the lives of these three men might fade from the pages of history, they will never fade from the book of life and the pages of eternity. And the mark they left in Turkey needs today, 8 years after this tragedy, to be remembered not just in Turkey, but around the world. May we learn to love our enemies as they loved theirs…

I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.

Book Review – The Baptist Story

Posted: Wednesday, September 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement by Tony Chute, Nathan Finn, and Michael Haykin is a concise look at the history of Baptists from 17th century England to the present day. The chronology includes the Baptist movement in England and North America, which is no small task as admitted by the authors:

Our attempt to produce a history of the Baptists has caused us to feel a mountain of weight… Indeed, writing such a history some 200 years after American Baptists first organized an international mission agency (the Triennial Convention) has placed us in the context of writing about more, not fewer, Baptist groups. Consequently our audience includes, but is not limited to, independent Baptists and Cooperative Baptists, Seventh Day Baptists and Southern Baptists, Free Will Baptists and Reformed Baptists, regular principle Baptists and seeker-sensitive Baptists. Among these groups are differing views of biblical inspiration, age of baptismal recipients, elder-led churches, women pastors, sovereign decrees, and the propriety of vacation Bible school – to name only a few! (pp. 1-2)

The authors cover this herculean task of different schisms and doctrinal/practical issues in Baptist life very well. They provide a truthful assessment of the influence that Anabaptists had on English Baptists. They are honest about the effects of slavery in both England and North America amongst Baptists and how that led to a split that led not just to the founding of the Southern Baptist Convention but also to the formation of the National Baptist Convention. Of course, the missions movement in Baptist life was an impetus to these schisms as well, whether it be hyper-Calvinism/Calvinism/Arminianism or whether slave owners should be allowed on the mission field.

One of the benefits of the book is its concise and readable format. It will prove helpful as an introduction to Baptist history and will undoubtedly become a favored textbook in Baptist universities and seminaries. But the layperson will be able to use this as a valuable introduction and resource as well.

Another of the benefits is the recommended “For Further Study” and “Questions for Discussion” at the end of each chapter. Again, this will guide the student in suggested readings to gain a deeper understanding of the time and topic and prove helpful for personal study and/or lesson preparation for a small group study.

A final strength is that each of the author’s writes according to their great knowledge of Baptists in a particular era:

Ours is both an individual and a collaborative effort. We divided this project according to our specialties: Michael Haykin wrote the chapters on the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Baptists, Anthony Chute authored the section on nineteenth-century Baptists, and Nathan Finn concluded with the twentieth century and beyond. However, we have each provided substantive input and editorial oversight regarding the book as a whole. This textbook is a collaborative effort at every level. (p. 2)

I highly recommend this book to student and layperson alike – you will not be disappointed! Its conciseness is its strength. If you want more detail you will want to read Leon McBeth’s The Baptist Heritage and/or Tom Nettles’ 3-volume work, The Baptists..

I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.

Book Review: Gaining by Losing

Posted: Monday, August 24, 2015 in Book review, Books

Gaining by Losing: Why the Future belongs to Churches that Send by J. D. Greear is a wake up call for the church – because the church is asleep. The following is startling:

According to a recent Lifeway Research study, in the next seven years 55,000 churches in the United States will close their doors, and the number of those who attend a church on the weekend in the United States will drop from 17 percent to 14 percent. Only 20 percent of churches in the US are growing, and only 1 percent are growing by reaching lost people. So 95 percent of the church growth we celebrate merely shuffles existing Christians around.

So churches aren’t just asleep, but when awake busy doing the wrong things. The enemy doesn’t care which ditch we’re in – as long as we’re in a ditch.

For Greear, the problem is a result of both a lack of concern for Kingdom growth and a lack of gospel discipleship. The solution: “Churches that want to penetrate their world with the gospel think less about the Sunday morning bang and more about equipping their members to blast a hole in the mountain of lostness” and “the future of Christianity belongs to churches that send.” Why?

  1. Increasingly, in a “post-Christian” society, unbelievers will simply not make their way into our churches, no matter how “attractive” we make them.
  2. Multiplication beats out addition, every time.
  3. The presence of God accompanies those who send.
  4. Jesus’ promises of “greatness” in the church are always related to sending.

Gaining by Losing seeks to get the church out of the ditch and back on the right path. Following a candid testimony of how Greear’s heart was changed concerning Kingdom growth (chapter 2), he then gives the 10 things (plumb lines) the church he leads did to bring the focus back to center.

  1. Chapter 3 lays the foundation – the gospel. “Everything in the Christian life grows out of the gospel” (p. 59).
  2. Chapter 4 shatters the “myth” of calling – ‘Everyone is called… the question is no longer whether we are called, only where and how” (p. 70).
  3. Chapter 5 challenges the church to be missional, to be the church during the week and not just on the weekend, to be the church in the world rather than trying to attract the world to the church.
  4. Chapter 6 shows the importance of good leadership. Good leadership is not a personality that the church grows around but leaders reproducing leaders.
  5. Chapter 7 is about living Christ in our world, to make Christ visible. “When local churches equip their people to embody the gospel in the streets, they make movements of and otherwise invisible Christ visible to their community” (p. 119).
  6. Chapter 8 is a reminder to the church of how to measure success – are they making disciples.
  7. Chapter 9 is simple enough, PASTORS! Every pastor is a missions pastor.
  8. Chapter 10 covers the mandate for the church to be multi-ethnic.
  9. Chapter 11 sets forth the “risk” that comes with being a sending church.55
  10. And chapter 12 – never give up.

I highly recommend Gaining by Losing. Pastors will be challenged – I know, I am one! Members will be challenged – I know, I have them! And may sending be our purpose for worship, discipleship, and fellowship.

I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.

Book Review: Questions Jesus Asks

Posted: Wednesday, August 19, 2015 in Book review, Books

In Questions Jesus Asks: Where Divinity Meets Humanity, Israel Wayne looks at the mystery of the incarnate God with a biblical approach that the title suggests: 20 questions that Jesus asked while He dwelt among man. The introduction covers the omniscience of Jesus and the tension between Jesus’ divinity and humanity. He rightly concludes that Jesus’ knowledge was limited in His humanity (Mark 13:32) but offers a word of caution: “It is important for us to understand that in any way that Jesus was limited by His humanity, it was totally and completely voluntary. He was not weakened in any way that He did not choose to be.”

So why did Jesus ask questions?

I personally believe that Jesus’ motivation in asking questions was usually very similar to the reasons we explored Questions God Asks. He isn’t asking the questions for His own personal benefit but rather on behalf of the person being asked. Jesus was full of love and compassion for people. His questions penetrate the heart and probe our deepest motives.

I love the fact that whenever others sought to trap Him with a question, Jesus would almost inevitably avoid answering and respond with a question of His own (which usually left His opponents speechless).

Because these questions of Jesus have been preserved for us in the Scripture, I believe they are for our benefit as well. What does Jesus want us to consider about our assumptions, our prejudices, and out innermost thoughts and secrets? I invite you to join with me in this journey of discovery as we seek to find our answers through the Questions Jesus Asks.

Then follows 20 questions that Jesus asked, each with a doctrinal subject that Wayne considers to be the purpose for Jesus’ question, or what He would have us to learn from His questions. I offer the questions along with the topic… and encourage you to grab this book and read it as Wayne sets forth the humanity of Christ in dealing with us humans!

  1. Who do people say that I am? (Christology)
  2. Didn’t you know? (Virgin birth)
  3. Who are my mother and brothers? (Family)
  4. What are you seeking? (Discipleship)
  5. What will it profit a man (Money)
  6. Who touched Me? (Healing)
  7. Do you want to get well? (Counseling)
  8. Why are you afraid? (Fear)
  9. What is your name? (Demonology)
  10. What were you arguing about? (Servanthood)
  11. Whose image is this? (Government)
  12. Has no one condemned you? (Forgiveness)
  13. Are you not in error? (Apologetics)
  14. Why did you call Me Lord? (Lordship)
  15. Are you still sleeping? (Prayer)
  16. Why have You forsaken Me? (Suffering)
  17. Do you Love Me? (Love)
  18. Why do you persecute Me? (Persecution)
  19. How are you to escape from hell? (Hell)
  20. Do you believe this? (Resurrection)

I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.