Meet the Publicans: Don Carpenter

Here at The Publicans we have many contributors. They labor each week to bring you posts and thoughts and rich Scriptural content to encourage us. We’re thankful for each of them. Throughout the next few weeks, we’d like to introduce them to you. Today we begin with Don Carpenter.

Andrew: Who are you and where are you from?

Don: First, I am a sinner saved by God’s grace. Through the years, I have learned that my identity begins with Christ and everything flows from there. As a result of God’s grace, I am a husband to Angie, a father to Faith & Cole, a son to parents, a shepherd to His people in EBC, and a friend to far more than I deserve. We are from the St. Louis Metropolitan Area (Illinois side); a small rural community in the heart of corn-country.

Andrew: What church do you serve?

Don: I serve the Lord in Eldred, Illinois at Eldred Baptist Church. We are a New Hampshire Confession church that focuses on living inside the covenant-community of faith while seeking to make disciples through evangelism and relational discipleship.

Andrew: What do you desire to see most in your ministry?

Don: I long to see a genuine movement of the Holy Spirit that manifests in (1) a profound love of God that leads to personal holiness in the lives of our covenant members, (2) our covenant members living an Acts 2:42-47 life devoted to Christ & His Church, and (3) the salvation of the lost in our community through the evangelistic efforts and Christ-like lives of our covenant members.

Andrew: What is your biggest joy in ministry?

Don: My biggest joys are always connected to witnessing the salvation and sanctification of those entrusted to me by God. As John wrote, “There is no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4). The Lord has proven this true time and time again in my life.

Andrew: What is your biggest obstacle in ministry?

Don: Without question, my biggest obstacle in ministry is me. Sometimes, my obstacle is pride and self-sufficiency that keeps me from coming to the Throne of Grace where I may find the help I so desperately need. Other times, it is my tendency to be slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to become angry (even if I hide it on the outside). Thank God my Great Shepherd is still guiding & correcting me with His rod & staff; His discipline is a comfort.

Andrew: How do you define success in ministry?

Don: Success in ministry cannot be measured by growth and decline alone, although they can be helpful tools. Jesus is Lord of both and has given both to EBC at various times. Success in ministry is my learning to trust God with the results of the faithful proclamation of His Word. God’s Word always accomplishes His purposes; I need, simply, to trust Him.

Andrew: Tell us something your church might not know about you.

Don: I am far less certain about how to do what I know God’s Word commands me/us to do. The Lord has given me a strong personality and I think that it helps me hide my insecurities. Since coming into a Sr. Pastor’s role, I have learned the significant difference between knowledge & wisdom. God’s Word provides me/us with the knowledge of what to do but it is God’s Spirit that gives me/us the wisdom to apply that knowledge in my/our context. This has humbled me greatly and continues to do so. And for that, I am grateful.

Andrew: Random concluding question, if you were sneaking into Mordor to destroy the ring of power who would rather have at your side: Martin Luther, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, R.C. Sproul, or John Piper?

Don: Luther. He was willing to stand alone, face-to-face, against the most powerful force of evil for the Truth of the Gospel. Not to mention, Luther would certainly have some incredibly hilarious insults to throw at his opponents along the way.

Don, we’re sure thankful to God for you and His work in us through your writing. May God continue to do that more and more, amen!

Feed, Tend, and Follow

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” … “Feed my lambs.” … “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” … “Tend my sheep.” … Simon, son of John, do you love me?” …  “Feed my sheep”… “Follow me.”

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved … When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”

John 21:15-23

The conclusion of John’s gospel should be a great encouragement to us when we think about Gospel ministry. In His final interaction with Peter, Jesus not only restores him to ministry but gives him a direction and an encouragement to persevere in ministry despite what transpires around him. He is reminded to keep his eyes focused on Christ and his heart set on those whom Christ puts under his care. This two-fold commission is the task for of each of us in the church and it is amazing how easy it is to lose sight of these simple tasks every day for the distractions and aspiration of the world.

In each of the opening questions put before Peter, Jesus is asking him does he Love him. Not long before we saw Peter turn away and deny Christ and now, we see Christ restoring him and preparing him for ministry by revealing his heart. Peter never stopped loving the Lord he allowed fear to turn his eyes away from following Christ and in that moment, he lost sight of the goal. Now, Jesus lays before him the reality that the love he has for Christ comes with a mission to follow Him while feeding & tending the sheep the Lord places before him.  Peter is being commissioned to be an ambassador of Christ and proclaim the good news and build up the church.

This is the task that remains for us now in ministry. We too are called to tend and feed the sheep that the Lord has placed under our care. Every day we labor in the Word and prayer for the good of others. We see the task that Peter is being given is a heavy one, and a beautiful one, not flowing from selfish ambition, but from a love for Christ. This is paramount to our task in ministry. If our goal is ever to make much of us and not to love Christ, we have lost the very heart of our purpose as shepherds. Our first and primary role flows from a love for Christ and in that love a love for those we are given to care for daily in word and prayer.

The second aspect of our love for Christ is seen in our call to follow Him. We are not called to feed and tend the flock of God by our own wisdom or creativity, but by following the word of Christ alone. He has given us all we need to tend to and love those whom He has placed under our care. He has given us the Word which reveals all we need for life and godliness. In the Word we are shown how to love them well and pray for them, and from this love and knowledge we seek to minister to them in their brokenness leading them back to Christ day by day as he leads us back to himself day by day. We cannot divert our eyes from following Him, for as we do we begin to lose track of the one who saved us and the one who sustains us, we can quickly begin to build a new foundation based on ourselves. When we stop following Christ in how we lead we will lead wrongly, we will feed and tend to the flock no longer out of love for Christ, but out of a misplaced love for ourselves and our name. This is why I think we see Peter corrected in the end one last time as he points to John and asks what the Lord’s plans are for him. In this moment, Christ quickly points out that it is not his to worry about. His task is to follow Christ wherever that leads and to care for those he is given along the way, and the Lord will lead John and given to him those to tend and feed of whom he will give an answer.

This final admonition is one we need to be reminded of, especially in ministry. The Lord has a plan and task for each and everyone of us. He has people whom he will place among us to love and minister to daily. It is these whom we will give an answer for and it is these whom he has called us to give of ourselves to feed and tend as we seek him. This knowledge should free us from jealousy of other people’s ministry, it should free us from the burden to seek within ourselves some new and creative gimmick and it should alleviate the stress of performance anxiety. This should lead us to lovingly care for those before us and pray for our brothers in Christ as they labor for those under their care.

Old Path’s Still True

Heidelberg Catechism

Q & A 105

Q. What is God’s will for you in the sixth commandment?

A. I am not to belittle, hate, insult, or kill my neighbor— not by my thoughts, my words, my look or gesture, and certainly not by actual deeds— and I am not to be party to this in others; rather, I am to put away all desire for revenge.

I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself either. Prevention of murder is also why government is armed with the sword.

In our day and age we must not forget the simple things the Scriptures and these faithful catechisms teach us. Here before you is the 105th question of the Heidelberg catechism used to instruct children and adults in the truth of godliness for hundreds of years. What is so important in this little paragraph for us today is the depths to which the sixth commandment addresses murder. Murder is far more involved than the simple matter of ending someones physical life and has far more repercussions than we think.

Our country is in a state of upheaval at the moment over the death of George Floyd and the discussion over the nature of race relations. On Tuesday, Don wrote a great article highlighting the reality behind much of what we see as hate. There exist in our world a systemic issue, sin and along with it comes hate. What is worse is this is not only in the world but in the church. If you venture onto social media you will find some of the most vile and contemptuous words and accusations coming from Christians at one another. In many ways the church has adapted the culture’s propensity towards division and hatred.

So therefore, let us remember every day as we speak to one another and post online, that we represent Christ to a lost and dying world. As we speak the Lord calls us to be an encouragement to the body. The commandment before us calls us not just to not raise arms to kill one anther but not to speak in such ways, nor think it. Let us think well of each other, giving the benefit of the doubt and seeking to hear, love and encourage one another with the truth of the gospel.

As believers we hold the only true hope for the world and it is not in this world, but in Christ, and His Kingdom.

The Table in Exile….

There has been a lot of talk over the last month about what makes a church. How do we define its actions and, most importantly, how are we supposed to act in this season of separation? The reality is, at this moment, we are not assembling. We are not physically gathering together, hearing the voices of our church family raised in song, passing the elements, hugging one another, or sharing life together. In the absence of our normal routines, it is understandable that we would begin to make compromises as an attempt to find what normalcy we can. However, I hope this post will encourage you to use this season as a time to allow your heart to feel the weight of that longing and grow your desire for the communion of saints without compromising the integrity of the things we hold dear. Specifically, I want to address the theology of the Lord’s Table, in absence of the gathered body.

“So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another—if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment.”

1 Cor. 11:33-34

One of the questions we have been asked is, “Why are we not doing a virtual communion during this season?” It’s a good question, and we acknowledge there are other church bodies who have been observing the Lord’s Table virtually, but we do not feel this is the most biblically accurate representation or purpose of the Table. Paul gives a hearty admonition to the Corinthian church to be prudent in how they come to the Table. It is not a trivial matter, but one that requires humility, reflection, and community. In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul was clear that the Table should be a communal activity of the church. In chapter 11, he rebukes those who are seeking only to serve themselves through the Table at the exclusion of the rest of the church. They are not exercising proper judgement towards one another. Also, as we see in the text, there is far more at work than a simple meal. For he openly encourages them to eat at home if in need of food, then come to the Table to be with your family. For the Table is much more than food, it is a meal with the family of God, in communion with Christ, lived out in humility and forgiveness, expecting and practicing for the great wedding feast of the Lamb.

However, these are not the only things we can glean from Christ’s institution of the Table and Paul’s admonition. We also see that the fencing and admonition given at the Table have no bearing if we freely partake in our homes, as we are not engaged with other believers calling us to repentance or forgiveness. Christ gave the church the command to practice this together as we await His return, where we will eat it with Him in Paradise. It is in this waiting that we truly see the need to be assembled together at the Table. The Table reminds us of the price paid for our sins, the Savior who paid it, and that we are not alone in this salvation. When we come to the Table, we are not alone; we are together as God’s people, living in anticipation of the feast to come.

So, as we yearn for the great day of the Lord and the feast we will experience as His bride, so too in this season we wait and yearn for the feast we share together. Therefore, our hearts should reflect to a degree what Israel felt in exile: a yearning to return home, a desire to experience the wonder of the temple again, and sadness over what has been lost. Oh how sweet it will be when all is returned, when we feast again with our church family, when we hear the voice of our neighbors sing songs of victory in the midst of sadness, when we see the wonder of baptism and new life spring from the ashes of death, when we marvel at God’s work day by day around us.

May our weeping be turned to singing on the day we gather together once more at the table.

Rejoicing in the Lord

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:4-9)

It’s easy to become anxious more and more each day as the news reminds us of the uncertainty of the times we are now living in, and yet this is hardly the first time the world has encountered such epidemics. The Spanish Flu in the early 1900’s reeked havoc across the world, and throughout the middle ages viruses would flourish and destroy many lives. I certainly don’t want this to sound callous or unfeeling, because that’s hardly the case. However, the reality of this not being a new endeavor reminds us that, as the book of Ecclesiastes says, there is nothing new under the sun. The Lord is the Sovereign one over all that happens around us including the plagues that seem to tear the world apart. Because of this there lies within those who believe a deep sense of peace in these uncertain times.

Looking at Paul’s admonition to the Philippians we are struck by the fact that in that moment Paul was in jail for Christ, there was no evidence he would be freed and a chance he would lose his life. His times were far from certain but his hope in Christ was unwavering, and because of that security he could pray. Paul here is very clear on the hope found in Christ in uncertain times. These closing words to the book should bring us a sense of peace in our current day.

Let’s stop and reflect on Paul’s encouragement.

Rejoice over Worry

Paul’s thoughts here begin with a good reminder that no matter the situation there is room to rejoice for those who are in Christ Jesus. Think about all that we have in this moment, especially compared to many around us. We face a massive hurdle ahead, yet we have homes, food, running water, technology that allows me to write this today, and even the ability to see and pray with my brothers and sisters in Christ. The Lord has blessed us in many ways. Also think of how much time we have to slow down and reflect on the goodness of God, to see His mercies even in suffering. We learn that life is a vapor, but the hope of Christ is eternal, in that there is much to rejoice in. There is also a reminder that we are to take each day as the Lord has granted it to us. We should rejoice with each breath He has given to us because our days are not guaranteed and as we see now are a very high commodity. We can’t control the outcome, but we can control how we face it. So let us face uncertainty with rejoicing in our God.

Prayer over Self

Not only are we called to rejoice and give thanks we are called to pray. This is a key aspect of our need to rejoice in the face of uncertainty: the Lord is at hand. As the old hymn use to say: “I can face uncertain days, because I know my savior lives.” Here is the hope of our prayers, the Lord lives and hears us. He is the one who controls the future. He is the one who has ordained our days. He is the very real help in the midst of peril, and He is the source of our peace. This doesn’t mean we are foolish in how we live, but we live in wisdom (following good health and safety habits) and thankfulness trusting in the Lord. Here we are being encouraged to turn to the One who gives true peace; peace that is not fleeting and far more secure. All the more we should continue to pray for the Lord grace and mercy to those serving the broken and sick in this season. Those who by God’s providence are putting themselves in danger to help those around us.

Good over Evil

Paul concludes with a reminder of the things that we should set our attention on. For here, Paul’s calls us to look at the good things the Lord is doing and has done. We are not to get distracted and fearful, we are to be focused and thankful. Our focus is on the good work of the Lord in the midst of chaos, the certainty of His kingdom in the midst of upheaval, the hope of a future in the midst of our anxious tomorrow.

Let us look to the good things and trust the Lord through the evil. Let us pray with fervent hearts to the one who hears us, and through it all let us be people who rejoice and sing for our hope is unfailing.

Certainty in Uncertain Times

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 6:34

There is great wisdom in the truth that for the people of God there is nothing in this world that we should fear, for we serve a loving and sovereign God who controls all things. There is nothing in this life that can separate His own from His loving hands. This is especially true today as we turn on the television or browse the internet and see a world captivated by a health crisis. One of the things we know for certain is there is nothing new under the sun, all that has been will be again. However, with that in mind there are few encouragements I would like us to remember today:

  1. God is God I am not. He is ultimately in control of what will transpire over the coming weeks and months. Our trust must be fully in Him and not ourselves. This doesn’t mean we become lazy in our day to day affairs or careless in how we act during this time, but that we know the ultimate source of our hope is not how much we can hoard, but how much we pray and trust the Lord.
  2. Love your neighbor. This is where taking care of yourself and following prescribed guidelines come in to play. Yes, most of us won’t experience the virus, and of those of us who do many will experience little to no known affects, however for a percentage of our population, the elderly and immune deficient, they may have a very different experience. As followers of Christ we should care for those in our community who are most likely to experience the worst effects of this virus and be most vigilant in our love for them. This doesn’t mean to leave them in isolation, but to be aware of what you are doing and how best to care for them in this time.
  3. Be a witness of the true hope. In the midst of the apparent chaos and uncertainty of the future the world once again reflects on their own mortality. These are wake-up call moments that as believers we should not shy away from. We have the true hope that transcends the experiences of this world. We know of the truth that there is a much greater threat that lurks inside everyone that is far deadlier than any earthly virus. We know the reality of sin and the wrath to come for those apart from Christ. We must be a light in the darkness of uncertainty, offering the true and lasting hope of Christ and the blood that covers our sins.

Through the months ahead let us love God, love our neighbor and be the light of the Gospel the world needs. Let us be examples of godliness and wisdom. Let us pursue the Lord with all vigilance. Let us not lose our heads while the world around us rages on. Christ is our victory, He is our hope, He is our sovereign Lord who watches over His sheep. Let us trust the Lord.

5 Blog/Sites you should bookmark

As we continue our listing journey here in 2020 I wanted to highlight a few websites and blogs you may not be familiar with, and encourage you to check them out.

The Rabbit Room

The Rabbit Room is run and moderated by Andrew Peterson and his brother Pete. On this page you will find a plethora of articles on art, faith, and life. If you dive into their Spotify playlists you will also find a whole host of fantastic music. They are Christians dedicated to make much of the glory of God through their art, and while doing so encourage us to think more deeply about the things of God.

The Redeemed Mind

The Redeemed Mind is a weekly Bible commentary blog written by Dr. David Jones of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. The purpose of this blog is to help Christians understand the scriptures verse-by-verse and applying these truths to their Christian walk. His work in examining the text in its historical and Christological framework helps guide the reader to be a better student of the Word of God, also he is currently working through Revelation.

Reformation 21

Here you will find a host of articles written from an academically reformed perspective along with some very practical article geared towards the daily Christian experiences of life in a fallen world. This site also features the very enjoyable Podcast: The Mortification of Spin.

Frame-Poythress

Many people are not aware of the plethora of academic work that these two amazing men have written over the years dealing with a range of topics within the Christian life, and most of them are available for free on their website. Specifically, John Frame and Vern Poythress are a must read when thinking about the ethical implications of the scriptures, a topic tackled often in their writings and blogs.

Operation World

Operation World is very useful website to aid in praying for the nations. Each day another nation is highlighted along with information to help guide prayer for the region and its people. This is a site that has been an encouragement to me for many years and helped me to see the beauty of God’s mission to reach the nation and the continued need for prayer in missions.

Advent & Immanuel, Redux

With the season of Advent coming into full bloom and the music of the season in the air I want to revisit one of the most popular songs of the season: O Come, O Come Immanuel.

It is a song rich with history, being originally traced back to the 8th century as a responsive reading, it is one of the oldest songs of advent we still sing in the modern Church. One of the reasons I believe it still holds a place so near and dear to most of us is its reliance on the biblical text to bring comfort, truth and grace through music to God’s children. This 1200 year old hymn points us straight back to Scripture and brings life and comfort to the weary soul.

Specifically I want to look at the opening verse of this amazing hymn.

O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

This first verse has its origins back in  Isaiah 7 in the days of Ahaz king of Judah. In that day God offered the king a chance to ask of Him whatever he wished as proof of God’s love and protection for His people, but rather than accept this gift of God, Ahaz spurned the gift and God in the process. Rather than trust in God for deliverance and protection for the people, Ahaz turned to political allegiance and military strength to find peace. It is in this setting that God brings forth the prophecy that a virgin will bear a son and he will be named Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14). This sign was meant to be a reminder that God was the only hope for His people, because before this even would come to pass His people would suffer at the hands of the very alliance the king had established.

However, The king’s disobedience and sin would make a way in time for God’s ultimate blessing. For God didn’t leave His people in exile and suffering but rather brought forth in time the fulfillment of the words of Isaiah to king Ahaz in the giving of His Son to the world. In the midst of the great fear of the ages and the new captivity of Israel to the people of Rome, God would now dwell with His people. Immanuel was to be born to a virgin in the city of David.

Now before the child would be born the Lord sent an angel to instruct her fiancé in the truth of what was to take place. We see this in Luke 1:18-23 with a picture of the angel’s interaction with Joseph. In this vision he is instructed to name the child Jesus, for He would save the people from their sins, but not only would He be named Jesus, He would be Immanuel. In this short passage of Scripture the name Immanuel became intricately connected to the name Jesus. In Jesus we see that God’s presence with His people is linked with His love for them and the desire to set them free from the lasting pain of sin. He takes on the name that echoed back to the very founding of the nation in the land of Canaan as Joshua lead his people to political freedom. Now the new Joshua (the Hebrew name that Jesus comes from) will set them free from a far greater danger, that of sin and death, and the only means by which he could do this is if he was the Immanuel, God himself residing with His people.

For us we are blessed to know that God did keep His promise to the people of Israel and we are the humble recipients of His grace and mercy. God came to us and set us free form our sin and set us on the path of righteousness, but He did not leave us on that path alone.

In both narratives we see God’s faithfulness to His people in the midst of uncertainty. So too in this advent season we know that God is still faithful to His people, though it took over 700 years for the true fulfillment of Immanuel to take place, He was faithful. In our day and age we have the blessing of seeing and experiencing the gift of the first Advent. As believers we experience the grace of God daily, all the more if you are not born Jewish, for in Christ He brought us gentiles into the family of God.

Today, while we experience the great blessings of Christ, may we also look forward to the eternal blessing of His second advent. One of the great blessings of God being with His people is that it is more than a metaphysical reality of the past, it is a real present experience, and a future hope in His final return.

So let us sing out with gladness not only because He has come and set free the first captive Israel from their sin, but that He shall return again to bring the true Israel to Himself for eternity.

2019 Conference Sermons & YouTube Channel

We are excited to announce that we have officially launched the Publican’s YouTube Channel. Currently on our channel you will find all seven sermons from The Publican’s Conference hosted last month on Doxology. Over the coming weeks and months we are planning on expanding the channel with additional content.

We are excited for this new opportunity to use technology to better serve the body of Christ, especially those in our local churches.

Below are links to each of the conference sermons, and again feel free to subscribe to our channel as we begin to roll out new content.

Thanks again for all your continued support.

Joe Earle, Pastor of Riverside Baptist Church, NPR
Matt Noble, Youth Pastor of Cornerstone Community Church, NPR
Andrew Jaenichen, Administrative Pastor of SonRise Community Church, NPR
Aaron Currin, Pastor of BLDG 28, Clearwater
Tommy Shelton, Pastor of Live Oaks Bible Church, Palm Harbor
Adam Powers, Pastor of SonRise Community Church, NPR
Brian Walls, Pastor of Cornerstone Community Church, NPR

Publican’s 2019 Recap

The Publican’s 2019 has come and gone and what a Saturday it was as churches from all over the bay area were represented through our speakers and guest panelists. Specifically, this year we gathered with the purpose of displaying how, from every genre of the scriptures, God is worshiped, and how through seeing the Him worshiped in His word we learn how we too should worship. So for the purpose of today’s post I want to give you and overview of the Publican’s 2019, in the coming weeks video and audio will be posted so you may listen or watch each of our sessions.

Morning Sessions:

We began our morning walking through the Old testament Torah, Histories, and Poetry. Joe Earle Kicked us off by looking at Leviticus 10. In this text we unpacked what false worship looked like as Nadab and Abihu were consumed by the fire of the Lord for presenting a strange fire. From this we were called to ask ourselves to think deeply about the manner in which we come before a Holy God. As believers we must take the Worship of God seriously and not be flippant in our worship.

After the Torah Matt Noble led us into the Histories with 2 Kings 18:1-8 and the introduction of Hezekiah. In this sermon we were introduced to a King who feared the Lord and sought to Bring his love of God to his people. Hezekiah tore down all the graven images around Israel including the Bronze serpent that the Lord had used to save his people in the book of Numbers. Through the Life of Hezekiah, we saw the character of a man who loved the Lord first and foremost and how from that Love for god and His holiness he acted, he didn’t let the cares of his day distract him from serving God well. So too we need to trust the Lord and serve Him faithfully regardless of the world around us.

We concluded our Morning teaching segments from the Psalm 104. In this text I unpacked How God is glorified by His creation. We see in this text the magnificent beauty and wonder of all that God has done in creation, and that by observing his love and care for it, we see His character as a loving and caring God. We see His precision in creation. From looking at creation we see the call to praise the name of God for His wondrous deeds. We are called to reflect on Him as we see Him at work around us.

After our morning Speakers we had a round table discussion featuring Steve Best, President of Bible Basics International, Tim Miller, Senior Pastor of Lakeview Community Church, and Andrew Larsen, Senior Pastor of Safety Harbor community Church. Our round table discussion featured a conversation discussing how we can see worship played out in the life of the church and at home, specifically from each of our speakers backgrounds in ministry over the years and current life circumstances as husbands, fathers, and in one case grandfather.

Afternoon Sessions:

After our break for Lunch Aaron Currin wrapped up our journey through the Old Testament by looking at the role of worship in Hosea. Not a book most would go to in thinking about worship, but from this text we were able to see the passion of God towards his people in spite of their sinfulness and harlotry. We God wooing us back to himself with the truth of who He is, and through this we are broken of our sin and return to the God we love. It is an amazing picture of what we see in Christ who loving cares for His bride.

From the Old Testament we quickly turned to the New Testament with one of our newest Contributors, Tommy Shelton. Tommy walked us through John 4 reflecting on the women at the well and what it means that in Christ we will worship in spirit and in truth. We saw that the worship of God is a global event not limit to a specific town or mountain, but a gift through Christ to be seen on every mountain and in every valley. All the nations will praise God.

From the theme of Worship transforming all Nations, Adam Powers took us through the beauty and wonder of Paul’s doxology in Romans 11. In This text we beheld the mystery and glory of the God who saves and Christ our Savior. We saw how worship flows out an overflow of the knowledge of God especially his sovereign gift of grace and salvations seen in the gospel. He is worthy to be praised by all people at all times.

Which lead us finally to Brian Walls and the book of Revelation. Brian concluded our time in the Word in chapter 19 around the throne of God as the saint’s worship God for His salvation and His judgment. It was a hard text and yet a beautiful one as we see the justice of God put on display for His children to see and marvel at, we were reminded that we serve a loving God and a just God. He is both and must be worshiped for both.

If you couldn’t join us this past weekend we hope you will catch the videos on YouTube in the coming weeks, along with some other new additions to the Publican’s ministry that we will be unveiling.

Never Forget….

Every year on this day, we in the US are reminded to never forget. Throughout the day, we will see images that remind us of that fateful day 18 years ago when terrorism came to our home. It was no longer “over-there,” it was here, and it was real. Many people lost loved ones. A war that started soon after that cost us more lives and still continues to this day. We are often reminded that, around the world, evil still exists, and that the fall of man into sin at the beginning of time has not ceased to flourish in these days. So, today, I want to take a moment and think about what it is that we should never forget.

Never Forget that Sin is Real.

On this day, we are soberly reminded that sin and evil are ever-present realities. Deep down, we know it to be true every day. We watch the news, we see images of events around the world, we see missing persons posters, and, for a split second, it sinks in before we return to life as normal. Sometimes it takes great tragedies to shake us from our carefree fog and take seriously the world in which we live. Today reminds us of one of those tragedies. We reflect on the reality that sin is real and it rears its ugly head every day, but what is key to remember is that it’s not solely a problem in others; the problem is in ourselves.

Each one of us has the propensity toward great wickedness. We all have within us the same sinfulness that drives humanity into all sorts of evil; if you believe your sinfulness isn’t as bad as another’s, that doesn’t make it so. Nor does it make one any less culpable before God. Remember the words of Paul in Romans 3, “For there is no distinction:  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” On the days that we remember great acts of evil, let us not forget our own sinfulness and need of redemption. Let us not forget the hatred that brews within our souls and must be rooted out and nailed to the cross on which Christ died. Let us not forget that sin is real.

Never Forget the Sovereignty of God.

On days like this when we remember tragedies, we can be quick to forget the hand of God through it all. It’s hard for many to see the work of God in moments when evil is so present. We see the towers fall; friends and family die; and we can quickly lose hope. Yet nothing in this world is an accident; nothing  catches God by surprise, whether it be the wickedness seen on this day of remembrance, or in the hospital room of a child suffering from cancer, or the family and friends struggling through the loss of one to suicide. In those moments, we can think that God was not there, or wonder why such things should come to be, and yet we are reminded in the scriptures that God is ever present and ever sovereign. Nothing comes that is not known and used by Him.

If you are unconvinced, let me remind you of a much darker day when evil seemed to have triumphed over God: the day our God died. The day when Jesus Christ, the Son of God, member of the triune divinity died. The perfect lamb; the one who was without sin; the one whom, of all mankind, evil should not have befallen. The one whom all of life and glory was due was taken, falsely tried, beaten, and murdered by the very people he came to save. In the darkness of that day, the sun itself was shrouded, and He died. But God was not absent; He was upon the tree and above the tree. The Father himself, along with the Son and Spirit reigned sovereign over all these events. From  a human perspective, the messiah was defeated, but God was at work and the greatest victory had already begun.

So, let us remember the sovereignty of God and take comfort in the fact that while we may not know or understand the situations that surround us, He does, and He has not forgotten us.

Never Forget to be the Light of the Gospel Today

Lastly, let us never forget the truth that life is short, and we are not guaranteed tomorrow. September 10th, 2001 was a day like any other day, and most of us would be unable to remember the events that transpired that day. The same cannot be said about the 11th, a day which we can remember almost every moment. I remember getting up to leave my first period World History class and our teacher turning on the TV and seeing the World Trade Center on fire. I remember standing there with my best friend, not saying a word, just staring blankly. I remember going next door to my second period class, sitting on top of my desk for the next hour and 20 minutes, awestruck by the images as we watched in horror and disbelief as both towers fell. I remember trying to AIM a friend of mine to see if his day was ok; he was a Port Authority Officer. I remember the confusion in each class, the never-ending conversations around the lunch table, and the reality that life is momentary. I also remember the friends who reminded us that the truth of Christ is still the same and that we must remember to never take the gospel for granted with an expectation that we can talk about it tomorrow.

We must never forget that those with whom we spend each and every day are in need of the Gospel. They are in need of the soul-saving truth that has set us free from sin and death. They are in need of the only true hope. We are not guaranteed tomorrow on this earth, but we are guaranteed an eternity, yet where we spend that eternity is dependent upon the work of the Gospel. We are reminded in Hebrews that, “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,” let us strive to be faithful servants who have proclaimed the truth well while time remains.

On this day, let us never forget…

On this day, we remember, we mourn, and we live for the glory of God in the face of evil, knowing that He is sovereign, and that eternity is in His hands. We trust in a God who has never failed His own; for, out of the garden, He clothed and protected His children, in spite of their sin. It was by His mighty hand He delivered His people out of bondage through the sea, providing for them day and night in the wilderness. Through the Work of Christ, He has promised His children a future and a hope resting in Him. On a day of mourning let us remember the God who saves from sin, is sovereignly working all things for our good and his glory, and lastly who proclaimed the gospel to us and has saved us by His merciful grace.

 

Where We are Going….

The purpose for our annual Publican’s conference is to instruct and encourage the local church through the preaching of the Word, by members of the Publicans, on a particular biblical idea for the advancement of the Gospel and the edification of the body.

Last year we began a three-year endeavor to introduce and encourage the church to understand who God is in a manner that reflects the truth of scripture, and from that understanding of the truth we worship Him rightly and live for Him in all aspects of our lives.

Orthodoxy (2018)

In 2018 we began this task by looking at the historic faith found in the Apostle’s creed. Now we want to be clear here the Apostles creed is not canon, but within it we see the simplification of orthodox doctrine, and as such it is a good tool to direct us along the road we see in the scriptures. Therefore, each of our speakers dissected a different aspect of the creed and unpacked its truth as we saw it in the scriptures. We saw the truth of the Trinity and at the same time their distinctness. We saw the truth of the work of Christ in forgiving our sins and the need for the body of Christ. We saw all this and more flow from the truth of scripture and inform our understanding of the faith, and as such we built a our understand about God and faith on the foundation of Scripture.

It is of utmost importance that we begin our journey here, for the next two years must flow from a proper foundation. You cannot build a home without the foundation, so too you cannot build true worship or a Christian life apart from a biblical orthodox foundation. We must find our full satisfaction in the work of Christ and seek to know Him more as he has revealed himself in Scripture. We do not determine for ourselves what we want God to be, He has revealed himself to us, and as such we are blessed with the opportunity to know Him truly and from that knowledge, we will see the opportunity to worship and live for Him.

Doxology (2019)

Which leads us to this years topic: Doxology

It is vitally important that we see Doxology not as a once a week part of a gathered service but as an overflow of our life with God. So, while the words are sung, they must come from a place of understanding who God is and what He has done. When we come to the Word of God it should leave us in prayer and praise to our Lord. When we hear His Word, we come with an expectation to know Him more and from that knowledge flows Doxology.

Therefore, when we think of worship, we think of singing and in scripture we immediately are drawn to the Psalter. However, the truth is, song and verbal worship is seen throughout the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, and in each genre, we come face to face with not only the content of the words sung to God, but the posture and circumstances that surround that worship. Through seven different pastors we will discuss several specific ways worship is seen in the text of Scripture. Here we will examine the truth of God’s revelation and how that moves us to song, and the proclamation of His Glory.

Orthopraxy (2020)

Lord willing, this will all culminate next year as we then discuss the words of Peter in 2 Peter 3:11 “What sort of people we out to be in lives of holiness and godliness” This one small verse lies at the heart of Orthopraxy, right living. We are not only called to know God and praise Him; we are called to live rightly before Him. Therefore, we will endeavor to unpack the truth of what it means to live well before our God in pursuit of Him. We will seek to unpack the biblical ideas found in spiritual discipline and how these things are not to be confused with legalistic practices. We will seek through the Word to reveal and encourage believers to live well in lives of faith repentance and hope before our God.

We pray these conferences will continue to be a blessing to the local church and to all who join us each year to be encouraged and instructed in the Word of God. We are thankful for all the Pastors who make it a priority to preach here each year. This year our speakers will be from four different local churches along with our good friend from Mississippi, and our morning round table discussion will feature an additional set of ministers from local congregations and mission agencies.

More Info can be found in the Conference tab and our Facebook page.

A Conviction from Fiction

Fantine, Cosette, Javert, Val Jean, Marius, Eponine, are a few of the most famous characters from Victor Hugos’ classic: Les Miserables. Last week I picked up this old classic, that I haven’t read since early in college, and was struck once more by how much it impacted me back then and how it shaped my views on what ministry and the faith should look like when lived out. The main influential force of the book comes from one of my favorite literary characters, who takes up less than 100 pages of this 1200-page tome: The Bishop Myriel or as he was called by the villagers under his care: Monseigneur Bienvenu or M. Welcome. As a minister there is something to be said by such a name attached to so lofty a title, In the text he points out it is the because of the second that he would accept the first. In an era where the church was known for its lavishness and pride, Hugo painted a picture of a man who believed the things he read in Scripture. A priest who didn’t wear the cloth out of a desire to become someone, but rather as a means to serve and be the light of Christ to the worst and the greatest in the villages under his care.

In a day and age where more people are concerned with being right about their doctrine there has seemed to grow all the more potent a lack of care about one’s practice. In these short pages came the conviction that we must hold both and in doing so fear God not man. The radical hospitality of M. Bienvenu is revolutionary not just in his day but in our own. Recently, our elders have begun The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosario Butterfield. The timing of which is perfect as she describes in a modern context the reality of what is exhibited in this work of fiction. We as Christian tend to be more fearful of what the world may think of us or of how it may attack us that we build walls around ourselves, judge people accordingly, and cease to offer the loving table of Christ and the message of repentance and faith. We have become afraid to be real with a people who are lost and dying.

I think deep down it is the power that fiction has on us to paint with beauty and depth, a portrait of what could be, and in doing so strike at the heart of what has become reality. Hugo painted the picture of a shepherd who loves the flock of God (in a day and age where everyone was considered such) regardless of where they came from or who they were. This again lived in a stark contrast to a world were Bishops were about prestige, luxurious homes, and the finest of foods. When robbed he claimed those things stolen as gifts, when offered financial gifts he gave them freely to the poor, when offered a great home he gifted it to a hospital and took their small lodgings for his own. He was described as a man who loved God and loved His creation. Hugo painted a picture of what could be, and in painting this picture he seemed to ask us to become it, to be people who take our faith seriously. Who take what we believe and put it into action? Now I am no literary critic and while this is one of my favorite books, I am not an expert, but the impact that this one man of God has on a story where he is barely featured is immense. Everything that happens in the life of the protagonist Val Jean flows from the Christ like love of this one man, a man he knew for all of 12 hours and in that time experienced grace, forgiveness, hospitality, patience, and mercy. How many of us leave such legacies.

The picture of this man should encourage us all the more in looking at the marks of an Elder and overseer of the church.

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

-1 Tim. 3:1-7

The qualification laid down through the inspiration of the Spirit are easy to read and to a degree we may even check off the boxes pretty quickly, but when they are seen in the lives of others we are challenged all the more to pursue God and apply His words, picked in our hearts to become Christ to the world, and moved to love Him more and as such love our neighbors.

Now of course a fictional character is not a real person, but that doesn’t mean this reality doesn’t exist, again a lot of the characteristics of this Bishop are seen in Rosario and her Husband Kent’s Life. They do ministry life the way M. Bienvenu did his, a reflection on the ministry of Christ in the Gospels. It is in hospitality, a qualification we often pass by, that we see people who are cast off by society brought into experience the kingdom of God. In this characteristic of a bishop we see the personal and familial side of Christ, who preached the truth without fear and broke bread with all sorts of people.

May we learn what it means to be hospitable people, May I learn what this means…….

Lewis On the Christian Life: A Review

As we do from time to time, we take a moment and reflect on the importance of Books and in such moments give a recommendation or review of one such book that we have read.  Specifically, this month I want to focus on Joe Rigney’s “Lewis on the Christian Life: Becoming Truly Human in the Presence of God.” Now the Lewis Rigney has set out here to unpack before us is non-other than C.S. Lewis, the English giant, scholar, and apologist. The skeptic turned Christian has left behind a plethora of writings and is still one of the most-beloved Christian children’s authors, I would say to this day. Lewis is a man who loved to think of things in two worlds the world of the real and the world of the pretend. Rigney in this work helps us to see that at the core of how Lewis saw and understood the Christian life stood an understanding of the world that was far more complex than most would imagine, and from this view of humanity he applied the teachings of scripture and at times got it right and at other times, created a lot of confusion.

But alas, let’s begin with the good stuff. Rigney is an advent Lewis reader and supporter. He previously wrote a book called Live Like a Narnian: Christian Discipleship in Lewis’s Chronicles in which he unpacked much of Lewis’ beliefs on how to live out the Christian life from the tales told in the Chronicles of Narnia. As such the Chronicles, for the most part, are left out of this book, so if you are a huge Chronicles fan I would suggest reading his first book, however If you enjoy the whole of Lewis works or are familiar with only a few then this book may open some more interesting explorations for you, as Rigney dives deep into some of his letters and writings to help pull out the depth of Lewis ideas. This process is exciting to see as you read how his views intermingle through his work.

Another thing that I appreciated, much like other books in the series, is that Rigney doesn’t shy away from Lewis’ more controversial issues such as the atonement and purgatory. He unpacks Lewis through His writings and walks the reader through how Lewis’ arrived at the places he did. Now I will say Rigney does spend a bit of time apologizing for Lewis but didn’t do it in such a way that he hides any of Lewis’ beliefs. As such, I found this to be a very positive aspect of the book as you are able to see through all of his writings how Lewis struggles with the notion of penal substitutionary atonement, and how through his struggle he clings to the aspects of the atonement that are more easy for him to grasp. If you want to see the outworking of Lewis’ thoughts on these subjects laid out in his own words that is what Rigney gives you and he does it in such a way that you walk away understanding Lewis, not necessarily agreeing with him, but understanding him.

I will say though this book is a journey, it is the longest so far written in the “On the Christian Life” series that crossway has put out and it covers a lot of different topics from practical Christian living to the four loves and thoughts on heaven and hell and all sorts of paths along the way. Now I don’t want it to sound like it is disorganized, it is not, however it covers a lot that at times can slow down the pace and feel out of sorts, so if you have read some of the other books in the series this one is a little more in depth and hefty at times into some of Lewis thoughts, which as I said can be both a great benefit and at times a hindrance.

Therefore, overall it was a thoughtful read, as it gives deeper clarity into the thinking of the apologetical legend C.S. Lewis himself. If you are a fan of Lewis’s body of work, you will enjoy seeing how Rigney dives deep into some of his works to get to the meat of Lewis thinking. If you have only read Narnia or Mere Christianity this will help open your eyes to a fuller spectrum of how Lewis viewed the world and how some of the things you read there are more fully fleshed out in other texts. So as with most Rigney works it is worth the time and effort.