Questions and Answers – 8/7/2020

On Sunday (August 2) I ended my sermon by listing the 5 named crowns in the New Testament.  On Monday or Tuesday I got the question below via FB messenger.  My answer is brief and leaves a lot to be desired – whole books have been written on this topic – but like the questioner; this may be an area you are interested in or would like to “study out” and this little “Q&A” might get you started:

Hi Pastor Scott, I just wanted to thank you for talking about the 5 crowns at the end of your sermon Sunday. I wanted to ask a question on the text line, but couldn’t stop watching FB on my phone to text the question or the sermon would stop talking. And I couldn’t firm just one question so quickly either since it was at the end of the sermon. So I didn’t text it. But I was just studying those 5 crowns in my mini study on Heaven, when I borrowed your books about heaven 2 weeks ago. My question is about the crowns (or reward), what is the reward? Is it being recognized publicly in heaven in front of others who didn’t get that award? Would that not create sadness or regret in others? What bible verses would shed more light on this if any? Or a reward is different then a public award. It might be some kind of leadership honor or a privileged job to do for God? Or to have a crown to place at the king of king’s feet. This is such an odd concept to me. If Christ is the king of Kings why would we get a crown? I realize I’m treading into speculation area probably, but I just wonder what do we know about it. Should these crowns motivate us into righteousness and perseverance? Like doing good works to receive a crown? Is that prideful to be on a quest to win that reward? Or is it a reward we shouldn’t Pursue? I have heard so little about this before. Should we take this more seriously and even let it guide us and how we live and do ministry? I guess the question is how do we apply these passages to our life now? Sorry to think out loud and be so analytical, I hope you have time to play 20 questions. Lol. If you could point me in the right direction to study it out I would appreciate it.

I also wondered if any of the rewards mentioned in parables would line up with these passages.  Just Wondering.

Dear Wondering,

Let me handle your overarching question first. “Shouldn’t love of God and gratitude for His grace gift to us be enough to motivate us?” Yes, of course! There is nothing we shouldn’t be willing to do for God! But God is like a parent, He not only blessed us with Eternal Life but He wants to reward us for a life well lived.

The challenge is that the teaching about kingdom rewards are sprinkled all over scripture. They are referred to as “Blessings” (Matthew 5:3-12); as money (Matthew 25:14-46); as “place” (Matthew 18:1-4) as responsibility (Matthew 13:12) and of course crowns to throw at His feet! (Revelation 4:10).

In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Paul reminds us that he is running hard after his crown. In 1 Corinthians 6 he reminds believers that they are one day going to judge Angels. In chapter 3 he talks about how their works are going to be judged. We don’t know if any of these will be public, but I don’t think keeping our self-esteem up is God’s primary concern. That’s a humanist thing that has come along since Dr. Spock (not Star Trek; the Child Psychologist).

It’s not clear if they are all the same thing using different terms or if there is a huge variety of rewards awaiting us in the Kingdom.

It’s clear that some believer’s will suffer loss upon admission. (1 Cor 3:15)

It’s not wrong to have multiple motivations. You can Love your job (Teacher, nurse, pastor) and still take home a paycheck.  A worker is worthy of his wages.

Pastor Scott

We Will Not Bow!  – July 31, 2020

d1c3ed376d56072e574fb07f82f93287After Pentecost; and before the calling of the first deacons, the apostles were street preachers and in constant conflict with the Pharisees. Gamaliel, Paul’s teacher, convinced the council not to martyr them but just to beat them.  Acts 5 ends with these words:  They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. The Apostles were civilly disobedient for the sake of the Gospel.  Daniel and his friends were civilly disobedient when it came to false worship.   God may, in our lifetime, ask us to stand against our own government as individuals or as a Church.  I’m prepared, for instance, to preach the truth even if it’s forbidden.  I pray you are all in it until the end as well.

I know that some of you feel that the measures taken to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus are baby steps against that day.  Others of you feel that it’s a health department fighting something truly deadly and novel.  Please know that as your pastor I’m not blind to either “side.”  I appreciate both concerns.  I will comply with the mask order because, as it currently stands, it’s not a moral compromise and may help.  When/if it crosses the line (i.e. calls out churches separately), we will stand opposed.  Until then, we will “pay the poll tax” (Luke 17:24ff) and make clear face-shields* available for those who have medical issues with the mask or are just plain claustrophobic. 

YBIC, 

Pastor Scott

 *I have an email from Jackson County Health Department approving this plan.  🙂

Good Read! July 24, 2020

I found rightly-dividing-word-truththis article when poking around articles and blogs surrounding the tragic death of Pastor John Powell (BRCS Class of 2001).  Because I don’t run in SBC Circles I’ve never heard of Herman Ridderbos, but I think he’s right on!  Much of this is “inside baseball” preacher to preacher talk; but the first two paragraphs are well worth the read and clarify well the position of WOGF!  ~Pastor Scott

Right application of Scripture necessitates Herman Ridderbos’s famous insight into Paul’s theology. Every imperative of Scripture (what we are to do for God) rests on the indicative (who we are in our relationship with God), and the order is not reversible (Acts 16:14–16; Col. 3:1–5; 1 John 5:1–5).[i] The human instinct with every non-Christian religion reverses the order, teaching that who we are before God is based on what we do for God. Thus, any preaching that is distinctively Christian must keep listeners from confusing, or inverting, our “who” and our “do.”

What Christians do is based on who we are in Christ. We obey because God has loved us and united us to himself by his Son; we are not united to God, nor do we make him love us, because we have obeyed him. Our obedience is a response to his love, not a purchase of it. We keep this indicative-imperative relationship clear, not by when we happen to mention each element in a sermon, but by making sure that the message is not done until listeners are motivated to obey God based upon God’s gracious provision for them.

Sometimes, we’ll lay a foundation of God’s provision as a motivational basis for the imperatives that follow; other times, we’ll detail the clear duties of the text before explaining the relationship with God that enables our obedience. There is a conceptual priority on the indicative that motivates and enables obedience, even if the imperatives follow in the actual presentation of the sermon.

If we try to establish a standard order or proportion for the mention of the imperatives and indicatives in our sermons, we will inevitably end up twisting texts in ways not intended by the original authors. We certainly should mention the imperatives and indicatives in various orders or proportions in different sermons according to the content and context of each biblical text. Still, the key to making any message gospel-consistent is making sure listeners do not walk away with the sense that their behavior is the basis of their redemption.

A sermon is not a sermon, if it includes no imperatives; a sermon without application is mere abstraction. But a sermon isn’t a Christian sermon if its ethical imperatives eclipse its gospel indicatives. A message that only heaps duty upon duty is mere legalism, even if the duties are in the text.

Proportions of imperative and indicative will vary, but listeners need to be able to discern the importance of each. We damage Scripture’s purposes, and the clarity of the gospel, if we do not pastorally consider what is needed for each element to be heard and lived.

A message that hammers on imperatives for 35 minutes, and then ends with a tossed in, “But remember Jesus loves you,” does not understand how the human heart functions. A message that mews about Jesus’ love for 35 minutes, and ends with an intangible, “So make your life count for him,” does not understand the human propensity to use grace to avoid obedience.

As pastors, we should aim for messages that enable people to honor our Savior with gospel-enabled obedience. To do this well, we must evaluate both the demands of a text and the disposition of our congregation. This will help us determine the proper balance between imperative and indicative.

If people don’t know what to do, then they cannot obey God. So imperatives of some sort are necessary. If people obey out of wrong motivations, then their so-called obedience doesn’t honor God. So indicatives that rightly motivate and enable must ground every imperative. The proportion varies, but both must be present with enough significance to inform behavior and stir affections for Christ’s honor.

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared at the 9Marks blog and as part of the 9Marks magazine.

The Song in Your Heart – 7/17/2020

I get emails from the Getty’s (whose efforts to create a new hymnody I really appreciate) and they do a national hymn sing every year.  They teased this year’s by releasing a clip of the Keynote from 2017.  I think it’s fantastic!   As a Bible Church Pastor, however, it caught my ear that he doesn’t reference a scripture passage.  I know Paul Tripp, I suspect the passage he was discussing was just not captured in the clip; but if you, like me are a purist consider that he might have been discussing:  Ephesians 5:18-21; Colossians 3:16; Psalm 1-150; or maybe Paul and Silas beaten, chained, and sitting in jail at midnight in Acts 16…..

We will get through this, just keep singing that sweet song, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!”

Pastor Scott

Tired of the news? – July 10, 2020

Me too!  So instead I bring you, dragons!

Crouching tiger, hidden dinosaur?

by 

The entry in A Chinese-English Dictionary (published in China in 1979) for dragon gives the meanings as:

  1. dragon
  2. imperial (as in imperial robe)
  3. a huge extinct reptile: dinosaur
  4. a surname.

Clearly, the dictionary recognizes that dragons were real animals and the language also connects dinosaurs to them. Indeed, the characters rendering ‘dinosaur’ in a paleontology context, (‘konglong’ 恐龙), literally mean ‘fearsome dragon’—remember that the English word ‘dinosaur’ was not invented until 1841.

Image: geocities.com/bernardburnComplex Chinese symbol for ‘dragon’

Also, there are many sayings in Chinese that connect dragons with still-living animals, such as tigers. For example:

  • ‘like a coiling dragon and crouching tiger’—meaning a forbidding strategic point. A variation on this saying inspired the title of the recent award-winning Chinese movie, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, meaning a benign looking place with powerful hidden forces.
  • ‘dragon’s pool and tiger’s den’—meaning a dangerous place.
  • ‘dragons rising and tigers leaping’—meaning a scene of bustling activity.

Furthermore, of the twelve symbols used in the Chinese lunar calendar cycle, eleven are real animals (pig, rat, rabbit, tiger, etc.), suggesting that the remaining one, the dragon, is equally real.

The above evidence is consistent with identifying dinosaurs with the dragons of Chinese history as real animals that have lived not too long ago. This contradicts the whole idea of an ‘age of dinosaurs’ millions of years before people existed, and further supports the Biblical account of the real history of the world.

https://creation.com/crouching-tiger-hidden-dinosaur

(I was reading a really interesting article on Creation.com this morning about improbability of DNA evolution, but it printed out to 8 pages.  This one was the right size and a whole lot more fun!)

Pastor Scott

Elevator Time – June 26, 2020

thnakfulness = joyOn Sunday,July 14th, we had what we call a “Body Life Service” where we encourage people to to share testimonies.  The focus was to be on God’s provision during the COVID-19 lock-down, yet it was inclusive of other issues as well.  Yesterday I received a prayer letter from the Hughes, our Ethnos360 Missionaries serving at McNeal Air Base. It made me wish someone had transcribed our Body Life Service.  In the letter Kay summarized a similar discussion she had with her ladies; be encouraged!

After 3 months of not meeting together because of COVID-19, our ladies here at McNeal had an “Elevator Time”.  This is a monthly fellowship where we do a variety of things to encourage and “lift up” one another.  After playing a fun game using coronavirus terms, I asked the ladies to take a few minutes to consider what the Lord has revealed to them about “themselves” or “Himself” during this time of “being still.”  It was encouraging, and interesting how so many of the thoughts overlapped.  Things such as:

God’s Sovereignty   vs.   I am not in control

God’s Protection   vs.   what I can do to protect myself

God’s peace   vs.   anxiety in the circumstances around me

God is truth   vs.   how can I ever know truth in all the conflicting media reports

God is our hope   vs.   we are not called to fight issues, but rather to share the gospel of hope with others

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

  Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,

  And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

 

Because of Christ,

Pastor Scott

Racism and Me – June 19, 2020

racial recon

I had thought to write a piece this week about the brotherhood of man. I was going to start in Genesis 1 pointing out that the entire human race is related through Adam.  Then my eyes fell on chapter 4 and I was quickly reminded that brotherhood doesn’t guarantee peace. The first brother murdered the second brother!  It got so bad generations later that God destroyed the whole earth and started over!  Still even after that, most of the atrocities in recorded history were committed between close relations until nations got big enough to form large armies.

The cool thing is that despite the fact that humans, starting with Cain, have been messing up for centuries, God has never stopped loving us. He sent Moses to redeem His people from Egypt. He sent David to unite His people in the Promised Land. He sent Jesus to redeem ALL His people and Jesus is coming again to restore justice and order once and for all.

As I said at the beginning, I had hoped to write a piece of soaring rhetoric that would offer, if not a solution, at least some new insights. However, I’m afraid I must instead come back to what, for us, seems like an old truth. Before Jesus left this earth the last time, He gathered His disciples and He said this; A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  (John 13:34-35 NKJV)  I can hear you now – “Scott, that’s it?  The streets are burning and that’s all you got?”  Beloved, He died. He rose. He is coming again. He’s doing the work of redemption.  He asked us to tell everybody and to LOVE!  Because love is not natural.  The world is all about self; love is all about others. Let’s focus on loving, and like ripples in a pond let’s affect those around us. I can’t make a difference for everyone, but I can make a difference for someone, and so can you!

Pastor Scott

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

June 9, 2020 – Guest Blog: We Need Missionaries to Christendom

Pastor Scott is on vacation this week. Author Shawn Lazar wrote the following blog on June 3, 2020, via Grace Evangelical Society:

I recently turned forty-two, and just this morning, I learned that Søren Kierkegaard died at forty-two. I knew he died young, but I never took note of his age.

Kierkegaard wrote numerous books and pamphlets, often under pseudonyms, writing in different “voices,” taking different points of view, writing experimentally, with some writings being enigmatically philosophical and others, often written under his own name, being explicitly Christian. And the question that people had was, “Why?”

Philosophers (especially atheist philosophers) have grown to love a “version” of Kierkegaard—i.e., Kierkegaard as an early “existentialist” or postmodern deconstructionist. But other scholars have said that misconstrues Kierkegaard’s work. What was Kierkegaard trying to achieve?

In one of his last books, My Point of View for My Work as an Author, he explained what he was doing: he was a missionary.

He thought of himself a Christian missionary to Christendom.

Kierkegaard lived at a time (the early 19th century) when all Danes were considered Christian because they were Danish! It was the state religion. You were baptized as a baby, and that became your religion. Kierkegaard went to seminary to become a pastor and realized that for most of the fellow students, being a pastor was just a profession, a way to make a middle-class living without there being a connection to a living faith.

“The apostasy from Christianity will not come about by everybody openly renouncing Christianity; no, but slyly, cunningly, by everybody assuming the name of being Christian” (Provocations, p. 232).

That’s what he saw: people calling themselves Christian who had no faith.

Given that hypocrisy, Kierkegaard could not bring himself to become a pastor. Instead, he chose to become a missionary to nominal Christians living in Christendom. He wrote religious works to build up Christians, and he wrote philosophical works to “seduce” nominal Christians into thinking more deeply about existence and perhaps lead them to God.

Although I’ve read a good deal of Kierkegaard, it has mostly been his philosophical works, not his theology. Frankly, I can’t say what Kierkegaard thought about the saving message. Did he believe in faith alone or faith plus works? I don’t know (I’ve seen quotes that could go either way). But my point is not to defend Kierkegaard’s theology. Rather, my point is, like Kierkegaard, you and I are missionaries, too, aren’t we?

After all, we live in Christendom. Is America a Christian nation? No more than was Denmark in the 19th century. Plenty of people take the name “Christian”—but are they?

We live at a time when millions of people think of themselves as Christian by default, without a real understanding, still less a real faith, in Jesus as their Messiah.

Just this week, I saw a picture of a priest “baptizing” a baby from a distance using a squirt gun (see here)! That’s Christianity and becoming Christian according to many (e.g., Catholics, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, United Methodist, Presbyterian, and so on). That kind of Christendom is very, very sick.

Who is going to tell them about the promise of everlasting life? Who will disciple them to live a life pleasing to the Lord? Who is going to teach them about the hope of reigning with Christ in the kingdom?

It can’t only be pastors who are busy reaching in and caring for their flock. It will be missionaries who are reaching out—people like you and me—who can share the grace message with cultural Christians.

Kierkegaard saw the need for missionaries to cultural Christians and took it upon himself to reach out—will you?

Social Discourse 101 – June 5, 2020

sheep arguingGrowing up we lived near enough to my dad’s parents to regularly have Sunday dinner with them until we moved away after my 9th grade year.   When I was in 6th grade my mom (I’m being totally transparent here) started dressing me a little more stylishly.  To my grandpa’s eye, those styles looked like what the Hippies wore, but he skipped right over the Hippies and called me a Communist.  I had no idea what he was talking about, but I knew what a Communist was; so my response was, “Grandpa, I have two paper routes!” –  which, of course, didn’t change his opinion about my plaid pants.

The moral of the story is that he never did change my opinion about the clothing (I still wore plaid for a couple more years); he changed my opinion about his opinion – about him.* I knew for a fact that plaid pants did not make me a Communist.

Sniping causes the one attacked to protect himself.  Some protect themselves by hiding, some by running away, some by creating a shell.  And some snipe back.  In my case I tend to disregard the opinion of those who snipe.  I don’t think many are changed or persuaded by sniping.  

On social media the urge to snipe (argue with someone’s post)** is likely to assure that others aren’t persuaded by something we see as untrue or misleading.  And I get that!!  BUT when I comment under someone’s post, I am commenting to them.  It’s both unkind and ineffective.   If my concern is for them, I should handle the concern privately.  If my concern is getting the truth out “big picture,” then I should write about the truth on my own page.  I need to be as, if not MORE, polite on social media than I am in person, because on social media my audience is bigger and the record is permanent.

Walking worthy (Ephesians 4:1ff) isn’t just about what happens in church. We are the church!

Because of Grace,

Pastor Scott

*Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate my grandpa.  I just shut him out when he opined about my hair and clothing in the early 70’s!

**While I think this has always been an issue, it seems as the political/social/covid19/racial/grief rhetoric in our country has increased so has the arguing/sniping.  And it’s not how Christ would have us behave –   “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”  James 1:19-20