WHATCHU TALKIN BOUT WILLIS?

I grew up when Diff'rent Strokes was a popular television show. That's no big deal unless your last name is Willis. To this day I still hear those famous words popularized by Arnold: "Whatchu talkin bout Willis?" Usually they are uttered by someone looking at me as though I may have never heard it before. Yeah, right! Well this blog is what I (Willis) am talkin bout...my thoughts, observations & opinions. Enjoy...



Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The most misused Bible verse?

There are a bunch, but below are the top 6 in my experience. In no particular order...

1. 1 Thes. 5:22 (KJV): Abstain from all appearance of evil.

Misunderstood (thanks KJV) and misused as a trump card against anything thing we don't like!

2. Matt 7:1 (ESV): "Judge not, that you be not judged."

The favorite verse of the  wannabe "tolerant" among us.

3. John 8:7b (NIV): "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."

A popular escape verse. Almost always works to avoid scrutiny by others. You better be flawless if you're going to criticize me!

4. Romans 14:13b (NIV): Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.

And it seems like almost anything can be a stumblimg block! I don't like = a stumbling block!

5. Matthew 18:20 (NIV): For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.

Don't sweat that miniscule attendance... as long as we have a couple, Jesus will be here!

6. Galatians 3:28 (NIV): There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Loved by egalitarians & feminists. Just don't try don't try applying this verse to restrooms!

Ok, I was going for 10, but that's enough for now. What verses did I miss?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Not Just Biblical Ignorance

We often bemoan the prevalence of biblical ignorance that abounds these days. And we are right to so because it is an undeniably real problem. However, I've noticed another issue that isn't directly cured by Bible knowlede per se. In my experience I come across frequent misuse and misapplication of various portions of Scripture. Just check a friends favorite bible verse and you might run into a perfect example of what I'm talkin bout. Here are two prominent examples...

1. Philippians 4:13: "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

This verse, at first glance & by itself, appears to affirm that we can do just about anything as long as we rely on Christ's strength. BUT, this verse is NOT saying that I can dunk from the foul line, score 1600 on the SAT, bench press 700 pounds and start at QB for Redskins one day! Yet, this verse is a favorite because it is snatched right out of context. Go back one verse before Philippians 4:13 and we quickly see Paul is not offering a PMA motivational verse, but is dealing with contentment in all circumstances. Here verse 12: "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."

2. Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." This verse is making rounds as a new favorite verse thanks in part to Rick Warren's misuse of it. Any rookie Bible student understands that we need to discern who is talking to whom in this passage if we are to discover its truth. Much could be written on the misuse of this verse (go here for more), but suffice it to say that it's NOT talking to you directly promising you prosperity! God is talking to His OT people who are in exile & captivity, not to some guy to day who's trying to make it big!

So can we learn from the aforementioned verses? Do they matter to us? YES! But we must first must determine what they originally meant in context before we can seek accurate application to our lives.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Johnny Mac!

"When a man steps into the pulpit more interested in telling us about his week so that he can 'relate' to his people - he is not preaching the Word. When a man seeks to be funny behind the sacred desk rather than faithful with the text - he is not preaching the Word. When a man claims to have a 'word from the Lord' a part from the divine revelation of Scripture - he is deceived and is not preaching the Word. When a man designs his sermons to attract a target audience, appeal to the culture, and has as its primary goal a thirst to be relevent - he is not preaching the Word. When a man strives to change the world through politics, representing America as the new Israel, seeking to bring a societal morality through legislation, and honors the flag equally with the cross - he is not preaching the Word. When a man fails to tremble at God's Word privately before ever preaching it publicly - he is not preaching the Word. And when a man treats the pages of holy writ with a cavalier, seeker-friendly, watered down, cream of wheat irreverence - he is not preaching the Word."


- John MacArthur Jr.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Corinthians

I think it's time for me to read Paul's epistles to the Corinthian church again. There's certainly a lot of crazy stuff happening in that church and it helps me remember that church folks don't always act like Christians. Also makes you wonder why any congregation wouyld call themselves "Corinth Christian Church". Mark Driscoll did a sermon series on 1st Corinthians entitled "Christians Gone Wild" which provocatively makes the point that the early Corintians followers of Jesus had some serious "issues" as we like to say. I was talking with a friend recently about the topic of frustration I stated how I was very familiar with with it in the context of church. In some ways, if we're reaching new people, I guess frustsrtation might always be a factor of sorts. The hard part about frustration is when it involves long time believers and it usually does...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sermon Online

The sermons from Olivet Christian Church are online in an additional location now. You can find us at our page at Sermon.net. Internet savy folks can figure out how to set up a podcast too. Clicke "sermon player" and then hit the "podcast" icon. The sermons can still be found over at our main website too. We're 2 weeks into the "Gospel of John - Believe" series. I'm also making the Sunday bulletin inserts available as well. I think I can set all this up on this blog too. I'll work on it so stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

John's Gospel

My preparation for a new sermon series on the gospel of John is now fully underway. I'm really excited! I've been compiling resourses (commentaries aren't cheap either!) after soliciting input and suggestions on what to get.  Let me say thanks for the helpful suggestions from some you. I also asked Jack Cottrell and Mark Moore for recommendations and both were quick to respond. If you know me you know I highly respect Dr. Cottrell. I also have found Dr. Moore's work on the life of Christ to be outstanding. I'm still waiting for a few more books to arrive, but I have enough to get started. Just doing the background and introductory work is very cool - much more so than I anticipated. I've never gone verse by verse in a sermon series through John so this should be a profound time for me. I hope & pray it is also powerful for those who hear these sermons and travel through John with me.

I realize John's writing was about Jesus (John 20:31) but my admiration for the apostle is growing too as I learn about the author of the forth gospel. What a tremendous disciple of Jesus he was!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

"Who Stole My Church?"

I just finished Gordon MacDonald's "Who Stole My Church?" It was a rewading assigment for the guys in my Fusion group. Fusion groups are a much needed minstry started by the Virginia Evangelizing Fellowship (VEF) and I've been a part of one since their inception. So we met this morning and discussed the book (& lots of other stuff too). I'd wholeheartedly recommend MacDonald's work especially to anyone involved in a established church and looking to make some methodological changes. This is a fictional work but is still VERY REALISTIC. MacDonald writes of a weekly meeting he has with a group of older church members who are uncomfortable with the direction of the church and the changes that are being proposed. You will see people you know in this book - maybe even yourself. The funny thing was that I skipped the intro stuff and didn't realize it was fictional at first. I did have my suspiciaons! The book accurately reflects the mindsets we face when we strive to implement important changes in the church today. It helps understand the various perspectives in play too. It also provides some of the history of profound changes in the way the church has done things throughout history. He raises provocative questions as to what would have happened had the naysayers had successfully stifled many things we now take for granted. I think there is much that will be eye opening to most. I was especially encouraged by some of the intergenerational dialogue and understanding that took place in MacDonald's fictional church. This is an issue important to me. Also, though he touched on it breifly, his mentions of new church work reminded me of some of the best days in my own personal church history. And I better understand why these memories are so good.

I hope you will read "Who Stole My Church?" And if you already have, let us know what you think.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Favre?

One of my buds from back in college, the muti-talented Tony Wolf, has posted some thoughts on his blog about Brett Favre. It generated several comments, so I thought I'd share mine...

I wish when I was 40 an NFL team wanted me to play QB. You know at first (last year) I got beat with all the Favre stuff, but now - what the heck - it's just football. The dude's just got it like that. There have been others like him & there will be more. I don't lose any sleep over Favre or Vick or TO or Cutler or Brandon Marshall. It's amazing that we have a culture that gets so tied up in these dudes. Don't get me wrong - I like ball, but it won't bother me if Favre retires & comes back again & again. Gives sports fans something unsubstantial to talk about during break time at work anyway. Maybe Washington could get him next year!

A New NIV

If you've been attentive to gender issues and Bible translations then you are aware of the controversy which ensued when the TNIV arrived a few years ago. The NIV, longstanding enourmously popular Bible translation looked like it was to be replaced by the "gender neutral" TNIV. The ESV burst forth and was heavily supported by those who rightly opposed gender neutrality in Bible translations. There was a lot of fall out in cyberspace and the debate isn't much less heated even years later. So now a new NIV update is in the works for 2011. As I long time NIV user I am interested to see where this goes. It looks like those behind the NIV/TNIV have admitted "mistakes" in their recent translation efforts. Several evangelical big boys (Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan) and the good folks at CBMW seem hopeful. I'll be hoping for gender accuracy.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Vacation Time

It's vacation time again (& not a moment too soon), so any posts from me are pretty unlikely. I'm really hoping for a nice break and some quality down time with the family. This is a vacation I really want, unlike most that just sort of happen.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Jabez, Shack & Rick Warren

I was reading Aaron Saufley's blog and his comments about recently reading The Prayer of Jabez. I starting thinking about this little "must read" book that popped on up on the "Christian" market a few years ago. I read it and surprisingly thought it was a fairly thought provoking albeit brief read. Of course, I don't think it was worthy of all the hype it generated. People I know bought several copies to have ready to give away. And this is what really got me thinking. Isn't ironic that the Christian market produces a "must read" seemingly every year. It's some book with some "life changing" discovery and church folks spend millions on it. Then, a few years, later the book can't even be found on shelves at the nearby "Christian" bookstore. What's up? I have seen many books like The Prayer of Jabez come and go. Recently The Shack showed up and people were rushing to read it. (For the record I didn't read it). Some of these same enthusistic readers couldn't find Habakkuk with a search warrant! How about the biggest "tour de force" in recent years - the Purpose Driven Life? Where are all those 4o Days of Purpose Campaigns? I thought that Warren's book was the greatest thing since Revelation! Not quite, huh? There have been many well hyped books & there will be many more, but there is only one Bible. I like books, but there is only one Book like no other and it is indispensable for the Christian life.

PS. Don't even get me started on the massively hyped Left Behind series.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Habakkuk

I have a 2 Sundays to preach between the Nehemiah series I'll finish this Sunday and the upcoming John sermon series which will start the second Sunday of September. (You calendar watching folks will note more Sundays but I'll be gone for 2 of them for vacations). I'm thinking I might drop in the little book of Habakkuk (Did I spell that right?). I did a study on Habukkuk a few years ago and really appreciated it, but I've never "preached" a sermon from this minor prophet. I like Habakkuk & look forward to meeting him one day. I don't want to be like so many folks who will have no idea who he was in His-story when they meet him on the other side. Three chapters in two weeks seems doable. So for all my OT fans out there you have two more weeks before we go NT with Gospel of John.

More ideas...







Here are three more ideas for my John sermon series. The first 2 would require some editing. Any thoughts? Preferences?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Incarnate?


So what do you think about the potential graphic & title for my upcoming sermon series on the book of John? I found this at CityWest Church all the way in Melbourne, Australia! I was searching the web for ideas for a title for the series when I saw this graphic. I liked it & the folks at CityWest said I could use it. I found some other titles & graphics too, but this one really struck me. SO, should I call the series on John "Incarnate"? I have some ideas to go with it like an intro video with "John 1" by the now defunct Nobel Theme playing in the background. Anyway, I was originally leaning toward something centered around John 20:31: But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. I was thinking of titles like "Life" or "Believe" or "That You May Believe." So... "Incarnate" .... hmmm ...whatcha think?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Were You There - Russ Taff

My Evolution

I've been wondering about my evolution as a "preacher." Not the ministry stuff I do, but how I deliver my sermons. Different topics and different days always bring some subtle variances, but I think my "style" has been evolving too. I remember when I first started preaching I was stunned when another preacher guy told me how hard it was to cut his messages down for Sundays. I was always looking to stretch mine out! Too much material was never an issue back then. Now, however, I fully get his problem. I used to always look for that killer story or illustration too and now they come when they come. I would be very topical and now I'm much more interested in going through books or sections of Scripture. (I do still employ topical messages and they have a place for sure). I used to look for a dramtic introduction and killer closer. These days - not so much. I used to tell more protracted stories, but not nearly as much nowadays. In recent years I got into outlines for listeners and spent considerable effort on Power Point and pictures, along with audio & video supplementation. Maybe I'm getting lazy. Maybe I getting wiser. Maybe the preachers I listen to influence me. I don't know. Admittedly, when I speak elsewhere I do try to polish up the opening and closing, but when I'm on my home turf I don't feel as compelled. These days I really prefer just to open my Bible and talk about what we read.

Sorry for the ramble. I'm on pharmaceuticals anyway, but that's another blog post for another day...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Out with Nehemiah & in with John

I'm going through Nehemiah, verse by verse, on Sundays and next week looks to be my last message of many from this fantastic book of the Bible. Every week I seem to find my favorite passage in the book. Seriously, I do. Nehemiah just inpsires me. And the book that bears his name has a boat load of relevance for the church today. It's easy to see us in the lives of those people way back then. I'll miss Nehemiah, no doubt, but I'm equally excited about our next stop: the book of John. I've preached and taught from John at various times, but I have never gone verse by verse through the whole book with a congregation in a "sermon series". I've started to gather resources for this upcoming series and I am very open to any input you may have. Got a catchy series title for me? Know of a good commentary? Please let me know. Thanks!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Still Right!

Roger Chambers said: "Christianity without doctrine does not exist. Word has somehow got out that orthodox doctrine is the enemy of spirituality. Doctrine is an embarrassed intruder in many modern congregations. Barely tolerated, it cowers on the back pew; the territory around the pulpit has long since been claimed by commanding personality, practical mysticism, professional music, and pop psychology. A round of applause awaits the convention speaker who will announce that we are saved by Jesus, not doctrine. Brotherhood scholars impressed by German theology are throwing up a wall between Jesus and doctrine...(but)...the Bible does not elevate the Person of Christ over the doctrine of Christ."

This quotation was taken from Chambers' message entitled "Doctrinal Trends Of The Restoration Movement" which he delivered at the 1985 Florida Christian Convention/National
Missionary Convention.

It's been almost 25 years and he's still right...unfortunately.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Willis Tower


I am pleased to announce that the tallest building in the USA is now named Willis Tower! Some folks don't like it but they'll eventually get over it. Out with Sears and in with Willis!

Monday, July 13, 2009

SLOW AROUND HERE

You've noticed it's been one of those slow blogging times around here lately. It happens every few months - I just can't seem to get it going. I have lots of "would be" posts pass through my mind as I drive around town. Then, when I actually try to organize these thoughts, they utlimately seem not worth writing anyway. There is a lot going on too. Summer is in full swing. Our children are swimming all the time. My lovely wife is training for a marathon. Our dogs need attention as does our yard. Church is busy too. Anyway, the blog falls to the bottom of the priority list during these times. Sometimes I contemplate sharing some of my sermon insights here, but some of the readers already hear it on Sundays (& it's probably not that insightful anyway!). Fortunately some of my fellow bloggers continue to service their readers including me. I am especially digging the Arminian Today blog and the ongoing discussion of Romans 7 over there. VERY INTERESTING. I'm off the Delmarva Family Camp tomorrow, so I should return pumped up and maybe I'll be able to squeeze out a post or two! Until then...

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Baptism Sunday?

Maybe you haven't noticed yet, but a new term has made its way into the church: "Baptism Sunday." Yes, you won't find it in Scripture, but it is a growing fad (hopefully just a fad) among our churches. It has always bugged me, but I've never blogged about it. Anyway, this morning I read Blair Yager's comments on this "Baptism Sunday" idea and the were right on. This is "must read" stuff. So, enough with my rambling, go check out BAY. And don't wait until Sunday to do it!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Preston "Whatcha Talkin Bout" Willis wins backstroke!

My Blog List Grows

It's time to recommend two new blogs for your consideration. Both of these bloggers will be familiar to some who stop in here.

The first is Blair Yager's "What Will BAY Say Today?" Dr. Yager was a professor of mine back in college and taught some of my favorite classes. He's now a professor at Regent University in nearby VA Beach. Don't be alarmed - Blair is still rock solid doctrinally. Blair is sharp and I'm excited to see what his blog will offer.

The second is Sam Loveall's "Less Than I Want To Be, More Than I Was" blog. Sam is better known as "Sammyboy" around here. We also go back to college. I remember Sam especially for his singing voice. This brother can flat sing! Trust me if you haven't heard him. But Sam is more than a vocalist; he's a thoughtful and insightful brother. I think you will be challenged by reading his blog.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Go Jesus!

We got a Nintendo Wii for Christmas. We were all over it for the first couple of weeks, but it faded in popularity after our children returned to school and other activities. Recently the Wii has reemerged at the Willis household. Last night something really cool happened. Before I tell you what occurred I need to give you a little background information. The Wii allows you to create and name various characters to play with in games. Pretty cool feature actually. Our kids really got into to this and made a ton of characters. I think my son, Preston, has created about a dozen versions of himself. Anyway, last night he had his best bud, Aidan, over for a sleepover and they were playing baseball on the Wii. Then I here them shouting about Jesus. What's up? Apparently someone (one of our children I'm sure) made a Jesus character for our Wii. Well, Jesus must have come through big time because the boys began to shout in unison: "Go Jesus! Go Jesus! Go Jesus!" All I can say is AMEN!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

WOW! I'm Getting Old Fast!

I decided to go to the local barber shop today. I go there every so often. My old barber retired a while back, so I'm what might be described as an irregular customer. I do the Supercuts type places too, but I do like the old school feel of the traditional barber shop and today that's what I wanted. So I'm sitting there as the barber is doing his thing and I look down and notice some gray hair - well actually I see a lot of gray hair! Uh-Oh! I sit trying to picture myself with my dad's hair! Then the ultimate reality check moment occurs: I feel the clippers on my ears! Yes, the barber was knocking off ear hair!!! Now, I have seen a hair here and there on my ears before, but it has never risen to a level requiring the heavy equipment! WOW! I'm getting old fast!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

So You Want To Be A Baptist?

People who pay attention have noticed that many within the ranks of the Restoration Movement (RM) have apparently acquired a typical baptist theology when it comes to the topic and practice of immersion. I have also heard many discussions among some of my brethren as to the validity of "baptist baptism." Some would require a "Baptist" to be immersed again before he or she could "join" a local RM church. Others just shake their heads at this decline in sound theology, but recognize immersion practiced in simple obedience to Christ's command as acceptable. Regardless, I'm sure more than a few Baptists have been surprised when trying to join up with us, but here is a different facet to add to the discussion: A survey of Southern Baptist churches revealed that "87% of pastors surveyed said they would reject the immersions administered by groups such as the Churches of Christ." WOW!!! Touche? Go here for the details...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

2009 Delmarva Family Camp


The 2009 Delmarva Family Camp (July 11 - 17, 2009) schedule can be found here. I tried to post it here but couldn't overcome format issues so the link was easier. I went to the DFC last year and it was a great time. Lots of strong messgaes were preached and the fellowship was great. It's a uniques gathering and I encourage you to go at least once and check it out. Ray Bennet brings in a line up of strongly conservative preachers and they usually knock it out. You won't find any "Purpose Driven Life" messages or quotes from the latest denominational big boys, but you will get lots of encouragement to to stay strong and the preach God's Word without compromise. To me it's something like a Restoration movement Pep Rally. I always leave fired up.


Thie pic is of me speaking back in 07.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

My boy is brilliant


We are riding in our van last night when a most memorable conversation takes place between Delaney (8), Preston (6) & yours truly.

Delaney asks: "Where are we going?"

I reply: "We are going to the store."

She asks: "Why are we going to the store?"

I reply with my own question: "Why do we usually go to the store?"

Preston pipes in: "To buy stuff that we dont even need."

BRILLIANT! That's all I can say. My boy is wise beyond his years!!!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Victory: Glendale Gators 2008 GPSA Champs

My 3 children swim for the Glendale Gators (1994-2001 2003-2008 GPSA Champs). Needless to day the team is really good. My kids dig swimming, especially just being a part of a team. It will be another busy summer. Will we repeat as champs? It's supposed to be more competitive than ever, but if history means anything, we will be the favorite to win it all again. The vid is from last year's championship. One of my daughters, Bethany, is in the back left. My other girl, Delaney is in the front right. Go gators!

OutrageousCampbellite.com


My buddy Mike "Soren" Kjergaard turned me onto this website. Check it out.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Another Bible (of sorts)


I recently discovered "The Books of the Bible" published by the International Bible Society. I don't want to overstate this, but it has brought a substantial jolt to my Scripture reading. Is it a Bible? Yes & No. All of the Bible is in there, but it doesn't look like your Bible. Most noticeably, there are no chapters or verses. It is also arranged differently. If you want more info on specifics, just visit the website. You can also download some samples if you want to check it out firsthand. Now, as a disclaimer, I should mention that it is only available in the TNIV. You might this strange from a "complimentarian" guy like me. The TNIV is a "gender neutral" translation and a revision of the popular NIV. I don't have time to wade into the debate surrounding gender neutrality in translations, but there's plenty online if you want to explore more about the TNIV's approach. I don't endorse the TNIV as a primary translation for study, but I have found it to be a smooth read and, because of my familarity with the NIV, a surprising improvement in some places (and a disappointment in others). Anyway, "The Books of the Biblle" really helps me focus on reading the whole instead of particular chapter or verse. It also helps me see context better, which is most significant. I'm really enjoying it, so I thought I'd let you know. If you do check it out, let us know what you think.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

"Christian" Concerts


I've been doing some introspection and I realize that I've changed over the years when it comes to "Christian" music, especially with regard to attending concerts. Those who've known me for several years may know that I used to have an extensive collection of music and I would travel to hear my favorites. It was a passion for sure. I used to be all about going to a "Christian concert." I saw many of the big names of the 80's & 90's. I loved being there. Nowadays I won't drive up to Busch Gardens (30 minutes away) to watch the Christian celebrities do their thing. I'm not sure why. Maybe I don't like the music (true sometimes), but I do have several newer tunes on my Nano. Maybe it's because so much of the music now is "worship & praise." They may sound odd, but "Christian" music definitely took a turn back in the 90's. Maybe I don't like the hype (people will go nuts to "worship" with the big name band, but rountinely avoid Bible teaching and serving others (yeah that bugs me). Maybe it's because I used to have an "encounter God" mindset and I don't anymore. Let me explain. The idea was/is that you "encounter God" through "worship." Let me describe this worship: It is almost exclusively contemporary musically and usually starts up-tempo and moves toward a slower more intimate time of singing. Then, after we "are in the presence of God" or in the "thrown room" we are said to have "encountered God." (At least this is how I used to explain it back in the day.) Usually people will return from one of these gatherings speaking of how they had a great time of worship. What exactly does that mean?

Now, instead of trying to indulge in great experiences, I recognize and embrace the omnipresence of God. I don't need a special place with proper lighting, sound equipment and the requisite hip band to worship God! Yes, I do enjoy hip bands, but Scripture calls me (& you) to be living sacrifices who offer ourselves, our lives to worship God (Rom. 12:1). Don't get wrong - music can be worship, but it shouldn't be a synonym for it as it has become today.


Furthermore, I no longer "go to church" to worship God. (I know you are now thinking I've gone nuts & that's entirely possible!). Actually, I go hoping to practice the "one anothers" of Scripture, to participation in Communion, etc. But that's another post altogether.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Who Am I?

In the early days of my preparation for "professional ministry" I began to wonder where my position ("minister") could be found in the Scriptures. Afterall, I am a pat of a movement that calls Bible things by Bible names and endeavors to speak where the Bible speaks. Early on I found "minister" in a concordance and it made me feel better. I later discovered that the word just meant "servant" in the original language, not some clerical office. So, I began to wonder some more. Then I was told that I was an "evangelist" which could be found in three places in the NT (Acts 21:8; Eph. 4:11 & 2 Tim. 4:5). I had never heard this concept before. I then heard good brothers like George L. Faull describe in precise detail of the office of "evangelist" in the New Testament church. Admittedly, this position became less tenable to me as the years progressed. Scott Sheridan argues for this understanding istead of the more popular "pastor" title/position of our day. Honestly, most of the so called "evangelists" I know don't function like the NT word itself implies. I tend to see that role as roughly equivalent to our "missionary" concept. So, again I ask who am I? Some would say I am a "preacher." Now, I do like doing what we call "preaching" but seriously is that supposed to be a church job? It seems like most of the "preaching" (or proclaiming) had to do with lost people = evangelistic work. Another thought came to me in my pursuit of a Biblical answer: the preaching elder of 1 Tim. 5:17. My friend Tim Warner argues for a pastor-teacher position in the church. You can read his thoughts here. Im not sure I'm persuaded to embrace this concept either though Tim makes some good points. Jack Cottrell (my favorite theologian), in his excellent book, "The Faith Once for All: Bible Doctrine for Today" basically concedes that the modern minister is a hybrid position of sorts in today's church. I think he might be right. Now I don't beileve the Bible supports "the pastor" but maybe it doesn't support "the preacher" or "the minister" or "the evangelist" either. We might be guilty of forcing things a little too much in order to fit our theological positions. That's why I give Cottrell credit for admitting the obvious.What say you?

Friday, June 05, 2009

Virginia's Next Governor?

The video clip is of Bob McDonnell. He's a former Attorney General here in the Commonwealth and the current GOP candidate for Governor. Virginia is a "blue state" as of late, so this will be an interesting race this election. McDonnell appears to be the strongest candidate the Republicans have produced for a statewide race in quite some time. I think he just might have my vote.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Clergy or not?

I know many good brothers who would recoil at the suggestion that they are members of the clergy. I started wondering what the difference is between the clergy and those of us who are non-clergy professionals.
  • Paycheck? Yes for both.
  • Office? Yes for both.
  • "Full-time"? Yes for both
  • Special status? Yes for both.
  • Special tax considerations? Yes for both.
  • Degree(s)? Yes for both.
  • Ordination? Yes for both.
  • Perform weddings? Yes for both.
  • Perform funerals? Yes for both.
  • Do counseling? Yes for both.
  • Do hospital visitation? Yes for both.
  • Visit "shut-ins"? Yes for both.
  • Send letters to visitors? Yes for both.
  • Write newsletter articles? Yes for both.
  • Preach in church services? Yes for both.
  • Etc.
Do you notice a pattern developing??? If it walks like a duck...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Coach Bacote

I received a call yesterday informing me that my high school football coach, Ted Bacote, had died. Here is part of the obituary that appeared today.

NEWPORT NEWS - Theodore "Ted" Edward BaCote Jr., died June 1, 2009, at Sentara Careplex Hospital. He was born in Ansonia, Conn., and was one of three children born to Nancy Saunders and Theodore BaCote Sr. He was the husband of Delegate Mamye E. BaCote of Newport News, Va. Mr. BaCote graduated from Virginia Union University, Richmond, Va., where he excelled as a football player and was captain of the 1959 undefeated football team. He taught and coached in the Newport News School System from 1951 to 1991. He was a dedicated passionate teacher and coach.

I've been influenced by many different people throughout my life, but my high school football coach was definitely one of the most significant. Coach Bacote was a profound influence on me during those formative teenage years when I moved from boyhood into manhood. I remember my early encounters with Coach - he was quite intimidating! It may be hard to believe but I still regularly refer to Coach Bacote even now - some 26 years after my graduation! His influence still looms large in the Willis family too. I was very honored many years ago when his wife Mamye asked me to speak at a "Roast" in his honor. A few years later she and Coach were at my wedding. I saw him most recently when I noticed him entering a barber shop. I stopped, went in and we chatted. He was exactly the same. Coach was "old school" and he worked with a rough bunch of guys most of the time. He employed some "techniques" that would not be acceptable today, but he helped many boys become men and stear clear of the temptations and pitfalls that encumbered many of our peers. He was hard on us and we are better because of it. Coach could motivate like no one else. I still remember his daily "sermonettes" before (& sometimes after) footbal practice. I've used many of his stories in my sermons throughout the years. I like to the think he was the earliest preacher I heard and that I acquired some of my style from him. Coach would not tolerate quitters or guys who weren't part of the team. He touched untold numbers of lives and will be greatly missed. I thank God for Coach Bacote's impact on my life.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Where Have I Been?


This past weeknd Tammy & I were over on Virginia's Eastern Shore. We also built a little vacation time around the event that took us across the Chesapeake Bay - the annual Ocean to Bay MS-150 bike ride. It was my second year and it was a good time overall. Our team, "Blazing Saddles", had several participants and raised some decent money for Multiple Sclerosis research. I'm still sore (it might help if I traind beforehand!). The 150 miles took its toll on me. The worst part, however, was lack of sleep! The accomodations are nice, but we had one snorer who was rocking the house! He sounded like a wounded hyena... or a dying kodiak bear...or like a moose being strangled to death! It was horrible! I finally went outside and attempted to sleep on the porch. I must say the stars were magnificent!

Monday, May 25, 2009

New Bible


I love the Bible. I hope that is apparent to anyone who knows me fairly well. I recently purchased another Bible - the ESV Single Column Reference Bible (TruTone, Brown/Cordovan, Portfolio Design) from Amazon for a mere $34.64. This my first single column edition and I think I might just be a fan of this format. It certainly helps when it comes to rapidly locating a verse in a teaching setting. This is not my first ESV purchase however. After it burst on the scene a few years ago I bought one with much anticipation. I've since bought a few more. I, however, have not fully embraced this lauded translation as the solution to our every expanding Bible translation options. And I want to (I really do) and I have tried to, but without success. I know many folks just love the ESV. And many of these guys are big names and scholars too. But I (neither a big name nor scholard) just can't make the swiich yet. I think my issue is that I didn't grow up in the church and I didn't use the KJV extensively. When I was converted way back in 1983 it was promptly suggested that I get an NIV. I did and the rest is history. I know the NIV has weaknesses (ESV fans make them well known), but the ESV's touted readability is frankly unimpressive compared to the NIV. Now if I was moving from the KJV, NKJV, RSV (& perhaps the NASB) the readability factor might mean more. But the ESV seems a little archaic for me in places where it attempts to retain the KJV flow and feel. Many people like the tranlslations that sound like the Bible (err...the KJV), but I find that to be more about maintaining tradition than translation accuracy. I'd love for the church to have a primary translation, but it appears very unlikely these days.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Talkin bout Regeneration

Have you ever been perplexed by the reseach done on the lifestyles of "Christians"? I know I certainly have. It seems like "Christians" are pretty much the same as non-Christians with the exception perhaps of tee times on Sundays. The former occasionally play in the afternoon while the later get an early start). Sunday A.M. is about the only difference in many ways! Upon further analysis we quickly recognize that every one who calls himself/herself a Christian isn't one. We see all sorts of manifestations of the flesh in typical churches and we usual explain it as immaturity or lack of discipline, etc. Could it be that some of these folks just aren't saved? I know they haven' baptism certificates and they're on the roster, but they show no evidence of regeneration. Sure, there are those who temporarily stumble or plateau in their growth, but I'm convinced that building with steeples are ouccuppied my innumerable unconverted souls every Sunday morning.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Reading "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis I was stunned by how many quotes attributed to Lewis which come from this book. Here's one of the most well known.
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic -- on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg -- or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. – Mere Christianity

I'm really enjoying this classic book. I've read portions of it at various times over the years, but I think this may be the first time I've gone cover to cover with it. Anyway, if you haven't read it, or if it has been a few years since you have, I'd suggest you pick it up. It will stretch you for sure, but it will also draw you in. C.S. Lewis was obviously a brilliant man and has made lasting contributions through his numerous books. As always, be a Berean.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Randy Travis: Baptism

I'm feeling like a little Country music today. Randy Travis is one of the all time great voices/singers in Country music and this one of my favorite songs from him. Enjoy.

Romans 6:3-4: Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Manly Music?

Mark Driscoll: I’ll be happy when we have more than just prom songs to Jesus sung by some effeminate guy on an acoustic guitar offered as mainstream worship music. Right now most worship music is still coming from the top down through such things as Christian radio and record labels. But the trend today in a lot of churches is writing your own music to reflect your culture and community, and I pray this trend of music from the bottom up continues.

I was thinking about the masculine vs. feminine worship music discussion this morning on my way to the office. I first encountered the feminization of church music idea in the book, "Why Men Hate Going to Church" by David Murrow a couple of years ago. Then the more I listened the more I noticed that much of praise music these days strongly resembles the popular "Lite" format on radio. That format is targeted at a highly female demographic. It should come as no surprise that this kind of music is prevalent in the church since women are typically over represented numerically in the average congregation. As I continue my drive I tried to recall songs that had a distinctly masculine kind of vibe. I came up with a few. Do you think there's truth to Driscoll's point? (I do). Do you have some songs that you'd recommend? I'd like to add them to our playlist.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Leadership dreams...

Maybe I was just dreaming. Actually, I'm pretty sure I was. Way back in 1994 I was part of a new church plant called Christ's Church of the Peninsula. I went into this effort with lots of exuberance and a conviction that we could "get it right" in the church. And we did in amny ways (& we got some things wrong too!). When we finally decided to set apart our first elders we did so after spending several months studying & discussing the responsinilities & work of elders in the church. I envisioned a team of mature men working together in devotion to Christ, a group of shepherds caring for His sheep. I should mentioned that I worked a secular job for the entire existence of Christ's Church. During this time I preached virtually every Sunday, taught a small group weekly and carried out many other normal ministry responsibilties. It wore on me over the years eyt I was still reluctant to let it go and return to "full time" ministry. I loved it for many reasons: 1. It kept me connected to the lost in a way many "full time" guys end up forfeiting. 2. It gave me some additional credibilty with some folks because I had a "real " job. 3. I felt that my example said that you could do life in our day and still dedicate significant time to kingdom work.

My dream in those was that somehow we would develop a team of church leaders who would break out of the typical "board system" so prevalent these days. (Note: Just because you don't call it a "board" doesn't mean it isn't one). Anyway, it appears obvious that history in our churches repeats itself more than I'd like to admit.

Have any of you ever witnessed or been a part of a church where the leaders function in unity and harmony and do so sacrificially? Where board-elders don't exist, but shepherd-eldrs are the norm?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Maybe Tomorrow


I might just climb back aboard my Cannondale CAAD9. Maybe...

The CAAD9 in the pic isn't mine. I ride a Contes team bike (blue/silver) but I do like the look of this one.

Plexiglas Preaching

"There are plenty of gifted communicators in the modern evangelical movement, but today’s sermons tend to be short, shallow, topical homilies that massage people’s egos and focus on fairly insipid subjects like human relationships, “successful” living, emotional issues, and other practical but worldly - and not definitely biblical - themes. Like the unbiquitous Plexiglas lecterns from which these messages are delivered, such preaching is lightweight and without substance, cheap and synthetic, leaving little more than an ephemeral impression on the minds of the hearers."
-John MacArthur (from his book "Fool's Gold?: Discerning Truth in an Age of Error")

2 Timothy 4:1-5: I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Boards = Bad?

Is the Church Board concept really all that bad? Now, admittedly I'm playing the roll of "devil's advocate" (seems weird typing that) with this post, but it represents some things I've been pondering lately. I have pretty much always been vehemently anti-church board in my thinking. Mainly because IT'S NOT IN THE BIBLE (your bylaws notwihtstanding). It also usually provides opportunities to trump decisions by the elders because deacons (& myriad other "officers" in some churches) often out number & out vote the overseers. But, lately I've been contemplating this whole issue anew.

Consider first that the modern church is quite different in innumerable respects from our 1st century brethren. We have lots of stuff - property, buildings, land, vehicles, kitchens, gyms (oops, I mean"family life centers"), equipment, etc. We often have multi-member paid staffs too. The congregants, of course, are expected to bankroll all the aforementioned. If these things are unscriptural, why can't we have an unscriptural board to oversee them? I'm just saying (to quote a firend).

Additionally, we have witnessed the supplanting of the elders' rolls as shepherds in many ("most" would probably be more accurate) churches. This usually is a result of the delegation of such responsibilities to those employed "full time" (aka. "the staff" but not Biblical "staff" of "thy rod & thy staff they comfort me"). SWo, here's my question: Where exactly are the lines to be drawn when it comes to delegating responsibilties of church leaders? If it is acceptable and/or appropriate to give shepherding duties away, how can it be unacceptable and/or inappropriate to give oversight away too?

Might the church be better served if elders delegated anything but shepherding?

More on this later...

Sunday, May 03, 2009

MS-150



I'll be riding in the MS Bike Tour in a few weeks. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society will use funds collected from the MS Bike Tour to not only support research for a cure tomorrow, but also to provide programs which address the needs of people living with MS today.If you can support my effort with a donation, please go here.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

New Feature

Because WTBW? is all about customer service a brand new feature is now available to you. "Take a Listen" is a new list of links that will take you to some very fine preaching/teaching. I list several guys with different styles, but all of them can bring it. You may be familiar with many of these guys, while others may be new to you. All, for the most part, come from a solid doctrinal orientation with the notable exception of Mark Driscoll. While he is right on in many areas, his soteriology comes up short and his reformed perspective is disappointing. I have him on the list because his thoughts & practices can be very valuable. I should also note that many of the messages come from the Crown Hills Church website and are a result of the hard work of Scott Sheridan. Scott has done an incredible job and I'm especially grateful that he has made so many messages available from the late Roger Chambers. I'll add more as time goes by, but this intial effort reflects some of my favorites. Enjoy!

PS. As always, be Bereans!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Fishing poles, bicycles & asphalt...OUCH!

Yesterday I attempted a relatively short bicycle ride with my lovely wife. We were preparing for a 100 mile ride tomorrow that starts on the campus of Roanoke Bible College. About five miles into our ride we encounter an obstacle of sorts - a fishing pole! How? Well we were getting it at about 20 miles per hour and approaching some seemingly harmless parked cars when a man pulls a fishing pole from his trunk and whips it out into the street. Tammy brakes and I try to swing wide. I caught her bike tire a slammed onto the asphalt. OUCH! We both wreck, but thankfully her injuries were minor. The street was not particulary receptive to me and my flailing body. I slammed onto the pavement pretty hard and my helmet saved my from a potentially very serious accident. Waer your helmets boys & girls! I went down on my left side and acquired some big time road rash. Worst of all I smashed my shoulder - the same one I separated a few years ago. Anyway, I lay in the street for a bit while a few folks drove around me! Yeah, I thought about the Good Samaritan too. I won't bore you with all the details, but I've done the ER, pain pills, anti-nflammatory pills, a visit to an Orthopedist, my first cortisone injection and I have an MRI on my calendar. The good news is that I am eating very wel! My long time friend Frank brought over two double cheese what-a-burgers (the best). And my mom brought me 2 bags of caramel creams - my fav candy! So now I have a bum shoulder and a bulging midsection, but hey it could've been worse!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Jumbo Shrimp Anyone?


My bud Aaron Saufley is soon to be unleashing his first ever book - The Jumbo Shrimp Gospel: Living Out the Paradoxical Message of the Kingdom of God. I rediscovered Aaron through the blogosphere and regularly visit his site - The Road Less Travelled. I highly recommend you do the same. Aaron is bright, insightful & biblical - all the things you need to be in order to write a book worth reading. I was privileged to get a little preview by reading the first chapter and I can't wait for the rest. I always thought writing a book would be a very cool thing to do, but it is no easy task, so I congratulate Aaron for getting it done.

Monday, April 20, 2009


If this guy is Minnesota's new Senator then you can add that state to my growing list of places where I will never live! Governor Jesse "The Body" Ventura was bad enough, but this proves his election was no anomaly. First a "professional" wrestler and now a comedian! I'm all for anyone having a shot at political office, but Minnesota could do better. Maybe they should vote for NFL bottom tier QB Tavaris Jackson as the other Senator!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Crying in the Chapel - Allies

That's Bob "Butterfly Kisses" Carlisle singing lead for Allies. This is from WAY BACK IN THE DAY - the late 80's! The band broke up in the early 90's and Bob went on to brief mainstream success. This song is from the album "Long Way From Paradise" - an all time classic IMHO.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Any Elders Out There?

Here's a really challenging quote from Alexander Strauch, author of Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church . . .

When the church eldership is viewed as a status or board position in the church, there will be plenty of volunteers. When it is viewed as a demanding, pastoral
work, few people will rush to volunteer. One reason there are so few shepherd elders or good church elderships is that, generally speaking, men are spiritually lazy. That is a major reason why most churches never establish a biblical eldership. Men are more than willing to let someone else fulfill their spiritual responsibilities, whether it be their wives, the clergy, or church professionals.

Biblical eldership, however, can't exist in an atmosphere of nominal Christianity. There can be no biblical eldership in a church where there is no biblical Christianity. If a biblical eldership is to function effectively, it requires men who are firmly committed to living out our Lord's principles of discipleship. Biblical eldership is dependent on men who seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33), men who have presented themselves as living and holy sacrifices to God and view themselves as slaves of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 12:1,2), men who love Jesus Christ above all else, men who willingly sacrifice self for the sake of others, men who seek to love as Christ loved, men who are self-disciplined and self-sacrificing, and men who have taken up the cross and are willing to suffer for Christ.

Some people say, "You can't expect laymen to rear their families, work all day, and shepherd a local church." That statement is simply not true. Many people rear families, work, and give substantial hours of time to community service, clubs, athletic activities, and/or religious institutions. The cults have built up large lay movements that survive primarily because of the volunteer time and efforts of their members. We Bible--believing Christians are becoming a lazy, soft, pay-for-it-to-be-done group of Christians. It is positively amazing how much people can accomplish when they are motivated to work toward a goal they love. I've seen people build and remodel houses in their spare time, for example. I've also seen men discipline themselves to gain a phenomenal knowledge of the Scriptures. The real problem, then, lies not in men's limited time and energy but in false ideas about work, Christian living, life's priorities, and--especially--Christian ministry. To the Ephesian elders, Paul says, "You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive' " (Acts 20:34, 35). How do working men shepherd the church and still maintain a godly family life and employment? They do it by self-sacrifice, self-discipline, faith, perseverance, hard work, and the power of the Holy Spirit.


That's good stuff from Strauch and should be pondrerd by every current and would be elder. I highly recommend the aforementioned Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church.

"We bought and paid for the lie that Six Flags over Jesus was what the world needed. We believed that if we built better churches, our cities would be better off. . . The jig is up . . . The program-driven church has produced a brand of Christianity that is despised, not just ignored, by people outside the church." Reggie McNeal

The above quote comes from Reggie McNeal's latest : Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church. I did the "look inside" deal at Amazon and this book has moved into "next purchase" position for me. It looks to be following in the lines of McNeal powerful The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church.

From the inside flap...
"In Missional Renaissance, the much-anticipated follow-up to his groundbreaking book, Reggie McNeal shows the three significant shifts in the church leaders' thinking and behavior that will allow their congregations to chart a course toward becoming truly a missional congregation. To embrace the missional model, church leaders and members must shift

From an internal to an external focus, ending the church as exclusive social club model
From running programs and ministries to developing people as its core activity
From church-based leadership to community-engaged leadership"

Looks good, huh?

Friday, April 17, 2009


Yeah, I've been absent for a week or so, but I'll be back soon. I've been buried in the book of Nehemiah and that's a good things. I'll be teaching on "Leadership" tomorrow at the Haw Branch Church of Christ in NC and I'm using Nehemiah for our study. I'm actually teaching for the East Carolina Bible Institute (I think that's it). Also, we have our 3 kids swimming 3 nights a week for 3 hours (1 hour each!). And I'm helping coach t-ball 3 other days so it has been BUSY. Mrs WTBW? has recently started a part time job so I've had to pick up the slack. Don't get me wrong - I'm not complaining. It's all good and we could use the extra $$$. I'll be starting a new sermon series on Nehemiah this Sunday at Olivet. I'm pretty excited about it. Have a good one.

Oh - the name of the series: Nehemiah (Thanks Levi for the winning suggestion!)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Something to Think About

Your Thoughts?

I recently received an email from one of the WTBW? regulars, "SammyBoy", requesting that we weigh on a prevalent issue/question within the church. Sam is a good brother and deep thinker. So guys & gals, read below and have at it.

Sam's email message to me...

I’m often involved in on-line discussions, with people from all sides of the faith spectrum. One discussion I’m in right now concerns baptism (as so many of our RM discussions seem to). I’m going to paste into this note an entry I’m making in that discussion. I wondered if it might be fodder for your blog, for you and others to respond to.

The question at hand is something like this: Can we have any hope that, in the Christian era, individuals have been/will be saved who have not submitted to immersion into Jesus (the main caveat being that the people under discussion miss immersion because of simple ignorance or bad teaching, rather than rebellious rejection; and that they are people who are, as best they know how, intending to be faithful to God, trusting in Jesus’ atonement for forgiveness from sin.)

Please note that I have no hesitancy in preaching the truth about immersion’s role in salvation. I teach it and preach it as part of man’s God-commanded response to the gospel. The question on the table is not so much about immersion as it is about God’s grace and the extent to which He may extend it.

Sam's aforementioned post:

Okay, here's how I see that aspect of "grace overlooking imperfect behavior and adherence" working in the NT scheme. What is generally acknowledged (by classic RMer's, anyway) as being necessary on man's side of the salvation covenant is: intellectual understanding of God's godhood and Christ's atonement (belief); emotional and volitional investment in God's godhood and Christ's atonement (faith); verbal and behavioral acknowledgment of God's godhood and Christ's atonement (confession);emotional, volitional and moral response to God's godhood and Christ's atonement (repentance); and submission to a specific expression of all that (immersion).

Two of these five items -- the first and the last -- are "point in time" things. There is a point in time when you come to initial intellectual acceptance of the whole idea (belief) and a point in time when you act out the specific expression called for (immersion). And as I said in another place among these conversations, that could be part of the reason we tend to be so adamant about baptism -- it's relatively easy to verify. If you tell me you've been immersed into Jesus' death, that can be checked (not that we ever do.) And if I've been immersed into Jesus' death, it's almost like an item on a checklist -- there we go, got that one accomplished; don't have to worry about it any more.

However, the other three are all things that we continue to grow into as we live out the Christian walk. And we fulfill them with varying degrees of success -- sometimes more, sometimes less -- throughout our lives. That varying response quality on our part is the reason we have to continue to rely on God's grace after our conversion. God commands of us these three things -- faith, confession, repentance -- as part of our side in the salvation covenant, just as strongly as He commands the two point-in-time events. But as perfect as I can be in those two, I am imperfect in these three things. I would like to be perfectly faithful . . . but I'm not. I would like to be perfectly repentant . . . but I'm not. I would like to confess God's godhood and Christ's atonement with every word I say and everything I do . . . but I don't. And so I rely on grace to cover for those times when I am imperfect in behavior and adherence.

I know that you would agree with that. But here's one of two places where this whole discussion comes to a head -- if God, in the NT scheme, is willing to apply His grace and Jesus' perfection to my imperfect behavior and adherence in these three, why wouldn't He be willing to do so in the other two? (And surely He does in the first -- when I first come to believe, there are huge gaps in my understanding of God.) If He gracefully accepts the atoning blood of Christ where my faithful intentions and efforts in faith, confession and repentance come up short, why do we believe that He would refuse to do so concerning baptism?

Three things I hope you'll note at this point -- 1) at this point, I'm not arguing or trying to convince you of anything or trying to score points in a debate. This is a point where I struggle to find just the right answer spoken just the right way. If you can help me toward that, I'll be grateful.

2) I'm still dealing with unintentional, faithful failure or ignorance, and not rebellious rejection.

3) Simply saying, "Because the Bible says to be baptized" does not address the question sufficiently. The Bible also makes commands about faith, confession and repentance. Now, if what I'm about to say is incorrect, i beg your forgiveness, but I'm going to guess that at least part of your response will be something like this: Once you're in covenant relationship. grace covers a lot of failure, but you have to first be in covenant relationship for that to be. And since immersion is what brings you into covenant relationship, its absence can't be allowed. In fact, you've essentially already said it, when you said [i]"I believe He is gracious to those of us in Covenant relationship because of our weakness but covenant is paramount to even be considered sons and you have already expressed agreement as to how one enters this state."[/i] But I would assert that all five of those items are commanded for entering the covenant, and I am certain that none of us can confidently claim perfection in faith or repentance at the time of our conversion. So the question remains, Why does grace cover unintentional, faithful failure in #'s 2, 3, and 4, and not #5?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Hey Creative Types

As many of you know I'll be starting a sermon series in a couple of weeks based on OT the book of Nehemiah. I'm trying to come up with a title for the sermon series. Sure I can go with "Nehemiah" but I know some of you creative types could help me with a really hip title. Maybe even a song suggestion too. A little brainstroming would be appreciated... I'll start...

"God the Builder" (sounds a little too junior churchish)
"Under Construction"
"Extreme Makeover - Jerusalem Editin (A little overused)
"If it is Broke - Fix it!"
"A Great Project" (6:3)
"T-R-O-U-B-L-E" (2:17)
"Another Brick in the Wall"

Okay, it's obvious I could use some help. Any ideas???

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Last Sunday

Last Sunday was most interesting. I was preaching a multifaceted sermon where I attempted to answer numerous questions from the congregation. I had a broad range of topics to cover: What we'll look like in eternity, Cave men vs. Adam & Eve, Alledgedly contradictory accounts of Judas' death, Dinosaurs and Noah's ark, Modesty, etc. I was wrapping up my sermon series "You Asked For It!" and I had several questions remaining that I wanted to handle albeit with brevity. Anyway, I got into Romans 14 and asked the folks to name some "disputable manners" which became very interesting to say the least! Topics that arose were: earrings for men, how to dress for church ,tatoos, smoking and drinking alcohol! Needless to say people were paying attention. One person said "baptism" and I had to point out the baptism was not a disputable matter in Scripture. I tried to be as biblical and honest as possible. I probably stunned a few people, but I didn't get fired!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Tennis Tonight


I'm excited that tennis season begins tonight. I'll be taking the court with my buddy and brother in Christ Dave Hileman. It is not an ideal time to begin for me however. I coughed all last night and am in need of a seriously big nap. My back is bothering me too and I'm a good 20 pounds overweight. AND I HAVEN'T PLAYED TENNIS IN A LOOOONG TIME. Yet, somehow, I'm ready to go. I know it doesn't make sense, but I'm looking forward to swinging the racquet in a few hours. Oh, did I mention it will cold tonight? I don't like playing in the cold either, but, again, I'm still ready to go! I have watched a little tennis on TV recently, so maybe I'm a tad inspired! I especially enjoyed watching the replays of matches from many years ago. Bjorn Borg was my favorite back in the day. I think I'll roll with a two-handed backhand tonight in his honor.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sundays in the Commonwealth

"82 out of 100 of our neighbors are not in church Sunday in Virginia according to the American Church Research Project. It is also reported that a high percentage would attend on Easter IF someone invited them." (From http://vefnexus.wordpress.com/)

Looks like we have some work to do.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Put on the Armor

Ephesian 6: 10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

ShamWow!


Go here for the details.

Personally Invited?

I'm on my way into the office this morning taking the usual route by the same church sign I pass every day. However, instead of blending into the scenery, this time it catches my eye. The sign says, "You are persoanlly invited." I think the invitation was to their annual Easter production. Anyway, it struck in an odd sort of way. Personally invited? Really? To me, it seemed very impersonal and a reflection of modern "churchianity" at its finest. Now I haven't studied the etymology of "personal." Neither have I consulted an unabridged dictionary for all the possible meanings of "personal" or "personally". What I did do was ponder this "personal invitation" as I drove on. I wondered how silly it must seem to those who even notice the sign. I should also mention that this isn't some podunk church - it is a large program rich group with multiple services and a spiffy facility on a main drag. I'm sure they have the megachurch playbook in hand at all times. Yet they sitll felt comfortable trying to pass off a church sign as a personal invitation. I wonder how many similar things we do that are equally dumb?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Nehemiah

I've been in a srmon series entitled "You Asked For It" since the beginning of the year, but I'll be wrapping it up this Sunday. We've entertained questions form Christians & non-Chritians too. I didn't get all the questions answered (I never will), but we covered a lot issues and I think it has been good. It's time, however, to get back into a book of the Bible. I like to mix in topical sermon series throughout the year, but after "Easter" it will be straight through the book of Nehemiah here at OCC. I preached through this tremendous OT book many years ago, and after looking back at my notes, I have plenty of room for improvement going forward! I'll also be teaching on "Leadership" at the Haw Branch Church of Christ later in April and will use Nehemiah as the biblical reference point for our topic. Know any good resources on Nehemiah? Please let me know. Thanks much!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Off to RBC (MACU)

RBC must have finally run out of alums who are in preaching ministries. How do I know this? Because I've been selected as "Preacher of the Month." Yes, I know it is hard to believe but it has actually happened! I will be honored tomorrow and get to speak in chapel as well. I do appreciate the affirmation and the opportunity to preach the Word as well. The funny thing is that I am always quite nervous when I return to my alma mater. I can't explain exactly why either. I'd appreciate your prayers. Thanks.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Out with the old...

And in with the new...

Roanoke Bible College is undergoing a name change. Reportedly, as of June 2009, Roanoke Bible College will be no more... from that point on, RBC will be known as Mid Atlantic Christian University (MAC-U). For what it's worth I'm down with the name change. Fellow RBC grad and blogger Chris Woolard says the new bi-line is "an education built upon the 66 books" He thinks "it's the power's that be attempt to let everyone know that 'Just because RBC is going through a name change doesn't mean that they've gone liberal.'" So, start taking care of those RBC t-shirts - they will soon be collector's items!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

My Final Four

Here it goes...

Louisville
UConn
Duke
UNC

Duke will win it all!!!

Bible College Thoughts

A couple of my favorite bloggers have some really good discussions going on. Soren started it and then Aaron took it in another direction. I think these discussions are very important. My comments can be read on their blogs so i won't rehash them here. I am concerned with the direction of some our schools and I also think the current Bible College model will become increasingly unsustainable in the years (perhaps decades) ahead. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

More Revelation

I have a new found love for the book of Revelation. It promises a blessing to those who read it (1:3) and I'm really being blessed these days! I, like many new Christians, read Revelation many years ago after my conversion. It's a book, however, that I've tap danced around for many years since. It was cool... it was mysterious... but I basically didn't get much from it between chapters 3 and 21! I recently committed to studying it and it has been incredibly inspiring. The book of Revelation rocks! When I read it I can't help but get pumped up! And it should encourage us. It did so for our brothers and sisters many years ago and for many generations since. Here's a taste from chapter 5...

6Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. 8And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth."

I recently read the entire book without chapter or verse markings. I had to do a lot of cut & pasting from Biblegateway. It took a few minutes, but I highly recommend it. Try to do it in one sitting if you possibly can. It's awesome - trust me.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Hey Dan Snyder


Get Jay Cutler! He wants out of Denver and it's time for Washington to get an elite QB. Campbell is nice guy but he's not getting it done. C'mon Mr. Snyder - Get a deal done! Give them draft picks. Give them Campbell. Just get it done. Thanks.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It's all about me...

This is one of the better "church videos" that are seemingly everywhere these days. I did like this one it makes great point.

Marriage Assault

Marriages are under assault in case you haven't noticed. I notice. I see it ALL THE TIME. Satan knows "if it ain't broke don't fix it" and his strategy ain't broke! I have seen many "Christian" marriages wrecked over the years. Many more than I care to remember. I've learned some important lessons too. Lessons like: There are two sides to every story. People are basically going to do what they want to do. People want confirmation not counsel. Many "Christian" marriages aren't very "Christian". Thankfully there are rare exceptions, but my negative experiences have been reinforced repeatedly through the years. I honestly struggle to muster much effort in some of these cases (maybe that's why they turn out like they do). It's like seeing your team taking on a much superior team - you almost know it's over before it begins. I guess failure replayed has a tendency to harden us. In my estimation couples wait until things almost too far gone before they attempt a rescue. Often this "attempt" is weak at best - it's too late (in their minds). And, yes. the odds aren't in their favor at this point. Sometimes its pride - they don't want anyone to know. Sometimes they don't want to save the marriage. And often there children involved - HOW SAD! So, what's the solution? I don't think it is another marriage seminar. It goes way deeper.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Outward

“Simply stated, what drove the decision was a focus on those who are not yet here.”

Those words brought me to a standstill in my reading. The book was “Breakout Churches” by Thom S. Rainer. Churches that were reaching people with the good news were congregations driven by an outward focus. They saw beyond the walls of the church building. They saw the harvest fields and were intentional about reaching the lost. Sadly, many churches (and Christians) today are not outwardly focused. Frankly, most “churches” are stagnate or in numerical decline. Many are merely “holding on” not reaching out. This is hard truth, but it is true nonetheless. We live in an increasingly godless culture. This should be plainly obvious to everyone with a biblical worldview. The church is losing ground in our society. Our influence is not just waning, to quite honest; the church is irrelevant for many today. Author, Reggie McNeal noted in his terrific book, "The Present Future", that Christians were once “in the world but not of the world” but now many are “of the world (worldly) but not in the world (withdrawn).” We have become like the world while simultaneously distancing ourselves from the same world. Didn’t someone say something about salt that loses its saltiness? I write this not to discourage you, but to call you to join me in resisting the inward trend so prevalent in the body of Christ.

“He (Jesus) told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’” Luke 10:2

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Make it crawl...

I attended 2nd grade Stonewall Jackson Elementary here in my hometown, Newport News. One day we were given an assignment to write a letter to a famous person. Most of my fellow students chose President Nixon (yeah I'm old). I chose Flip Wilson. Yes, you read that right. Flip Wilson had his own variety show, The Flip Wilson Show, that aired Thursday nights at 8:00 on NBC back in the early 70's. (Attention young folks: Ask your parents or grandparents about Flip.) I came across a story recently about Flip's show that I'd like to share:

Flip Wilson was a popular comedian several years ago, and one of his characters was a Preacher at the "What's Happening Now Church." Flip did a Skit where he told about this preacher. He'd shout out:
"IF THIS CHURCH IS GOING TO SERVE GOD IT'S GOT TO GET DOWN ON ITS KNEES AND CRAWL!!!"
And the audience yelled back "Make it crawl preacher, make it crawl!
"AND ONCE THIS CHURCH HAS LEARNED TO CRAWL, IT'S GOT TO GET UPON ITS FEET AND WALK!!!"
"Make it walk preacher, make it walk" the audience moaned.
AND ONCE THIS CHURCH HAS LEARNED TO WALK ITS GOT BEGIN TO LEARN TO RUN!!!"
"Make it run, preacher, make it run!"
"AND IN ORDER TO RUN, ITS GOT REACH DEEP DOWN INTO POCKETS AND LEARN TO GIVE!!!"
(pause) "Make it crawl preacher, make it crawl."

Someone has said, "A Church can't grow if it doesn't give. And if it doesn't give… it'll crawl." There probably isn't a preacher around who is more reluctant to talk about giving than yours truly. I am, however, very thankful for my brothers & sisters who faithfully display kingdom generosity. I know some of you are those very people so, please know your willingness to share is making an eternal difference.

PS. While many of my classmates received generic letters from the president, I received an autographed picture from Flip! Cool, huh?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

T-ball

Signed my boy up for T-ball this morning. I think he will like it. I never was much into the diamond sports although I did my time in little league and have played softball here and there. I did like the hats nd the hotdogs and those people whop offered money for homeruns (collecting was a challenge however). Admittedly, all parents tend to see amptitudes in their children that others may not. For example most of us are amazed at how smart our children are, how naturally talented they are, etc. As biased as I am I do see Preston having some pretty good baseball skills. When he was barely walking he could hiot a ball with a bat! (Sounds like a good story to tell after he makes it to the Majors!). We don't play much (I'm sure that will now change) but he hits well and can throw too. He just gets rapidly discouraged if he doesn't do everything perfectly right off the bat (pun intended). So I'll be doing my best baseball Barnabas routine in the next few weeks. Here's to another chapter in our family's youth sports lives...

Thursday, March 05, 2009

If I could...

I'd have...
  • the theological mind of Jack Cottrell
  • the understanding of Revelation of Robert Lowery
  • the Bible knowledge of George L. Faull
  • the preaching passion of Ray Bennett
  • the political mind of Pat Buchanan
  • the vocabulary of William F. Buckley
  • the missional thinking of Reggie McNeal
  • the historical knowledge of Roger Chambers
  • the heart of Mrs. WTBW?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Typhoons = We are the champions!

A few months ago a childhood friend asked me to help him coach a coed basketball team for 8-10 year olds. Ironically we played together back when were this age (we won the championship back in the day). I was excited to help out so my daughters and I joined the Typhoons. It was a blast! Practice was a little stressful - I don't know how teachers do it! We had a good group of kids...some were very skilled and some were beginners, but they got along pretty well. It was cool because I actually went to school with some of the parents (Yeah I'm old). Anyway, last night we played for the tournament championship. We were matched up against a team that had beaten us in double overtime just a few weeks ago. We were probably the underdogs in the eyes of most. They started off very fast and it didn't look good for us at first, but we settled in and ended up winning by five! It was thrilling and was I couldn't have been happier for our kids. They played extremely hard - they were in it to win it! It was great seeing our players step up their games at the right time. I hope to be back next year. After the game I couldn't stop singing Queen's "We Are the Champions." Maybe I'm getting old, but I think I enjoyed this as much or more than when I was playing on our championship team 32 years ago!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

That's the book for me...

I love the Bible! It's beyond amazing to know that I have a copy (actually several copies) of God's Word available to read & study whenever I so desire. I preached about the Bible this morning. I don't know if anyone else was challenged by my message but I certainly was! I'm in a sermon series called "You Asked For It" where I attempt to answer questions from people in the church (and several from those who don't attend any church which we solicted via text messages). It's been very challenging & rewarding for me personally. I did a lot of the usual - demonstrate the Scripture's reliability historicially, archaelogically, scientifically, prophetically, etc. But, I also wanted people to really get that God Almighty has made His Word available to everyone of us and that is a blessing of immeasurable significance. Let's stop just believing great truths about the Bible & start consuming & acting upon the great truths in the Bible.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Pastors" Breakfast

This morning E.L. & I went to a "Pastors Appreciation Breakfast" at Warwick River Christian (Mennonite) School. We have some young folks from church who are students there. We had some good grub, good conversation and a nice concise program. Then we were supposed to be taken to see the OCC students in their classes. So far so good except the first class we go to has none of our students. It's apparently a Bible doctrine type of a class & on the board is this question: "What does your church believe about baptism?" I quickly point this out to E.L. What happens next is very cool. The teacher then asks if we have some time because she wants our participation! We are also joined by a young presbyterian preacher guy who gives his take on baptism = infant baptism...covenantal...like OT circumcision...etc. We were asked about the mode of baptism first. We went Greek & Romans 6, etc. Then we were asked about the purpose for baptism. Now the teacher was nice, but she was obviously holding to a typical baptist "outward symbol" understanding of baptism. We were diplomatic and pointed the class to the Scriptures repeatedly describing the reality of baptism in the NT. Anyway, my favorite part was when E.L. siad "We believe baptism is essential for salvation." He then dropped Acts 2:38 on them. It was especially great because the teacher had been laboring to show that baptism had nothing to with salvation. This was all very unexpected and very cool and a tremndous start to the day! Their next subject is going to be Communion. I'd love to be there for that one too!