Archives For Commentary

Read: Acts 6:4 (ESV)

“But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

Time management

By Adron Robinson

There are 168 hours in a week, and most weeks they seem to go by way too fast. Each week has a variety of good things you can do to fill those hours: community meetings, phone calls, pastoral care, staff development, membership concerns, teaching, sermon preparation, and the list goes on. But how do you determine how much time to spend on each of them when there are so many options?

In Acts 6:1-4, the church was growing rapidly, and because of this, the disciples had to make some hard decisions about how to divide their time. There were people in need and ministry to be done, and they had the same 168 hours a week that you and I have. But they made a decision to prioritize their time by focusing on what God called them to do and to delegate to capable people that which was not their calling.

The apostles said: “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.” And pastor, it is not right for you to serve tables at the neglect of prayer and preaching the word.

Prayer and preaching are the pastor’s priority. You must discipline your time to allow for prayer and the ministry of the word. If you are not intentional about spending time with God and his word, you will find yourself giving God your leftovers instead of your first fruit.

It takes time to pray and it takes time to study and craft biblically sound sermons. So, set aside the hours to do what God called you to do and delegate the things that others can do. Every Christian can serve, but the pastor is called to preach the word.

Prayer Prompt: Lord, Sundays seem to come so fast and there is so much work to do. Grant us your wisdom and discernment to make prayer and preaching our first priority, so that we can commit our time to our calling.

Adron Robinson pastors Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills and is president of IBSA.

My annual reckoning

Lisa Misner —  May 16, 2019

By Milton Bost

birthday cake

Last month, I hoped my birthday would pass with little notice. It’s not that I don’t enjoy my birthdays. I used to anticipate them, but they just don’t hold the same level of excitement. They make me count and remind me that I am, to some people, an old person. I’m learning that too many birthdays can kill you.

Birthdays are milestones. They are mute reminders that more sand has passed through the hourglass. Birthdays give us a handle on the measurement of time, which, when broken into minutes, moves quickly. There are 60 minutes in an hour, 1,440 minutes in a day, 10,080 minutes in a week, and 525,600 minutes in a year. That means I experienced over 34,164,000 minutes by my birthday. My 65th birthday.

No wonder I need more naps.

The minutes often pass by so quietly, so consistently, that they can fool us. In C. S. Lewis’s “The Screwtape Letters,” the senior demon advises his protégé of the strategy of monotony: “The safest road to hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without any sudden turns, without milestones, without signposts….The gradual decay of youthful loves and youthful hopes, the quiet despair of ever overcoming chronic temptations…the drabness which we create in their lives…all this provides admirable opportunities of wearing out a soul by attrition.”

So, we mark our calendars and phones with deadlines, dates that set limits for the completion of objectives. If we ignore these deadlines, it brings unwanted consequences. Therefore, to live without deadlines is to live an inefficient, unorganized life, drifting with the breeze of impulse on the fickle way of our moods. We set deadlines because they discipline our use of time.

God is the one who brings about our birthdays, not as deadlines, but as lifelines. He builds them into our calendar once every year to enable us to make an annual appraisal, not merely of the length of life, but the depth of life. Birthdays are not observed simply to tell us we’re growing older, but to help us determine if we are also growing deeper.

Obviously if God has given you another year to live for him, then he has some things in mind. I have this strong suspicion that it includes much more than merely existing 1,440 minutes a day.

In a Psalm attributed to Moses, he prays, “Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts” (90:12). Is that not a perfect prayer for us to pray every year our lifeline rolls around?

There is, however, a warning: Don’t expect wisdom to come into your life wrapped up like a birthday present. It doesn’t come with song, candles, party favors, and fanfare. Wisdom comes privately from the Lord as a by-product of wise and right decisions, godly reactions, humble lessons, and application of his principles in daily circumstances. “Gray hair is a glorious crown; it is found in the ways of righteousness” (Proverbs 16:31).

Wisdom comes not from seeking after a ministry, but from anticipating the fruit of a disciplined life. It comes not from trying to do great things for God, but from being faithful to the small and often obscure tasks few people ever see.

James R. Sizoo said, “Let it never be forgotten that glamour is not greatness; applause is not fame; prominence is not eminence. The man of the hour is not apt to be the man of the ages. A stone may sparkle, but that does not make it a diamond; people may have money, but that does not make them a success.”

As we number our days, do we count the years as the grinding measurement of minutes, or can we find the marks of wisdom—character traits that were not there when we were younger?

As I look back over my life, I recall some of the things I did, that I said, that I believed. If I think long enough on them, I have regrets. But I thank the Lord that he was able to soften the hardness of my heart to help me become a better learner, a clearer thinker, and a corrected believer. If he should decide that April 18 was my last birthday, he has made my life full. He has forgiven me of my sin. He has blessed me beyond words. I pray that I have pleased him.

– Milton Bost is pastor of Chatham Baptist Church.

By Meredith Flynn

The announcement that LifeWay Christian Resources will close its brick-and-mortar stores by the end of the year dismayed many Southern Baptists who have long shopped the shelves for books, music, and Lord’s Supper wafers. The reaction was predictable—it’s sad to lose a trusted source of information and resources. What some seem to be missing even more, though, is a unique service LifeWay offered customers: vetting.

“I think one of the greatest competitive advantages LifeWay could have had, and had in some ways, was being trustworthy, where pastors could tell their congregations, ‘You can go into the store, and anything you buy is trustworthy,’” Indiana pastor Tim Overton told Baptist Press.

LifeWay, he said, “was unique [among bookstores] in holding very high standards and not simply allowing a profit to motivate all choices.”

In the weeks since LifeWay announced the closures, that quality has been celebrated by pastors like Overton, and lamented by some authors whose books weren’t sold in LifeWay stores. Others, though, praised the organization’s principled stand, even while not agreeing with its actual principles.

“I genuinely respect them (or any company) that is driven by principles other than profit alone,” tweeted Tish Harrison Warren, an author and Anglican priest whose book LifeWay declined to sell. “My book has sold well. LifeWay likely lost $ by not selling my book. Props for being willing to.”

When LifeWay stores close their doors this year, books and Bible studies and curriculum resources will still be available online. In fact, LifeWay plans to invest more in digital strategies to meet the needs of online customers. One aspect of the shopping experience they should consider is how to communicate to the buyer that the resources they’re scrolling through are held to the same standard as what was previously on LifeWay shelves.

In a world full of online bookstores, it may be hard to distinguish a sell-anything-that-sells mentality from a thoughtfully curated collection. The end of LifeWay stores puts more responsibility on readers to judge carefully what books are worthy of a place on their own shelves.

LifeWay stores weren’t controlled by profit, but as a Baptist Press article pointed out, finances were ultimately what brought the publisher to the decision to close. The stores lost money while LifeWay’s digital channels grew.

Faced with the numbers, the publisher made what they deemed to be the wisest choice. Now, smart phone in hand, it’s up to readers to do the same.

– Meredith Flynn

Roadside assistance

Lisa Misner —  May 2, 2019

By Adron Robinson

Read: Acts 8:26-40

Everyday is an opportunity to introduce someone to Jesus Christ, because everyday God allows us to be ambassadors of the Kingdom of God. In Acts 8, Philip was such an ambassador. When led by the Holy Spirit to go on what must have seemed an illogical journey, he immediately obeyed.

Because of his obedience, he was in the right place at the right time to tell someone about Jesus. The Holy Spirit led Philip to a high-ranking Ethiopian official who had been in Jerusalem to worship but left still searching for the living God. Despite the official’s power and prestige, he had a vast emptiness in his soul.

Will you share the gospel with one person and pray for them to be saved?

This Ethiopian man is like many of our friends, family, and co-workers today. They are socially successful and culturally religious. Sometimes they even read the Scriptures and seek the truth, yet they do not have saving faith in Jesus Christ. And each of them needs someone to show them the way. On the journey of life, they need roadside assistance!

They need a Philip to obey the Holy Spirit’s leading and come alongside them on the road of life to have a gospel conversation with them. They need someone who will help them understand the Scriptures, and they need someone who will tell them the bad news about their sin and the good news about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And when they believe, they need someone to baptize them and then disciple them so they can go out and make other disciples.

Will you be like Philip and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading? Will you share the gospel with one person and pray for them to be saved? On the road of life, we all need roadside assistance.

Prayer Prompt: Father God, we were lost and you found us; we were broken and you healed us; we were dying and you rescued us. Help us to follow in your footsteps and look for daily opportunities to share the gospel with those in need.

Adron Robinson pastors Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills and is president of IBSA.

Ronnie Floyd, president-elect of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, is the current president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. This year’s National Day of Prayer is Thursday, May 2.

Many Christians are so disappointed and fed up with matters about America that they struggle even to pray for our nation. Is this right? Is this justified?

Absolutely not!

And many Christians struggle to truly love one another, while many are uncertain about our future as a nation and even the future of our churches.

On the National Day of Prayer this Thursday, May 2, let’s be sure to join together in fervent prayer because:

#1: Christians need to pray for America

Where America is today is the reason we need to pray. If all was perfect and unity abounded across our nation, we may enjoy praying for America more regularly, but whether we enjoy it or not, it is needed.

Praying for America should be our first choice, not our last choice.

God is our hope — our last, great and only hope. Therefore, we need to pray like we believe this with all we are.

The alarm clock is going off in our nation and this is not the time to push the snooze button. America needs to experience the next great move of God.

That is why we pray. That is why we will prioritize praying for America on our upcoming National Day of Prayer. Will you join us?

Prayer precedes every great movement of God biblically and historically. Therefore, we need to pray and ask God for a mighty, great spiritual awakening across America. That is why the National Day of Prayer is a nationwide movement of prayer for America.

#2: Christians need to love one another

Christians need to follow Jesus’ teaching of loving one another, in obedience to Christ’s command: “Love one another, just as I have loved you” (John 13:34). This what we are calling our nation to do on Thursday, May 2.

We need a Love One Another movement that begins in the church of Jesus Christ. Christians should never take pride in being filled with skepticism or criticism of other people. We should love all people just like Jesus did and does: willfully, sacrificially and unconditionally.

Love One Another needs to become a movement that also infiltrates every part of American life when the church is experiencing this movement within their own fellowship.

Followers of Christ need each other more than ever before. While certain secondary doctrinal differences will exist, we need to unite around our belief that:

— The Bible is God’s infallible Word; it is truth without any mixture of error.

— Jesus is the Son of God and the hope of the world; therefore, salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone.

— We must focus our lives, churches and futures on taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in America and across the world.

In our confessional statement, the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, we as Southern Baptists believe, “Christian unity in the New Testament sense is spiritual harmony and voluntary cooperation for common ends by various groups of Christ’s people. Cooperation is desirable between the various Christian denominations, when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament” (Article 14).

We need to stop fighting over secondary issues and rise up together to become the spiritual light in this darkening America and world. The church needs to model loving one another or we forfeit our right to speak into the future of our nation. It is time to come together in unity.

#3: Prepare for the future

What will the church become in the future of America? Will we lose our freedom or have it affirmed?

We need to prepare for the future realistically, but also with great hope. Regardless of the present cultural tide that is rising in direct opposition to the ways of God, we are a Gospel people committed to Christ alone.

Our future is not in the hands of the United States government; our future is in the hands of our sovereign God. Yes, our times are in His hands!

We need to prepare future generations spiritually and vocationally for what God wants them to be and how He wants them to live for Him.

That is why I believe our greatest hope lies only in Jesus Christ, His Gospel and the advancement of this Good News message reaching every corner of America and across this world.

While we call out to God for His church to be revived by the Spirit and to love one another, resulting in coming together in unity, we need to simultaneously pray extraordinarily for the next great spiritual awakening in America, which is our greatest hope.

– Ronnie Floyd, reposted from Baptist Press

By R. Albert Mohler Jr

It began as an assignment. It ended as a milestone in my Christian life. My church history professor assigned the class to memorize the Apostles’ Creed. Obediently, I began to memorize this historic affirmation of the Christian faith word by word, phrase by phrase, truth by truth. Within a few hours I had committed the Apostles’ Creed to memory, ready when called upon in class to recite it. But even at that time I knew that something else had happened.

As a young man I realized that this ancient confession of faith is Christianity. This is what Christians believe—what all Christians believe. The Apostles’ Creed collapses time and space, uniting all true believers in the one, holy, and apostolic faith. This creed is a summary of what the Bible teaches, a narrative of God’s redemptive love, and a concise statement of basic Christianity.

All Christians believe more than is contained in the Apostles’ Creed, but none can believe less.

Ancient Christians honored this creed. Martyrs recited this creed. The Protestant Reformers continued the use of the Apostles’ Creed in worship and the teaching of believers. There is such power in knowing that when we confess the Apostles’ Creed, alone or in corporate worship, we are declaring the truth of the Christian faith with the very words that gave early Christians hope, sent martyrs confidently to their deaths, and have instructed Christ’s church throughout the centuries.

The Apostles’ teaching counteracts counterfeits.

It was the most important class assignment I ever had.

“I believe.” These two words are among the most explosive words any human can utter. They open the door to eternal life and are the foundation of the Christian faith. Belief stands as the very center of Christian faithfulness and is where Christianity begins for the Christian. We enter the faith and find eternal life in Christ by responding to the truth with trust—that is, with belief.

But Christianity is not belief in belief. It is belief in a propositional truth: that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and savior of sinners. We do not believe in a Christ of our imagination but in the Christ of Scripture—the Christ believed in by every generation of true Christians. Furthermore, beyond belief in Christ stands belief in everything Jesus taught his disciples. Matthew recorded that Jesus instructed his disciples to teach others to observe all that he had commanded them (Matt. 28:18–20). Therefore, there is no Christianity without belief, without teaching, and without obedience to Christ.

But where do we turn in order to know how to believe and what to believe? We turn first, of course, to the Bible, the very Word of God. The Bible is our only sufficient source and unerring rule of faith, and the Christian reflex to turn to the Bible is always right. The Bible is without error, totally trustworthy and true. It is the verbally inspired Word of God. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. When we read the New Testament, we find the faith handed down from Christ to the apostles, those who were taught by Christ himself. Any form of belief that does not agree with the teaching of Christ to the apostles is false—a religion that cannot save.

The New Testament refers to authentic Christianity as “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Real Christianity is Christianity resting on truth—a faith of definite beliefs cherished by believers throughout the ages and once for all given to the church.

This is one of the great wonders of Christianity and explains why all true Christians hold to the same essential beliefs and have done so for two thousand years: as Christians, we believe what the apostles believed. And we want to hand that same faith to the next generation.

Further, we want to worship like the apostles and preach and teach like them. To do so, we turn first to the Bible, but we also turn to the historic and faithful summaries of the Christian faith, the most honored, historic, and universal of which is the Apostles’ Creed.

From its earliest beginnings, the church has faced the dual challenge of affirming the truth and confronting error. Over the centuries, the church has turned to a series of creeds and confessions of faith in order to define and defend true Christianity. The confession of faith we know as the Apostles’ Creed is one of the most important of these confessions. For long, unbroken centuries, it has stood as one of the most crucial teaching instruments of the Christian faith—along with the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer.

R. Albert Mohler Jr. is president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and author of the new book “The Apostles’ Creed” (Nelson Books, 2019).

Passing through Gethsemane

Lisa Misner —  April 18, 2019

By Eric Reed

Garden of Gethsemane.Jerusalem

Garden of Gethsemane.Thousand-year olive trees, JerusalemPassing through Gethsemane

A Baptist pastor said in an article I read recently that Maundy Thursday has become his favorite day of the Easter season. That was surprising, he admitted, since he didn’t grow up observing the day before Good Friday as anything special. Nor do many Baptist churches. But as he was called to pastor a church with a unique Thursday night Lord’s supper service prior to Resurrection Sunday, he took on the observance and came to appreciate it deeply.

I understood his experience. A couple of churches I served added Thursday services to their pre-Easter observance. At first, it was a matter of convenience for those who would travel on Good Friday to spend the weekend with grandma. But eventually we found we ourselves needed more time in the garden before we stood at the foot of the Cross, and ultimately at the vacated tomb.

“Maundy” Thursday may sound mournful, but the name itself comes from the Latin for “mandate.” A new commandment I give you, Jesus told his disciples in the upper room on that night, that you love one another. Maundy is a manmade term, as is the “Good” of Friday, but as for the events that happened that night, they are by God’s design.

After donning the servant’s towel and washing his followers’ feet, then giving them his body and blood in the first Lord’s Supper, Jesus led the crew, minus Judas, to the olive press on the other side of the temple grounds. Calling it Gethsemane, we forget that this was a working vineyard, where the crop was grown and at its maturity harvested, then crushed to release its treasure and fulfill its purpose. (Makes you have new respect for that bottle of oil in the cupboard, doesn’t it?) There, kneeling among the gnarled trees and the stone pressing floor, Jesus appears at his most human: suffering, knowing greater suffering was just ahead, wrestling, and yet willing.

And if we left the account there, we would miss several deep truths that make the events of Thursday night crucial to our understanding of Sunday’s victory. We might be tempted to think of Jesus as somehow less than fully human, that his deity abated his agony, if we did not see him wrestling in prayer while even his closest supporters a few yards away abandoned him in favor of sleep. We might miss a point of deep personal connection to Jesus that we need in our own times of crisis.

For Jesus Gethsemane was no rest. It is the place where one last time, his obedience and his surrender to the plans of his Father were tested. It is the place where God’s purpose and his own mission surpassed a momentary desire for relief from the pain of the night. And, blessedly, it is temporary.

In Gethsemane, the Father prepared the Son for the cross before him. Luke, who diagnosed Jesus’ suffering as bloody even in the garden, also tells us that God sent an angel to minister to Jesus.

The agony won’t last forever, but God knows we need help to get through it. And he sends it by his holy messengers. In our own seasons of crushing, we are lifted with the news that God has a purpose for the suffering he allows, and that it is temporary. God knows we hurt; God sends help; God sets a time limit.

In those times, it helps to know that Jesus suffered too. He cried over Lazarus. He cried out on the cross. And he endured in the garden where any remote possibility that he might put his relief ahead of our need was crushed: Not my will, but Yours be done, he said to the Father. We speak of “The Lord’s Prayer” as our model prayer. It, too, says, “Thy will be done.” But in Gethsemane, the prayer is tested and proven, and Jesus comes out the other side fully committed to finish his mission—at all personal cost to himself.

Finally, Gethsemane points to victory. To know the exhilaration of Jesus’ triumph over Satan and hell and sin and death, we must endure with him in his Gethsemane—and ours. In trial, we can be assured that Jesus has been here before. And though it hurts—a lot—we must not rush past Gethsemane, or we miss the magnitude of the victory, when the darkness of Thursday night surrenders to the brilliance of Sunday morning. And that light you see is the Son.

Eric Reed is editor of Illinois Baptist media.