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Prayer to Open Kentucky House of Representatives This Morning (Text)

2020-03-04 00.00.58

Our Sovereign God,

We pray to you recognizing that you are in control over all things. There is not one maverick molecule in the universe. All planets, stars, comets, molecules, microbes, and viruses are under your sovereign control. You work all things after the counsel of your will. None can stay your hand or say what doest thou.

We acknowledge that not only you sovereign, but you are a loving father over creation, and especially to those who know You. Not one bird can fall from the sky or one hair from our heads without you knowing and caring. You knit us together in our mother’s wombs. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. You know our bodies better than we know our bodies. You know disease better than doctors know disease and, ultimately, we rest in your loving, sovereign care of us.

We also thank you that you have given us as human beings the ability to understand disease and infection and how it spreads. Thank you for the medical community that is working so hard to prepare us for, respond to, and treat this current health challenge. Thank you also for civil government which was established by you to protect its citizens. Thank you for our governor and his team and those advising them from the medical community. I pray for strength and health for all those making decisions and recommendations that impact the public safety of so many.

Thank you also for members of the House and Senate who are serving their constituents by keeping themselves and others informed and find themselves in the difficult position of giving advice to those in their districts. We pray for health and strength for these legislators, their family, and the staff that supports them.

Please be with this body today as they conduct the business of this Commonwealth. Give them peace as many of them are separated from their families and homes in this time of uncertainty. Give them all your peace that surpasses human understanding.

Most of all we thank you for your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who came into this world of sickness and sin as an expression of your sovereign plan and fatherly love of this world. Thank you that by His sinless life, substitutionary death, and victorious resurrection, He conquered the grave, defeated death, took away death’s sting and, in the words of the author of Hebrews, delivered all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery! May all who hear these words and all across our Commonwealth and around the world, find peace and comfort in the grace and mercy through faith in the Lord Jesus.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Response to an AP Reporter on the Relationship between Faith and Science in Light of COVID-19 and the Governor’s Recommendation to Cancel Worship Gatherings

I was contacted yesterday by Elana Schor, national AP reporter for religion and politics. She was working on a story on the relationship between faith and science in the current COVID-19 health crisis. Specifically she asked me about the role of faith and science in light of Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s recommendation that churches consider canceling their worship services this weekend. Elana did an excellent job on the article exploring how different faith communities are responding to the virus crisis. Of course, my comments were only one section of the story that focused on Kentucky and only one sentence was shared (it was done responsibly and I have no complaints). I thought I would share my full response to Elana in case it might be helpful for those thinking through these issues. In the response, I reference my email to our church. It is available here.

Dear Elana,

Below are the plans for our church services going forward. These are subject to change as more data becomes available. That probably partially answers your question by indicating that I am open to data and considering that data in making decisions. I have a lot of thoughts about the relationship between faith and science. I believe that there are often conflicts between the two and when that happens we (the faith community) have improperly interpreted or applied scripture OR the scientific community has improperly interpreted the natural world. In other words, I don’t believe there can be a real conflict between God’s two books of nature and scripture; the conflict lies in our interpretation of the same. As such, I am open to the findings of science, especially regarding the spread and containment of infectious diseases. Governor Beshear’s recommendation to consider canceling services was well taken by me. I recognize his responsibility and concern to mitigate this health crisis and I respect that. We want to take seriously the health challenges that experts are describing and their prescriptions to address those challenges. However, we have to balance that by our responsibility to continue our regular expressions of worshiping and gathering, which I believe is commanded of us as Christians (Hebrews 10:25). The precautions that I outlined in my email to the church (below) and posted on social media are a response to the scientific information being provided. I would not rule out canceling services altogether when it becomes clear that the steps I’ve outline are not sufficient to protect our people. We do know how disease spreads and the type of individuals that are particularly at risk. Those concerns are being addressed, I trust, sufficiently in our plan. This allows us to balance the practice of our faith while recognizing and responding responsibly to the health crisis outlined by the medical community.

I hope this is helpful. Feel free to follow up.

Blessings,
Steve Weaver, pastor
Farmdale Baptist Church

Email to the church:

Statement regarding our services at Farmdale

“A Tailor, a Tinker and a Cobbler”: Guest Post by Austin Walker

keach__19608.1422658601Today is 29 February. It is a leap year. So was 1640.  On 29 February 1640 in the remote Buckinghamshire parish of Stoke Hammond Benjamin Keach was born to John and Joyce Keach. He became a prominent preacher in London after 1668. He was the most prolific writer among the Particular Baptists in the last quarter of the seventeenth century, and one of the men who convened the 1689 National Assembly of Particular Baptist churches, signing the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith.

At his trial before the Aylesbury Assizes in 1664 he endured rough justice, was subsequently fined and pilloried. The rector of Stoke Hammond had brought Keach to the attention of the authorities, belittling him as an uneducated tailor, ‘and one that is a teacher in a new fangled way.’ In the indictment read out at his trial, he was charged with saying (among many other things) that ‘Christ has not chosen the wise and prudent men after the flesh, nor great doctors and rabbis: not many mighty and noble, saith Paul, are called: but rather the poor and despised, even tradesmen and suchlike…’

Twelve years previously on 28 November 1628, in the parish of Elstow in neighbouring Bedfordshire in a cottage near the hamlet of Harrowden, John Bunyan was born. His fame is greater than that of Benjamin Keach. He too was an ordinary man, a tinker by trade. He also suffered for his Christian faith.

Over a hundred years later, 16 August 1761 in the village of Paulerspury, in neighbouring Northamptonshire, William Carey was born. By trade he was a cobbler. He of course became famous as the man who took the gospel to the Indian sub-continent.

A tailor, a tinker, and a cobbler: ordinary men who became decided and influential Christians. The grace and power of God equipped them to be preachers of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Keach was right, ‘God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in his presence, 1 Corinthians 1.27-29.

Austin Walker

If would like to read more about Keach then get hold of The Excellent Benjamin Keach, Joshua Press, 2015. Be sure you obtain the second edition.

Ten Principles for Christians Interacting with Cultural Moments

I have noticed that some of my friends on social media are concerned that the current cultural moment will create a backlash against central biblical teachings. No doubt some will use this moment to advance their own agendas, but Christians have nothing to fear from any cultural moment that helps us see truth more clearly. Also, we must be careful about impugning motives to people who are taking a stand on matters of social justice and/or siding with women who have been victimized by men, as being a part of some vast left-wing conspiracy to lead Christians into theological liberalism. Although we must be always vigilant for the truth, some of hysteria that I have seen borders on libel. For those who affirm and have not denied the core doctrines of the Christian faith, we should not accuse them of a strategy of subterfuge because we might disagree with their application of biblical truth to a specific situation. We often have a knee-jerk reaction to anything recognized or celebrated by our culture. This is understandable given the fallen world’s general opposition to divine truth. However, just because our culture is recognizing a truth, does not mean that the church must reject that truth. Here are some principles that I believe we should use in evaluating cultural moments in light of divine revelation.

  1. All truth is God’s truth.
  2. Because of general revelation, we should not be surprised to find divine truth reflected in human culture.
  3. This truth is often distorted because of human rebellion against the Creator.
  4. However, there are areas of overlap between biblical truth and truths recognized by our culture.
  5. Scripture is our ultimate authority and will always overrule cultural mores.
  6. However, Christians have sometimes misinterpreted and misapplied Scripture.
  7. Scripture is infallible, but our interpretations and applications of Scripture are fallible.
  8. The majority of American Christians have been tragically wrong on some major issues, eg., Slavery, Civil Rights, and treatment of women.
  9. When cultural moments allow us to recognize and correct our misinterpretations of Scripture, this is not compromise but faithfulness.
  10. These cultural moments are opportunities to reevaluate our interpretations and applications of Scripture, but must never cause us to deny the trustworthiness and sufficiency of Scripture.

The Problem of the Parables

2018-05-14 21.14.20.jpgIn Matthew 13:10-17, in the midst of his parables of the kingdom, Jesus explained something of the purpose of the parables to his disciples. The answer is problematic, however, because it goes against our common assumption that the purpose of the parables was to simplify and clarify. Consider the following:

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.”

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

This raises a couple of questions.

Is the Purpose of the Parables to Reveal Truth?
This seems to be one of the most obvious things in the world at first glance. My guess is that if you asked most regular church attenders what the purpose of the parables was, you would hear something like “stories that illustrate truths or principles from Jesus.” And for good reason. The word “parable” actually comes from a compound Greek word παραβολα meaning “to throw alongside.” In other words, a parable is meant to be a story thrown alongside a more abstract idea to illustrate it in familiar terms. Parables are earthly stories illustrating heavenly truths. For example, has ever a better illustration been given of what it means to love one’s neighbor than the story of the Good Samaritan; or, of the forgiving love of the Father than the story of the Prodigal Son?
So the parables exist to reveal, clarify, illustrate truth.

But, if this is the case, why did Jesus have to explain his parables so many times? This leads us to our next question.

Is the Purpose of the Parables to Conceal Truth?
In verse 10, Jesus is asked by his disciples the precise question that we are considering this morning. This what we want to know. “Why do you speak to them in parables?” Jesus’ answer is as pointed as it is shocking. Rather than to reveal his teaching, Jesus says his parables are meant to conceal truth. First, he says, it distinguishes between his disciples and the unbelieving crowd. Verse 11: “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” This highlights the necessity of supernatural revelation for us to know divine truth. Divine revelation is necessary because humans naturally do not understand God’s truth. 1 Corinthians 2:14 tells us that “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” The scriptures clearly teach human inability to attain any saving knowledge of God apart from an exercise of his grace. For example, in John 6:44, Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” The word “can” is a word of ability. While all are invited to come and all “may” (a word of permission) come to Christ, the biblical reality is that no one can apart from God’s gracious drawing of that individual to himself. This fulfills Isaiah 6:9-10 quoted in verses 14-15. We see here the nature of human ability. It is not the lacking of some physical faculty, but a moral inability. They see, but will not see. This means they are morally responsible, because it is not lack of physical ability that hinders them from coming to Christ. This is why Jesus could say in Matthew 23:37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” Their guilt is their own.

This reality of human inability makes divine initiative an absolute necessity if anyone is ever to be saved. Thankfully, God graciously reveals himself to some. To his disciples, Jesus said in verse 11, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” This is exactly what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 11:25-27.

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

These verses highlight the divine prerogative that God has to reveal truth to some and conceal it from others. We don’t understand this fully, but we are committed to believing what Scripture teaches and rejoice that God in his grace has chosen to reveal himself to us. This is exactly what Jesus says we should do (verses 16-17). Marvel at divine grace to you! The doctrine of election is never in Scripture something to be argued over and debated, but something to wonder over in amazement at God’s grace. If we truly understand human sinfulness and rebellion, our question will never be, “Why does God not reveal himself to some?”, but “Why, oh why, has God revealed himself to me?”

The Answer is “Yes.”
So, the answer to the question, “Did Jesus teach in parables to reveal or conceal truth?”, is an unequivocal “Yes!” Jesus taught in parables to illustrate and clarify abstract spiritual truths with physical illustrations with which everyone could identify. However, he did so in such a way that those truths would actually be unclear to those in rebellion against him and clear only to those committed to following him. Though Jesus spoke these parables in public to large crowds, they mostly only heard a good story. They didn’t understand the spiritual meaning. When Jesus was alone with his disciples, he would explain the heavenly meaning. In this way, Jesus made it more difficult for his opponents to have accusations against him, but he also used this method to fulfill his divine prerogative of revealing truth to some and concealing it from others. The same sun that hardens the clay, also melts the wax. In a similar way, the same parables which concealed the truth to some, revealed it to others.

At the end of the day, our response should be gratitude to God for his gracious revelation of himself to us.

Conclusion
The primary response of believers should be gratefulness! We who were spiritually dead and totally unable to come to God have been awakened by divine grace and made to see the glories of Christ to which we have gladly responded in repentance and faith. To God Alone Be the Glory!

This teaching should also lead us to compassion for the lost. That we would weep for them as Jesus did and plead with them to come to Christ (as Jesus did). We should pray to God that the same God who opened our eyes would open their eyes to the gospel. This is their only hope. If we truly believed this, we would be people of prayer!

Finally, we should be grateful that we have in Scripture Christ’s own explanation of many of these parables. These teachings have been preserved for us by the work of the Holy Spirit who inspired biblical writers to record this information. We also have the presence of this very same Holy Spirit in our lives as believers to lead us in our study of Scripture. The Spirit of Christ himself lives within every believer guiding in our understanding of God’s Word. Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift!

200th Anniversary of Buck Run Baptist Church

Cover of BRBC History

Cover of forthcoming history of Buck Run Baptist Church

On January 31, 1818 (200 years ago today), the “Baptist Church of Christ at Buck Run” was constituted. The initial meeting was held in the home of Isaac Wilson near Buck Run Creek on the Forks of the Elkhorn in Franklin County, Kentucky. Wilson was one of twenty-one charter members of the church. Present at this gathering were some of the most prominent of the Baptist preachers in Kentucky. The pioneer preacher William Hickman was there and served as the moderator for the meeting. Silas Mercer Noel, a Circuit Court Judge turned preacher and one of the founders of the First Baptist Church of Frankfort two years earlier) was there and served as the clerk for the meeting. Also present as a charter member was the inimitable John Taylor and his wife, Elizabeth.

Like all Baptist churches of the period, the church was formed with two primary documents—a confession of faith (what they agreed to believe together) and a church covenant (how they agreed to live together). Baptist churches are not formed based on geography or genealogy. In other words, a person does not become a member of a Baptist church simply by living in a certain area or by being born into a particular family. Baptist churches believe in what is called regenerate church membership. This means that only professing believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who give credible evidence of that profession are admitted as members. Therefore, the only reason a Baptist church can exist is if a group of believers come together sharing a common set of beliefs (a confession of faith) and an agreement of how these believers are going to dwell together (a church covenant).

Although similar in form and content to other churches’ founding documents, the Buck Run documents were principally authored by the legendary Pioneer Kentucky Baptist preacher John Taylor. The sixty-five-year-old Taylor had by this point been laboring in gospel ministry for forty-five years. He was a well-respected leader among the Baptists who had seen many converted through his preaching and had helped to establish many churches. Taylor would later write that, in the constituting documents adopted by Buck Run, “the creed of my own heart on these subjects, is very [sic.] fully expressed.” He went on to say that these ideas were not a recent revelation to him, but instead reflected his “unwavering opinion from my youth.” In these documents, Taylor declared, one could “see the complexion of my whole soul in theology.” Although he had considered writing an explanation of the beliefs contained in these documents, he said “they stand explicit for themselves.” In these beliefs, Taylor said, “I have lived long, by them I expect to die, which I hope is not far distant.”[1]

Taylor would live another seventeen years to the age of eighty-four years. Those extended latter years were given in service to the Buck Run Church. A contemporary young man whose job it was to ring the court house bell to announce the beginning of preaching services for the various churches in the Frankfort area reminisced of how often he “hammered That old Cort [sic.] house Bell For … old man Tailor [sic.], “the Father of the Buck Run Church.”[2] Clearly, Taylor was recognized as the founding father of Buck Run by those in the community.

To read the church’s founding confession of faith, see here.

If you would like to pre-order a copy of this history, please comment below and I will send you the information on how to secure your copy at the special pre-release price of $25 (it will retail for $40).

[1] John Taylor, A History of Ten Baptist Churches, 2nd ed. (Bloomfield, KY: Will. H. Holmes, 1827), 199-200.

[2] Frances L. S. Dugan and Jacqueline P. Bull, ed., Bluegrass Craftsman: Being the Reminiscences of Ebenezer Hiram Stedman Papermaker, 1808-1815 (Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 1959), 80.

Articles of Faith of Buck Run Baptist Church (1818)

Article 1

Article 1 of the Buck Run Confession (1818)

On January 31, 1818, the Buck Run Baptist Church on the Forks of the Elkhorn in Franklin County, Kentucky, was constituted with twenty-one members. Like all Baptist churches of the period, the church was formed with two documents—a confession of faith (what they agreed to believe together) and a church covenant (how they agreed to live together). These documents were principally authored by the legendary Pioneer Kentucky Baptist preacher John Taylor, who was called by a contemporary “the Father of the Buck Run Church.” Taylor said that in these eight articles “the creed of [his] own heart on these matters is fully expressed.”

The confession as it appears in Buck Run’s Minute Book reads:

1st There is but one true and living God – the maker and preserver of all created things, visible and invisible; and that in this adorable Godhead there are three personal relations, a Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And these three are one – equal in glory, dignity, eternity, and power. Though, as to the true humanity of Jesus Christ, He is often spoken of in the New Testament as inferior to the Father.

2nd That the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as stated in their canonical books, is the uniform doctrine of faith; and that this sacred volume is the only infallible rule of all our faith and practice.

3rd That by the disobedience of the first Adam, all his posterity became guilty, and sinful in every part; and helpless as to any aid they can give, in the great work of converting their own souls.

4th That according to God’s foreknowledge, previous to time, he did predestinate his people to life, and they being chosen in Christ before the world began, He did as our second Adam, the Lord from heaven, assume their nature, yet without sin when he became incarnate, and by his obedience and atoning sacrifice brought in everlasting righteousness for the rebellious and where said blessed merit is imputed or applied to them, they are thereby justified before God and being efficaciously called by his grace shall finally persevere therein to eternal happiness and glory.

5th Since the day of the Apostles, there is no higher ecclesiastical authority on earth than the congregated worshiping church of Christ being God’s heritage here below, there [sp.] right is to govern themselves by their own voices, select their own officers as Bishops and Deacons, who are their servants for Christ’s sake. So that no conclave of bishops or any counsel [sp.] appointed by themselves or even their own officers have a right to lord it over the church.

6th That as it is appointed for men once to die so there shall be a resurrection of the just and unjust on which awful day Jesus Christ will judge all men in righteousness; when the wicked shall go into everlasting punishment and the righteous into life eternal.

7th We consider baptism valid only by profession of faith and immersing the whole body under water.

8th We most seriously consider the preaching of repentance, and the invitations of the gospel to all characters of men to be one of the most interesting subjects of the gospel ministry, and that they who persecute, neglect or disobey, the gospel more highly aggravate their own guilt.