Waiting

My wife and I are expecting our third child at any moment.  She will be induced in less than a week, but the waiting is almost unbearable.  The anticipation is growing by each passing moment.  In fact, this week during our Sunday evening service, my friends and I were singing a song during worship when I caught my wife standing up abruptly.  She was going to ask someone a question that she needed an immediate answer, but that was not my train of thought.  I thought something major in this last week of her pregnancy happened.  It was funny, to her.

Life is filled with many moments where patience is a requirement.  I don’t need to list any because our mind at the mere mention of the words patience or waiting triggers personal memories of our own experiences.  Scripture is aware of this need as well and offers encouragement.

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” -Galatians 6:9

“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” -Matthew 24:13

“For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promice” -Hebrews 10:36

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers tempations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.  But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” -James 1:2-4

“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience, and experience, hope” -Romans 5:3-4

So, what helps us to gain patience?  I want to share briefly about three sources for patience.

Experience develops our patience

Most believers will direct you to Romans 5:3-4 when it comes to learning patience.  Faith grows through real-life situations, and so does patience.  It is one thing to say that you are a patience person and another thing to demonstrate that quality.  The fiery trial that comes up against us is also what tests our faith and patience.  We learn what we are made of in the difficult areas of life and it is through those situations that we are strengthened.

Knowledge informs our patience

Galatians 5:22-23 reveals that part of God’s gift of our salvation, part of the fruit of the Spirit, is longsuffering or what we better know as patience.  For the Christian, we have the understanding that God is in our corner and is providing grace to endure.  Sound theology has a way of bringing us peace because we know the truth and the truth sets us free (John 8:32).  The ultimate source of truth is God’s Word, the revelation of God to mankind.  Through His Word our faith increases, our patience is encouraged, and our hope is confirmed.

Perspective guides our patience

A final source or at least the culminating of the previous two is perspective.  Once we have experienced life and its hardships, the waiting game takes on a new shape.  With the help of God’s grace and His Word, we can begin to see the long view of our life.  The Proper perspective of what’s valuable in life, our purpose, and our eternal future helps us endure.

Is Your Faith Growing Cold?

We are quickly entering into spring revival season.  I am still a supporter of church revivals.  There is nothing wrong with a congregation seeking to set out more time in their schedule for increased spiritual emphasis.  We all need revival at times.  Life has a way of wearing us down.  It is easy to allow our faith to grow cold even in times of joy and peace.  It happened to the disciples when Jesus was with them.  It can happen to us.

Jesus fed his disciples and a multitude with just five loaves of bread and two fish (Mk. 6:31-44).  However, in the midst of the miracle, the disciples were burned out.  Mostly, they were tired.  As we read what takes place, it is easy to notice that the followers are a little grumpy.  But, this was only a small symptom of a worse condition, a faith that had grown cold.  Jesus sent his disciples ahead by boat while he sent the multitudes back home.  The Savior was about to comfort and challenge His disciples.

Mark 6:45-54

“And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people. And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray. And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them. But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out: For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid. And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered. For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened. And when they had passed over, they came into the land of Gennesaret, and drew to the shore. And when they were come out of the ship, straightway they knew him.”

They did not recognize Jesus.

We often see the hand of God in life after He has brought us few something.  However, as we go through life our faith increases.  Over time it should become easier to sense the presence of God in our life and the way the Holy Spirit is leading.  Yet, for the disciples, they still did not recognize Jesus who they had already spent a significant amount of time following.  As Jesus came walking on the sea, the reverted to previous beliefs and assumptions.  They had forgotten about Jesus.

They did not expect a miracle.

As Jesus stepped into the boat, the wind and waves were calmed.  Jesus had greeted them, told them to not be fear but to have cheer because He was there.  But, they were looking around, amazed at what had happened.  Almost like they had never seen Jesus perform a miracle.  Not that we should become disinterested with God’s power displayed, but it was more in the sense that the disciples were not expecting a miracle.  Remember, they were toiling in rowing.  We are not shown whether they were crying out to God for help.  They were not expecting assistance.  When we no longer go to God in prayerful expectation, we have grown cold.

Their hearts were hardened.

Scripture finally tells us the problem with the disciples.  They did not consider the miracle of the loaves because their hearts were hard.  Forgetfulness of Gods previous blessings, failure to see His provision at an earlier time has now resulted in a hard heart.  Their passion for God had cooled.  They couldn’t put two and two together, the feeding and the calming had both come from Jesus.  The hardness of their heart had resulted in a barrier to see God move, a failure to move after God, and a failure to reach out in faith.

The Prayer Meeting

How much time does your church spend in prayer together?  Before the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost, the apostles and many others spent the better portion of ten days in prayer (Acts 1:12-14).  Sadly, few churches focus on corporate prayer.  Sure, we have all sorts of prayer methods and calls to prayer, but we still lack in commitment.

It is my position that healthy churches have strong prayer meetings.  Christians have always gathered for the purpose of prayer from the very beginning (Acts 4:24; 12:5; 21:5).  If our churches are to remain vibrant or have any hope of revitalization, they hinge upon their congregation’s commitment to prayer.

Individuals and the local church body’s prayer life is energized or drained by the pastor and leader’s prayer life and emphasis on the group prayer meeting.  The leadership in the church must teach and model the value of prayer.

If you do not have a prayer meeting, or you are seeking to strengthen the active prayer meeting in your church, consider the following.  I use this approach in times when prayer and the prayer meeting need to emphasized in our local church.  The people have enjoyed it, and we are witnesses that “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).

The Prayer Meeting

  • Begin with one or two songs.  Call people to worship God and plead their case in prayer.
  • Place greater emphasis on prayer by having someone share an answer to prayer and a lesson on prayer for about 15-20 minutes.
  • Finally, the majority of your time should be spent in prayer.  This requires more thought and effort than the typical prayer request and prayer time.  Here are a few of movements that you can use to focus this time of prayer.
    • Pray as an act of praise and adoration
    • Pray for Strengthen the Church and its leaders.
    • Pray for people’s salvation.
    • Pray for government leadership, community, and global issues.
    • Pray for those who need healing.
    • Pray for those who need financial needs.
    • Pray for the healing of broken relationships.
    • And more as the needs arise.

Why Christian Baptist? Four Reasons.

Last year I wrote a couple of posts about the Christian Baptist Association (What is Christian Baptist? here & here).  This is the association of churches that I have my ordination through and pastor.  There was a time when I was a member of another group of Churches in the local area, but, the Lord led me to move into the same association that I had grown up loving.

The full name of the group is The Ohio Valley Association of Christian Baptist Churches of God.  You can only imagine the questions people have about this long and unique name.  However, that is not where this post will have its focus.  Instead, the focus is on why I find such a deep love for the Christian Baptist.  There are four reasons given here, among much more that I think will help readers to learn more about the Christian Baptist and to encourage my fellow members.

The Bible is our final authority.

It is our conviction that all things must be brought to Scripture.  Scripture is the revelation of the Triune God and any work outside of it is opinion.  It seems that many denominations are moving away from this standard and have elevated personal experience and emotional biases above the Bible.  I have witnessed outside of our association and a few within it, who receive any teaching that labels itself as Christian and balk at any attempt to reconcile it with Biblical teaching.  However, everything we need to know about worshipping God and living Christlike is found solely in Scripture.

We love God’s Word and are fully persuaded of its integrity.  We do not need to add personal experiences or opinions to Scripture to validate it.  Sure, those things are helpful in interpreting, but the Word of God is sufficient in and of itself.

The Holiness Accent

I am not speaking of stereotypical “holiness” groups.  Instead, we preach and teach that Salvation of the person is complete and perfect for making a person whole.  One reason that I hear many of my fellow members give for being Christian Baptist is that “We have the great doctrine.”  What does this mean?  Are we the only group with the right belief?  No, and I don’t believe anyone in the association implies that as well.  We share doctrines with other denominations that are essential for one to be called Christian.  There is truly only One Church, and it reaches across the globe and throughout time.

This section is labeled The Holiness Accent.  An accent is the”accentuated” or distinctive pronunciation in a language.  So, when I speak of my holiness accent, I am referring to my underlying assumptions and inclinations.  The holiness accent does not relate to our focus on external prohibitions of dress and behaviors (though we ought to have a godly lifestyle).  Rather, we accentuate the fact that believers are saved to the “uttermost.”

God does not justify a person and leaves them with their old nature.  Instead, when we are saved we are made new in Christ, and He imparts His nature to us.  Believers do not sin every day when they are entirely given over to be led by the Holy Spirit.  I heard it recently said, “It is our responsibility to keep from sinning, but it is God who gives us the power to keep from sinning.”

In summary, our holiness accent is that we preach and teach that believers can be fully transformed by God’s grace in this lifetime.

Freedom of Worship

There are many expressions of worship.  Shared in Scripture is that God seeks worship from those that are in spirit and truth.   These Biblical requirements for worship can be seen in both spontaneous and planned worship.  However, with planned worship, it is very easy to write God out of the plan and focus on man’s emotional and intellectual experience.  One thing I love about the Christian Baptist Association is that we are not afraid to worship God audibly and visually.  We are not Pentecostal in several regards of expressive worship, but we are certainly not afraid to express our love and thankfulness to God.

Our Heritage

I was raised Christian Baptist (my wife is from the Churches of Christ in Christian Union). However, I did not join one of the local churches at first.  I joined the Kentucky Christian Conference that was based near Morehead, Kentucky.  After a few years, God directed my path back to the Christian Baptist, and I have been here for last eleven years, pastoring one of the congregations for almost nine years and still there.  Now, I am raising my children in the Christian Baptist.

My heritage is in the Christian Baptist, and a significant portion of my family call this association home as well.  Yet, I also share a great love for our more extensive history.  I have studied the history of its coming together in 1931 and the leaders and laity of previous generations.  Listening to stories of past victories, miracles, and blessings that God has brought to pass in our camp meeting and the local congregation have been and continue to be formative in my spiritual walk.

What is Christian Baptist?

I have lost count of how many times someone has asked me to repeat myself when we are telling them the name of the denomination I am ordained through and pastor.   It is, The Ohio Valley Association of Christian Baptist Churches of God.  That is a mouth full.  You can find the website by clicking here.  Most of the time we go by a shorter, unofficial name, Christian Baptist Association (CBA).  Of course, the standard response is, “I thought all Baptist were Christian.”  Now, you may ask why is the name so long?  The easiest answer that I can give you 1is for legal uniqueness.

The name shows the Baptist heritage that the founding churches came from (though were are far from typically Baptist nuances).  The association was formed in 1931 when these community-based Baptist churches stepped forward and declared a holiness message.  Doctrinally, we identify with the Wesleyan-Arminian tradition.  In the following sections, I would like to take further into our structure, practice, and doctrine.  Of course, there is nothing like experiencing it for yourself.  This post will suffice as an introductory survey for the moment of the finer points about the CBA rather than hitting everything.

Structure

The CBA are primarily rooted along the Ohio River Valley in Southeast Ohio.  There are churches located in the central Ohio area.  There are also churches located in Northeastern Kentucky, West Virginia, and Michigan.  Together, there are around 25 churches.  We also support and care for almost 200 congregations in Mexico, Brazil, Haiti, Cameroon, Nigeria, and the Philippines.

On the denominational level, we are governed by the General Council which consists of representation from each congregation and every licensed and ordained minister.  Council meets once a year during the summer and when it is not in session, is led by a group called the General Board of Managers.  This twenty-five person board is lead by the General and Assistant Superintendent, General and Assistant Secretary, and the General and Assistant Treasurer.  Rounding out the board are several trustees and the heads of the various departments.  We have departments for local and foreign missions, Sunday school, and youth, Christian education.

On the local church level, each church is led by a local board that is elected by the congregation’s members.  This board is made up of the pastor, deacons, trustees, and leaders of the various departments, similar to the General Board of managers.

Practice

Worship is primarily traditional in a majority of the churches with some more modern practices sprinkled throughout.  One thing that is identical in all the churches is a great amount of freedom observed in the services.  While the CBA is not charismatic in the observance of speaking gifts (unknown tongue), we are typically expressive in worship.

We practice full immersion as the only mode of baptism.  Along with communion, we also encourage the observance of washing feet.  The CBA also encourages the prayer meeting and Sunday School as essential practices of worship.  The CBA ordains women into ministry, which is unique for a group with a Baptist background.

Doctrine

Linked to practice is the doctrine or teaching of the Christian Baptist.  One key teaching of the Christian Baptist is the use of the King James Bible.  A particular point of interest is that the CBA recognizes other versions as commentary to the Scriptures rather than placing them as erroneous material.  The selection of a particular version was made in part to create a commonality between the pulpit and pew.

Another interesting point about the CBA in regards to its baptist background is the Wesleyan-Arminian accent.  We teach that after salvation, the believer can move forward in the faith and experience a deeper work of God in their life called entire sanctification.  This experience is characterized by greater dependence and commitment to God and increased power and leading by the Holy Spirit to live the Christian life.

If you wish to see a detailed history of the foundation or the articles of faith, you can check the earlier placed link to the CBA website.

 

God’s design of the Church

Regardless of whether you are called to pastoral ministry or itinerant (evangelistic travel), it is important that you understand the Biblical foundation and design of the church. The ministry of the church is astoundingly vital to every believer. For those that are homebound, there must be a ministry to show them the compassion of Jesus. To those that say they don’t need to go to church, they sever the head which is Christ, from the body, which is the church. The believer’s who faithfully attend and those that don’t, need to be disciplined. It is even vital to the sinner because the church brings the message of the Gospel to them and witnesses their conversion. The Church is necessary.

The original Greek word for church is “Ekklesia.” It to be “called out” or “separated.” The other Greek word, from which our English word for Church is derived, is “Kuriakon.” It means, “belonging to the Lord.” As a definition, we can define the church as a group of people that have been called out from the world and separated from sin as the Lord’s property. The Bible gives several pictorial illustrations of the Church. It is seen as: (1) the Body of Christ (1 Cor.12:12-31, shows unity and diversity), (2) the building of Christ (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 2:19-22), and, (3) the bride of Christ (John 14:1-3, Eph. 5:25-31, Rev. 19:7).

The church is viewed in Scripture as both universal and local in scope. Universal doesn’t mean that every person in time is part of it, but rather every person that has come to Christ is part of the real Church (Matt. 16:18; 1 Cor. 15:9; Eph. 2:20, 5:23-32). Scripture also recognizes that the real church is divided by geographical locations into individual local congregations. This is evidenced by the various churches in Acts by location, the names of many of Paul’s letter, and the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3.

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The biblical purposes of the church are first to glorify God (Eph. 3:21). Secondly, it is to edify or disciple believers (Eph. 4:11-12) and purify them (Eph. 5:25-27). Thirdly, to evangelize the world (Matt. 28:19- 20). Fourth and last, to prevent corruption in the world by saturating it with God’s truth and Love (Matt. 5:13-16).