The Navigator: 1.28.2021

 

THIS SUNDAY, 1/31 – THANK YOU, DL & ALICE

I can’t believe the day has come to say thank you & good bye to DL & Alice Lowrie.  The Lord has poured a wealth of grace and wisdom into my life through them.  I love them so very much.

This Sunday, 1/31, BHBC will host a reception in our Commons after each morning’s service.  All are encouraged to bring thank you notes and/or gift cards.

Also this Sunday:

Quarterly Business Meeting; 5pm; Worship Center

 

SHEPHERDING THE SHEPHERDS: Systematic Theology

Part of my role is to make certain all of you are set up for success by means of being encouraged, challenged, equipped and resourced.

Per my email to you last Friday, we will soon be embarking on a journey of intense learning.  One of those times of learning will involve acquiring a basic understanding of systematic theology.

Simply put, systematic theology is the discipline of interpreting scripture in light of scripture.  It’s understanding there’s no better commentary for God’s Word than God’s Word. This is precisely one of Paul’s points when he told the elders at Ephesus, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”  “Whole counsel” meaning all of it.  Not just bits and pieces but, during Paul’s ministry, the entire Old Testament; and in our time, all 66 books of the canon. 

Systematic Theology helps us learn how one part of the Bible is complemented and affirmed by the Bible.  It helps us to confidently answer hard questions such as: What, at times, do I find a verse that appears to contradict another verse?  What OT laws and imagery relate to Jesus being called the Lamb of God?  Does Hebrews 6:4-6 teach that we can lose our salvation? And what about the seeming contradictions of Proverbs 26:4-5, and James 2:24 when compared to Galatians 2:16?  What is the OT Law’s relationship to the New Covenant in the NT?  Is the Law nullified or fulfilled?  And what’s the difference?  And so much more.

When the gospel authors, Paul and Peter quote the OT repeatedly to support and prove right the New Covenant through Christ we are witnessing a masters class in people using systematic theology.

There is a theological term, Biblical Theology, that serves as a close sibling of Systematic Theology.  And, by the way, before you counter, “Wait – I’m not a theologian!”, I’ve got news for you:  all Christians are theologians.  The word, theology, simply means “the study of God.”  Sure, many have dedicated their lives and careers to vocational theology.  But, all Christians are theologians on some level.  Nay, we are commanded to be theologians.  It was Paul who instructed Timothy,

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

This command goes for all of us.  The instruction to Timothy (and us) provides an implied warning: to be instructed to rightly handle the word of truth suggests that there was much wrongly handling the word of truth.  The potential of teaching in error (via hurried preparation, little to no prayer, etc.) should send terror into everyone who has been given the assignment to stand before people and exposit scripture.  This is why James, the half-brother of Jesus, warned:

Not many [of you] should become teachers [serving in an official teaching capacity], my brothers and sisters, for you know that we [who are teachers] will be judged by a higher standard [because we have assumed greater accountability and more condemnation if we teach incorrectly]. (Amplified)

Dr. Wayne Grudem’s text on Systematic Theology is the “go to” text for many pastors and teachers (my copy is well worn).  Grudem was recently interviewed on why systematic theology matters to Bible study.  Below is an excerpt from the article:

Grudem defines his approach sytematic theology as “any study that answers the question, ‘What does the whole Bible teach us today?”  The conviction that theological teaching should be clear (to our listeners) is borne out of conviction that Scripture is clear.

He qualifies,

Though God’s revelation is clear, to understand it rightly you must study it responsibly, putting in effort to improve the skills necessary for effective reading and teaching.

Soon, we will take a look at ways to improve those skills.  Until then, pray fervently, study intensely, and rightly handle the word of truth.  nw

 

A Nugget of Truth from this week’s time of Learning:  John 10 – “The Good Shepherd”

Jesus is publicly exposing the teachers and religious leaders as “false shepherds” by contrasting his shepherding with theirs:

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

Why does Jesus refer to himself as the Good Shepherd?  Because Israel (and modern day churches) are filled with bad shepherds who were lazy and self-centered, being interested in nothing other than position, prestige and power.  (I shared with my class a couple of stories of things I’ve heard pastors say and do that were unbelievably unbiblical, self-righteous, and self-serving.)

Through the prophet Ezekiel, God thundered,

‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? …but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals…

After calling out the bad shepherds, God then delivers their consequences:

“‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because my flock lacks a shepherd…I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock… – Ezek. 34:2-8

You can view the lesson in its entirety here.

Shepherd your sheep humbly and tenderly.

 

TEENS, COVID & SUICIDE

Professional counselors will tell you that, during the past year, a new term emerged among mental health workers:  ‘COVID Depression.”

A FOX News article caught my eye with the headline:Las Vegas schools pushing to get students back quickly following rise in suicides, report says.  (You can read the article here.)

An article was posted this past week by local news, KCBD, citing the spike in ER visits at UMC related to the mental health of children.  2020 has been a devastating year.  Read the KCBD article here.

Keep your eyes open. Be “present.”  Look for any signs or signals a teen could be in danger of hurting themselves.

 

QUOTE(s) of the WEEK

“The claim ‘only science can discover truth’ is self-refuting, as the statement itself cannot be verified using science.” – Dr. Andy Bannister (Ph.D. in Islamic Studies)

And,…

“In Science we have been reading only the notes to a poem; in Christianity we find the poem itself.” – C.S. Lewis

 

LAUGHTER IS GOOD MEDICINE

I’ve actually said No. 4 to young men before.

And, a bonus for my fellow Red Raider/Chiefs fans…

 

SOUL FOOD:  Lord, teach me to pray. (here you go…)

Read the blog here.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

The Navigator: 1.21.21

 

WELCOME SAMMY & ANITA!

(I tried to get a photo with Anita, but had to settle for Sammy.)

Sammy & Anita will begin their ministry here on Sunday, Feb. 14th.  What a joy it is to have them.  Please pray for:

  1. Their departure from FBC, Levelland.  They have been there 11 years, are dearly loved, and will be missed.
  2. FBC, Levelland.  As we conclude the search for a lead pastor, they are just getting started.
  3. The sale of the Elliott’s home in Levelland.

 

A NOTE FROM SAMMY:

MEN:

I want to encourage all husbands to be a part of the Marriage Summit Challenge this Saturday, 1/23.  It will require TWO hours of your time but could be the catalyst to strengthen your marriage.  In a day where too many marriages are just surviving, I would encourage all husbands to be intentional in taking a step or two to help build strong and thriving marriages.

Saturday will be the start of a three-week challenge.  Husbands are to gather to be encouraged and challenged in their marriages.  They will be given a three-week challenge and then will be invited back to a virtual rally at the end of the three weeks.  Husbands are encouraged to bring their wives to that final rally.

Join us this Saturday in the FLC.  I am looking forward to getting to know each of you and doing life with you as well.  I hope to see you this Saturday.

Sammy

 

A Nugget of Truth from this week’s time of Learning:  John 8-9

What price are you willing to pay to stand up for biblical truth?

Take the two most combustible issues of the day:  sexuality & the rights of the unborn.

If someone asks your position on either of these topics are you willing to pay the price for biblical truth?   Someone once said, “If you want to help others  you will tell them the truth; if you want to help yourself you will tell them what they want to hear.”

Having the courage to stand firmly for biblical truth will cost you friends, prestige and status.  How can we be sure of this?

That’s what it cost Jesus.  And much more.

In 1945, only days before the end of the war in Nazi Germany, Deitrich Bonhoeffer was standing trial because he refused to shrink from biblical truth.  Below is from the memoirs in the introduction to his classic, The Cost of Discipleship:

He was then executed.

In 1521, the reformer, Martin Luther, stood before the most powerful man in the land.  Told to recant his commitment to biblical truth or risk arrest, or even death, Luther made his famous statement:

Immediately pursued for assassination, Luther became an outlaw and was confined to isolation at the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, Germany.  (Michelle and I have stood in the very room at Warburg where Luther would eventually translate the Greek New Testament into German.)

We sometimes contemplate dying for our faith.  The more unsettling question is, “Are you willing to live for it?”

Jesus did both.

And Jesus says to us, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”

You can view the lesson in its entirety here.

 

 

Our Youth Ministry volunteers are hard at work providing solid opportunities to our teens for learning and spiritual growth. FYI – Wednesday nights (Breakthru) resumed this past week. 6:30-7:30 in the FLC.  Bible 101 series:

  • How did we get the Bible?
  • How can we know the Bible is true?
  • How the Bible is organized.
  • Overviews of Old Testament and New Testament books.
  • How to study the Bible.

 

THANK YOU, DL & ALICE! – Jan. 31st

What can I say about DL and Alice Lowrie?  On Sunday morning, Jan. 31st, their final Sunday here at BHBC, we will host a Thank You Reception for them in our Commons.  More on this in next week’s Navigator.

 

AMERICA: Spiritual, not necessarily Christian

A few years back I sat in a room in Los Angeles and listened to sociologist, Tony Campolo, speak on the current spiritual state of mind in North America.

I wrote down this statement he made:

“America is not a Christian nation. But it is a deeply spiritual nation.”

Based on my own decades working with students at the time, I immediately agreed.

So, this recent article linked below is no surprise. From the article:

“Even among the quarter of Americans who do not identify with a religion (atheists, agnostics, and those who say they are “nothing in particular”), most still describe themselves as a spiritual person.”

This is precisely why visiting about the supernatural remains relevant.  It demonstrates a wide-open receptiveness to the Bible, God, etc. We see this demonstrated over and over again in Paul’s ministry as he connects with those who worship pagan gods. He was able to build common ground due to their openness to a metaphysical reality.

Let’s take this a step further.

One of my grad professors (and former atheist), Dr. Holly Ordway, in her book, Apologetics and the Christian Imagination: An Integrated Approach to Defending the Faith, rightly observed:

We live in what is essentially a post-Christian age. Church attendance has dropped; increasing numbers of people feel comfortable admitting to agnosticism or atheism; every day the media gives evidence of a deep-seated hostility toward Christianity (especially on any topic related to sexual ethics).

Ordway’s point is that, unlike life up until the mid/late 20th century, society no longer readily accepts the Bible as absolute truth.  As Ordway later writes,

“People have only a vague idea of Jesus, one that’s frankly not interesting enough to be worth bothering about; for them, Christianity is just one more option on the spiritual menu, and an outdated one at that.”

The point in the article linked here for you below is exciting because it tells us what was written millennia ago is still true:

[God] has also planted eternity [a sense of divine purpose] in the human heart [a mysterious longing which nothing under the sun can satisfy, except God].

People, although not Christian, are still open and hungry for God – and they don’t even know it.  It’s our job to be ready and available to visit with them. Read the brief article here.

 

QUOTE(s) of the WEEK

“Christianity gives a meaning for life that suffering can’t take away from you.” – Tim Keller

And,…

“I pray that when I die, all of hell will rejoice that I am no longer in the fight.” – C.T.Studd.

 

LAUGHTER IS GOOD MEDICINE

And,…

My mechanic told me, “I couldn’t repair your brakes, so I made your horn louder.” – Steven Wright

 

SOUL FOOD:  A Wait Problem

Few, if any, of us do patience well.  Read the blog here.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

 

The Navigator: 1.15.2021

 

THIS SUNDAY, 1/17 – WELCOME ELLIOTT FAMILY

The search committee has done their job.  Now, it’s up to the Body to discern God’s will for BHBC.

Sammy and I spent over two hours over lunch getting to know one another better, visiting about sundry topics related to life and ministry, BHBC’s history, going over Sunday’s worship services, and just enjoying talking and laughing together.  I was so impressed with the humility of this man.  NOTE: speaking of humility, when I asked him how he would like to be addressed he quickly replied, “Please drop the ‘dr.’  I’m not into titles.”  I promised I would pass that instruction along.

I am thrilled about Sunday and have assured Sammy I will be there to attend to his and his family’s every need.  For Sunday’s schedule simply click here.

Our prayer (in agreement with the Apostle’s prayer cited above):  “O God, show your Body your will for us.  And show Sammy and Anita your will for them.  Amen.”

 

SPEAKING OF SUNDAY – NICK RETURNS

My heart goes out to all who have suffered from COVID.  I elaborate more on my journey in my Table Talk below.  Suffice it to say, it has been a painful, and sometimes scary, experience.

That said, I can’t wait to see you all this Sunday.  It does my heart good to exalt and magnify Christ with you.  Oh, and thank you for all who have reached out to me and Michelle during these past two weeks via bringing food, running errands, and writing encouraging notes and texts.  Your love has been overwhelming.

Miraculously, Michelle never contracted the virus.   Apparently, contrary to my facetious comments – she is the one with superior genetics in our family.

 

ALSO, SPEAKING OF SUNDAY: SANCTITY OF LIFE

Holly Duncan, from Parkridge Pregnancy Center, will be sharing in both worship services this Sunday.  “For you created my inmost being,” David prayed.  “You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;…”

 

GOD, TRUMP & BIDEN

This past Wed evening, I was not able to attend church, but I felt good enough to post a Table Talk.  This was largely based on conviction from my daily devotional from that morning.

My  Table Talks average 500 views per week on my Facebook page.  Wednesday’s talk hit 500 views within a few hours and has now been viewed over 700 times.  During these troubling times, people are desperately looking for peace based on biblical truth.

I am linking this week’s Table Talk here for you via YouTube. (I transfer them to my Youtube Channel for those who don’t have a FB account).

 

THE GOSPEL of JOHN: THE ADVENTURE CONTINUES

Thank you to DL for supplying for me this past Wednesday evening.  I cannot say enough about this man.  I love him so much.

Join me next Wed. evening, 1/20, at 6:30, as we pick up John’s story of the most dramatic life ever lived.  We’re inside six months now from when Jesus will face the Cross.  As we approach Easter on the calendar, we do the same in John’s gospel.  The drama is building.  Join me for the ride.

 

THE MOST DANGEROUS YEAR FOR CHURCH HEALTH – BUT NOT AT BHBC

This past week, we got a message from a former member telling our staff, “Hang tough.  A new boss is on his way.”  I have no idea where that comment came from.  Clearly, it was meant in jest.

It is important, as people in place of leadership at BHBC, you read what I wrote to our staff in response: 

The note prompted a conviction I want to share and I want you all to hear it: my introduction to this thing we call “a pastoral interim period” was in 1985 while I served at a church in Abilene. Since that time I have witnessed (and, sometimes, survived) numerous more.

Here’s what I can honestly say to you: there’s not been a single moment this past year that required us to “hang tough.” I have seen the good, the bad, and the very ugly. Our staff has exemplified not merely professionalism but, more importantly, a Christ-like maturity this past year.

Dana Kluzek, Mike Lewis and myself have often used the phrase, “not only have we not missed a beat, but our staff quickly became healthier than it had been in some time.” Given the circumstances surrounding Jason’s abrupt and curious resignation, coupled with the pandemic, our church and staff could have easily imploded due to anxiety and/or a crack in our foundation of interpersonal trust.

Do you know what helped prevent that? A healthy and strong staff.

I’ve seen it over and over: as the staff goes so the church goes. Not once has there been suspicion or questions about the staff. Further, Mike, Dana and myself have, for the past year, made certain you were protected and set up for continual success.

And what can I say about DL? God knew we needed this man. What a joyful pleasure it has been to serve alongside this wise and humble servant. I will truly hate to see his interim leadership at BHBC come to an end.

Finally, I always resist statements like, “our best days are ahead,” since this implies a minimization of what God has done in the past through men like Hank Scott, Jerry Joplin and DL – as well as what he’s done through you (the staff) all this past year. I like to put it this way: “the same God who led and blessed us in past days will continue to do so if we humbly trust and follow him.”

What an absolute joy it’s been to serve alongside each one of you. I am more like Christ because of his influence on me through you. Much love, Nick

As Sammy and I visited this past week, we shared the experience of seeing how badly interim periods can become.  Our experience at BHBC has been an absolute joy.  Additionally, how many churches had to address a multi-million debt retirement campaign this past year within the context of global economic anxiety?  I’m not sure, but I know BHBC did.  And you responded in the mighty power of Christ.  Sure, 2020 was a difficult year.  But Christ was greater still.  As I told Sammy, “there’s nothing to ‘fix’ – you can hit the ground running.”

 

A PURITAN PRAYER

I often encourage believers who desire to learn how to pray (Jesus’ own disciples asked him to teach them to pray) to, first, simply pray the prayers of the Bible.

The Psalms hand us 150 prayers.  The longest prayer in scripture is in Nehemiah, chapter 9Daniel 9 contains one of my favorites.  The actual “Lord’s Prayer” is recorded for us in John 17. God was gracious enough to fill the pages of his Word with the prayers of, both, the desperate and the grateful.

Additionally, we have preserved for us prayers from believers throughout history.  As I read (and pray) these prayers my heart is challenged and my prayer life is deepened.  Sometimes, when I am hopeless and empty, I find myself returning to these prayers just to find help in what to pray.

Permit me to share an excerpt from just such a prayer from the prayer journal, The Valley of Vision:

Enlarge my heart, warm my affections, supply words that proclaim that ‘love abounds at Calvary.’

At the Cross grace removes my burdens and heaps them on the Son.  There the sword of your justice smote your Son.  There my infinite sin was magnified, and infinite atonement was made.  There infinite punishment was due, and infinite punishment endured.

Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy, cast off that I might be brought in, that I might be welcomed as a friend. He was surrendered to hell’s worst that I might attain heaven’s best, stripped that I might be clothed, wounded that I might be healed, tormented that I might be comforted, made a shame that I might inherit glory, and entered darkness that I might have eternal light.

My Savior wept that all tears might be wiped from my eyes, groaned that I might have endless song, bowed his head that I might uplift mine, experienced reproach that I might receive welcome, and closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded brightness.

O God, who spared not your own Son that you might spare me, may my every breath be filled with ecstatic praise, my every step with buoyant delight.

Go forth, O conquering God, and show me the Cross, mighty to subdue, comfort and save.

Amen

 

QUOTE(s) of the WEEK

And, what I call an “ouch” quote: (“ouch” because it’s true)

“To most Christians, the Bible is like a software license,” Bill Maher (an atheist) once explained. “Nobody actually reads it. They just scroll down to the bottom and click, ‘I agree.'”

Ok – one more since it’s been a while since I posted The Navigator:

I read Thomas Nagel’s, Mind & Cosmos, during my grad studies in Christian Apologetics.

Keep in mind – the following quote exposing the holes in Darwinian evolutionary theory is not from a Christian, but a professed atheist…

“…no viable [scientifically-supported] account, even a purely speculative one, seems to be available of how a system as staggeringly functionally complex and informative-rich as a self-producing cell, controlled by DNA, RNA, or some predecessor, could have arisen by chemical evolution alone from a dead environment.” – NYU atheist philosopher/professor, Thomas Nagel, positing questions for the origination of human consciousness, cognition, value and reason.

 

LAUGHTER IS GOOD MEDICINE

For my fellow coffee lovers.  Coffee is the perfect-bonding-beverage; the nectar of the gods. 🙂

 

SOUL FOOD:  Hobbits & Hope

Hope is on shaky ground these days.  Oxford defender of the faith, Alister McGrath, used Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to remind us where rock-solid footing is always found.  Read the blog here.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick