The Reformation 500

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This October marks the 500 year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  Many articles have already been posted throughout this year bringing attention to the events that dramatically shaped the New Testament church as we know her today.  From the shots John Wycliffe fired in the 14th Century calling for the church to reform, to Martin Luther’s nailing of the Ninety-Five Theses to the chapel door in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517, the Reformation has a rich legacy of faithful followers of Jesus who rested in one primary reality, returning to the Word of God.  Through the month of October I wish to shine light on the eternal doctrines found in the Holy Word of God that truly shaped the reformers who lead in the effort to see the Church return to her original nature.  There is a long historical narrative explaining the heresy found in the church in the 16th Century.  There are incredible stories of faithfulness from those who sought to make Christ and His Word primary in the church. There are tragic stories of death, persecution, and abuse from within the church.  And there are five central doctrines, known as the five solas of the Reformation, that shaped the church and brought her into a new era of faithfulness, and those doctrines still matter for the church today.

The Five Solas of the Reformation
1. Sola Scriptura (“scripture alone”), the Bible alone is our highest authority.
2. Sola Fide (“faith alone”), we are saved solely through faith in Christ Jesus.
3. Sola Gratia (“grace alone”), only by grace and not by our works is salvation possible.
4. Solus Christus (“through Christ alone”), Jesus alone has paid the penalty of sin.
5. Soli Deo Gloria (“to God be the glory alone”), our goal in life is to glorify God.

In reality, the call to reform, first to the believer and then to the church, still exists today. The Holy Spirit of God is alive and active using the Holy Word of God to constantly shape us into the image of the Holy Son of God.  Reform is necessary because our hearts are sinful, our churches are so often misguided, and our world is searching for truth and hope.  I hope that you are enthusiastic about searching the rich truths found in these eternal doctrines that shaped one of the greatest moments in history.  My prayer is that we will, in unity, draw close to Christ and His Word during the month of October as we journey through the doctrines of the Reformation.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Pastor Nick

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Why Catechism Matters

Catechism

This coming Sunday, September 17th, Seminole FBC will be embracing a very important new ministry, catechism.  This new journey will take the complete church (children through adults) into a 52 week comprehensive study on the basic tenets of the Christian faith as given to us by the Word of God. It matters! It eternally matters! The assimilation of biblical theology and doctrine is a discipline that the church cannot afford to get wrong or become apathetic in.  So, we have this amazing journey of catechism that will unify the body of Christ and give us the building blocks that will allow our faith to flourish and our church to be grounded in truth.

What is Catechism?
Catechism is a doctrinal manual used in the Christian church to teach Biblical truth in an orderly way.  Usually this is done in the form of questions and answers.  Throughout the New Testament we see the greek word katecheo (meaning to teach or instruct) which forms the english word “catechize”.  Catechesis has been used to deliver Biblical doctrine since the birth of the church.  Catechesis flourished between the second and sixth century in the church but would soon wane as the church fell to the indulgences of the world.  However, there would be a resurgence of catechesis in the church shortly after the Protestant Reformation.  The Reformers called for a return to this process of instruction in the church.  The Baptist Catechism was first put forth in 1689 in Great Britain, modeled after the Westminster Shorter Catechism of 1646. Since that time many versions of catechism have been drafted but the practice of catechesis in the church has become mostly forgotten.

Why use Catechism?
There is a clear Biblical pattern of teaching doctrine by way of catechesis in scripture.  To cite just a few, in Acts 2:42 we read, “They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching.” 2 Thessalonians says, “Stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us.” And in Ephesians 4: 13-14 we receive these words “attain to the unity of…the knowledge of the Son of God…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine.”  When it comes to shaping the hearts of believers with Biblical doctrine and theology we can be assured that the practice of catechesis is more than just promising, it is practical and powerful.

My hope and prayer is that the journey of catechesis would prove to be fruitful for the church.  We are going to have great fellowship and great unity as we embrace the powerful Word of our faith though catechism.  Whether you are a new believer, a long time saint, or someone sorting through questions about Jesus, we hope that you will join us each Sunday night for Catechism.  It’s going to be a blast!!

To God alone be the glory!
Pastor Nick

I Love My Neighbor

I Love My Neighbor
Last year after Easter we celebrated the church with “I Love My Church.”  It was a great day as we gathered and expressed great appreciation to Jesus, for giving us the Church, and to one another for friendships and fellowship that have unified us in ministry throughout our local body of believers.  As we approached this Spring we embraced a new idea of love and gratitude that is much needed in any community, to love our neighbor.  Seminole is no different than any other community in any other state, in that, we deeply desire to have unity but sometimes need a little push that drives us into our neighbors homes and lives to better live within that unity.  It is my hope that many throughout our church and community will take an opportunity on Sunday night April 30th to get together and share in the blessing of being neighbors during the “I Love My Neighbor” event.

Jesus was once asked by an expert in the law what He believed to be the greatest commandment. Jesus replied, “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command.  The second is to love your neighbor as yourself.  All of the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” (Matthew 22:36-40)  Now, there is some debate in the Christian community over what it means to love our neighbor, how to love our neighbor, and who is our neighbor.  Fortunately, scripture speaks many other times about neighbors, including Jesus’ explanation of neighbor in the parable of the Good Samaritan.  In this story, found in Luke 10: 25-37,  Jesus describes the true neighbor as the one who takes time to care for a person in need.  In other words, one particular person takes notice of another person, who bears the image of God, and spends their own personal time, efforts, money, and fellowship to care for and truly demonstrate what a “neighbor” is.

Our community, like many, would do well to remember the true measure of what being a neighbor to someone really is.  It is not defined only by proximity, ethnicity, background, age, or any other demographic.  It is defined by our general attraction to all people because they bear the image of our Creator.  When we see people through that lens we can truly experience genuine fellowship and unity in our communities.  We do not have to agree on all things, but, we can be a community of neighbors who truly love one another.

FBC family, I hope you are making plans to either invite your neighbors over or join with other members to host neighbors at a particular house on April 30th.  May the Lord be with us all!

Pastor Nick

Persistent in Prayer

Romans 12: 9-21. That is this weeks morning sermon passage. As I have read through this passage many times, meditated on it, and spent time in my commentaries, I find myself personally trapped by one particular verse.  It is when Paul says in Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.” I always count it both a blessing and a burden when the Holy Spirit takes His Word and uniquely places it in the core of the heart.  It is a joy because it reminds me of His ever present shaping of my soul.  He truly reveals truth to those who love Him and trust Him.  It is a burden because it unsettles my mind and spirit in ways that force me to come face to face with my personal short comings.  You could say that when the Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and uses it to accomplish the work of God in your life that it is similar to a fire.  A fire can be extremely painful and devastating.  And yet, a fire can also fertilize and condition a particular area for nutrient availability.

In this verse Paul petitions believers to be “persistent in prayer” as they fulfill their Christian disciplines. At the very center of his explanation of how Christians are to conduct themselves in light of their sacrificial service to God and the church, Paul emphasizes prayer. It is rarely a surprise to us when we see the duty and blessing of prayer mentioned in scripture. However, how often do we actually heed the encouragement and exhortation of prayer? I know for myself, I always nod my head in agreement with the preacher who proclaims the importance of prayer. I have consumed very few french fries and cheeseburgers that have not been prayed for.  So, I pray, right?  Of course.  But, does my prayer life reflect a persistent prayer life?  And what does that even look like? What is the difference in a prayer life and a persistent prayer life?  As I sit this week asking God to reveal both a message faithful to His Word and a message that produces great fruit in my life long before my feet hit the pulpit I am starting to see my successes and failures in my prayer life.  So, maybe as a help to others, I would like to make mention of a few areas both personal and corporate that are great indicators of a life that is persistent in prayer.

My Sanctification
Finally then, brothers, we ask and encourage you in the Lord Jesus, that you have received from us how you must walk and please God- as you are doing- do so even more. For you know what commands we gave you through the Lord Jesus.  For this is God’s will, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality, so that each of you knows how to controls his own body in sanctification and honor, not with lustful desires, like the Gentiles who don’t know God.”  1 Thessalonians 4:1-5

Daily, am I praying that my thoughts, steps, deeds, and speech, would be bathed in purity, love, and honor? Do I pray that the Holy Spirit would carve out all the impurities of my heart and worldly corruption in my mind? Do I pray for holiness and faithfulness to repent?  God desires for me to be holy.  In fact, He has made a way for me to be holy.  Through the blood of Jesus, the holy Word of God, and the presence of the Holy Spirit I am both saved unto glory and shaped into the image of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel
Declare His glory among the nations, His wonderful works among all people.”  Psalm 96:3

This passage, along with many other proclamation passages, are great reminders that as people who love and trust in God, through Jesus, we are to be proclaimers.  The great commission passages found throughout the Bible, most notably in the four gospels, define our great appeal to the nations that Jesus our Lord came to save sinners and give them eternal hope. Daily, do I pray for the gospel to be made known? Do I pray for believers scattered throughout my community and the nations to have great favor in sharing the good news of Jesus?  Do I pray, by name, for people to trust Jesus this day? Am I faithful to proclaim Christ?

The Church
And in view of this, we always pray for you that our God will consider you worthy of His calling, and will, by His power, fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith, so that the name of Jesus Christ our Lord will be glorified by you, and you by Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  2 Thessalonians 1:11

In this opening moment of his second letter to the church at Thessalonica, Paul, gives us one of many ways he prays for the church.  Is it possible that many people attend church without ever actually praying for the church? For Paul, it was of the utmost importance to pray for the church.  To pray for her to be considered “worthy of His calling” and faithful in all measures. Daily, do I pray for the church?  Do I pray for unity in the church, discipline in the church, repentance in the church, and faithfulness in the church?  Do I pray for the ministry staff of the church, the volunteers and servant leaders of the church?  Do I pray for the church to have fruitful ministries, genuine worship services, and healthy finances? Do I pray for powerful preaching filled with integrity and humility?

What Else?
Daily, do I pray for my wife, my children, my parents and siblings?  Do I pray for friends, neighbors, and teachers?  Do I pray for leaders and rulers?  Do I pray for the sick, the poor, those imprisoned, and those who have been abused?  Do I pray for the waitress, the bus driver, the bank teller, and even my enemies?

This list can go on and on.  Seems like a lot of things to pray for, right?  Perhaps this is why “persistent in prayer” should be more than a head nod to the sermon on prayer?

Praying today in the name of Jesus the Nazarene,
Pastor Nick

Partnership in the Gospel

In his letter to the saints in Philippi, the Apostle Paul wrote with great affection and supplication in a genuine spirit of joy. Why? Simply put, because of the “partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” (Philippians 1:5) Paul was grateful, encouraged, and sustained in the partnership he shared with the believers in Philippi.  It is particularly encouraging to read of Paul’s deep affection and unity with believers he rarely saw.  This type of unity and affection is produced not because of proximity, prestige, or politics.  Rather, unity of this significance is produced by purpose.  As Paul notes, they have been bonded together because of partnership in the gospel.  Partnership is a wonderful word within any general aspect of life, but, when applied to the gospel of Jesus Christ it forges into the supernatural.  I pray that as a church we will remain committed to partnership in the gospel, for it will bond us together in ways that cannot be explained by human measures.

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On that note, this month is an exciting month in the life of FBC Seminole.  This is the month we enter into a gospel-centered partnership with Paul and Kristen Hoffman and KALEO Communities of Portland, Oregon.  This is a new church plant in the great Pacific Northwest.  We are excited to partner with the brothers and sisters of this young gospel community as they seek to reach a unique part of Portland with the love, purity, truth, and grace found only in Jesus Christ. You are not going to want to miss their upcoming visit and the activities we have planned for the weekend of Feb. 17-19, 2017.  Paul and Kristen will be here in Seminole with their two children, Addison and Wesley.  Please pray for a great weekend as we enter into this beautiful partnership. Look for a detailed schedule in this weeks worship guide.

Finding Satisfaction in Fellowship

There are many things that bring me satisfaction in life.  I love watching a good action movie with my wife.  I even love watching the occasional romance movie with her.  I love to dip my oreos in milk.  I love watching the Mariners win, although it doesn’t happen that often.  I love playing baseball with my boys and I love watching my daughter giggle over silly things.  All these things are satisfying to me, but, I must say, I am most satisfied in life when I experience the sweet fellowship of Jesus with my church family.  Hearing my children get excited about spending time with their church family and seeing the look of joy that comes over them on “church days” is a true blessing for their mother and I.  The times of refreshing fellowship and activity, and the commotion of people buzzing around after bible study with excitement as they wait with great expectation for the worship service to start is something that brings great joy to my heart.  I cherish that.  I hope and pray that God will have great favor on our church as we seek Him and take satisfaction in His immeasurable mercies.

Hebrews 10: 19-25 gives us a healthy picture of how God’s people can be completely satisfied in our fellowship. It reads: “Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way He has opened for us through the curtain, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.  Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”   We see that the author of Hebrews gives us a clear picture of godliness that is affirmed in a desired pursuit of satisfactory fellowship with the saints.

Church, I want to encourage you today.  I want you to know that God has made a way for us to be completely satisfied in our fellowship with one another.  How?  Because of the blood of Jesus His Son.  We have been given a “new and living way” through Jesus and He has completed the work necessary for us to have supernatural union with one another.  As we launch a new journey with one another this fall I want you to be encouraged, excited, and expectant.  Let us make it a habit to encourage one another, love one another, worship with one another, and be on mission for the gospel with one another.  God has given us each other that we might have great satisfaction in our fellowship.  Draw near to God, and draw near to His people.  I look forward to worshipping with you each and every week.

Love,

Pastor Nick

 

Guarding Against False Teachers

In recent years many false teachers have been given platforms that once did not exist.  False teachers have always existed, nothing new there.  We read how Peter expounds on the issue in 2 Peter 2:1-3, “But false prophets also rose among the people…” as he sets to warn the church of destructive heresy.  However, in todays media driven culture we have no shortage of venues to be exposed to false teaching.  Many false teachers have taken great advantage of these opportunities and have capitalized greatly.  I, like so many, love a good teacher of The Word.  I recently spend a few days in Louisville at the Together For The Gospel conference.  I must admit, there was a little bit of fan fest that spurred in me when men like John MacArthur, Kevin DeYoung, and Albert Mohler took the stage.  So I completely understand the desire to hear from and experience good teaching.  What I respect most about men like those mentioned is how close they stay to scripture.  They preach and teach with great integrity and humility, submitting themselves to the authority of scripture above all.  But some among us that teach from equally large platforms have distanced themselves from scripture and lean more on story telling and application of good works.

One of the great issues I see with false teaching is not so much the discernment of the obvious wolves but more so the teachers that are subtle and possibly even from within.  These teachers may even appear to lead successful ministries driven by compassion, burden, and service to the least in our culture.  I would point out that even the most generous, compassionate, and servant-hearted people can mangle scripture and ministry in ways that reduce our Lord to only a social worker, or friend, or a man who just came to “do life” with people who have messy, dysfunctional lives.  In reality, Jesus is our friend, He did feed the hungry and care for the needy, and He did invite people into His life.  But, to what end?  Jesus came to call people to repentance and to make them holy. Salvation is the gift of grace that sanctifies us. Salvation does not leave us in our sin and dysfunction.  Luke 5:32 and Matthew 4:17 tell us that Jesus came to call people to repentance.  So, in light of many wolves today who are dressed like sheep, reducing our Savior and distorting scripture I would like to offer three simple principles that can help us discern the false teachings and distance ourselves for sake of our churches and our sanctification.

Know The Word of God
I have always said that your relationship with Jesus will never rise above the amount of time you spend in His Word.  This is pressingly true when it comes to the discernment of those who teach and preach.  The more knowledge and affection you have for The Word the easier it is for you to identify sound teaching verses false teaching.  Keep these in mind: God’s Word is pure (Proverbs 30:5-6), God’s Word is complete and sufficient (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and God’s Word is settled (Psalm 119:89).  Know God’s Word, cherish God’s Word, and trust His Word.

Seek Godly Counsel
I am grateful for those in my life who have proven themselves faithful to the sound teachings of scripture.  When I have concerns or just want to have healthy discussion I can always trust that they have my best interests at heart.  You need those people in your life.  People who have spent many years examining scripture, trusting scripture, and obeying scripture.  It is also important to remember that Jesus promised us the greatest counsel in the Holy Spirit.  Keep these in mind: The Holy Spirit is committed to your discernment (1 John 4:1; John 14:26), and brothers and sisters in Christ provide sound counsel (Proverbs 11:14).  We must seek godly counsel.  No one is above this.

Examine The Fruit
Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:17 that “every good tree produces good fruit…” and we would be wise to remember that.  Those you ascribe to receive teaching from, are they producing good fruit?  Is their fruit consistent with the fruit scripture describes?  Colossians 1:10 tells us to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord…bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”  The greatest fruit a teacher can produce is leading others to have great love for scripture.  Then, ask yourself if the teacher talks more about Jesus and His Word or themselves.  Do they boast in their ministry, their lifestyle, their compassion for others, their likeness to Christ?  I am not saying it is inappropriate to help others see how ministry and biblical application work but some teachers seem to love what they claim to have produced more than what God is producing through His Word.  Much is said about boasting in scripture in James 4:16, Galatians 6:14, 1 Corinthians 1:31, and 2 Corinthians 10:17.  Our fruit is for the glory of God and that alone should be sufficient for all believers.

So, let us not stumble in our understanding of Jesus, His Word, and His church by seeking the counsel of false teachers.  Let us pursue Christ faithfully by submitting to His authority, seeking godly counsel, and producing eternal fruit.  And at the end of the day may we all say “To God and God alone be the glory!!!”

With great love,

Pastor Nick