Archive for July, 2010

Back in East Africa Again

Visiting Kenya and Tanzania again, and got to bring my youngest two sons, Dillon and Derek, with me. Got here last night and spent the day running around Nairobi with Joel Weaver and Dan Olinger (here with a summer ministry team).

Love seeing what God is doing here through these faithful servants. Another family from our church, the Huffstutlers leave this coming weekend to join the team in Kenya. By God’s grace, the door is opening for a much needed work on the south side of Nairobi for planting churches and training pastors and church planters. Exciting to watch!

Will try to drop by again, but internet time is rare here.

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Closing the barn door a little late…

Terry Mattingly has an article on something that happened when the Presbyterians got together recently. They got an unexpected exhortation from what seems like an unlikely source.

“Christian morality is as old as Christianity itself. It doesn’t need to be invented now. Those attempts to invent new morality look for me like attempts to invent a new religion — a sort of modern paganism,” said Hardun, drawing scattered applause.

“When people say that they are led and guided by the Holy Spirit to do it, I wonder if it is the same Holy Spirit that inspired the Bible, if it is the same Holy Spirit that inspires the Holy Orthodox Church not to change anything in Christian doctrine and moral standards. But if it is the same Spirit, I wonder … if there are different spirits acting in different denominations and inspiring them to develop in different directions and to create different theologies and different morals?”

He really doesn’t need to wonder about it—Paul warned the Corinthians about this in 2 Corinthians 11!

I’ve said this before, but I think it bears repeating. These fights over moral issues are much less the positive sign than some (perhaps many) seem to think they are. When a church that abandoned orthodoxy decades ago is fitting about moral issues, that fight is more about preserving a culture than biblical authority. That means it’s more about selfish preservation than it is about honoring and obeying God’s Word. What else can it mean when you’re willing to give up on the deity of Christ but will fight about the definition of marriage?

Sure, it serves as a cautionary tale regarding the outcome of doctrinal decline, so if it motivates folks to take a stand at the beginning of the debate, good. But let’s not forget that this battle was lost decades ago, and it really was lost by those who refused to do what was necessary to remove from the church those who were denying the fundamentals of the Faith.

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Global Goring

Though it brings many benefits, there are often times that I wish Al Gore had never invented the internet! I had a few mind-wandering minutes the other day and found myself thinking about how the internet makes it possible, for better or worse, for voices that would seldom be heard beyond their own four walls to be heard hither and yon. As I said, some, perhaps even most, of this is for the better. I find myself, however, at times, marveling at the cast of characters that bluster and bark across Al’s invention. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, here’s my take on them.

Mr. Vuvu Zelou bears a striking resemblance to the horns which annoyed us during the World Cup games. Same overbearing sound again and again and again. Like an organist who knows one song and plays it for every offertory. He’s got a handful of quotes that he thinks seal the deal and he’s sticking with them. In fact, he thinks he’s so good that he toots his horn to himself even when no one else is listening.

Officer Grumpke patrols the internet looking for hooligans who are in the wrong part of town or look like they might be disturbing the peace. He’s a nice guy, but doesn’t like the changes these new kids are bringing to the neighborhood. Since he can’t technically keep them out of the neighborhood, he’ll write them up for as many traffic violations as he can in order to make life difficult for them.

Mr. E. Whisperer doesn’t really come up with anything himself, but he knows how to use email effectively to pass along things that he thinks “might be of interest” to other people. This saves him from doing any real work on the matter and also provides a nice opportunity to append little notes that share what he’s heard from others about the matter. Just imagine what Sanballat could have gotten done with email—“It is reported among the nations, and Gashmu says…” (Neh 6:6)!

Mr. Huck Stir has discovered the power of internet controversy as a marketing tool for his publications. He’s taken guerilla marketing to whole new (lower) levels. Sure he’s gotten kicked off of more blog sites than one can count, but that’s the price of defending the truth (and it costs a lot less than advertising!).

Have you seen any of these guys online? Maybe there are some others I’ve missed. Send me an email about them and maybe I’ll add them to the list.

Late addition (that I forgot): Mr. Phil D. Burr is spurred on in his writing by a mental sliver or two that regularly gets rubbed the wrong way. He has an incredible knack for talking about any event or idea and squeezing a blog post out about that thing that is lodged under his skin. There really doesn’t need to be a clear path from A to B. If B is visible on the horizon (and sometimes even when its not), Mr. Burr will cut a trail toward it. 

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Dr. William R. Rice, September 23, 1920 – July 8, 2010

This last Thursday, Dr. William R. Rice, my predecessor here at Inter-City and the founder of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary went to be with the Lord. Dr. Rice wasn’t just the pastor who served here before me, he was my pastor from the time I was 8 years old. Outside of four years while I served on pastoral staff at another church, he was my pastor from the time of my conversion until I came to serve with him for several months as co-pastor, then pastor after his retirement on September 10, 1989.

He was an incredible man full of faith and zeal for the Lord’s glory. He graduated from Bob Jones College when it was in Cleveland, Tennessee, then completed his Master of Divinity, Master of Theology, and Doctor of Theology degrees at Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake. In the mid to late forties he was diagnosed with cancer and given only months to live. God preserved his life and he came to pastor the First Baptist Church of Melvindale in 1949. That small church began to grow rapidly, which led to a merger with the First Baptist Church of Allen Park and the renaming of the congregation as Inter-City Baptist Church sixty years ago in July of 1950.

This community was expanding and the church experienced incredible growth along with it. Between 1950 and 1964 the church engaged in multiple building projects until we settled in our current building. Dr. and Mrs. Rice always had a real burden for education, so the current church building was constructed so as to provide the option of starting a school. In 1966, the school was started as one of the first Christian schools in the state of Michigan. Ten years later, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary was established. In between those two, the church, following Dr. Rice’s leadership, started the Inter-City Christian Bookstore and the Inter-City Christian Manor (a retirement facility).

For years I reacted very negatively to the stereotypes of fundamentalists that I would so often hear, and the reason for my reaction was that I grew up under something very different than what I was hearing about. My pastor had an earned (not honorary) doctorate in New Testament. He preached the Bible expositionally. He thought theology was important and taught it clearly to the congregation. He stood very firmly against the ecclesiastical compromises of the mid-20th century, yet I never recall him name-calling or ever speaking derogatorily of men from the pulpit. I am so thankful I grew up in a church where separation was practiced over real issues, not the trumped up ones of the last few decades.

There never was any debate around here about the KJV—it was great translation, but only that. Our bookstore, from its inception, sold other translations. Dr. Rice regularly cited other translations. We’ve had professors who have used other translations in their seminary classes from day one.

It wasn’t until I went off to college that I even knew that anybody thought there was something wrong with women wearing pants. I’d never even heard of men like Jack Hyles or Bill Gothard. I was shocked to find out that people thought the Bible prohibited inter-racial marriage (obviously, I knew people who opposed it out of prejudice, but none who defended it biblically).

I could go on, but won’t. My point is not to denigrate others, but to rejoice that God gave me the opportunity to have a man like Dr. Rice as my pastor for almost twenty of the forty years he served this church. Even more, I am so thankful that I was given the privilege of following a pastor like Dr. Rice. He spent forty years grounding a congregation in the Word and building a foundation that was rock solid. He wasn’t perfect—no pastor ever is. But he loved the Lord more than himself, and he loved this church more than his own life. There were a lot of pastors from his generation who built everything around themselves and once they were gone it all started to fade or fall apart. Dr. Rice built this church on the Word and focused everybody’s attention on Jesus Christ, not himself.

There is no doubt that he was a strong leader, but always for the good of the congregation. He took his God-given responsibility seriously and poured his life into the work. I’ll never forget, though, the moment on September 10, 1989 when he stood in front of the congregation that he had served for 40 years and said, “Moses is dead. Long live Joshua.” He had watched too many men stick around too long and cause trouble for the pastor that followed them. He was not going to do that. He loved the church too much. In the 21 years since that day, Dr. Rice was never anything but an encouragement and help to this church and its new pastor. Better men than I have had their ministries severely hurt by their predecessors, but God allowed me to follow a man who truly believed that the Lord and His church was more important than his ego and legacy.

I am thankful today that my life was blessed by God through this great man. I stand on his shoulders. I am glad that my pastor has gone to be with the Great Shepherd of the sheep that he loved and served so well.

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