More than half a century ago, Christian philosopher and author Francis Shaeffer released a groundbreaking book entitled How Shall We Then Live? By tracing through history, philosophy, theology, and the arts Dr. Shaeffer outlined the rise and the ultimate demise of Western civilization. Much of what he predicted has already come to pass, and some things that have come to pass he could never have predicted. What is at stake in our day is as critical as what was at stake in the first centuries of Christian thought. In the earliest years and through the Reformation, Christian writers and thinkers were concerned primarily with one subject: Who is Jesus? What does it mean to be ‘virgin born’? What does it mean to be “one with God”? What is the Trinity? How is Jesus both God and man?
Today, the subject has turned from that of seeking out the nature of Christ to something else of great importance: What is man? How is humankind to be defined? Are we created, or accidental? Does life begin at conception, before conception, or after birth? What happens when a person dies? What defines Biblical personhood? Can we arbitrarily decide we were “assigned” the wrong sex at birth, and take steps rightfully to correct the “mistake?” What constitutes marriage? Can two same-sex people become married in a Biblical sense?
All of these questions demand a thoughtful, articulate, Biblical, and definitive response. We are long past the day when we can say, “Go ask the preacher” or “because I said so”. We must give loving, yet correct answers to instruct our children how to live in Western civilization as it is declining around us. And we must define from Scripture what these things mean, whether or not the Supreme Court or any other entity agree with our definitions.
To paraphrase Dr. Shaeffer, “how shall we now live?” Living lovingly yet as those who stand for truth in our culture has never been harder. It is certainly more difficult than it was in 1950, 60, or 70. But we must stand unapologetically upon the Word of God which never changes (“My Word will not pass away”) and yet address a confused and broken world with truth spoken in love. How shall we then live?
Just like Jesus.
After my recent trip home to the land of my birth and raisin’, I was missing my father. Always do when I go home. He went home now 13 years ago this month. But the sights, smells, and memories of home bring him back to me during those trips. After I returned to Florida, my brother Mark posted the following on Facebook:
You never know what you do or say will mean to someone’s life. Here is EXHIBIT A for TODAY:
A gentleman visited me in my office today and shared how my dad’s influence changed his life. He worked with DAD at Wheeler Williams Hardware and his life, at the time, wasn’t where it should be. DAD talked with him, shared with him and even took him and his wife to a REDS GAME. Those talks, that influence, those acts of kindness eventually manifested itself when he came under conviction. He said while we all have to live our own lives, he wanted to model his after DAD if he could. Today he’s a preacher in the area and influencing lives himself. His wish is that DAD could see him today and see how his influence impacted him. He said he’d wanted to come by and tell me that story for years. He was downtown today and decided to stop in and see me. What a blessing!!! Thank you GARY SALYERS.
It made me profoundly proud, again, to have had a father who lived what he believed and who wasn’t ashamed of the Gospel. He lived it, sang it, spoke it, and practiced it everywhere he went. I did not know about the story Mark told, though I worked with the young man spoken of in the article. I would have referred to him at the time as a “lost cause.” But that’s where Dad was at his best. After all, he raised me.
And I want to be just like him.
Dad, Father's Day, fathers
A number of years ago I attempted to baptize a five-year-old. Big mistake. Big. The parents, though zealous for their son to follow Christ (which I appreciated) underestimated his ability to “get” what baptism really meant (which I failed to stand up for).
That won’t happen again.
Attempting to baptize this young man turned into something of a fiasco. And unfortunately it was a fiasco that EVERYONE could see, since it happened in our elevated baptistery. We took everything into account but one: How do you make a five-year-old enter the water when he doesn’t want to? Oh, I could have manhandled him and picked him up. I was five or six times his size and weight. So then what? Carry a screaming child into the water and dunk him beneath it with the church looking on?
So, we let him win. But actually, we all won. That child was too close for comfort to being an infant, and very likely far too young to have trusted Christ or to have need to do so. Certainly he could not understand the implication of baptism. And besides all that, we don’t do infant baptism…
According to seminary president Jason Allen, we do something worse. In recent demographics studying the Southern Baptist Convention, our baptisms (translate that “growth” statistics) were slipping in every area, every age demographic…but one. Can you guess which one?
Five and below.
I studied with a seminary professor named Findley Edge who was a stalwart advocate for a regenerate church membership, meaning, let’s make sure the person has really become a follower of Christ before we baptize them. He believed that a person shouldn’t be baptized until they were at least 13! Now while I disagreed with my respected prof, I think he was trying to correct what has become a real problem for our Southern Baptist tribe. We reject infant baptism (credo-baptism for you budding theologians out there). We reject the denominational positions that would practice such a thing. But what we are doing in baptizing children without instructing and ascertaining the truth of their conversion to genuine, life-transforming faith in Christ is nothing short of sacrilege. And ultimately, it is a fatal error for our church and mission to place in membership and, ultimately, into leadership those who have never known true faith in Christ.
It is wrong, we believe, to baptize an infant inferring that one day they will become a Christian. It is far worse, Dr. Allen contends, to baptize a child believing they HAVE become one. This is a much needed word, and a needed corrective for churches in our day, Baptist or otherwise. I can only speak to my tribe. And what I need to say loudly and clearly is….
This must stop.
The Bible is filled with images and geography of specific locations where people met with God. Where God changed their path, their life. Think Moses at the burning bush in the Midian desert or Abraham on Mt. Moriah where Isaac was laid on an altar. Often, when a person met God a physical structure was erected to remember it. You may have such a place or places in your life. The church where you were married. The pool of water where you were baptized. The chair you sat in the night an invitation was given and you were saved.
Holy spaces…holy places.
Last week, I encountered one of mine. Over the past week I have logged 2000 miles in a pick-up truck and have toured West Virginia through our Florida missions partnership from north to south. On Friday evening, I was given an address off an exit near Charleston, the capital of the state. As I drove deeper into an impoverished neighborhood, I came around a corner to the address I had been given. The church that stood there contained a holy place in my life. Not the sanctuary or even the multipurpose gym. Not the lovely lush green hillside.
In 1977 Pam and I were still newlyweds and we were traveling with a Christian band called Decision led by Bill Traylor. We had been invited to do a weekend revival at a church in Charleston. I really never paid much attention to the name. And when we got there, it was just a basement in the middle of…nowhere. The church didn’t have the money to build the rest of the facility. So we parked the motor home we traveled in, unloaded our equipment onto a makeshift stage and that night began a series of three days of concerts. After we finished playing Saturday night, a leader in the church asked Bill who would be preaching Sunday morning. Bill informed them that we were a musical group and did not have a preacher with us. After the conversation, Bill walked over to me and said, “You’re the preacher in the morning.” “ME? Preach? In a church?? Don’t think so!”
But after some conversation, I relented and the next morning, I stood behind a small wooden podium on a makeshift stage in the basement of North Charleston Baptist Church… and I preached. I could not for the life of me tell you what I said! When I finished, two women came up to me (separately) and said, “Are you a preacher?” “No, I’m just the drummer.” “Well, “ the first replied, “God is calling you to preach.” A second woman said roughly the same thing. God is calling you. To ministry. To preach! Their words did not leave me. And one year later, I surrendered to the call to preach.
As the men who gathered there Friday night were enjoying their meal I stood staring at a line on the floor where the front of the platform…and the pulpit stood. All that’s left on the floor is a line marking where the stage used to be. But it was in that place that a line was crossed. Seeing it Friday night brought the memories of 1977 flooding back….remembering.
Because holy places do that.
On October 16, 2013, Aubrey Thompson was critically injured in an automobile accident. His story and the way God worked to bring healing to him touched our community in an incredible way. Soon, his story had encircled the world as people prayed and interceded on his behalf. In this video, Aubrey and his family tell his story – a testimony to God’s love, healing power and grace in each of their lives.
Aubrey Thompson from Fruit Cove Baptist Church on Vimeo.