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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

This morning my friend and mentor, Pastor Mark Franklin entered into the presence of the Savior whom He loved and faithfully served after an extended battle with cancer.  


God's Word tells us that "precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of saints" (Psalm 116:15) and certainly that is true.  The God of the Universe has surely welcomed Pastor Franklin home and has said unto him "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."  

However, in many ways, for believers, the death of even our saved loved ones is a bittersweet thing.  

There is a sweetness in the fact that the saved friend or loved one is now in the presence of Jesus Christ - with all the excitement, wonder and blessing that accompanies that truth.  In the case of those believers who have endured much suffering on this earth, that sweetness is even magnified by the fact that the suffering is now permanently gone.  

Yet, there is also a sorrow.  It is not a sorrow like the sorrow of those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13), but rather it is a sorrow of a loss - a loss of a friend, a mentor, or a loved one.  It is the sorrow of the changing of the relationship - we can no longer call them on the phone for encouragement and advice.  We can no longer look forward to the joking and the ribbing.  While we know that we will see them again, we realize that things will never be the same.

I am thankful that God allowed me to get to know and to serve under Pastor Franklin at Hardingville Bible Church.  I am thankful that when God had moved me on in ministry that Pastor Franklin was always only a phone call away for encouragement and advice.  I am thankful that Pastor Franklin was an example to me (and to many others) of what a man of God should be like.  I am thankful for his faithfulness in ministry, his stand for the truth, and much more than I can accurately put into words.   I am thankful, most of all, that Pastor Franklin counted me as a friend.  

I am sure that over the next few days, there will be much sadness - for our loss.  Yet, just as surely, there is much joy - for he is entered into the joy of the Lord.  

I am also sure that over the next few days there will be many memories shared.  While there are myriad memories that flood my own mind regarding Pastor Franklin, the most recent of these memories was last week.  As I have been in the process of entering into itinerant ministry, Pastor Franklin had offered to write a recommendation for me over a year ago.  With everything going on with his health, I had hesitated to bring it up, but in our conversation last week, it was mentioned - and sure enough in a matter of minutes I had a one-paragraph "blurb" that was vintage Pastor Franklin.  It was well-written, gracious, and well, memorable.  

I won't reproduce the whole thing here, but just point out the ending that made me chuckle as I read it.

... Frank is a good preacher and gets his point across with clarity and power.  I have been blessed the many times that I have heard him preach.  The Spirit of God and perhaps some Mountain Dew has given him endless energy to minister.              – Dr. Mark Franklin,  Hardingville Bible Church (italics supplied by Pastor Franklin).  

Unfortunately I did not call to see if he really wanted me to keep the "Mountain Dew" line in the recommendation when I put it up on the Sansone Family Ministries website, so I guess it stays.  

I thank the Lord for the influence and friendship of Pastor Mark Franklin.  Please join me in praying for his wife, Liz, the family and Hardingville Bible Church in the days ahead.  

Just my thoughts,

Frank Sansone


(P.S. - those of you who have read this blog in the past - when I actually used to use it as a blog - may remember that I posted A Tribute to Pastor Mark Franklin some years ago on the occasion of his 25th Anniversary as Pastor of Hardingville Bible Church.)

So Who's at the Next Table, Anyway?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

"So Who's at the Next Table, Anyway?" - That is the title of a recent post by my friend and fellow bi-vocational pastor (in Scotland) Jon Gleason.

Pastor Gleason is a good thinker and a great pastor. I have really enjoyed his comments and writings in a number of areas over the last few years. He has recently begun a new blog called Mind Renewers that I have found to be very thoughtful and very pastoral. I have added his blog to my blog list on the left side of this blog and I encourage you to visit and read there often. You will challenged and you will be edified.

In the post linked to above, Pastor Gleason relates two experiences of overhearing conversations in restaurants (one serious and one humorous) and then encourages us with some piercing thoughts in conclusion:

Who is listening when we start exercising our jaw bones and wagging our tongues? Do you know who is at the next table? How would we moderate our speech if someone different were sitting next to us? What would we be saying about someone if the person at the next table is his neighbour or cousin (maybe it is)?

...

Both cases reminded me of the need to give consideration to the question: ”Who might be listening?”

Make sure you go over to his blog and read his last sentence - for it is the crux of the whole thought and one that we all ought to consider.

Just someone else's thoughts,

Frank

Milltown Pride

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Last night, Fellowship Baptist Church of Salisbury hosted the Regional Premiere of Milltown Pride, a new film from Unusual Films (a division of Bob Jones University).

It was good to see some folks out for the film and I pray the film was an encouragement to those who came out. For those who were unable to make it out, we are planning a second showing of the film on the evening of July 15.

Milltown Pride follows the path of Will Wright as he pursues his dream of playing baseball in the big leagues. Growing up in a wealthy family, Will leaves the wealth of his home and family in pursuit of his dream as he goes to play baseball for the local Newton Mill in the Mill League and signs up for a job at the mill in order to be able to play.

While the bigger setting is the baseball that caries the picture, the reality is that baseball is not the only struggle for young Will Wright - or even the most important struggle. Will struggles with alcohol and anger, but most importantly, Will struggles with pride - as he thinks he can do everything on his own, not realizing that it is in Christ that "we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28).

How often do we find ourselves choosing to go "our own way?" Whether the path is baseball, booze, or business - when we focus our choices on what we want instead of what God wants, we have made a foolish choice and placed ourselves on the throne of our lives instead of living with God on the throne of our lives.

Who is on the throne of your life? Whose direction and desires are you pursuing? When you make choices throughout the day, who are you choosing to please - God or self? When you make a choice today about your entertainment choices - will you choose to please God or yourself? When you make a choice this week about being in God's house for the services - will you choose to please God or yourself? When you make choices about how to spend your life - are you choosing to please God or to please yourself?

May God help us all to choose to please Him.

Just my thoughts,

Frank

Free Puritan Books (for Kindle)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Some of you know that one of my favorite toys/tools of the last couple of years was the Kindle that my wife got me for Christmas a couple of years ago. In fact, in my seminar on reading that I did at last year's Annual Conference of the Fellowship of Fundamental Bible Churches, I spent some time discussing the use of electronic readers and may have helped Amazon sell a couple of Kindles in the process.

Unfortunately, my Kindle died while we were down at BJU for Bible Conference in March (I tried to make it fit into an area it could not fit and broke the screen).

However, with the way Kindle has developed over the last couple of years, you can still access any of your previously purchased Kindle books through other Kindle applications, such as the Kindle for PC application that I use.

Now, a Kindle on your PC is not nearly as good as a Kindle in your hand, but ... it will do in a pinch - especially if you think you may eventually get a Kindle (or replace your broken Kindle).

One of the nice things about Kindles is that there is often a good amount of free content that is made available from time to time. Most older classics are already available free, but even newer books come up from time to time and some of the older religious books become available as someone takes the time to convert them into the Kindle format.

I noticed some recent free additions to the Kindle library that I thought I would pass on to those who still happen to read this on occasion.

Over at Bring the Books, the author has converted a number of Puritan (and other older works) into Kindle format - including The Sovereignty of God by A. W. Pink, The Complete Works of John Bunyan, Spurgeon's Commentary on Matthew and Sermons on Proverbs, Christian in Complete Armour (William Gurnall's three-volume work on Ephesians 6), William Wilberforce's Practical Christianity (which Jim Berg refers to at length in Essential Virtues), biographies of John G. Paton, George Mueller, and J. Hudson Taylor, and many more works by men like Richard Sibbes, John Owen, Thomas Manton, and more.

The link for the Free Kindle Books is here - http://www.bringthebooks.org/search/label/Free%20Kindle%20Book

Even if you have some of these in dead tree editions, at least some of these may be useful in electronic format due to the ability to search through the electronic book in a much faster way.

Anyway, hope you find this useful.

Just my thoughts,

Frank

NCAA Championship - and Results of A Thinking Man's Tourney Time

Monday, April 04, 2011

OOOOOOOOppppsss!! Sorry!

I just discovered that I accidently put this post up at the church blog (The Pastor's Pen) rather than here at my personal blog (A Thinking Man's Thoughts). This was posted on the Monday of the Championship game (and I am going to publish it as though it was here on that date so that I can find it easier next year if I need to do so).

Tonight is the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship Game between the University of Connecticut Huskies and the Butler Bulldogs.

The fact that these two teams are in the Finals is extraordinary in a lot of ways. I have not had a lot of opportunities to watch many of the games this year, but I have greatly enjoyed most of the ones I did see. There are some incredible athletes at this level - and as a fan of the underdog, this game has provided a bunch of upsets as the little guys took down the top seeds over and over again.

Last year when Butler made the Final against Duke there were a lot of comments and comparisons between Butler and the movie Hoosiers with the small school underdog Hickory winning the Indiana High School basketball championship. Since Butler made it this far last year, their return trip has not generated quite as much as surprise, but in some ways this trip is actually more similar to the REAL story underlying upon which the movie Hoosiers is (loosely) based.

For instance, while the coach in the movie is an old grizzled coach and the team makes an incredible one-year run, in real-life the Milan team was coached by a very young coach (who was a graduate of Butler University) and the championship in 1954 was actually the culmination of an incredible 2-year run like Butler is currently experiencing. (The Milan 1952-1953 team had surprised everyone by reaching the Indiana High School Final Four in 1953 and then came back the next year to win it all.)

I commented on some of the other similarities last year - here.

Included were these comments (original includes a couple of links - and please excuse the self-quote):

For instance, the movie's final scene where tiny Hickory High won the championship was filmed at Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse, the real person upon whom the movie's basketball star "Jimmy Chitwood" is based upon was a young man named Bobby Plump, who followed his career at Milan by playing at ... you guessed it - Butler University. The coach of the 1954 Milan team was a graduate of ... Butler University.

I am rooting for Butler, but Connecticut has had an incredible run in their own right with an incredible run throughout the Big East Tournament preceding this tournament.

A Thinking Man's Tourney Time Results

Since no one in A Thinking Man's Tourney Time has either one of these teams reaching the finals, we can declare the final results of this year's tourney.

This year A Thinking Man's Tourney Time was the year of the Andys. Winning it all this year is Andy Rupert. Andy followed up his runner-up finish last year to win it all this year with an impressive bracket in a year of bracket-busting games and bracket-busting teams. For instance, Andy had 11 of the Sweet 16.

Congratulations to Andy!

Not only did we have an Andy win it all, we also had an Andy come in second place. Andy Efting rebounded nicely this year as he almost went from worst to first, falling about one early game loss away from winning it all in an impressive display of bracket redemption.

# Player Points Wins Championship Pick
1 Andy Rupert 185 38 Ohio St. (145)
2 Andy Efting 180 35 Ohio St. (133)
3 Jon Knisely 166 35 Kansas (141)
4 Matt Jury 163 35 Ohio St. (198)
5 Ron Bean 162 34 Kansas (155)
6 Frank Sansone 159 34 Duke (179)
7 Sarah Nething 151 29 Kansas (157)
8 Don Johnson 144 31 Ohio St. (147)

Thanks again to all who played.

Just my thoughts,

Frank

Tourney Update

Friday, March 25, 2011

Well, with the Sweet Sixteen half-over, I thought I would give a quick update on The Thinking Man's Tourney Time.

We have a pretty close tourney this year, although Andy Rupert has a pretty significant lead overall and I am not sure he can be caught. Andy Efting has got a pretty solid 2 position, but the next three players are only separated by a total of four points.

In the wild world that is the tourney, last year's winner is bringing up the end, but everyone's eventual champion is still alive except for mine (Duke).

I am enjoying Bible Conference at BJU, so I have not had much time to post or to watch games.

Here are the standings so far.

1 Andy Rupert 176 points 36 correct
2 Andy Efting 164 points 32 correct
3 Ron Bean 158 points 33 correct
4 Jon Knisely 157 points 33 correct
6 Matt Jury 154 points 33 correct
7 Frank Sansone 150 points 32 correct
8 Don Johnson 140 points 30 correct
8 Sarah Nething 140 points 27 correct
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A Thinking Man's Tourney Time

Sunday, March 20, 2011

March Madness is my favorite sporting event of the year. I love the event for the excitement of the actual games and for the great story lines that usually come out each year. It is neat to see the little guys make a run at the big guys and send them home. It is exciting to see players come out of nowhere and have the tournament of their lives. It is cool to have so many games going on at once (at least in the early rounds) - this also allows you to skip out on the ones that are blowouts and watch the more interesting games.

Each year for a number of years, I have completed a bracket and I have run bracket competitions. I am not sure when I started this, but I know I have run bracket competitions but I remember students at HCA and GCCS being involved in bracket competitions and doing the scoring manually before the days of all these nice internet sites that figure out the scoring for you. For the last few years I have hosted a bracket challenge here at A Thinking Man's Thoughts and this year is no exception.

I have not had the opportunity to watch much of the tournament yet, but I have enjoyed the parts that I have had the opportunity to watch. (I have had the opportunity to listen to some and have found Westwood One to be doing a great job with the radio broadcasts of the game.) I happened to be home briefly (I was bringing home a couple of bookcases) on Thursday and was able to see the last minute or so of the Temple v. Penn State game. Even though I was only able to watch about a minute of the game, I saw two incredible plays in just that little time.

With about 17 seconds left, Penn State's Battle put up a three-point shot from well beyond the arc to tie the ball game. It was an incredible shot and I yelled "Wow" to my son. He came in and watched the last seconds of the game with me. If you watched the game, you know that this was not the end of the story. Temple came back with ball and Fernandez had the ball in his hands with the time running out. He pivoted over and over looking for a shot, but was pretty well defended. With one second left, he leaned over to his left and put up an incredible leaning shot that went in to win the game for Temple. Wow! What a play. THAT is why I love March Madness.

Anyway, after the first round of this year's NCAA Tournament, out standings at The Thinking Man's Tourney Time show a couple of Andy's up in the lead. Long-time sufferer Andy Efting has taken the early lead with 127 points, followed closely by Andy Rupert with 121 points.

Ron Bean has a perfect West Region Bracket so far and Jon Knisely has a perfect East Region Bracket. Everyone other than Matt Jury and I have at least all of their Elite 8 teams remaining. Matt was perhaps doing a little more "rooting" than picking since he had Penn State in the Elite 8. I was a little too convinced in the chances for St. John's since they had knocked off some pretty good teams this year.

So, here are a standings and totals after the Round of 64.

1. Andy Efting 127 points
2. Andy Rupert 121 points
3. Frank Sansone 112 points
4. Matt Jury 110 points
5. Jon Knisely 109 points
6. Ron Bean 108 points
7. Don Johnson 107 points
8. Sarah Nething 102 points

Three P's of Preaching

Saturday, March 19, 2011

John Murray was a theologian who taught at Princeton Theological Seminary and then helped to found Westminster Theological Seminary along with J. Gresham Machen and others.

I saw some comments attributed to John Murray regarding the difference between preaching and lecturing here.

The comments are simple and helpful, so I thought I would pass them on. I feel like I have heard this somewhere else before (perhaps in one of my preaching classes?), but I thought I could not hurt repeating.

So, here is what Murray says distinguishes the two:

A sermon must be Personal.

It must be Passionate.

And it must involve a Plea.

Just someone else's thoughts,

Frank

One third of a French Fry short of a Big Mac Value Meal

Friday, March 18, 2011

Warning: Political comments (sort of)

Sometimes when we hear all the big numbers involved in things like the federal budget it is easy to let it go in one ear and out the other. I read this article on the Powerline blog and thought it was a great way to illustrate the current debate over the federal budget.

Anyway, the article is here.

Just someone else's thoughts,

Frank

Warnings

Sunday, March 13, 2011

In a couple of days is the "Ides of March." While most of us do not use the terms "ides", many of us have undoubtedly heard the expression, "Beware the ides of March."

William Shakespeare includes the following exchange in his play, Julius Ceasar.

Act 1, Scene 2
Soothsayer: Caesar!
CAESAR Ha! who calls?
CASCA Bid every noise be still: peace yet again!
CAESAR : Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music,
Cry 'Caesar!' Speak; Caesar is turn'd to hear.
Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.
CAESAR: What man is that?
BRUTUS : A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.
CAESAR: Set him before me; let me see his face.
CASSIUS : Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.
CAESAR What say'st thou to me now? speak once again.
Soothsayer Beware the ides of March.
CAESAR He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass.
Later, in Act 3, Scene 1
CAESAR [To the Soothsayer] The ides of March are come.
Soothsayer Ay, Caesar; but not gone.

While we generally think of the exchange as simply a story by Shakespeare, according to ancient Greek historian Plutarch in his "Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans", a similar exchange did exist - and it was this that Shakespeare later based his scene upon.

Plutarch - Life of Caesar

The following story, too, is told by many. A certain seer warned Caesar to be on his guard against a great peril on the day of the month of March which the Romans call the Ides; and when the day had come and Caesar was on his way to the senate-house, he greeted the seer with a jest and said: "Well, the Ides of March are come," and the seer said to him softly: "Ay, they are come, but they are not gone."
If the story is true, Julius Caesar was warned to be on his guard and even warned what day it would be - but he refused to take the warning seriously.

Warnings are important. Warnings often make the difference between life and death and between success and failure. In Ezekiel chapter 3:16-21 and Ezekiel 33:1-9 we find some important instructions about warnings.

Eze 3:16 And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
17 Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.
18 When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
19 Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.
20 Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
21 Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul.

One of the things we notice in both of these passages is that there is a proper way that warnings are to be dealt with and there is an improper way. Our need to deal properly with warnings is evident whether we are the one giving the warning or the one receiving the warning. We must deal with warnings properly.

I. If we are going to deal properly with warnings we must understand the Nature of Warnings

One of the Leadership Principles from AACS: "Discipline is good, not bad." We could correctly paraphrase that as well to tell us that "Warnings are good, not bad."

When we view warnings as bad, we are hesitant to give the needed warning and when we view warnings as bad, we are angry when we have been given a warning.

A Biblical understanding of warnings, however, tells us that warnings are not a bad thing. Warnings are not given against the person, but are given for the person.

A. Warnings are designed to enlighten, not enrage.

B. Warnings are designed to protect, not punish

When you love someone, you want to protect them and so it is necessary to warn them.

C. Warnings are a depiction of concern, not condemnation

When Paul writes to the church of Corinth in 1 Corinthians 4:14, he mentions the relationship in connection with the warning.
I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.

Solomon reminds us of this truth, as well:

Proverbs 27:5 Open rebuke is better than secret love.
6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Therefore, we need to understand it is the loving thing to do to warn others and that the person who is warning you is the one who is loving you. The one who is telling you it is okay to continue in your sin is the one who is hating you.

II. If We are Going to Deal Properly with Warnings, we must understand the Instruments of Warnings


There are some instruments that God uses to warn us. Two of those instruments are mentioned in this passage.

A. The Word of God - "hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me." (Ezek 3:17)

The Psalmist and Paul also remind us that the Word of God gives us warning and reproof.

Ps 19:11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

2Ti 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

That is one reason why it is so difficult to be faithful to your devotions when you are choosing sin - you don't want to hear the warnings from God's Word. It is also one of the reasons why it is easier to get involved in sin when you are not being faithful with your time in God's Word - you are missing out on the warnings from God's word.

Someone has said "This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book."

The second instrument that God has chosen to give warning is his people.

B. The People of God

This whole passage emphasizes the fact that God has chosen people to give warnings.

The reality is that we, as believers, are to be instruments of warnings to others.

Paul repeatedly emphasizes this point:

Ac 20:31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

1Th 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.

Ro 15:14 And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.


III. The Response to Warnings

One of the most important things to understand about warnings, is the response to warnings. In Ezekiel 33:3-5, we have a record of the two responses to warnings:

If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul.

A. A Warning May Be Rejected

When legitimate warnings are rejected, the one rejecting the warning is heading for destruction.

Again Proverbs reminds of this:
Proverbs 29:1 ¶ He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.

(See also Proverbs 1:24-31)

Repeatedly we see this in Scripture. Ahab & Jezebel rejected, rather than accepted the warnings of God through Elijah - and God destroyed them. Pharoah & the Egyptians rejected, rather than accepted the warnings of God through Moses - and God brought great destruction.

B. A Warning May Be Accepted

Ezek 33:5 He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul.

David understood the proper response to a warning and he said in Psalm 141:5 "Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities."

God in His great mercy and love offers you a different path. If you choose to heed His warnings, you shall be delivered rather than destroyed.

This is the desired response - by God and by the warner. (Matt 18:15 - "thou hast gained thy brother"; Gal 6:1 - "restore such a one")


Warnings are important and we must deal with warnings properly. When we understand the Biblical truth regarding warnings, we should be much more inclined to deal with warnings properly. We must understand the nature of warnings - that they are "Good, not bad" - that they are designed to enlighten, not enrage, they are designed to protect, not punish and they are a depiction of concern, not condemnation. We must understand the instruments of warning - that God has chosen to warn us through His Word and through His people. And we must make the right response to warning - accepting rather than rejecting the warnings.

The story of Harry Randall Truman from Mt. St. Helens is a great illustration of the danger of refusing to heed a warning. (You can read of Harry Truman at Wikipedia here.)
Harry Truman was warned again and again of the dangers, yet he refused to heed the warnings and destruction and death came.

What is God dealing with you about today? What warning has God brought up to you? Perhaps God is warning you about the danger of your eternal soul - will you heed his warning today? Perhaps God is warning you about a particular sin that you are allowing into your life - will you heed his warning today?

Will you deal properly with warnings today?


(The preceding reflection is based on this morning's sermon at Fellowship Baptist Church of Salisbury.)

Good Soldiers

Monday, March 07, 2011

One of our men leaves this coming week to serve our country in the middle east. He is a good man and he loves the Lord, he loves his family, and he loves his country. He will be missed around here by many (including me and my family), but I rejoice in his willingness to serve our nation and I will pray for his safety as he is away, as well as for his influence for Christ amongst his fellow-soldiers and for his family that is left behind.

The Bible often uses the picture of soldiers and physical warfare to remind believers of the very real, but invisible, spiritual warfare of which we are all involved. As I thought of my friend in preparation for leaving this week, I was drawn to Paul's words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:3-4

Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

Paul uses a number of illustrations in this passage regarding the nature of Christian service and Christian living. Among these illustrations are comparisons to racing or competition ("strive for masteries"), to farming ("the husbandman that laboureth"), and this passage here on being a good soldier.

When Paul speaks of this soldier, I find it challenging to consider the traits that he lists, for these traits ought to be evident not only in the lives of good soldiers who are fighting the physical battles, but of all of us who desire to fight successfully in the spiritual warfare.

A Good Soldier Endures Hardness

One of the realities of being a soldier is that there is often times great hardship in being a soldier. There is the hardship of the conditions in the field. There is the hardship of the lost opportunities of things that could be done were the soldier at home instead of far away. Perhaps the greatest hardship, however, is the hardship of separation from loved ones.

In the spiritual realm, there are times when there may be physical hardships in the spiritual battles - and Paul certainly knew something of those hardships (see 2 Corinthians 10, for instance), the reality for most believers in America is that any "hardness" we may have to endure for Christ is not likely to be that of the physical nature. The reality is that the hardness that you and I are most likely to be called to endure involves relationships - relationships that are strained as we seek to do those things that are pleasing to Christ rather than following through with the world's way of doing things. Of course, as believers, we can take heart in the Lord's promise that this is to be expected (John 15:18).

A Good Soldier Ends Entanglements

Another reality of being a good soldier is that the soldier who is on the battlefield has to recognize that the entanglements of this world need to be avoided if he is going to fight successfully. Focusing on the things of his world back home instead of focusing on the task at hand can be very dangerous on the battlefield. Even good things must be left behind for the sake of successful soldiering.

In the spiritual realm, the picture is again obvious. Believers need to be careful to end entanglements with the things of this world if we are going to successfully serve as soldiers for Christ. It should be obvious that the sinful things of this world ought to be avoided - after all, "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things are passed away, behold all things are become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17) However, successful soldiering does not just involve ending the entanglements with sinful things. Successful soldiering also often requires that we get rid of the silly things and even the "not bad, but unnecessary" things.

A Good Soldier Pleases His Commander

Another reality of the characteristics of a good soldier is that the good soldier is careful to do those things that please his commander. He does not follow his own agenda in the battle, but he instead follows the orders and instructions given unto him by his commander. A soldier that "goes rogue" is a danger to himself and those around him.

In the spiritual realm, believers need to be focused on pleasing Christ. While we recognize that we can do in our own strength apart from Christ (John 15:5), He has nevertheless given us instructions and commands and as good soldiers it should be our hearts desire and our life's practice to please Him. Too many times it is easy for believers to pursue our own agenda rather than Christ's agenda. Our flesh wants us to please it, instead of pleasing Christ. The world around us clamors for us to please the world instead of pleasing Christ. A good soldier focuses instead on pleasing Christ.


What about your life? Are you a good soldier of Jesus Christ?

Have you shown yourself to be a person who is willing to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ? Are you willing to take the ridicule of "friends" and even family for standing up for Christ and the truth? Enduring hardness requires dedication to the cause and discipline to carry through.

What is your relationship to the entanglements of this world? Are you eliminating all sinful, silly, and useless entanglements or are you caught in a web of wrong actions, wrong affections and wasted time?

When we think of our daily walk, whose agenda are we pursuing? Who are we seeking to please? Are we seeking to please our Master and Commander or are we seeking to please ourselves?

May each of us strive to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.


Just my thoughts,

Frank

* The preceding is (to some degree) a summarized reflection on the message I preached this morning at Fellowship Baptist Church of Salisbury.

Cultural Fundamentalism - A Rejoinder

Friday, February 18, 2011

This post is a little old because I just happened to find it in my "drafts", but I thought it was still relevant since it is not really "time-sensitive" in nature. I updated my original thoughts some to account for the time difference between the original writing and now.)


Pastor Larry Rogier over at Stuff Out Loud made some comments a few months ago on "Cultural Fundamentalism."

He starts off the comments by saying that the term "cultural fundamentalism" has recently been used and I seem to remember reading some comments on that term myself recently, but I can't remember where I read it.

Anyway, the heart of Larry's comments is the following:

But what most people ask about is cultural issues, because that is what people think fundamentalism is. Now, one might attempt to make the case that the Bible version is not cultural, but theological. I think that is partially true and partially not true, but I don’t want to deal with that argument here.

You see, they know exactly what a cultural fundamentalist is … It is a fundamentalist who is known first for his stands on cultural issues. He is not known for loving the gospel, sound doctrine, theology, and the church, though he may do all those things. He is known for cultural standards.


Now, there may be some truth to his comments, especially in the minds of some, but I believe as I read his post, he does not really support his position because he bases his comments on some faulty thinking.

(I am not trying to pick on Larry. I generally appreciate much of what he writes at his blog and on SI).

As you read, you find that he supports his assertions regarding fundamentalism being known primarily due to the cultural issues by giving a summary of questions he has been asked recently by Pastors and indicating because most of those questions are culturally based that it means that Fundamentalism is known mostly for the cultural issues instead of about "the gospel, the church, doctrine, ministry fellowship/participation."

I would think, however, that there is at least one other legitimate interpretation of the fact that these are the questions that were asked - in fact, an interpretation that actually speaks well of Fundamentalism rather than negatively of Fundamentalism.

That interpretation has to do with the natural assumptions that come from the term. By declaring that I am a Fundamentalist, I am already stating that I believe the Bible is the Word of God and that every word of it is true. I have already identified the fact that I believe in the Biblical gospel, the importance of the local church, carefulness in fellowship, separation from apostasy and disobedient brothers, etc.

Therefore, because the answer to those questions are already assumed by my previous identification as a Fundamentalist, the subsequent questions are therefore to clarify more specifically where I stand on other more specific issues.

I had a conversation the other day with a rather liberal Methodist preacher while I was working. Due to the location of the conversation (I was working and in a store), we did not get into a lot of details, but his general questions and statements revealed he was coming from a totally different perspective than most of the preachers with whom I deal. Because he was not familiar with Independent Baptists (he has asked what kind of Baptist church I pastored and when I told him it was an Independent Baptist Church, he said "good at least you are not Southern Baptist :)". When it came up that I was generally more conservative than Southern Baptists, he was surprised and wanted to know in what ways that would be the case. He asked about speaking in tongues. He was surprised that I did not think that all churches should just get along and join together and and seemed generally shocked that I believed there was a Biblical responsibility to separate from apostates, rather than support them and their ministry, etc.

My point about this conversation is that because this person was not familiar with where I was coming from, his questions were of a different nature than the questions Larry received - and I generally receive questions a lot closer to Larry's list than this man's questions.

Those familiar with Fundamentalism are going to ask the questions that Larry points to - questions about Bible versions, cultural standards, etc. because they are already know the answers to the "other" questions and are wanting to differentiate between what "type" of Fundamentalist the person.

However, the fact that these questions are asked does not mean that these are the areas for which Fundamentalism is known any more than asking a self-identified "college football fan" about Boise State means that college football fans are primarily known about where they stand on non-AQ schools.

Just my thoughts,

Frank

Free Audio Book - The Pursuit of Holiness

Monday, January 17, 2011

I know I have not written much lately, but I did notice this today and thought I would highlight it for those few who still stop by or have my feed on some service.

In the past, I have highlighted a number of Free Audio Books that have been made available from Christianaudio.com.

The free featured book this month is a book that is worth downloading if you do not already have it. The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges is a book that I have read a couple of times with great profit. It will challenge your complacency and encourage you to move forward for Christ.

Of course, as with all books, the usual caveats apply - read it with discernment and recommendation of the book does not imply I agree with everything Jerry Bridges has said or done - or even that I agree with everything contained in the book.

Anyway, here is the link at Christianaudio.com for the free audio book - http://christianaudio.com/free/. I hope you find it useful.

Just my thoughts,

Frank

I thank God for those who have served

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Today is Veteran's Day here in the United States of America. It is a day in which we honor those who have served in defense of our nation.

It seems like Veteran's Day is a holiday that often gets overlooked any more. Other than some government offices, it seems like things just continue as normal. Schools in our area do not take the day off and I don't know of any parades or anything locally that is designed to emphasize this day and I think that this is a shame.

I am thankful for a heritage of men who served, even though I never served myself. I am thankful for my grandfather who served in WWII and my dad who served in Korea and my brother who served in Desert Storm (aka The First Gulf War).

If you are a veteran reading this, thank you for your service. Thank you for your sacrifice.

Following are two tributes that I found online that I thought I would share with you.

Please enjoy and take some time to thank a veteran today and thank God for the freedoms we have here in the good ole U.S.A.





Just my thoughts,

Frank

Yeah, for Merchant Circle

A couple of weeks ago, I asked about Blog Readers in light of the fact that Ask.com announced that it was discontinuing the Bloglines service that I have used for the last few years.

I have looked at a couple of the suggestions and was kind of resigned to using Google Reader, even though I still do not know mark and keep the articles that I wish to keep on Google Reader without keeping all the stuff I do not want to keep.

Anyway, I was pleased to read a few days ago that Bloglines is going to be kept alive after all, thanks to Merchant Circle who is going to take over this service from Ask.com.

Yeah :)

Just my thoughts,

Frank