Henry David Thoreau was an eccentric 19th century American author, philosopher, and naturalist. He spent 2 years, 2 months and 2 days living in a small cabin he built himself outside of Concord, Massachusetts. He chronicles his reflections during that experience in his 1854 book, Walden. He explains the rationale for his exile in the wilderness in the following words.
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.
Thoreau commendably wanted to live life to the fullest, to experience its richness at its deepest levels so that when he died, he could die without regret. Eight years after publishing Walden, on May 6, 1862, after a lingering case of tuberculosis, he did die. While on his deathbed, his Aunt Louisa asked him if he had made his peace with God. Thoreau’s response was, “I did not know we had ever quarreled.”
Those words, no doubt spoken in sincerity, reflect the kind of willful ignorance that has tragically plagued mankind since our first parents turned away from our Creator. I call it “ignorance” because it reflects a lack of knowledge about the way things actually are.
The Bible teaches us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 6:23) and that because of sin we are all “by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3), that is the wrath of God. The Apostle Paul says that we are all naturally “enemies of God” (Romans 5:10).
That is undeniably the way that life is now. But it is not the way it was in the beginning. Originally, God made Adam and Eve “upright” (Ecclesiastes 7:29) and enjoyed perfect fellowship with them. Sin caused them to be separated from Him and at odds with Him. Failure to acknowledge that is to be ill-informed. It is ignorance.
Such ignorance is willful because, as Romans 1:18-20 says, “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
So yes, we all have quarreled with God—including those who, like Thoreau, are willfully ignorant of it. Sin has placed everyone in jeopardy and exposes us all to His wrath. The result is that, left to ourselves we cannot ever have peace with God.
But the good news that is revealed to us in the Bible is that God has not left us to ourselves. On the contrary, in our weakness and helplessness, He has come to us. Through His Son, Jesus Christ, He has provided salvation for us—a way for us to be restored to Him; to have our sin forgiven and to experience genuine peace with God.
Because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God now reconciles to Himself all who turn from sin and trust in Jesus as Lord.
That truth is what empowered the Apostle Paul to live the way that He did as a minister of Jesus Christ. And that truth is the very foundation of His church throughout the ages. It is what Christians live for; what we stand for. It is the one message that we have that we must declare to men, women, boys and girls today: “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
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By Mark Coppenger — 7 months ago
The Eighth Commandment—“Thou shalt not steal”—sanctions property rights, but Psalm 24:1-2 declares that the Lord holds clear title to all there is, and that our ownership is both contingent upon his good pleasure and accountable to his principle of stewardship:
The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof;
The world, and they that dwell therein.
For he hath founded it upon the seas,
And established it upon the floods. 
Earth and World
Verse one employs two Hebrew words to express the extent of God’s reign, the first, aretz (‘earth’), denotes material resources; the second, tebel (‘world’), connects the earth to human enterprise. The Septuagint tracks with this, using gefor ‘earth’ (hence, ‘geology’) and oikoumene for ‘world’ (connected with ‘ecumenical’). Thus, the span of God’s provision and sovereignty is beneficently universal.
Citing Ecclesiastes 1:4, Gregory of Nyssa observes that the earth ministers “to every generation, first one, then another, that is born on it.”  Matthew unpacks the extent of the earth’s “ministry,” saying,
The mines that are lodged in the bowels of it, even the richest, the fruits it produces, all the beasts of the forest and the cattle upon a thousand hills, our lands and houses, and all the improvements that are made of this earth by the skill and industry of man, are all his. . . . All the parts and regions of the earth are the Lord’s, all under his eye, all in his hand: so that wherever a child of God goes, he may comfort himself with this, that he does not go off his Father’s ground.
Spurgeon speaks of its “fullness” in terms of “its harvests, its wealth, its life, or its worship; in all these senses the Most High God is Possessor of all.” And Derek Kidner says the word “conjures up its wealth and fertility, seen here not as man’s for exploitation, but, prior to that, as God’s, for his satisfaction and glory . . .”
“Ride, Jesus, Ride!”
Of course, materialists beg to differ (yea proudly insist upon differing). By their lights (or rather from their gloom), they deny the artistry, authority, and generosity of God in creation. They fail or refuse to grasp the obvious truth that God supplied graciously arable soil, fishable waters, and huntable woods; flax, wool, and cotton for weaving; timber and gypsum for building; metals for machinery; fossil fuels for heating and transportation; organic compounds for medicine and palliation—salicin from the willow, quinine from the cinchona, and codeine from the opium poppy. On and on the provision extends. And, of course, it extends to the human ingenuity required to marshal these resources for our benefit.
As poet Gerald Manley Hopkins observed, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God,”  and blessed in the sensible person who notes it. Back in the 1970s, I heard, in a Wheaton College chapel message by E. V. Hill, who described a parishioner who was ever so aware of God’s magnificent immanence. Hill told of his own boyhood congregation’s response when tornado warnings came their way down in Texas. The church had a big basement, and the flock would rush to gather there until the winds subsided. But one time, after counting noses, they discovered that “the Old Widder Jones” was missing, so some hearty volunteers jumped into a buckboard and raced to her house. When they got there, they found the home creaking in the wind with the windows wide open, the curtains blowing straight out on one side and straight in on the other. Flinging open the door, they spied her across the room, rocking furiously in her favorite chair, exclaiming, “Ride, Jesus, ride!”
I hasten to say I’m writing this the week after a horrific tornado leveled Mayfield, Kentucky, killing dozens there and elsewhere in its path. So I don’t want to suggest that Jesus initiated the ruination—and, as some might suggest, as an act of judgment on that community. (Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar went down this road shamefully in Job.) But Mrs. Jones had it right when she recognized the sovereignty of God in all Creation, not just at the outset, but throughout its every age. And so should we. (Yes, I know about the Problem of Evil; I’ve taught whole courses on it; but here I appeal to the “Soul-Making Theodicy”—which argues that the rigors and perils of life after the Fall are perfectly ordered for God’s saving and sanctifying purposes.)
The Lord’s Aesthetic Purposes
We’ve noted the nutritional and industrial provisions of the earth, but we must also give the Lord’s artistry its due. In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard tells of a practice she had as a little girl, back when a penny meant a lot to her. She would hide one of these coins among exposed tree roots and other notches and then write in chalk on the sidewalk just up the way, “Surprise Ahead,” with arrows leading to the treasure. She then observed that those who would take time to humble themselves and slow down to search out the beautiful in nature would be rewarded, for “the world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand.” 
Well, as we know, the Lord has not only strewn pennies in the form of a “tremulous ripple thrill on the water” signaling the emergence of “a muskrat kit paddling from its den” (Dillard’s example), but also the golden coins, indeed ingots of precious aesthetic “metal,” appearing around the world. These manifestations have inspired poets and composers as well as painters and photographers. Thus we are witness to Henry Wadworth Longfellow’s A Day of Sunshine, Carl Sandburg’s Fog, Edgar Guest’s It’s September, and to countless celebrations of nature from the likes of Frost, Wordsworth, Keats, Kipling, Blake, Tennyson, Nash, and Burns. As for picturesque program music, we enjoy Claude Debussy’s orchestral piece La Mer, Ferde Grofés’ Grand Canyon Suite, Bedrich Smetana’s symphonic poem, The Moldau, and Antonio Vivaldi’s violin concertos, The Four Seasons.
As for paintings, let’s focus on a small sampling of four that suggest themselves upon a reading of Psalm 24.
Young Hare (1502), Albrecht Dürer, The Albertina Museum, Vienna, Austria.
Dürer was a contemporary of his fellow German, Martin Luther, and though the artist’s roots were Catholic, he showed sympathy for the Reformer’s cause. Though a great many of his works dealt with religious themes, including the oft-reproduced Praying Hands, he also had an eye for nature, as with this painting of a rabbit and also in his woodcut, The Rhinoceros, which he drew without having ever seen one, working only from a verbal description and another’s brief sketch.
When the words ‘earth,’ ‘world,’ and ‘fullness’ are deployed, we typically think of matters on the grand scale—the Great Plains, the Alps, the Everglades, the Gulf Stream, the Sahara, the Amazon Rainforest. But God has filled these great sectors with equally amazing, diminutive critters, such as this hare. And for those who would demean man as an insignificant creature on a small planet in an unfathomably vast universe, C. S. Lewis replies, “[T]he argument from size, is in my opinion, very feeble”;  size is irrelevant to honor, for a tiny, sapient man, who alone among sentient beings has the power to appreciate the “the great nebula in Andromeda,” is more wonderful than the stupendous astronomical displays he’s appreciating.
The Harvesters (1565), Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, New York
Bruegel was a leading artist of the Dutch-Flemish Renaissance. This particular painting was commissioned by a Belgian merchant, one of six works representing human activity in the progression of seasons, this one focused on late summer. (Another well-known piece in this cycle is The Hunters in the Snow.) Though Bruegel painted religious subjects, such as The Fall of Rebel Angels, The Blind Leading the Blind, and The Census at Bethlehem, he was best known for his “genre paintings” of peasants. I should add that this was a time of great religious tension in Europe, as Bruegel was born just eight years after Martin Luther penned his Ninety-Five Theses.
The Harvesters records and honors both man and nature—the golden sea of wheat, crisply delineated by scythes, instruments of human ingenuity with ergonomic handles and blades the deliverance of metallurgy; the fellowship and refreshment of lunchtime, including a loaf a bread, whose substance comes from such sheaves as stand all around; the mercies of shade and a nap; and a vista easy on the eyes. It’s enough to send an artist looking for his brushes and easel.
 I use KJV here since the lyric quality of the iambic tetrameter in the first verse (which the RSV and ESV preserve) is lost in, for example, in such estimable translations as the NIV (“. . . with everything in it . . . and all who live in it”), the HCSB (“ . . . and its inhabitants”), and the NASB (“ . . . and those who live in it”). Of course, all of them report accurately that the Psalmist celebrated the comprehensive authorship and disposition of the cosmos and its occupants.
 Gregory of Nyssa, “Exposition of the Psalms 24:2,” quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Old Testament VII, Psalms 1-50, edited by Craig A. Blaising and Carmen S. Hardin, Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity, 2008), 185
 Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. III—Job to Song of Solomon (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1975 ) 319.
 C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Volume I (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1990), 374.
 Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72: An Introduction & Commentary (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity, 1973), 113.
 Gerald Manley Hopkins, “God’s Grandeur.” Accessed January 5, 2022 at https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44395/gods-grandeur.
 Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (New York: Harper & Row, 1974), 14-15.
 C. S. Lewis, “Dogma and the Universe,” God in the Dock (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 39.
 Lewis, “Dogma,” 41-42.
By Allen S Nelson IV — 11 months ago
I’ve heard Tom Ascol on a few occasions say, “The SBC is not important, but it matters.” That is, the SBC has been around less than 10% of Church History. And if the Lord should tarry and the SBC should falter, that percentage could shrink even smaller. Our gracious God does not stand in need of the Southern Baptist Convention. In that sense, it’s not important.
Yet, it does matter. The SBC continues to train thousands of men for ministry every year and quite a number of those will go on to pastor in churches not affiliated with the convention. Our seminaries are influencers both inside and outside the SBC.
If I may use a sports analogy here, the SBC also matters in the way that the Dallas Cowboys matter to the NFL. A lot of people are not Cowboys fans, but everyone is watching the organization. In a similar sense, but one so much more meaningful, everyone watches the SBC to see which way it will go. The SBC remains an influencer in the evangelical world as a whole.
God does not need the SBC. God can accomplish His mission without the SBC. We will meet myriads of people in heaven who never even heard of the SBC. And yet, in God’s kind providence we all live in the epoch of history in which the SBC does matter. And so, this post is about how those inside and outside the SBC can pray for her as she heads toward Anaheim in 2022 and beyond.
Here are four ways:
Unity in the Southern Baptist Convention is vital to its survival. The New Testament writers place a great emphasis upon unity. Jesus prays for unity in John 17. Unity is a big deal to our Lord, and we must never take this lightly.
Unity outside the church is a funny thing at times. I’ve been to a few Arkansas Razorback games where when someone scores a touchdown there is “unity” in the stands. Everyone’s fist bumping and celebrating, and you really don’t care who they voted for or someone’s skin color or even the beverage they may be holding in their hand.
This is superficial unity. It is fleeting unity. It is a unity not built to last. (Trust me, I’m a Razorbacks fan!)
This is not the type of unity we are striving to maintain in the SBC. The unity we desire, and which you must pray for, is a unity grounded in the truth. We are not after “unity for the sake of unity.” No. We are after unity around our core convictions as given in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
Thus, we are to be unified in not just the gospel, but in the things that make us Baptist as well. And the BFM 2000 is an expression of what we believe the Scriptures teach. We want unity around the authority, sufficiency, inerrancy, and infallibility of the Bible. We, as the old VBS song goes, must “stand alone on the Word of God, the B-I-B-L-E.”
Unity in these things means disunity with other things. We cannot be friends with the world (James 4:4). We must have disunity with godless ideologies that seek to undermine the gospel (cf. Colossians 2:8). Unity in the truth demands we separate from the things that attack the authority of or deny the sufficiency of the truth.
The second way you can pray for the Southern Baptist Convention is by praying for our purity. Pray that we would be a holy convention of churches. Pray that we would have holy leaders. Leaders who hate sin. Leaders who fear God. Leaders who understand the definition of repentance and model it before us.
Pray that we would have holy pastors and holy churches. Pray that our pastors and churches would seek to walk in the fear of our Lord. That we would take seriously the transforming power of the gospel.
Pray that we would recover a purer Baptist ecclesiology in our convention. That we would seek to have accurate membership rolls. That we would not allow unconverted persons to serve in areas of service or leadership within our churches.
We tend to focus on investigations and studies and task forces at the expense of recovering the purity of our churches. And if we recovered a purer Baptist ecclesiology, perhaps these other things would be far less needful.
The SBC needs to recover piety and seek conformity to Christ. Pray for us!
This is similar to the first point in the sense that pursuing fidelity will lead to unity among the faithful. But please pray specifically that we would be a convention faithful to the Word of God. That we would remember, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ…” (2 Cor. 5:10).
On that Day, we will not care so much what the 21st Century American culture thought of us. We will only care whether we listened to Him (cf. Luke 9:35).
Pray for our fidelity to the King! And we are faithful to the King when we are faithful to His Book. Pray, then, that we would submit to the Bible’s authority in all things. Pray that we would trust its sufficiency in all things. Pray that our pastors would pour over its pages week in and week out in order to preach this Word faithfully to our churches.
Pray that in 2022 and beyond, we would plant our feet steadfastly upon Sacred Writ and recover that old Baptist theme Song:
I shall not be, I shall not be moved!
Finally, pray for our:
Todd Wilson, in his commentary on Galatians, writes something that I think is fitting to our current situation in the SBC:
[H]ow can we avoid drifting? First, we must hold tenaciously to what we were taught. Tenacity is what Paul calls for here: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (1:8). When the Apostle Paul tells you to not listen to him and even to ignore an angel, you know he’s calling for tenacity. Charles Spurgeon had the right advice: “Cling tightly with both your hands; when they fail, catch hold with your teeth; and if they give way, hang on by your eyelashes!” Don’t let go of the gospel! That’s the kind of tenacity we all need if we’re going to stay the course and finish the race.
In a very similar way, I’m asking that you pray for our tenacity in the SBC. Pray that we would be determined never to let go of the gospel. Pray for our perseverance to preach the true gospel to all sinners, believing it is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe. Pray that we would strive toward God wrought conversion for our neighbors and the nations.
We must be tenacious in our evangelism. We are seeking to win lost souls. Not coddle them. Not adapt to them. But to win them by God’s sovereign grace. To see them brought from death to life.
The Southern Baptist Convention has inroads all across the United States and throughout the whole world that no other organization has collectively. And we must use these institutions for the promulgation of the truth of Christ.
The world’s greatest problem isn’t the color of one’s skin or the size of one’s bank account or the lack of one’s education. The world’s most significant problem is that all men stand condemned before a Holy God.
But in Christ is hope. In Christ alone is hope for all who will bow the knee to Him in repentance and call out to Him in faith. We must be tenacious about our missions and evangelism.
And pray for our tenacity in standing for the truth. Pray that we would remember God is watching. The greatest commandment is still this: Love God above all. We must have a tenacious zeal for the glory of God. Pray that we would not allow the culture to change us, but that we would be like the early church in Ephesus and change the culture (see Acts 19:17-20).
Pray that we would remember the words of Christ: “The ones who conquer will be granted to eat from the tree of life” (Revelation 2:7). No, this isn’t military conquest. But this is a tenacity to remain firm till the end to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. To conquer for Christ.
Men and women and boys and girls who love Christ must be courageous in these turbulent times for the glory of our King. And really, what the lost world needs right now is courage from the church too.
Because it’s only when the church stands for the truth that sinners come under conviction, and God brings them to saving faith in His Son.
Let us pray, then, for the SBC’s tenacity.
I hope these 4 things are somewhat memorable and will be practical for you in your prayers for the SBC. Let us pray for her unity, purity, fidelity, and tenacity.
We ought to have love and hope for our convention even as we call out to God for her. God has graciously and powerfully used her in so many wonderful ways. And she has an enormously bright future ahead of her if the Lord, in His kindness, is willing to hear and answer our prayers. We have hope for our convention because we serve so gracious a God!
But if we fail to pray, and if we ignore the cultural moment that we find ourselves in, if we move away from the truths of Scripture we have seen and discussed in this post, we will not have to argue about a name change anymore, for history will ultimately call us:
The Ichabod Baptist Convention – The glory has departed.
 Todd Wilson, Galatians: Gospel-Rooted Living, ed. R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 31.
By Tom Ascol — 9 months ago
The inability or unwillingness of Christians to employ rigorous, biblical, moral reasoning to address public attacks on God and Scripture over the last few years has been as stunning as it has been revealing. From the unbiblical assessments of lawless rioting and flagrant theft to descriptions of legalized abortion the United States, many who name the Name of Christ—including those in positions of leadership—have fallen woefully short of speaking with the wisdom we desperately need.
The recent attempt by the US Senate to codify the legal murder of unborn children further highlights how anemic Christian public theology is today. Forty-nine Senators voted to legalize the murder of babies up to the point of their birth. Everyone of them is a Democrat. Yet, Christian deplorables have been lectured by our betters for at least the last seven years on how and why we must make room for voting for Democrat candidates at every level of government. We have been told that we do not understand the complexities of the issues involved; that though Christians might be personally opposed to abortion we must allow that they can, nevertheless, vote for political leaders who are committed to the slaughter of innocent children; and that since the Bible doesn’t tell us “how” to fight against abortion, we mustn’t argue in terms of national righteousness for one political candidate over another or contend that any political party is better or worse than another.
Yet, as I was reminded this morning when I reread it, the Democrat party platform includes five references to making abortion legal, tax-payer-funded, and readily available in the USA.
To know God and to fear Him means that we tremble at His Word, believe His gospel, and love His law.
Many sincere but naive Christians have been led astray by such perverted moral reasoning and have consequently voted for the party of death in the last several political elections. They have done so with reassurances that they honored Christ with their vote. Christians who, like R.C. Sproul, out of moral conviction have argued against voting for any candidate who advocates abortion, have been labeled white supremacists, Christian nationalists, ignorant fundamentalists, and worse.
I and other Christian pastors have been accused of suddenly “becoming political” & making politics more important than theology. We have been slandered as contending that unity is now based on politics rather than devotion to Christ and His Word. We have been charged with having politics drive and shape our doctrinal convictions and of requiring certain political affinities in the churches we serve.
Such accusations are not only erroneous, they are also ignorant. They are a commentary on how poorly many Christians, including many Christian leaders reason morally. Christ is Lord over everything—including politics. His rule does not end at the voting booth. Christians must vote like Christians. Neighbor-love means that I seek the greatest good for my neighbor. My neighbors in the US will be in a far worse position spiritually, morally, and before God with every additional advocate for child-murder that is placed in public office. That is true because “righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).
The more “we the people” give political power to baby-murderers the more we increase our national sin and rebellion against God and the more we provoke Him to His face and “tempt” Him to do to America what He did to Sodom and Gomorrah and has done with nations throughout history.
God’s people in America should repent of our complacency and complicity in the forty-nine-year holocaust we are living through and call for the immediate end of legalized abortion.
To know God and to fear Him means that we tremble at His Word, believe His gospel, and love His law. It requires that we seek His honor by advocating for His ways not only in our private lives but in every area of influence He entrusts to us, including the right to vote.
To vote for anyone who advocates policies of legalized murder is foolish and sinful. Leaders who encourage Christians to do so are doubly culpable and have forfeited their right to be followed. If the innocent blood of Abel cried out to the Lord (Genesis 4:10), what must be the deafening cry in heaven from the more than 63 million innocent babies that have been legally slaughtered in the US since 1973! And yet, we have Christian leaders and ethicists contending that it is allowable for Christians to vote for pro-abortionists. Other, more conservative leaders, have argued that the call for the immediate end of the abortion holocaust is unloving, disingenuous, or impolite. Such leaders, if they refuse to repent, should be ignored and rejected as untrustworthy by those who would be faithful to Jesus Christ and honor His lordship over all the earth.
Praise God for the prospect of having the evil ruling of Roe v Wade overturned by SCOTUS. But whether or not that happens, God’s people in America should repent of our complacency and complicity in the forty-nine-year holocaust we are living through and call for the immediate end of legalized abortion. We must insist on equal protection under the law for the most vulnerable among us. And we must never forget nor let our reasoning lose sight of the fact that abortion is murder.
May God have mercy on this nation.
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