Pastor's Blog

Thursday
May192011

Are Believers Allowed to Ignore Civil Authorities?

Pastor Hammond

Recently, I crossed paths with a car that was speeding down Main Street in Trumbull.  “Doesn’t that guy care about speed limits?,” I thought.   “How can he drive with so little regard for the safety of others?” Of course, I too am guilty of less than ideal driving at times.   What does the Bible say about obedience to laws?  

In Paul’s letter to the church at Rome, God calls Christians to exercise both lawfulness and love.   In Romans chapter 13, Paul writes, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.”  All believers are called to submit to our civil authorities – and to the laws that they institute. Of course, that includes speed limits.   Obeying the speed limit has a practical value.  But Paul also offers spiritual reasons for submitting to the law.  He write, “For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.”  The authorities who write our laws are appointed by God; they are part of His plan.   Consequently, when we choose to break the law, we necessarily choose to disobey God.  “Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God,” writes Paul. 

Interestingly, the Bible says that each of our local leaders is a “minister of God,” (Romans 15:4).  God uses them for His purposes. And Christians who willingly submit to their authority are blessed with a clear conscience (v. 5).

Paul continues by encouraging believers to be obedient in several specific areas of civil life, including paying our taxes and rendering “honour” to our leaders.  “For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing,” writes Paul.  Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.” 

In Romans 13, Paul also reminds us that we're  called to exercise love toward our neighbors.  "Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the (Old Testament) law," (13:10).   When I choose to drive lawfully, I'm also choosing to exercise love toward my neighbors!

Given all of the above, I must ask myself if I would ever break the law.  The pray that the only law that I would willfully  break is a law that would be overtly contray to the Bible.  I would break a law that prevented me from carrying out any part of the great commission:  sharing the gospel, baptizing believers and teaching them to obey the entire Bible.

Today, let’s pray that the LORD will help us set a good example by obeying our local, state and federal laws – let’s live lawfully for Christ and for our neighbors.

_______________

On Wednesday nights at 7:00 PM we're studying through Paul's epistle to the Romans.  

Wednesday
May112011

Are you choosing to grow in Christ?

Pastor Hammond.  

Believers understand that although all our past, present and future sins are forgiven when we receive Christ as our savior, we continue to sin!  That's because we still possess a sin nature that draws us into sin (James 1:13-14).  Yet, the Bible calls us to grow in holiness.  Praise God that we are eqipped with both the Holy Spirit and the Bible to aid that growth.  It's because we have the Bible that we can know that the LORD calls us to do "our part" in this process by choosing to live an increasingly holy life. Consider the specific instructions that we receive in Paul's letter to the Ephesians:

(Ephesians 4:17-24)  "17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,  18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:  19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.  20 But ye have not so learned Christ;  21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:  22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;  23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;  24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." 

Here, Paul instructs us to "walk not ... in vanity... " (17), put off... the old man" (22), "be renewed" (23) and "put on the new man."   We understand that all of this is possible because of the cross and the regeneration that occurs when we place our faith in Christ.  With that said, you can't help but see that, in this passage, the LORD is instructing us to be very intentional about choosing not to sin.  We should, of course, pray that the LORD will help us not to sin.  But, importantly, we need to do "our part" by choosing to "put off... the old man" (22), "be renewed" (23) and "put on the new man." 

We are responsible to choose to receive Christ (to be sanctified positionally before God).  And we are equally responsible to choose to live a holy life (to be sanctified practically before God).  Both are possible because of the Holy Spirit.  But we are still responsible to choose.   

Let's choose to follow the Lord's instructions of Ephesian 4:17-24; Let's choose to grow in Christ!

Sunday
Apr172011

Why the trials & tribulations?

Pastor Bob Hammond
(Originally published October 2010) 

Recently, we've seen a number of people in our church face great trials.   Many times, people ask why the LORD allows us to experience serious illnesses and other trials.  

Often, we see that that the LORD allows great trials into our lives  in order to get our attention. In Psalm 119:67, the psalmist wrote, “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.”  How true it is that the LORD can use serious afflictions to bring us to Him!      

Other times, the LORD simply wants us to experience His comfort so that we can be better-equipped to comfort others. Consider this verse that Paul wrote to the church members at Corinth: 

2 Corinthians 1:3-5   3  Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;  4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort  them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.  5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

Of course, in the case of Job, we also see that, sometimes, the trial has nothing at all to do with us!  But the LORD can still use our response to the trial as a testimony to others -- as He did when Paul, Silas and Timothy were imprisoned at Philippi (Acts 16).

In any event, we can know that Christ is in control of all things – and that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Saturday
Apr022011

Why do we use the King James Bible?

Pastor Bob Hammond

At Long Hill Baptist Church, we praise God for equipping us with His words!  We're aware that the debate around Bible versions has, at times, been less than gracious.  Our desire is to graciously communicate the rationale for a our decision to make exclusive use of the King James Bible.   We recognize at least four key reasons for using the King James Bible:

The Kings James Bible is an accurate translation of the correct version of the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament. 

It uses the Hebrew and Greek texts that have been received by God’s people throughout history.  These underlying texts are commonly known as the Textus Receptus – which simply means “received text.” All of the other modern Bible translations used a different underlying Greek New Testament.    They made this decision because, during the 19th century, additional Greek manuscripts were discovered.  These newly-discovered manuscripts were judged to be “older and therefore better” than the words of God that have been traditionally received by God’s people.  Consequently, the newly-discovered manuscripts were used by academicians to produce a new version of the Greek New Testament (the so-called Critical Text).  This is the Greek that underlies all modern translations, including the New Internal Version (NIV), New American Standard Version (NASB), New Living Translation (NLT), The Message, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), and the New Living Translation (NLT).

At Long Hill Baptist Church, we reject the notion that God could have hid his true words from his people until the 19th Century. 

To do so would have made it impossible for God’s people to live according to His words – as required by Matthew 4:4.  In Matthew 4:4, Jesus taught that we are responsible to live according to his words:

“…It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4

Furthermore, the clear Biblical teaching that God promised to preserve His words obliges us to reject the idea that His true words would need to be restored by man through an academic process.  In Matthew 24:35, Jesus said that his words would never pass away.

"Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35) 

In the Old Testament, the Book of Psalms teaches:

“The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.  7Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” (Psalm 12:6-7)

We recognize that some of the modern Bible versions used an undesirable approach to Bible translation.

The so-called dynamic equivalence (or paraphrase) technique was used to produce many of the modern Bible translations, including the New International Version (NIV) and the New Living Translation (NLT).  This approach to translation attempts to preserve the basic ideas of each scriptural passage – without attempting to make a word-for-word translation.  While this approach produces translations that are generally easy to understand, it necessarily denies readers access to “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:4).   Thankfully, our King James Bible uses a more rigorous technique – formal equivalence.  This approach attempts to preserve the meaning of each individual word and phrase – and therefore results in a translation that is closer to the original Greek and Hebrew.

The King James Bible reflects a level of grammatical precision that can’t easily be achieved with contemporary English.

In John 3:7, Jesus told a man named Nicodemus, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”  The pronoun “ye” is the second-person plural form of “you.”  Jesus used the plural form to make it clear that all men must be “born again” by repenting and placing their faith in him alone.  He desired for people to understand that it wasn’t just Nicodemus that needed to be born again.  However, most modern translations read, “You must be born again.”  By choosing to use more contemporary English, modern translations cloud the true meaning of the words that Christ spoke.

What’s the Best Way to Begin Learning the Bible? 

  • Recognize that the Holy Spirit helps our understanding.  Pray and ask Him to help you understand God’s words;
  • Be baptized and join a local church.  Never forget that “the house of God, … is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15)
  • Attend Sunday School and worship services. Also, make every effort to attend the Wednesday night Bible Study and prayer meeting.  These are our primary times for teaching and preaching the words of God.
  • Get involved in one-on-one study with a mature believer.  We call that  "discipleship."  Benefit from those who have gone before you! 
  • Be sure to take time to inquire about and to learn the meaning of unfamiliar words used in the King James Bible, e.g. ye, thee, thou.  These aren’t just “old words.”  Rather, they represent very precise translations of the underlying Greek and Hebrew – a level of prevision that would be nearly impossible in modern English.
  • Read good books that introduce the Bible in simple, easy-to-understand language.  See the Pastor for recommendations.
  • Read the Bible!  If you're new to the Bible, you may wish to begin in the Gospel of John and the Old Testament book of Proverbs.  Begin by reading one chapter of each book daily.

     
Tuesday
Mar012011

Should New Testament Believers Tithe?

March 1, 2011 (updated March 2012)
Pastor Hammond

A Biblical tithe is one that’s given by church members regularly (1 Cor. 16:2), joyfully (2 Cor. 9:7), sacrificially (Luke 21:1-4) and proportionally. The word “tithe” literally means tenth.  In the Bible, tithing may be observed (1) before the Old Testament law was given, (2) under the law and (3) after the law. 

Before the law was given, Jacob vowed to tithe, crying to the LORD, "Of all that thou shalt give me I will surely  give the tenth unto thee (Gen 28:22). And Abraham demonstrated tithing by giving a tenth to Melchizedek, a king who was perhaps the clearest Old Testament type of Christ (Gen 14:20).   

Later, while God’s people were living under the Old Testament Law, the prophet Malachi proclaimed that because the people failed to give both tithes and offerings, they were guilty of “robbing” God (Malachi 3:8).  (Offerings involve giving above a tenth).

The New Testament does not reiterate a formal obligation to tithe. However, we may observe that Christ commended tithing in the New Testament.  First, in the course of chastising the Pharisees, the Lord commended their tithing! (Luke 11:42).  Second, in Mark 12, Christ commended the widow who "of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living."  In the Lord’s commendation of these New Testament tithes and offerings,  we may observe that this practice is consistent with God’s model for this age.

Clearly, throughout history,  the LORD has intended for His people to support His work through tithes and offerings.   Today, church members must understand the practical implications of giving  tithes and offerings. From a practical perspective we must understand that our church requires financial support in order to carry out the purposes that God has given it.  Equally important is the spiritual importance of giving Biblically.  We must understand that our failure to give Biblically is disobedience to our LORD. 

Tithing involves giving at least 10% of our gross income as a basic guideline for giving.  You may be wondering how you can begin (or continue) tithing in such a difficult economy.   The answer may be found in the LORD’s promise to meet our needs:

(Matthew 6:31-33)  “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? … for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Tithing is a matter of faith.  Lord, increase our faith!