Glorifying God, Proclaiming the Gospel, Transforming Lives

The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

Faithful Shepherds: Reflections on Our Church Structure and a Plurality of Elders

Oct 8th, 2015 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

biblesLast night during our regular monthly business meeting the pastors and deacons put forward a statement (that will be voted on as coming from them in the form of a unanimous motion in November) beginning the practice of having pastors appointed from within the congregation to serve alongside the men who are our employed “staff-pastors” (Toby, myself, and Nick). They have unanimously put forward the current chairman of the deacons Allen Bottorff to be the first man to be added to this new role. With the affirmation of the church, Allen hopes to step-down as both a deacon and a trustee at the end of this year so that he can fully devote his time to the work of pastoral ministry to our church beginning in January 2016.

A full statement from the pastors and deacons was read during the business meeting and added to the official minutes, but I simply want to take a moment here to explain why I am personally excited about this new addition to our current structure, why I believe it is a very good thing for our local body, and why I hope that you will join us in our excitement.

As Pastor Toby walked us through 1 Timothy on Sunday mornings during this last year, we have all been confronted with the great charge to guard the gospel, to submit fully to the teachings of Scripture, and to do so for the good of the church and the glory of Christ. We guard the gospel by preaching the Word of God faithfully and by structuring and operating our church biblically. These are the two great means by which local churches remain chained to biblical fidelity.

We are convinced that for the most part our church is and has been faithful in both these ways. We are passionate about the gospel. We preach expositionally through scripture. We are devoted to teaching right doctrine. Membership matters. Accountability and church discipline are taken seriously. We are governed by the congregation of members, led by a plurality or pastors, and served by a body of deacons. All of this is both right and good.

The one area, however, where we could more biblically be in-line with the explicit and implied pattern of scripture is regarding the plurality of pastors that lead our church. Many churches have a single-elder/single-pastor model, meaning that they have only one pastor. We currently have three pastors: a senior pastor and two associate pastors (of which I am one) that are together all regarded as full pastors for our church. That is a very, very good thing. We believe, however, that the church can be better served and better protected by the intentional addition of men from within the congregation who are called by God and equipped and appointed by the local church to serve as “lay-pastors/elders.” A lay-pastor/elder is a man appointed from within the congregation who serves fully in the office of pastor and in the work of pastoral ministry, but whose income is not dependent upon the church; in other words, men who labor with and alongside the employed-pastors to shepherd the church, but who are not themselves employed by the church.

We believe this for three major reasons:

First, we believe this model of church-structure is fully biblical. First, remember that the Bible uses the terms pastor, elder, and overseer synonymously and interchangeably. They mean the exact same thing and refer to the exact same office. Then notice that the office of pastor is predominantly spoken of in the plural (Acts 20:17-38; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:1-5) in relation to the local churches where they serve. That tells us that there is the consistent pattern of local churches having multiple pastors. This isn’t to say that it is not right to have senior pastors, a first-among-equals. That is definitely necessary, and grounded in Scripture as well (men such as James in Jerusalem, Timothy (and later John) in Ephesus, and Titus in Crete). We need Toby as our senior pastor here, and yet the model of scripture presents senior pastors as serving among and alongside a group, or team, of pastors for each local church.

With that said, we also see in 1 Timothy a distinction between some within those groups of pastors who are employed by the local churches and some who are not. In 1 Timothy 5:17 we read this: “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” Pay careful attention to the structure of the sentence and its implications. First, we see that there is the assumption of a plurality of elders. Second, we see the command to hold them in honor among the church. Third, there is the implied distinction that those who “labor in preaching and teaching” are in some ways distinct from within the larger group of elders. The “labor” that he refers to seems to refer those whose primary means of living and providing for their families comes from the church itself. That makes sense of his scriptural grounding in verse 18. Paul is saying in essence, “Hold your faithful pastors in honor, and especially be committed to meeting the needs of those pastors whose primary occupation is by being employed by the local church” (my own translation/paraphrase). This relates as well to Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 9:9-15 where he writes that local churches are commanded to meet the needs of the pastors they employ and employed pastors are right to expect them to, but that he and some of his associates have served as elders/overseers/pastors for the church without being paid so as not to be a burden on the local churches. In both of these passages there is the pattern of plurality among which there is the distinction between employed-pastors and lay-pastors.

Second, we are convinced that this model of church-structure is deeply grounded in the historic polity of local Baptist churches. Sometimes when the subject of elders or a plurality of pastors from within the congregation is mentioned, there follows an accusation of abandoning Baptist polity for a more Presbyterian model of church government. That simply is not the case, and that criticism is unfounded.

Although today many Baptist churches do not practice this aspect of polity, it is still rooted in our own tradition’s history. It is mentioned in documents such as A Short Treatise Concerning a True and Orderly Gospel Church for the Philadelphia Baptist Association (1743) by Benjamin Griffith, The Gospel Developed through the Government and Order of the Churches of Jesus Christ (1843) by W.B. Johnson, and Apostolical Church Polity (1874) by William Williams, who was one of the founding faculty members of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. These are just a few examples of the overwhelming majority of the many historic documents that have been authored and adopted by Baptists who teach this structure of church polity. Additionally, it is fully in-line with the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 which has been adopted as our local church’s official statement of faith.

To have a plurality of pastors, and pastors from within the congregation specifically, is to be better Baptists. The pastors/elders do not rule the church or govern the church in the place of the congregation. The autonomy, authority, and governance of the church still resides in the congregation of members. Not only that, but only men who have been presented to the church and affirmed by a vote of the congregation will ever be placed among the body of pastors. This slight adjustment to our structure does not weaken the membership’s governance of the local church; it strengthens it. With this structure in place, the church is better equipped to be led by faithful overseers.

Third, and finally, we are confident that this model of church-structure is truly good for our church – the pastors, the deacons, and the members of the church as a whole.

We believe this is good for the current employed-pastors because it provides men from within the congregation who pastor them, it joins them to men who are pastors from within the community and congregation to help them better make key decisions for the good of the church, and it serves to prevent any one pastor from dominating a local church through an abuse of power and authority. It is meant to prevent employed-pastors from ever facing the temptation (now or in the future) of reigning as pastoral tyrants over the people they are called to shepherd. In that way such a structure provides a set of check-and balances for the overall pastoral ministry of the church.

It is also good for the group of men who are tasked with serving the church as deacons. It allows men from within the congregation who are called, equipped, and qualified to serve as pastors without forcing the deacons to attempt to function in both shepherding and servant roles. It frees the deacons to be better servants of the body. Additionally, it is intended to prevent any temptation that may arise over time for a small group of people to use the deacon body as a means to usurp the congregation’s authority.

And it is good for the church as a whole. It better serves to keep the employed-pastors accountable to the congregation. It shields the church from becoming too focused or entranced with one sole individual or leader or personality. It better serves for difficult pastoral decisions to be made without the employed-pastors being faced with the temptation to make a decision based on the fact that their income may be impacted. It also helps to provide pastoral stability if and when there is a vacancy of one or more of the employed-pastors. The truth of the matter is this: Toby, myself, and Nick will not always be pastors of FBC Henryville. Someone else must take our places in the future whenever we leave either through death or by transitioning into a new role of ministry in another church. None of us have any plans of going anywhere anytime soon! But, we believe that to be faithful pastors we have to prepare now for what will inevitably be a need of the church in the future. Having men who are pastors from within the congregation prevents a damaging pastoral vacuum from hurting the church whenever that time comes.

These are the reasons that we are united as pastors and deacons of FBC Henryville in taking this next step to be a local church that better guards the gospel. We hope you’re united with us. Over the course of the next few weeks we’ll be available to answer any question you might have, and you’ll be hearing from us as well as Allen as he has been placed before the church to be the first (although not the only nor last) lay-pastor for our congregation beginning in January after he steps down as a deacon and trustee in December. The formal vote of affirmation will be held at our next regular business meeting in November. Continue to pray for us as we seek to always be men who are more faithfully shepherding the church of God, which he obtained by his own blood, for our eternal good and his eternal glory.


In Christ,


Pastor Cade


Look at the Lamb (Revelation Listening Guide)

Sep 30th, 2015 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

Overcome: The Hope of the Christian in the Revelation of the Lamb
September 30, 2015
Look at the Lamb: God’s Response to Satan’s Rage
Revelation 14:1-5

I. Seriously, Nobody Panic

If all we had to go on was what we see around us, then we may have good reason for panic and distress. If our only gauge was our own senses, then we might question whether or not we really have cause for hope. The world is filled with violence and uncertainty. The best of us face sufferings, sickness, and eventually death. Believers are persecuted, ridiculed, and maligned by our culture. Islamic terrorism is insurgent. Immorality is rampant. Then, if we examine our own hearts there is even greater cause for alarm. Our emotions are fickle. Our faithfulness is imperfect. Our commitment to Christ is sometimes callused. Our struggle with sin is so often unsuccessful. We are hard pressed on every side and struggling within ourselves at the same time. Facts, as John Adams once noted, are stubborn things. And sometimes they’re discouraging things. That seems to be the reality of our own lives.

And that’s also how believers might have felt after walking through Revelation 13. Satan is on the attack. His two custom-made monsters have been unleashed on the world. The anti-Christ is making war on the people of God. They are being persecuted. They are being slaughtered. The false-prophet is hoodwinking humanity. He is enforcing worship to a satanic death-cult through the dual threats of death and destitution. Darkness has descended on creation. So what can be done? Is there any hope? Why shouldn’t believers panic? How might God respond to Satan’s rage? Revelation 14 gives us the answer, and Revelation 14:1-5 is the believer’s clarion call for confidence.

II. Here Comes the Lamb (and His Army)

In Revelation 5 John’s sorrow at the absence of a worthy sovereign to break the seals was relieved by seeing the Lamb, the visual representation of Jesus Christ. In Revelation 7 John’s panic at the unbound fury of the Lamb was relieved by seeing the 144,000, the visual representation of the people of God, the church, arrayed and ready to conquer. Now, once again John and his readers have reached a crossroads of crisis. Once again there is a question of panic and sorrow. Where is the church’s hope in the midst of a world ruled by Satan’s monsters? God’s response is the dual revelation of the Lamb and the Lamb’s people, the 144,000 mustered against the monsters and assured of victory. This vision portrays the truth about the people of God and in so doing, provides them with the strength to persevere:

1. The people of God dwell in the presence of God’s King.

2. The people of God conquer through the power of God’s seal.

3. The people of God worship to the praise of God’s glory.

4. The people of God display the purity of God’s holiness.

5. The people of God live for the purpose of God’s salvation.

6. The people of God testify to the proclamation of God’s truth.


The Monster and the Mark (Revelation Listening Guide)

Sep 29th, 2015 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

Overcome: The Hope of the Christian in the Revelation of the Lamb
September 23, 2015
The Monster and the Mark
Revelation 13:11-18

I. Introduction: The Real Axis of Evil

The churches of Asia Minor were under attack from powerful persecution, demonic doctrine, and the seductions of the immoral culture that surrounded them. The first three chapters present this axis of evil as the triple alliance of terror for the followers of Jesus. It is in and through a world dominated by their gathered forces that believers are called to conquer. It is no accident then that John’s vision presents three great enemies that are the under-armies of the satanic dragon that is seeking to devour the people of God. There is a first beast (13:1-10) that is the embodiment of all governmental and human power and persecution, the very spirit of Anti-Christ and the present type of a future figure still to come. There is the second beast (13:11-18), a false prophet that points us to the dangerous doctrines of anti-gospel religion. Finally, there will be a horrific harlot (17:1-18) that represents the prevailing culture and darkness of a world in rebellion against God. Together this axis of evil is mustered by the dragon to go to war against the saints. In our last sermon we were introduced to the first beast, the Anti-Christ. Today we are introduced to the second.

II. An Unholy Fraud: When Piety is Perilous

This second beast that emerges to do war on the church is the second of the dragon’s great servants and the third member of the dragon’s unholy trinity. It is the embodiment of behemoth, the incarnation of deceptive doctrine and devotion. It is false faith. It is deceptive. It is anti-gospel theology, and it in the wake of the spirit of Anti-Christ that exercises demonic dominion it is mustered for the purpose of promulgating its perilous piety. That presents this very apparent reality. The danger to the church is not merely from persecution directed by human governments and powers. Satan is far too crafty. He slyly copies spirituality. Revelation 13:11-18 unveils the terror of this untruthful prophet:

1. The Second Beast fully originates out of the world that is in REBELLION against God.

2. The Second Beast slyly impersonates the message of the GOSPEL of God.

3. The Second Beast cunningly copies the powerful WORKS of God.

4. The Second Beast deceptively redirects WORSHIP away from God.

5. The Second Beast violently compels OBEDIENCE to the enemies of God.

6. The Second Beast clearly plagiarizes the SEAL of God.


The Beast and the Beauty (Revelation Listening Guide)

Sep 16th, 2015 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

Overcome: The Hope of the Christian in the Revelation of the Lamb
September 16, 2015
The Beast and the Beauty
Revelation 13:1-10

I. In the Kingdom of Beasts: Code Name “Babylon”

Revelation 12-22 portrays the apocalyptic conflict between the forces of Satan and the people of God in vivid and graphic imagery. We’ve already seen that in Revelation 12 where we found ourselves caught up in a cosmic conflict for all creation, a war between Heavens arrayed angelic armies and the dragon’s demonic legions. That chapter ends with the dragon, thrown out of heaven and foiled in his attempt to destroy the woman, assembling himself for a continued offensive against the people of God, an offensive that takes the form of three deadly enemies: A first beast (an Anti-Christ that represents the power and persecution of human rule and authority), a second beast (a false prophet that represents the poison of false teaching), and a prostitute (representing the world’s and the culture’s seductions of immorality). These three forces are the instruments that the dragon will use on earth to make war on the people of God, and to spread his own kingdom of darkness, a kingdom code-named Babylon.

II. The Monster at the End of the Book

The dragon’s offensive, with his three “armies,” is broadly the storyline of chapters 13-19, and in chapter 13 we encounter the first pawn in Satan’s cosmic game of chess. John sees a beast that rises out of the sea to attempt to overcome the world by taking his own place on a throne of power and placing himself as the center of humanity’s adoration and worship. This beast is symbolic of all the powers of humanity throughout the ages that seek to place themselves in the place of Christ and to persecute his people. The beast here points ahead to a final and climactic end-times embodiment of Anti-Christ and to the very spirit of Anti-Christ that is a present reality in our own world. Chapter 13:1-10 unmasks this monster, shows God’s people what he aims to do, and encourages believers with the shelter of their survival and perseverance:

1. The beast is granted the power and authority of Satan on earth (vv. 1-2).

2. The beast is adored by expressions of worldwide worship (vv. 3-4).

3. The beast is engaged in persecution against Christ’s people (vv. 5-7).

4. The beast is prevented from destroying Christ’s people (vv. 8-10).


Goodbyes in the Gospel

Sep 6th, 2015 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

Later this evening I’ll tell a good friend goodbye. Today is Logan Huff’s final Sunday as Associate Pastor for Students and Ministry at First Baptist Church Henryville. Tomorrow morning on Labor Day he, Lauren, Molly, and their family will leave Henryville and head to Dearing, Georgia where Logan and Lauren are moving to begin serving as the Senior Pastor and wife of Calvary Baptist Church. I, along with everyone else at FBC Henryville, will be praying for them diligently as they begin this new season of ministry.

As I’ve reflected on their transition to Georgia, I’ve thought a lot about how hard goodbyes really are. Even though I’ve been in the ministry in some ways all my life, they never get easier. Being a pastor’s son, I have experience. I know what it’s like on both ends. I know what it’s like to move to a new community and a new church. I know what it’s like to say goodbye to a local church that you deeply love. I also know what it’s like to see other pastors that you love and have served alongside move away. I’ve done this many times before.

But it’s still hard. I’m a good Baptist after all; I don’t do well with changes. And yet these goodbyes are an essential part of the labor of the gospel. It’s fitting, I suppose, that I’m telling Logan and Lauren goodbye on a Lord’s Day just before Labor Day, because laboring for the gospel means that times like these sometimes have to happen.

Paul understood that. Sometimes we think of the missionary apostle as a loner, a solitary mission-fueled church planter taking the light of the gospel to a dark world. The picture we see in Acts and his letters, however, is of a missionary and church planter who was deeply relational. Up until the last imprisonment he was never really alone. He was always surrounded by friends, colleagues, and apprentices. He lived his life in ministry fellowship with fellow workers. He loved them. They loved him. They all loved Jesus. And that’s why sometimes separation had to happen.

Paul valued friendships. He valued relationships, but those relationships and friendships were not ends in themselves. They were not his most prized possession. The gospel was. That’s why he had to see them go. Paul’s friendships were never placed above the passion for the gospel’s spread. Paul understood that gospel-friendships could only be lived out of relationships where the gospel really was the first priority. Paul loved his friends, and Paul truly loved his friends because he loved his Savior more. That meant he couldn’t hold on to them. The gospel meant going.

We see Paul showing us how to say goodbye in the gospel in letters like Philippians and Philemon. In Philippians he tells the church that he is sending Timothy to them (2:19-23). He says he is irreplaceable. There is no one else like him. He loves him like family. He has proven his worth to Paul. He has served alongside him in the gospel. Those are high accolades. That’s strong praise. That’s quite a relationship Paul describes. So we may be surprised at Paul’s implication. He loves Timothy so much and he is so helped by him, that he hopes to send him away to the Philippian church (2:23). Paul loves Timothy and the Philippians too much to keep him close to him. Their passion for the gospel means he must go.

In Philemon we have a similar commission. Onesimus had been Philemon’s slave. He had escaped to Rome. He had encountered Paul. He had then believed the gospel and served alongside Paul the prisoner. Then, after a period of time, Paul sent Onesimus back, just like he had with so many other coworkers and friends. Note the love and friendship that Paul has for Onesimus. He tells Philemon that “I would have been glad to keep him with me” (v. 13). Sending Onesimus back to his former owner was a sacrifice. He didn’t want to say goodbye, but he loved Philemon, and Onesimus, and their Lord too much not to. The gospel came first.

In these two snapshots of two gospel-fueled goodbyes we are shown how to say our own goodbyes in the gospel. First, we do so with love and longing. We dearly love our friends. We long for their presence. We pray for their good. Second, we do so out of a shared passion to see lives transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. Third, we do so knowing confidently that whatever separations we endure for the cause of Christ in this life are more than worth it. Indeed, as Paul would tell the Philippians, everything (even our most dearly held friendships) is loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus (3:8). As strong as friendships are, as sweet as the bond between friends may be, Jesus really is better, and he has given us our orders: Go and make disciples. The sacrifice of actually fulfilling that command is piercing. It really does demand going.

And so later tonight I’ll get in my car and come back home with Amy after we’ve told Logan and Lauren goodbye. As much as I may joke and pick, I do not look forward to their absence. It will feel like an amputation. Something valued will be gone, but we’ll say goodbye in the gospel. Like Paul bid farewell to Timothy and Onesimus, we’ll send them away in love from our fellowship in glad grief for the cause of Christ.

And we’ll do so with the encouraging truth that in the gospel no goodbye is ever final. The same gospel that demands earthly goodbyes, also promises eternal reunions. In Christ no goodbye gets the final word. Only the gospel does, and it promises Christ’s people a place with him and with one another forever, where partings have all perished in the past. As students together at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Logan and I know well the seminary’s hymn written by one of its founding faculty members, Basil Manly, Jr., “Soldiers of Christ in Truth Arrayed.” The final verse of the hymn places all of this in its proper perspective:

“We meet to part, but part to meet,
When earthly labors are complete,
To join in yet more blest employ,
In an eternal world of joy.”

Logan, Lauren, and Molly: Myself, Amy, and everyone else at FBC Henryville love you deeply. We would not dare let you go for anything less than the gospel of Christ. In that gospel, however, we bear to say goodbye – loving you always and praying for you continually, all while looking ahead with the eyes of faith to the eternal world that Basil Manly spoke of.

Til earthly labors are complete,



The Tell-Tale Heart: Planned-Parenthood, Prophetic-Protest, and the Pounding of the American Conscience

Aug 22nd, 2015 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

“For the heart that sin and sorrow broke is beating once again…”
– Michael Card, “Love Crucified Arose”
floorboardsEarlier this week the seventh video exposing the crimes and corruption of the government funded Planned Parenthood was released online. In it we were shown the grotesque scene of an aborted baby’s brain being sliced from its skull as the attendants’ remark that the child’s heart is still beating.

Over the last two months we have been confronted with an unrelenting display of the modern American holocaust. True, the horrors aren’t shown in black-and-white. There are no emaciated crowds, deadened camp courtyards, or ash stained smokestacks rising from the bricked and windowless death chambers. The medical clinics operated by Planned Parenthood don’t look like concentration camps. But then again, God isn’t fooled by clean rooms, bright lights, white coats, and sterilized surgical instruments. We know what we’re seeing.

And we know what we’ve been seeing all along. The problem isn’t an inability to make a moral judgment about what the videos show. The problem is our uncomfortable tendency to be all too comfortable not acknowledging it. It’s no wonder that pro-choice supporters in the mainstream media (and even in the mainstream White House) do not want to accept or acknowledge the contents of these videos. No wonder they have to retreat within the defenses of not watching the tapes. No wonder they have to continually claim that the videos are “edited” to the point of being unsubstantiated. The moment they are acknowledged the truth the films affirm has to be accepted: A beating baby’s heart really is a beating baby’s heart.

If we’re honest with ourselves, however, we know this is a dangerous tendency even among pro-life advocates. We can become so accustomed to horror, so accustomed to the unchanging status quo, and so accustomed to the cultural attention-deficit disorder of the newest “fad” sparked from social media, that we are always in danger of short-term shock. There really is a danger that the Planned Parenthood videos might merely come to be the Ice-Water-Challenge videos of 2015. Or the “Get Kony” campaign of a few years earlier. But they must not be. The stakes are far too high. As the twenty-first century inches closer to its third decade, we must not lose focus on this the moral crisis of our age.

We must never stop hearing the unending thudding of that baby’s heart. Like the haunted and maddened conscience of Poe’s guilty murderer, the beating hearts of our slaughtered children will never stop echoing their condemnation. Their blood cries out, perhaps not from the floorboards or from the ground, but certainly from stainless-steel disposal canisters, sinks, and lab trays, and freezers.

Earlier today, across the United States hundreds of peaceful demonstrations and protests were carried out to continue to raise awareness of the blood-stained nightmare that is abortion. The protests seek to continue to provide public pressure on both state legislatures and the federal government to begin to take steps to curb the actions of Planned Parenthood and to investigate and convict those responsible for their crimes.

That needs to happen. With as much zeal as the Nazi bureaucracy and military command was relentlessly hunted and brought to justice for their crimes, so must the criminal conspiracy of legalized abortion on demand be extinguished. And so must the American church never cease to place the stethoscope of truth on the seared chest of the American conscience. National protests are good. But they dare not stop until all the vestiges of this evil are expunged. If we deposit our outrage at abortion into the trash-bin of once popular protests that have now passed into history, we ourselves will be complicit in the guilt of disposing the dissected corpses of baby boys and girls who belong in a cradle into a trash can.

In the gospels Jesus prophetically condemned the hardness and unrepentance of the villages around Galilee like Capernaum and Bethsaida that had grown too complacent and comfortable with the witness of Christ’s miraculous power and message. He announces that on the final Day of Judgment the residents of Sheba and Sodom would rise up and bear witness against them, testifying to the guilt they were accountable for. If we stop working to end abortion’s reign of death, if we fail to be grieved until our children have ceased being slaughtered, then the living children of abortion’s slaughtered masses will rise up to bear witness against us on that day. Their bodies will be resurrected like Christ’s, and their hearts will beat like his on into eternity. Christ’s own silenced heart was restarted. Theirs will be also. And knowing that, we also know that we will not go unconfronted.

Today the loud voices of our protest are being heard across our country. May we never cease to pray and work and speak and lobby and plead for the masses being delivered to their deaths. May the rhythms of our rage beat with the same rhythms of the tell-tale hearts that will not allow our consciences to be absolved.

Hearing that prophetic pounding,

Pastor Cade


The Tale from the Perilous Realm

Aug 18th, 2015 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

Kill the Dragon

By Cade Campbell

“There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many skeptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien, Speaking of the Gospel in his essay “On Fairy Stories”

I love a good story. I love the epic journey of the Fellowship to defeat evil in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I love the birth of the hero to defeat evil with the emergence of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. I love the magical power of sacrifice and love to defeat evil in Harry Potter. I absolutely love these tales. And you probably love them too; maybe not these particular ones (although they’re wonderful), but we all from childhood love stories where the danger is great, the stakes are high, the enemy is ruthless, the hero is an underdog, and yet evil is defeated. We love stories where the good triumphs and the bad loses. We long for stories that really do have a “happily ever after.”

This Wednesday evening at our Midweek service we’ll step into Revelation 12. This new chapter begins the second great “Act” of the drama that John’s apocalypse portrays. Following the story’s Prologue (chapters 1-3), Act I (chapters 4-11) portray believers triumphing in Christ as Christ, the sovereign ruler of all things, completes his plan, fulfills his promises, and unleashes the totality of his wrath on his enemies. We’re shown a vision of all of history (past, present, and future) in which Christ is victorious and his people triumph through the persecutions and sufferings that they endure at the hands of God’s enemies, being assured of their final victory and vindication as those same enemies endure fierce judgment at the hand of Christ.

Act II (Revelation 12-22) rewinds the story and portrays that same drama from a completely new vantage point. Readers are given special “glasses,” by which we are allowed to see the true intergalactic and cosmic expanse of the story that we find ourselves in. Reality is shown to be far deeper, far deadlier, far scarier, far larger, and far grander than anything we might have expected. The story that we’re caught up in spans all of heaven and hell, the physical and spiritual dimensions, earth and space, all creation. The veil is lifted to show us the truth about reality. We’re caught in the middle of a truly worldwide war.

That means the truest thing about your life is not necessarily what it appears to be. The most fundamental facts about who you are and why you are here is not limited to chores, deadlines, commutes, bills, school, housework, meals, and sleep. All of these parts of our lives are the environment in which and through which a much larger story is unfolding. The truth about who we really are is epic. We are real-life, living characters in a story far older, far stranger, far deadlier, far more dangerous, and with an ending far more delightful than anything we could ever imagine. Our greatest enemy is not our spouse, our boss, our job, our kids, our parents, our teachers, our coworkers, our friends, or our neighbors. Our greatest enemy is far worse than Sauron, Darth Vader, and Voldemort combined. And Revelation unmasks him. Our greatest enemy is “He Who Must Be Named.” He is the emperor of evil. He is the devilish dragon of demons. He is Satan himself.

And he wants to destroy everything good and bend it to his purpose. Allied with him is a host of forces: demonic spirits, sinful desires and rebellion, the power and prestige of the world, and the blindness that so often keeps this true story hidden from everyday view. This dragon and his allies are warring against his enemies. They have invaded God’s creation. They have flourished under creation’s curse. They are rabidly seeking to steal, kill, and destroy everything that God has created good.

But God, the good king of all that is, will not let the dragon be victorious. Standing against the dragon is a Lamb, not a small and timid farm animal, but a wild and roaring warrior, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The Lamb and his Army assemble against the forces of evil. They array themselves in bloodstained robes of Calvary’s clothing and they charge into the mighty throngs of demonic dominion.

And the Lamb wins.

That’s the story that Revelation 12-22 narrates, and that’s the story we find ourselves living in as participating characters. That is the reality behind all that lurks outside (and inside) our windows. That is the truth about who we really are and where we really are. Listen closely and you will hear the sound of tumult and feel the rumble of the battle that is raging all around us.

Awake from your drowsed stupor. Christians find themselves in the midst of what is truly the greatest story ever told. We find each day of our calendar to be just another page in the tale from this our perilous realm. We find ourselves living among forces far more powerful than comic book heroes. We are in league with a company, a community of men and women far larger and far greater and far more victorious than the Rebel Alliance or the Fellowship or Dumbledore’s Army. We find ourselves in the ranks of martyrs and missionaries, suffering saints, ordinary yet faithful believers all over the world who are allied with all creation into the Lamb’s Army.

Our universe is more compelling and more spectacular than anything Marvel or DC could ever conceive. The gospel is the heart and core of all story. In fact, all other stories (The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Avengers, etc.) are merely fictionalized and faint echoes of actual reality, reflections that point us to the True Story, the Real Story.

And that real story is no mere fiction, although it did begin “once upon a time.”

And that real story, through the Lamb’s conquering cross, will definitely have a “happily ever after.”

Post Script:

The epigraph of the short article above was taken from J.R.R. Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy Stories.” In it he goes into great detail about the genre of fairy and fantasy, and at the end of the essay (in an epilogue) he brings the study of this literature to bear on the real world, actual history. What follows is the larger portion of that epilogue (itself only a small part of Tolkien’s full essay) from which the above quote was taken. It is worth reading in its entirety, especially for fans of fantasy literature, science-fiction, and superheroes!

Probably every writer making a secondary world, a fantasy, every sub-creator, wishes in some measure to be a real maker, or hopes that he is drawing on reality: hopes that the peculiar quality of this secondary world (if not all the details) are derived from Reality, or are flowing into it. If he indeed achieves a quality that can fairly be described by the dictionary definition: “inner consistency of reality,” it is difficult to conceive how this can be, if the work does not in some way partake of reality. The peculiar quality of the ”joy” in successful Fantasy can thus be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth. It is not only a “consolation” for the sorrow of this world, but a satisfaction, and an answer to that question, “Is it true?” The answer to this question that I gave at first was (quite rightly): “If you have built your little world well, yes: it is true in that world.” That is enough for the artist (or the artist part of the artist). But in the “eucatastrophe” we see in a brief vision that the answer may be greater—it may be a far-off gleam or echo of evangelium in the real world. The use of this word gives a hint of my epilogue. It is a serious and dangerous matter. It is presumptuous of me to touch upon such a theme; but if by grace what I say has in any respect any validity, it is, of course, only one facet of a truth incalculably rich: finite only because the capacity of Man for whom this was done is finite.

I would venture to say that approaching the Christian Story from this direction, it has long been my feeling (a joyous feeling) that God redeemed the corrupt making-creatures, men, in a way fitting to this aspect, as to others, of their strange nature. The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels—peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: “mythical” in their perfect, self-contained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the “inner consistency of reality.” There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many skeptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.

It is not difficult to imagine the peculiar excitement and joy that one would feel, if any specially beautiful fairy-story were found to be “primarily” true, its narrative to be history, without thereby necessarily losing the mythical or allegorical significance that it had possessed. It is not difficult, for one is not called upon to try and conceive anything of a quality unknown. The joy would have exactly the same quality, if not the same degree, as the joy which the “turn” in a fairy-story gives: such joy has the very taste of primary truth. (Otherwise its name would not be joy.) It looks forward (or backward: the direction in this regard is unimportant) to the Great Eucatastrophe. The Christian joy, the Gloria, is of the same kind; but it is preeminently (infinitely, if our capacity were not finite) high and joyous. But this story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord, of angels, and of men—and of elves. Legend and History have met and fused.

But in God’s kingdom the presence of the greatest does not depress the small. Redeemed Man is still man. Story, fantasy, still go on, and should go on. The Evangelium has not abrogated legends; it has hallowed them, especially the “happy ending.” The Christian has still to work, with mind as well as body, to suffer, hope, and die; but he may now perceive that all his bents and faculties have a purpose, which can be redeemed. So great is the bounty with which he has been treated that he may now, perhaps, fairly dare to guess that in Fantasy he may actually assist in the effoliation and multiple enrichment of creation. All tales may come true; and yet, at the last, redeemed, they may be as like and as unlike the forms that we give them as Man, finally redeemed, will be like and unlike the fallen that we know.


Back to the Beginning: Getting Ready to Go to Genesis

Aug 15th, 2015 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog


In a few weeks we’ll be closing the door on our Sunday morning sermon series in 1 Timothy and beginning an epic journey together through the book of Genesis. We’ll walk through the shaded boughs of Eden, across the noisy decks of the Ark, around the impressive building projects of Babel, along the caravan routes to Canaan, up the rocky slopes of Moriah, and down into the Pyramid plazas of Egypt. Along the way we’ll meet men and women like Adam, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Rachel, Jacob, Joseph, and the mysterious Melchizedek. It’s going to be a trip we’ll never forget.

In anticipation of this new series there are a few things you can be doing to prepare. First, be praying for our church as we start to sit under one of the most foundational books in the entire Bible. With that, be praying for your pastors that our minds and hearts will be clear as we study and prepare each week and that our words will be clear as we preach at each service.

Second, help us spread the word. The promotional banner (above) is available online here and on social media. Save that image and share it via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Email. Invite your friends, family members, neighbors and coworkers. Genesis is relentlessly relevant. It confronts us with our identity, the nature of an individual, the origin of the existence of all things, creationism, human sexuality, the meaning of life, the nature and consequences of sin, and the hope that is only found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The questions and concerns that modern men and women are asking and facing are all answered and addressed in this most ancient of books.

Third, begin preparing yourself and your family to dive deep into the study of God’s Word in the book of Genesis. There are lots of great resources that you can obtain and avail yourself of to make your own study all the more helpful. While we can’t fully catalog every helpful resource, we do want to point you to a select handful of seven books that we as pastors are confident to commend to you for your own personal Bible study that may go along with our Sunday morning sermons:


1. The Promised One: Seeing Jesus in Genesis (A 10-Week Bible Study), by Nancy Guthrie

This is a great condensed overview study of Genesis that is meant to introduce readers to the way Genesis points us to the gospel by portraying the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Twelve Week Study

2. Genesis: A 12 Week Study, by Mitchell Kim

The helpful study courses in this series from Crossway are valuable ways to begin to immerse yourself into the study of individual books. Mitchell Kim’s study of Genesis helps readers understand the big picture of the book and teaches us how to read the narrative in a careful and Christ-focused way.

How to Read

3. How to Read Genesis, by Tremper Longman

The title of this short paperback says it all. Old Testament scholar Tremper Longman helps us all become better readers and students of the Bible’s first book.

The Gospel in Genesis

4. The Gospel in Genesis, by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Anything from the pen and pulpit of one of the twentieth century’s greatest preachers is worth reading. Lloyd-Jones’ short little book of meditations on Genesis prepares us for a deep series and study through the book.

Last Things First

5. Last Things First: Unlocking Genesis with the Christ of Eschatology, by J.V. Fesko

Our upcoming sermon series in Genesis will partially overlap with our Midweek sermon series in the book of Revelation. How are the first book and the last book of the Bible connected? In this fascinating study, Fesko shows readers how understanding what the Bible says about last things (eschatology) sheds light on our understanding of what the Bible teaches about the first things.

From Eden

6. From Eden to the New Jerusalem, by T. Desmond Alexander

This little book, though not about Genesis per se, helps us see how the book of Genesis is connected to the overarching storyline of the Bible. This introduction to biblical theology helps us see the big picture that Genesis begins.

Beginning and Blessing

7. Genesis: Beginning and Blessing, by R. Kent Hughes

Finally, this accessible, one-volume commentary will help readers dig into the text of Genesis and apply it to their lives as we all prepare to hear God’s Word preached each and every week.

So there they are, the three P’s to getting ready for Genesis: Pray, Promote, and Prepare. We’re getting excited about our upcoming sermon series. We hope you are too!

In Christ,

The Pastors of First Baptist Church Henryville


The Epicenter of Eschatology (Revelation Listening Guide #22)

Aug 12th, 2015 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

Overcome: The Hope of the Christian in the Revelation of the Lamb
August 12, 2015
The Epicenter of Eschatology
Revelation 11:15-19

I. Echoes of Excellency

Rock concerts are loud, really loud. They shake the arenas that hold them. The huge speakers reverberate and boom until the crowd doesn’t just hear the music, it feels the music. The entire space pulsates with the power of sound and energy.

That’s true of high-powered, high-volume concerts, and it’s also true of the book of Revelation. John’s visions are composed like the set-list of a heavenly rock-opera. With every movement and with every song the volume soars and the speakers are turned up a notch. The sound echoes throughout eternity with the excellencies of Christ, and his glory is so great that only the loudest sounds will do. The visions are meant to make shake you to your core, and the first half of the performance reaches a crescendo in Revelation 11:15-19.

Chapters 4-11 have been emphasizing the perfect wrath of God poured out on his enemies, through which his people conquer in the end. We saw that emphasis in the song of the seven seals climaxing with the seventh seal being broken as all of heaven shook with the presence of God. Now we see it again as the tumult of the trumpets resounds throughout the creation as the ultimate end of history is brought to a close as the curtains go up on eternity. The seventh and final trumpet is blown signaling the fulfillment of all God’s purposes and promises and then heaven unleashes the full harmony of the decibels of doxology.

II. The Decibels of Doxology

Revelation 11:15-19 brings Act I of Revelation to a close with epic echoes that reverberate into their counterpart vision in Revelation 20-22. Indeed, it is no accident that this passage lies at the very center of the book. It is the halfway point of the apocalypse and it ushers us into the wartime drama beginning in chapter 12. As it does, the deafening declarations of heaven’s court join together to celebrate the completion of God’s purposes and the conquest of God’s Christ. It does so through celebrating five realities that lie at the heart of where history is headed:

1. God’s kingdom will flood all of God’s creation (v. 15).

2. God’s victory will fulfill all of God’s promises (vv. 16-17).

3. God’s wrath will fall on all of God’s enemies (v. 18).

4. God’s presence will forever be with all of God’s people (vv. 18-19).


Measured and Martyred: The Church’s Witness in a Wicked World (Revelation Listening Guide #21)

Aug 12th, 2015 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

Overcome: The Hope of the Christian in the Revelation of the Lamb
July 29, 2015
Measured and Martyred: The Church’s Witness in a Wicked World
Revelation 11:1-14

I. Apocalypse and Interpretation

Interpreting the book of Revelation is difficult. That’s true for several reasons. First, it’s just a hard letter to understand. It’s wild and somewhat bizarre. It’s full of symbols and encrypted language. Second, we’re all surrounded with a smorgasbord of interpretive options and views. That means we can sometimes be so heavily influenced by a particular view that we’ve heard, that we can become blind to any other alternative. Everything surrounding Revelation is a “perfect storm” for creating confusion.
And Revelation 11 may indeed be the heart of that perfect storm. One commentator has said that there is no chapter in the entire book that is more difficult to interpret and understand. That sounds especially daunting. What is going on at the temple? What’s the deal with these two unnamed and mysterious witnesses? Who are they? What is their place in the overall storyline of Revelation? Those are questions that need answering, and so as we go through this chapter, there are two things that need to be done. We need to try and understand what the vision is, and then see how it is meant to encourage and assure the seven local churches of Asia Minor.

II. The Vision(s): What They Signify

The combined visions of the temple (the presence of God) and the witnesses (the message of God) represent the same exact thing: The CHURCH. Why is that the case? Why should we interpret the chapter in this way? There are several reasons:

1. The Structural Argument: Revelation 4-11

2. The Textual Argument:

A. The Temple Metaphor: 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21
B. The Olive Trees and Lampstands Metaphor: Jeremiah 11:16; Romans 11:17-24;
Revelation 1:20

3. The Companion Text Argument: Revelation 13:5-7

4. The Missional Argument

III. The Vision(s): The Measured and Martyred Church

If the temple and the two witnesses are understood to be corresponding pictures that represent the church, the people of God living in and fulfilling its mission as the prophetic voice speaking the proclamation of God’s truth in the midst of a hostile and hurting world, then Revelation 11:1-14, ushering in the great victorious climax of vv. 15-19, provide us the template by which we are to live in exile and proclaim God’s truth in a wicked world:

1. The church is built and established and completed in the midst of a world in rebellion against God.

2. The church is commissioned to courageously proclaim God’s truth to a world in rebellion against God.

3. The church is promised pain and persecution as the guaranteed result of being distinct from the world in rebellion against God.

4. The church is assured of its ultimate and future vindication and victory above beyond the condemned world that is now in rebellion against God.