God and Country: An Inadequate Vision

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$(KGrHqVHJBsE-M9cSWtmBPpo,ty8Dw--60_35I’ve heard a lot of bad “God and Country” sermons. Quite frankly, I’ve preached some myself. You’ve probably heard them as well. They usually equate America with Israel in the Old Testament and claim the conditional blessings and cursings outlined by God in Deuteronomy and other passages as applying to America. II Chronicles 7:14 is often quoted. While I affirm that obedience brings blessing and disobedience brings judgment, we live in an upside-down world and sometimes God’s blessing doesn’t look like the blessings of Deuteronomy. We are following a crucified Savior, after all. The recent ruling by our Supreme Court which legalized same-sex marriage in the United States ought to help us understand that God and country are no longer one and the same.

THE TRADITIONAL CONCEPT OF “GOD AND COUNTRY” IS DEAD

We also need to understand that our American concepts of “God and Country” are incompatible with both the gospel and the current culture in America. American is becoming more like the Roman culture into which the church was born 2000 years ago. As Russell Moore of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has said, “On the wrong side of history? We started on the wrong side of history—a Roman Empire and a cross. Rome’s dead and Jesus is fine.” The church survived and thrived in 1st century Rome. The church will not be overcome now. The Church has divine promises of victory over the forces of evil (Matt. 16:18). America has no such promise. Even in this dark hour, God is sovereign and I believe that God is using this present evil to call Christians away from our American dream fantasy and calling us to great gospel faithfulness and Great Commission vision. God is darkening the canvas against which we are to shine. We’re marching away from Mt. Rushmore and marching toward Mt. Zion.

HISTORY HAS A PREDETERMINED GOAL – HIS NAME IS JESUS

In Revelation 19:6-16 two important events are depicted at the end of this age: the marriage of the lamb and the second coming of Jesus. History is moving toward this glorious goal when the last marriage will be between Jesus and his spotless bride, the Church. This passage also depicts Jesus as a conqueror. He rides upon a white horse, he judges and makes war, his appearance is fearsome, and he strikes down the nations with a sharp sword a rules them with a rod of iron. He is called King of kings and Lord of lords. When Jesus stood before the high priest to be condemned he told him, “But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64, ESV). Jesus was facing crucifixion, yet told those who condemned him that he would be revealed at his second coming with power. When Jesus comes again he will shatter the nations like clay pots (Psalm 2:7-9), all rule and authority will be put down (1 Cor. 15:24-25), and the kingdoms of this world will belong to him (Rev. 11:15). These are the same kingdoms that Satan offered Jesus during the temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:8-10). As American Christians, we need to remember that America is a kingdom of this world, currently under the dominion of Satan, destined to be judged and conquered by Christ. The Gospel is not a message of national recovery, but a declaration of divine takeover and a call to unconditional surrender. God is not interested in fixing nations. God is interested in establishing his kingdom and putting down all earthly rule and authority.

THE “RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY” IS THE OTHER SIDE OF A CROSS

For Christians, this world is not our home and neither is this country. We are citizens of the kingdom of heaven living in a foreign land. We should not sound like complaining citizens of an earthly kingdom, but as prophetic ambassadors of a heavenly kingdom. While it is true that Jesus is coming again to conquer the nations of this world, it is important to notice that his robe is stained with blood. In Revelation chapter five, Jesus is presented as both a conquering lion and a lamb that has been slaughtered. The path to glory leads to a cross. We cannot forget that we are following a crucified savior. Let us not be surprised if we walk the same road of suffering he walked. Jesus left nothing unclear when he said, ““If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Proceed With Conviction: Same-Sex Marriage in the USA

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b599a34c0d512e42e3f5277e172bbebcd745dd98This weekend, Americans will celebrate Independence Day. For many of us however, our celebration is darkened by the shadow of the Supreme Court ruling that redefined marriage for every American this past Friday. News like this tends to affect us in two ways: first we have an emotional response of anger, sadness, or shock. Secondly we have a sense of duty to do something; a feeling that we need to respond somehow. I think it is helpful for Christians first to zoom out and get an appropriate, wide-scope, biblical vision to give us perspective. Then in light of that we need to define specifically what our reaction should be and how we will proceed going forward.

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE IS A VIOLATION OF GOD’S DESIGN

We need to first acknowledge that legalization of same-sex marriage is a multi-layered, sinful decision. It is sinful because it accepts as good something God has declared to be sin. The Scripture is clear that homosexuality is sinful behavior (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-28; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). In addition to plain statements of prohibition, there are many other negative examples, such as the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 13:13; 19:1-38).

Not only does the legalization of same-sex marriage normalize sin, it elevates it to the sacred dimension of matrimony, thus polluting and diminishing the social concept of marriage. Marriage is a lifetime commitment between one man and one woman that is patterned after the relationship of Christ and his church (Eph. 5:22-33).

Same-sex marriage also destroys the biblical structure of family. Children should be raised by a masculine father and a feminine mother who model proper gender roles and adult behavior. Even the fertilization of an egg requires sexual complementarity. As Christians, we must acknowledge the sinful and dangerous nature of same-sex marriage.

HOW SHOULD WE PROCEED?

Affirm God’s sovereignty in heaven and earth. This decision did not catch God off guard. He may very well be using this situation to purify His church and to rekindle our devotion to Him.

Pray for our nation’s leaders, the church, and the lost. We should pray for those who lead our nation as they make decisions that set the course for the nation. We should pray that God would grant wisdom to the church in these difficult days as well as courage to continue the work of the Great Commission. Of course, we pray for those who do not know Christ that they will be turned from darkness to light.

Speak with prophetic voice concerning national sin. While we learn how to best engage the culture over these tough issues, let us always speak the truth of God concerning sin. The call of salvation is a call to repentance. We must speak truth in the midst of a sea of lies.

Model the gospel in our marriages and families. Too long we have preached against homosexuality without removing the log from our own eyes. Let us sanctify our homes and marriages to reflect the glory of God. We are living in a day when simply living in biblical, covenant marriage will be a radical testimony to the gospel. Let’s faithfully represent Christ and the Church.

Recommit ourselves to the Great Commission. The church’s mission is not political activism, but global evangelism. The gospel doesn’t work from top down, it works from bottom up. We are to be making disciples of Jesus Christ. This is how we bring about the reign of God on this side of the second coming.

Prepare to minister to refugees of the sexual revolution. There are going to be people hurt from the fallout of same-sex marriages and the church needs to be wise enough to prepare to receive them. There will be people connected to families in our churches who will obtain same-sex marriages. We need to be ready to confront with the gospel and minister faithfully.

Live in anticipation for God’s coming kingdom. We should not panic. Jesus is coming and this moment in time is just another tick on the clock that brings us closer to his appearing. Live as though God is completely in control and is bringing history to its appropriate end – because this is exactly what He is doing.

HELPFUL LINKS

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/06/26/why-the-church-should-neither-cave-nor-panic-about-the-decision-on-gay-marriage/

http://erlc.com/erlc/scotus

http://www.kybaptist.org/protecting-biblical-marriage/

http://cbmw.org/public-square/parenting-in-a-gay-marriage-world-what-should-christians-parents-do/

Starting the Spring 2015 Semester

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Hello friends! It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update. This has been due to the hectic nature of last semester and the many other time constraints that have taken precedence. I found out the hard way that I was too ambitious last semester and took too many hours! No worries, though. I did well in all my classes; I just didn’t have much of a life outside of seminary!

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Our journey has been exciting and eventful thus far. I’ve had some opportunities to do some pulpit supply work for some churches here in Kentucky and am planning to do more preaching work this year also. I had the privilege of meeting one of my heroes, Dr. John MacArthur, at the Expositor’s Summit in October.  It was my first time hearing him in person and I was absolutely thrilled to get to speak to him after one of his lectures. I have been privileged to hear many other well-known speakers as well such as Dr. D.A. Carson and Dr. Michael Youssef.

Katrina and I have enjoyed our break and time back in Tennessee at Christmas, but now it’s time to jump back in to another semester. Today was my first day of classes and I’m pretty excited about this semester. I’m taking fewer classes but the classes I’m taking are more advanced and related to my course of study. I’m taking Greek Exegesis of Matthew with Dr. Jonathan Pennington, Pastoral Ministry with Dr. Hershael York, and Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha with Dr. Jarvis Williams. I’ll be doing a LOT of reading this semester as well as translating passages from the Greek text of Matthew.

Continue praying for us that we will bear the burden of the coming semester wisely and well, that God will continue to open doors of ministry for us and that we will steward our time and opportunities in a way that is pleasing to Christ. Thank you for your continued prayers for us.

 

Books I Read in 2014

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SOME of my books for the Fall 2014 semester at seminary.

It’s been a good year of reading for me. I thoroughly enjoyed Tolkien’s books and am looking forward to starting the third book of the LotR trilogy in 2015. My seminary class load dictated that I put some of my pleasure reading on hold in order to read all the required texts for class, but many of them were quite enjoyable and I am glad that I read them. I managed to read Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, by Donald S. Whitney twice this year; once in the first printing and then I read the new, revised edition this fall. Here’s my list. Keep reading, friends.

    • The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien
    • The Daniel Plan, by Rick Warren
    • Transformational Church, by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer
    • Manhood Restored, by Eric Mason
    • Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, by Donald S. Whitney (read twice)
    • Found: God’s Will by John F. MacArthur
    • Five Points by John Piper
    • What is Biblical Theology? by James M. Hamilton, Jr.
    • I Am a Church Member, by Thom S. Rainer
    • David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell
    • A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller
    • Conviction to Lead, by Dr. Albert Mohler
    • Overcoming Walls to Witnessing by Timothy K. Beougher
    • Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer
    • Between Two Worlds by John Stott
    • What is the Gospel by Greg Gilbert
    • The Great Commission Resurgence by Chuck Lawless and Adam Greenway
    • Tactics by Gregory Koukl
    • The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
    • The Purity Principle by Randy Alcorn
    • A History of the Baptists by Roger Torbet
    • Baptist Confessions of Faith by William Lumpkin
    • Polity: Biblical Arguments on How to Conduct Church Life by Mark Dever
    • George Muller: Delighted in God by Roger Steer
    • A Foundation for the Future by Thomas Nettles
    • Democratic Religion: Freedom, Authority, and Church Discipline in the Baptist South, 1785-1900 by Gregory Wills
    • Differences in Judgment About Water Baptism No Bar to Communion, by John Bunyan
    • A Sober Discourse Of Right to Church Communion, by William Kiffin
    • Preaching with Bold Assurance by Hershael York and Bert Decker
    • Christ Centered Preaching by Bryan Chapell
    • A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
    • The Bible, English Standard Version 
    • The Two Towers, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Start of the Semester at Southern Seminary

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August 19, 2014photo 1

Greetings friends!

Well, life is in full swing for us now. The semester has officially started and I am recovering from syllabus shock. Katrina is training on her new job also, so we are both getting acclimated to where God has placed us.

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Friday was New Student Orientation at Southern seminary. Katrina and I had a great time there. We got to meet some new folks, enjoy a good time of worship, and get exposed to all that the campus has to offer. We got to hear a great panel with Dr. Greg Wills, Dr. Hershael York, Dr. Tom Schreiner, Dr. Don Whitney, and Dr. Greg Allison. We are both very excited about the various opportunities in the upcoming semester for Katrina and myself.

Sunday, we attended Hurstbourne Baptist Church here in Louisville where Cameron Debity is the new lead pastor. Sunday was actually his first day preaching as the pastor. We were very happy to be able to share this special Sunday with him. Cameron is one of our own, as he hails from Tellico Plains, TN. We volunteers have to stick together up here!

Katrina is happy with her new position at the Kentucky Baptist Foundation. She is really enjoying being able to serve in the denomination and therefore be doing ministry as her job. I have several prospects lined up for work and ministry and we shall see which doors the Lord opens.

photo 2Today was my first day of classes and I think this will be a great semester. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I have Christian Preaching with Dr. Hershael York, Personal Spiritual Disciplines with Dr. Don Whitney, and Greek Syntax and Exegesis with Dr. Rob Plummer. Wednesdays I have Personal Evangelism with Dr. Bill Henard and Baptist History with Dr. Shaun Wright. I am also looking at attending a conference for seminary credit in October on George Whitefield and the Great Awakening. Judging by all my syllabi, I will be doing a LOT of reading this semester.

Dr. Mohler spoke at convocation in chapel today. It was a pleasure to hear him speak to the incoming student body at Southern Seminary. His sermon was “Do You Understand What You Are Reading? – The Christian Faith and the Call to Teach” from Acts 8:26-40.photo 3

I am particularly excited about the Expositor’s Summit which is also in October. Dr. John MacArthur will be speaking here on campus. This is very exciting for me as I have followed Dr. MacArthur’s ministry for a long time now and I’ve never heard him in person.

I’d better turn in for the night. Classes begin at 8:00 in the morning. Katrina and I would love to hear from you. If you would like to be added to my email list, send me an email request at ray.umphrey@gmail.com.

I want to thank all of you for your prayers and support. Continue to pray for us that we will be used by God and that He will open doors for us to serve Him in Louisville.

Sincerely,

Ray Umphrey

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Here’s Boycat. He’s pretty lazy.

 

Louisville Life – August 12, 2014

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Greetings friends! DPP_0159

It’s been a few weeks since Katrina and I loaded up the truck and moved to Louisville, so I thought I’d update you on what’s going on with us. After preaching my last service at Reed Springs on July 13th, Katrina and I headed down to Gulf Shores, Alabama for a week of rest and refreshing. After our break, we came back to TN, loaded up a U-Haul, and made the trek to Louisville KY, July 24th.

10527581_492637907535226_1157492527933850605_nThere hasn’t been much to report the first couple of weeks besides unpacking, settling in, and learning the area. We’ve learned that living in a big city has some advantages, such as being minutes from everything. We really like our apartment and all of the neighbors have been very nice.  With God’s grace, we will adapt and survive in Louisville.

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We actually came back to Tennessee this past weekend for Jesse’s (Katrina’s brother) wedding. We are excited to welcome Mrs. Lindsey (Reed) Roberts to the family! We had a great time, but hate that we couldn’t stay and visit with more of our friends and family while we were down. We will be back soon and hopefully can spend more time visiting.

As most of yo10505353_325280150964326_8805999009658381810_nu already know, Katrina and I moved up here on faith believing that God had called us to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. We moved with some savings from the recent sale of our house in TN, but without any prospects for employment or income. I am thankful to be able to say that Katrina has accepted a job with the Kentucky Baptist Foundation this week and will be starting with them Monday morning. She is very excited. This job is really perfect for her situation right now. It is our desire for Katrina to be able to take classes part-time in the near future in order to finish her Bachelor’s degree.

I am also in the process of seeking a source of income that will complement my class schedule. I will be starting classes Monday morning at the seminary as a full-time student. We know that God will provide us the means to do whatever He desires for our lives. We are confidently waiting on God’s timing and provision. It is a blessing to watch Him open doors and provide for our needs in truly supernatural ways.

We would love to hear from you. I will be sending out regular updates via email and by posting on my website. If you would like to be added to my email list, send me an email request to be added.

I want to thank all of you for your prayers and support during this transition. Continue to pray for us that we will be used by God and that He will open doors for us to serve Him in Louisville.

Sincerely,

Ray Umphrey

My Farewell Sermon at Reed Springs

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My last sermon as pastor at Reed Springs Baptist Church, “Preparing for Spiritual Transition” from Joshua 3:1-7 – July 13, 2014.

1. Stay focused on the mission (vs. 1)

  • Be forward-moving and kingdom-focused
  • Philippians 3:12-15

2. Submit to God’s commands (vs. 2-3)

  • Success depends on obedience (Joshua 1:6-8)

3. Steadfastly rely on God’s direction ( vs. 4)

4. Sanctify yourself in expectation (vs. 5-6)

Sermon Video – “Perseverance in Ministry” 2 Timothy 2:3-13

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Video of my sermon “Perseverance in Ministry” from 2 Timothy 2:3-13 at Reed Springs Baptist Church, July 7, 2014.

1. Three models for ministry (vs. 3-7)

• The soldier’s purpose
• The athlete’s principle
• The farmer’s productivity

1. The motivation for ministry (vs. 8-10)

• Romans 10:14

2. A trustworthy motto for ministry (vs. 11-13)

• If we have died with Christ, we will live with Him
• If we endure, we will also reign with Him
• If we deny him, he will also deny us
• If we are faithless, he remains faithful

Sermon Video – “Totally Secure” Romans 8:31-39

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Video of my sermon “Totally Secure” from Romans 8:31-39 at Reed Springs Baptist Church, June 29, 2014.

1. If God is for us, who can be against us? (vs. 31-32)

• 2 Peter 1:3-4

1. If God justifies us, who can condemn us? (vs. 33-34)

• Romans 5:1; Rev. 12:10; Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1-2

2. If God loves us, who can separate us? (vs. 35-39)

• THINGS THAT CAN’T SEPARATE YOU FROM GOD’S LOVE
o Tribulation
o Distress
o Persecution
o Famine
o Nakedness
o Danger
o Sword
o Death or life
o Angels or rulers
o The present or the future
o Powers
o Height or depth
o Anything else in all creation

Sermon Video – “No Plan B” Romans 8:26-30

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Video of my sermon “No Plan B” from Romans 8:26-30 at Reed Springs Baptist Church, June 22, 2014.

1. The Holy Spirit is perfectly praying for God’s purpose (vs. 26-27)

• Romans 8:22-23; 1 Corinthians 2:11; Jude 20

1. God will precisely position us for His purpose (vs. 28)

• Philippians 4:11-12; 2 Timothy 1:9

2. God has powerfully predestined us for His purpose (vs. 7-9)

• Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 2:10
• Five “past-tense” verbs:

o foreknew
o predestined
o called
o justified
o glorified