To the Glory of God

Our Scripture for next worship is Hebrews 13

The writer calls this a brief word of exhortation. 

 It took us four months. Four. Months.

I still feel like we barely skimmed the surface.

If this was him writing briefly, imagine how much more exhortation the writer thought his audience needed. Each time I came to this word, I was exhorted. Exhortation is more than teaching or encouragement. A sermon is an exhortation. A sermon urges us to take proper action and adopt proper attitudes. I am grateful that the Bible includes this book for a lesson on how to exhort, how to preach, how to explain or teach the Scripture while building in applications to how we should think, feel, and act.


“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
-Hebrews 13:20-21

This book is a lesson for how to read, teach, and preach the Bible. The writer in includes multiple exhortations to remember, obey, submit to and pray for our leaders. This is especially poignant as we are praying for leadership decisions as a church. As he began the letter with a proclamation of the supreme authority and glory of the Lord Jesus, he closes his letter with a plea for us to honor Christ and a prayer for Christ to be glorified in us. Since I was a child in this church.

I have always been impressed by this monument stone placed in the corner of our church’s worship hall. This is why we exist. To borrow from the catechism of our Presbyterian brothers and sisters, we are here to glorify God and enjoy him forever. That is the end to which this letter to the Hebrews was building and the end to which all of history is being driven. We live to glorify a God who created us and then became one of us. Jesus suffered, died, was buried, and rose again to make us fit to glorify and enjoy him forever. 



Let Your Kingdom Come.

Our Scripture reading for the sermon this Sunday will be from Hebrews 12:18-29.

The Hebrew word for earth is Adamah. This is remarkably and purposefully similar to the name given to the man, Adam, whom God created and placed in the garden. When we try to build anything, we try to tie it to the earth as firmly as possible. The earth is the firmest thing we encounter, and yet when God came down to the earth to give the law to Moses, it nearly tore the mountain apart. As Christ was hanging upon the cross, in his final moments, the earth again cried out in protest. When he returns again, everything that can be shaken will be undone and redone into an unshakable reality.

Our present bodies are a part of the planet as we are made from the dust of the earth in a real physical sense. We are made of the same stuff as this created reality, and still we know that there is something wrong with the creation. Romans 8 explains that the creation is groaning and waits for the revealing the new, redeemed order that Christ will bring at his return. Our bodies, our little pieces of this earth, also remind us that there needs to be more to come. Sin has corrupted the cosmos and death and decay can be prolonged by not escaped.

And so Jesus teaches us to pray, “Let your kingdom come and let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Even the created heavens will be shaken at the return of Christ to bring the final fullness of his kingdom. In chapter 11 of Hebrews, we learned that the saints of old had a hope of this final city. John tells us more about the new, heavenly Jerusalem which will, on the last day, be united with this reality.

Jesus, when he came preaching the kingdom, loosed people from the power of sin and death to show us a glimpse of what that new reality will be like. When we pray for healing from sickness or for protection from earthly danger, we do so with an eye on the final deliverance when death is swallowed up in victory. Until that time, we keep praying and hoping, as Paul writes in Romans, “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

Calling Leaders in Faith

Much of the history of Campton has been lost. Our local courthouse, which housed many records, has burned… twice.

Much of our history has also been recovered and preserved through the work of many local volunteers and by the mercy of God. 

Our church was sent an important part of our history in 2009. We received a package from Connie Hoskins of Beaver Dam, KY which contained what appears to be the original church record book of Swift Camp Church, which was founded even before the town that would one day be called Campton, Kentucky. 

In the book, which was according the records therein, purchased by the church for $1.60, we find the original articles of confession of the church that would eventually become Campton Baptist Church. The leaders of that first church who signed the confession of faith are identified as the Elders William Boothe and John D. Spencer. Other founding leaders identified include C.M. Hanks and Elkanah Garrett, both serving as clerk.

Scriptures on Church Leadership Qualifications

1 Timothy 3:1-13

Titus 1:5-11

Today, we want to pray for the needs of our church and our community. These founding members of our church thought to organize and establish a church, even as they were just forming a town. This shows that they could not imagine a community in which there was not a church to proclaim the good news of Jesus and make disciples in his name. 

As we prepare for our worship together on Sunday, I encourage us to reflect on these scriptures that emphasize the characteristics of leaders in the church. Remember that we are seeking the help of a church member to lead us by example in these qualities that are all commended and many commanded to be the fruit of the Spirit in all men and women who would follow the Lord Jesus. 


Our First Confessions of Faith

The following are a lightly edited (for clarity) transcription of the original first 7 articles of faith for the Swifts Camp Church, from July 8th, 1848. These confirm the tradition of faith once and for all delivered unto the saints,  that we have received by grace and in which we hope to continue.


Of Scripture

On the Scriptures of the Old & New Testaments, believing them to be the infallible word of God & the only rule of faith & practice.


Of God

We believe in one true & living God, Father, Son, & Holy Ghost, but one God.


Of Human Sin

We believe in the fall of man in their federal head & that it has corrupted the whole of Adams posterity & the total inability of recovering himself, Either in part or in whole.


Of Salvation

We believe in the doctrine & Election according to the foreknowledge of God & we believe that only in the imputed Righteousness of Jesus Christ there is salvation.


Of Perseverance

We believe that the saints will finally persevere in grace to glory & not one of them will be finally lost.


Of the Resurrection

We believe that there will be a Resurrection of the dead, both of the just & unjust and that the happiness of the Righteous & the punishment of the wicked will be eternal.


Of the Church

We believe the Church of Jesus Christ to be a body of members that has witnessed their sins pardoned & have give(n) themselves to the Lord & to one another by professing their Christ & being Baptized by immersion by a Regular ordained Baptist Preacher, ordained by the laying on of the hand & a Prayer of two or more ordained Baptist preachers Chosen by the Baptist Church.

Hebrews 11:20-39

(James 2:14-26; Matthew 5:17-20, Romans 9)

Our nation is in distress. When I began praying over the text for the sermon this week, I was too. I have been pulled over by police five times in my life. Only one of those times was I certain I was doing something seriously wrong. It was only that time that I was truly fearful. I won’t go into detail, but 19-year-old males often drive and act foolishly . Hopefully, they live to tell about it.

When I see a uniformed police officer in a public place or a patrol car on the highway, I feel immediately more secure. I have almost no cultural frame of reference for people who feel afraid or threatened by police presence, but I recognize that people aren’t lying when they say they worry about being unjustly targeted because of their ethnicity or appearance. We can debate on the reasons for this sense of injustice, but we should not dismiss the voices of those who speak from another cultural perspective. This isn’t some notion of privilege, intersectionality, or Marxist critical race theory. This is just listening to people made in the image of God.

I don’t think politics should be the main goal of any prayer or sermon in a church, but sometimes it is unavoidable. This is one of those times. This scripture in Hebrews and our present context makes it necessary. 

I don’t think politics should be the main goal of any prayer or sermon in a church, but sometimes it is unavoidable. This is one of those times.

photo credit: BoldGrid Commons

“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”  -Matthew 5:20

“So also, faith, by itself, if it does not have works, is dead… For as the body apart from the Spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”                               -James 3:17, 26

The writer of Hebrews makes clear in chapter 11 that it takes more than courage to meet unrighteousness with righteousness. It takes faith. It takes a strength of resolve that goes above mere human ability. Humanity saw that with Dr. King, the freedom riders, and other leaders of the American civil rights movement. Humanity saw that with William Wilberforce, John Newton, and Fredrick Douglass with the work to abolish slavery. It will take faith to overcome the national sins of “These Yet to be United States.” 

We are not made righteous by our actions. That is half the message of Hebrews 11. Even people who think they are acting for justice can act very unjustly. Even the actions that may work for goodness in the world do no profit the unbeliever who is ultimately condemned for rejecting the Son of God. It is faith alone in Christ’s atoning life, death, and resurrection that makes us righteous before God because he is righteous as God.

But the second half of the message of Hebrews chapter 11 is that we are not made righteous apart from our actions also being made righteous. Christ does not save us to let us remain in sin or ignore the problems of unrighteousness in our world. That includes, first, doing less unrighteousness personally, and then working to make righteousness the law and practice of our communities. In a democratic society, we have the privilege and responsibility to call for laws that promote righteousness and oppose unrighteousness.

We see that in the story of Moses and the Exodus, there was the enslavement and oppression of people based on race and the selective killing of infants in the name of population control. If we cannot draw a straight line from there to our present context, then we are blind or blindfolded. Right now the two greatest sins in our nation are racism (racial or ethnic prejudice or hostility) and abortion (ending the life of a human being before birth). No one really disputes that these two things happen, but we do seem divided as a nation on whether they are problems that need to be solved by laws. Some dispute whether either or both of them are problems at all. Thankfully, not too many people are still openly championing racism, but too many deny that there remains a systemic problem of racial prejudice. 

Both sins deny the fundamental truth that all humans, regardless of sex, age, and level of independence are equally created in the image of God and have should therefore have equal dignity and protection. We see the sins of infanticide and racial prejudice as evils to be judged as such in the history of Moses and the Exodus. We see the judgment of God against such unrighteousness will be severe and wide-reaching. He doesn’t just judge leaders of nations, but he will judge entire nations for the evil of denying the dignity of his image-bearers. He places foolish, prideful, corrupt, and wicked leaders over nations as a judgment against them. Our churches cannot be silent on these issues, because as God’s people here in this nation, we suffer or succeed along with our neighbors. If we do not have faithful works that testify to the righteousness of Christ, then we probably don’t have saving faith that he really is God the Son. It will take a mighty faith and people of faith to stand against the evils that plague our nation. If we leave it to unbelievers alone to speak for the changes that need to happen, then we sentence our nation and ourselves to judgement.

Pray for our nation and our leaders. Pray for our churches in our nation. Pray for people to repent and believe the gospel. Pray for peace and justice. Pray for righteousness that comes only by faith in Christ.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible , whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning , the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. ( Colossians 1:15-20 ESV)

And You Were Dead

The opening phrase for chapter 2 of Ephesians frames Paul’s theology for justification by grace alone through faith alone. That phrase describes something that should be impossible and remains impossible apart from a supernatural intervention. It holds in itself a contradiction of the natural order of creation we can observe. Sane people don’t normally write letters to people who “were” dead.

But that is exactly the state in which we are when the Holy Spirit comes to us. Paul leaves no room for doubt when he describes the work of salvation in verse 8-10. It is no work of our own goodness or will that makes us suitable for salvation. Only the gracious act of God can reveal to us the reality of who Jesus is by the work of the Holy Spirit.

This helps us to understand faith as a word and as and idea. James helps us to understand how real faith is evidenced by works, but it is not produced by works. The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that righteousness comes only by faith, and it is always God who is the primary actor in giving faith and making righteous.

Scripture Readings

Ephesians 2:1-10 James 2:14-26 Hebrews 11:1-19 Colossians 1:15-20


Ask God to work to open the eyes of the lost people to faith in Christ and that he would open our mouths to tell them of his goodness and how they can be saved. They are dead. And we were dead. Only Jesus can make us alive together in him.