Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Concordance - Study Tools

I was going to add concordances to the list, but I’m not sure that is even necessary anymore. I have a Strong’s concordance on my phone. And I can find what I was looking for through computer software before I could get out of my chair and get the Strong’s off the shelf. This tool was, even when I started preaching, an indispensable tool for Bible study. I still, every once in a while, will take the book and a pen and paper and do study away from all technology. Brother Strong certainly served his generation well. It is especially important for a man to read the preface to the concordance. Isn't it amazing how much weight and confidence we have in this one book, and yet not take the time to read the introduction of the author and his purpose for the book and how he intended it to be read and used?

I remember buying my Strong’s Concordance in Ashland, Kentucky in 1998. A new bookstore just opened on Winchester Street and I wanted to check it out. Like most Christian “book” stores, the shops in the area were about 4% books and 96% trinkets and of the poor books on sale, most of them were not worth the paper they were printed on. When I entered the shop, most of the books were still in boxes and few had even been arranged on the shelves. But the books that were out and ready for purchase, providentially, were the good ones.  I was about to make my first Bible book purchase. Until this point, the only other book I had about the Bible was one that I got at the Calvary Baptist church bookstore. It was Sermons on Catholicism by John R. Gilpin. I remember asking for that book a few times before Mom finally bought it for me. I really don’t know why a 10 year old boy was so interested in that book, but I was and bought it and read what I could, but didn’t really understand a lot of it. Eight years later, I’m about to lay down my own money on some study tools. I saw a box of Matthew Henry’s on sale and grabbed those. Close by, maybe on the same shelf, I spied the Strong’s Concordance. I knew this book was important because I remember my Dad, laying in the living room floor with his Bible,  his brown covered Strong’s and a notebook many an evening. There were several editions. Strong’s, the New Strong’s, and the Strongest Strong’s. I didn’t know the difference and figured I should stick with the original, which remains my policy to this day, unless there is a good reason to get the updated or edited version of an author who is dead and gone. I still don’t know what the difference is and don’t care enough to find out.

Friday, May 18, 2018


"The beasts of the field, and the birds of the air are said top be carefully watched over by him. It is even he that clothes the flowers with their beauty by encircling them with his own shining garment of light. But men are his special care. He provides the food of their bodies, and in a peculiar way watches and rules over their souls and lives. This he does with respect to the wicked as well as the hood. His care extends to individuals, to families, to nations, and throughout the world. It appears not in great events only, but in those exceeding small, even to the numbering of the hairs of each one's head. So minute is the supervision asserted, that some have even thought that the language of Scripture partakes of hyperbole. But the investigations of the microscope have shown that even to the insects the most minute and invisible to the human eye has God given most beauteous forms and perfect outward coverings. His creative care has therefore descended to the things most minute. Thus has the way been opened to the belief that the Scriptures even cannot tell us how minute is the providential care which God is now exercising over his whole creation."

Abstract of Systematic Theology – James P. Boyce

Monday, May 14, 2018

That's Not Funny - Ecclesiastes 2:1

"…Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity. I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it?" Ecclesiastes 2:1.

Solomon also wrote, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine… (Proverbs 17:22).” He wasn't a killjoy and laughter is not evil, it's a God given grace for our good and happiness and  praise God for it! Solomon gave himself over to mirth and pleasure because he thought that laughter was enough to satisfy his soul. He would anchor his soul and devote himself to mirth as the reason for living. He found it was ultimately vanity to live for laughter. I’ve read biographies of comedians and was surprised how angry, bitter, and unfulfilled they were. These men dedicated their life to making others laugh, saw the world as meaningless, just like Solomon said.

A good humorist sees the world as it is and points out little absurdities in life, or to think of inconsistencies in life or language. I considered writing a book on comedians, but it was too difficult, so I tried writing on paper instead. It’s funny to imagine someone using another person as a canvas instead of paper. The joke plays on the imprecision of language and thinking about someone doing something wrong. In the famous I Love Lucy episode, where Lucy and Ethel  take jobs at a chocolate factory (Google it kids), we laugh when the boss threatens to fire them if one piece of chocolate gets past them without the wrapping. Chocolates speed down the conveyor belt too fast for them to keep up. They try everything they can think of to not let the chocolates pass. It’s not funny to get fired or be in over your head. We have all been in some situation where life is coming at us so fast it’s all we can do to keep up. Lucy took a universal experience of stress and anxiety and then acts it out in a ridiculous, over the top scenario. It’s cathartic and funny to watch someone else in such a silly situation trying to crawl their way out. We laugh because of the absurdity of something being broken, but also because we can relate. Life's hard. Why did Solomon say it was vanity?

Mark Twain was a brilliant humorist, but an angry and bitter man. He said, “Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.” Twain gave his life to wit and humor, devoting himself to mocking what is good. He lived as a scorner and mocker with no hope. God’s people are joyful in Christ, and can see the humor in life and rejoice in God's goodness, laugh at life's absurdities, and in humility remember we are all but dust. We can laugh because we know that our Lord will eventually set all things right. Without Christ, the broken things just aren't funny anymore.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Mother's Day and Graduation

 I hated school with every fiber of my being, but of all the days I had to go, the last day was my favorite. The elementary school always had a party and there was never any work, and most kids left after lunch. But best of all,  my Mom would pick me up early and I wouldn’t have to ride the bus, which I hated almost as much as school. Mom and I would walk together down the long hallway of Sunshine Elementary towards to exit and my freedom. I would have all the junk I accumulated through the year stuffed in my backpack, making me look like an over prepared Sherpa marching toward home.

Mom would race to the exit, turn around and tell me that I didn’t graduate to the next grade officially until I made it outside, and she wasn’t going to let me go. I tried to get past and she would bear hug me and wouldn’t let me open the door. Struggling for freedom, I finally made my way out the door, victorious over her plans to keep me in school and from moving on to the next grade. I made it.  We climbed in the car and she looked at me, smiled and said she couldn’t believe I was getting so old and I was growing up too fast. I didn’t understand how she could be proud, happy, and sad all at the same time about a kid getting out of the 2nd grade.

This past December, I stood over Mom’s  casket and I wanted to tell her I was sorry and that I loved her. I wished that we could have talked  about those happy days and made some more memories. I didn’t want her to move on and graduate, even though it's better for her to be with Jesus (Philippians 1:21-23). But I couldn’t stop her from moving on any more than she could stop me from growing up (Job 14:5).

I have sadness about Mother’s Day this year. But I’m going to honor my mother by loving my family and being thankful for the time I had with Mom. I’m going to remember the gospel and go to the healing cross for forgiveness of all times I broke the 5th commandment. I’m going to remember my Saviour and thank him for giving me the assurance of eternal life through his blood, and the hope of a glad day and happy reunion, where all tears will be wiped away, and all sorrow will be passed. My sadness makes me think of the land of endless days, with no more goodbyes, who will (and does) turn my sorrow to joy. I don’t mourn like those who have no hope. So, if your mother is still alive, pick up the phone. Go visit her and hug her neck. I'm going into Mother's Day proud, happy, and sad – all at the same time — reminiscing about a mom who loved her oldest son.  

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

To My Mother - by Wendell Berry

I was your rebellious son,
do you remember? Sometimes
I wonder if you do remember,
so complete has your forgiveness been.

So complete has your forgiveness been
I wonder sometimes if it did not
precede my wrong, and I erred,
safe found, within your love,

prepared ahead of me, the way home,
or my bed at night, so that almost
I should forgive you, who perhaps
foresaw the worst that I might do,

and forgave before I could act,
causing me to smile now, looking back,
to see how paltry was my worst,
compared to your forgiveness of it

already given. And this, then,
is the vision of that Heaven of which
we have heard, where those who love
each other have forgiven each other,

where, for that, the leaves are green,
the light a music in the air,
and all is unentangled,
and all is undismayed.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Ecclesiastes 1:16-18

16 I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge. 17 And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. 18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

Solomon sits in his palace and thinks. He looks at the beautiful home the Lord gave him. He walks to the window and looks out over Jerusalem and mulls over the material blessings God provided. He has more than all those that came before him. Solomon experienced unprecedented wisdom and knowledge. He gave himself over to get and know wisdom, but also to know madness and folly. He wanted to know, to learn, to experience. From wisdom to foolish philosophy and madness. Solomon drank from all the founts of philosophy and “wisdom”. His learning vexed his spirit. Giving his heart to madness and folly, I believe, means he seriously investigated and tried various philosophies and ideas. 

Solomon would have been well beloved today, looking for the good in all religion and cultures. Of course, he would have soon been banned from all college campuses when he revealed this is utter rubbish and leads to despair and grief. Free speech! Market place of ideas! Unless of course you say something that doesn't toe the party line. It is thought that giving yourself over to new ideas and being open to every thought is noble, but how can madness and folly lead you to peace and thriving? Can 2+2=5 lead you to greater enlightenment and excellent bookkeeping? Will turning a screw counterclockwise lead you to tighter joints? Would feeding your chickens candy corn lead you to healthier eggs? Why imagine giving your mind to falsehood would lead you to spiritual peace and contentment?

Solomon tried the halls of learning to find soul satisfaction and instead of giving him peace it only increased his grief and sorrow. He gave his heart to know wisdom and madness. He searched out all the avenues of wisdom and wisdom falsely-so-called, and found it a vexation of spirit. Why? Knowledge and understanding without Christ, is a burden. Knowing true things and seeing true problems in a cursed world, but not having any ability to implement solutions for lasting change is a heartbreaking state of the soul. Note the political pundits and thinkers who, rightly can see many of the problems (fiscal and social) of our nation, and yet cannot see any solution (Christ Jesus the Lord). The more knowledge, the more sorrow. Some of the most depressing and toxic writers and thinkers I read are godless conservative political pundits. What good is there to see the social problems, but only have powerless solutions?

Learning will not bring in happiness, peace, and prosperity. I certainly am not anti-education. I take education very seriously and hold it in high regard. I also hold it in its proper place. It is a tool for our use, not a god for our comfort. God gave us minds and we need to use them and cultivate them. God gave us language, and words, and Grammar (Jesus use of grammar to prove the resurrection in Mark 12:25–27).and we need to learn to use them for good. God gave us mathematics, and science, and history and we ought to take the talents God gives us and grow, learn, and discover for the glory of God and the love of our neighbor. But education is not the key to bring peace, joy, and happiness.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Goes for Facebook too

"A pastor has no right to turn the pulpit into a coward's castle, and from there attack those in the congregation, whom he is afraid to meet face to face privately.

It is cruelly unfair to attack an individual who cannot defend himself—to hold him up, as if on the horns of the pulpit, before the congregation, (who generally know pretty well who is meant), and to condemn him without hearing his side, with the pastor being the only judge and jury."

JC Philpot

Friday, May 4, 2018

My Bible - Study Tools

I suppose I should have started with the Bible in my recommended books, but I assume you already have and regularly read a Bible. Concerning the printing and making of study Bibles," there is no end" and they continue on day and night forever. I'm no fan of the specialty Bibles. The hunter’s study Bible. The NASCAR study Bible. The Gaither Homecoming Study Bible. The Duck Commander Study Bible. The Teen Bible, but not to be out done by the Extreme Teen Bible. If you are reading God's Word, praise the Lord. I wouldn't want to discourage that, but you have to remember that Bible publishing is a business -- supply and demand. I hate to say it and to think about it, but it’s a fact. Publishers find out what the people want and give it to them, at affordable prices. Bible publishers have marketers who want you to buy their product. My advice is to stay away from these affinity Bibles altogether. Nothing wrong with having a hobby, but a Bible designed around your hobby, age, gender, or preferences and put you at the center of the Bible's message. My purpose is not a translation discussion, but my recommendation is the Kings James Bible.

I can only tell you about the Bible's I have used, so I'll tell you the story of how I came to use the Bible I have now. When I announced my call to preach, the Beauty Ridge Missionary Baptist Church bought me a Nelson’s Open Bible. I loved the study tools, especially the subject index, which was such a useful tool for someone who was, as Spurgeon said, a man of "slender apparatus". The only thing I didn’t like about it were the illustrations. I found them distracting and pointless. When my pages were starting to fall out and the bonded leather was coming unglued and I needed to upgrade, I decided to find a Bible without the illustrations in the middle of the text.

I bought a Scofield Study Bible. Why? Because a preacher I admired preached from one, and if it was good enough for him, it was good enough for me. I didn’t find the notes particularly helpful, especially on creation and the Sermon on the Mount, but I loved the type set and the paper. I bought the wide margin version and as I taught Sunday School, I wrote all my notes and outlines in the margins. I had gone through a couple books, Job, Acts, and Galatians and had filled the margins with notes, references, definitions. I loved it. I would make my own study Bible. One Sunday, I preached for a church without a pastor. They told me they had a morning service, ate, then had an afternoon service. I went and preached, we ate, and then I waited for the next service to start. One of the men asked me if I could leave so they could start their business meeting. They had a service, but with no preaching, so while I waited for the service to start, they were waiting for me to leave. I was a little aggravated because at the time, my oldest was about 3 years old and we had an infant, and they were a handful after lunch, especially after sitting in church all morning, followed by a fellowship meal. I could have left 45 minutes sooner, if they had told me. We had a few hours to drive to get back and I just wanted to get back. The boys were screaming and crying, not wanting to get in the car seat, I set my Bible on top of the car while I buckled them in the car. I was supposed to preach that evening at my home church. We arrived safe and sound, about 30 minutes before the evening service. Getting everyone out of car seats and ready to go in the building, I can't’ find my Bible. I remembered setting the Bible on top of the car, but not putting it back in the car. I got a sick feeling in my stomach. After emptying the vehicle of its contents and no Bible was discovered, it confirmed my fear – I left it on top of the car and drove off. That was the last I ever saw of that Bible.

My mom bought me a replacement, another Scofield. It wasn’t a wide-margin, those were now out of print, but honestly, the thought of putting my notes in another Bible broke the Newell heart, to be sure. This Bible was also bonded leather. I sent it off to Mississippi to be rebound and had blank pages inserted in between each page. It is heavy and think, but still very nice. My problem? I couldn’t see it from the pulpit. I wasn’t sure why, since it had the same size font. I had my eyes checked out, and received a good report. During this time, I started working for Oxford University Press, who published the Scofield Bible. I discovered the wide-margin I lost was made with India paper, which is thicker and has less ghosting because of the superior quality. The wide margin I lost was one of the last runs of this higher quality Oxford Bible. The newer Scofield Bibles are manufactured in Korea with a much thinner, cheaper paper, which explains why when you underline, you can see the ink on the other side. Cheaper Bibles, cheaper quality paper. At first, I thought it was the print size, so I got a large print when I worked for OUP, and I had the same problem. I learned a lot about the Bible business, publishing, and the nuts and bolts of mass producing Bibles while I worked with the Bible department.

Having learned more about paper quality, bindings, and fount from OUP, I  tried the Cambridge Wide-Margin with the higher quality, thicker paper and bolder font. My wife bought me the Cambridge as a gift right before I went and preached a revival meeting. One of the first times I preached from the Bible,  I said, “Turn to Revelation 21” and I tried to do the same, but my Bible ended with Revelation 19, which I felt was a little disappointing and set the tone for the experience I had with it.  Their customer service was a delight. The quickly replaced the Bible, but the replacemnt had ink smeared on several pages. So they upgraded me to goatskin leather version, which was great. Quite a big jump from bonded leather, or even genuine leather. The ink was faded in some places on this Bible. I could read it, but it looked like a printed page when your printer is running out of ink. I gave up and kept the Bible.

I still had a hard time reading from the pulpit, and now just reading. Plus, the Bible is large, and most pulpits were not designed for Bibles and notes. That’s when I found the R.L. Allan & Son Publishers, King James Bible. They sale high quality Bibles. Up front, they are rather expensive but they are very nice and I think they are worth the money. Mine is printed on India paper and bound in highland goatskin leather, which is very soft and makes for easy turning and comfortable reading. The font is 8/9, but the paper is high quality and thick so there is very little bleed through. They also use bold font, which I have discovered is the second component to easy reading in a Bible. It is better to have thicker paper and bolder font than to have bigger font on thinner paper. I love it and highly recommend getting one, especially if you are having eye problems. That’s what I have now, and wouldn't think about using any other now. I like everything about it.

Get a good Bible and read it. Buy one, read that one Bible and get familiar with that Bible.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Covenant, Promise, and Inheritance

There are three vital terms needed to understand Galatians 3:15-18 – covenant, promise, and inheritance. Paul makes the case for justification by faith alone, not by works. God says he saves by grace, through faith. This has always been the case. There were some false teachers (and some today) who say that you have to keep the law to go to Heaven. Some false teachers say baptism is necessary for salvation or go to Heaven you must  join their church. Paul proves in the book of Galatians that you are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in the finished work of Christ alone.  In this section, Paul appeals to God's promise to Abraham and that since Abraham was saved by faith, so will his descendants.

If you make a contract with someone and both parties agree and sign on the dotted line, then legally, the contract won't be annulled. God, in Christ, made an eternal covenant. God the Father chose a particular people among the fallen human race to show his great mercy and love by saving them and giving them eternal life. God the Son, the Lamb of God, would come and die for those people, redeem them through His blood, be their substitute and sin sacrifice. God's people would stand before God holy and just having Christ's righteousness. This covenant, or compact of the Godhead was not conditional. God pronounced this covenant to Abraham in a promise. The promise was the revelation, or the unveiling of the covenant God had made to Abraham and his seed, which was Christ. And through Christ, all the nations of the Earth would be blessed. The revealing of the covenant in this promise, assured Abraham's spiritual children an inheritance. An inheritance is to receive something by legal descent. We receive justification, salvation, redemption, and eternal life through this covenant.

Centuries later (430 years as Paul tells us) after this promise given to Abraham was repeated to Jacob (Genesis 28:15), God made the covenant with Moses. In Paul's day, there were a great many people saying the law given to Moses was the only way to get to Heaven. You had to keep the law. You had to follow the Levitical patterns and precepts. You had to shun certain foods and wear certain clothes in order to be saved and have your sins forgiven. But Paul reminds us of the covenant. God made a covenant, a contract and agreement that cannot be disannulled. God, who does not lie and does not change (Hebrews 6:16-17) promised Abraham the inheritance. There is nothing that can change God's eternal covenant, revealed in the promise to Abraham, assuring God's people of receiving the inheritance, through Christ, by faith. Abraham was not saved by works, but by faith, and so are his people. If the inheritance is given by the law, then it is not in the same line of the promise, and not based upon the covenant, and not grounded in the work of Christ. It does not legally hold water and you have no hope.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Only God is "Present"

The big new trend is psychology and mysticism is mindfulness and being present. Living in the right now, not thinking about the past or the future. I recently read a Christian author commend such a practice. I find it to be hogwash. We are creatures of time and are not capable of being "present" because we live in time with a past and a future. Granted, I understand what many mean by this. Don't be at home with the kids bodily, but at the office in spirit. Or pastor, don't be replaying business meetings in your mind while eating dinner with the family. What I'm addressing is the meditative practice of mindfulness, which has roots in mysticism. Indeed, the prayers of the Psalmist often, when dealing with an issue, think of the past or the future in helping to deal with the current problem.

I was reading Abstract of Systematic Theology  by James P. Boyce, and in his section on the eternity of God, he said that only God is present. He is eternally present. I am going to give this some more thought, but a question - does trying to living only in the present an attempt to only do what God can, and thus a wicked practice?
"Our difficulty in doing so is that we can no more conceive of duration without succession than we can of an eternity a parte ante. But we see that in this conception we are not arriving at a thought in itself erroneous, as in the other case, but are simply recognizing the fact that God's mode of existence, as to time, is different from ours. Ours has succession of moments, increase in the length of the period, is not all of it possessed at the same time, has had beginning and might have an end, and has a past and future as well as present. God has no succession, no increase of life, is possessed of the whole of his existence at once, and eternally possessed, has had no beginning, can have no end, and lives in the present only, having no past or future. This accords with the statements of Scripture. God is always spoken of in the present. He calls himself I AM. His name Jehovah has been supposed mystically to express this. The psalmist says: "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God." Ps. 90:2 . 
Thus our Lord, when he would declare his equality with the Father, uses the present tense for each. "My Father worketh even until now, and I work." John 5:17 . So also in like manner he declared his divinity by saying, "Before Abraham was, I am." John 8:58 ."
Like I said, I'll give this some more thought, but I am very leery when Christians start using buzzwords and adapt and promote new practices and call them spiritual disciplines. I'm more and more convinced of the evil of the evangelical industrial complex.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Crooked can't be made straight - Ecclesiastes 1:14-15

14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. 15 That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.

Looking at the world, Solomon sees the problem he is dealing with everywhere. He is not just not having a bad week - the vanity of life is a universal problem. The vanity of life under the sun is a common human experience. Living life in this cursed earth is vanity and vexation. The world is bent and it cannot be straightened out by any means under the sun, or with human hands. The different ways life is difficult and vanity and vexation, the various ways that we are tried are so great, they can’t be numbered. 

Though hardly uplifting, this is true. Much better to hear and know the truth so we can deal with life honestly than live in a fantasy world sailing off into eternity. Much better to see reality and know that we cannot find satisfaction and eternal joy and peace through the works of our hands than to spend a life looking for something that is not there. 

Friday, April 27, 2018

New Testament Commentaries - Study Tools

Today we will look at a few New Testament collections. 

Expository Thoughts on the Gospels
I wish more men would write like J.C. Ryle. He wrote like a man. He wrote like himself and to be understood. He is so clear and I never leave off reading wondering what he believed. Lots of pithy insights and a favorite of mine.

John MacArthur New Testament Commentary
These commentaries cover the whole of the New Testament. The individual volumes are not broken up by chapters of the Bible, but each chapter of the commentary is broken up into the preaching sections, or sections of thought. Each chapter covers a portion of the text, just as he preached in his church, so they do read like an expository sermon series. I also like it because he draws a lot from other sources, gleaning their best thoughts. If you are short on time, you can often read in his commentary what many other men thought in theirs.

Faults? Being it’s sermon-like, some of the more difficult passages you actually need help with, are somewhat thin and parts that need little explanation are dealt with for pages. Also, each chapter gets a sermon introduction, which often is not helpful for a commentary.

Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament
A. Robertson focuses on the Greek text of the New Testament. Very helpful when it comes to the moods and tenses of the Greek language. He wrote for people who know little or no Greek at all. More of a word study on key words rather than a commentary, but the commentary you do find is very good.

The Word Studies in the New Testament by Marvin R. Vincent

Robertson quotes Vincent often, and will sometimes argue with him in his work, but more often he agrees or expounds. I read them both together. I never understood people who say that you have to the Greek because you can trust a single translation team, but then only reference one Greek Lexicon, written by one man. If a team of Greek Scholars can't be trusted to translate, why can one Greek scholar be trusted to give you the right meaning?

  • Wiersbe's Expository Outlines are pretty good for an overview of things. 
  • Robertson's Harmony of the Gospels is very helpful. 
  • Trapp's Commentary on the New Testament is hit and miss, and the comments far to brief to be much help on the meaning of the passage, but some good thoughts for application.  

Thursday, April 26, 2018

An Ordained Minister

Acts 14:23 And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.

Last week, I flew to Texas to be part of a service to ordain my brother, Joseph Newell, to pastoral ministry. It was a powerful service and one that I will remember for a long time. Seeing a man enter in this great work -- to pastor of one of the Lord’s churches blessed my soul and encouraged me in my own ministry. I’m sure you have heard of an “ordained minister” and know that a man needs to be ordained, but maybe never thought about what it means to be ordained.

The word “ordained” in this verse means to “appoint, to elect, or to vote by stretching out the hand.” Paul and Barnabas planted many churches in areas where Christ had not been named. The goal of every missionary should be to evangelize the lost, baptize, teach, and then organize those believers into a church, and then move on to the next place. These assemblies were organized into churches, but they all couldn’t have Paul stay and be their pastor. They needed pastors of their own. Within that assembly, the church appointed men to the office of pastor.

Ordination in the ministry is simply the act of a man being called, voted in, and appointed to the position of pastor or deacon. The task of “ordaining” men to gospel ministry falls to the authority of a local church. The church must take into consideration several factors when calling men to one of these offices. The church has a Biblical guide as to what to look for in a man (and yes, it must be a man) when calling a pastor. 1 Timothy 3:1-9 covers the character of the candidate, but there is much more than character, the man has to know the word of God and be sound in the faith and strong in doctrine. When the church votes the man into the position, after  much prayer and fasting, customarily, the elders present, lay hands on the man and pray the Lord would bless and strengthen him in the ministry (I Timothy 4:14).

The pastor spends his life mining and uncovering the unsearchable riches of Christ Jesus the Lord, and the make those truths known. To watch over the souls of the people the Lord has given him. At the same time, it’s a job where  more than a few men lost their heads. It's a vocation that has left more than one man in jail. It's a field of labor that left more than one man bearing the physical, and emotional scars of the Lord in their body.  But it is worth it. God blessed the Sovereign Grace Baptist Church of Silsbee, TX with a man who, I am confident, will watch over their souls, care for them, and do the good work of an undershepherd.

Monday, April 23, 2018

This Sore Travail - Ecclesiastes 1:12-13

12 I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.

I believe the Preacher is Solomon. He fits the bill. As we will see, the Preacher has unimaginable financial wealth. We also know that he is a wise man. He was King over Israel in Jerusalem. If we take Israel (all tribes, before the divide) as the nation, then there are only two options: Solomon and Rehoboam. Verse 1 says the Preacher is the son of David, and Solomon’s son, Rehoboam was King during the divide. Even if you take “Israel” to be the people of God in general and place him after the divide, that would only be 7 other good kings of Judah to choose from, and given Solomon's wealth and wisdom, and knowing that he wrote two other books of wisdom, I Solomon is the man. 

Speaking of wisdom, Solomon gave his heart to seek it and search it out concerning all the things under the sun. Life is hard and “this sore travail” is the common experience of man. Solomon wants to know why. What’s the point of it all? I think all men feel this despair. Some will bury these feelings. Most won’t ever think deeply about them. One way or the other, most people will attempt one of the methods Solomon searches out in the remainder of the book, to try and find some sort of meaning and purpose to life.

Solomon tells you what this sermon is about and how he set out to come to his conclusions. He tried, experienced and tested different theories and paths looking for meaning and happiness. It’s a social and spiritual experiment. He needed to know, so he set his mind to find out and wouldn’t rest until he got his answer. The great thing about this book, is we can see what works and what doesn’t without having to experience the pain of trial and error.

this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.

The sore travail, or the hard and bitter ordeal of life is given to us by God so we can be humbled by it. Life in a cursed world is not going to be Eden. We lost that. No amount of work or labor or “redeeming the culture” is going to reverse the curse. This life is difficult. God ordains our steps and ordains our trials to exercise us and to try us. Life works as a refining fire in our sanctification.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Study Tools. Full Commentary Sets

Pastor David Green has begun and excellent work by recommending books that every Baptist preacher needs to have. I’m going to try my hand at adding to the list and using his format. I’m not disagreeing with his list. There are some books he has that I haven’t read and I’m sure vice versa. First, check out David’s list.

I’m going to go section by section and then give a short overview of why I like them. Today's installment will cover Full Commentary sets. These are my favorites. 

Full Commentary Sets.

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible. The Good Doctor is a staple for any Baptist library. He’ll give you most of the information that you want and a lot of the information that you don’t want. As Spurgeon pointed out, he likes to firstly, then secondly explain what the text doesn’t mean before telling you what it does. But the man was such a giant intellect it is worth the effort. Not so hot on eschatological issues.

Matthew Henry
If you need the sense of the passage and how to apply it, Matthew Henry is great.

Albert Barnes.
Might be my favorite. Would probably be the happy medium between the overabundance of information with Gill on each verse, but with the clarity and insight of Henry. Like Henry, he did not finish the whole Bible and it was finished for him, some areas weaker than others, especially on church doctrine.

Matthew Poole
Short and sweet comments. I’ll follow his lead.

B. H. Carroll
I absolutely love this collection. Sometimes I’ll just take one down and read a little section. They are full of insightful observations and witty stories and illustrations. The book recommendations he makes are also gold. These are Carroll’s classroom lectures as he took his seminary students through the English Bible. Obviously, not a verse by verse commentary, but it you are going to preach through a book or do a book study, I would say that this set should be on you list to read in your early study of the book. I disagree with his eschatological views.

The Pulpit Commentary
I usually look at this once I’m finished with my outline and my study. I rarely look at the exegetical work, but I enjoy the homiletics section. It’s a collection of sermons and sermon outlines from various preachers.

 Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary 

Another favorite when I'm just looking for the sense of the passage. Often good application. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Review: Passion in the Pulpit

Passion in the Pulpit: Delivering Persuasive Sermons Without Being Manipulative
by Jerry Vines and Adam Dooley

Rhetoricians all agree effective persuasion must have, as Aristotle said, the logos, ethos, and pathos for effective communication. It's important what you say, it's important who says it, and it's important how it is said. This book deals with the pathos, an emotional side of persuasive communication. But how can you consider the pathos of a sermon, without being manipulative and deceiving? The key is to get in the Scripture, understand what it says until you feel the message yourself. By doing that, your emotion and delivery will match the original author’s emotion and pathos.

This book teaches that you need to read the passage and see the pathos and emotional flow of the original author, and the speaker must match that emotional delivery. If the text is sad, then the speaker must then communicate this sadness of the text through his delivery, illustrations, and mannerism. The text itself will set the bounds for our emotional delivery in the pulpit. In other words, screaming at the top of your lungs, "God loves you!" while banging your fists on the pulpit with an angry scowl probably doesn't communicate the emotional flow of the text. Giggling over the destruction of Jerusalem doesn’t convey the Weeping Prophet’s pathos.

The first section deals with how to determine the Scriptures own pathos in the text, and then moves to ways to incorporate that in the message through language and lastly through delivery. In other words, we exegete the Words of Scripture, we ought to also exegete the pathos of Scripture.

The book is co-authored, but it's clear who is writing what. Dooley writes the majority of the book and Vines has a section called In The Pulpit at the end of every chapter where he summarizes and illustrates the principles of that chapter. This book doesn’t give you whiplash like many co-authored books do when going back and forth between the author’.

Many good thoughts to consider.

Thanks to for the review copy.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

There was a reason, after all

"In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it."

G.K. Chesterton - The Thing

Monday, April 9, 2018

A Good Place to Start Theological Study

It's important where you begin your theological study. Your heart needs to be right if you are going to profit from theology. Since we are all fallible and all have our predjucies, James Boyce gives 6 ways we need to approach theological study.
1. With reverence for truth, and especially for the truth taught in the Word of God.
2. With earnest prayer for Divine help.
3. With careful searching of heart against prejudice.
4. With timidity, as to the reception and propagation of new doctrine.
5. But with a spirit willing and anxious to examine, and to accept whatever we may be convinced is true.
6. With teachable humility, which, knowing that God has not taught us in his word all the truth that exists, not even all the truth on many a single point, accepts with implicit faith all that he has taught, and awaits his own time for that more full revelation which shall remove all our present perplexities.
Abstract of Systematic Theology – James P. Boyce

Friday, April 6, 2018

A Problem with C.S. Lewis

If you are going to be a popular writer in Christian circles, you are going to have to have a few Lewis quotes from time to time. He's the perennial favorite among the evangelical elite. He really isn't anyone we should lift up as a Christian leader. We treat Lewis with doctrinal kid gloves when we really shouldn't and wouldn't treat anyone else. For example, Rob Bell, and rightly so, was called to the carpet and labeled a heretic for his, well, his heresy. So, why do we uphold Lewis, who had the same Universalist bent, with more heresy besides?

Michael John Beasley wrote in My Banner is Christ:
"By itself, [Rob] Bell’s book [Love Wins] was certainly problematic, yet reactions to what he wrote were even more problematic and even ironic. I say ironic because many of Bell’s greatest critics also happen to be the loudest advocates of C.S. Lewis, whose theology of purgatory was no less dangerous than that of Bell’s. In 1998, J.I. Packer noted the irony of C.S. Lewis’popularity within Evangelicalism, despite his views on purgatory and many other things:  
'By ordinary evangelical standards, his [Lewis’] idea about the Atonement (archetypal penitence, rather than penal substitution), and his failure ever to mention justification by faith when speaking of the forgiveness of sins, and his apparent hospitality to baptismal regeneration, and his noninerrantist view of biblical inspiration, plus his quiet affirmation of purgatory and of the possible final salvation of some who have left this world as nonbelievers, were weaknesses; they led the late, great Martyn Lloyd-Jones, for whom evangelical orthodoxy was mandatory, to doubt whether Lewis was a Christian at all. His closest friends were Anglo-Catholics or Roman Catholics; his parish church, where he worshiped regularly, was 'high'; he went to confession; he was, in fact, anchored in the (small-c) 'catholic' stream of Anglican thought, which some (not all) regard as central. Yet evangelicals love his books and profit from them hugely.'
I understand the appeal of C.S. Lewis. He is an excellent writer and a good thinker. I do not understand the infatuation with Lewis as a Evangelical Christian leader. From what I understand, C.S.Lewis would not have considered himself an evangelical. I am not one of those who say that you can only read only with people who agree with you, otherwise you'll only read your own journals. I'm not even saying that I think that you should avoid Lewis all together, but I believe that to put him in the category of a safe and trusted guide in doctrine is dangerous. When I read C.S. Lewis, I have to remember that there are a lot of really, very serious problems with his theology. If Rob Bell is dangerous (and he is) then shouldn't the same caution be shown to Lewis, seeing they taught similar doctrines? Lewis is an excellent writer and a really bad theologian.

I think part of it comes from the fact that Lewis was not a clergyman, but a professor. Bell was/is a pastor and he is held to a high standard, as he should be. But Lewis, by being a Christian writer, took upon himself the role of a teacher and should be read with as much strict discernment as any other book.

Several have pointed out that comedians who like to be politically active will rail on their political enemies with great passions and fervor. When they are called to give an account for what they say or believe they say "I'm just a comedian, what do you expect?" They have coined it as "clown nose on...clown nose off." They want to speak with authority without having the responsibility that comes along with authority or to be held accountable. Recently, Jimmy Kimmel had not problem being the voice of the American conscience when he was politicking for heath care. But when it came to other issues that would cost him, "hey I'm just a late night show host." Clown nose on. I do not believe Lewis played this game, but the game is being played with his works. I believe this is why Lewis is given that same leniency. When he is good, he is praised. When he is heretical, it is "well, he was not a preacher, he was a professor." When Lewis is good, he is great and when he is bad, he is awful.

Even in his fiction, he's got lots of problems.

The much lauded "That Hideous Strength" (the final book in his Space Trilogy) is, strange. Even more strange that conservative Christian's praise and recommend this book. As a story, it was pretty good. As a critique of modernism, and the dangers and failures of treating the intellectual and scientific communities as priests in a new religion (new religion, same as the old religion) it was great. Lewis can rightly diagnosis the problem and then skillfully give us the end that we all want. Peace, God, illumination, things that are true, things that are lovely, things that are wholesome. The spiritual realities of the world we live in are true.

But Lewis never tells the reader how to get from A to B. The book makes the case that Christianity is the answer, but what does Lewis mean by Christianity? I know this wasn't meant to be a gospel tract, but making conversion a major theme of the book and then having the "awakening" to be "there is someone, something out there" in my opinion, is a failure and the danger far outweighs any good that might come. Lewis provides a taste of Christianity without Christ. If you lay That Hideous Strength along side the book of Colossians, you'll find that the characters would have much more in common with the proto-gnostics than with the Apostle Paul.

So why do celebrity preachers praise C.S. Lewis so? I have no idea. I think it's trendy. I think that he's an author that you can wink to the world and have some credibility. Maybe we Christians like our celebrities too, and we feel validated when the world likes someone who says he's on our side. I really can't explain why pastors would promote Lewis and recommend him.

I'm not calling for a boycott or a book-burning. But can we not treat him as a good Christian author? I recently made a comment in a sermon about Lewis, and the idea that Lewis wasn't a good, solid, Christian was remarkable. Why? Because we have lifted him up as one. Let's warn and be cautious of quoting and promoting a dangerous man.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Children Shall Lead

Isaiah 3:4 And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them.

Judah was on the eve of judgment. God had warned and warned, but His people wouldn’t listen. God is going to judge them by giving Judah the leaders she deserved. God often judges people by giving them what they want in heaping spoonfuls, with cherries on top. This is hardwired in the universe He created, you reap what you sow.  The sins men love often are the rope they hang themselves with. God’s people would not listen to the men He sent, they would not heed to the godly kings, so God gave them leaders suitable to their immaturity. Sinful rebellion is childish and immature behavior, so they'll be led by children.

Sound familiar? Members of the media and politicians are fawning over the leadership of children and following them. Being passionate and earnest is not enough to lead and emotions do not equate to leadership, wisdom, and maturity. The Biblical commentators are quick to point out the Hebrew in Isaiah 3:4 doesn’t necessarily restrict this to mean young in age, but could refer to the immature. What we have are immature people in positions of power, encouraging immature teenagers to rise up and lead them. This is not a blessing, it's a curse, and it will not end well. The children who are “leading us” are being used, and they don’t know it. One of the leaders of the French Revolution reportedly said,  "There go the people. I must follow , for I am their leader." True, Biblical, godly leadership will guide the people in truth and righteousness with wisdom, not find out where the wind is blowing, find some young people to repeat their talking points, and get behind them.

This is the country we wanted. I recently read a biography of Calvin Coolidge. He was a great man and a great president, in my opinion. He couldn’t get elected dogcatcher today if he was the only one running and his Mom cast the only vote. Why? He had no charisma and wasn't a brilliant speaker. His qualifications, his leadership, his resolute commitment to what he believed would be meaningless today. Never mind moral character. Never mind actual credentials and qualifications. We have ignored God’s Word. We have ignored God’s laws. We have made entertainment and amusement the gods of our decant age. Behold your leaders.

This same type of judgment falls on churches when leadership fails and the immature take charge. When children lead the parents judgment comes on the family. Fathers decide where (or if) they go to church based upon what the kids want. Sunday is no longer the Lord’s Day, but  the Children's day. We cannot change the country, but we can take care of our own back yards. We can lead our families in righteousness. We can lead our churches and model the godly order of mature leadership and wise counsel. We can pray for mercy.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Pleasant words

Proverbs 16:24 Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.

Honey was the great treat in the Old Testament era. Imagine, after days of fish and bread, how wonderful to taste fresh flowing honey. I imagine it was a refreshing, delightful experience. Solomon uses that image to get us thinking about the delightfulness of gracious words. God's people ought to have a sweet tooth for the pleasant and beautiful words of God. Unlike cake and ice cream, these sweets are good for you, body and soul. God invites his children to sit down and rest the soul and mind and be refreshed with the pleasantness of HIs Word.

Hearing and reading the gracious and kind words of God are good for your soul. There is so much anger and bitterness in the world. Lying on every hand and deceitful dealings fill the airwaves. Perverse and wicked words are spoken everywhere you go. We need to hear the gracious words of God to revive and refresh our souls. As pilgrims and foreigners in a this world, making our way to that heavenly city and journey to our Father's house, the soul can become weary. Tired of the battles, exhausted of the disappoints, worn-out with failures, the pleasant words of Zion are the life giving cool waters that restore the soul. Pleasant words are good for your health. Angry, hateful, mean-spirited people will spew their vile words like poison. Taking in and drinking in filth is bad for your health. Reading unprofitable posts, books, or articles can depress the soul. Listening to filth from the radio or television can make you angry and bitter. We need to be careful who we listen to and what we put in our mind. Do you fill your soul with sinful songs and sinful language and think that will have no impact on you? If pleasant words are good for the soul, certainly angry, sinful, bitter words are harmful.  God's Word is a delight to His people. A medicine to the anxious. A balm for the wounded soul. We can eat all we want of God's Word and it will give us strength for the journey.

Since we know pleasant words are good for body and soul, we ought to speak them to others. You should guard the words that come out of your mouth. You ought to consider the words you speak or write. Your snide comment may stick with someone for years and do much damage. Do you think about how you speak to the waitress? How about the customer service representative over the phone? How easy to be hateful towards those you don't know.  Ephesians 4:29, "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers." A Christian's words need to  gracious and with the purpose of blessing those who hear. Take in and share pleasant words.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

A Little Inconsistent in the Objection

"A second objection [that the general call of the gospel is not a bona fide call] is derived from the spiritual inability of man. Man, as he is by nature, cannot believe and repent, and therefore it looks like mockery to ask this of him. But in connection with this objection we should remember that in the last analysis man’s inability in spiritual things is rooted in his unwillingness to serve God. The actual condition of things is not such that many would like to repent and believe in Christ, if they only could. All those who do not believe are not willing to believe, John 5:40. Moreover, it is no more unreasonable to require repentance and faith in Christ of men than it is to demand of them that they keep the law. Very inconsistently some of those who oppose the general offer of salvation on the basis of man’s spiritual inability, do not hesitate to place the sinner before the demands of the law and even insist on doing this." 
Systematic Theology – Louis Berkhof

Monday, March 26, 2018

Nothing New Under the Sun - Ecclesiastes 1:8-11

8 All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. 9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. 10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. 11 There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.

Not only does Solomon see vanity in the continual day in and day out of life, but he sees vanity in his work. Ultimately, his work doesn’t satisfy him. As one generation comes and goes, the new generation really isn’t doing anything that the past generation hasn’t already done.

There is no remembrance of former things. The great feats of history, the great battles of 100 years ago are forgotten today. How many Americans can tell you about World War I or give you a decent explanation of who the major players in the war were, and why the United States was engaged? That war shaped the United States and Great Britain culturally, spiritually, and economically so much the effects and ripples of that war are still felt today, and yet it is largely forgotten. Even the technological pioneers of the past are largely forgotten. Solomon considers that there won’t be any remembrance of what he does in a hundred years.

If all there was in this life, is what we do and live for in the “here and now” then yes, I would agree. What’s the point? As we have ended the first section, I want to point out that Solomon is correct. There isn’t any lasting, soul satisfying joy in the work that we do that can carry us to eternal happiness. We can give ourselves pep talks that our lives and our work will have meaning. But if we are honest with ourselves, we must see the vanity of our labor under the sun.

There must be something more. There must be more to life than the daily grind. We are just repeating what previous generations have done before and sometimes, we are not doing it as well. We might have technological advances, but this just means that we are doing the same things with different technologies. We laugh and are amused to see old movies with the telephone operators moving cables on the switch boards back and forth, and think how far advance we have become, that we don't’ use that old technology anymore. Then we call the call center for tech support on our phone and talk to one of the agents for assistance. Yes, the technology is more advanced, but I wonder how many more employees it takes now to make a phone call, than it did 100 years ago?

This ends the introduction to the book. There are answered to these questions and they will be answered by the end of the sermon.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Astonishing Preaching

A preacher sat in the lunch room at a fellowship meeting, but he wasn’t eating.  Despite appeals to dig in, he would say, “No thanks. I preach this afternoon, I can’t preach after I eat.” A friend responded, “You just can't preach. Doesn't matter if you eat or not.” Whether this man could preach well is a matter of debate, but there is no doubt, Jesus could preach.

Matthew 7:28-29 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Everyone that heard Jesus preach the Sermon on the Mount was blown away. Jesus is the greatest preacher who has ever lived and this message left the people astonished. Jesus sermon astounds because God’s truth is amazing. Whether it be the plan of salvation, the condition of man, or the truth about sin and the world, God’s revelation of these ultimate truths is astonishing. The "big questions" about life, why we are here, what happens after we die, what's the meaning of life –  God has revealed the answers. The illustrations Jesus used, the metaphors and parables, the explicit doctrine, all were perfectly explained to reveal divine truth. Every illustration was on point. Every example was spot on. Every teaching was theologically accurate.

Jesus preached with clarity. Clarity can be a difficult to obtain. How much more difficult when covering such a wide array of information, speaking in the open air, correcting established (though wrong) teachings with no one in attendance confirming what you believe. It’s much easier to preach to the choir than to preach to people who you know disagree with you. And with unwavering clarity, courage, and conviction, Jesus astonished his hearers. It’s common to hear a man say a mouthful, but know one understand what he said. Jesus, with ultimate wisdom, condescended His Words and His Wisdom so the people He spoke with could understand Him. Jesus spoke with the courage of clarity.  And it’s a simple sermon. It’s not hard to understand, but the depth is amazing. You can come back to the sermon over and over again and never master his teaching or never come to the end of these truths. Something you can read in 20 minutes but take a lifetime to study.

Jesus preached with boldness. He preached with liberty and strength, and with kingly authority.  Everything He said was 100% unadulterated truth and He spoke with unflinching power. He didn’t suggest. Jesus didn’t speculate. Jesus didn’t find a favorite preacher and copy his mannerism and his message.  The scribes quoted each other, Jesus declared. The scribes based their teach from what other men had said about God. Jesus declared what God had said. Jesus is the greatest preacher, the prophet of prophets. What excuse do you have for not listening to Him? It's the height of folly to acknowledge Jesus as the greatest preacher, and not do what he says.

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Sun Also Rises - Ecclesiastes 1:5-7

5 The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. 6 The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. 7 All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again. 

The sun also rises and sets, then the night passes quickly and it happens all over again. The wind doesn’t blow off into space, but follow their wind patterns according to their wind belts. It’s a continue loop. The rivers are always moving, the water flowing downstream until they all verge in the sea. But does the ocean get full? According to the National Park Service “At New Orleans, the average flow rate [for the Mississippi River] is 600,000 cubic feet per second.” Yet, does the Gulf of Mexico fill up? No, the water levels stay the same, only changed by the tide. Water evaporates, it rains, it fills the rivers, and sends it back down again.

We might use the illustration of a hamster in his wheel or a man on a treadmill. Always busy, always moving, but never making any progress. Solomon sees life under the sun as life on a repeat loop. You wake, work, sleep, and do it all over again until you die. When you die, someone else will step in and take your place.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Blessing of a Dirty Crib

Proverbs 14:4 Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.

The secret to keeping a barn pristine is not having anything in it, but the crib is for the animals, not the animals for the crib. In the days before John Deere, the ox was the tractor of choice, and if you want the strength of the ox for plowing and hauling, you have to take the whole package, which means cleaning up the mess it makes. Agrarian fantasies of waking up early in the morning, drinking coffee on the front porch as the sun rises over the farm before driving the truck through the fields to check on their livestock and their crops are pleasant for coffee commercials and Hallmark movies. But reality is waking up with sick kids, and walking outside when it’s already 90 degrees and you have to skip breakfast. The tractor won’t start. Your fence is down, and when you start to fix it, it starts to rain. And you have to get it fixed because you need to go to the courthouse, and then the bank, and then your sister calls and needs help with her kids, and there’s church tonight.

Life is hard and full of messy situations. The more you have, the more responsibility you have in caring and for and maintaining it. If you want to breeze through life without any problems to deal with, or without any “drama” then you want a sad, empty, selfish life without the joy and the “strength of the ox”.  Living care free is not the goal. Take responsibility, work, build something, do something, lead someone, and live for the glory of God and the good of your neighbor.

The more responsibility you have, and the more people you have in your life, the messier life gets. Is the house for the kids, or the kids for the house? The more people who live under a roof the more work to keep it clean. But don’t begrudge the inhabitants of the house for living. There is much strength in the family that lives together, eats together, that dirties floors, laundry, dishes, and rooms like a small army of unkempt chimpanzees on a sugar high. Young mother, you can have a quiet house, with no dirty dishes, no clothes in the floor, no smudges on the wall. You just need an empty house. And when the house is empty, you are missing out the strength of the family.

You can have a "clean church" if you run off everyone that doesn't think like you do. The only way not to have any church issues is to be the only member. With more people comes more problems and more responsibilities and more messes. But there is also more fellowship, more friendships, more opportunities to share burdens and more opportunities to bear burdens. 

You can have an immaculate crib, or the strength of the ox, but you can’t have both. When you take on your God given responsibilities and engage with people and love people, you are going to get messy and have to do things you don’t want to do and have problems thrust upon you to fix. But that’s where you are going to find the blessing of responsibility and taking on the work of the Lord.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Willingly Ignorant

1 Corinthians 10:1-11  "Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant…"

Ignorant means lacking knowledge, so Paul didn't just insult the church here. Paul doesn't want the Corinthians to be lacking knowledge in important truths. Despite characterizations to the contrary,  Christianity is the thinking religion. Mystics tell you to stop thinking, to empty your mind and get peace.  That's not Christianity. God never tells you to empty your mind. Other religions have a list of rules and you blindly follow them. That isn't Christianity either. Some religions don't want you to think too hard about why you do what you are supposed to do. If there is contradiction, just ignore it and do as your told. Humanism says it wants you to think, but think poorly.

God has called us to think about Him. We are to know and be aware of God's law, but also to know the purpose of the law. Faith is not blind faith, but faith is knowing what God wants us to do and trust in him as we do it. God has called us to meditate, or deeply consider divine truth and fill our heads, not empty them. Fill your mind with truth and roll it around and think deeply about God's Word. Don't question God, but if you have questions, examine them in light of the truth.

Christianity is the reading religion because our God has written a book. God expects you to read. You don't have to read fast, and you don't have to read a lot, but what a treasure you have, a book from God! It's Satan that wants people ignorant of the truth. In times past, he tried to prevent people from having Bibles. Many people have been put to death through the ages for owning a part of God's word. Many have died translating God's word into other languages. But the Word of God will not be bound. God's people are reading people and it is Christianity that seeks to promote knowledge and understanding.

Christianity is the Truth Religion. The truth looses nothing in examination. You can be hardhearted and want to be unbelieving, but if a person truly has questions, and truly desires to understand, the truth looses nothing if you examine it. If you examine a lie, then eventually you'll see the contradictions. But the truth is consistent.

Don't be ignorant of the truth. In our day, we have Bibles everywhere. You can read the Bible on your phone. You can read it on the computer. If you don't have one, you can go just about anywhere and someone would give you a Bible. You can get online and listen to a professional voice actor read the Bible to you. Instead of a famine of the Bible, we have a people willingly starving themselves of it, filling our minds with junk instead of the Word we so desperately need. It's sad to be ignorant of the truth, it's sinful to be willingly ignorant.

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Vacation by Wendell Berry

Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
with his video camera to his eye, making
a moving picture of the moving river
upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
toward the end of his vacation. He showed
his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,
preserving it forever: the river, the trees,
the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
behind which he stood with his camera
preserving his vacation even as he was having it
so that after he had had it he would still
have it. It would be there. With a flick
of a switch, there it would be. But he
would not be in it. He would never be in it.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Bold sinners and fearful saints

O how uncomely a sight is it to see, a bold sinner and a fearful saint, one resolved to be wicked, and a Christian wavering in his holy course; to see guilt put innocence to flight, and hell keep the field, impudently braving it with displayed banners of open profaneness; [to see] saints hide their colours for shame, or run from them for fear, who should rather wrap themselves in them, and die upon the place, than thus betray the glorious name of God, which is called upon by them to the scorn of the uncircumcised. Take heart therefore, O ye saints, and be strong; your cause is good, God himself espouseth your quarrel, who hath appointed you his own Son, General of the field, called 'the Captain of our salvation,’ Heb. 2:10 . He shall lead you on with courage, and bring you off with honour. He lived and died for you; he will live and die with you; for mercy and tenderness to his soldiers, none like him. 

The Christian in Complete Armour – William Gurnall

Monday, February 26, 2018

One Generation after the Other - Ecclesiastes 1:4

1:4 One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.

The earth has not always been and the earth (as it now is) will not abide forever. Scripture is clear in both cases (Genesis 1:1; Revelation 21:1). But Solomon is thinking in terms of “under the sun” so from the perspective of a man without an eternal perspective, the earth was here when I was born, and when I die, they will bury me in it. I recently went to the cemetery and saw several generations of my family buried in the earth. One generation after another came and went, but the earth in which they did all their labor still remains.

Sunset and evening star, And one clear call for me! And may there be no moaning of the bar, When I put out to sea, But such a tide as moving seems asleep, Too full for sound and foam, When that which drew from out the boundless deep Turns again home. Twilight and evening bell, And after that the dark! And may there be no sadness of farewell, When I embark; For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place The flood may bear me far, I hope to see my Pilot face to face When I have crost the bar.


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Another Gospel?

Galatians 1:6-7  I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another;

What would be a better gospel? Would it be better if God required you to live in sinless perfection? Would you prefer that God require you to achieve a certain level of righteousness to earn your way to Heaven? Do you think it would be better to base salvation on your works and on your merit? You can have peace by having faith in what Christ did or you can have peace by keeping the law of God. All of it. All the time. Now, I know that most people know that you can’t do that, so they have a hybrid gospel. That is what the Galatians had, or at least they thought they had it. But there is no such thing as a “hybrid”. Another gospel, is no gospel at all.

The gospel is the “good news” that God the Son, entered into his creation. The eternal word was made flesh and dwelt among us. The Lamb of God, Jesus Christ lived a perfect life and offered himself unto the Father, as a substitute for sinners. He bore our sins in his own body on the tree and suffered the wrath of God for our sins, satisfying the Father. The ransom was paid with his life. We are redeemed by His blood. He was laid in the tomb for three days and three nights, his body dead and lifeless. But at the dawning of the first day of the week, the tomb was empty, Jesus arose. We have a living Saviour.

If you trust that Jesus died for your sins, and you turn from your self-reliance and self-righteousness to Christ Jesus, He will save you. Freely, by his grace. Trust in the risen saviour and you’ll be saved. That is the gospel Paul preached. That is the only good news there is. If you add to that message, or take away from that message, it is no longer good news.

There is no such thing as another gospel, as if spiritual life is cafeteria set up where you can pick and choose your own way. There is no other gospel. By looking to and heeding to and listening to another message, another way of salvation, they were turning away from Christ Jesus. The blood of Christ was not enough. The death of Christ was not enough. The wrath of God poured out on the God’s only begotten Son was not enough for these Galatians.

There are two paths before us. The gospel, and every other message of salvation, which is no gospel at all. If you turn from the true gospel, where will you go? “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life”. When they turned from the gospel, they have no place else to go for salvation. Every other gospel is taking you away from Jesus.