Friday, December 15, 2017

Valley of the Shadow of Death

Psalm 23:4  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. The Shadow of Death is a phrase used in 19 different verses. Many of the passages refer to death. But as we see from God’s Word, the passage is not limited to death. Job didn’t die, though he felt as though he would and was wishing that he would die. So, as the shadow of death was upon his eyes, Job was still at least 140 years away from death. A fear of death, a fear of the unknown and despondency of soul to the point of wishing for death. It is a dark, dark place of the soul.

I imagine a sheep and the shepherd forced to trek through a dangerous passage way. Sometimes the shepherd had to move the sheep to different grounds, better feed, better water and the way was through a dangerous place.  There isn’t a short cut to higher ground. From the outset, I want you to know, that if you are Christ’s, if you belong to Him, if you are trusting in Him for the salvation of your soul, then He is the Good Shepherd and He will not lead you astray. However, as the scripture declares, without Christ, you dwell in the shadow of death. You have never tasted the still water nor rested in the green pastures.

For the Christian, for God’s sheep, we walk THROUGH the dark valley, we don’t live there. There is a danger to the valley – a danger that we keep our eyes off of Christ. The passage is a sweet trusting passage to be sure, there is a danger that comes in that place if we take our eyes off of Christ. I want to encourage you, that when in the valley, to keep your eyes on Christ. First we will look at the dangers of NOT keeping your eyes on Christ, then the blessings.

The valley is short sided. On the mountain top you can see forever. You can see ahead of you and you can see behind. You can see the past for what it was and the future for what it is. You can see you progress and your ascent that God has brought you and you can view you present life in the context of the blessed future. But life is short sided in the dark valley and that is why it is so miserable. No, it shouldn’t be, but it a awful reality for some overcome with grief and despair.

That last enemy, death has been defeated by the resurrection of Christ Jesus. Death, who casts that dark shadow, has been defeated in Christ. The Shepherd, who died for his people, rose again to lead His sheep safely through. Remember, there is nothing in that dark valley that can separate you from the Shepherd and he'll never let His people go.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Flee, Follow, and Fight - Tuesday with Timothy

 Years ago, a friend told me about the 360° change they made in their life. Knowing their sincerity was greater than their mathematical ability,  I took this as good news. The degree you turn your life around does matter. Running from something bad  is wonderful, but only if you are running in the right direction. Repentance is more than hating sin, but turning from sin to Christ. I Timothy 6: 11-12 says “ … flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called…” Paul’s describes here the Christian life when a person is born again and trusts in Christ. Flee. Follow. Fight.

We need to flee unrighteousness. To follow Christ, we first must flee sin and unrighteousness. The breaking of the commandments of our God should grieve our souls as we "go and sin no more". The person who thinks that salvation is saying a prayer or getting baptized to get all their paperwork in order to get to Heaven is sadly mistaken. You repent, receive Christ and turn to follow after Him. We leave behind our self-righteousness, our hope of Heaven through good works, the ungodly sins and iniquity in our hearts to follow Jesus. Christians are in pursuit of righteousness, godliness, faith and love. The Christian follows the path of patience and lives in this wicked world with a meek and quiet spirit, humbly in submission to God and His Word.

The meek and humble path of the Christian is one of spiritual battle. We don’t struggle for our self-interests, or for political ideologies. Our war is an offensive battle for the faith once delivered. We fight the good fight of faith for the glory of God. It is a good fight because it is for the blessing of men. It is good because it is a fight for truth and righteousness. Turning from sin and fleeing to Christ, we press on in this pilgrim journey with our eye on Heaven. We are called to the Heavenly City and are on our journey to its gates. There are many perils on the way; we face temptation, sin, evil, false teachings, doctrines of devils and the Dragon himself; but we have to take heart, be stalwart with Spirit-filled courage and press on in the Christian life. We herald the good news that Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners. With the shield of faith, sword of the Spirit, and the helmet of salvation, we go to spiritual war with the works of unrighteousness. We tear down the Devil’s strongholds, not with carnal weapons, but with the Word of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation. With our eyes on Christ we press on in the way he has made for us, leaving our sin and bidding others to follow to life everlasting. Flee sin, follow Christ, and fight the good fight.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Too Much Dessert

Proverbs 25:27  "It is not good to eat much honey: so for men to search their own glory is not glory." Perhaps we should have studied our proverb before Thanksgiving dinner, not two weeks after. Or, for the optimist, I’m not late, but 50 weeks early for next year. I love Thanksgiving food and all the desserts. But we couldn’t have a Thanksgiving feast every day of the year; it's too much of a good thing. Solomon didn’t have pecan pie, but his dessert was honey, God’s natural sugary sweet. Even though honey is delicious and one spoonful is good, it may seem to make sense to say a second would better, it’s not good to eat too much. You may feel good while you eat it, but eat too much and you’ll regret it and make yourself sick. You may enjoy it while you are eating it, but it’s not good for your health to tear into a honeycomb like a hungry bear and devour a few quarts a day because you’ll soon outweigh the bear.

When someone thanks you or praises you for a job well done, it feels good and it's encouraging and satisfying to be appreciated. But like overeating sweets, seeking the praise of men is not good for you. It’s a danger to your soul. When you live for your own glory you are not seeking God’s glory. You’ve turned yourself into an idol. The glory you get for yourself when you go looking for it is not glory at all.

Seeking your own glory is not good because you begin to live in the fear of man, not the fear of God. Fearing man is not being afraid of man anymore than fearing God is being afraid of God. Fearing man reverences  and honors the opinions of people and lives for their approval. You regulate your life according to what others think, not what God thinks. Several priests believed in Jesus but wouldn’t confess him openly because they loved the praise of men. They did not do the right thing and knowingly did the wrong thing because they loved and sought their own glory (John 12:42-43 ).

If you want to boast and glory, glory in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:31). Like the taste buds were made to taste, man is made to have something to glory in. The problem is not glorying or even boasting but the object of our worship.  Seeking the praise of men for yourself is not good for the soul, even if it feels good at the time. Focus your praise on the Lord Jesus and glory in him. Seek out his greatness. Track out his perfections and praise them. Boast in what Christ has done in saving you from sin. Glory in what Christ is doing as your High Priest. Exult in what Christ will do when He comes again. And unlike honey and pecan pie, you can eat as much of the glory of God as you desire.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

An eye for an eye

An eye for an eye is one of those Biblical phrases that has worked itself into the common lexicon. It’s a striking phrase (and a little horrifying if you think about it being carried out). Usually associated with Old Testament justice it’s commonly understood as a harsh, ungracious attitude of revenge contrary to the love and grace of the New Testament. This was the view in our Lord’s day too. But, an eye for an eye is not a call to vigilante justice or cold-blooded revenge, but a law of equitable justice (Deuteronomy 19, Exodus 21:24 and Leviticus 24:20). In the context of the book of Leviticus 24, starting in verse 13, justice was handed out by judges and the whole congregation. Here, the death penalty is prescribed for blasphemy and murder. But if a man killed another man’s beast, the law demanded the man provide the value of the beast he killed. If someone caused a blemish, the penalty was a blemish. I don’t live in ancient Israel, and neither do you, so we do not follow the laws of that country in this country. However, the principle of the law is just and we still follow the attitude of an eye for an eye.

An eye for an eye was never about revenge, but equal justice. The punishment needs to fit the crime. If a boy throws a ball through the neighbor's window, a just penalty would be to have window to be replaced. It’s not justice to have the boy beheaded. It’s not justice to have all new windows installed in every room of the house. An eye for an eye, a window for a window. If someone damages your property, you didn’t win the lottery and you don’t get to wring every penny out of the person for “emotional damage”. The wrongdoer should put things back, as best they can. If you murder, the penalty will be stiff; life for life. But you shouldn’t be executed for backing over your neighbor’s mailbox. If you do something wrong, make it right, as best you can. If you break a borrowed tool, replace it with one of equal or greater value. If someone breaks your “Made in China” hammer, don’t demand they upgrade to something you wouldn’t have spent the cash on yourself. The Old Testament system was actually quite just. An eye for an eye is the opposite of selfish revenge and vindictiveness. Jesus explains its true meaning by teaching that we are to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, give of our self and our time (Matthew 5:38-42). This passage is not about defending our rights but giving them up. Laying aside what is technically our right for the furtherance of the gospel and the kingdom. Jesus made a whip and ran the money changers out of the temple when the glory of God was defamed, but when he was reviled, he reviled not again. Follow Jesus' example in fulfilling this law (1 Peter 2:21-25).

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Man of God

Tuesdays with Timothy #

I Timothy 6:11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

The "man of God" is an Old Testament name given to God's prophets. Only one New Testament person is called the man of God; Timothy. Pastors today follow the line of Timothy. We are not prophets like Elijah or Apostles like Paul. These temporary offices are no longer in existence. But Timothy's office continues today. Pastors follow a long line of men who stand before God's people, open the Bible and expound what God has said in His Word. When Paul calls Timothy a man of God, I believe that all Pastor's and preachers called into this ministry and recognized by a church and given the ministry in the church, follow in those footsteps as men of God.

 Why would Paul use a decidedly Old Testament term in charging Timothy? Let's consider the Old Testament usage. A man of God dedicated his life to doing the will of God in prophetic utterance; men called to speak for God and in the name of God. Timothy isn't a foreteller, but he does declare "thus saith the Lord".  God didn’t speak directly to Timothy. He took the God-breathed Scriptures and declared what God has said in his preaching ministry. The man of God in the Old Testament spoke the Words of God. When David and Moses spoke the Word of God, they were remembered as the men of God (2 Chronicles 30:16; Ezra 3:2; Nehemiah 12:24). Pastors are only men of God if they speak the Word of God. If a man waxes poetic about politics and becomes a motivational speaker, he may be an influential man and he may be a popular man, but he is not being God's man. A man of God speaks the Words of God.

The people called the prophets a "man of God" out of respect for his position. Not all people honored the man of God. Certainly not all people liked the man of God, but calling the person the “man of God” understands that he came not in his own power and wisdom, but as an ambassador of God. There is very little respect for the office and the ministry today.  Some of  the blame for this disrespect can be laid at the feet of pastors. Don't be surprised when you don't respect the office God has given you that no one else respects it. The Old Testament men were called men of God because that is what they were known for. I'm not calling for a dress code and to speak like a bad caricature of Jonathan Edwards and to be dour and stiff. But if a man acts like the ministry is no big deal then certainly the people he preaches to are going to take it that way as well. The man of God takes that calling seriously.

Holiness characterizes of the man of God. There is a lot of talk about delivery and the way you preach. There isn't a lot of talk about holiness and the preacher. Paul spoke a lot more about holiness in Timothy's life than he did homiletics. The man of God doesn't have to be a flashy speaker. The man of God doesn't have to by a dynamic personality. The man of God doesn't need to be a great business meeting moderator. But the man of God must be holy, in and out of the pulpit. 

God's men need to follow the Lord Jesus. In character, in the content of the message, in our life in and out of the pulpit, the man of God must imitate Christ. Obviously, all Christians should do this, but this needs to be a distinguishing marker of the man of God because his life is given to God in the service of God. He is not the world’s man. He is not the church's man. He is not even his own man. He is God’s man. Paul encouraged Timothy by reminding him that He belongs to his master.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Love of Money

I Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

 The love of money is the root of all evil. Money is not the problem and Paul does not condemn having wealth The covetous desire for wealth is the root of all evil. A poor man can have just a great love of money as a rich man can. Paul warns professing Christians of the danger of loving money. A love of money takes the place of a love of God. You cannot have godly contentment and love money. You cannot give sacrificially and love money. Loving money is covetous and idolatry. Loving money will lead you into various other sins on the quest for obtaining the beloved object.

With the love of money, the desire becomes it's own judgment. That's the way with most sins. What the souls lusts after is what will destroy you. As you covet after money and reach out for what God hasn't given you and you stretch yourself for another dollar, you fall away from the faith and land on the dead fall trap of many sorrows.

The love of money will cause you to forsake the Lord's house. The love of money will lead men to forsake their families. The love of money will tempt you to lie, cheat, and steal for every last penny. Men and women who will lie to your face, rob you blind, and swindle you out of your last dollar, and then pick your pocket in "christian love". Certainly this pertains to the celebrity preachers, but they are not the sole offenders. You can be a poor pastor and love the little money you have and do what it takes to get more and more. When serious error arises in the church and the big tithers are wrong, what will you do? When men preach false doctrine  but calling it out will cost you half the congregation and most of your salary, what will you do? Or, to turn the tables, the man who held the money in the church who betrayed Jesus. No one suspected Judas because they let him keep the money and he was probably one of the most pious sounding. We could have given that money away to the poor!

If you have wealth, thank God for it and use it for His glory. Love God and not money, and you'll be fine.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Welcome to Secular America

Sunday, November 5th, a gunman opened fire on the congregants of a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas killing at least 26 people. The second mass shooting in as many months. Why do these mass murders keep happening?

Welcome to Secular America. This is the country we wanted. This is the nation we asked for. We sowed the wind and now reap the whirlwind. The USA decided decades ago that the oppressive force in America was Biblical Christianity. All those “thou shalts and  shalt nots” were cramping our style. We needed freedom and had to break the chains of morality and escape puritanical tyranny! We wanted a secular land, where you can talk about God in church, but not in the public square. A State, separated from Christianity, governed by the principle neither God nor ultimate truth exist. A nation where we have taught our children for generations that we are not made in the image of God, but are the result of a series of random acts of evolution. In our enlightened, scientific secular country, we don’t know the difference between a boy and a girl – no, actually we have to pretend we don’t because we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Welcome to Secular America. The President rightly the shooting was an “act of evil”. Ok, I agree, but may I ask, says who? Whose says mass shootings are evil and by whose standards of good and evil? When there is no God, there is not standard of good and evil, only preferences. The secularist says “taking a life is evil” fine, so then is abortion is evil? If not, why not and says who? I know the answer, but we decided in America we wanted freedom from Christianity and the “chains” of God’s law, so out with the Bible and out and with the answer to the problem we created. I can say murder is evil because God has said murder it is evil. All life from conception is precious because we are created in God’s image. When a secular people with our American freedoms have no fear of God, no moral grounding in the Scripture, no fear of the afterlife, and no fear of judgment, what is to stop them from committing heinous acts? To address the problem, we have to understand the problem and we cannot do that without the Bible. John Adams said "Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom." Without Christ, we will either loose our freedom or continue on this path. You cannot have it both ways.

Romans 3:15 - 18  "Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes." Men are swift to shed blood because of the depraved heart of man. We have no peace because we have no fear of God. Unless God graciously blesses us with repentance, we can expect more of the same.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Side Hustle: From idea to income in 27 Days by Chris Guillebeau

Not everyone has the skills, the desire, or the courage to strike out on their own and become their own boss. There is a lot of risk involved in quitting the 9-5 and leaving behind the security of a steady stream of income to take the entrepreneurial plunge. The downside is that the day job might be leaving you with more month than money. In Side Hustle: From idea to income in 27 Days, Chris Guillebeau walks you through, step by step how to get some extra income on your own, without quitting your day job. That's the Side Hustle, a little extra money on the side made with the skills and abilities you already have. 

Complete with lists, fill in the blank tables, and charts, if you have the idea and the skills, you can be making money in a month.  The book helps you come up with an idea, get it off the ground, advertise and drum up business, and then refine it. The strength of the book is that if you have never started your own business, there are a lot of tips and ideas about business that I would have never considered (advertising, promoting the business, getting paid online) and that's what makes this book a great guide. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Don't Wing It

Ever seen a TED talk? These short talks are designed to spread ideas and they cover a wide range of topics and ideas. They are usually very engaging (even if you don't agree and I often don't) and that's one reason why they are so popular. Chris Anderson wrote a book about how they help these experts give great talks. In one chapter he talks about what to avoid, and he called it "The Ramble".  I think its worthy to consider. If you stand up before people, and are addressing them on the most important themes of eternal value, don't wing it.
"In the first TED I organized, one of the speakers began, “As I was driving down here wondering what to say to you . . .” There followed an unfocused list of observations about possible futures. Nothing obnoxious. Nothing that was particularly hard to understand. But also no arguments of power. No revelations. No aha moments. No takeaways. The audience clapped politely. But no one really learned anything. I was fuming. It’s one thing to underprepare. But to boast that you’ve underprepared? That’s insulting. It tells the audience that their time doesn’t matter. That the event doesn’t matter. So many talks are like this. Meandering, no clear direction. A speaker might kid himself that even an unfocused exploration of his brilliant thinking is bound to be fascinating to others. But if 800 people are planning to devote 15 minutes of their day to your words, you really can’t just wing it. As my colleague Bruno Giussani puts it, “When people sit in a room to listen to a speaker, they are offering her something extremely precious, something that isn’t recoverable once given: a few minutes of their time and of their attention. Her task is to use that time as well as possible.” So if you’re going to gift people with a wondrous idea, you first have to spend some preparation time. Rambling is not an option. As it turned out, this particular rambling speaker did give TED a gift of sorts. From that talk on, we redoubled our efforts on speaker preparation."

TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris Anderson

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

What would we really sing with a thousand?

"It is easy to sing in a meeting, "O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer's praise.' Futile wish! We shall never have a thousand tongues. If we had them, we should not know what to do with them - not when the one tongue we have is so strangely silent respecting the Lord who loves us and gave Himself for us." 

Freank E. Gaebelin The practical Epistle of James

Thursday, November 2, 2017


Therefore. It’s a commendable and handy word. It means because of, consequently, to that end. Therefore is an adverb since it can be used to “connect clause content”. For example, I wanted to double-check it actually was an adverb, THEREFORE I looked it up in the Merriam-Webster. Reading your Bible, you come across this word all the time. In my Bible, it’s there over 1,200 times. My former pastor used to say “when you see the word therefore, see what it’s there for. Not good English, but excellent advice. If you open your Bible and the first word of the verse is “therefore” you know you are in the middle of the thought. You’ve walked into the middle of a conversation. Imagine entering a room and hearing someone say “therefore, she must die!” Have you uncovered a dark conspiracy of murder, most foul? No, you missed the first part of the sentence, the part before the “therefore”. “Mother doesn’t like getting these gray hairs, therefore, she must dye!”  

Sometimes, therefore is the first verse of a chapter. Romans 5:1 begins “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Even though it is the beginning of the chapter, Paul is in the middle of his thought. Even though the chapter ends, doesn’t always mean the argument  ends. Therefore is a word that  helps us track the logic of the passage. In Romans 5:1 Paul is building on his argument that since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God. The case of chapter 4 is advanced in chapter 5. The word therefore helps us see peace with God can’t happen without justification because it connects the two ideas.

Therefore can also tell us what we need to do. Staying in Romans and in chapter 12, Paul says not to repay evil for evil and to live in peace, if possible, with all men because “vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.” So what are we to do with that information? How do we apply that to our life?  In verse 20 he says “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink...”  Since it is wrong for you to take revenge because God says he will take vengeance you need to be kind to your enemies. The therefore says “because this is true, you must do that.” Finding the therefores in passages and considering the context will help you find the application of the truth. Context is important in understanding the Bible. If you read a verse with therefore as the first word, know you are missing an important part of the idea. Back up a few verses and get the whole picture so that you can get the true meaning of the passage. Otherwise, you might walk in on Paul and just hear Romans 1:13 as “Now I would not have you ignorant brethren” and think he was upset with someone and resorted to name calling.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Old Oaken Bucket

By: Samuel Woodworth

How dear to my heart are the scenes of my childhood,
When fond recollection presents them to view!
The orchard, the meadow, the deep-tangled wildwood,
And every loved spot which my infancy knew;
The wide-spreading pond, and the mill which stood by it,
The bridge, and the rock where the cataract fell;
The cot of my father, the dairy-house nigh it,
And e’en the rude bucket which hung in the well —
The old oaken bucket, the iron-bound bucket,
The moss-covered bucket which hung in the well.

That moss-covered vessel I hail as a treasure;
For often, at noon, when returned from the field,
I found it the source of an exquisite pleasure,
The purest and sweetest that nature can yield.
How ardent I seized it, with hands that were glowing!
How quick to the white-pebbled bottom it fell;
Then soon, with the emblem of truth over-flowing,
And dripping with coolness, it rose from the well —
The old oaken bucket, the iron-bound bucket,
The moss-covered bucket arose from the well.

How sweet from the green mossy brim to receive it,
As, poised on the curb, it inclined to my lips!
Not a full blushing goblet could tempt me to leave it,
Though filled with the nectar that Jupiter sips.
And now, far removed from the loved situation,
The tear of regret will intrusively swell,
As fancy reverts to my father’s plantation,
And sighs for the bucket which hangs in the well —
The old oaken bucket, the iron-bound bucket,
The moss-covered bucket which hangs in the well.

My grandpa had a well in his garden and I can still taste that cool water from the bucket. One day working on the farm, I felt like I was dying of thirst. It had to have been over 100 degrees outside and I just wanted some water. We stopped the tractor at the well, dropped the bucket and I was refreshed by the cool crisp water. My Dad, looked down in the water and asked if I had already drunk it. Indeed I had, why? Because there is a dead rat floating in the top.

Ah, the good ole' days. If your thoughts reading this poem was "no wonder the life expectancy was so short, with all the disease and germs in the water", this poem HERE will be more your taste

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Lord is My Shepherd - My Soul Among Lions

From Pulpit to Pew

"Clearness in the pulpit is good sense in the pew. Mysticism in the pulpit is nonsense in the pew.  The absence of exposition from the pulpit is ignorance of the Bible in the pew." 

Austin Phelps from The Theory of Preaching (circa 1881)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Enter and Exit Empty-handed

Tuesday with Timothy #74

1 Timothy 6:6-8  But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

A newborn baby cries. Mom and Dad cry. The nurse cleans and swaddles the baby, who left the warmth and safety of the womb to experience the first shock of cold air on his naked skin. The baby enters the world weak and vulnerable. Someone quickly gives the boy a blanket, then maybe a cap to keep his head warm. Soon thereafter, he is given a name. Mom and Dad have a stockpile of necessities to give him when they take him home. A bed, a house, clothes, and blankets. Just a month or so before, friends and family had a baby shower to make sure the baby would have sufficient items to get started. The baby comes into this life empty-handed.

Junior grows and begins to acquire possessions. He gets clothes, and toys. He gets older and gets pocket knives and BB guns. He gets older still and then comes his first car and his first job. His first house with his first (hopefully only) wife. He gets a garage to store the stuff on the land he has acquired. He gets his retirement. He gets bad news at the doctor. He gets sick. He dies. He leaves this world and leaves all his stuff behind.

It is one of life's few certainties. You bring nothing in this world and you can’t take a bit of it with you when you leave. It’s a somber thought. So much of life is buying and trading, gaining and keeping. Working to keep up what you have, taking care of what Grace and Providence has provided and when it’s over, you leave it all for someone else. In our text, Paul is not anti-possessions or advocating a life of poverty. He wants you to consider you life. What is most important to you? What do you value? What do you live and long for?

When the baby is born, he is cold and hungry. Mother takes him in her arms, wraps him up tight and feeds him. The baby eats, snuggles close and falls asleep - content. Having all that he wants, the infant rests well. Paul tells us that we should have that outlook. Are we clothed and fed? Let’s rest in God’s care and be content with what He has provided. Life is more comfortable with modern conveniences. I’m thankful for air conditioning, insulated walls, microwaves and all the hundreds of little things we have that makes life enjoyable and comfortable. It would be sad to spend our whole life chasing after comforts, conveniences, and toys only to leave  this world and enter into eternal pain and misery. Be childlike in your faith and be content with what God has given you. Have your treasure in Heaven where no one will be empty-handed.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sovereign Ruler of the Skies

By John Ryland

Sovereign Ruler of the skies, 
ever gracious, ever wise, 
All my times are in Thy hand, 
all events at Thy command. 
He that formed me in the womb, 
He shall guide me to the tomb. 

All my times shall ever be 
ordered by his wise decree. 
Times of sickness, times of health; 
times of poverty and of wealth; 
Times of trial and times of grief; 
times of triumph and relief; 

Times the tempter’s power to prove; 
times to taste a Savior’s love. 
All must come, and last, and end, 
as shall please my heavenly Friend. 
Plagues and deaths around me fly; 
till he bids, I cannot die; 

Not a single dart can hit, 
till the God of love thinks fit. 
O Thou gracious, wise, and just, 
in Thy hands my life I trust; 
Thee at all times will I bless: 
having Thee I all possess. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Think Not

The Old Testament is there -- right at the front of your Bible. 39 books, 929 chapters, 23,145 verses worth of wisdom, history, prophesy, and poetry. All believers acknowledge the Old Testament and affirm they believe it.  In Jesus' sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:17-18) he said " Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." The people Jesus spoke to would also have said they believed the Old Testament was God’s Word, but they thought wrongly about the law and about Jesus. Most of the people Jesus preached to had their entire identity wrapped up in keeping God’s law and he planned to correct them in this sermon. He starts off by saying, don’t think  I’m coming to destroy the law. Don't misunderstand the law's purpose and Christ's mission.

In this short passage, Jesus shows us how He thought about the Bible, and how we should think about God's Word. Jesus said the Bible is unchangeable and permanent. Heaven and Earth shall pass away but not the Bible. The Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35). Jesus said the Bible is authoritative and accurate. Survey the Lord’s teaching and you see He referred to the Old Testament as proof and evidence for His preaching and doctrine.  For instance, Jesus referenced the marriage in the Garden of Eden, the murder of Abel, Noah, Jonah being swallowed by the fish, Lot’s wife, Sodom and Gomorrah, manna from Heaven, to name a few. Jesus believed the Old Testament. Jesus believed nothing in God’s word is insignificant or unimportant. Jesus is the theme of the Old Testament  John 5:39  "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." Jesus did not come to do away with the Scriptures which testified of him, or the Words He lived by, preached from, and fulfilled.  Jesus, preaches himself, and how he will fulfill the law of God. What other person could speak the way Jesus does? Jesus constantly preaches about himself, and we love Him for it. Jesus fulfilled the law in many different ways. He fulfilled prophecies concerning himself. He fulfilled the types and shadows and ordinances of the ceremonies designed to point to and prefigure His work at Calvary. He fulfilled laws by obeying them in the flesh. Jesus was not against the law. It isn't the law of the Old Testament on one side and Jesus on the other. Jesus and the law are on the same side.  We are on the wrong side of the law, and only in Christ can we be freed from its condemnation. Don't think wrongly about the law. It's there, and you broke it. The law is there to show you your need of salvation. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A Failure to Communicate

"You're not listening to what I am saying!"

"Oh, yes I am, you said..."

We've all been down that conversational road, and we know that unless something changes, it's not going to end well. Both sides are talking past one another and not listening to try and understand the other person. An argument will never end well when both parties hear what they want to hear just to prove their side right. When you try to win an argument instead of the person, it gets messy. Often there is not any real malice intended, but we don't understand what the other side is saying or trying to say. It might be a failure in communication or it might be a prejudice against what is being said. There is talking, but no communication.

How can we avoid this? We don't act like the Captain in Cool Hand Luke and start beating people over the head because they are not listening to us. We can avoid this by not attributing evil intentions to everyone that disagrees with us on every point. We can listen and ask questions of people to make sure we are hearing what they are trying to say before we grab our pitchforks. We can go to someone privately and ask them for clarification. Don't be so vain, to think this (or every) article is about you. Maybe, just maybe, the problem is that you didn't understand or didn't read it closely enough. Maybe you are reading more into the article, sermon, post than was intended by the person who posted it.

It is not acceptable to deliberately mishear our opponent. When we know what our opponent is saying and we know that there is disagreement, we have to deal honestly. Truth is nothing to play around with and nothing to compromise on; but we do the truth a disservice when we don't rightly represent those people and those positions we oppose. Don't defend the truth by lying about your opponent. How can we claim to stand for the truth, but don't care to understand the truth in our arguments? You need to be "swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath," according to James 1:19. This should especially be true when dealing with good brothers who disagree with us. Once you wrongly attribute malice to someone who disagrees with you because it makes it easier to refute them, but you've lost your opportunity to convince him of your position and have made an enemy out of your brother. To deal honestly with truth or with another person you have to listen to them, to what they are really saying. Listen to them and deal with what they actually say and what they mean, not what you think they said, not what you want them to mean, or what you wish they would have said.

The Harvard Business Review has a good article on talking past each other in business situations. In the article, they list some items that might be helpful to us. I have slightly edited the bullet points below:

Stop doing this:
  • assuming that others see what you see, feel what you feel, and think what you think
  • recognize that emotions, such as fear and distrust, change how you and others interpret conversations
  • thinking you understand and remember what others say, when you really only remember what you think about what they’ve said.
  • underestimating your own blind spots

Start doing that:
  • asking open-ended questions, to which you don’t know the answers, (i.e. What influenced your thinking?)
  • listening to the answers to understand them, not just to refute them
  • Be clear in defining your terms

Sunday, October 15, 2017

When Thou Passest Through the Waters

Is there any heart discouraged as it journeys on its way? 
Does there seem to be more darkness than there is of sunny day? 
Oh, it’s hard to learn the lesson, as we pass beneath the rod, 
That the sunshine and the shadow serve alike the will of God; 
But there comes a word of promise like the promise in the bow — 
That however deep the waters, they shall never overflow. 

When the flesh is worn and weary, and the spirit is depressed, 
And temptations sweep upon it, like a storm on ocean’s breast, 
There’s a haven ever open for the tempest-driven bird; 
There’s a shelter for the tempted in the promise of the Word; 
For the standard of the Spirit shall be raised against the foe, 
And however deep the waters, they shall never overflow. 

When a sorrow comes upon you that no other soul can share, 
And the burden seems too heavy for the human heart to bear, 
There is One whose grace can comfort if you’ll give Him an abode;
There’s a Burden-Bearer ready if you’ll trust Him with your load; 
For the precious promise reaches to the depth of human woe, 
That however deep the waters, they shall never overflow. 

When the sands of life are ebbing and I know that death is near; 
When I’m passing through the valley, and the way seems dark and drear; 
I will reach my hand to Jesus, in His bosom I shall hide, 
And ’twill only be a moment till I reach the other side; 
It is then the fullest meaning of the promise I shall know. 
“When thou passest through the waters, they shall never overflow.”

Author unknown. This is based on Isaiah 43:2. I found it in the book Comfort the Grieving, by Brian Tautges. The poem is also available in tract form HERE. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

How to Think by Alan Jacobs

Alan Jacobs thinks we have a thinking problem. I think he’s right. Not that we cannot think, but as a society, we would rather not and actively avoid it. Thinking requires too much of us. Thinking will change us and often will cause us trouble. If you want to slow down and really think and are concerned with discovering truth, this book is for you.

How to Think is an important book for our times. The world of social media has made thinking much more difficult. We create echo chambers of online communities that agree with us. It is so easy to categorize anyone who disagrees with us as the enemy, dismiss them, block them, and banish them from your feeds. But learning to think involves a “skepticism about our own motives and generosity toward the motives of others." You have to care about the truth more than your social position. Changing your mind does have social consequences. 

Thinking is also more than coldly calculating all possible options like a super computer. We are human beings, not machines. Clear and good thinking requires the rational, logic, but there is the emotional aspect involved as well. There always has been, a social aspect to our thinking. No one comes to any conclusion as “an independent thinker”. Whether through face to face discussion, books, or teachers, we don’t come to ideas on our own. All of these factors come to play, and they can either be used for good thinking or to shut it down. All logic and no compassion, or all emotion and no social element or empathy for those you disagree with will shut down thinking. The search for truth requires the courage to admit you are wrong, or to say your friends and family are wrong. 

I didn't agree with all his conclusions, but I am still thinking them over. 

Thank to for the review copy. 

Think Before You Speak

Proverbs 29:11 A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards. Proverbs are short bits of wisdom, written in a memorable way, giving  godly principles for living in the fear of the Lord.  Here, we get the principle of thinking before you speak. Sometimes you must speak up quickly. Our proverb is not dealing with the exceptions that prove the rule. Most of the time as a general rule, slow down and think before you utter all your mind.

It isn’t wisdom to say everything that comes to mind in the moment. It isn’t wise, or brave, or strong and independent. It’s foolish. Some time ago, I sat in a waiting room; waiting as it turns out. I couldn't read as I usually do since a fellow patient in waiting kept uttering all her mind on every conceivable topic. No philosophy was beyond her scope and no person was spared from her opinion. One unfortunate soul sat across from her, and she asked her when her baby was due. “I’m not pregnant, but thanks.” Ouch. Did that stop our fool? Did this  humiliate and humble her? Of course not, she pressed on telling us all why she made such an assumption, making an awful situation somehow worse. The nurse opened the door, called the fool's name and she went back, muttering and sputtering on like a boat motor, leaving a rather upset young woman in her wake, contemplating her weight in the waiting room.

The wise man doesn’t feel he needs to speak quickly or be the first to have a hot take on a subject. Though he may be outraged, he can wait and think through the issue instead of venting on a public forum. The wise man can wait for the most advantageous time to speak. The wise man will think through the issue and make sure that he has covered all the ground and other possible avenues not yet considered. The sage can check his outrage and his anger for a while, making sure what he says is right, but also the right time and in the right spirit.

It is easy to get caught up in the current events of the day and feel like you have to voice some opinion on the matter and do it now. When someone makes us angry or says something we disagree with, it is natural, to want to immediately respond, or even take up arms and go to war. Learn wisdom. You don’t have to say all you know. You don’t have to let everyone else know all your mind; which, probably is really what you feel, not what you think. Give it a few minutes to simmer on the back burner and think before you speak. James said " let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath." As someone quipped, perhaps paraphrasing Solomon, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Learning to Love the Psalms

Learning to Love the Psalms
W. Robert Godfrey

Learning to Love the Psalms is a great book that sets out (and succeeds) to guide the reader to better “understand and appreciate the Psalms at a new level.” This book is not a commentary to every verse, or even every Psalm, but it is an introduction to a life of personal study and reflection on the Psalms. Godfrey gives you a good overview of the 150 Psalms and some necessary information in understanding Hebrew poetry, different forms the Psalms are written in, and structure of the Psalter. He also provides some things to look for as you go forward and how to apply them to their historical setting, how they point to Christ, and how they are for Christians today. 

The book is broken up into the 6 sections; the overview of the Psalter, then 5 books of the Psalms. In each section, Godfrey gives you a summary and outline to the book (there are 5 books in the Psalter) and themes to look for through that section. He selects certain Psalms and works through them showing how the principles he laid out at the beginning are used to get more out of the passage. Not only do you learn about the psalm, but you are seeing how to work through the psalms. He is teaching the principles of getting the most out of Psalms on your own.  

Learning to Love the Psalms is very accessible and I think a valuable resource for personal study or a great help to pastors or teachers who want to help teach the Psalms. The book will work best if you take your time and work through the Psalter, using this book as your guide. The Psalms are poetry and are designed for slow reading, meditation, and repeated reflection and Godfrey has written a book to help you toward a lifetime of fruitful meditation and worship.

I received a review copy from 

Be Ready: The Sword of the Spirit

I Peter 3:15 ..and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you… What we believe about salvation will affect how we go about telling others about Jesus. The Bible tells us that spiritually, we are as dead as a doornail, and need the Spirit of God to give life and the Holy Spirit uses the instrument of His Word to regenerate sinners. So if we desire to see sinners saved, when asked about the hope that is in us, we must use the Word of God.

It is at this point the battle will be won or lost. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and the Word is sharper than any two-edged sword. The Bible can pierce the soul and spirit asunder and is like a hammer that breaks the rocks in pieces. The Scripture cannot be broken and endures forever. It is the incorruptible seed by which we are born again. The Bible is the Sword of the Spirit, so as a Christian, why would you ever lay down such a weapon when speaking to those without Christ? When I was about 8 years old, a friend and I were walking through the woods after a big snow storm, and because we were 8 year old boys, we decided to walk across a frozen pond. My friend made it about 10 feet before the ice broke and he fell through. I grabbed a stick and stuck it out to him and pulled him to shore. Had I left the safety of the bank to jump in after him, I could have grabbed hold of him, but then we both would have been trapped. We cannot leave the solid ground of the truth to bring someone to safety relying on our own power.  Being ready is understanding that there is no such thing as a neutral position. Everyone has a bias. I come to every conversation with the belief that God exists and we can know Him only through Jesus Christ. That is my presupposition. God’s word is God’s self-revelation, so in order to know Him and to know truth, we have to start with the authoritative Word of God. Some argue that's a circular argument. But ultimate truth must be the foundation and starting point of any worldview. If logic, reason, and the scientific method is how we arrive at the truth, tell me how we arrived at that conclusion? By reason and logic; and that, my friend, is a circular argument too.  When discussing ultimate realities, there must be a place or a truth you start from and base everything else on. God has revealed Himself to us in His Word, through Jesus Christ and that ultimate truth is found in His Word. The Bible is are starting point. Being ready is to have confidence in the power of the Word and faith in God's power to save.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Free Audio Book

This month's free audio book at Christian Audio is a really good one.

The Whole Christ, by Sinclar Ferguson.

He does a great job in examining legalism and antinomianism and showing that they are "non-identical twins" rather than opposites. The cure is not to sway towards the other error, but looking to Christ and the grace of God. The Marrow of Modern Divinity had a profound impact on me years ago (get that book and read it too) when I was struggling between the two sides and swinging back and forth. Ferguson gives the historical context of that book, then goes through the major themes. Highly recommended. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Be Ready: The Holiness of Christ

I Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

Sanctifying the Lord in your heart does not make Jesus holy, but it is recognizing that He is holy. It  is to stand in awe of HIs holiness, have confidence in His power, love in our hearts for Him, and to obey His commands. Being ready to give an answer and witness for Jesus requires submitting the Lordship of Christ in your life and knowing our Holy God.

This passage is a reference from Isaiah 8:13. In Isaiah’s time, the people were not trusting the Lord and some went to peeping and muttering wizards and soothsayers for deeper understanding and guidance. The conventional wisdom was that people should get their direction from God by speaking to the dead. They lived in very spiritual times, but being a spiritual person is only good when you follow the right spirit. Israel preferred the unsure words of devil worshippers above the Word of God. Isaiah answered this error with the call to “sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread” (Isa. 8:13)  and when they come with their wisdom or spirituality, you go “to the law and the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isa. 8:20). Trust in the Lord and heed to His Word. In the context of 1 Peter 3, God’s people are following the good, even if it leads to persecution. They stand against the wisdom of the age and follow their Lord, not fearing the threat, nor being afraid of the trouble that comes when we do. Who can really harm you if you follow the Lord? How then do we sanctify the Lord in our hearts? To the law and testimony. We hold to and follow the Word of God and the God of the Word. Regardless of popular opinion, or the sincerity of the other message, Jesus is Lord and His word stands. Sanctifying God in your heart is to take God’s word as the foundation of your life, no matter the circumstances. If we are defending the faith against someone who is opposed to Christianity, or witnessing to someone who doesn’t believe, we must stand on the firm and solid truth that Jesus is Lord, Jesus is Truth. We won’t sway to popular ideas or conventional wisdom. Our hope does not come from our feelings and intuitions. Our confidence is not on the wisdom from below, but from above. Jesus is Lord, God is sovereign, His Word is powerful, and so we witness for Him believing those truths. When we see the holiness of our God, we will fear him. When you fear God, you have nothing else to fear.

Click below for the previous posts in this series.
Part 1
Part 2

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Ready to Given an Answer: Apologetics and a Godly Life

The first step in being able to give a reasoned defense of the faith is to live a godly life. Some ungodly people are naturally drawn to apologetics because they love to fight and argue. Some immature believers enjoy apologetics because they feel it is sanctified rebel rousing. Their motivation is not for the glory of God in proclaiming truth, but to be mean-spirited troublemakers using the shield of faith as a cover for carnality or the hilt of the sword of the spirits to bludgeon opponents in the name of Christian charity. The goal of Christian apologetics glorifying God, truth proclaimed, and sinners coming to faith in Christ.

Peter imploring us to be ready to give an answer in 1 Peter 3:15 occurs in the middle of a book calling us to holiness. This book was addressed to “scattered strangers” or believers in Jesus who were uprooted from family, friends, and country because of persecution. The entire letter encourages disciples with a call to persevere in the faith as pilgrims journeying to our Heavenly home (1 Peter 2:11). Peter exhorts Christians to live holy lives as God’s chosen people. However privileged and blessed this calling is, God’s people are foreigners in this world. We make our sojourn here, not in rebellion but by submitting to God ordained authority. We are God’s children, yet we are to be submissive to the governmental authorities, even if we are treated poorly. We have an incorruptible inheritance in Heaven, yet called to be good employees, especially when we are treated poorly. We have the rewards of everlasting life and peace, yet are to be meek in suffering, as we follow our Lord’s example. Peter stresses in the importance of godly language and godly works (I Peter 2:1; 2:16; 3:10-11; 4:2-4) living in this wicked world. We are to live holy and separate lives in a world system that is enmity against our Lord.

A godly life reflects the light of Christ in a sin darkened world. A holy life will draw attention because it is different and will spark questions or accusations. When you are respectful to your leaders and politicians, when you are gracious to an employer who treats you poorly, when you never tear down your spouse when everyone else is making jokes about theirs, sooner or later someone will either ask you why or start giving you a hard time about it. By being patient and humble in unjust suffering, or showing love to your enemies, you are being a witness for Christ, and when they ask or accuse, you have an opportunity to explain why and proclaim Christ. How you live does not make something true or false, but it does affect how someone will take your words (Genesis 19:14). Being ready to give an answer to your faith starts with living the faith you claim to believe. Look to yourself first, take the beam out of your own eye and be ready to tell others about Jesus.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Tangled up in Allegory

I've been studying Revelation 20 and reading the different perspectives on the Millennium. I contend a consistent reading of Scripture will lead you to a premillennial view of Revelation 20. Just about every verse of the first seven, is a battlefield of eschatology.  Commenting on Revelation 20:1 on the "great chain" the angel uses to bind Satan, J.A. Seiss wrote "Figures, tropes, and shadows cannot bind anybody, unless it be some commentators, who seem to be hopelessly entangled in them."

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Ready to Give an Answer: An Introduction

Apologetics isn’t the art of saying I’m sorry, but it is giving a reasoned defense of something. Scott Oliphint defined Christian apologetics as "the application of biblical truth to unbelief." In 1 Peter 3:15, we read that Christians must “…be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you…”. The phrase "to give an answer" is translated from the Greek phrase pros apologian, which is where our English word apologetics comes from. Peter is calling  all Christians to be apologists, or that we should all be able to defend and give a statement of what we believe to those who don’t.

Jesus gave his church a mission in Matthew 28:18-20. We are to  go, preach, teach, and make disciples. This verse is not only for missionaries who go to foreign fields. The call to go is for all Christians. The call is to take the gospel with us as we go, wherever we go. We go to work, or go to our neighbors house, we go to the store, we go to the ball game, we go all over the place and speak with people who don’t know Jesus. We go to school, we go to biology class, we go and look at solar eclipses. We talk with people about the weather that God controls, and politics, which God ordains. We discuss how elusive turkeys are and the nature of whitetails, all God’s designs. We are in constant conversation with people about God’s world. The way we look at God's world and how we act in a fallen world communicates our Biblical view of life. Biblical truth is not confined to the church walls, true belief will work itself out in our lives. Naturally, our view of the world will be different than unbelievers because our belief is informed by God’s word. When you have differences with someone, you have discussions. Discussions will (or can) lead to the big questions of life and Peter says that the Christian needs to be ready to give those answers.

We don't need to have the answer so we can win arguments. We need to be ready to tell people about the hope we have. Gospel hope isn’t a wish, like “I hope this is true” but a confident faith in God’s promises. Christian hope is not blind faith, but faith in God’s Word. We trust God and His promises. We have confidence that God has done what he promised to do. We have the assurance that Christ Jesus redeemed us with his precious blood. We have hope that He will return. We have assured confidence that He gives eternal life to all who put their hope and trust in His finished work. We can be certain in trying times. We can be joyful in difficult situations. We can be loving to our enemies, and compassionate and merciful to the wicked. We do this because of the hope that is within us.  

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Blessed are the Merciful

Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Mercy is compassion in action. While grace deals with sin, mercy deals with the consequences of sin and has pity on the miserable by relieving their suffering. Puritan pastor Thomas Watson wrote that “love is the friend who visits all and mercy is the doctor who visits the sick.” Jesus told a parable of a merciful Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37. A Jewish man was traveling to Jericho and fell among a band of thieves who robbed him and beat him half to death and left  him to die in the road. A priest, the man ordained for the good of men in things pertaining to God, passed by and didn’t help. A Levite, who was the religious man who served in the Temple also saw the man and walked to the other side of the road to avoid him. He had work to do for God after all. But the Samaritan had compassion. He didn’t just feel bad about the situation, his compassion led to mercy. The modern day version might have the Levite pass by the crime scene, take a picture and post it on Facebook. “Saw this tragedy on the way to Temple. Sad! Can’t believe someone would do this! #caring #compassion.” Posting a sympathetic post about suffering isn’t mercy. That doesn’t help anyone who is suffering. The merciful Samaritan bound up his wounds, provided him medicine, let him ride his animal to an inn, and cared for him. When the Samaritan had to leave, he had the innkeeper to continue the care on his dime. Not because of a tax return opportunity. Not because someone would see him, but out of love and pity to relieve the someone’s suffering.

Jesus is the perfect example of mercy. As the Samaritan cared for the physical needs of a helpless, wretched man, Jesus cared for the wretched and pitiful condition of sinners. Grace redeemed us, mercy pitied us and provided the cure for our misery. In our dreadful state, the merciful Lord Jesus did not merely look upon sinners and offer an option, but entered his own creation to bind up our wounds, open the eyes of the blind and set the prisoners of sin free. Jesus is compassion in action. Sacrificing His very life’s blood for the salvation of His people, Jesus saved us, cared for us, and provided for our eternal needs in loving grace and glorious mercy.

Christians are to be merciful people, not to earn mercy (since that is impossible) but because we have received mercy.  Could you imagine the Jewish man, getting healed up, leaving the inn and passing by a broken, beaten, dying man and not showing mercy? Since you have received mercy from God, show mercy to others. A mean hard-hearted person who takes the name of Christ is at best a shame to their Lord and at worst, a deceived soul who had never experienced mercy in the first place.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Alas, the axe!

The living quarters were too cramped. Even preachers training in the school of the prophets appreciate some comfort. They asked Elisha if they could relocate their headquarters to the banks of the Jordan where there would be a bit more room and the requested was granted. The students went to work clearing the land and cutting down trees (2 Kings 6:1-7). One man, laying his axe to the work, ended up laying his axe in the bottom of the river. He was more of a John Bunyan than a Paul. The Jordan was a muddy river and there wouldn’t be much of a chance swimming and finding a piece of iron at the bottom. The worst part was this was a borrowed axe. This might not be such a big deal for some people. I knew a man who asked his neighbor if it would be all right if he came over to his garage. He said “sure, you don’t need to ask, but did you need something?” He said “I was working on a project and wanted to borrow some of my tools from your garage.” This young prophet was evidently that rare sort of man who actually takes care of borrowed items with the mind to return them when finished. May his tribe increase. The iron sinks --  immediately he thinks of losing the borrowed axe, and that law, righteousness, and honor would require him to replace it. That would in turn reminded him he needed to borrow the axe because he couldn’t afford to buy one, let alone replace.

Elisha asked him where the axe fell and the young man pointed to the water. Elisha cut a stick and threw it in the area of the axe head. Bubbling up from the depth came the axe! It popped up and began to swim over to the shore. Now that's amazing! On the banks of the Jordan, away from the multitudes, in the middle of a work day, God came and showed His great power to this band of prophets. In the grand scheme of things, a lost axe head isn’t really that big a deal; and yet God was concerned with his problem. There are no issues too small or too insignificant for God. That’s one glorious aspect of God’s omnipotence and omnipresence. God’s attention is not divided and his power is not limited. He can hear your most earnest plea, and sympathize with your smallest request. There is nothing insignificant to our Father in the life of His child. There is also nothing too difficult for God. In hopeless predicament with the loss of a borrowed tool that he could not buy, could not repay, nor retrieve, the man was without hope. But God comes in mercy and does what only God could do. That is what we all need, God’s saving grace. We are in the dire condition of having a sin debt that we cannot pay and our only recourse is to cry out unto a merciful God who is able to deliver us.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Doctrinal Preaching

Should pastors preach doctrine? Some say preaching has to be changed to suite the culture. Preaching was acceptable in Paul’s day, but times have changed and we need to change with them. We might have iPhones and air-conditioning, but the spirit of the times hasn't changed. Paul was persecuted by the government and thrown in prison unjustly, under the heavy hand of a God hating, heathen tyrant. He lived in a time when preachers of a false gospel were rising up in every quarter teaching a works salvation. There were not very many churches, and the ones that were in existence were dividing over doctrine. The political scene in Jerusalem was turbulent with factions and seditions. There were prominent political groups in Jerusalem wanting to rise up against Rome and go to war desiring to restore the liberty of the nation of Israel. Timothy was the pastor of the church in Ephesus, located in modern day Turkey, the capital of the Asian confederacy of Rome. The city was full of false gods, witchcraft, and idolatry, and overrun with sexual immorality. The church was in a city of worldliness, false religion, false doctrine, government overreach and a growing opposition to the truth of God’s Word and the saving gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The times haven't change that much. So what was Paul's theory on preaching? What did Paul council Timothy to preach in such turbulent, God hating times?

Doctrine. In the pastoral epistles of First and Second Timothy, and Titus, Paul mentions doctrine (good or bad) or refers to teaching doctrine over 20 times. Doctrine is simply teaching or in instruction. Doctrinal preaching is presenting principles or truths systematically. Biblical doctrine is starting with the Bible and teaching and expounding what the text of scripture says about certain themes or topics. What is needed in our time is the doctrines of the Word of God explained, expounded, learned, and applied. The pulpit needs to sound forth with the truths of God's sovereignty, the depth of Christ's atoning work for the salvation of sinners. We need to hear about the doctrine of sin, God, the church, and man, to name a few. The reason for war, fighting, drug abuse, marital problems, wayward children, financial problems is sin. The answer is not to put pastoral band-aids on the gaping wound with self-help messages. The answer must address the root cause. We need doctrine. It will not be the most popular message, but it's what God commissioned His church to preach, and what the world really needs. What's more important that eternal life? What is more important that knowing where you will spend eternity? There is no higher pursuit than to know God, and to make God known. What you know about God and what you believe about God effects how you live and how you think. Knowing God and knowing more about God is the most important thing you can devote your mind and heart to. You need doctrinal preaching.