Saturday, January 12, 2019

Hast thou no scar? by Amy Carmichael

Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land,
I hear them hail thy bright ascendant star,
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet, I was wounded by the archers, spent.
Leaned me against the tree to die, and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed me, I swooned:
Hast thou no wound?

No wound? No scar?
Yet as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me;
But thine are whole. Can he have followed far
Who has no wound nor scar?

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Essential Oils and Quenching Oils of Friendship

Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart:
so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel. Proverbs 27:9

My wife has spent some time learning about essential oils, their uses, and benefits. It seems there are no end to what different oils purport to do. Reading through the wisdom books, you’ll notice that Solomon was a fan of essential oils, if for nothing else than the smell. There is something refreshing about a nice aroma. I suppose that’s why Yankee Candle does so well (Newell Rubbermaid – no relation; I’m not heir to any vast kitchenware fortune – bought Yankee Candle for $15 billion in 2015). It made Solomon happy to come home and have a sweet smell waft through the doorway, and if such small common graces fill your heart with joy, then more power to you and praise the Lord.

Solomon mused on his buoyant bouquet and it reminded him of friendship. Friendship is sweet, and it does the soul good to talk another like-minded soul, but especially a wise friend who is invested enough to give advice from the soul. The particular fragrance of friendship Solomon is talking about here comes from the friend’s counsel, wise words from a friend who really cares. It delights the heart to have a companion offering guidance when we are troubled. During some calamity, to know we have a friend to help us get back on track or stay to stay the course is comforting. When we are not thinking clearly, or cannot think clearly, how rewarding to have a friend, detached from the situation, to give us fresh perspective. When tragedy comes, it cheers the heart to have a friend to remind us of truths we both believe. What a help to stand in the funeral home and have a friend who cared enough to come or to hear the voice of one offering a word of encouragement. It rejoiced the heart to know, even in terribly sad times, one could rely on a friend’s words to give comfort and aid. How good to know there is another person who loves and cares enough to share their heart and give all they can to help you, knowing they love and want the best for you. It’s good to have a friend who tells you what you need to hear, not just want you want to hear. A friend with a backbone.

Are you a friend who rejoices the heart? It’s good to receive, but it’s better to give. Strive to be the kind of friend one can rely on. Labor to be the kind of friend whose counsel is sweet and sought after. If you want to be that sort of friend, you need to work to be wise, and “whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so the them.” Be a good friend.  Consider the fragrance in your relationships and what kind of counsel are you getting, and what kind of counsel to you give?

The Forge of Friendship

Ambrose Bierce, in his Devil’s Dictionary said being friendless is, “Having no favors to bestow. Destitute of fortune. Addicted to utterance of truth and common sense.” Part of being a true friend means you have to sometimes do or say things your friend is not going to like. Bierce, though in jest, hit close to home because to have many “friends”, you will need to lay off the truth and common sense. But is that really friendship? When someone does nothing but butter you up, they are not helping you out or being your friend -- they are setting a trap for you. Proverbs 29:5, “A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet.” The only person who believes you are the greatest the world has ever known is your Mom -- anyone else saying so is flattering you wants something. Maybe you lay it on pretty thick because you want people to like you. Unfortunately, this is counterproductive if you are looking for close friendships. The flatterer may enjoy the company of others, but they won’t enjoy close friendship that comes over time through honest counsel. Proverbs 28:3, “He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue.”

A good friend has your best interest at heart, not their own. You are not perfect, and no one knows that better than our friends. But, they also want the best for you, so we can see how correction, or a warning may be in order from time to time. Proverbs 27:6, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” It’s better to be corrected by a friend than kissed by an enemy. If the flatterer wants something from you, he’s buttering you up. If he is looking for advancement, they’ll use you and leave you behind. The wounds of a friend are faithful to the truth and faithful to the friendship. The enemy pretends to be a friend and feigns love for personal gain.

A friend is going to make you better. Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” True, taking your Case and your Buck and scraping them together is not the best way to sharpen a knife. But you don’t live in the Iron Age and your Case is made of high carbon steel, not iron, but the principle is easy to understand. Men can make each other better by thoughtful, purposeful resistance. When you sharpen a blade, you must remove material. The result is less of what you don’t want and more of what you do. Friends make each other better in the forge. Be careful - too much sharpening, and all you’ll have is a handle. Or, if you hammer the tip of your blade into the face of the whetstone, you’ll break the blade and make it worse. There is a right way to sharpen and a time to stop. 

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Safe and Secure

The final note of the epistle of Jude (verses 24-25) points believers to Jesus. Jude warned us to watch, charged us to vigilance, cautioned us not to fall, or stumble, the letter concludes with praise to Christ, the One who is able to keep us from falling. Jude’s doxology is an example of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. We are responsible to watch, to be diligent, to contend for the faith, but our security is found, not in our hands, but in God’s. We should live as if it all depends on our works, but trust knowing it all depends on God’s grace. It’s the Lord who forgives our sins (I John 1:8-9). He keeps us by graciously giving us faith in Him. God gives us a hatred of sin, and leads us not into temptation, but in paths of righteousness. Because the Christian abides in Christ, we have security in Christ, knowing that he will keep us from falling away forever.  In Philippians 1:6, Paul was confident God would carry out what He started and not leave the work unfinished. Jesus does not begin a work of salvation and then abandoned it halfway.  Some are plagued by the fear of losing this precious gift of salvation. Seeing our sin, meditating on the Holiness of God, fearful of God’s judgment makes one sense their great failures. Truly, our sin is great, and our failures are great, but our Saviour is greater, and there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). God is able to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,”

Christ will present us faultless  before the Father in love. I have sinned. I still sin. I’m not perfect and certainly not faultless. But I’m not saved by my works. I’m not saved by my righteousness. My sins are forgiven. My debt is paid. I received a pardon, all by the finished work of Jesus Christ. I’ve been washed clean of my sin, justified by God, and the pure and perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed to my account and with “exceeding joy” Christ will present me as a trophy of His grace. That great day, the homecoming of His people and the gathering of the family of God.

Our hope rests on the power of Christ. He is the Rock upon which we stand, the anchor of our soul, strong and immovable and impenetrable stronghold. W serve the “only wise God our Saviour” who ordained  the great plan of redemption and made the way for my salvation, with no loophole, no unthought of contingency, who ordained my salvation before the world began –  to this God, be glory and honor, and worship. To him, all “majesty ascribe”.  To him, all dominion, power, might, and authority belongs, both now and ever. Eternal praise to Jesus the captain of our Salvation, now and forever. The Eternal Son provides eternal life and the saints of God will glorify and praise Him for evermore.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Build up and save


Preachers may sound like a broken record when they tell you to read your Bible over and over, but they care for your soul because you need to remember the words of the apostles of Christ (Jude 17-23). Keep their truths in mind and remember God’s promises and warnings. Remember, there will be mockers in the last times who walk, not after the way of Christ but after the way of flesh. They separate themselves from truth, authority, the church, from Christian fellowship, and  yoke themselves to the world. They may have a testimony, but they don’t have the Holy Spirit.
Instead of being disheartened, build yourselves up on the most holy faith and use the call for preparedness as an opportunity to strengthen yourself. You accomplish this by the Word of God (Acts 20:32)  and by God’s grace (I Corinthians 3:10). You build yourself up in Christ (Colossians 2:6-7), in His church (Ephesians 4:16) and by praying  in the Spirit. By doing this, you keep yourself in the love of God (Jude 21), or, in other words, we keep our minds and hearts in the love of God. We guard our affections against anything that pulls us from the thoughts of the love of Christ Jesus.  While nothing can eternally separate us from the love of God in Christ, we can wander and be led from magnifying God’s love in our life. Read the Bible, pray, meditate on the Scripture, fellowship with other Christians, join the church and attend the worship services, look to Christ and His promises, and look for Christ and his return.

Plus, you need to stay ready for the good of your friends. Someone needs to be strong to protect them (Jude 22-23)!  With some, we need to move with pity, mercy, grace. Being tender hearted because  they may be caught up unawares. Romans 16:18, “by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple”. Some will be deceived and fall off the path of orthodoxy. Others are too close to the edge, or too hardheaded to pick up the tender and gentle warnings.  In Jude 22-23, there are two types of people with basically the same problem, but we wisdom to determine how to deal with different people in different situations. Ignoring the issue and hoping it goes away is not an option if we love our friends. Sometimes a gentle reproof is enough to do the trick and sometimes you have to yank them out of the fire (Jude 23). If a one year old baby is waddling toward an open fire, mere feet from going headfirst into the flame, you don’t suggest in a soft spoken gentlemanly manner, for the babe to reconsider their life choices. You grab them and pull them away from danger. You have to treat sin like a leprous garment. It’s diseased and dangerous. Hate it for what it is and instead of falling in the flames, toss the garment of sin in the bonfire.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Three Bad Examples

Jude 10-16

When you go verse by verse through a book of the Bible, you are confronted with topics you otherwise might not really want to deal with. Jude himself, in verse 3 said he would have rather wrote about salvation by grace, but this subject is needed. Spiritual villains sneak in churches disguising themselves as men of God, so you have to be ready! The enter in the way of Cain, the murderer of righteous Abel (I John 3:12), but they are murderers of souls with damnable doctrine. They prey on God’s people like Balaam (Numbers 21-25). Men of Moab and Midian approached  Balaam with a proposition  -  curse Israel.  Balak, king of Moab, promised him prestige and honor if he would and Balaam would have done it, but the Lord wouldn't let him. But, Balaam said, stick around, maybe God will change His mind. Balaam was holding out hope for the money. Even though he couldn’t curse Israel, Balaam did what He could to hurt them (Numbers 25:1-3;9; 31:16; Rev 2:14). He tempted and lead Israel to participate in the idolatrous behavior of the world, worshipping false idols, and mingling truth with error. False teachers will harm the sheep for money and gain. But it's not just money, but also power. Core (same as Korah in Numbers 16:1)  gathered famous princes, men of renown rose up against Moses and Aaron. He took God’s promises and used them for his twisted sinful rebellion. “God has made us all equal, and  blessed us equally, who are you to be over us?” Actually, it was God who called Moses as the leader of Israel, and Core rebelled against God’s order.  1 Sam 15:23, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” We live in a time of rebellion, when people no longer heed to authority. They are "spiritual but not religious" meaning they will not listen to any authority other than their own heart. False teachers promote this feeling of autonomy and lead souls in rebellion. God opened up the Earth and Core fell in, and the Earth closed back up. I'm sure he didn't expect that, but people rarely expect or anticipate the judgment of God.

Look at the parallels between Jude 1:4 and 8. The ungodly turn grace into lasciviousness like Balaam. Defile the flesh in sin like Cain and despise dominion and speak evil of dignities like the gainsaying of Core. They are defiled feasts, clouds without water, looking the part, but nothing of substance. They are twice dead fruit trees, without life and without fruit. They rage in rebellion and produce the sea foam of their own shame. They are shooting stars, flashes of light that fade to blackness. Jude gives another Old Testament example to remember, Enoch (Jude 14-16) and his prophesy of old. The Lord is coming. He’s coming with His saints. He coming in judgment. He’s coming to judge the ungodly man of his ungodly deeds and his ungodly words.   

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Paul's Prayer List - Tuesday with Timothy #4

2 Timothy 1:3-4 ...that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day; 4 Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy; 

Paul loves Timothy and always prays for him. How much do we pray for our loved ones? How much do we pray for our friends? What joy to know someone is praying for you. Knowing someone who has your interest at heart and goes to the throne of grace on your behalf is a great encouragement.
Let’s turn this around. If you tell someone you’ll pray for them, do you? What a terrible lie, to tell someone they are in your prayers, and you have yet to pray for them. What deception to say, “I’ll pray” and forget about it and move on. The hypocrites love to be heard of me, and to let people know they will pray, and probably have a prayer list 5 pages long. Paul prayed night and day for Timothy, and you could take that to the bank.

Paul wanted to see Timothy again and likely remembered when they last saw each other and left, and what a tearful parting it was. The degree of sadness when they parted would be matched by the degree of joy at seeing each other again. What a friendship! If you have such a friend, treasure them and protect that friendship, because they are certainly a rare thing in this world. Paul had fair-weather friends who left him when things got tough, but Timothy was a true friend. Proverbs 17:17, "A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." Paul is about to get after Timothy a little bit, and to light a fire under him, but because they are friends, Timothy is not going to pout and get angry, because he also knows Proverbs 27:6, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." Timothy's tears were genuine because his love for his friend was genuine.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Remember the Bad Times

Sometimes, we  forget the basics. I heard a story about  a police squad who received hundreds of hours of weapons training. The instructor asked the officers to pick up the empty casings and put them in their pocket when they finished their clips instead of waiting to the end of the day, to keep things tidy. The officers became crack shots and extremely proficient. One day the officers were called to scene of a crazed gunman and several officers were shot dead. After the shootout,  investigators found the officers pockets full of empty casings. In the fight, they resorted to instinct, and because they didn’t practice the basics, the defaulted to what they had practiced. During the fight, they were actually bending over and picking up empty casings and putting them in their pockets. It’s not practice that makes perfect, but perfect practice makes perfect. We need reminded of the simple things, things we know, because we can forget to apply the principles when we need them. In Jude 5-8, we are called to remember others failures so we won’t make the same mistake.

Remember Israel’s lack of faith and rebellion against God. Remember the angels in Genesis 6 who left their assigned state and went where they were forbidden. Remember Sodom and Gomorrah and their rebellion against the natural order. The enemies Jude warned about have these same characteristics. Jude said these “dreamers” are coming for you who claimed God spoke to them in dreams, saying they had a “word from God”, but teaching their own wicked ways. They defiled the flesh and despised dominion, or hated authority.  These wicked men had an attitude of rebellion against authority and law.  It’s ungodly to be against lawful authority, (e.g., the church, her officers, police, parents, and employers). Like Israel in the wilderness, the fallen angels, and Sodom and Gomorrah, these false teachers despised the natural order and the law of God. By teaching God’s grace as a license to sin, they lead men against God’s ways, which turns to a rebellion against the pastor, and any position of authority or church government. They spoke evil of those in charge to undermine the authority of God’s Word.

Remember Michael, the chief angel, contended with Satan about Moses body. Why? I’m not sure and the Bible doesn’t say. Just because we don’t know for certain why, doesn’t mean we can’t learn the principle Jude is talking about. Michael was not afraid of Satan, though he dared not bring a railing accusation, but said, “the Lord judge thee” because It wasn’t Michael’s  place.

These false teachers, “speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.” They speak evil of God’s truth, which they don’t know, and promote what they are familiar with, their depraved nature. Freedom from law doesn’t bring man up, but makes him act like an animal. Sin, in every way, destroys human dignity.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Sneaky Teachers

God calls Christians to judge people. What about America's favorite verse is Matthew 7:1, "Judge not"? I don't disagree with my Lord, we should not be self-righteouss in our judgment and set ourselves up as God and judge people harshly or wrongly. But He also calls us to judge. If you still disagree with me, aren't you being judgmental? Jude 4 gives us a good example when he gave us the reason why we must fight for the faith, and judge people. "For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ."

Ungodly men, ordained of old to condemnation, were sneaking in to the churches. These type of men are not robbing the church building, or crawling through the window – they walk right in the front door with a big smile and bigger personality, and shake everyone's hand. The creep in by putting on a disguise of Christian orthodoxy. Christians are called to watch themselves and stay on guard. Sadly, there are wolves in sheep clothing who love to twist Scripture, ruin churches, and lead men into perdition. No false teacher walks through the door and announces his heretical views and insidious schemes. They come in pretending to be like everyone else in the church. Then with "good words and fair speeches" they deceive the hearts of the naive and undiscerning (Romans 16:17-18). They sneak in and start teaching. Whether from the pulpit or from the parking lot after church, they try to spread their terrible doctrine.

Jude notes two ways. One, they teach people to live unholy lives and lead men to anothe Christ. They preach a grace that forgives you of all your sins and then gives you free reign to go and sin all the more. It's a wicked doctrine to tell men they are free to sin and free to live however they please. Some have labeled this doctrine Therapeutic Moralistic Deism. God exists and he wants you to be happy, but is not concerned about how you live, what you believe, or really what you do. Your personal happiness is all that matters and your personal conviction is the guiding light of your morality. All you need to do is confess Jesus then go back and live however you want to live. They turn God's saving grace into a means of living a sinful an wicked life. The only way to preach such a doctrine is to have another Jesus, because the Jesus of the Bible certainly did not lead people to sin, but to go and sin no more. These false teachers, with false doctrine, preach a false Christ that leads people to very real Lake of Fire. God calls Christians to judge. We must compare what people say in God's name with God's word and discern if they are tell us the truth.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Spurgeon to His Son

MY DEAR SON,—You are a good son to write to your father so often and so lovingly. I am indeed happy in having two of the best of sons.

I shall be right glad if you can help the Colportage in any way, for just now it is in great straits. Therefore, go to Birmingham, if you can.

In general follow this rule—Do not engage yourself far ahead; for some fitting place for you to settle in may suddenly appear and it would be a great pity to lose it for the sake of some travelling engagements. Work hard now at theology, and never leave off doing so. The more you put in the more will come out. Get nearer and nearer to the Lord in prayer, and in your general walk, and so you will gain a depth which cannot come in any other way.

Your time will soon be up, and I should like you to begin in some sphere, not too large, nor too small, from which you may step into a life-long position. I think you will maintain a good congregation, and by God's blessing will be useful. We must not push or strive to get you a position, but wait on the Lord and He will do better for you than I can. When Bishops look out for livings for their nephews or sons we condemn their nepotism, and we must not fall into it ourselves. You will be patient and believing, and the right door will open. Cheer them all at home.

Your loving father, C. H. SPURGEON.

I was cleaning out my draft folder, and I've had this in the draft for almost 8 years, and I didn't record where I found it. I missed it. In the process, I see that I've been blogging here for over a decade now. Would seem like such an occasion would be worthy of reflection. Maybe I'll try that before the end of the year. I have many thoughts...

The Balanced Life - Ecclesiastes 2:3

There is a time and a season for everything under the sun, a time to blog and a time to cast away blogging, one could say. It's been six months since I wrote on Ecclesiastes, and plodding along as I am wont to do, here is the next installment. Click the link that says Ecclesiastes to the right, or click here, or...well, you can figure it out I'm sure. 

Ecclesiastes 2:3 I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life.

Solomon “sought” in his heart, so we are seeing  change. He is going to seek to or turn his heart to give himself to wine. Well, let’s not get crazy with all mirth -  or the wisdom. The problem, you see, was not that he carried on, but he carried on too much. Moderation, my dear chap. Nuance. Solomon is not going to live a life of a drunkard - he will mix wisdom and wine in moderation. He is looking for the chief joy and happiness for man and the meaning and purpose of life. Combining the best of both worlds, he might find the satisfaction of soul in the middle road. Too much learning and wisdom vexed his soul. But so did giving himself to mirth and laughter.

Some commentators believe this to be the beginning of Solomon’s fall, walking the middle way of moderation, neither hot nor cold, so to speak. I think this is rather the natural state of affairs for most people who try to reform themselves. They come out of a wild streak and realize such a zealous life of extremes will kill them, and they settle down to a more moderate and respectable life. It’s also the plight of someone who grew up in a conservative household, who thinks their parents were oppressive. Throw off the “fundamentalism” of the past and enjoy their liberty to the fullest.

What should men do all the days of their life? It's a good question to ask and I wish more people asked it. Asking what we are going to do this weekend  is hardly the foresight Solomon was considering. What is it that I should spend my time doing? I only have a limited amount of time on this Earth, what should I do with my time? If giving yourself over to mirth ends badly, maybe moderation in all things is the way to go.  Moderation may be good health advice but poor spiritual advice. This is not drinking advise. Solomon is trying to see if living a balanced life provides your best life. 

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Fighting for the Faith

Jude 3, "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."

What Jude wanted to write about and what he needed to write were two different things. He desired to write about the common salvation, or the grace of God through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Duty, responsibility, and love demanded he write to them about fighting the good fight. Who wants to fight? Who wants to deal with trouble and false teachers? Who wants to deal with sin? Boys do what they want, men do what they must. Jude had a responsibility, and with false teachers creeping into the churches, he had no choice but to take up his sword and fight, and prepare the people to fight.

Some would rather let error go unchecked rather than have truth defended. They dismiss any defense of the truth as churlish and ungodly division.  Jude desired to write to them about the gospel, but there were enemies at had attacking the very thing he loved, and it was necessary to engage in the battle. Jude would have failed if he had wrote a treatise on the doctrines of grace, as strange as that may sound. I know how tempting it is, to pretend trouble is not there and hope it goes away. But it's not loving to allow enemies of Christ to devour the sheep. It's not loving to play nice with evil men and wicked doctrine. C.H. Spurgeon said, "We might sooner pardon the assassin who stretches forth his hand under the guise of friendship, and then stabs us to the heart, than we could forgive the man who comes towards us with smooth words, telling us that he is God’s ambassador, but all the while foments rebellion in our hearts, and pacifies us while we are living in revolt against the majesty of heaven."

Jude had to encourage us to the battle. He exposed the problem, gave warnings, and provided examples to the issue at hand. He exhorted by not only saying "this is wrong" but also, "stay away from it." Jude encouraged the believers to fight for the faith. If it is not worth fighting for, it is not worth believing. We don’t fight for "a" faith, but THE faith, the whole of Christian doctrine. Salvation by grace, through faith, in finished work of Jesus Christ. Repentance, baptism, godly living, the resurrection, and eternal judgment. Surprised that I placed eschatology and baptism in issues that we must earnestly contend for? The writer of Hebrews 6:1 tells us these things are the principles of the doctrine of Christ. These truths were given and entrusted to us, and there will be no other new doctrine. No new way, no new light. Times will change, culture will change, what people think as acceptable will change, but the faith once delivered will not change.

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Work Can Crush You

"[God] is the Boss, while we are busily engaged (and often exhausted) in his work. We lose sight of the liberating truth that he is also lover, friend, encourager, comforter. This Master calls us to know him, and to share not just the work of the gospel but also the rest and the fellowship the gospel opens to us. What could be more tragic in the preacher’s life but that he would wear himself away to skin and bone, starving himself of the very grace he seeks to proclaim to others?  
Love only the work, and the work will crush us. Of course it will; the needs of a struggling church and a broken world are completely overwhelming. And while we effectively forget who God is in his gospel love, we will think that he achieves some satisfaction (some glory, even) in our being overworked and beaten down. But our fretful Saturdays, overwhelming Sundays, and washed-out Mondays might be less a symptom of zealous gospel faith and labor, and more a sign that we are anxiously slaving for God and man with little confidence and pleasure in God’s sheer goodness. We are wrong, dangerously wrong. He is not that sort of God. Ministry is not that sort of work. Preaching is the declaration of the God we know. Preaching is one broken sinner saying to others with exactly the same struggles, “This is the grace I’m discovering, which I long for you to know with me.” And if the preacher and his preaching are captivated by this grace, then the life of the preacher will be one of humble, praise-filled joy."
Lewis Allen, The Preacher's Catechism

Thursday, November 22, 2018

What You Need

Jude 2, “Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied.” Jude introduced the letter in verse one by telling us who he was, then he told us who we are, now he tells us what we need by way of this short prayer. What do we need? I'm sure one of the first things that come to mind is our physical needs or financial needs. As great as those may be, our greatest need to enjoy life is God's mercy, peace, and love.  For true joy, we need God's mercy and know His peace and have His love shed abroad in our hearts.

God shows mercy by having compassion on a sinner and relieving their suffering. Vile, wretched sinners as we are, the Father sent His only begotten Son into this world to die for the undeserving that we might have eternal life. God had compassion on Hell deserving rebels and in great mercy, the Great Physician, visits the sin-sick and relived our soul suffering and gave us life. God's mercy is providing a sacrifice for our sins, freeing us from condemnation, and justifying us in giving us the righteousness of Christ. He relieved us from our dreadful condition.

We have peace with God (Romans 5:1, Colossians 1:20) through Christ that only comes through His precious blood. Our default position  is enmity against God. We don't like His law, and can't keep it and can't please God in the flesh (Romans  8:7-8). No peace, only war. But in Christ, we are reconciled and have peace with God. We are no longer enemies since the point of conflict (our heart and our sin) is dealt with on the cross. We are justified and have union with Jesus, the Son whom the Father is well pleased, the cause of the conflict (our sin), is gone. The unmatchable love of God is a sacrificing love, a pure, unconditional, complete, undying love. Because God loved us, He had mercy and provided the means of peace.  

God is eternal and unchangeable. God does not grow in mercy nor increase in love. God is love. It isn't God that multiplies or God's love multiplies, but our need is, as John Gill wrote, "an enlarged view and fresh application" of these graces in our lives. We have God's mercy in Christ, but no doubt need to remember we are saved by grace and not by works. We have perfect peace with Jesus Christ, but certainly we all could use a fresh view of the gospel and our justification. To remind ourselves the grounds of our peace, the certainty of our peace, and the perfection of our peace through the blood of Jesus. We need these graces multiplied.  We need to peer deeper into the gospel and drink deeply from God's Word and magnify and multiply mercy, love and peace in our hearts. Make it a point, every day, to think about how God showed you mercy, provided peace, because He loves you.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A Pure Conscience - Tuesday with 2 Timothy #3

2 Timothy 1:3 I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience,

The start of verse three is a parenthetical comment, but it certainly packs a punch and worthy of our attention. Paul served God with a pure conscience. We must know how anyone can serve God with a pure conscience, and then do what he does. 

First, Paul served God faithfully. He lived to serve God. He delighted to serve God and wasn’t condemned for doing the right thing with the wrong attitude or for the wrong reason. You can feel the weight of condemnation when you are going through the motions, and still playing the part.

Secondly, Paul formed his life and ministry to God’s commands. There was nothing, as far as he could know and perceive, in his life and service to the Lord that was wrong or unscriptural. Paul did what he believed to be correct. Paul followed Jesus in what he knew to be right and would not waver. This doesn’t mean Paul was perfect, but his conscience was clear in what he did for the service of Jesus. He didn’t let things slide because they were unpopular, or do things that were wrong to build his profile. Paul knew what he believed and stood firm in what he knew was right, with no compromise.

But doesn’t that mean Paul was perfect?

No, it means Paul repents of his sins and his failings. He doesn’t say that he serves in sinless perfection, but with a pure conscience. He doesn’t have sin hanging over his head. He doesn’t have secrets hidden deep within his soul. When we sin and when we fail, we must repent and ask forgiveness of both God and man. The mistake most men make is to double down on their failures or mistakes. We fail in ministry then make it worse by trying to justify our sin. Or, we sin against a brother and make it worse by adding to the first sin, a second of lying and a third of bitterness. Perhaps a fourth, getting in the pulpit with a heart of unforgiveness. All men make mistakes, but a true man will admit them and make corrections and seek forgiveness.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Who are you?

Jude 1,  ”Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called.”

The first part of the salutation, Jude told us who he was. Though his family history would seem important, Jude was a servant of Christ, that was who Jude was, his identity. He was a Christian. I hope the same with you. Jude told the readers who we are as Christians. That is an interesting way to start a letter, he told us who he was, then told us who WE are.

We need that reminder. It is easy to be overwhelmed by even normal circumstances of life, and what a comfort, (and sometimes a rebuke) but always a joy to recall who we are in Christ Jesus. Christians can let the world tell them who they are, we can let our enemies tell us who we are; even let the Devil accuse us and tell us who we are. Praise be to God that He graciously tells us, over and again, who we really are in Jesus Christ the Lord.

Almost like a military leader, Jude warns us, in this letter, against false teachers, and writes words of war to encourage the troops. When false teacher come, we must find refuge and strength in who we are, why we are, and what we are. Jude’s identity is in Christ, and that is who we are. Know who you are on account of Christ. Who you are as God sees you and has made you. Therein lays our strength and confidence. Jude is giving a war time sermon. He is now addressing the soldiers of Christ. You are in the midst of a great spiritual war. This war has been going on for thousands of years, and now it is about to heat up. Your enemies are many, your enemies are great, and your enemies are powerful. You have no choice whether the war will be fought; the battle rages on. You have no choice of whether you will fight this spiritual war against unseen principalities and powers; you will fight or be overcome. This would look bleak, if it were not for one thing -- you are the servants of the Lord of Hosts. Soldiers of Christ, consider who you are. Know who you are, not by your own power, or by who you want to be, but by who you are in the Lord Jesus, and all the benefits he provides his people. You’ve been outfitted with the armor of God and empowered by His heavenly power. Jude reminds believers we are sanctified by the Father, preserved in Christ, and called by the Holy Spirit.  Called by the gospel, effectually called by the Spirit, and called to be a saint. We’ve been “drafted” in the army of our Father, following the Captain of our salvation, and follow the Lord as His saints, preserved by His grace and power.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A Beloved Son - Tuesday with 2 Timothy #2

2 Timothy 1:2 To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Timothy was like a son to Paul. They traveled together, preached together, and suffered together. Timothy was his child in the faith. If we remember Paul’s love for Timothy in these two epistles, we see how, I believe, God wants seasoned pastors to help, mentor, and disciple younger preachers and younger pastors. Paul loved Timothy and wanted Timothy to be a good pastor and a faithful servant of Jesus. There was no jealousy on Paul's part. Jealousy in the minister is ugly, but it’s been there from the start (Luke 9:46). Most men, by nature, are competitive and competition is not a bad thing. But if a competitive nature causes you to be jealous of others, and regard their growth and the Lord's blessing on their ministry as a point of contention, then that’s shameful. If a young man, full of zeal for Christ is outstripping his fellows in work and service for Christ, the answer is not to tear him down until there is nothing left but a shell, too broken to do anything. Use his zeal to light a fire under you, and get moving. And, as Paul aged, there were things he couldn’t do anymore. Providence restricted Paul’s movements, chained to a Roman soldier will keep you from moving around. But Paul encouraged young Timothy, to go and do what he couldn't anymore and he certainly didn’t tear him down.

Paul and Timothy labored together serving the same Lord. The normal and Biblical way that young men should be prepared for ministry is through the church. A faithful pastor mentors and guides those men under their care in the Word of God and prepares them for their work. Let's be honest, a man, if he is diligent, can read and study and learn truths from trusted theologians and not have to spend $150,000 on seminary. It's shameful how men peddle the Word of God for filthy lucre. You cannot get the pastoral insight and training from a seminary processor that you would get from being in the local church and preaching the Word, guided by the pastor that actually knows you. I think fondly of certain men in my ministry and in my life who loved me enough to be truthful to me and help me along. They told me hard truths about myself and about my preaching because they loved me and wanted to help me. There may have been some things that Timothy didn’t want to hear, but coming from someone he knew cared for him and wanted the best for him made all the difference.

And may I add this, to any  preacher who is new to the ministry of the Word who reads this and thinks, “That’s not my experience! I haven’t had any elder pastors help me!” My question is, have you asked? Have you listened? Have you gone to men who started preaching well before you were born and asked for advice, counsel, books to read, doctrine to study? A man only has so much to give, and if he has a family, a church, his own friends, you won’t find him trying to pour his life into every single preacher that he hears is called to preach, especially if that man thinks they already know everything. But if you are humble enough to seek counsel from other men, then you’ll find men willing and eager to mentor you.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Hey Jude

Jude 1, "Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James." I hear a lot of talk about "identity". People are concerned about how others see them, who they are as individuals, while some even wanting to identify to others something they are not. In the salutation to the epistle of Jude, we find out the Christian's identity is who they are in Christ.

I believe Jude is the Lord’s half brother. This may be offensive to hear for some, but Mary and Joseph had kids together. Mary was a virgin at the conception of our Lord, but after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph had sons and daughters, and had boys named James and Jude – the only set of brothers named James and Jude in the Bible (Matthew 13:55-56).  However, when Jude introduced himself, he didn't say, "I'm the Lord's half-brother." Why? Because there was nothing in the flesh that attributed to his position with God. He was not saved because of Mary was his mother. He was not in the family of God because he was in the family of Mary and Joseph (Matthew 12:46-50). Reared in the same home as our Lord,  provided no benefit. Being the half-brother, of Jesus gave no advantage spiritually. In fact, Jude was an unbeliever until after the resurrection (John 7:5; Acts 1:14). There is no profit in the flesh, so when Jude thought of himself, he was first and foremost, a servant of Christ.  Jude’s identity was not wrapped up in who his family was, it was in Jesus Christ the Lord.

Jude was no longer his own man, nor was he a slave to sin and his own passions, because he was bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:13; 19-20).  When we think of slaves, or servants, we think of one without will, without hope and trapped against his will in an insufferable situation. Jude wasn’t complaining, Jude rejoiced in His situation.  Jude loved being a servant because he had a love for the Lord. In Bible times, men would sometimes get in such a financial bind, they had to sell themselves into slavery. In Israel, every seven years, God commanded all Hebrew slaves be set free, so it was a temporary financial situation. Unless, the man didn't want to be set free. Exodus 21:1-6  tells us that some masters were so good, and the slave lived a much better life as a slave than he did struggling as a free man, he would ask to remain in service. If everyone agreed, the master would pierce the man's ear as a sign that he belonged to him forever.  I feel like that with the Lord Jesus. He purchased me, saved me from sin, and is so good to me, having  such a wonderful service with glorious benefits, I wouldn’t trade being the Lord’s servant to be set free for anything. Who was Jude? He was a child of God, a sinner saved by grace, a servant of Christ.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018


The Pulpit is Not a Platform.

"By definition a minister is a servant. That is what the word means. Perhaps only 70 years ago it was not uncommon to see the initials VDM after a minister’s name. They stand for the Latin expression, Verbi Dei Minister, servant of the Word of God. That was the minister’s brand, if you will. By definition, a minister has no platform but only a pulpit, a place to announce the Word of the King."

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

According to the Promise of Life - Tuesday with (2nd) Timothy #1

Back by popular demand (and by popular, I mean no one in  particular at all) I present: Tuesday with Timothy. As we did with 1 Timothy, we will work our way through the book of  Second Timothy, a section at a time, every Tuesday (and by "every" I mean generally on most Tuesday's, unless something happens and I get behind) looking for encouragement to preserve in the ministry of the Word.

2 Timothy 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,

Paul wrote the second epistle to Timothy while imprisoned in Rome, and soon to be put to death, making this his last epistle. Timothy was with the church at Ephesus, and Paul wanted him to come quickly (2 Timothy 4:9). We can take this letter as Paul's dying counsel to the young pastor. 

Paul begins with his office - an apostle of Jesus Christ, by God’s will. Paul was not elected into the office. No one voted Paul in as an apostle. God called Paul unto salvation and God made Paul an apostle and He did so according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus. Those who are opposed to God's sovereign grace in salvation will say that God's election makes men robots and make them cold toward the salvation of sinners. Who could dare make the claim Paul was either? Paul was the most zealous of all preachers and missionaries, and yet he knew that God not only called him unto salvation (Ephesians 1:4-5) but that God had called him in to the apostleship, by his sovereign decree (Acts 9:15). Knowing God called Paul unto salvation and unto the ministry did not make Paul a fatalist, but set a fire under him to greater service and zeal for souls. 

God promised eternal life to all who put their hope and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. The promise of life is for those who have a real, vital, union with Jesus.  Union with Christ, wrote Louis Berkhof, is the “intimate, vital, and spiritual union between Christ and His people, in virtue of which He is the source of their life and strength, of their blessedness and salvation.”  Paul served His Lord, receiving the promise of life and preaching the promise of life. 

Saturday, November 3, 2018

A Living Mirror

"For children are the glory of marriage, the treasure of parents, the wealth of family life. They develop within their parents an entire cluster of virtues, such as paternal love and maternal affection, devotion and self-denial, care for the future, involvement in society, the art of nurturing. With their parents, children place restraints upon ambition, reconcile the contrasts, soften the differences, bring their souls ever closer together, provide them with a common interest that lies outside of them, and opens their eyes and hearts to their surroundings and for their posterity. As with living mirrors they show their parents their own virtues and faults, force them to reform themselves, mitigating their criticisms, and teaching them how hard it is to govern a person. The family exerts a reforming power upon the parents. Who would recognize in the sensible, dutiful father the carefree youth of yesterday, and who would ever have imagined that the lighthearted girl would later be changed by her child into a mother who renders the greatest sacrifices with joyful acquiescence? The family transforms ambition into service, miserliness into munificence, the weak into strong, cowards into heroes, coarse fathers into mild lambs, tenderhearted mothers into ferocious lionesses. Imagine there were no marriage and family, and humanity would, to use Calvin’s crass expression, turn into a pigsty."
The Christian Family by Herman Bavinck

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Who is Jesus?

A.W. Tozer wrote in, The Knowledge of the Holy, "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us."  What do you think about when you think about God and why? Thoughts do "pop" in our head, but they come from someplace. I may start singing a song I haven't listened to in 20 years and it seemingly comes out of nowhere, but something triggered a memory of information I already had in my brain. Calculus or trigonometry doesn't just pop into someone's head unless they previously studied mathematics.

What you think about God and who He is comes from someplace. Either what someone told you, or what you read about God, or who you wish God was, informs what you think about God.  But, anything you think about God, that does not come from God's Holy Scriptures, is an idol.

In Matthew 16, Jesus asked the disciples two questions. "Who do men say that I am," and "who do you say that I am."  What do you think about when you think about Jesus? Do you think he was a prophet? A good man? A good teacher? A Jewish rabbi? Who do you say Jesus is? Jesus said He was the Christ. The Son of the Living God. Jesus said the only way to Heaven is through Him, and without believing and trusting in Him, you are eternally condemned and damned. What do you think about Jesus? You shouldn’t be indifferent to Jesus, based on His claims on you. By saying that He is the Christ, Jesus is the King of Kings, and all people must bow before him (Psalm 2). What do you think about Jesus? Who do you say He is?

The Bible says Jesus is the eternal Son of God. The Word made flesh. The second person of the Trinity who entered His own creation to seek and save the lost sheep the Father gave Him. Jesus was crucified, died, and laid in a tomb, and after three days and three nights, rose from the dead. The Lord Jesus, who said you must believe in Him or go to Hell. Jesus rose from the dead, as he told everyone He would. Who do you say Jesus is?  A lot of people say they believe in Jesus, but what Jesus? The Jesus of the Bible or  of their own imagination? A great number of people say they believe and even love Jesus, but when you dig a little deeper, the Jesus they describe is not the same Jesus of Scripture, but an idol. Sadly, many people believe in a man they have invented, with all the attributes they admire and called him Jesus. Your most pressing need is to know the true Jesus revealed in Scripture (John 17:3). Matthew Henry said, "many people have a high view of Jesus, just not high enough."

Thursday, October 25, 2018

They Do Exist

Last week I heard a segment on the radio about a man who spent his life looking for Bigfoot. He believed Sasquatch was the last of a giant ape species. He walked around the Pacific Northwest with a high powered rifle, looking for Bigfoot (“Look, my life’s work is vindicated! Bigfoot exists! Kill him!”). People claim to have seen Mothman, Bigfoot, or the chupacabra, but I sure never have. These creatures don't interest me much,  but there are others I tracked for years, but seldom seen for myself. The signs are everywhere, and when I'm sure I found one, they just deny it and think I'm crazy. I'll tell you about the five I'm searching for.

The first, and maybe the most elusive is the lost person. There are many people who don't have any idea about religion, but I rarely hear someone who will frankly say that they don't know Christ and are going to Hell.

I've never talked to a fool. Even when I know I've spotted a fool, they have convinced themselves the world is against them, or they have some ninja like street-smarts. They aren't foolish, just 25 moves ahead of everyone else. But, even these people admit foolishness and fools abound everywhere, they just aren't one.

I’ve never talked to a weak Christian. Not in the bench pressing sense, but in the Romans 14-15 sense. Paul said some brethren were weak in their faith, not able to partake of lawful activities because their faith wasn't strong. Everyone is the strong brother, in their own mind.

The bitter person is truly hard to find. The signs are very easy to see, but when I think I've discovered a rare find, and talk to someone where the root of bitterness has grown deep in the heart, they proceed to tell me why they do well to be angry and retell every last detail.

The legalist (sometimes called a Pharisee) is a truly obscure and seldom seen species. I've hear of their great numbers, and the danger they pose, but I've never actually talked to one. Even those who try to keep the law to earn favor with God say they do it because they love him, and often deny what they say they believe.  

One of two things are happening. I either am not very good at spotting the signs of these groups, or we all could stand to get in front of a good spiritual mirror. Truth is, these people do exists and in high numbers. We are just too blind to see it in ourselves. We lie to ourselves (Jeremiah 17:9). We justify our sinful behavior and dismiss our failures. But how can there be healing and forgiveness if we refuse to admit the plain facts? Isn’t it better to know the painful truth and be forgiven than to lie to ourselves, keep up our self-esteem, and remain in darkness? Jesus came to save the sinner. Don't deny the truth, confess and find mercy with Jesus.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Elitism or Love?

"And it is not necessarily an arrogant and presumptuous thing in us if we strive to bring honored fellow Christians to views which we honestly believe to be more scriptural, and therefore more wholesome. Apollos was an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, and Aquila and Priscilla were lowly people who doubtless admired him; yet they taught him the way of the Lord more perfectly, and no doubt greatly rejoiced that he was willing to learn. He who tries to win people from other denominations to his own distinctive views may be a sectarian bigot; but he may also be a humble and loving Christian." John A. Broadus


Thursday, October 18, 2018

Don't Forget Your Raisin'

Philippians 1:27, "…let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ." The English word "conversation" comes from both a French and Latin word meaning, "the place you live, the way you act, or the way you talk". We only use the word in one sense now, to talk. This old idea of the word is spot on with the Greek word Paul used (politeuesthe), translated "conversation "in the King James Bible. It means to be a citizen and to live as a citizen of that place.  

My Mom was a stickler for table manners. After one incident at a restaurant, me and my brothers were effectually reminded with Proverbs 23:14 type power, when we ate like half-starved Vikings, it was a reflection on her, and how we were raised.  It was the first time I ever considered that how a person lives is a reflection on what they believe and the place they were raised. She reminded us when we traveled somewhere, we not only represented ourselves, but also our parents, our family, and our community in Eastern Kentucky. That kind of behavior, she said, was not suitable for our family, or where we were from.  "We don't act like that here."

As Christians, our citizenship is in Heaven, our home is above, our actions should reflect those of our Father, and our country. Our life, actions, speech, should be suitable to the gospel of Christ, according to the customs of Zion.  It's not becoming. Wearing blue jeans and a sleeveless faded t-shirt is rather unbecoming for a meal with the President at the White House. But it is becoming a 4th of July picnic. It's appropriate, or suitable. It fits well together. Our way of life, our actions, the way we talk and live, needs to be suitable with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The gospel is not a lifestyle, it's the good news that all who will repent of their sins and trust in substitutionary sacrifice of the risen savior, Jesus Christ will be saved. He will forgive you of your sins, and grant you eternal life. Now, live a life suitable with that truth. A life of love and grace. A life full of forgiveness and mercy. Live with tenderheartedness and compassion. A life of boldness for Christ and self-sacrifice. Is it suitable for a Christian to make and worship an image? Is it becoming a follower of the Truth, to lie? Is it right behavior, for a person with eternal life, and a home in Heaven, to live coveting the things of this world? Is it becoming a citizen of Heaven, who has been given eternal life through God's grace, and forgiven of all his trespasses, to live with bitter unforgivness toward others? Is it becoming for a Christian to walk in untruth? Of course not. The law of God, for a Christian, is our "raisin". It's how we live where we are from, in our Father's house, the home county of the Heavenly Zion.

Thursday, October 11, 2018


In religious circles, tradition can be the North Star to guide through life, or considered the filthy, soul binding rules of a bygone age. Is tradition good or bad? Well, it depends. The word tradition in the Bible is actually neutral. The word doesn’t denote something good or bad, or it doesn’t mean authoritative or optional. It all depends on the context.  The word simply means a “handing down by instruction."  Unless your Thanksgiving tradition involves drunken revelry, or sacrificing a Turkey to the Sun, your tradition probably is a morally neutral family custom. It’s neither good, nor evil, nor authoritative. In the Bible, some tradition is both good and authoritative. Paul uses that word when discussing the doctrine he preached and taught (1 Corinthians 11:2, 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6). As an apostle, Paul received his doctrine from the Lord. Paul “handed down” this tradition as he was moved by the Holy Ghost and penned the God breathed Words of Scripture. Because the source is from God, his instruction isn’t optional. Paul’s "tradition" is both morally good and binding because of the source.

To discern the value of a tradition, you must go upstream  and see where it started and what it’s asking of you. Maybe your traditions came from our elders for good, wise, and thoughtful reasons and you just don't understand their purpose. Maybe the tradition is of men, and is good, but not authoritative. Or, perhaps, there was no reason and it became a habit.  G.K. Chesterton said,  "…let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate [was] 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."

In Matthew 15:2, the Scribes and Pharisees accused the disciples of transgressing "the tradition of the elders," for not washing before they ate. Let's examine the tradition. First, it came from men, the elders. Since it is not God's Word, we know it is fallible. Next, why? It wasn't for cleanliness. The Pharisees believed you could defile yourselves by touching something unclean, then eating with "sinful" unclean hands. They were not washing away the germs, they were washing away sin! The tradition came from men (optional) and was evil (contradicting the Bible). This tradition should be avoided (Colossians 3:8). Discover the origins of your tradition, uncover the reason why, determine if it is Scriptural before you tear it down, or follow it blindly. And before you condemn and hang someone for breaking your beloved tradition, make sure it's of God, not of men. Don't bind men's souls for your preferences.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Faith at Sea

The disciples experienced one of the great sea adventures of all time. This was no fish tale. They saw Jesus walk on water.  Late afternoon, having fed the multitude with five loaves of bread and a couple of fish, Jesus sent the disciples to the other side of the sea. Flash forward 10 hours, and the disciples are in a fight for their life. In the early morning hours, somewhere between 3am and 6am, in the middle of the sea, the waves crashed against the boat. The men were fighting for their lives, rowing with all they had. The wind was fierce and the boat was tossed about. Wet, tired, afraid, and still several miles from shore. When things were at their worst, one of the men look over and couldn't believe his eyes. A man – walking on the water. “Is that…? Wait, a ghost?!” Not quite. The commentators give the disciples a hard time for being so foolish. A ghost? Really? But what would you have thought? Have you ever seen someone walking on the water? Yes, it was a silly thing to think, but they were probably 20 hours into their day, exhausted, fighting for their life in the wee hours of the morning.

But, of course it was the Lord Jesus, flesh and blood. His real, physical body, was truly walking on top of the water. I’ve tried to imagine what I would have said or done. I’m pretty sure I would not have asked to join him. But that’s exactly what Peter did, and Jesus granted him the privilege. But when Peter turned his eyes from Jesus, and looked at the dangers, he began to sink. He cried for the Lord to save him, and Jesus stretched out his hand and rescued him. Jesus asked Peter, " O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" Good question. Why do you doubt? When you doubt your salvation, or doubt the Bible, you are doubting Jesus, but why? What has Jesus ever said that would give you a reason to doubt him? What has Jesus ever done, to give you pause in trusting him? What promise has he gone back on? What way has he failed? There is no good reason to doubt Jesus. You may say, "I don't doubt Jesus, I doubt myself!"  But why are you trusting in yourself?  Peter looked at the waves and began to doubt, but why? Peter didn't have the power to walk on the sea, and he didn't have the power to say above water. From the beginning to the end, the power was with Christ. Peter actually doubted the ability of the Lord to see him all the way through. "I doubt whether I'm saved, not Jesus." Who saved you? Whose work are you trusting in, your work or the Lord's? Stop doubting and start believing. Trust in the Lord Jesus, the perfect Saviour of the elect. "Heaven and earth may pass away, but Jesus never fails".

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

At least there is balance

“The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected. Even when the revolutionist might himself repent of his revolution, the traditionalist is already defending it as part of his tradition. Thus we have two great types -- the advanced person who rushes us into ruin, and the retrospective person who admires the ruins. He admires them especially by moonlight, not to say moonshine. Each new blunder of the progressive or prig becomes instantly a legend of immemorial antiquity for the snob. This is called the balance, or mutual check, in our Constitution.”

G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Miraculous Supper

The story of the five loaves and two fish is an amazing miracle. Jesus took the disciples up in a mountain place for a season of rest. That didn't happen because the people followed Jesus. Some were sick and desired healing, others, heard that Jesus healed, and wanted to see the show. Some believed, most didn't. Lost, like sheep without a shepherd, the people wandered to Jesus and he had compassion. He healed and taught, but nightfall approached and the disciples figured it was time for everyone to go home. A hungry crowd in a desert place in the wilderness without the ability get something to eat is a logistical nightmare. If Jesus sent them home now, they could make it to a town or back home in time to find something to eat.

Not only did Jesus not send the crowd home, but told Philip to feed them. Philip, being very practical mentioned that even if they found someplace to buy food, they didn't have enough money between them to buy enough food to feed so many people – 5,000 men not counting the women and children. That's a lot of mouths to feed, especially if there were any teenage boys in the crowd. Five loaves. Two fish. Jesus sat everyone down and divided them up into groups. He took the food, prayed and blessed the food, then distributed what they had to the disciples, then instructed the disciples to pass it out to the crowd. Peter reached into his basket, and gave some food to the first man and did the same for the second. And the third. And the fourth. And he looked in his basket, and there was still bread and fish. And then he kept going. To the 50th man, through the 100th man, through the 1000th man and Peter's basket still had bread and fish. By the time the disciples were finished, and everyone ate and was satisfied, with 12 baskets leftover.

What an amazing act of divine power! It is impossible to imagine how it happened because it was a miracle and the only explanation is God’s miraculous power. Chesterton wrote, “The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them.” We have this story so you would believe in Jesus. Not just believe it happened, or believe in the supernatural, but believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. To believe Jesus came to seek and save the lost. To believe in this man, who had the power to heal the sick and feed the multitude has the power to forgive sins. The tragedy of this story is in John’s account, we learn the people ate the bread and the fish, but did not “eat” the Bread of Life, desiring physical healing, and a full belly, but did not  Christ nor his salvation.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Joyful Prisoner

Unjustly imprisoned and far from home, with little hope release, Paul is a man full of joy (Philippians 1:3-8). That is amazing. Who would blame him if here were full of bitterness and anger at the injustice of his situation? But Paul is full of joy is because Paul is full of love. True, Biblical, godly love. The apostle is constrained and motivated by the love of God and this love fills him with great joy. In Paul, we see an unselfish love that results in undiminished joy. A joy that finds itself in the faithfulness of others. A joy found in the faithfulness of God –a compassionate and caring joy in God’s glory in the life of the church.

Every time Paul thought of the Philippians and each time he prayed for them he was filled with joy.  You can tell how much Paul loved these people by how often he prays for them. I wonder if we could say the same for ourselves? How often do you pray for your loved ones? How often do you pray for their spiritual needs? Do you really care for a person if you never pray for them? Paul recognizes all good gifts come from God, especially and including friendship and brotherhood.
Paul is joyful when he prays, not only because his love for the Philippian church, but also because of their love for him. Honestly, it's not a joy to pray for our enemies. It's not a joy to pray for the wayward. The heart breaks when friends separate, loved ones betray us, family members go astray, or disaster strikes (have you ever considered how your unfaithfulness brings sorrow to the heart of those that love you? How many tears are shed in your beloved's prayer closet because of your rebellion?). Certainly we find comfort and peace that leads to joy in those situations, but in our text, Paul's existing joy leads to prayer. It was a pleasant thing to pray for people who loved him and loved the Lord. Perhaps you don't have the joy Paul has because your prayer life consists only of praying for the sick and praying for the wayward. Don't stop doing that. But your faithful friends need prayer. Your faithful parents need prayer. Your faithful pastor needs prayer, and how joyful it is to pray for those walking with Christ! Praise God for the good he is doing in your life.

Paul rejoiced in the fellowship of the gospel, which is a shared belief, or a shared goal in a deep, abiding, shared community. Paul found joy in the friendship of this fellowship of the gospel. The tie that bound them together, was their love for the same Saviour, and the love of telling the good news about him. Because of his love for Christ, his love of the brethren, and the fellowship they had in serving Christ, Paul rejoiced, no matter his situation. Don't base your joy in the world, but find joy in Christ.

Monday, September 17, 2018

If by Rudyard Kipling

The Circe Institute has a new podcast called The Daily Poem. It's interesting to listen to someone read a poem, and how their interpretation impacts their reading. Anyway, check it out, subscribe, and so forth. Listen and read If, by Rudyard Kipling.

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

If you want to deep dive on a poem with a former Navy Seal, check out this podcast: