Thursday, July 19, 2018

No Beauty in Christ?

Isaiah 53:2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

Isaiah paints a dry and desolate landscape. A twig breaks out of the parched earth; a small sucker climbs heavenward. A living vine where it is least expected. The picture shows the promised Messiah will be born in David lineage. As Isaiah writes, the days of David’s sons on the throne are numbered. At the dawn of the New Testament, from all outward appearances, the line is lifeless, dry ground. However, the appearance is deceiving. God’s promises will not fail. From the dry ground will grow the Tender Plant, the Righteous branch from Jesse's root, son of David.

When Christ came, he was not born in a palace but a manger. He was not welcomed by royalty but persecuted. The Herod did not honor the birth of Christ but tried to end his life. Christ was born in poverty, secluded in youth, reared in an infamous town. Despite images on painted canvas, Jesus face did not glow as he walked on the Earth, and a halo did not adorn his brow. He looked like an ordinary man. Nothing in his features denoted glory.

“And when we shall see him.” Jesus came and lived in Israel. Jesus healed, preached, ate, and drank in the presence of Israel. And they saw him. Our celebrity culture gets excited when a famous person is around. Out come the phones and the selfies and posts to prove we were in the presence of the rich and famous. Israel did not see a famous poet, or a renowned artist, but the Christ. They looked upon his face and they saw no beauty. God’s people looked upon the Lord of glory, whom the Father was well pleased, and saw no beauty in him. In the flesh, there was nothing any different than any other man in the region. The priests needed Judas to point out which man was Christ when he betrayed him.

Oh, but how lovely is the Lord of glory! He beautiful in his holiness. He is glorious in his perfection. He is majestic in his power. Do you see beauty in Christ? Do you see anything in the Lord to desire him? Years ago, I saw nothing desirable in Christ. He was a man in a book, but as far as having any personal feelings toward him? No, a stranger more than anything else. But when God showed me my sinfulness, and I saw the darkness of my heart and the filth of my sin, I beheld the Lord Jesus, nailed to the cross for my sins, and I saw all the desire of my heart. No longer a stranger, but a Saviour. No longer just a man, but the Godman. No longer a man in the book, but the Word of God incarnate.

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Soft Men

Can you spot the difference?

1 Corinthians 6:9 (KJV)  Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

1 Corinthians 6:9 (ESV) Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,

Effeminate is ommitted in the ESV.

I looked at  other translations and most of the contemporary translations (except for the NASB) omit the word effeminate. What's the deal? The Greek word is malakos and it's pretty clear what it means. Soft. Effeminate. Normally, when there is such an omission, commentaries say things like, "the best translations omit" or "this word is not in the original." I went to the commentaries and Greek scholars and no one said malakos wasn't supposed to be there. Robertson and Vincent (published in 1930, and 1888 respectively) both say the word means effeminate. So everyone agrees malakos is there, but suddenly, in the last 50 years, the word means homosexual instead of effeminate? Must be a coincidence, I suppose that along with the rise of feminism and the sexual revolution, the word effeminate is edited out of the Bible. From what I understand, at one time, malakos was used to try and prove that homosexuality was not forbidden in the Bible, so people started saying that malakos meant the sexual act and editorialized Paul. Who knows why, but the fact remains, Paul said soft men won't go to Heaven. 1 Corinthians 6:10.....shall inherit the kingdom of God.

Jesus used the word malakos in Matthew 11:8, "But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses." Soft. The picture is clear. John the Baptist was a rough man. He was a strong man. If you wanted weak and soft, and prissy, go to the palace. Apply that to men, and soft is to be a precious, girly, submissive, dainty man. Men who are feminist. Men who refuse to take up their calling. Men who refuse lead their homes. Men who avoid service and sacrifice. In other words, men who do not live up to God's standard of manliness as defined in the Word of God. John Wayne or The Rock do not represent the standard of manliness either. The effeminate man is soft. He acts like a girl. 

When I played sports, in the politically incorrect realm of a locker room, we would not have said "effeminate" we would have said "gay" – not because we thought wearing pink socks and listening to New Kids on the Block meant you "practiced homosexuality." We called them gay because they acted effeminate. They adopted the gay culture. I recently watched a friend's son play in his Little League game. I saw a field full of boys wearing jewelry, ear rings, long hair with highlights. There was a lot of sighing, shrugging, complaining, and whining, but not a whole lot of hustle or toughness. There was also, no anyone saying anything about it because these kids were fashionable. And also effeminate. And sinning, according to Paul, but not according to the ESV, NKJV, CSB, and the other modern translations. 

If a man is effeminate, he's acting like a woman regardless whether or not there is sexual sin. Effeminacy doesn't exclude homosexuality and includes the sexual acts. But it is not limited to homosexual acts. You can be a married man with kids and be effeminate. Parents who let their boys act prissy and prance around and take interpretive dance lessons are sinning. There is a certain way men ought to act. There is a certain way men ought not to act. There is a certain way men ought to dress. And comb their hair. And talk. And worship. This is counter-cultural to say, but -- get ready -- men and women are different! It's a sin for a man to be effeminate and act like a girl. 

No wonder they took it out of the Bible.

Who Hath Believed?

Isaiah 53:1, “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?”
Seven hundred years before Christ, Isaiah proclaimed perhaps the clearest gospel message in the Old Testament. But the whole book, from beginning to end, is about Jesus. Our Lord himself said in John 5:39, "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." And then, on the road to Emmaus, as the resurrected Jesus opened up the Word of God to the disciples, Luke 24:27 tells us, "beginning at Moses and all the prophets, [Jesus] expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." So when Isaiah said, "Who hat believed OUR report" he is one of many Old Testament witnesses, who at various times and in different ways, conveyed the message of the saving grace of God, the promised Saviour, and God’s plan of redemption. The report began in the Garden of Eden, and continued with Noah, and to Abraham and his descendants. The report was declared by Moses and in types and shadows, pictures and ceremonies. With poetry, pictures, and prophesies God gave us more of this blessed report. By types and teachings, we learn more of the coming Messiah who would save his people. Down the centuries and by many different men, the report was preached and remained consistent because it came from God.

So, what's the answer to this first question? Who did believe the report? Much like today, relatively few people. Prophets pleaded and preachers proclaimed and yet the people did not hear the word of the Lord. The scene is repeated through the ages and sadly even today. The good report is made known yet who will believe? The question is amazing. People don't believe the report? The good news that God forgives sinners, not based on works but by grace, through faith in the death of God's Son who came and paid the debt of sin and pardoned us with his blood. This report is about the Christ. The arm of the Lord, a phrase in the Bible describing God's power and particularly, in the person of Christ (Isaiah 40:10). The strong arm of the Jehovah, Jesus Christ, is mighty to save and the report, though not universally received, is believed by those to whom God has revealed it. The answer to the first question about few believing the report, is explained in the answer to the second question, Christ must be revealed. The God of all grace, according to his mercy, provided full and free salvation to all who come and believe. But even the good news itself was not sufficient to save because man is both unwilling and unable to come to Christ to be saved. The Lord, in mercy and grace, and in great power, reveals himself and draws sinners unto himself and gives them life and faith. “Is the LORD'S hand waxed short?” No, He is mighty to save.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

England Plays Croatia in the World Cup Wednesday

"This Wednesday evening something momentous is happening. All around the country, people will gather together. They will probably be keyed up all day, and it will only get more intense as the evening draws on. They will come together with expectation and hope in their hearts. Their songs will express these deep desires. After all, something will happen that is special in itself, with the prospect of much more ahead. By the end of the evening, those people might be rejoicing over something that has not happened, for most of them, in their lifetime."

Read the rest here...

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Marred King

Isaiah 52:14 As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:

Isaiah directs our attention to the Servant of Jehovah, the high and exalted one (Isaiah 52:13), but not as we might expect. The onlookers are “astonied” or dazed when looking at this man and were filled with dismay. He was not sitting upon a throne, nor honored by prestigious men. He did not impress you with his dignity and strength as you might expect from the extolled one, but he was scourged and blooded. His face, marred and disfigured almost past the point of looking like a human man. Beaten, whipped, spat upon, even ripping the beard from his face (Isaiah 50:6).  The same Messiah who will be exalted and who will deal with wisdom and prudence, will be marred beyond recognition (Psalm 22:6; Matthew 26:67).

"So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider" (Isaiah 52: 15). This same Suffering Servant, in the very next verse, will sprinkle the nations with his grace and mercy and kings of the Earth will hush their mouth in quiet submission to his power and glory. The deep truths of his glory will be opened up and explained and the truth of His glorious person will be revealed and proclaimed. In the same person, you see a man who will rule the nations, be praised and honored, will rule in power as God’s anointed, and quiets the kings of every nation --  will also suffer beyond imagination. How can Messiah be both? How could one man be so exalted and yet brought so low? The Jews in the gospels were looking for the exalted king, but they cared nothing for a Messiah who would suffer.

The Suffering Servant was mysterious for the Old Testament saints. However, we have the mystery revealed in the Lord Jesus who offered himself a sin sacrifice – the Lamb of God. We have two views of the same man at different times. It is because Jesus came and suffered that he is lifted up and exalted (Philippians 2:5-11).  Isaiah prophesied of the crucified Saviour and the glorified King. We still wait the day for the Lord to return in glory and to hush the mouths of the nations (Psalm 2). Even so, come Lord Jesus. Isaiah shows us a King who is exalted, but one who suffers beyond comprehension. One who subdues the kings of the world and also who astonishes those who looked upon him at his suffering. I wonder how you see the Lord? Do you see Jesus as revealed in Scripture or as revealed in your imagination? Do you know the Jesus of the Bible? Do you know the King who gave his life's blood to save his people from their own sins?

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Behold God's Servant

Isaiah 52:13 Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.

I can remember the first time I heard Isaiah 53. I probably had heard it many time before, but this was the first time I actually heard it. I attended a  Bible conference at King’s Addition Baptist Church in South Shore, Kentucky and before the preaching began, we had the preliminary announcements, prayer requests, and stood for the singing of hymns (it’s near impossible to sit and sing, in my opinion) and  remained standing for the reading of the Word. The pastor had us turn to Isaiah 53. I didn’t even turn, I just listened and as he read, I couldn’t believe what I heard. I was astonished. Never before had I perceived such a vivid description of the blessed Lord Jesus. Around 25 years have passed, and I still haven’t gotten over the stunning picture of Jesus in Isaiah's prophecy.

After we sat down, I grabbed my Bible, found the passage and read it for myself over and again (sorry to whomever was preaching!) and could hardly contain my wonder over the Old Testament containing descriptions of Jesus. Isaiah prophesied from 739–681 BC, so that means around 700 years prior to the time of Jesus. The physical prophecies are profound, but what amazed me was the spiritual insight into the cross. Isaiah gives us a glimpse of the Son of Man from the perspective of the people, but  he also tells us what transpired between the Father and the Son. Isaiah 53 is one of the great texts on the atonement and what Christ accomplished at Calvary.

The passage of Isaiah 53 actually starts in Isaiah 52:13 and gives  a good example of why you should not assume the chapters in your Bible complete a thought. In novels, each chapter is its completes section. It may be a cliffhanger, but usually it ends a scene. This isn't always the case in our Bibles. The chapters in our Bibles, as they are now, were added in the 1500’s to help us find passages in the Bible. You can think of chapter and verses like addresses. Imagine how difficult a task to find this section of Isaiah without verse numbers or chapters! I’m very thankful for that innovation, but we have to remember it’s not a perfect system and sometimes the chapter ends or starts in the middle of a thought, like we have here. The context shows us where our passage begins. Notice in 52:13, it starts with the word “behold”. Isaiah says “behold” to get our attention. Hey, listen up. Jehovah's servant (the Messiah, Isaiah 42:1), will come and deal with man wisely (Isaiah 11:2) and in His great success will be highly exalted. Isaiah describes a glorious, holy, man who has come to do the work of God. Surely, such a man would be honored by all, which making the next verse we’ll study next week so shocking.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Sinning to become mature?

From What is Sin, by J. Gresham Machen

"Sowing wild oats is thought to be rather a good way of transcending childish innocence and of attaining strong and mature manhood. Do you know how that lie can best be shown to be the lie that it is? Well, my friends, I think it is by the example of Jesus Christ. Do you despise innocence? Do you think that it is weak and childish not to have personal experience of evil? Do you think that if you do not obtain such experience of evil you must forever be a child? If you have any such feeling, I just bid you contemplate Jesus of Nazareth. Does He make upon you any impression of immaturity or childishness? Was He lacking in some experience that is necessary to the highest manhood? Can you patronize Him as though He were but a child, whereas you with your boasted experience of evil are a full-grown man? If that is the way you think of Jesus, even unbelievers, if they are at all thoughtful, will correct you. No, Jesus makes upon all thoughtful persons the impression of complete maturity and tremendous strength. With unblinking eyes He contemplates the evil of the human heart. "He knew what was in man" (John 2:25), says the Gospel according to John. Yet He never had those experiences of sin which fools think to be necessary if innocence is to be transcended and the highest manhood to be attained. From His spotless purity and His all-conquering strength, that ancient lie that experience of evil is necessary if man is to attain the highest good recoils naked and ashamed. That was the lie that the tempter brought to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Man was told to seek discernment in Satan's way and not in God's. Had man resisted the temptation what heights of knowledge and strength would have been his!

He sought to attain knowledge, and lost the knowledge of good; he sought to attain power, and lost his own soul; he sought to become as God, and when God came to him in the garden he hid himself in shameful fear."

Monday, June 18, 2018

A Picture of a Dad

Around Father's Day, I always notice how our society portrays dads -- aloof, absent, uninvolved, or selfish. Selfish, self-centered men whose lives, if they have any guiding principle at all, are governed by sports, hobbies, or pleasure. The Bible paints a very different picture of what it means to be a dad.  There are a multitude of passages that give us a picture of what a Dad should be, so  don't take your idea of fatherhood from the media, but from God's Word.

A father needs to correct and instruct his children. Far too many men have abdicated the role of discipline to the mother. By doing so, they have forsaken one of the primary duties that God has given them over their children. The responsibility of discipline and correction lays at the feet of the father. In Proverbs 3:12, Solomon tells us how God corrects his children, then reminds us how it is similar to a Dad correcting his children, "For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth." The dad in proverbs corrects the son he loves. The proverb says the father has delight in his son – he loves him, and because he loves him, he corrects him when he is not walking in the right path.

Paul uses similar language when he describes his own ministry in 1Thessalonias 2:11. "As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children." Paul acted like a father should. He exhorted them, or urged them on to do the right thing. Fathers need to correct their children when they do wrong, but also exhort them to do right. Nothing is more frustrating for a child than to always be told what not to do, but never instructed on what they need to do. Paul also comforted them, or gave them heart to press on in their work. Dad needs to show the right way, but work in the heart of the child to want to do the right thing. Bengel said, "Exhortation leads one to do a thing willingly; consolation, to do it joyfully." Paul charged  the church or appealed to their solemn responsibility to God to walk worthy. The father has the duty, but also the responsibility to raise his children and his authority comes from God. It doesn't come from being bigger and stronger  or having a deeper voice. The authority to lead, teach, instruct, and correct is given by God.

Don’t let this go to your head. Where some men would rather go play and leave the children to mom, other men become overbearing dictators and see their children as little serfs. Psalm 103:13 says, "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him." Dad, you need to have compassion on your children. Remember their frame. You want them to grow up to be strong men and godly women, but they are not there yet. Have compassion, take interest, get involved, love them and lead them. They may not like it and you may not to get to be their buddy, but you are their Dad, and they would much rather have you be their father than for you to be their buddy.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Wise Words from John Brown

The more I read John Brown's Exposition Of The Epistle Of Paul The Apostle To The Galatians, the more I love this commentary. He doesn't skip over any difficulties and digs deep, but it's so full of practical wisdom, especially in the introduction of different sections. For example, in Galatians 5, dealing with churches in danger of leaving the faith. They have not apostatized, but they are on the edge looking over. How do you deal with people in such a state? I'll quote Brown at length as an example of his wise insight in dealing with other men.

"The paths of error and vice are downward paths ; but the descent is sometimes so very gradual, especially at first, that it is often no easy matter to convince those who have entered them that they have left the level ground of truth and duty. To use another figure, the divergence from the straight road is often so very small that he who has abandoned it may easily for a time persuade himself that he is still prosecuting it. The lines of direction seem to be almost parallel ; yet at every step he takes they are diverging, and by and by it will become abundantly apparent, even to the individual himself, that the path he now treads and the path he formerly trode are different paths. It is quite possible he may still think that the path he has chosen is the preferable one ; but he can no longer indulge the delusive notion that he has not altered his course. 
Many a man has begun with doubting or denying some particular doctrine of revelation which seems beset with peculiar difficulties, such as the doctrine of original sin, and has ended with denying the Divine authority of the Bible altogether. Many a man has begun with venturing on what he was afraid was wrong, or at any rate was by no means quite sure was right, who has ended with disregarding all religious and moral obligations. Had these men understood the tendency of the first step, they might perhaps not have taken the second. Had they contemplated the termination of their career they might probably never have commenced it."
Error is dangerous. It's nothing to joke around about and many a man has shipwrecked his soul by listening to and courting falsehood. You can see the trajectory. Paul knew that if the Galatian churches kept listening, they would end up in apostasy. He wants to warn them because he can see where this is headed. So how does he deal with the situation?

"Nothing is more unfair than to charge a man with holding principles which he disavows, however justly deducible from his professed opinions. Such a mode of reasoning, however common, is obviously uncandid, and has a much greater tendency to irritate than to convince. To charge a man with crimes of which he knows he is not guilty, though the faults he has committed may naturally lead to the perpetration of these crimes, is certainly not the most likely way of reforming him. But it is a matter of the last importance that the tendency of a false principle, and of a criminal action, should be distinctly and fully laid before the mind of him who has adopted the one, or committed the other; and that he should be faithfully and affectionately warned against holding an opinion or indulging a practice the moral characters of which are very different from what he apprehends them to be, and which will in the ordinary course of things sink him in depths of error and guilt, from which at present he would perhaps recoil with terror. It is most unfortunate when a person just about to commence the downward road of apostasy falls in with a well meaning, it may be, but most mistaken friend, who flatters him in the opinion he has formed that there is nothing very dangerous or wrong in the course he is taking, who says "peace, peace," to him while there is no peace. A true friend will in these circumstances not thus help forward the delusion ; but, at the hazard of displeasing him whom he wishes to save, he will honestly, but at the same time kindly, tell him the truth, and, leading him to the brink of the precipice, bid him ponder ere he goes farther in the path which terminates so fearfully. "

You cannot charge someone of a crime they have not committed just because they are on a path that very well could lead to that destruction. Paul was rough with the Galatians, but he did not accuse them of something they had not yet done wrong, while at the same time, warns them of the consequences if they continue on in they legalistic path. Paul makes great points, but he is also dealing with human beings. You can't just be "bold for the truth" and stomp all over people you disagree with and falsely accuse and portray the in the worst possible light, and then think that you will be able to influence them to listen to you and give you a fair hearing. That's being foolish. Be strong. Be resolute. Never compromise, but have some wisdom in your dealing with people.

Never Quit

Thursday, June 14, 2018

No Spin

Proverbs 18: 17 He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him.

If you are like me, you are a 6’2’ Baptist preacher writing a column for the Free Press. But you also might be like me and listen to political radio from time to time. I hear political pundits talk about “setting the narrative” or “getting ahead of the story” which is a nice way of saying whoever spills the beans first gets to twist the truth to favor their side and put their opponent on the defensive. Anytime you have a controversy between people, whoever gets their side of the story out first has the advantage. To borrow a thought from William Buckley, if someone comes to you and says I’m a scoundrel because they saw me push an old lady to the ground, you might get righteously angry. But if you ask me, you might find out that I pushed her out of the way of an oncoming logging truck speeding down the street. The man who spoke first gave the facts, but colored the context. Speaking of context, I will  address the run of the mill, everyday sort of slander. I still believe this principle applies to criminal charges, but if someone is accused of breaking the law, then you must get the authorities involved. Then, the authorities and the press need to apply this principle.

When entangled in controversy, you need to do everything in your power to accurately represent your opponent. I know you want to be right and win the day, but be right in a truthful and honorable way. If you have to lie to make your enemy look worse than he is, that is a good indication that your case is weak-sauce. It’s like the preacher who dropped his outline coming out of the pulpit and someone picked up the paper and saw in the margins, “weak point -- bang pulpit here.” You need to check your motives. Are you fighting for truth or fighting for yourself and looking for revenge by vanquishing your enemy by any means necessary?

It’s foolish to believe the accuser is right without even asking the accused. The Bible even tells us to not rush to judgment with men who have a proven record of godliness  (1 Timothy 5:19). The goal is sincerely and seriously hearing the accusation and getting to the truth. While you listen, you need to hold a few things in your mind at once. The accuser may be telling you the truth. They may be telling you part of the truth and leaving out key information. They may be telling you what they remember, filtered through a whole lot of emotions and a whole lot of distortion. Or they could be a dirty, filthy, liar. If you listen to the accuser and make a judgment without investigation, you are committing sin. Get the facts before grabbing the pitchforks and torches.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Truth Hurts

The Galatian churches had changed. They were no longer believing the same doctrine they had once confessed and now they are angry at Paul for calling them out on their move. How mean! Paul had preached the gospel to these people, and they had believed with their whole heart, so much so that they were persecuted for the sake of the gospel (Galatians 3:4). Some smooth talkers came to town and in no time at all, the churches had abandoned what they once believed for this different teaching.

The truth did not change. Paul had not changed. The gospel had not changed. The Galatian churches changed. Once, they loved Paul so much that they would have given him their own eyeballs, if it were possible so he could be relieved of his physical ailments. Now, they look at him with suspicion and anger for the very same reasons they loved him a short time prior. "Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?" (Galatians 4:16). The false teachers knew the same thing that Paul did – once someone becomes embittered against another person, it rarely matters how tight the argument or how logical the premise, the emotion of disliking the person will overpower reasoned thought. They couldn't defeat Paul's gospel, so they resorted to destroying Paul in the eyes of the Christians. Now anything Paul said is soured because of their prejudice against him.

The truth hurts when it hits a sore spot. It’s easy to hear truth that confirms what we already believe. We love flattery, especially about what we think and believe. When confronted with truth that proves us wrong, we get defensive because we feel that it attacks our identity and feel it a personal slight. Some neurological studies have shown that the brain interprets being proven wrong and being under physical attack in a similar way. The truth really does hurt when we are proven wrong. When truth goes against us, our depraved human nature would rather kill the messenger rather than admit wrong. "Paul, that old fashioned fundamentalist. Paul, majoring on the minors. Paul, always harping about something, standing in the way of progress. There goes Paul, making a big deal out of doctrine again, thinking he’s always right."  When told that we are wrong, the first reaction is to disagree and to defend ourselves, which makes sense. Just because someone says you are wrong, doesn't mean  you are, but no one is right about everything. Rather than dealing with the truth, the easiest way to handle this prickly situation is to get angry at the person rebuking you and then start finding things wrong with him. Make the man the enemy, then you don’t have to listen to him anymore. When the truth hurts, we need to repent instead of making excuses and making enemies.  Proverbs 9:8 says, "Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee." Wisdom views correction as mercy.

Friday, June 1, 2018

They like me, the really like me!

Men who crave popularity will shy away from the very thing that will make them useful. Men who are admired and followed are usually men who stand firm in what they believe and fight for what is right. Often this makes a man hated in his time and admired in history, or loved from afar and despised close to home. Everyone loves the prophets when they are dead and gone, even the Pharisees. But a prophet at home cannot be tolerated. Everyone loves hard and bold preaching from the visitor at a Bible conference, but not so much when they hear it too often from their own pastor who actually knows their sins.

Men who love and crave applause will fold like a cheap tent when it hurts book sales, conference tickets, and seminary dollars. Faithfulness is costly from a worldly perspective but yields great rewards. Applause is costly from a spiritual perspective, and those who seek it will loose in the end.

John Brown wrote about the temptation to be swayed by popularity in his Exposition of the Epistle to the Galatians .

"The change which took place in the estimate formed by the Galatians of the apostle at different times suggests important instruction to the ministers of religion in every age. It teaches them not to be unduly elated by popular applause ; and not to be unduly depressed when it is withheld or withdrawn. It is a minister's duty to use every proper means to stand well in the estimation of those to whom he ministers, and it argues not magnanimity, but stupidity and ingratitude, to be insensible to the pleasure which the successful use of these means is calculated to excite. But he is a fool who makes the attainment of what is usually called popularity a leading object — he is worse than a fool who, in order to secure or retain it, conceals or modifies, in the slightest degree, his conscientious convictions, either as to faith or duty. The present approbation of conscience, and the anticipated approbation of his Lord, these are the objects the Christian minister should continually keep in view. When popularity is gained along with these, it is really valuable, for it insures the probability of usefulness ; but the hosannas of the crowd are dearly purchased at the expense of one pang of conscience — one frown of the Saviour. It is obviously, however, equally the interest of ministers and people that a cordial attachment should subsist between them, and that on both sides everything should be avoided that has a tendency to diminish and alienate mutual affection. It is very difficult for a minister to do his duty in a right spirit to a people when he has reason to think they have little or no attachment to him, and it is all but impossible for a people to derive spiritual advantage from a minister whom they do not respect and love. Happy is that Christian society when the minister loves his people, and the people love their minister " for the truth's sake," and when they manifest their mutual affection, not by warm protestations, but by his honestly and affectionately performing every pastoral duty, and by their " walking in all Christian commandments and ordinances blameless."

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Heirs of God

In the Roman Empire, families with large farms or estates had servants who lived on site and  managed the property for the landowner. He would be an experienced man who knew how to manage a property and run a household. The landowner would give this man authority to everything required to keep the property running well and turn a profit. Let's imagine the wealthy landowner and the property manager both had children. Neither child would have any say so in the daily operations of the farm or how it was managed. If the father sent his son to work the farm, the boy would be under the authority of the property manager, just like any other servant in the house. Practically speaking, there was very little difference in  property manager's son and the property owners son. But actually, the property owner's son was is in a far better position, because he was an heir who was enduring patiently until the time when he would received the inheritance.

Paul uses this situation as an example  in Galatians 4:1-7 to give us some understanding in the situation the Old Testament saints were in before Christ came. They were under the "tutelage and governorship" of the Mosaic law. There were many sacrifices to carry out in the Old Testament, many ceremonies to perform. Many rules and laws to remember and keep. God gave these elementary and rudimentary means of worship to point those saints of God to the coming Messiah. They were not saved by works, but by faith and when the appointed time came, the time ordained before the foundation of the world, God the Father sent forth His Son, truly God and truly man, made flesh to live under the obligations of the law.  Jesus redeemed those who were under the law, that we might receive the blessings of the adoption of Sons. This is pure sovereign grace. The work of redemption and justification is not based on what we do for God. We are saved through the finished work of Jesus Christ alone.

Those that the Father loved and those that Jesus died for and redeemed, receive the adoption of sons. We are made heirs of God. When parents adopt a child, it is the sole choice of the parents. Our adoption is not based on how good we were and remaining in the family of God is not based on how good we remain. We are in the family of God based on the work of Jesus Christ who redeemed those the Father had given him, and those whom the Holy Spirit seals. We cry out in tender and loving faith, to God our Father, prompted by the Holy Spirit, who seals our adoption and gives us full assurance of the faith in the justifying and saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ. How blessed it is to live in the light and the freedom of the New Covenant enjoying the adoption of Sons in the full liberty of Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

New Testament Commentaries - Study Tools

Today we will look at a few New Testament collections. 

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

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

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

*(Note: The Galatians and Hebrews commentary contain the error that Jesus became the Son at his incarnation, and denies the eternal sonship of Christ. Though he eventually came to the truth, it was not before these volumes were written. It may have been updated in latter editions, but my editions contain the error). 

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

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

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

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

* Updated 5/29/2017

Monday, May 28, 2018

A Talk Between the Christian and the Law

"I think I can make the matter plain if I imagine a dialogue between the law of God and a sinful man saved by grace. 

‘Man,’ says the law of God, ‘have you obeyed my commands?’ ‘No,’ says the sinner saved by grace. ‘I have disobeyed them, not only in the person of my representative Adam in his first sin, but also in that I myself have sinned in thought, word and deed.’ ‘Well, then, sinner,’ says the law of God, ‘have you paid the penalty which I pronounced upon disobedience?’ ‘No,’ says the sinner, ‘I have not paid the penalty myself; but Christ has paid it for me. He was my representative when He died there on the cross. Hence, so far as the penalty is concerned, I am clear.’ ‘Well, then, sinner,’ says the law of God, ‘how about the conditions which God has pronounced for the attainment of assured blessedness? Have you stood the test? Have you merited eternal life by perfect obedience during the period of probation?’ ‘No,’ says the sinner, ‘I have not merited eternal life by my own perfect obedience. God knows and my own conscience knows that even after I became a Christian I have sinned in thought, word and deed. But although I have not merited eternal life by any obedience of my own, Christ has merited it for me by His perfect obedience. He was not for Himself subject to the law. No obedience was required of Him for Himself, since He was Lord of all. That obedience, then, which He rendered to the law when He was on earth was rendered by Him as my representative. I have no righteousness of my own, but clad in Christ’s perfect righteousness, imputed to me and received by faith alone, I can glory in the fact that so far as I am concerned the probation has been kept and as God is true there awaits me the glorious reward which Christ thus earned for me.’ 

Such, put in bald, simple form, is the dialogue between every Christian and the law of God. How gloriously complete is the salvation wrought for us by Christ! Christ paid the penalty, and He merited the reward. Those are the two great things that He has done for us."

J. Gresham Machen

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The End of Death

Once upon a time, a friend passed away, and there was some talk that I may be asked to preach at the funeral. I had an idea of what I would like to have said, and jotted it down in a word document. The family asked someone else to preach the funeral so I never really progressed anymore on the line of thought I had. I came across the notes the other day, and rather letting it continue to be lazy, lounging around my hard-drive, I dressed it up, whipped it into shape, and put it to work.

Death is separation. Man is both body and soul, and when a person dies, their soul and body separate. This is not a most natural part of human life. Death is the result of a curse and in the scriptures, is painted for what it truly is – the never satisfied enemy of mankind. As fast and as far as you may run, death is coming. It is not natural for humanity to be separate from the body. In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth in a state of perfection. There was neither sickness nor death. God created Adam and told him he could have everything in the world – it was all his, he just couldn’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In rebellion, Adam defied God’s command and ate – and that moment he died spiritually. The earth, was cursed. Sin had entered, and with sin – death. That is why there is sickness. That is why there is death. Death entered because of sin. Every human being since has been born into a sin cursed world. Humanity was ruined. As God pronounced the curse, He also promised a cure. There would come a hero who would crush the head of that serpent the devil, and though it would bruised his heel, the death blow would crush the serpents head.

This hero is Jesus Christ. As foretold by the prophets, this Christ, born of a virgin, the Son of David in the line of the King was born into this world without the curse of sin. The Eternal Son of God, the creator of the universe, entered into His own creation – the Word made Flesh.  He came voluntarily with a purpose - to save those chosen by the Father and given to him to redeem and rescue from the judgment and curse of sin, for the glory of the Father. He came as a substitute and a sacrifice for the sins of His people. He, who had no sin, was made sin for us on the cross. The just, for the unjust was dying for the sins of God’s people. The Father laid all the sin, of all the elect, upon the Lord Jesus, punishing for their sins as a substitute. And when it was finished, Jesus died. Death. That cruel, wicked enemy laid hold upon the Lord Jesus Christ as he laid down his life. But, three days and three nights later, Christ, our great champion and saviour burst free from the tomb, for it was not possible that death could keep its hands upon Him. Death could not keep him. Death could not defeat Him, and as He had the power to lay down his life, he had the power to take it up again. He burst forth as a conqueror over death and broke the sting of death and the grave and provides us the hope of resurrection and eternal life when our souls will be reunited with a glorified body.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Concordance - Study Tools

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

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

Friday, May 18, 2018


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

Abstract of Systematic Theology – James P. Boyce

Monday, May 14, 2018

That's Not Funny - Ecclesiastes 2:1

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Mother's Day and Graduation

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

To My Mother - by Wendell Berry

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 7, 2018

Ecclesiastes 1:16-18

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Goes for Facebook too

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

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

JC Philpot

Friday, May 4, 2018

My Bible - Study Tools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Covenant, Promise, and Inheritance

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Only God is "Present"

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

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

Monday, April 30, 2018

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 26, 2018

An Ordained Minister

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 23, 2018

This Sore Travail - Ecclesiastes 1:12-13

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

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

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

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

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

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