Monday, March 19, 2018

The Sun Also Rises - Ecclesiastes 1:5-7

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

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

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

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Blessing of a Dirty Crib

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Willingly Ignorant

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Vacation by Wendell Berry

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

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Bold sinners and fearful saints

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

The Christian in Complete Armour – William Gurnall

Monday, February 26, 2018

One Generation after the Other - Ecclesiastes 1:4

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

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

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


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Another Gospel?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Monody by Herman Melville

To have known him, to have loved him
After loneness long;
And then to be estranged in life,
And neither in the wrong;
And now for death to set his seal—
Ease me, a little ease, my song!
By wintry hills his hermit-mound
The sheeted snow-drifts drape,
And houseless there the snow-bird flits
Beneath the fir-trees’ crape:
Glazed now with ice the cloistral vine
That hid the shyest grape.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Amazing Grace, Amazing Apostasy

The gospel of Christ is amazing. Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners. We are saved by grace, through faith and the gift of faith that God gives us, is accounted to us for righteousness. We are forgiven and justified by faith in the sinless life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ.  All my sins are forgiven. I’m no longer condemned since I’m in Christ Jesus. I am free from the condemnation of God’s law, born again, and an adopted Son of God, a joint-heir with Christ Jesus. I didn’t have to do a thing in this world to earn God's love. Freely, by God’s grace, He saved me from my sins, delivered me from the just punishment of Hell, and delivered from this present evil world.

Paul was amazed by grace. But he was also amazed at the Galatians. It is rather astonishing the Galatians could know God and receive the news that God saves sinners and reconciles sinners to himself by free grace, and then thumb their nose at  this glorious gospel, turn their back on God and follow after another gospel (Galatians 1:6-7).  The Almighty God called sinners into the grace of Christ. The Lamb of God came and bled and died for them and freely gave them all things. The Eternal Son, shed his life’s blood to give them life. God imputed the righteousness of Christ to their account and then called them to this gospel, and they left and turned their back on God.

It’s amazing they had forsaken the gospel, but also amazing they had done it so quickly! Not much time has passed since the "hour they first believed” and it didn’t take too many dangers, toils, and snares to trap them in a dangerous heresy. New converts are delicious to ravening wolves. In these churches men, with prestige and experience,  had come to help these poor ignorant Galatians see the “truth” and rescue them from that intolerant Paul.  

It’s amazing they had forsaken God and his Christ, and had done it so easily! What a priceless treasure we have in Jesus. There are unsearchable riches in Christ. There are unfathomable depths to his love. Untrackable glories in his death. I truly believe we will spend eternity gazing into the glories of the gospel of Christ. And yet, how amazing one could so quickly leave Christ. How telling that wretched sinners, who beheld the Son of God through faith and have tasted of his grace, could leave and go looking for pasture away from their shepherd. How weak and frail we are, and how dependent we are on the Holy Spirit to keep us.

It’s amazing they went from Christ to another gospel. When you think of apostasy in these terms, it is a marvel that people will leave the gospel for anything else, because everything is inferior. Because grace is so amazing, it's astonishing we can be tempted to look for another way for peace with God.  

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Affectionate Theology of Richard Sibbes by Mark Dever,

The Affectionate Theology of Richard Sibbes by Mark Dever, is latest book in the Long Line of Godly Men Profile series.that introduces and profiles significant Christian men in history. I know Richard Sibbes only through his book, A Bruised Reed. I am guilty of putting all the men of this era in the same general category of “Puritans” and “Nonconformist”. Dever’s book has corrected me in that assumption and helped me to understand Sibbes and his life and the context which he ministered. Dever explains through a few second hand sources Richard Sibbes is wrongly identified with the Nonconformist and was more of a moderate, hoping for long slow reform of the Church of England.

Since Richard Sibbes was a moderate man, who was a Consenter, yet leaned towards sympathies with Nonconformist, he is claimed by both sides. If you don’t know what these terms mean, you will before you get very far into this book.  Dever's goal was to "...recover Sibbes as a historical and theological whole” and to view Sibbes in his historical context for the moderate man he was. Rather than engaging in the controversies of the day, Sibbes had a heart toward the people in his congregation and sought to help those under his preaching.

I can’t say that the book has moved me to appreciate Richard Sibbes more, but it does give me a better understanding of who he is and how to go about reading his works in the future. In the light of many of his contemporaries who suffered for their convictions, I can’t say a moderate man who avoided controversial topics and toned down doctrines he professed is awe-inspiring, but these books are much better when we know the truth about a man instead of making him a sort of superhero. For this, I am thankful for the honest look at Richard Sibbes.

Thanks to for the review copy.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Fare Thee Well

1 Timothy 6:20-21  O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:  Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen. The first to Timothy was written from Laodicea, which is the chiefest city of Phrygia Pacatiana.

As a man of God, Timothy was committed to the truth of God's Word, (1 Timothy 1:18-19). Timothy has a priceless treasure in the doctrine he received and preaches, and he must secure it and guard with his life. As ministers of the gospel and preachers in the Lord's church, we have received the valuable treasure of truthful doctrine and our task is nothing short of faithfulness. We need to hold to the truth in our own lives, never wavering in what God has commanded us to do. We need to keep that truth in the forefront of our preaching, and guard our preaching from slackness and error. We need to protect the truth in the church and guard who takes the pulpit. We need to protect the truth from the influence of false teachers by a bold proclamation of God's Word. We need to keep the truth by diligence in reading and studying doctrine, to keep our theology tight and our doctrine sharp. Taking the long view, we are tasked with teach and passing the truth on to the next generation and to be able to leave this world having committed the truth to another group to carry on the work.

While he keeps the truth he is also to avoid profane and vain babbling. Don't flirt with or imbibe profane teachings and false science, or that which purports itself to be the way of knowledge, but is no knowledge at all. There is no contradiction in the truth. So science and higher learning is not in conflict with God's Word. It is a "so-called" science and higher learning that we are to avoid.  Why? Because it's the path to error. The danger  is that it will cause you to go off into error in the faith. I'm defiantly not anti-education or anti-learning, but be careful who you let teach you. Whether it's the science of evolution or the science of theology, be cautious of anything that contradicts God's Word and the doctrine given to your charge. It's the path to error, to be so enamored by 'higher learning' that you'll begin to doubt the plain truth of Scripture. Don't think so? Paul reminded Timothy that it had already happened to men that they knew. Don't think it can happen to you? Repent of your pride and be on guard.

Doctrine. Truth. Steadfastness. That's the theme of this epistle. There can be no compromise to the truth, and the man of God needs to be focused on preaching, studying, learning, teaching, and living the truth.

That ends our study in I Timothy. Maybe someday I'll tell you why I did this. Maybe soon we'll start 2 Timothy.

Monday, February 12, 2018

What profit? - Ecclesiastes 1:3

 3 What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?

This verse provides a clue to interpretation of the book. The phrase “under the sun” tells us Solomon is not thinking in terms of an eternal perspective at this point. Everything “under the sun” is what we do on this earth, in this life. Solomon is considering life as if his was all there was. What profit is there in all our work, if this is all there is?

There is profit to our labor. Beside the financial purposes and the ability to provide, there are mental benefits with having work to do and accomplishing the job you set out to accomplish. There is profit for those you serve in your work and the general common good of the community. But there is not satisfaction to the soul. As the saying goes, no one on their deathbed wishes they spent more time at the office. What profit does all our work count for if we die and leave it all behind to be forgotten?

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Ozymandias By Percy Bysshe Shelley

Friday, February 9, 2018

Passive Voice Preaching

Preachers know how to punch in their sermons. We also know how to pull punches.When the Word is coming in fast, doing its work, a preacher can pull the punch at the last second to lighten the blow, as some false teachers like to do. See? I just pulled the punch. I said something hard, then I let you off the hook at the last second by attributing this to false teachers. I said what I wanted to say, but I pulled back so you wouldn't get made at me and request a refund for this post.

You can also hide the truth in lingo and unclear turns of phrase.  In Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction, Tracy Kidder wrote:
Institutionalese tends to obscure responsibility for what is being said, or to locate it in a heavenly source. One hears that old bugaboo, the passive voice: “Mistakes were made”; “Actions will be taken.” Everyone recognizes the phenomenon. Why does it continue? The skeptical reader will credit the offending writer not with ineptitude but with a positive talent for obfuscation. The annual report writer declares, “Year-end results were negatively impacted by seasonal downward profit adjustments, consistent with global trends, insufficiently offset by labor force reductions.” It’s not that the guy doesn’t know how to say, “We lost money last fall, fired some people, but it was a tough year all around.” He either doesn’t want to say that, or, more likely, would get fired if he did. Sometimes people simply have to give the appearance of saying something without the risks that come with doing so. Then prose becomes dowdy clothing, concealing more than it reveals.
Don't hide what you are trying to say in passive voice mumbling or obscure wording. Be clear and speak plainly. Kidder said, "It takes some confidence to write clearly." Indeed. When you say what you mean clearly and precisely, then everyone knows were you stand. Don't say "sins were committed" but "you sinned."

He closes the chapter saying, "And if you should find yourself sounding that way, ask yourself what you are trying to avoid." If your preaching or writing is obtuse, are you doing that on purpose? Sometimes it is just bad writing, or trying to sound eloquent. But make sure that you are not concealing instead of revealing. Are you trying to say something without anyone noticing? By avoiding clear language, what are you trying to avoid?

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Grace and Peace

Grace, Peace, and Love

Don’t believe the lie about God or buy the perception that God the Father is harsh and angry while the Lord Jesus is kind and loving. God the Father is stern and strict while God the Son is gracious and mercy, pitting two persons of the Trinity against one another. I’m afraid that many Christians have a faulty view of the Trinity due to a wrong view of God the Father. God the Father and God the Son are not opposed in their will. Notice, in Paul’s introduction in the letter to the Galatians 1:3-5  "Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen." Grace, or underserved favor and blessing to you and the result of this grace is having peace with God. Where is the fountain from which this grace and peace flowed? It’s from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

How do we get this grace and peace? Through the Substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus, who “gave himself for our sins” to deliver us out of this evil world. Christ Jesus came and died for sinners, to pay our sin debt, to redeem us, to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The penalty for our sins is death and hell, and Jesus bore our sins in “his own body on the tree” and paid the penalty we deserved on the cross, so we can have peace with God. Jesus came according to the will of God our Father. Jesus came to die for those whom the Father had loved and chosen to be children and heirs. Before the foundation of the world, God the Father chose from sinful humanity, individuals to whom he would show His great love and mercy to deliver them from their sins. It was the Father’s will that these sinners be saved. The Father loved the elect and according to His own good purpose, chose them unto salvation. The Son, in covenant with the Father, came to die and save those whom the Father had given him. Don’t believe the lie about God the Father. Don’t project your ideas about earthly Fathers on to the character and nature of God the Father. We say a "mother's love" is the ultimate example of love and devotion, but the Bible speaks of the Father's love as the apex of love. 1 John 3:1  "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." Know that the Father loves, provides for, and personally cares for and hears the cries of His people. God the Father loves his children. He so loved the world, that He gave His Son as a substitute to die for them and give them eternal life.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Vanity of Vanities - Ecclesiastes #2

2 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

The introduction of the book extends through the first 11 verses. Solomon sets the table by telling us that “all is vanity”. Everything “under the sun” is a vapor and will sooner or later, pass away.

Verse two is the theme, and he doubles down in his Hebrewisms, that all, everything is vanity. The Hebrew word translated “vanity” is that for vapor or wind. Vanity is something that is empty or lacks weight, temporary. Solomon is not saying that everything is pointless, but all is fleeting, temporary. This may seem like the musings of a depressed man, but hold on, Solomon will prove this thesis and explain more.

At certain seasons of our life, God often shows a man that there is more to living than what we see around us. When we get sick, or when we go to a funeral, when we lose something valuable to us, we get the feeling of life being like a breath. The book of of Ecclesiastes gives us a considerable bit of time meditating on this reality; a sober reminder of who we are. We do well to meditate on this life and what is important.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Charge to the Rich

1 Timothy 6:17-19  Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;  (18)  That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;  (19)  Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

Timothy received his charge and now he is to charge those in the church that have riches in this world not to be proud over what they have or but their trust in confidence in "uncertain" riches of the world. Our trust and confidence is not in silver and gold, but the living God.

Paul is using a chiastic structure in this passage.

A. Treasure in this world
        B. Confidence in uncertain riches now
               C. God richly gives
               C. Be rich in good works, ready to give
        B. A good foundation in the time to come
A. Treasure in Heaven

Those who have possessions now are tempted to be proud over what they have and trust their money, retirement, and investments keeps them safe. But it is God who gives us what we have. God doesn't give us what we have so that we would trust in them, but enjoy them. Money and possessions are wonderful tools but terrible masters. God richly gives us all things, and those to whom God has made rich by richly giving need to be rich in good works by giving themselves. God owns everything, and freely and richly gives. We ought to be like our Father and ready to richly give as well. Strive to be rich in good works. Doing so is an investment for the world to come. Laying up treasures in Heaven and laying hold on eternal life. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Read Systematic Theology

You should study theology. Theology comes from two Greek words "theos" (God) and "logos" (word). Theology then is the study of God. A systematic theology assumes the canon of Scripture is closed and there is no more inspired revelation from God, so we have the full and complete revelation of God. We can take the Bible and study all of what God has said on a related subject and in a logical and precise manner, have an understanding of a particular issue. The inspired Word is authoritative, sufficient, and consistent, so there will be no contradictions on any subject.

Theology isn’t just for pastors. In fact, everyone should be a theologian. If you don’t study theology, that simply means you just aren't a very good theologian. Everyone has opinions about God and Christians should derive what they think about God and religion from the Bible. The Christian would be well served to dedicate themselves to the study of systematic theology. There are many books put out by Christian publishers and so much of it is drivel. One man said the most dangerous place a Christian can go in this earth is a modern Christian bookstore. False doctrine sells, unfortunately. Instead of a powder-puff devotionals that gives you milk, at best, and poison at worst, try reading a systematic theology for your devotional time. Just a few pages a day will give you plenty to ponder, lots to learn, and meditating on deep truth will give you a deep awe of your God.

There are many fine works of systematic theology published, but I would recommend that you find a good trusted author from the past. Dead men can’t change their mind on you down the road. Also, you are choosing a work that has stood the test of time and since they have been around for a while, you can already know where they may be wrong on a point or two. Remember, the only inspired book is the Bible, and all books need to be read with discernment. Some are easier to read than others. T.P. Simmons, for example, wrote a very good and accessible systematic theology that would be a terrific place to start. James Boyce's Systematic Theology and  John Gill's Body of Divinity are both excellent works, but a little more advanced. Get all three and make that a long term project. Reading just a couple pages a day, you can chip away at a big book. Imagine, knowing more about the God who saved you. Think about knowing more about Jesus and getting a deeper understanding of the covenant of redemption. Don’t think theology is cold and dry. Will learning more about your God and what He has done for you make you love Him less or more? Will learning more about his grace make you more or less appreciative of His divine favor? Dig deep and learn. After all, a "disciple" is a student. Read your Bible first, and when you are done, try some theology. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The King of Kings - Tuesday with Timothy

1 Timothy 6:13-16  I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession;  (14)  That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:  (15)  Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;  (16)  Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.

Paul references Christ's confession before Pilate to remind that Jesus is the King. The Lord Jesus will come again and when he does, it is not as the suffering servant, but the King of Kings. Jesus is the blessed and only Potentate, or supreme ruler. He is the King of all the kings of history. He is the Lord of all those in authority.  He has immortality, or life eternal and everlasting, dwelling in the light of the holiness of God. So bright, no mortal man could bear to look upon, even dare approach. He is at the right hand of the Father, who no man has seen or can see. This is who we serve. When we think about the glory and majesty of Christ, how foolish is us to fear man. How wicked to care more about what other people think of us and our preaching, when we must stand before our great Potentate and give an account. We could spend a lot of time parsing each word, there is a lot here, but I think just meditating on the whole should suffice us and that is the point. Superlative after superlative is given, to cause us to bow in fear and reverence. To shock us to know we have been charged and commissioned to carry out the work of this king. We are responsible to him.

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Preacher - Ecclesiastes #1

Ecclesiastes 1:1 "The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem."

What's the point? Wake up Monday through Friday, go to work, do you job, get in the car and go back home. Eat the same dinner, watch the same show and go to bed and do it all over again. Open up your phone and see everyone having fun, going to places you can't afford to go, buying things that are too expensive to day dream about, and here you are, plodding along. What's the point of it all? If only you could retire. If only some TV producer would ask you to film your own hunting show and you would travel the country tracking big game. If only you could get discovered by a Nashville record executive. If only you could have a happy marriage. If you could just spice things up, then, life would be good. If you could have the desires of your heart you'd be happy. Or would you? Would you really be happy if you could have it all? This is an age old question and Solomon has the answer in the book of Ecclesiastes.

Ever wondered what the name Ecclesiastes means? Get ready…it’s a Latin word, transliterated from the Greek translation of the Hebrew word qoheleth, which is translated "the Preacher" as translated in the KJV. So the book of Ecclesiastes is a sermon and the preacher is examining the meaning of life. There are some dark themes presented and tensions brought out without immediate resolution. The Preacher has a plan in his sermon. He’s not rambling on about this at that and before he takes off, the Preacher knows where he is going to land (a good preacher will). There is a point and there will be a resolution, so you need to stick around for the exciting conclusion.

The Preacher is also the son of the king, a wise man who is going to counsel you in the right direction. To call Solomon a wealthy man would be an understatement. There was nothing that was available to him that he couldn’t obtain. We can only dream of having that power and wealth. When Solomon speaks about possessions, pleasure, ambition, family, this was more that philosophy and theory, I believe he put it to the test. Solomon found there is not lasting satisfaction in things “under the sun”. Whether it be knowledge, wealth, work, dignity, or honor, ultimately these things do not fulfill the person and leave you saying that it’s nothing. Solomon wants you to see that you will waste your life trying to find satisfaction in temporary things. If you could attain all your aspirations in this life, you would look at all that you accomplished and be disappointed. Solomon tried it, and his conclusion was that it was all "vanity and vexation of spirit". True happiness is found in God and satisfaction of the soul is found in Christ Jesus (Ecclesiastes 12:13).  

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Charged in the sight of God

1 Timothy 6:13-16  I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession;  (14)  That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:  (15)  Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;  (16)  Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.

There are two main thoughts in this passage. First, Timothy is charged to keep what Paul commanded. Second, the Majesty and Holiness of the King we are charged to serve. This solemn charge is before and in the name of the Lord Jesus. These two themes weave back and forth through this section.

1 Timothy 6:13-16  I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession;

Paul charges, or adjures Timothy. Barnes says "the word rendered “charge” means, properly, to call to witness; then to affirm with solemn attestations; and then to admonish solemnly, to urge upon earnestly. It is a word which implies that the subject is of great importance." Paul is saying this command is no small matter. Being a pastor is no small calling. It is certainly not anything to take lightly. We need a fresh reminder of what it is we are doing as men of God. Whose word we are proclaiming. Who we are speaking for and that we will give an account to our King for everything we do in His name.

Paul charged Timothy in the sight of the God who gives life to all things. Timothy will have to answer to the Almighty for what he does and what he does not do. He is also charged in the sight of Jesus Christ, His Lord and King. Jesus, who gave a good profession (I Timothy 6:12) in the sight of Pontius Pilate. When asked if Jesus was a King, he said "Thou Sayest" and proceeds to explain the nature and scope of His kingdom. Timothy is charged in the sight of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

I don't want to say we shouldn't care what our people think, we should. But we should want our people to think like God thinks. We should care how they think much more than what they think about us. The only opinion that really matters is God's. I might get called in before the church to give an answer for what I preached or what I believe. I might get fired from a church or asked to leave. But the ultimately, all that matters is whether or not I am doing what God has called me to do and whether I was faithful to that task. The opinions of men will not matter when we stand before Christ Jesus the Lord. 

(14)  That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:

The charge was to keep what Paul has commanded. The immediate context refers to fighting the good fight of faith, following after righteousness, and fleeing the lusts of the flesh and the pride of life. However, I believe that Paul is referring to the whole of this epistle.

The duties of the pastor must be kept without spot, or will all sincerity and purity. He must do the work of the pastor in a way that cannot be reproached or corrected. Obviously, God is the judge of this. Timothy isn't to be living up to the expectation of the congregation. However, the congregation should not be able to call Timothy on not doing the work of the ministry. His life must be in order and he must be proactively carrying out what he was commanded to do.

Timothy is to continue on until the Lord comes back or he goes and meets him. There is a danger in the ministry, to glide along on past years work. A man can get to the point where he has a lot of knowledge, and he has homiletical skills and is just beating his time in, going through the motions. We cannot rest. As long as we are living, we are on assignment and as long as we are at our post, we must be diligent to be a faithful solider of Christ. Imagine a solider charged with keeping the night watch at the fort, falling asleep on the job because he's been doing it so long, he's got an intuition about when danger comes. Here is a man who doesn't take his post seriously and doesn't fear his commanding officer, and sadly, doesn't care about the soldiers he was charged to keep and protect.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


Did you resolve to lose weight in 2018? If so, (according to one survey I read) you have joined the plethora of Americans who made a New Year’s resolutions to lose weight. Sadly, another source cited that 80% of people will give up on their resolutions by the second week of February. So, if your belly is rumbling and you miss the sweets, maybe you are already thinking about fasting. However, Biblical fasting is not a diet plan; it’s a spiritual discipline. It is not a means of salvation. It should not be legislated by man or church (Colossians 2:16-23). So to the Christian leaders pushing for Lenten fasts, I say, with Christian love, go jump in a lake, or the Tiber. The Bible doesn’t command certain days or seasons for fasting. In fact, the only command in the Old Testament for a legislated fast was the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29) and even then, the focus is on the soul, not the body. But that doesn’t mean God’s people only fasted on that one day. Moses fasted when he received the law. Samuel fasted asking forgiveness of the sins of Israel. David fasted when he mourned Saul’s death and when he earnestly prayed for his dying infant. Esther fasted when she was about to go unannounced before the King and her life hung in the balance. Nehemiah fasted mourning the state of Jerusalem. Daniel fasted in the study and meditation of God’s Word. In the New Testament, Jesus fasted after His baptism, John the Baptist and his disciples regularly fasted. Paul and the church at Antioch (Acts 13:2-3) fasted in preparation for a missionary endeavor. The assumption in the Bible is that God’s people will fast (I Corinthians 7:5), but when and why?

In the examples of godly men and women fasting, you find that the common denominator is prayer and an earnest desire for God, not a regularly scheduled diet regimen or legalistic ritual. Fasting is not as much about denying the flesh, but spending more time with God.  Fasting is desiring God and his Word and His fellowship more than our “necessary food”. It’s a dedicated time seeking God’s will, using the time we would normally eat and feed the flesh to be devoted to prayer and worship instead. When we are in great need or about to undertake a great work, or heartbroken about our sin, or overwhelmed over the sins of others, it’s appropriate to set aside small things, like food and drink, to pour out our requests to God. It's about worship, not works. You cannot punish your body into holiness. You cannot whip yourself into godliness, or starve yourself into salvation. Fasting is temporarily putting everything to the side to spend time with God. You cannot fast while you watch TV. Biblical fasting isn’t the doctor telling you not to eat after midnight before a test. Instead of filing your belly, you fulfill your hunger for God with prayer, worship, and Bible study.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Professed a Good Profession

1 Timothy 6:11-12  But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.

Timothy had professed his salvation before many witnesses and I believe this is speaking either of his baptism or the ordination. Since we read a few times about the "laying on of hands" in Timothy's ordination, this is probably the scene Paul is referring to. Regardless, Timothy publicly professed this good profession, that God has called him to eternal life and He was going to follow his Lord all the days of his life. Paul reminds Timothy of what he confessed. He did not remind him of what he felt. He did not remind him of his baptism. What Timothy believed is the thing stressed. Remembering his vows. Remembering his sacred oath to follow the Lord Jesus.

Most Christians who struggle with doubt are remembering everything but what they professed. They remember their sins. They try to find comfort in remembering that moment of salvation. They look for assurance in thinking about their baptism. But what they are NOT looking at is Christ. Find motivation in what you profess to believe, that Jesus Christ, King and Lord died as a substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of His people and victoriously rose from the dead for our justification. We stand clean and pure before God, clothed in the righteousness of Christ having a living hope in our living Saviour. If you are saved, that is the profession you professed.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Snobbery, Cowardice, and Shame

I read two items this week that have stuck with me. The first, is a long read, but well worth the time and consideration on snobbery and cowardice.

The second is along the same lines, on being ashamed of Christ.

"Shame is that which proud nature most disdains, to avoid which many durst not 'confess Christ openly,’ John 7: 13.   Many lose heaven because they are ashamed to go in a fool's coat thither.   Again, as some will mock, so others will persecute to death, merely for this nonconformity in the Christian's principles and practices to them.   This was the trap laid for the three children; they must dance before Nebuchadnezzar's pipe, or burn.   This was the plot laid to ensnare Daniel, who walked so unblameably, that his very enemies gave him this testimony, that he had no fault but his singularity in his religion, Dan. 6: 5.   It is a great honour to a Christian, yea, to religion itself, when all their enemies can say is, They are precise, and will not do as we do.   Now in such a case as this, when the Christian must turn or burn, leave praying, or become a prey to the cruel teeth of bloody men; how many politic retreats and self-preserving distinctions would a cowardly unresolved heart invent?   The Christian that hath so great opposition had need be well locked into the saddle of his profession."
William Gurnall, . The Christian in Complete Armour

Friday, January 5, 2018

High King of Heaven

Edited by John MacArthur, High King of Heaven is a collection of essays from well known evangelical scholars and pastors, focusing on the work of Christ Jesus. The book is divided into three parts: The Person of Christ, the work of Christ, the word of Christ, and the witness to Christ. One thing that is important to know –the book is simply the written sermons preached at the 2017 Shepherd's conference hosted by Grace Community Church, pastored by MacArthur. 

Theologically, the book is great. The focus of the book is wonderful. Some sections are very weighty, but again, they read like sermons, not written chapters of a book. You can't get as deep in a spoken sermon than you can in a written book, so the chapters are not as thorough as they could have been. In a book with this many authors in such a wide range of topics, it can feel a bit disjointed. With 23 chapters written by 23 authors of various styles, that is expected. If you have listened to the Shepherd's Conference 2017, you have already gone through this content. 

Thanks to for the review copy.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Treated like a Dog

Proverbs 12:10 A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. 

Winston Churchill said "Dogs look up to you. Cats look down on you. Give me a pig. He just looks you in the eye and treats you like an equal."  No matter how animals look at us, does God care how we look at them? What about how we look at any creature God has created? Solomon was not the founder of PETA giving a discourse on animal rights, but teaching on mercy. The key to understanding the proverb is looking at what he is comparing and contrasting; 1) the righteous man and the wicked man, 2)  the beast and humanity, and  3) mercy and cruelty. The righteous man considers the creatures he owns and has dominion over. The wicked man is a man of cruelty and even his “tender mercies” are pitiless and wicked. Mercy is a way of life for the righteousness, all the way down to his beasts. The righteous man has a new heart. He is a man of mercy. The man who has been born again and indwelt by the Spirit of God will be merciful when no one is looking. God removes the old hard heart of the sinner and gives the believer a new heart, with new loves, and new desires. We are judicially justified, but practically, still in the flesh in the process of sanctification being made more like Christ, growing in grace and godliness.

These animals were not pets, but his food, and his servants and his tractor, truck, plow, and bush hog. The righteous man will treat a lowly animal with mercy and if he treats his ox with mercy, how much more his neighbor? Whereas a wicked man is nothing but cruel to those made in God’s image to whom he should display a natural affection and mercy.  Imagine the righteous man, who cares for his animals, has mercy on them, treats them well simply because they are lesser creatures God has put under his care. He hates to see animals suffering and in pain and will help them out of the goodness of his heart. He will go home and do the same. Now imagine his neighbor, who treats his family with contempt. When he compliments his children, he throws in a jab to ridicule. He cares for his wife, but not without running her down in the process. His “kindnesses” are cruel. He treats people made in God’s image contemptuously because he can and even when he offers “mercy” he does so wickedly. Today, it’s more likely to find people showing more mercy to their dogs than to their neighbor. According to the DNR it is against the law to "harass, harm, pursue" bald eagles but taxpayers are still funding Planned Parenthood to butcher the unborn and sell their body parts for profit in the name of “women’s health”. The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel, indeed.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Heavenly Minded - Tuesdays with Timothy

1 Timothy 6:12  “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called…” Do you ever think about eternity? You have a soul and when you die, your soul is going somewhere. Considering eternity would be worth your limited time on Earth. Thinking about eternity doesn’t appeal to us because we have to think about death. The world, the flesh, and the Devil say “Live for today! Live for the pleasures of this life. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!” The idea is because death is unpleasant don’t think about it and live for today while we have it. But it is wisdom to think and live for eternity (endless ages), not for a few years.

If Jesus has saved your soul, lay hold of eternal life by faith. Paul isn’t talking about grasping Heaven by works. Laying hold of eternal life is a frame of heart in the life and walk of the Christian who is called to eternal life. Think and live with eternal life in mind. Wouldn’t you expect someone who is called to eternal joy and bliss to live like it now? Some profess to know Christ, but devote all time and energy to their earthly calling and seem to never give Jesus Christ and His kingdom and their Heavenly calling a second thought. Penny wise and pound foolish.

We have been called from a city of destruction to a “land that is fairer than day”.  God called His elect out of a life of sin and death, to a life of faith and light on our pilgrimage to our Heavenly home. Imagine a city (John Bunyan called it Vanity Fair) full of worldliness, the love of money, sorrows and sin; the home of the children of wrath and disobedience. The outskirts of this metropolis are lined with wounded men (I Timothy 6:10)  pierced through with the deadly arrows of covetousness and heresy, having tried to live on the border of the city with one foot in each camp. They liked the idea of eternal life, but loved what this world offered to much to leave it behind. Timothy was called to break camp in this city of worldliness and sin and head to a city whose builder and maker is God. He walked away, ignoring the calls to stay put and continue in worldly pleasures, instead, setting his eyes on the blessed city of the glorious King. His heart and mind is fixed on the King and fair Zion’s heavenly rest. With his kingdom citizenship on his heart he goes clad in the Spirit's armor and the Sword of the Spirit in his hand; laying hold on his Heavenly home and eternal life through “many dangers, toils, and snares”. Missionary Jim Elliot wrote,  "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." Are you laying hold of what you cannot lose or what you cannot keep?

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Man Up

The Old Testament is full of accounts of courage and manly valor. Men strengthened by the Lord, risking life and limb for His glory. One such tale of heroism is in the book of II Samuel 10. The king of the Ammonites died, and David sent servants to console the newly crowned king, because his departed father was loyal to David. Some of the new king’s advisors said that David’s intentions were impure, and David came to spy on the kingdom after the death his father. In a preemptive strike, they, shaved off half their beards of David’s men, and cut their garments down to their hips. This was a serious act of disrespect, and the men were very ashamed. David advised them to stay in Jericho until their beards grew back. When the Ammonites saw that they had disrespected David and considered the now inevitable consequences, they hired 33,000 mercenaries to go to war with Israel. After David heard that the Ammonites were preparing their march to war, he sent his mighty men of valor, led by Joab, to meet the coming tide of the enemy. The Ammonites engaged Joab from the front and the mercenaries closed in behind, and just like that, Israel was surrounded. II Samuel 10:9-13 says “when Joab saw that the front of the battle was against him before and behind, he chose of all the choice men of Israel, and put them in array against the Syrians: And the rest of the people he delivered into the hand of Abishai his brother...And he said, If the Syrians be too strong for me, then thou shalt help me: but if the children of Ammon be too strong for thee, then I will come and help thee. Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God: and the LORD do that which seemeth him good. And Joab drew nigh, and the people that were with him, unto the battle against the Syrians: and they fled before him.” These faithful men of God, stood up, and played the man for their Lord. Christian men, let us play the men for our people, and for our families. Let us not cower at the presence of spiritual enemies, but stand and fight. Men of action and men of prayer, are needed this hour! Urgency, my dear brothers, for we do not have time to sit idly by as others do; knowing the time, “it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” Be of good courage, for if God is for us, who can be against us?  What temptation is there that we cannot conqueror with God on our side?  What sin is there that we cannot defeat with our mighty God for us?  We are not conquerors over our enemy; we are MORE than conquerors in Christ Jesus. Arise and to the work our God!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Valley of the Shadow of Death

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Flee, Follow, and Fight - Tuesday with Timothy

1 Timothy 6:11-12  But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.

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

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

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

Friday, December 1, 2017

Too Much Dessert

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 30, 2017

An eye for an eye

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

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Man of God

Tuesdays with Timothy #

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Love of Money

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Welcome to Secular America

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

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

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

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