Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sovereign Ruler of the Skies

By John Ryland

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Think Not

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

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A Failure to Communicate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 15, 2017

When Thou Passest Through the Waters

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 12, 2017

How to Think by Alan Jacobs

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

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

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

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

Thank to for the review copy. 

Think Before You Speak

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Learning to Love the Psalms

Learning to Love the Psalms
W. Robert Godfrey

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

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

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

I received a review copy from 

Be Ready: The Sword of the Spirit

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

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

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Free Audio Book

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

The Whole Christ, by Sinclar Ferguson.

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

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Be Ready: The Holiness of Christ

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Ready to Given an Answer: Apologetics and a Godly Life

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

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

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

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Tangled up in Allegory

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

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Ready to Give an Answer: An Introduction

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

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

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

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Blessed are the Merciful

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Alas, the axe!

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

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

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Doctrinal Preaching

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

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

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Expositor Online

I've been posting many of Lewis Kiger's articles here on the blog for about a year now. I shall do so NO LONGER!! That's because he has his own blog. So make like something that does something very fast and with great urgency, and visit his new blog:

The Expositor Online

Read, subscribe, follow, and all the other things you to do to stay up to date.

Why are you still here? Seriously, click the link. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Temptation Workout

"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” James 1:2-4. 

 Temptation and patience are hard at work in your life, are you taking advantage? Count every bit of the temptation and trial you are enduring as joy. To do that, we have a bit of work to do ourselves. No temptation is joyful when we are resisting against it and enduring through it, but it is our task to “count it all joy”. We need to look at the bad situation and prayerfully take an accurate account of the temptation, and see it as a means for joy because of what it is going to accomplish. We must look at temptations in the right way – temptation is working something in us for our good. Hopefully it will give your spiritual muscles a workout. When I played football, we put in hours of off-season conditioning in the weight room. When the coaches were pushing us and working us hard,  I was hot, tired, sore, and wishing it was all over with. But we were working our physical muscles and getting stronger with every workout. We couldn’t see the immediate effects but we kept it up being reminded of the benefit this workout would have on the football field on Friday nights. We counted every exercise as profitable to what we wanted, even though it wasn’t very fun at the time. Likewise, temptation works our spiritual muscles.

Temptation gives your patience a workout. It is “trying” your faith. It is putting your faith to the test. Biblical patience is endurance, it is not giving in or giving up, but patiently pressing on looking for our deliverance. Temptation makes us  struggle against it and to endure in holiness. It’s resistance training, fighting through the trial and not giving up because it's hard. After months of offseason training, it was time to start actually playing the games. Those players who had put in the hard work of conditioning and strength training were better equipped to play in the games. We wanted to play the game and play well – that was what we wanted most. In order be better players, our coaches put us through difficult weight resistance training. Every time I was excised by resistance, I became just a little stronger. Temptation works in our soul in a similar way. As Christians, we desire holiness, and one of God's ordained means for spiritual growth is enduring temptation. As we press back against the resistance of temptation, it exercises our patience and endurances. Patience, in turn, completes us. It strengthens our spiritual life, by making us more dependent on God, motivates us to prayer and Bible reading. The more we fight through trials and battle against sin in our lives, the more endurance we have. It gives us a full spiritual workout.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Fraternal Twin Errors

An antinomian is someone who believes that once saved, they are under no obligation to obey God's moral law, we can live however they want. The leagalist believes that you must obey the law in order to go to Heaven, and justification is based on our good works. These seem like opposite views, but in fact, they are very similar. They are, as Sinclair Ferguson said, "unidentical twins". The person that declares there is no law has the spirit of legality. The lawless do not rejoice in the rest of Christ, but in freedom from law; which reveals the legalistic heart of the antinomian. Both the legalist and the antinomian have the same problem. One thinks the law can justify, the other rejoices that the law is gone and believes it to be altogether unprofitable. The legalist has a heart to keep the law to go to Heaven, the antinomian has a heart to break the law because he feels freed from its grievous hold on him. The legalist tries to keep the law because he feels he has to; the antinomian has no concern for the law, because he no longer feels he has to. Both people are running in opposite directions because of the law. One loves the law and runs under it for justification. The other hates the law and runs from it for perceived freedom. But both are running on account of the law.

The motivation is the law; the love of the law, or the hatred of law. The Child of God runs to Christ, with Christ, and for Christ. He is the freeman who is motivated by love for Christ. The Biblical teaches that we are dead to the law for justification. We cannot, could not, and will not keep God’s law and Jesus Christ came and freed us from the curse of the law. The law now has no condemning power over Christians any longer. We are not under the law for justification, but under grace. We are not free to live in sin because grace abounds. We follow Christ and keep His commandments, not for salvation, but because we have been saved. We do not obey God to be saved, but because we are. No longer is it "do this and live", but "live and do this." We cannot please God without faith and faith without works is dead. A Christian follows and obeys Christ, not out of hope of Heaven, but love for the Lord.

The Lord’s commandments are a rule of life to us, not a means of justification. We need to keep the car on the road and not to drive into the ditch of the legalist who uses the law to earn salvation; and not to swerve to the other side into the ditch of antinomian and rebel against following Christ in spiritual anarchy against the Lordship of Christ. The remedy for antinomianism isn't to become more legalistic and vice versa. Grace is the remedy for both errors. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Godliness and Gain - Tuesday with Timothy #73

1Timothy  6:5-6 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. 

Godliness being a devout follower of Christ. It’s piety that is pleasing to God by living as He has commanded. In modern usage, piety is slander, “begone with you and your pious attitude, you impertinent scallywag!” as the kids might say. In reality, to be pious is just to be so serious about your faith that it affects your life and the decisions you make about what you do and will not do. Godliness is not just for your grandmother and your pastor. If you are a Christian, you should be pursuing godliness. One reason for the idea that godliness is a slander is because the hypocrites, by definition, are acting like they are godly. There needs to be some standard that the hypocrite is trying to copy, but since the hypocrite doesn’t want to follow Christ, he keeps the outward forms copying the devout, but changes the rules. He makes a show, the best he can, of what he perceives godliness to be while doing what he wants to do. The ungodly men that Paul is talking about were false teachers. Hypocrites. The very type of people who give godliness a bad name. Because they love money, they had worked out a system that equates money as the proof of godliness. The more you have, the more God loves you. The more cash in your bank, the more proof of your piety. Your best life now!

Paul sets the record straight; it isn’t gain that is godliness, but if you are godly and content with what you have, that is gain. Note that poverty isn't gain, or that contentment alone is gain. It is godliness with contentment. Combining a devoted and pious heart with being happy and at peace with what God, through Christ has provided you is a greater gain to your spiritual life than it would be if you found out you were the long-lost son of Bill Gates. How is being content with not getting more, getting more? You gain the peace of not having your joy tied up to possession. You gain the fellowship of Christ, not loving the world and the things in it. You gain what you already have. If you are not content with what you have, you are not enjoying it. So not only are you not happy with not having what you covet, you are not happy with what you have. Bird in the hand, and all that. The hypocrite wants you to think he is godly, but it has nothing to do with following Christ. Godliness is not the problem. Possessions are not the problem. Loving the praise of men and loving money is the problem. For the hypocrite, the more he gains, the more he loses. For the godly, the more he loses, the more he gains. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Fishers of Men

I took my boys fishing in the Elk River this spring for their first fly fishing trip. I waded out beside by my eight-year-old, knee deep in the cool waters trying to match one of my flies to the bugs buzzing around my head. Near the opposite bank, where the water was shaded by an oak that reached out over the water, I pointed towards the boulder that pierced the surface and said “if I were a fish, that is where I would be.” It’s difficult to guess who was more surprised by what happened next; me, my son, or the fish, but sure enough, our first cast landed upstream of the rock and floated into the small ripple; then disappeared. Fish on.

When Jesus called Peter and the crew to follow him, he called them to leave their commercial fishing business so he could make them fishers of men. Norman Maclean opened A River Runs Through It with the childhood thought “that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman. When I don’t catch a fish, I can say “a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work.” When Peter didn’t catch fish, he and his family went hungry. They didn’t fish with a rod and reel but casted nets from the side of their boats into the dark waters and drug the haul back to the boat. When Jesus called the disciples, they had been fishing all night and came to shore empty handed. Jesus urged Peter to go out again and try to catch some fish one more time. Peter was an experienced fisherman who just got shut out. He was tired. He was frustrated. He no doubt wanted to go home and forget about it. But, he listened to Jesus and cast off, and caught the motherload (Luke 5:1-11).

The fly-fisherman looks at what the fish are eating and changes his bait to match their appetite. He then slips into the water and presents the bait while hiding the hook. He thinks “If I were a fish, what would I want to eat?” He goes to where his prey will be, and presents his decoy to the trout. Commercial fishermen cast their net, deep and wide. As Jesus showed Peter, man casts the net, but it is God that puts the fish in the boat. In evangelism, we need to freely “cast” the true gospel deep and wide, without discrimination. We need to proclaim the truth of the gospel, knowing that it is God that “catches” the soul of man. It does no good to win men to a false, imitation gospel with deceptive tactics and providing the bait he longs to hear just to get them in church while making them a twofold more child of Hell. Preach the truth and trust the power of the true gospel. Spread the true gospel net and pray God will give the increase.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Fruit of Bad Doctrine - Tuesday with Timothy #72

1Timothy 6:3-5 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, [even] the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.

True doctrine is wholesome and will bring forth godliness. If rightly applied, the Words of Jesus will renew the mind and transform the life and there will be the fruit of godly living. All doctrine will work itself out in the lives of those who hold to it. The fruit of false doctrine is rotten to the core. False doctrine produces:
  1. Envy
  2. Strife
  3. Blasphemous slander
  4. Evil Suspicions  
  5. Meddlesome and perverse disputes 
Instead of love, their fruit is envy. Instead of peace, strife. Instead of tenderhearted words that edify, slander. Instead of brotherly love, suspicion and jealousy. Instead of teaching and instruction and edification, there is perverse debates and disputes about nonsense. 

That's why we are instructed to withdraw from false teachers. Run for your life. You don't link up with them. You don't unit in a coalition with them. You don't agree to disagree. You don't turn a blind eye. Don't lay hands on them. Don't let them preach in your church. Don't let them teach. Don't fellowship with them. If the church is healthy, they will discipline them. The church can (and should) discipline people for more than just not coming to church. Get away from these people because they are dangerous. If anyone teaches or consents to such false doctrine, contrary to the gospel of Christ, withdraw. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Preaching & Preachers, Chapter 9: The Preparation of the Preacher

Chapter 9 of Martyn Lloyd-Jones classic book Preaching & Preachers is on the Preparation of the preacher. This is a wonderful chapter with lots of practical advise. The preacher is always preparing in one way or the other. the burden of the message is always on the heart. The whole of our lives are involved in this great work, so the preacher needs to prepare his own soul before he begins to prepare his message. Here are the ways in which MLJ suggests that the preacher prepare himself: 
  1. The preacher must prepare himself
    1. Don't simply prepare sermons
    2. Prepare your own soul
  2. The preacher must pray
  3. The preacher must read his Bible
    1. Read it through at least once a year
    2. Read and study one book in particular (apart from sermon preparation)
    3. Don't limit your Bible reading to finding sermon material, read for your own soul
  4. The preacher must have a balance reading plan including:
    1. Devotional reading
    2. Puritians, or reading sermons
    3. Theological works 
    4. Church history
    5. Christian biographies, especially of great preachers 
    6. Apologetic works
    7. General reading for the relief of the mind
MLJ ends the chapter warning against getting your sermons from sermon books. Even when you get ideas from other sources, they need to be digested into your own mind and soul. Then, you preach them in your own words with your own thoughts. You aren't a recording device, repeating what someone else wrote. He closed with a shout-out to music. If it makes you happy and prepares you to think, listen to good music. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Parable of the Talents by Lewis Kiger

In 1986 the sports world was stunned when a prolific young basketball star named Len Bias was found dead from a drug overdose. Bias had enjoyed a very successful college career at Maryland, and was chosen second in the NBA draft to play for the famed Boston Celtics.

I was just a teenager, but I vividly remember how shocked I was that this amazing athlete, whom I had admired, was now dead. Everyone, from the neighborhood boys to the commentators on SportsCenter talked for days about what a huge waste of potential and talent this was.

Sadly, this young man joined the statistics of many others – whose capacity for greatness and success was erased by a series of hasty choices.

The parable that Jesus gives in Matthew 25:14-30 reminds us that we all are only given a certain amount of time to use the gifts and abilities that God has given us, and we must be cautious not to waste it all away, because of negligence, sloth or poor decisions.

In this parable, Christ states that the kingdom of heaven is like a wealthy man going on an extended journey. Before he leaves, he calls together his stewards and gives to each of them a measure of money for them to invest while he is away. This well-to-do man does not want his businesses and finances to sit idle while he travels, so he entrusts some of his assets to his overseers to manage and return a profit.

One steward is given five talents, another two talents, and another one talent. Each man was allocated money to manage, based on his level of competence as judged by the owner. 

The steward who received five talents made some very sound business decisions and doubles his lord’s assets, by making five additional talents. The man who had received two talents, also works hard and matches his initial two talents, by earning two more.

However, the servant who received one talent went and dug a hole in the ground and buried it. Rather than investing what he had been entrusted with, he was lazy and wasted both time and resources.

Years pass, but eventually the wealthy traveler returns and summons his servants before him to give an accounting of their stewardship.

The first steward comes and presents not only the five talents he was originally given, but five to go along with them. The owner is delighted and generously rewards the faithful servant with a hard-earned rest. The second steward comes and presents not only the two talents he was given, but also the two additional he had gained. The owner is pleased again and also rewards his loyal servant with well-deserved rest.

Finally, the last servant appears, but he has nothing to return to his lord except the one talent he had hidden away. Even though the indolent steward makes numerous excuses, the wealthy master is furious and orders this slothful servant to be thrown into outer darkness and his talent to be taken away from him and given to someone who will rightly use it.

Readers, the lesson our Lord would have us learn is quite simple.

Christ is like this wealthy man who has gone on a journey to a faraway country. But before leaving He has entrusted each of us with resources that we are to use to further his glorious kingdom. Not every Christian has the same spiritual gifts, education, abilities or finances, but all have been given “talents” that we are to invest in our Lord’s work. These various resources are not meant to be buried, but wisely used to reach others.

Jesus will soon return, and it is His pleasure to generously reward those who have faithfully used the means he has given to help others and expand his kingdom.

Don’t let your life be a tragedy of wasted opportunity.

Don’t be like the slothful servant in this parable, and hide away or hoard what God has entrusted you with. Don’t let negligence or discomfort keep you from being a devoted servant to Christ. Empty excuses will not suffice on our day of judgment.

Instead, use what God has entrusted to you in order to reach others with the Gospel and to bring glory to His matchless name. And maybe, just maybe, we may hear these words, “well done thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

Pastor Lewis Kiger
Memorial Heights Baptist Church

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Reading the Bible like the Devil

In the first temptation of Jesus, the Lord answered Satan's attack with "it was written" and goes to the book of Deuteronomy to say that He would live by God's Word. In the second temptation (Matthew 4:5-7) Satan counters and says, "if that is true that you live by every Word of God, here is a passage to live by: Psalm 91:11."  The temptation was if Christ will not use His divine prerogative to turn stones into bread and will only trust in God, then He should prove it. Satan quotes a Psalm that describes the blessedness of trusting in God. The Psalm declares that God is our refuge and our protector. Trust the Father, Jesus. Jump off 450 foot tall roof and trust in God's promise to protect you. By slightly twisting the interpretation of the Psalm, Satan has changed the meaning. Psalm 91 is not a challenge to the Father to be faithful to us, but a call for God's people to be faithful to the Father.

Satan "proof-texted" the point he was trying to make by taking one verse out of context. Satan had an idea in his mind, something he wanted, so he went to the Bible to find part of a passage that agreed with his notions. That is not how you sit under God's Word. We are to submit ourselves to God's Word; not to find passages or verses here and there that agree with what we believe. We can't start with our idea, then go looking for God to agree with us.

Secondly, Satan omits parts of the passage that is inconvenient to his plans. This is the whole verse of Psalm 91:11  "For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways." In Matthew, the Devil left of the part of God keeping Christ in his ways. Satan was tempting Jesus to walk out of the will of the Father. Satan also leaves out the verse that follows his quote, Psalms 91:13  "Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet." I think we can figure out why Satan wouldn't want to quote a verse about treading on the dragon and the snake (Genesis 3:15).  Psalm 91 meant that the Father would protect the life of Jesus as He lived in accordance to the Father's will. To read the Bible like the Devil is to look for passages that agree with you, instead of being under the authority of the Word of God. It is to take what you want and leave out what you don't like. It is to misapply and strip the original and true meaning of the text. The true interpretation of the Bible is the true meaning of the Bible. The Devil quoted the words, but with the wrong interpretation, which twisted the Scripture. We should desire to hear what God actually said, not what we wanted Him to say.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Preaching & Preachers, Chapter 8 The Character of the Message

Lloyd-Jones begins by saying that the pew doesn't control what is preached, but the preacher must be mindful of who he is preaching to and the situation in the church. Preach to the people God has given you, not the people you wish you had. It is wrong to assume that everyone listening to a sermon on Sunday is a Christian, even if they say that they are. Even if you are preaching to Christians, we still need the gospel. Those pretenders will resent hearing the simple gospel again and not abide with it, wanting something else.

"...a number of people seem to go to a place of worship and to a service in order to go home! Their main idea seems to be to get out and to get home. Why do they go at all?"

He said the difficulty with the apostles was not to round everyone up and try to get them to come to church, but their problem was trying to get everyone to go home.

The chapter winds down with some opinions on the authority in the pulpit, and the aesthetics of the preachers attire, the building, and the pulpit.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Parable of the Good Samaritan - Pastor Lewis Kiger

I was just a kid when I received my first Erector Set. Do you remember them? The box contained these thin metal beams and nuts and bolts. Also enclosed were pulleys, gears, wheels and even a small motor. If everything was assembled according to the directions you would have a functioning toy that resembled what was on the box cover. However, like many young people, I was too hurried to follow the instructions and so the finished project didn’t look anything like a helicopter, Ferris wheel, or a crane, but instead a mangled mess of metal that would not properly function.

Unfortunately, this is how many people handle the Word of God, and in particular the parables. Rather than following rules governing Bible interpretation, well-meaning, but mislead individuals make up the rules as they go, and their explanation of the passage is a mangled mess that not only does not resemble what it was intended to, it also fails to serve its proposed purpose.

This is never any truer than when it comes to the parable of the Good Samaritan. Sadly, this rich little parable has been brutally handled by many men who treat the text like Dr. Frankenstein did his monster, and force together unconnected parts in order to try and make one monstrous whole.

When taken in context, the parable is yet again a very simple lesson in how citizens of Christ’s kingdom should conduct themselves.

Note with me the occasion on which the parable is told.

In Luke 10:25-37 an expert in Old Testament law comes to Jesus to ask him a hard question hoping He will misspeak and open Himself to accusation. The lawyer asks, “What can I do to inherit eternal life?” This is a good question, even though his motives are dishonest.

The Lord then does what my mother always taught me not to do … He answered a question with a question. He turns and asks this lawyer for his own opinion. Obviously, our Lord is hinting that a legal expert should already know the answer.

The man then replies by quoting from Deuteronomy, “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, strength, and mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus replies, that’s correct do this and you will have eternal life.

But the man, willing to justify himself, asks, “who is my neighbor?” In essence, “who am I required to love as myself?”

Christ responds to this question by sharing the parable of the Good Samaritan.

In the parable, Jesus speaks about a traveling man who leaves Jerusalem headed down the Jericho road. Unexpectedly, he is assaulted by bandits, who beat him and steal all his belongings. The man is left for dead in the side of the ditch, barely hanging on to life.

However, it isn’t long until a priest walks by. However, the priest crosses to the other side of the road, callously ignoring the injured man. A few moments later, a Levite also passes by, but he too disregards the man and leaves him to die.

Fortunately, another passerby sees the man, has compassion on him and comes to his aid. The Lord shockingly uses a Samaritan as the hero of the story. As you are probably aware, the Jews hated the Samaritans and had no dealings with them. (John 4:9) A Samaritan would be the last person anyone would expect to help a Jew in distress. Yet, the Good Samaritan not only binds up the wounds of the ailing traveler, he puts the wounded man on the back of his own animal, takes him to a local inn and pays his room fee for as long as he needs to recuperate.

Having finished the parable, Jesus asked the lawyer “Who was really neighbor to the man who fell among thieves?” The lawyer reluctantly admits the Samaritan was neighbor to the injured man.

Christ then emphatically orders the man to follow in the steps of the Good Samaritan and go and do likewise.

Remember the parable was told because this lawyer wanted to know who was his neighbor. In other words, who was he required to love as himself. The answer that Jesus gives through use of this illustration is that everyone in our path who is in need is our neighbor. We should not pass by, ignore or disregarding the plight of any needy person God places in our path. That’s our neighbor.

All those who have been born-again by the sovereign grace of our Great God, have the divine duty to love our neighbors as ourselves. That means, taking the time to invest in their lives.

We need not play the part of “mad-scientist” with this text. It is difficult enough to obey without complicating it further. We must recognize that God places people in our path so that we may help and perhaps even make an eternal difference in their lives.

Memorial Heights Baptist Church

Friday, July 7, 2017

John Angel James on when and who to Baptize

"Our views of policy cannot improve His institutions, and ought not to oppose the practice of his apostles. The rule of our proceeding is simply this, "We must receive those whom we think the Lord has received." Abandon this rule, and we have no directory for our conduct…."We must not take the children's bread," say these ultra cautious disciples, "and cast it to the dogs." Nor have you a right to starve the children--any more than you have to pamper the dogs! Our rule is this, "evidence of personal piety, whether that evidence be the result of a month or a year." The same unscriptural caution is sometimes displayed towards those converts, who are young in years. …. Is there, then, a biblical age of membership? …what right have we to speak or think about the age of a candidate? Piety is all we have to inquire into; and whether the individual be fourteen, or forty--we are to receive him, provided we have reason to suppose, "that Christ has received him."

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Jesus and the Bible

Do you have the same opinion of the Bible as Jesus? Looking at the first temptation of Christ in the wilderness (Matthew 4:2-4), you see how Jesus viewed the Bible. In Matthew 4, Satan attacks Jesus three times and all three times Jesus answers with Scripture. Jesus believed in the authority of Scripture. Jesus said it is written, not it was written.  It was written suggests that it was for another day and another time. It was that way, but it might not be that way anymore. It is written means it stands. It was written in the past, but it stands written today.  When confronted by Satan, Jesus went to the Bible. He did not say "I think…", or "I feel…", or "in our family, we….". No, it is written, the Word of God is authoritative.

Jesus also believed in the sufficiency of Scripture. 40 days earlier, the Father spoke audibly from Heaven and the Spirit descended in the shape of a dove. These were amazing signs and revelations! However, when Jesus was in the wilderness and was tempted by Satan, how did Jesus respond? He did not wait for audible instructions, or a visible sign, so how would Jesus know the Father's will? He went to the Word of God. Jesus went to Scripture and that was enough. When tempted to use His divine prerogative and step out of the Father's will, Jesus said " It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Jesus would live, trusting in the Father's care and this passage was enough for Him to not waver. Jesus lived by the Word of God; it was sufficient.

Jesus also knew the Bible. In all three temptations, He drew from the book of Deuteronomy. In the first temptation, he quoted Deuteronomy 8:3. Jesus didn't have a Bible with him to look up passages, but Jesus had Scripture memorized. Other than these verses, do you have any passages from Deuteronomy memorized? Could you give me a summary of what the book is about? I ask because I want you to think about how well Jesus knew the Bible, and hopefully spur you to go and read and learn the Bible yourself. Maybe we don't know it as well as we think we do.  Jesus knew more than just Bible stories. Jesus knew the passages and the context, and the meaning, and the proper application. Jesus was able to draw from verses he knew and apply the correct application  to the situation. Do you have the same view of the Bible as Jesus? Is the Bible the authority in your life? Do you say "it is written" when faced with a temptation or a decision? Do you believe the Bible is sufficient, or do you look for signs and trust your gut feelings? If Jesus is Lord, have the same view of the Bible as He does.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Digging By Seamus Heaney

Between my finger and my thumb   
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun. 
Under my window, a clean rasping sound   
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:   
My father, digging. I look down 
Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds   
Bends low, comes up twenty years away   
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills   
Where he was digging. 
The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft   
Against the inside knee was levered firmly. 
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep 
To scatter new potatoes that we picked, 
Loving their cool hardness in our hands. 
By God, the old man could handle a spade.   
Just like his old man. 
My grandfather cut more turf in a day 
Than any other man on Toner’s bog. 
Once I carried him milk in a bottle 
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up 
To drink it, then fell to right away 
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods 
Over his shoulder, going down and down 
For the good turf. Digging. 
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap 
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge 
Through living roots awaken in my head. 
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb 
The squat pen rests. 
I’ll dig with it.