Thursday, February 20, 2020

Not Condemned




"He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God," John 3:18.

The soul that trusts in Jesus Christ shall be saved, shall not perish nor be condemned. This verse is about your legal standing before God, not your good works. If I condemn someone, what am I doing? I'm passing judgment on them and I've declared them guilty. If I find myself in court, and I hear, "Doug Newell, the court finds you guilty on all charges and sentences you to hang by the neck until dead," I'm a condemned man. Some people might cheer, some might cry, but I'm condemned. The trial is over and my fate is sealed. Jesus said, if you do not believe in him, you are condemned already.  Right now. Guilty. A condemned man.

But Jesus gives life and pardon. Jesus did not come to condemn because we were already condemned. Jesus came to save sinners who needed saving. He came to give life to those who didn't have it. He came to give pardon to those who were due to perish. To see or enter in to the kingdom of God, a man must be born again. The natural man needs spiritual life that can only come by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit of God. Whosoever has faith in the Son of God, shall not perish. But why would he perish? Because he is a sinner and has broken the law. The natural man is dead in trespasses and in sins, born under a curse. We willingly break God's law and are unwilling to do right and the condemnation for law breakers is death. The wages of sin is death, and unless we are born again, we will not only die in the flesh but die the second death in the fires of Hell.

"But he who believes is not condemned," is present tense. That means those who believe have life, and  the promise and hope of eternal life, but also have be justified. We have been found innocent. How can guilty sinners be found innocent? The righteousness of Jesus Christ has been imputed to our account by faith. Freed from the condemnation of sin that we deserved and  declared innocent of all charges. We face judgment in the future because our sins have already been dealt with. The Father judged our sins in Christ Jesus, who was made sin for us.  Jesus was declared guilty on my behalf, because he bore my sins and was punished on the cross in my stead. The Father was satisfied with the punishment and the debt of sin was paid. I was pardoned, forgiven. I also, by faith, received Jesus' righteousness. By faith in Christ, by God's grace, I'm righteousness. I'm innocent because I've been pardoned, forgiven, cleansed and then given the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Proverbs for Today



 One of my favorite episodes of Andy Griffith show is "The Sermon for Today." I'm sure you are surprised, nay shocked! that a preachers favorite episode was about the preacher. But, to be fair, it was my favorite before I started preaching. It's the one where the visiting preacher from New York City passes through and preaches a message to the good people of Mayberry. It wasn't a very good message; he didn't take his Bible into the pulpit for one and he said the meaning of life can be found by relaxing and enjoying the simple pleasures of life, which is malpractice for a parson. I could go on, but I'll refrain from breaking down the faults of a fictional preacher scene by scene. But the theme of his message is my theme today. Slow down – specifically, slow down when your read the proverbs.

Joe Wilson said Proverbs are, "Counsel from Above for Conduct Below." Sidlow Baxter, perhaps after being locked in a room with a thesaurus, said the Proverbs are, 'Pointed Precepts for Practical Prudence." The Proverbs teach men how to walk in the fear of the Lord and how to walk in the Spirit. They are short, pithy sayings that force you to stop and think them through. They are one –liners that require a little bit of work to get the full meaning.

Maybe it would help to think of the Proverbs as episodes. Each line of these proverbs are self-contained. They are artfully crafted pieces of truth designed to help you remember them. But since they are designed to be short, they also must generalize to make the point. In order to understand the proverb, you have to slow down and work them out in your mind. But once you have the picture, it's easy to remember them, thus easier to apply them. Proverbs 20:1, "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise." If a young man is tempted to drink, it's going to be easier for him in the moment to remember this picture in the moment and apply it.  But, first, you have to think about that Proverb to get it in your mind. Wine is portrayed as a mocker. She's laughing at you and making fun of you. Why? Because she's controlling you and making you do her will. Wine can make fun of you because she can make you do things you would have NEVER done. And, it's usually going to be embarrassing at best, ruinous to your soul at worst. Then, you can picture Mr. Whiskey. He's in a rage. Hang out with him, and you'll be fighting HIS battles and running your mouth. And if you aren't careful, they'll both trick you into thinking you can handle it, and most people can handle their drink and change, but you can. But if you think that, you're deceived and not wise.  Making wine and whiskey into characters is memorable.

And, to paraphrase Barney as he left the church building, "That's one subject you just can write enough about – sin."




Monday, February 17, 2020

Psalms 19:7  ...the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.

You should read your Bible everyday because it's sure. It's firm and established. "The science is settled!" Until it's not, or until they change their mind or find evidence to the contrary. That's the thing about science, its based on observation. Settled science can change based on new information. I read an article last week on theories of why airplanes stay in the air. We can fly all over the world and can design airplanes, but we aren't 100% sure of the reason why they stay in the air.  

God's word is firm. It's settled in Heaven. God's testimony isn't going to change. I change. My body changes. My feelings change. My circumstances change. The world around me changes. But God's word, God's promises, God's testimony are sure. He's not going to change. He's not going be proven wrong. He's not going to go back on his word. Read something sure.

Read something that can give you wisdom. The sure testimonies of God can make a simple one, void of understanding wise. I've read some books where I feel like they made me dummer for having finished them. I've tossed some books in the trash because I KNEW if I kept reading I would be worse off for it, and if I contributed nothing else to society, at least someone wouldn't read that copy. The Bible is good for your soul. It will give you wisdom. Read it. 

Monday, February 10, 2020

Converting the Soul

Psalms 19:7  The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul.

You should read the Bible because of it's power to covert the soul. Conversion isn't limited to the moment when the Lord saves you. Conversion means to turn to the Lord (Psalm 22:27), to restore the soul (Psalm 23:3), to rescue the soul (Psalm 35:17). It's to be brought back to right fellowship (James 5:19; Luke 22:32). The born again believer can be converted when we are out of fellowship with the Lord Jesus, or when we have fallen in sin, error,  or when we have grown cold in our soul. Those who wander away from the Lord first wander away from the Word or receiving the benefit of the Word.

Read your Bible with faith. It's more important to receive truth and hear the Lord when you read than to check off the daily reading. There is no law that says you must read the Bible in 365 days, so if you come to a passage where you need to stop and pray and repent and meditate, do that. Feed your soul with the perfect word that can convert the soul.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Crown of Glory...IF

Proverbs 16:31  The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.

Matthew Henry, commenting on this verse said, “It ought to be the great care of old people to be found in the way of righteousness, the way of religion and serious godliness. Both God and man will look for them in that way; it will be expected that those that are old should be good, that the multitude of their years should teach them the best wisdom; let them therefore be found in that way. Death will come; the Judge is coming; the Lord is at hand. That they may be found of him in peace, let them be found in the way of righteousness (2Pe_3:14), found so doing, Mat_24:46. Let old people be old disciples; let them persevere to the end in the way of righteousness, which they long since set out in, that they may then be found in it.

If old people be found in the way of righteousness, their age will be their honour. Old age, as such, is honourable, and commands respect (Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, Lev_19:32); but, if it be found in the way of wickedness, its honour is forfeited, its crown profaned and laid in the dust, Isa_65:20. Old people therefore, if they would preserve their honour, must still hold fast their integrity, and then their gray hairs are indeed a crown to them; they are worthy of double honour. Grace is the glory of old age."


Thursday, February 6, 2020

Poetry?

A few years ago, I told one of my boys he would be taking an introductory poetry course in school. I was not too shocked when he despaired with great lamentations, sackcloth and ashes. He didn't want to read poetry because poems were, according to his mind, about "prissy girls picking flowers in the fields and having tea parties." Poetry was feminine and he wanted none of it. Flashback one week before, I found him in my study with a copy of Beowulf. He devoured it and couldn't stop talking about its awesomeness – heroes, monsters, swords, treasure! After I explained Beowulf was a poem he had a world changing paradigm shift that took him a couple days to process. That couldn’t be poetry, because, well, Beowulf was about battle and fighting. I think that many Americans have similar view of poetry. It has to be dainty and you can only read it while wearing a top hat and monocle  simultaneously stroking a honey colored beard and sighing deep, contemplative sighs. 

That’s a fair misunderstanding, and the fault of modern poets. But I hope you don’t think all poetry is like that. Did you know the Bible is full of poetry? The book of Psalms is a collection of poetry. The Song of Solomon, Lamentations, and Job are all extended poems. There are poems in the prophets and Paul quotes a poet in Titus. Most of it was written by David, hardly an effete milksop. David grew up “on the farm” a shepherd of his father’s sheep. He was a mighty warrior, and then a king. As a young man, other’s wrote songs about his life. “Saul killed his thousands, David his tens of thousands.” He was the warrior poet who wrote this memorable line, “Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth: break out the great teeth of the young lions, O LORD (Psalm 58:6),” and that stanza, like the man,  was anything but dainty. 

Another legitimate issue some have with poetry is the time factor. You can’t read poetry quickly and get anything from it. The very nature of the art requires you to read it several times, and think about the words. Poetry uses language to express a meaning. It requires time, slow reading, and meditation to get the meaning. When poetry became an elitist exercise, purposefully written over the heads of the average person who doesn’t read Latin or ancient Greek to be the domain of the literature department, a lot of people quit reading it. But, God gave us poetry. God wanted you to read it and God wants you to love his poetry. And God’s poetry can be understood and enjoyed by all His people. The poetry in the Bible is beautiful. And it’s true. So you can spend time, reading and reading again the word pictures painted through the inspiration of God, and think deeply and repeatedly about the words and about the images and know you’ll profit from them. 

Heavy Wrath

On a farm located on a church estate in southern Iceland, sits a rock. I think I’m going to need to back up a little. A couple hundred years ago, as legend has it, Pastor Bj√∂rnsson was the pastor of both a church and sheep. He built a sheep pen of stone, and used a flat, 401 lb. stone for the gate. By and by, the stone became famous, and not for being much heavier than any door needs to be, but as a competition for feats of strength. For a couple centuries, men have tested their strength by trying to lift the rock and move it. Last year,  a 6’8”, 420lb giant of a man, broke the world record the world record carrying the stone 322 feet. His name is also Bj√∂rnsson. Now, believe it or not, people travel from all over the world to Iceland, drive out to this farm, and make their way to the sheep gate where there’s a rock laying on the ground. They try to pick the thing up, and if they can lift it, they carry it as far as they can. Men like to test their strength. Another popular competition is the sandbag throw. Contestants take sandbags ranging from 50-100 lbs and throw them backwards, over their heads, to cross a beam 15 ft in the air.  Sand and stone are routinely used as implements in Strongmen competitions and have been for hundreds of years because they are heavy. Even the strongest men in the world can only bear the weight of heavy sand and stone for a short time before they succumb.

Proverbs 27:3, “A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty; but a fool's wrath is heavier than them both.” Solomon uses these heavy implements to describe the heaviness of the wrath of a foolish person. The weight of the fool’s wrath is intolerable for most to bear (Exodus 5:5-10). The fools wrath is heavy because it is without righteousness. God told the nation of Israel they were to judge, an eye for an eye. That’s a law of equal justice and righteousness, not revenge. God curbs the wrath of the fool who wants an eye for a fingernail (Matthew 18:21-35). Their anger and fury isn’t controlled by justice. Once they become ignited in their hatred and passions, there is no end to their fury.

The fools wrath is heavy with folly. Wrath untethered from the wisdom of God is dedicated toward defending our personal glory and honor. And so it’s heavy because the stroke is made without just cause. I knew a person who hated their neighbor with unbridled passion. I asked him why and what started it, and they couldn’t really explain. He looked at me incredulously like it was self evident why they hated this person, and doubted my sound judgment that I had to ask why. The fools wrath starts quickly (Proverbs 14:29) and never ends. While our God is long suffering, the fool has a quick fuse and long memory. This makes the fools wrath both cruel (Proverbs 27:4) and dangerous (Proverbs 17:12).


Monday, February 3, 2020

The Word is Perfect

Psalms 19:7-11  The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul

We’ve entered into a new month. Time to flip the calendar and notice February is different this year than last year, we have an extra day.  The days are getting a little longer. The winter is dragging on here in West Virginia.  One thing that hasn’t, doesn’t, and never will change is God’s Word. I hope you are still reading your Bible every day. You should because it's perfect.

The Bible is perfect. Perfection means God’s Word can’t get any truer or better than it already is, otherwise, it wouldn’t be perfect. And, it also means it can’t get any worse. I listened to a podcast this week about War and Peace, one of the best novels ever written. But, it’s not perfect, by any stretch. It was written by a man with limited understanding. It was written by a man who had a sin nature and saw the world through fallen eyes. Though it could be one of the pinnacles of man’s work, it isn’t perfect.

God’s Word is true, in every aspect. No other book will give you unadulterated truth. You can trust the perfection of God’s Word. It will never lie to you. It will never lead you astray. It will never give you wrong information. It will never be disproven by science. It will never be proven false by archaeologist.

Read your Bible and believe it’s perfect. Beware of men who constantly are telling you what’s wrong with your Bible. Read your Bible and believe what it says. Study to make sure you understand what it says, but don’t come to the perfect law of the Lord with the idea you need to correct what God says. Read your Bible and trust what it says.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Read your Bible, it's profitable

2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness

It's the fourth Monday of the year, and I hope you've been reading your Bible. If not, today's a great day to begin again.

You should read your Bible everyday because it’s profitable. I’m not asking you to do something that’ll waste your time. I’m asking you to do something that will be for your own good. Reading the Bible will profit your soul.

It’s profitable for learning doctrine. If you read your Bible, you'll learn truth about yourself, about God, about the world, about the end of the world, and about the world to come. Have you ever made a bad decision in life because you didn't have all the facts? Think about the profit of knowing truth about your own heart! Truth about God! Truth about why we are on this Earth and what happens when we die.

It’s profitable to tell you the truth about yourself. God will correct you when you read the Bible. That’s chastisement and discipline, and that’s good for you. When you don’t read the Bible you are not listening to your God. As a father, I come from a long tradition of men, who for about 6,000 years or so, have children who from time to time, don't listen to what I tell them. When that happens, I have to take the discipline up a notch. It's much easier for children to listen to correction and then make the correction than to ignore it and endure the next step. Reading your Bible, receiving correction, is the first gentle step of rebuke from a loving Father.

It’s profitable to tell you how to live and instruction in righteousness. The whole world is ready to tell you how to live. What you should wear, what you should drive, what you should eat, how you should think, and much of it is destructive. But when you read your Bible, God is instructing you in how to live.

It’s profitable for a future day. You might read something tomorrow morning, that doesn’t apply to your life in any way, shape or form. But who knows what the next day will bring? When tragedy comes, it’s too late to start a systematic Bible study to figure what to believe. Consider Job. When the horrors of that terrible day came upon him, he leaned on the truth he learned in happier days. Read your Bible in the sunshine, and it will pray it will bear fruit in a needful day to come.

Read your Bible, it’s profitable.

Friday, January 24, 2020

It’ll Get You Nowhere


Proverbs 29:5  A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet.

I read somewhere that flattery is a poison that makes everyone sick but the person who swallows it. Honeyed words and fair speech is dangerous for the person on the receiving end of fawning toadyism and grave error for the one who dishes it out. Flattery is a deceptive tactic designed to swell the pride and manipulate the mind of the target, to promote the self-interest of the flatterer. It’s excessive, insincere, and oftentimes undeserved praise. It’s a manipulative lie. Our proverb warns us here — flattery is a trap. Be on guard and watch out for the net, an effective snare indeed. Flattery is just someone else telling us what we likely already think about ourselves, namely that we are awesome and finally, someone gets it.

The problem with flattery is it’s not just a lie, but it’s a destructive lie (Proverbs 26:28). When you flatter someone, you are not helping them, you are not loving them, but you are showing you hate their soul and working for their harm. Flattery works ruin. Those in any positions of leadership need to be leery of a Wormtounge in their midst, who heaps undue praise upon him, and not meddle with the flatterer (Proverbs 20:19).

Many marriages have been ruined by flattery (Proverbs 7:5,21). Men need to love their wives and be thankful they tell them the truth and recognize the sweet words coming from women other than their wife is a trap. Really. You’re not that awesome. Believe your wife.

Christians, you need to watch out for preachers who use flattery (1 Thessalonians 2:5). A man that reads the Bible and lives among sinners and can’t preach a message on sin is wanting something from you. Of course, if a preacher can only preach about how bad “those people are” out there, he is using flattering words. It’s not for the faint of heart to stand before people on Sunday morning, and on the authority of God, rebuke sin in the camp, then go stand at the back door and shake the hands of those you rebuked. But a man will do it if he loves the people he preaches to. On the other hand, if the preacher loves himself, he’ll preach sweet and pretty words to you, and come down hard on the sins of others, because they aren’t as right, and good, and holy as you are, and you’ll eat your Sunday dinner in comfort and satisfaction of soul. That’s a trap.

The flatter has an ulterior agenda. He’s double-hearted and doubleminded. Their unfaithful mouths are like an open tomb, and poison is under their tongue. The very craft of this sin is based on wicked plotting and evil machinations and the undiscerning victim only realizes this way too late. Beware that you aren’t found in the camp of the flatterer. Better to speak hard truths than soft lies. God knows the score and will judge flatterers (Psalm 12; 5:9-10).

Monday, January 20, 2020

Inspiration


2 Timothy 3:16  All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:  (17)  That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

This is the third Monday of the year. I hope you are keeping up your Bible reading. Whether you are reading through the Bible in the whole year or not, I hope you are picking up God's Word every day and feeding your soul with the only book given by inspiration of God. No New York Times Bestseller comes by inspiration. No Facebook post, no blog article, no news story comes by inspiration of the Holy One. No other book will give you God's Word. No other book will you find God speaking to you.

And to close this article out, I'll repost something I wrote here a while back.


"The Holy Scriptures are our letter from home."  So wrote Augustine about the inspired Word of God. When I say inspired, I don't mean the writers of Scripture gazed upon a beautiful mountain one early spring morning and then were inspired to write. No, the Scriptures are God breathed. Men penned the Words God spoke as they were "moved" by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:16-21). People, not just helped by the Spirit, or guided by the Spirit, but moved and carried along by the Spirit of God, so what they wrote was not theirs, but God's. 
The Bible was written over a 2,000 year period by 40 different people.  Kings and cupbearers, prophets and priests, fishermen and farmers, scholars and slaves all carried along by the Holy Spirit to write the very words of the Lord. They wrote different genres; history, letters, poetry, and prophesy. They wrote from different places under various circumstances; in times of prosperity, and dominance, times of bondage and suffering.  And through it all, the amazing thing is there isn't any disagreement in the message. From Moses to John, from Genesis to Revelation, there is no discrepancy in the message of the Bible. How is that possible, so many men from so many different walks of life? Because they are not the words of men, but the words of God Himself. You'll find no inconsistency in message because there is one author of the book -- God.
"All scripture is give by inspiration of God" and He didn't give the ideas and let the men fill in the blanks. God gave every word - every part of speech, in every chapter and verse, just the way he wanted it. Our creator revealed the truth about Him and about us. How can we know the mind of God, unless God tells us (1 Corinthians 2:10-13)? When you read your Bible, you are reading what the Holy Spirit is teaching you. "All scripture is give by inspiration of God" and not just the parts we like. The Old Testament is just as much God's Word as the New. The Words in red are not more God's Word than the black.  So many people want to hear from God. Today, we have more access to Bibles in the United States than any other people in history. Yet, week after week, people cry out for "a word from the Lord." You have a word from God, it is your Bible! Love this precious book. A living book that speaks to us. An active book that comforts us. A relevant book for guidance in your life. How fast we search all over creation to get wisdom, when we have God's Word. Don't leave it on the shelf, hide it in your heart. God spoke to us in His Word!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Vehement Desire and Zeal



I read a clever definition of a fanatic, “One who is highly enthusiastic about something in which you are not even remotely interested.” It's one of those words, like fundamentalist, legalist, or Pharisee that is usually defined as people who disagree with me. A legalist is anyone who tells me to do something I don’t want to do. A Pharisee is anyone who tells me not to do something I enjoy. A fundamentalist is anyone who restricts my liberty, in any way. Here's the real definition of both zeal and fanatic, to show what I mean. Zeal; passionate ardor in the pursuit of anything. In general, zeal is an eagerness of desire to accomplish or obtain some object. Fanatic; wild and extravagant in opinions, particularly in religious opinions; excessively enthusiastic; possessed by a kind of frenzy. What’s the difference between someone who is excessively enthusiastic and someone who is eager? Who makes that judgment?

Others will say being balanced and moderate is the best way. Not too extreme, but a centrist who keep the main thing the main thing. But, you can fiddle with that idea as well. Balance can be another way of avoiding conflict or keeping coalitions. I have been called extremist, a fanatic, a fundamentalist and I’ve also been called a moderate and a squish – over the same issue.  It just depends on who you talk to. Either I’m not very good at explaining myself, or there is something else at play. Those who think I’m harsh and extreme disagree with my position and how much importance I put on it, while those who think I'm wishy-washy, may agree with me, but don’t think I judge the issue important enough. And, there are those in the middle who like their position because they can tell everyone they are wrong. The truth is, in some things, we need to be moderate. And, we also need to be zealous. We don’t want to be fanatical, but the Bible must be our judge, not other men.

Second Corinthians was written to the church at Corinth after Paul had rebuked them and corrected them in the 1 Corinthians. Some repented and Paul commented on the characteristics that proved their sorrow over sin was a godly sorrow – vehement desire and zeal (2 Corinthians 7:11). Desire, passion, zealousness is a gift of the Holy Spirit. It's not a curse or an evil to avoid. Zealousness doesn’t make you and extremist and vehement desire doesn’t make you a fanatic. These are the characteristics of one who has repented of their sin and turned to Christ for salvation, who has been born again and revived in spirit.

Emotions are not sinful, but how we use emotions can be sinful. Letting emotions rule us and not seeking guidance from Scripture to rule our emotions can be sinful. Desiring the wrong things is sinful. However, emotions, of themselves, are natural to human beings. God has not made us robots, but human beings and God's Word must direct us.

“Yea, what vehement desire…” 2 Corinthians 7:11.. Desire isn’t wrong, as long it’s the right kind. It's simple a great longing for something you want but don't yet have.  The problem in Corinth was they cared about the wrong things and were apathetic about things they should have cared about. Desire is a God given human emotion. Like a great many things, it can be good or bad, depending on the object of your desire. Deuteronomy 5:21 says, “Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour's wife…or any thing that is thy neighbour's.” Craving something you have no lawful right to is wicked. Desiring your neighbor's wife is sinful, but, desiring your own wife is godly, “I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me,” Song of Solomon 7:10. Or, desiring a wife when you don't have one is godly, but, if you desire the wrong kind of woman, that's going to lead you to trouble (see Proverbs and the life of Solomon). Young Christian man, it’s good to desire to marry a godly woman, one who will love you, love the Lord, and not lead your heart away from Christ. It’s a sign of the last times that false teacher tell young men not to desire a wife (1 Timothy 4:1-3).

Desiring a spiritual gift or office you don’t have is not sinful, “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work,” 1 Timothy 3:1. The desire to serve the Lord is good, but desiring something that you have no right or authority for is bad. Just because you want to be a pastor doesn't mean you ought to be one. But, if you don't want to be one, you certainly shouldn't -- there needs to be desire so you can serve, not out of constraint, but willingly (1 Peter 5:2).

Deuteronomy 7:25, “The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire: thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein: for it is an abomination to the LORD thy God.”  Desiring false worship, idols, and the money from wickedness is a sinful longing. Beware the snare of the desire of fame, fortune, and worldliness, even if it is just “internet famous”. Many abandon the faith for the love of money, prestige, and a nice building. However, desiring God is good. Psalms 73:25, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” Having desire for lawful things is a godly desire (Psalms 10:17, Isaiah 26:8, Psalm 38:9, Proverbs 11:23, Mark 11:24). When God gives repentance, he brings a right order of our desires. Being controlled by your emotions is wrong but not having any emotions is wrong. Falling apart at the drop of a hat is wrong and not caring that everything is falling apart is wrong. We must rule our desires for God's glory.

What do you desire and why? Have you ever stopped and asked yourself, if what you long for is good? Have you ever read the Bible and seen that men and women in the Bible loved things that you don't love, or loved them more than you? We are all in different seasons of our lives, and things change, I know that, but desire for God shouldn't change. Our ministry to the Lord will change but our love for God and his glory should grow, not diminish. So when a church acts, when a church deals with issues, when a church proclaims the gospel, what is our motivation? Do we do, for God's glory or ours? For a desire for God or our own desires? Does your godly longing include the desire to see the lost saved (Romans 10:1)? The desire for spiritual gifts  (1 Corinthians 14:1)? Or the desire for courage and perseverance (Ephesians 3:13)? Desire for knowledge and understanding (Colossians 1:9)? Desire the Bible (1 Peter 2:2)? Once our desires are ordered, that transitions to action. And a vehement desire yields a burning zeal. Zeal will get you in trouble.

Zeal is a passionate enthusiasm in the pursuit of something (1 Corinthians 7:11).  Zeal can be either good or bad, it just depends on what you are passionate about and how you pursue it. Maybe the best example of how that works is Saul of Tarsus. He was a zealous man. He was passionate in what he believed and pursued his goal with full force. Early in life, he was zealous in his Judaism to the point he persecuted anyone who disagreed (Philippians 3:6). Then, he met the Lord Jesus and was born again. After he was saved, Paul mellowed out and realized being balanced and moderate was the best way to win the culture for Christ. Just kidding. Paul was more zealous as a preacher of the gospel than he was as a hit man for the Pharisees. Christ didn’t take away his zeal, he sanctified it and used it in the right way for the right reasons. Paul's zeal was guided by Christ, and for Christ. And it got him in trouble, just with a different group of people. The apostles could have quietly worshiped Jesus in their homes, as long as they didn't mention the name of Jesus publically. But how could they not tell about what they saw and heard? Their zeal for something good got them in trouble (Acts 4:17-20).

Zeal can be thought of as a fire, it can be good or bad. Fire can keep you warm and cook your food, but out of control and undirected, it can also burn down a forest. Wild, out of control passion without guidance and direction is dangerous. Passionate enthusiasm isn't always a good thing. Years back, I was down south on a trip and enthusiastically making my way back home on the interstate. I made a quick pit stop and got back on the road. An hour later, I realized I  was driving the wrong direction. My zeal for getting home didn't change the fact I was going the wrong way.

In John 2:13-17,  Jesus was righteously angry at the wicked men dishonoring his Father’s House. They turned a house of prayer into a den of thieves. His love and desire for the glory of His father and his indignation at this wanton sinfulness is displayed in his zeal by crafting a whip and running out the money changers. Jesus didn’t lose his cool. He wasn’t controlled by his emotions, but a true human man could not stand by idly and watch this wickedness without being zealous for the cause of God.  Isaiah 9:7, “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will.” The opposite of fanaticism isn't stoicism. Christian, you need to be zealous for the glory of God.

Zeal is a gift of the Holy Spirit. The answer to bad zeal is not to be a moderate and season our speech with anodyne musings. Sometimes "balance" in the Christian life is a euphemism for luke-warm. Other times, having balance means everyone around you is wrong in every direction. When God blesses with repentance, he blesses with zeal, a gift of the Spirit, a characteristic of repentance, and an attribute of revival. If we rightly order our desires by the Bible, and then are passionate to see those desires carried out, then we are righteously zealous. Galatians 4:17-18, “They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them. But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.” Make sure those you listen to affect you well.  I’ve been fired up by the wrong people for the wrong reasons and it never ends well for me. A zealous man is powerful and will stir people up. But a zealous man isn't always a right man. Just because a person can get you roused, doesn't make them good or right. What I need is zeal in serving the Lord, in all my life. Romans 12:11, “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.” Christians are not Jedi Warriors or Buddhist monks. We are called to be fervent and passionate people in all we do, and not put on a show of stoic indifference. If I'm fervent at work, for the glory of myself then I'm wrong, but, if I am fervent in serving the Lord, I'll do my job for the right reason. I won't put work above Christ. I won't value reputation above my Lord. I won't put work before my family. I won’t serve men, but I’ll do my job as a servant of Christ.

God saves us to be zealous. Anything we do, we ought to do for God’s glory, and I believe that should be done will all our heart. Christians must have zeal in good works. Titus 2:14, “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” God didn’t save you because of your good works, but he certainly saved you to do good works. God’s people shouldn’t have to be whipped and driven to do good, but we should be zealous of good works because the Lord of glory died for us and saved us, and made us his own.

What are we zealous about? Do you care about the things of God? Do you support the church with your tithes? Do you attend the services?  Do you spread the gospel of Jesus Christ? Do you pray for the membership? Do you pray for the preaching service? Do you labor to help others? Do you meditate on your spiritual gifts and seek to improve them?

Scripture is the best test to see if your desires are in the right place and if you are righteously zealous about the right things. Maybe another test, though fallible, would be, are the right people calling you an extremist and a fanatic? Having zeal is going to get you in trouble. If you have the wrong kind of zeal, you are going to sin against the Lord, and that won't bode well for you. If you have the right kind of zeal, that’s going to get you in trouble with the world. A good zeal is going to make the right people angry. I’m not a contrarian and I don’t like to fight with people. But sometimes, that’s to my detriment. The Lord didn’t call me to a life of tranquility in this world. Peace I have because peace He gave me. But I don’t have peace in this world and I won’t have peace with the enemies of the truth and the enemies of my king. A zealous Christian is going to make the right people nervous and the right people angry. And that’s what we want, for the glory of Christ.

Revelation 3:19  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.




Monday, January 13, 2020

Read a book that does something

You ought to read your Bible every day because of what the Bible is able to do. 2 Timothy 3:15-17,  And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.  The Scriptures are able to make one wise unto salvation. I think a few minutes a day reading about the wisdom of God, the hidden mysteries of eternal redemption, and the way of eternal life is time well spent.

What about the Old Testament? All those stories and histories and genealogies and complicated names, why should you read them? The Scriptures Timothy learned were the Old Testament Scriptures! The Old Testament is just as truly the Word of God as the New. They were written for your examples (1 Corinthians 10:11), they were written for our time (1 Peter 1:11-12), and they were written to testify of Jesus (Luke 24:27).

The Scriptures Timothy read had real power. No other book has the power the Bible has. Life changing power. Soul changing power. Holy Spirit, effectual power. Paul reminded Timothy of the Scriptures power in his own life. There is often great debate about which works of literature belong in the list of great works. But only time will tell what future generations will hold as important and those works that will last. But in the Word of God, we have a book that has been tried and tested for millenia, and one you ought to read.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Comfort when no one pays attention

Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body. When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said. (John 2:19-22)

Commenting on verse 22, J.C. Ryle wrote,
"We see, for another thing, in this passage, how men may remember words of religious truth long after they are spoken, and may one day see a meaning in those who at first they did not see. 
We are told that our Lord said to the Jews, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up." John informs us distinctly that "He spoke of the temple of His body," that he referred to His own resurrection. Yet the meaning of the sentence was not understood by our Lord's disciples at the time that it was spoken. It was not until "He was risen from the dead," three years after the events here described, that the full significance of the sentence flashed on their hearts. For three years it was a dark and useless saying to them. For three years it lay sleeping in their minds, like a seed in a tomb, and bore no fruit. But at the end of that time the darkness passed away. They saw the application of their Master's words, and as they saw it were confirmed in their faith. "They remembered that He had said this," and as they remembered "they believed." 
It is a comfortable and cheering thought, that the same kind of thing that happened to the disciples is often going on at the present day. The sermons that are preached to apparently heedless ears in churches, are not all lost and thrown away. The instruction that is given in schools and pastoral visits, is not all wasted and forgotten. The texts that are taught by parents to children are not all taught in vain. There is often a resurrection of sermons, and texts, and instruction, after an interval of many years. The good seed sometimes springs up after he that sowed it has been long dead and gone. Let preachers go on preaching, and teachers go on teaching, and parents go on training up children in the way they should go. Let them sow the good seed of Bible truth in faith and patience. Their labor is not in vain in the Lord. Their words are remembered far more than they think, and will yet spring up "after many days." (1 Cor. 15:58; Eccles. 11:1.)"

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Preaching without brakes, metaphorically speaking

J.C. Ryle's closing comments on Jesus turning the water into wine.
"I cannot close the note on this wonderful miracle without saying something about the allegorical and typical meanings assigned to it by the Fathers and many other commentators. Many see in the miracle an allegorical history of the introduction of the Gospel into the world. Like the marriage feast, the Gospel was an occasion of joy. As at the marriage feast, the personal presence of Jesus was the great feature of the Gospel.  The times of the Jewish dispensation were times of deficiency and dim light. The coming of Christ supplied all that was lacking. Revealed religion before Christ was like water. Christ coming into the world turned the water of the old dispensation into wine. The good wine was reserved until the time of Christ. The first miracle wrought by Moses was turning water into blood. The first wrought by Christ was turning water into wine.  
These are undoubtedly pious thoughts and full of truth. I should be sorry to speak harshly of them, or to pronounce decidedly that they may not be legitimately deduced from the miracle. I only venture the remark that it is far wiser to abstain from allegorical interpretations as a general rule, and to be content with the plain meaning which appears on the surface of Scripture. Once begin allegorizing Scripture, you never know where you are to stop. You may prove anything and find anything in the Bible upon the allegorical system, and at last throw open the floodgate to a torrent of wild fanaticism. 
The allegorical lessons drawn from this miracle by Augustine, Bernard, and Alcuin, are striking examples of the extremes into which allegory may run.  When such a man as Augustine, for instance, tells us that the two or three firkins mean the two races of men, Jews and Greeks, or the three sons of Noah,--or when he says that the six waterpots in the miracle before us denote six successive prophetical periods in the days between Adam and Christ, one cannot but feel that there is something wrong. These are his words: “The six waterpots, containing two or three firkins apiece, are six ages, containing the prophecy belonging to all nations, whether as referred to two kinds of men, Jews and Gentiles, as the apostle often says, or to three, on account of the three sons of Noah.” The system of interpreting Scripture which can lead a good man into such assertions as this must surely be a dangerous two-edged weapon, and likely to do more harm than good. 
That all our Lord’s miracles were deeply significant, I do not deny. That all were intended to convey deep spiritual lessons, beside supplying proofs of His divinity, I make no question. All I maintain is that they require reverent and delicate handling, and that to rush hastily into allegorical interpretations of them and invest every minute portion of them with a figurative meaning, is an unwise mode of handling Scripture, and eminently calculated to bring the Bible into contempt."
Allegorical interpretations can be like potato chips, once you start, you can't stop. Were there 6 water pots at the wedding in John 2 because 6 is the number of man, the mark of the beast, and represented the emptiness of Judaism and will worship? Where the pots made of stone because the deadness of their religion and the hardness of their hearts? Or, because there were a lot of people at the marriage feast and they needed a lot of pots, and what else will you make a large pot out of? Did John make a point to tell us the number for a spiritual application or to give us the historical details, showing us this miracle couldn't have been a hoax?

This is something all Christians need to wrestle with. We should all be meditating on the Scriptures, and feeding our souls on Christ and His Word. I don't want to misinterpret the Scripture or have the Bible to be a text book. I quoted Ryle at length because I appreciate his spirit when he said, "I should be sorry to speak harshly of them, or to pronounce decidedly that they may not be legitimately deduced from the miracle." Certainly there are applications and good thoughts that can be drawn from the life of our Lord. For example, the main point of the passage in John 2 was not to show us how to obey by the servants example of hearing and obeying, but no doubt, there is a lesson there we can meditate on and drawn application from that text, and there is much truth to their example. It is neither untrue, nor out of place to draw out that application from the text. The disciples themselves may have thought through these very issues while the servants obeyed. Yet, I highly doubt they considered the mark of the beast. After it was all said and done, we read Jesus, "manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him," which I think is the main point. Who else but the Son of God could change the chemical compound of water into wine by the sheer power of His sovereign will?

Some  think God can only do one thing at a time with His Word and have gotten the idea that a passage of Scripture can only mean one thing. It cannot have contrary meanings, but is most certainly may teach us and show us many more things than just the main point. A quick survey of the apostles use of drawing application out of the text shows this to be a valid form of interpretation. Was Moses thinking about pastors in a church that was a few millennia from its existence when he said not to muzzle the ox when he treadeth out corn? I doubt it (Deuteronomy 25:4, 1 Timothy 5:18). But does that text have spiritual application? Paul thought so. So did Peter, when he said Christ is our example in living in a wicked world (1 Peter 2:21). Christ is most assuredly more than an example, but he is our example. There is a difference between allegorical interpretation and drawing spiritual application. Yet, there is danger going too far with both.

What's the difference between application and allegory? The both are relying on truth (hopefully) from other places in Scripture. But application says, "Just as ..." and allegory says, "This means..." The application draws inferences from the text while the allegory tries to explain the meaning. So while the main point was not about marriage, we can see many inferences about marriage from this text, based on other passages. But to say the water pots represent, assigns a meaning to the passage and puts words in John's mouth, that probably were not there.

But, while some allegorical interpreters may teach truth from this passage, I don't think they are teaching the truth of the passage. A.W. Pink, for a time, was well anchored in his systematic theology and his fanciful interpretations were well moored. But, as he isolated himself from believers and stopped serving Christ in his church, his allegorical views outstripped his systematics and he became an amillennialist. He wasn't grounded by what the Scripture said, but what he saw in the Scriptures, even though his ministry was primarily verse by verse exposition. I highly recommend his biography, if nothing else, to track the trajectory of his spiritual life with his writings. No doubt, this is a very fine line and there are needed distinctions to draw. Even those who take a strict, one-meaning policy concerning the Scripture are guided by their systematic theology. If I know what I believe, I can probably see more things in the Scripture that confirm what I believe. Which can be looking at things backwards.

We need to use every tool in our disposal, pray as we study, be humble as we read and interpret, be rooted in serving in the local church, and worshiping with the local church, and read with firm reliance on the Holy Spirit. And be thankful for God's grace and patience as we come to His word to feed our souls, that He is long-suffering with us as we attempt to rightly divide the Scriptures.




Monday, January 6, 2020

You Can Read Your Bible




Last week, I encouraged you to read the Bible everyday in 2020. Hopefully you took my charge, but if you didn't, then I'm going to charge you to start today. And, Lord willing, I'm going to keep on encouraging you every Monday this year. My plan is to offer a brief encouragement each week for daily Bible reading.

It says in  2 Timothy 3:15, "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures" and what I want you to keep in mind is that's possible for you to read the Bible and know the Scriptures. Don't let the size of the book and the profundity of the content keep you from the fact that you can know the Scriptures. Timothy knew the holy scriptures from a child and he was taught by his mother and grandmother. 

 It doesn’t matter how old or how young you are, the Bible can be read and it can be known. What other book can offer such deep matter that the best minds in all of history have given themselves to the study of this book, and "a child can know the holy Scriptures." There is no other book on Earth that is accessible to children but profound beyond all measure to the greatest minds. There is no other book on Earth that can literally provide a lifelong pursuit of his wisdom.  A book for Kings and children.

Read your Bible.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

The Good Wine Last

Experct from Charles Spurgeon's sermon on John 2:9-10, The Feast of the Lord

John 2:9-10  When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,  And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.


'Why there are some of God's best beloved who have their names upon the breastplate of the great high priest, who are purchased with his blood, and are very dear to his soul, who have not known from their youth up what it is to get out of the depths of poverty. They have to live from hand to mouth, not knowing one day whence another meal shall come. How many more there are of God's people that are lying on beds of affliction. Some of the most precious of God's diamonds are lying on the dunghill of disease. Ye may go and climb to many a chamber where ye shall see the victims of all kinds of diseases, loathsome, protracted, and painful, and ye shall see God's dear ones languishing out a dying life. I might point you to others of God's servants, whose days are spent in toil. There is needed for the human body, and especially for the soul, a little rest and a little of the food of knowledge; but these have had so little instruction that they cannot get mental food ready for themselves; if they read they can scarce understand, and they have hard bondage in this life, which maketh their life bitter and hindereth them from knowledge. They have to work from morning to night, with scarce a moment's rest. Oh, beloved, will it not be true of them, when death shall give them their discharge, when they shall leave this world, which has been to them, with an emphasis, a vale of tears? Will not they have to say: "Thou hast kept the good wine until now?" Oh, what a change for her who has come limping along these many Sabbath days to the sanctuary! for there, she shall go no more up to the Lord's house limping and lame, but the "lame man shall leap like the hart," and like Miriam, she shall dance with the daughters of Israel. Ah, ye may have had to suffer sickness and sorrow and pain, blindness and deafness, and a thousand of this world's ills: what a change for you, when you find them all gone! No racking pains, no pining want, no anxious care. Ye shall not have to cry for the sunlight to penetrate your abodes, or weep because your sight is failing through incessant labour with that murderous needle; but ye shall see the light of God, brighter than the light of the sun, and ye shall rejoice in the beams that proceed from his countenance. Ye shall have no more infirmities; immortality shall have covered and swallowed them up; that which was sown in weakness shall be raised in power; that which was sown disordered, full of pain and sorrow, and disjointed and full of agony, shall be raised full of delectable delights, no wore capable of anguish, but quivering with joy and bliss unspeakable. Ye shall no more be poor; ye shall be rich, richer than the miser's dream. Ye shall no more have to labour; there shall ye rest upon your beds, each one of you walking in your uprightness. Ye shall no more suffer from neglect and scorn and ignominy and persecution; ye shall be glorified with Christ, in the day when he shall come to be admired of them that love him. What a change for such! The best wine indeed is kept to the last, in their case, for they have never had any good wine here, to the eyes of men, though secretly they have had many a drink from the bottle of Jesus. He has often put his cordial cup to their lips. They have been like the ewe lamb that belonged to the man in Nathan's parable: they have drunk out of Christ's own cup on the earth, but still even sweeter than that cup shall he the draught which they shall receive at the last."

Monday, December 30, 2019

Read your Bible. Monday Motivation


Yesterday was the last Sunday of the year! 

With a new year around the corner, and you are one who likes to make resolutions, make one that will count. Resolve to read your Bible every day, and if you have never read the Bible from beginning to end, make it the year to read the Bible. It's not an impossibly difficult task either. You'll have many obstacles and much opposition, but you can read your Bible. 

Did you know the average person spends 35 minutes a day on Facebook? If you cut that time in half, and are an average reader, by spending the other 15 minutes reading the Bible, you could read the whole Bible in a year. That's all it takes.

But, not everyone can read fast and many have reading problems. I've suffered from reading problems myself and understand the difficulty. But, did you know you can go to BibleGateway.com, select the KJV, and the book you want to read, click the speaker button on the bar and there are THREE different audio versions of the Bible where professional voice actors read the Bible to you? There are so many options available, there really
aren't any excuses. 

If that's too daunting, take two years. That's only about 2 chapters a day. There's no rule that says you have to read the Bible in a year. Just read it. You can do it. And it's worth the effort. 



Wednesday, December 25, 2019

A Good Pastor



A church once called a new pastor, who thought he was prepared to preach three times a week, but suddenly realized the task was harder than he imagined. After preaching 20 messages, he ran out of motivation to study and to come up with topics to preach, so he started over and preached the same messages again. He did this three times in a row, and knew the church had to realize what he was doing but no one ever said anything. Finally, he asked the deacon  about the lack of concern with his repetition. The deacon replied, "We didn’t really want a pastor and you were as close to not having one as we could find." It's often said that pastoring is more than preaching sermons, but it's certainly not less. Preaching sermons is more than going to the next verse the next week or having an information dump of all the historical and archeological information you found in the books. There should be an aim for the message and the people you are preaching to, a motivating factor to preaching.

In Titus 1:1-2 Paul introduces the letter to a pastor by giving some instruction to us on some of the motivating factors of his ministry. He wasn't just trying to make it through every verse of the Bible. Nor was he preaching on his favorite topics. Having a preaching method is certainly better than many, who have no method at all. Some preach like the apostles – they start the message with no discernible plan and the sermons are "scattered abroad…every where preaching the word." Somethings wrong if you never put any thought into how you are preaching, why you are preaching, and what you are preaching. When Paul preached, he had a purpose. He was motivated to glorify Christ, declare the truth, and to move God's people to trust in Christ and live after godliness.

Paul preached with a view towards God's people, "Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect."  Paul believed in the sovereign grace of God and knew that God would save his elect. The doctrine of election didn't dampen his missionary but set it ablaze. God's sheep were lost and God ordained his people would receive Christ through faith. Paul was an instrument of the Lord's to declare the good news of the gospel, the word of God, the incorruptible seed, the means by which God the Spirit regenerates the soul (1 Peter 1:23-25). Paul preached the truth with confidence knowing God will save his people.

Paul preached with a view towards application, "the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness." The message wasn't merely for information. Paul knew the truth and godliness go hand in hand. You don't really know the truth if it doesn't change your life or the way you live. When Paul preached the doctrines, he also pressed upon the hearers godly living which adorns the doctrines. 45 minutes of facts is a lecture. Christian preaching glorifies Christ, is rooted and grounded in the truth, with an eye towards moving God's people.


Thursday, December 19, 2019

A Good Story?



Everyone loves a good story. I believe God created us to enjoy them. Homer wrote The Odyssey 2700 years ago, and it's still a good yarn to our modern minds. It has everything we like, heroes, villains, adventure, and great obstacles to overcome.  We love stories. Paul liked to tell his conversion story, but he’s not the hero of his story. He’s the villain. Christ is the hero of Paul’s story. Paul was the bad guy, doing bad things, and loving every minute of it. He was a villain worthy of death, yet Christ died for him. Christ saved Paul’s soul, and Paul is a preacher of Christ.  

There is another type of conversion story, where we are the hero and our “sin” was the villain. Our sin is bad, and we were bad sinners, but the converted overcame all odds, and bested sin by their decision to follow Christ. In these stories, it seems there is a glory in the wickedness of sin. The bigger the villain, the better the victory. The person would never say it exactly that way, but how could we come away from such a tale with any other thought? 

Boasting is excluded, when it comes to salvation (Romans 3:27). When Paul talks about salvation, there is no room to boast on anyone or anything, other than Christ. We are declared innocent freely by God's grace. We are justified, not based on our works of the law, but because we have received, through faith, the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Our grounds for justification are based on Christ fulfilling all the demands of the law on our behalf. We are not the hero of our righteousness. We have all sinned and come short of God's glory, so Christ Jesus is our propitiation, whose death satisfied God's wrath for my sin. The blood of Christ washed away my sin. I'm not the hero there either. I was in bondage to sin, my nature, an indebted to divine justice, but Christ redeemed me, set me free, bought me, and gave me life. I'm not the hero and my testimony shouldn't make me one.

I believe it's good for Christians to tell the story, but we need to make sure it's a true story. Stories change over time. They also change when we get all the facts. The Bible tells us the truth about how we are saved. We get the "inside scoop" on God's work in our salvation. The Bible tells us the truth about ourselves, our nature, and our ability. We learn we are saved by grace, not by works. Even our faith is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). If you are the hero of your testimony, then you need to check your story against the Scriptures. We are the villains. We are sinners, the law breakers, the guilty and condemned. Christ is the hero who saved us and set us free. If your story makes you look good, then you are taking credit for God's work.





Friday, December 13, 2019

Good and Angry




It’s good to be angry. Sometimes, anyway. There is an anger that is ungodly and Jesus tells us anger, without cause, is murderous (Matthew 5:22). But it’s easy to have a simplistic view of our emotions. “Anger bad. Calm good.” But we are not that simplistic, nor are we made of brass. We must understand our emotions and rule them according to the Bible. In the very place Jesus said  sinful anger puts you in danger of judgment, He said, "whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause…" There are some causes where we should be mad and it would be wrong NOT to be angry. How do I know that anger can be holy? Because the Holy God is angry (Deuteronomy 29:27-29; Revelation 14:10). Psalm 145:8-9,20 tells us God is gracious, compassionate, great in mercy, good to all, and tender in mercy. But the text also tells us he is "slow to anger." Who is He angry at? “The LORD preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy.” The wicked. God is angry at sin and sinners.

Sin is rebellion against His goodness. Sin is breaking His good and holy laws. And because God is good, anything that is contrary to His goodness and glory angers Him. I don’t think it is possible for God to be good without getting angry. Apathy toward evil is evil. To love holiness is to hate ungodliness. God gave us the emotion of anger and we must learn to use it rightly. One of the characteristics of godly repentance is indignation (2 Corinthians 7:10-11). Indignation is a holy, righteous emotion when directed in the right way for the right reason.  Should we love what God hates? Is it good to claim to have more mercy and compassion than God does? We should get angry at corrupt politicians and religious hypocrisy. We should get angry at sexual abusers and lying cheaters. We should get angry at slanderers and gossips. We should be angry at false gods and idolatry. We should be angry with our sin. Too often we get angry at the sin of others, but make excuses for our own sin. Why? Because God is angry with those things! In order to have true love and compassion for others, it's good to be angry when others are harmed or God's glory is defamed. God gave us that emotion to motivate us to action so we protect and rescue the victims.

Good anger must be directed in a good way. Not to vent, or to get what we want, but for God's glory and the good of others. Sinful anger comes because someone dares to do something against our preferences or our honor. If someone disrespects us or does something we don't like, our pride is wounded and we get angry. Good anger is not directed by our pride, but God's Word. Righteous indignation is concerned about God’s glory and God’s law, not our law and our glory.


Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Books have their limits



“A book is like a mirror: if a donkey looks in, you can’t expect an apostle to look out.”
G. C. Lichtenberg




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Friday, December 6, 2019

Angry Talk

"Angry people always talk to the wrong person. They talk to themselves, rehearsing the failings of others. They talk to the people they're mad at, reaming them out for real and imaginary failings. They talk to people who aren't even involved, gossiping and slandering. But chaotic, sinful, headstrong anger starts to dissolve when you begin to talk to the right person - to your good Shepherd, who sees, hears, and is mercifully involved in your life."
David Powlison, Good and Angry

Thursday, December 5, 2019

A letter from Spurgeon to his son.

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

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

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

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

Your loving father, C. H. SPURGEON.
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**I've had this in the draft for a very long time and regrettably, I didn't record where I read this.**

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

A Happy Exchange. Funeral Sermon by Thomas Brooks

"She has exchanged: earth—for Heaven, a wilderness—for a paradise, a prison—for a palace, a house made with hands—for one eternal in the heavens, imperfection—for perfection, sighing—for singing, mourning—for rejoicing, petitions—for praises, the society of sinful mortals—for the company of God, pain—for ease, sickness—for health, a bed of weakness—for a bed of spices, her brass—for silver, her pennies—for gold, her earthly contentments—for heavenly enjoyments, an imperfect, transient enjoyment of God—for a more clear, full, perfect, and permanent enjoyment of God."


Read the rest HERE

Monday, November 25, 2019

John Brown of Haddington

From the Introduction to The Systematic Theology of John Brown of Haddinton:
While I have been occupied in instructing you, your consciences must bear me witness, that my principal concern was to impress your minds with the great things of God. Now, when I am gradually stepping into the eternal state, to appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, permit me to beseech you, as you wish to promote his honour, and the eternal salvation of your own and your hearers' souls, 1. See that ye be real Christians yourselves. I now more and more see, that nothing less than real, real Christianity, is fit to die with, and make an appearance before God. Are ye then indeed born again, born from above, born of the Spirit? created in Christ Jesus unto good works?—new creatures in Christ Jesus, having all old things passed away, and all things become new? Are ye indeed the circumcision which worship God in the Spirit, habitually reading, meditating, praying, preaching, conversing with your hearts, under the influence of the Holy you no confidence in the flesh, no confidence in your self-righteousness,your learning, your address, your care and diligence, your gifts and graces;—but being emptied of self in every form, are poor in spirit, less than the least of all saints, and the least of all God's mercies; nay, the very chief of sinners in your own sight? Has it pleased God to reveal his Son in you? and to instruct you with a strong hand, to count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ as your Lord, and to count them but dung, that you may win him, and be found in him, not having your own righteousness, but the righteousness which is of God by faith,—and to know the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings,—and to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, John 3:3,5-6; Eph 2:10; 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15; Phil 3:3; Matt 5:3; Matt 16:24; Eph 3:8; Gen 32:10; 1 Tim 1:15; Gal 1:15-16; Phil 3:7-14. If you be, or become either graceless preachers or ministers of the gospel, how terrible is your condition! If you open your Bible, the sentence of your redoubled damnation flashes into your conscience from every page. When you compose your sermon, you but draw up a tremendous indictment against yourselves. If you argue against, or reprove other men's sins, you but aggravate your own. When you publish the holy law of God, you but add to your rebellion against it, and make it an awful witness against your treacherous dissimulation. If you announce its threatenings, and mention hell with all its insupportable torments, you but infeoff yourselves in it, and serve yourselves heirs to it as the inheritance appointed you by the Almighty. When you speak of Christ and his excellencies, fulness, love, and labours, it is but to trample him under your feet. If you take his covenant and gospel into your mouth, it is but to profane them, and cast them forth to be trodden under foot of men. If you talk of spiritual experiences, you but do despite to the Spirit of grace. [Heb 10:29] When you commend the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and invite sinners to new-covenant fellowship with them, you but treacherously stab them under the fifth rib, [2 Sam 3:27; 2 Sam 20:10] betray them with a kiss, [Luke 22:48] and from your heart cry, This is the the heart-transforming knowledge of Christ and him crucified, all your knowledge is but an accursed puffer up, and the murderer of your own souls. And unless the grace of God make an uncommon stretch to save you, how desperate is your condition! Perhaps no person under heaven bids more unlikely to be saved, than a graceless Seceding minister;—his conscience is so overcharged with guilt, so seared as with an hot iron, [1 Tim 4:2] and his heart so hardened by the abuse of the gospel.—Alas! my dear pupils, must all my instructions, all the strivings of the Holy Ghost, all your reading, all your meditations, all your sermons, all your evangelical principles, all your profession, all your prayers, as traps and snares, take and bind any of you, hand and foot, that, as unprofitable servants, you may be cast into utter darkness, [Matt 25:30] with all the contents of your Bible and other books,—all your gifts and apparent-like graces, as it were, inlaid in your consciences, that, like fuel, or oil, they may for ever feed the flames of God's wrath upon your souls! After being set for a time at the gate of heaven, to point others into it,—after prophesying in Christ's name, and wasting yourselves to show others the way of salvation, and to light up the friends of our Redeemer to their heavenly rest,—must your own lamp go out in everlasting darkness, and ye be bidden, Depart from me, I never knew you, ye workers of iniquity? [Matt 7:23]—Must I,—must all the churches behold you at last brought forth and condemned as arch-traitors to our Redeemer? Must you, in the most tremendous manner, for ever sink into the bottomless pit, under the weight of the blood of the great God, our Saviour,—under the weight of murdered truths, murdered convictions, murdered gifts, murdered ministrations of the gospel, and murdered souls of men!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Old and Wrong



God commanded us to honor our Fathers and Mothers and to respect the elderly (Leviticus 19:32; Proverbs 20:29; Job 12:12). Those who have walked in the ways of the Lord are also worthy of our respect. Indeed, to tie the two thoughts together, the Biblical office of a man who leads the church is an “elder” (1 Peter 5:1-5; Titus 1:5). In a world where things work as they ought, mature men in the faith and men matured in years should be wise guides and steady hands for the young, immature, and those under their care. One generation guiding the next, careful to point others following in their footsteps along the surefooted path of righteousness. Each generation, learning the way of wisdom and forsaking folly’s quick and easy path, living together, following the Lord. The Lord’s ways are always the best ways.

However, being old doesn’t make you right. I’ve known a lot of old fools, with 70+ years’ experience. I’ve even had the terrible displeasure of knowing those honored souls who had the misfortune of being honored. Isaiah prophesied in Isaiah 9:1-14, concerning the impending doom of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. They were proud and hard hearted instead of hearing God’s Word and repenting, turning to the Lord for forgiveness and mercy. God said He would “cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush, in one day.” The head in this metaphor were the, “ancient and honorable” and the tail was the “prophet that teacheth lies.”

The problem with the ancient honorable fool and the false prophet is people listen to them. Their age and their position give more weight to their words because they should know better. The consequence of their folly is found in verse 16, “For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.” These elders were leaders and the prophets preached, but they led them to error and doom. Which is why you must be discerning. In our fallen world you cannot just assume the man with the grey head is wise and the man behind a pulpit is showing you the right path. I saw a meme recently that said, “If an old dude ever gives you advice while peeling an apple with a pocket knife and eating the pieces off the blade, you should probably take it.” I understand the sentiment. But I grew up on an apple orchard and I’ve seen many goofballs eat apples off the blade of their jigged bone Barlow. It ought to be so, that a person whose seen more sunrises has untold wisdom, but sadly, it’s not always the case. God’s people must respect and honor their elders – but they must respect and honor God more. It is essential to believe what God says over the gray head because you are ultimately responsible. It's a great blessing to have a Titus 2 man and woman in your life. Make sure your guide is sound.






Name is Mud




I always heard the phrase, “your name is mud” referred to Dr. Samuel Mudd, the physician who doctored a young man's broken leg in the middle of the night. What's so bad about that? The man happened to be John Wilkes Booth, who broke his leg in the escape after assassinating President Lincoln. After splinting Booth's leg and letting him rest a few hours, Dr. Mudd allows Booth to leave. Mudd tried and convicted as a conspirator and sentenced to life in prison. Depending on who you ask, he was either wrongfully convicted, or let off easy. Having the name "Mudd" is to have a ruined reputation, and an infamous name. But, apparently John Badcock coined the phrase some 40 years earlier. Nonetheless, history is far kinder to Dr. Mudd than John Wilkes Booth, a name that goes down in infamy. It’s a rotten name and he ruined it by his wickedness. "The memory of the just is blessed: but the name of the wicked shall rot," (Proverbs 10:7).

How will you be remembered? How will people talk about you when you're gone? I don’t think we should spend our time worrying about what other people may think of us. I am proposing we consider our life and our works. I can’t change what someone thinks, but I should consider my way, and how my life is impacting those around me. Am I concerned with eternal matters? Is my focus on myself or on others and my God? Do I live in light of eternity, or in light of the incandescent glow of the cell phone and social media? The memory of the just is blessed  and the name of the selfish, self-centered wicked will rot.

We can’t worry about what people think of us now because some of history's most favored and beloved men were hated while they were alive. In Charleston, around the Capitol Complex, there are statues of Abraham Lincoln and Stonewall Jackson. Both are held in high esteem now (by most), and both were not well liked (by most) while they lived. In fact, the more selflessly we live, the better we’ll be remembered, but usually the more disliked we are in the present. It's the life of a prophet (Matthew 23:29-32).

I thought of pastors in my life, who have gone on to be with the Lord, where the very mention of their name reminds me of the good they did for me or my family. Men like Medford Caudill, Reggie Moore, and Don Pennington. I could go on and fill this space simply with the names of dear Christian saints who are remembered for their kind and gracious works.  You don’t know these men, but their name is blessed in the Newell home. You don't have to be famous to leave a mark on someone. I suppose it goes both ways. There are some others who also have left a mark on me, but we’ll not mention their name. We’ll just let it rot. 


Monday, November 18, 2019

Who controls the past, controls the future

Peter Hitchens, Mail on Sunday
"At first I thought this habit, of portraying the past through a politically correct and generally radical lens, was mildly annoying. Various aspects of it couldn’t be criticised without risking stupid, false accusations of bigotry. So weird things, way out of their right time and place, which would normally have been mentionable became unmentionable. But now I have begun to think it sinister, another aspect of a fast-accelerating cultural revolution in which almost everything I value in this country is being wiped out of existence and memory. Most of our history is simply not taught to most children, so it is easy to introduce rubbish into their minds. 
As George Orwell wrote in words often only partially quoted from 1984: ‘If all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. “Who controls the past,” ran the Party slogan, “controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” ’ 
More painfully, he also described his hero, Winston Smith, despairing ‘within twenty years at the most… the huge and simple question, “Was life better before the Revolution than it is now?” would have ceased once and for all to be answerable’ and the new revolutionary rulers could insist that they had improved life ‘because there did not exist, and never again could exist, any standard against which it could be tested…’ 
That is what comes to mind when I see dramas that portray a Britain that never existed, and when important books that I know well, such as War Of The Worlds, are altered and edited to wipe out all memory that the past was different from now. This is what is going on. It is not as trivial as it looks."


Thursday, November 14, 2019

Slanderously Reported




You need to argue well.  In the first part of Romans 3, Paul answers objections some had concerning justification by faith. After building a case proving all men are under sin and without excuse, verses 7-8 are specific charges against Paul as a liar and a heretic. Romans 3:8, “And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil that good may come; whose damnation is just.”

Paul was slandered. His enemies lied about his doctrine and purposely mischaracterized his teaching. His enemies used a straw man argument, which is a logical fallacy taking a person's position and either exaggerating, distorting, or misrepresent it. After, fashioning this mangled proposition you attack it instead of what was said. It’s like making a scarecrow that looks sort of like your enemy, then waging war in your garden. Turn on any cable news channel, wait for a political segment, then wait about 30 seconds and you’ll hear a straw man argument. Logic calls it a fallacy, Paul called it slander. 

We tend to think of argument only in a negative way, but an argument is simply, trying to persuade someone to your side. There are many ways to lawfully make that happen, and wisdom is the surest guide to which tack to take. But you can’t lie about a person and misrepresent them. Why would a person slander their opponent? It certainly isn’t to win that person to your side. I’ve never had a person lie about me or mischaracterize my position and then say, “you know, despite the character assassination, I think I’ll consider their side of the debate.” Slandering an opponent will fire up the base and those already on your side, but the truth is not served when defending it in a lie. You can be on the right side and fight the wrong way. The truth is consistent. The truth will triumph and doesn’t need subversive stratagems. It's much easier to fight dirty, but the weapons of our warfare are not carnal.

Paul makes a marvelous argument in this section that’s beyond the scope of this space (but well worth your time to study it out). But notice Paul’s clear denunciation of his interlocutors. They will be judged and their damnation is just. Paul was harsh, but not ungodly. He was firm. He didn’t compromise the truth and rebuked truthfully. He took the argument of those who opposed him and dealt with it fairly, considered the logical implications, and then returned fire. A man of God must defend the truth and must seek to stop those who preach false doctrine. But, the man of God needs to do this with the goal of convincing the gainsayers (Titus 1:9), not displaying their beaten and bloody corpse upon the pillory (metaphorically speaking of course). Titus 1:13  says, “Wherefore rebuke them sharply…” and there is, believe it or not, a second part to that sentence, …”that they may be sound in the faith.”


Friday, November 8, 2019

Godly Contentment




Have you ever said, “I can’t take it anymore” or, “I’m at the end of my rope?" If you are in the habit of thinking like that, you are missing out on tremendous blessings and sinning against God. Those kinds of statements are common, but lack godly contentment. Maybe you think life just isn’t the way you want it to go, and if you just had a different job, you'd be happy. Or you just had one real good friend to confide in. Or if you just had a little more money, or if you just could have that health issue resolved. Maybe it’s your marriage, your car, your home and if that changed you could be satisfied. Your problem is not that you don’t have what you need, the problem is you don’t have what you want and you think those missing parts will bring you  satisfaction.

Jeremiah Burroughs has a good definition for what we mean by Godly Contentment. "Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and Fatherly disposal in every condition."  Or to shorten it “taking pleasure in God's disposal." Contentment is freely submitting to God’s will. Not by force, or by dulling the trial, not by ignoring the situation, or denying the trail exists and not by our fleshly determination, but submission to God's providence (Philippians 4:10-13). A criminal resisting arrest will finally submit when there are enough knees in his back and lumps on his head. That is not contentment that is resignation and the realization that stun guns hurt. You absolutely will go through God’s plan for your life, but godly contentment allows us to rejoice along the way. Not in the circumstances of providence, but in the God of providence, no matter the circumstances.

Economy, jobs, unemployment, retirement, healthcare issues are all on the forefront of the national conversation, many concerned Christians are upset and worried about their future, their family, and their livelihood. There is nothing wrong with planning and being prepared, and we ought to do all we can to be ready, but when God has put us in a situation, and we have done all we lawfully can do, the Christian's duty is to quietly submit to the Lord's dealings with us, in faith, trusting His kind and Fatherly plan for us.

When we have godly contentment, we spend our days thinking about what Jesus has done for us, is doing for us, and what He WILL do for us. You see life as planned by God for your good. That the stars in space, the clouds in the air, the ground beneath your feet, the flowers in the fields are there, in accordance to God’s providence, for your good. Your poverty, your pain, your sickness was planned by God. Be content that your Heavenly Father is in control and that this world is not all there is and God is now preparing you for glory.


Thursday, October 31, 2019

Given to Change


Proverbs 24:21-22 My son, fear thou the Lord and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change: For their calamity shall rise suddenly; and who knoweth the ruin of them both?

Progressives are reformers who labor to move organizations or nations “forward” and seek progress toward a vision of a better world. But, if I'm standing on the edge of a cliff, moving forward is the last thing I want. Progressives presupposes change is always in the right direction, or a change in any direction is needed at all. They also assume their vision of the future is not only the best way, but the righteous way, and opposition to "progress" and their agenda is a moral evil. It was said of President Calvin Coolidge, "Nobody has ever worked harder at inactivity... thwarting political activity wherever there are signs of life.” As Coolidge knew, too often political movement is usually pushing boundaries, tearing down fences, and moving in the wrong direction. There are times and ways in which people, organizations, and countries must change - but those given to change are rebels against authority and the Bible warns against such revolutionaries and reformers.  

Our proverb tells us to fear the Lord and the King, to respect and honor authority. Fearing the Lord is conforming our lives to his instructions, and our hearts to His law. Fearing the king is to honoring the laws and his authority as long as they do not conflict with the laws of God. Our concern should not be to “get with the times” or to “be on the right side of history” but to be right with God. The revolutionary's vision of a future utopia trumps everything else, sometimes even reality, to obtain progress by any means necessary.

Sometimes, the best way is backwards. Sinners are called to repent, to turn away from sin and unto God. There are standards of truth and when you stray from what’s right, the only sensible way to go is back. If you were swimming in the ocean, and look up and realize you have drifted too far from the shore, “Onward!” is not the wisest move. You may come from a long and noble line of people who have been wrong for generations. For you, "progress" would be to stop, turn around, and go back.

Sometimes, the best move is no move at all. God’s people are told to stand fast in the faith, to hold fast to the doctrines we have received. Just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s outdated. God defined marriage, it’s purpose, and it’s participants, so any deviation from God’s eternal truth will be the ruin for all involved. 

If you get caught up in the fashions of the day, dismiss truth from previous generations, and follow the trends of the progressives, you'll be able to get with the program and move the accepted direction. Progressives are in the business of tearing down the old to make way for the new. But realize, there’s a generation of toddlers right now, future reformers, waiting their turn to topple over today’s progressives.

Fear the Lord. Follow the God who does not change. Stand for truth. Hold fast to sound doctrine. Don't be given to change.