Thursday, May 25, 2017

Simeon's Hope

It had been four hundred years since there had been a prophet in Israel. The nation was now under the rule of king Herod and under the thumb of the mighty Roman Empire. They were a long way from king David and the glories of Solomon’s reign. The ruling class in the priesthood preached a doctrine of legalism. They had forsaken the truth of God’s way of salvation of grace through faith found in the law and the prophets. But in Jerusalem, there lived a man named Simeon, and he was grieving. He mourned over the sinfulness of his countrymen. He grieved over the condition of the nation. He was disturbed and troubled over the state of his own soul. There was no solace in possible political reform or military upheaval against Rome. There was no comfort in Herod’s reign or the temple he built, because the longer Herod lived, the more cruel and wicked he became. As the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees jockeyed for position and power and as the politicians maneuvered back and forth for power, Simeon a devout man of God was growing old and looking for his only hope, the "consolation of Israel" (Luke2:25). The Old Testament promised a time of blessing when the Messiah came. All Jews longed for the promised epoch when Israel would be a land of blessing where swords would be beat into plowshares, and spears into pruning-hooks. They dreamed of the time when they would be free, when the wolf would dwell with the lamb and there would be peace in Israel.

Simeon knew this consolation was not a time, but a person. Until that person came, there was no hope. Simeon knew all the nations of earth would be blessed through the seed of Abraham. He knew that the Seed of David would sit on the throne in Jerusalem and have an everlasting kingdom. He knew that the servant of Jehovah would be wounded for our transgressions and be acquainted with our grief. Simeon had hope in the consolation of Israel – the Christ. His soul longed to see the Lord and nothing else would satisfy that longing. Our consolation, our comfort, our hope is found in Christ Jesus the Lord as well. Everyone wants to go to Heaven, but very few want Christ. Everybody wants to be free from pain and to live in peace forever with friends and loved ones, but on their own terms. Everyone wants the blessings Jesus provides, just without Jesus. But Simeon was right. Our only consolation is found in Christ. As Simeon laid eyes on Jesus for the first time he said "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,  Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;  A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel (Luke 2:29-32 ). Simeon was ready to die because he had seen Jesus. Can you say that?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Preaching & Preachers: The Preacher

Chapter 6 of Lloyd-Jones book Preaching &; Preachers deals with the preacher himself. We will just examine the first section today, which deals with the call of the preacher. MLJ suggests that the call to the ministry begins with an internal disturbance of spirit when the man desires to preach and then an external suggestion from others that know him and watch him that perhaps God has called him into the ministry. Next there is a concern for the souls of others, that they too know the God of the Bible. He also repeats Spurgeon's advice that if you feel called to be a preacher, try to do something else. Stay out of the ministry, if you can. Only the man that can do nothing else but preach is called to the ministry. Then he should know he must preach, but feel unworthy to the task and almost have to be drug into the ministry.

I'm going to push back a little here because there is really no Scripture for most of this. No where does the Bible say to try not to preach and to try not to serve God in the ministry. Spurgeon's advice sounds very spiritual, but where in the Bible do you find that even hinted? Which preacher (besides Jonah) labors and struggles by telling God, no, I will not preach your word? The Bible tells us that a man will desire the work of the ministry (I Timothy 3:1) and then it is the churches job to confirm this calling by examining the man's life and ministry (I Timothy 3:2-7). If the man is not cut out for preaching and the pastor and the church knows it, then they should stop him.

It seems to me the Biblical pattern is if you desire to preach, go to the church with that desire, go to the pastor and make that desire known. If the church and the pastor believe that you have the knowledge and a sufficient understanding of the gospel, then preach the word and begin to study and prepare, learn how to preach. Find opportunities to preach, in church, out of church, in nursing homes, on the street, etc. If you then see that you were mistaken or the church sees that you don't have those gifts, at least the word of God and the gospel was published. But how else could a church ever decide if a man was fit for pastoral ministry unless he preached? How can you get better at preaching unless you preach? But, to be fair, I'm sure Lloyd-Jones and Spurgeon, because they were great preachers and had much success, had a lot more young men desire to follow them into the ministry than a smaller church would.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Parable of the Wheat and Tares by Lewis Kiger

“I’m not going to some church and sit there with a bunch of hypocrites,” he barked.
To which I gently but, boldly replied, “But you are content to stay home, ignore the Gospel, and spend eternity in hell with those same hypocrites?”
You should have seen the look on his face. It was as if, it was the first time the thought had occurred to him.

This is a portion of a conversation I had with a co-worker some years ago. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds, honest it wasn’t.
We had become friends in the short time I had worked there and I felt comfortable enough to be that straightforward with him.

All I did was invite him to church and stated that we would love to have him visit sometime. But it provoked a strong and animated reaction. Sadly, I soon learned that my friend/co-worker had (along with many others) been enduring the shameful conduct of another employee who also claimed to be a Christian. This man alleged to be very active in his local church, yet his behavior in the workplace was often distasteful and dishonoring to God.

My friend said quite frankly, “If that is what a Christian is, then I don’t want to be one.” Unfortunately, after working there for only a few weeks, I understood what he meant. And even more disturbing, it didn’t take me long to realize that he had some justification for feeling that way.

Undeniably, not everyone who confesses to be a disciple of Christ is truly saved. There are many who “talk the talk,” but do not “walk the walk.” Not that any of us are perfect or sinless, but tragically there are multitudes who claim the name of Christ but are merely imposters.

Jesus affirms this truth by the use of a familiar example. He knew that within this world there would be those who are truly born-again converts, and those who just “look the part.”

In Matthew 13:24-30 and verses 36-43, we learn that there is indeed an adversary of all that is good and holy and he yearns to inflict harm on the kingdom of Christ. One means by which the wicked one does this is by sowing tares among the wheat.

In an agrarian society, one depending upon farming and agriculture for its livelihood, this parable would have been easily understood. For someone to sow tares (or weeds) among wheat was an act of agroterrorism. It was a blatant assault against the future wellbeing of a people. There were even laws forbidding such.

In the parable Christ shares, there was a man out sowing good seed in his field anxiously anticipating a bountiful harvest, but unbeknownst to him, an enemy also comes and sows tares in the field.

The Greek word that Christ uses for tares is the word “darnels.” A common but inedible weed that was prevalent in Palestine. These darnels were also called “bastard wheat” because they look so much like the real thing. In fact, it isn’t until they began to bloom, or until the head appears that they can be distinguished from actual wheat.

Later learning that the field has been sabotaged, the field workers ask the owner if they should try to separate the tares from the wheat. He replies by telling them no, instead allow both to continue to grow, and at harvest time the reapers will separate them. Then the bundles of weeds will be burned while the sheaves of wheat stored in the barn. 

Christ uses this earthly story to teach a heavenly lesson.

From Christ’s own interpretation we learn that God sovereignly allows tares to grow among His wheat. Unlike the land-owner, Jesus is aware of their presence. Yet He also realizes that, given time, their true nature will be made manifest. Time will bear out whether they are useful wheat or useless tares.

At the appointed time, when the harvest comes, He will send His holy angels to separate them and the tares will be cast into the lake of fire.

Readers, this world is made up of believers, unbelievers and make-believers. Which are you?

Yes, it is true that there are many hypocrites around and unfortunately some of them are sitting on church pews. And yes, they do damage to the cause of Christ. But don’t let the hypocrisy of some keep you from trusting in Christ.

Being too virtuous to sit beside hypocrites at church, the ballfield, a restaurant, or anywhere else will not garner you favor with God.

Ultimately, we will only give an account for ourselves.

Lewis Kiger
Memorial Heights Baptist Church

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Grieve Not the Spirit

Ephesians 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Christian, do you ever stop to think that your sin grieves the Spirit of God? The great crime of our times is being offensive. That's about the only thing our society will not tolerate, offending people. But what about offending God?  Are you more concerned about what offends you rather than what offends God? Our rebellion offends our friend, the Holy Spirit. It is a sad consequence of bad doctrine  when the Spirit is viewed as a power or a force and not the third person of the Trinity.

Grieving the Spirit is when we are not cultivating the fruit of love, peace, and joy, but are sowing the seeds of hatred and bitterness. We grieve the Spirit when we are unforgiving and uncompassionate. Rather than renewing our minds in the Word, we choose to continue to do what is right in our own eyes. Instead of being lead by the Holy Spirit, we follow the leadership of the corrupt old nature. Instead of speaking truth, you grieve the Spirit by speaking lies. You choose to  give place to the devil when we are the temple of God. You can't help if the Devil comes knocking on your door, but you don't have to let him in and make him comfortable. You grieve the Spirit speaking corrupt communication rather than edifying words of grace and  thanksgiving. You grieve the Spirit when you walk after the course of this world instead of walking in love, after Christ. When the you desire fellowship of the ungodly instead of fellowship with God. You offend the Spirit when you ignore Him before makings decisions by not reading the Bible to know the will of the Lord and to prove was is acceptable to him. When you covet what doesn’t belong to you instead of being content with what God has given;  or when you make idols out of things, or people, you have grieved God the Spirit.   

Christian, this grief of the Spirit presupposes a relationship. He is grieved because He loves you. From the moment of the new birth, when the Spirit of God gives life, the Blessed Spirit never leaves the child of God. The Spirit gives life, faith, strength, hope, endurance, peace, patience, joy, and keeps on giving our whole life. The Spirit who sovereignly came to you in resurrection power to quicken you from death to life; the Spirit that graciously gave you faith and drew you to Christ, loves you. You grieve the Spirit that desires your sanctification. You offend Him who gently leads you in righteousness. You grieve the Spirit that is longsuffering with you when you are disobedient and patient with you when you are stubborn. It would not occur to a Christian to blaspheme or defame, or offend the Father or the Son. When was the last time you thought that your sin offends the Spirit of God?

Monday, May 15, 2017

Preaching & Preachers: The Act of Preaching part 2

Update: I haven't forgotten about or given up on this project. I hit my head in a pretty nasty fall a few months ago and have developed post-concussion syndrome. Not to get into too much about it, but I'm having difficulty writing. I have sermons and writing assignments that I have to complete first and at times, takes me much longer than it usually does. I appreciate the patience, and sorry for the delay and if the posts don't come as regularly as I had hoped.

We continue our series of reading through M.D.Loyd-Jones classic Preaching and Preachers. This chapter presents 11 elements of preaching that Lloyd Jones considers vital to the act of preaching. We covered the first four last time.
  1. Action
  2. Authority 
  3. Freedom
  4. Receiving from the Congregation
  5. Seriousness
  6. Zeal
  7. Warmth
  8. Rapport
  9. Urgency
  10. Pathos
  11. Power
Seriousness - The preacher is dealing with the souls of men. Matters of eternal consequence. This is no laughing matter and preaching is no joke. You can be full of passion and be serious. Whatever the delivery style, the people must know that he knows, believes, and means what he says. Lloyd-Jones cautions that serious does not mean boring. 

Zeal -  "If [the preacher] has not been gripped nobody else will be." The preacher must be consumed with the truth and anxious to deliver it. He wants others to hear and believe what has consumed his heart in the study of Scripture. The preacher must be involved, he must be a witness of what he preaches, not just an advocate relating true things, being detached from the congregation and the truths presented. 

Warmth - The preacher needs to feel the truths that he speaks. He gives example of Paul and Whitefield who wept over souls. Very convicting section. 

Rapport - He doesn't give much thought to this section, but this is a very important truth. The truth doesn't change based upon who you are preaching to, but the way you preach it might change. Preach to those the Lord has given you, not those you WISH the Lord has given you. 

Urgency - We never know if this is the last message we will ever preach, or those listening to us will ever hear another message before heading off into eternity. Now is the time, today is the day. Be urgent in your preaching. 

Pathos - The whole point of preaching is to persuade people to follow and believe. Why are you preaching if you are not trying to persuade? Richard Cecil said "To love to preach is one thing, to love those to whom we preach is quite another". Pathos comes from a love of God's people and a love of God's truth. When these two are combined, you will have pathos. MLJ stresses that truth does not produce just intellectual insight, but there is emotion when understanding the truth. 

Power - There must be power or it isn't preaching because preaching declaring the living Word of God. You must have light and heat.

In this chapter, we get his famous definition of preaching. "What is preaching? Logic on fire! Eloquent reason!" 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The slanderer! The backbiter!

From Octavius Winslow's, "The Power of the Tongue"

Copied from Grace Gems, which is a great website.

The slanderer is not merely the idle gossip, he is more. He is the inventor, or, what is equally criminal, he is the propagator of calumny itself! Envious of a rival, resolved upon shading the luster, or bent upon the total extinguishment of a star circling in a wider and brighter orbit than his own, he either coins, or propagates a lie injurious to the character of some public servant of God, or the reputation and happiness of some private individual moving in the quiet and unobtrusive walks of usefulness.

Is there not death in this unhallowed use of the tongue? Is there not 'slaying power' in that false report, that base insinuation, that cruel surmise, that "Soft buzzing slander, that eats an honest name"? Most assuredly! The treacherous moth is not a more insidious and dangerous foe to the beautiful fabric it secretly and slowly destroys; nor the worm a more searching and wasting enemy of the costly vellum whose heart it pierces and devours, than he whose tongue is sharper than a sword, "Cutting honest throats by whispers."

It has been remarked that against slander there is no effectual armor of defense. Nothing is easier than to invent a slander, and nothing more difficult than to annihilate it. It generally selects for its victims the most good and worthy, as the birds peck at and destroy the best and loveliest fruit. I do not think that Tophet boasts of a darker fiend, or man can deplore a fouler foe than he who deals in it. Like the Indian, it dips its arrows in deadly poison; like Judas, it betrays the innocent with the kiss of villainy. Assassination is its employment, the guiltless its victims, ruin its sport, and the loud laugh of hell its reward!

It is a moral pestilence veiled in darkness; a thousand fall beside it and ten thousand at its right hand, so unmercifully and deeply wounded as often never to recover the anguish of heart it has occasioned.

The backbiter is the destroyer of the absent one. Of all evil speaking this is, perhaps, the lowest, the most cruel and dastardly. Taking advantage of the defenseless position of his victim, asserting behind his back what he would not dare to utter before his face; by dark insinuations, by mysterious innuendoes, by a tragic tone; the backbiter will give affected importance and authenticity to what all the while he knows to be unfounded in truth; and by this despicable means do serious and, perhaps, irreparable injury to the character and good name of an innocent, and, it may be, useful servant of the Lord; who, by his absence, is precluded from either defending his innocence or confounding his calumniator.

How sad and unenviable the character of the slanderer, the whisperer, the backbiter, the talebearer, the gossip! What are all these but domestic pests; propagators of a social moral plague?

"Save me, O Lord, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues." Psalm 120:2

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Parable of the Mustard Seed by Lewis Kiger

Massive palaces begin with one single block. Trees so enormous that your arms can’t stretch around, started as a tiny sapling. Vast cities with mammoth skyscrapers that touch the clouds and neighborhoods that extend for miles and populate millions, all began with a few people living out of tents or shacks.

Similarly, the glorious kingdom of God began out of relative obscurity. With a handful of mostly uneducated men and shunned women from the backwaters of the Roman Empire, came this fledgling little faction that God has used to turn the world upside down. 

This is the lesson of the Parable of the Mustard Seed. Christ would teach his disciples by use of this earthly illustration that, while they had the humblest of beginnings, His empire was going to grow far beyond what their natural eyes could see.

In Matthew 13:31-32 we read these words, “Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, the kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.”

Photo Credit: Scarletina
It is understood that the “mustard seed” was the smallest herb-bearing seed in all of Israel. While it is true that there are other seeds that are actually smaller than the mustard seed identified today, none of them would have been known or used by the Jewish people. So, it is folly to try and accuse the Lord of misspeaking. Besides, Christ was not giving a lesson on botany (although He could have), instead He was teaching about His kingdom.

The mustard seed is about the size of the tip of a ball point pen. If, like me, you owned and loved a BB gun as a kid, you know just how small a BB is. But, a mustard seed is about one quarter that size. 

Yet, when planted and fully grown, a mustard plant can become the largest bush in the garden. From a tiny little seed, this plant can become as high as 12-15 feet tall. There are reports from the Middle East of birds nesting in its tangled vines and even of men riding their horses underneath the branches of the Mustard plant.

When compared to all others, it is like a tree. Contrast it to wheat or barley which only grow a few feet high with a shingle shoot, and the mustard seed increases far beyond these others.

This is the simple message of the parable.

The kingdom will begin small and seem insignificant to the eyes of the world. But, it will not stay that way. Despite the hard-hearts of the unrepentant, in spite of false conversions, and regardless of Satanic opposition; God’s kingdom is going to flourish.

The Gracious Teacher tells His young disciples not to lose heart. While they may seem weak and feeble, their Spirit-empowered work is going to grow and become great. Jesus tells them, do not judge my kingdom by the size of the seed, but rather envision what it can become. That little mustard seed may seem fragile and frail, but it has huge potential.

This should continue to encourage us in His kingdom work today. We are all prone to judge only by what our eyes can see, when we ought rather to walk by faith, and not by sight. Like the early church, we may feel like nothing of significance is being accomplished. We may think that God is not working. Yet this parable reminds us that God’s sovereign design remains.

The Kingdom of God has extended to the four corners of this globe. It has reached farther and grown greater than anyone could have ever imagined. It has reached into the hearts of an innumerable host and turned their lives around. Even some of those who have sought to destroy it have heard the Gospel and found an eternal home in the branches of Christ’s Kingdom. Christ’s spiritual reign has spread to every tongue, tribe and nation. It continues to grow today.

Dear reader, the only question that remains, is whether you are a part of this Kingdom? Have you, by faith trusted in the finished work of Christ and become a part of this growing glorious kingdom? I pray you have.

Pastor Lewis Kiger
Memorial Heights Baptist Church

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Prince of Peace

 Everywhere this man went, trouble followed him. He walked to the House of God to worship and often when he left, the parishioners were so mad they couldn’t see straight. He would enter a peaceful town, and walk out of a rioting town. He would go to a festival where everyone is having a good time; by the time he finished talking he succeeded in ruining everyone’s fun. Not only did he cause problems in the house of God and in the public square, but he caused problems in people’s families and personal lives. His friends were the same way. They were so notorious that townships banned them from their cities. They incited several riots and got themselves arrested for disturbing the peace. This man and his compatriots would purposefully agitate people, especially people in authority. If you had to give this man a title, or a nickname, what would you call him? Isaiah called him the Prince of Peace.  What!?! Peace? That's the last thing you would call a man who brings arguments, fights, riots, and general unrest; but that is exactly who Jesus is.  Jesus is the man that brought trouble.

Stoning of St. Stephen by Rembrandt
How do we square that circle? It depends on what we mean by peace. There is a peace that is just the absence of outward conflict. It’s more like a truce than peace. You may dislike your neighbor, but are polite and gracious to “keep the peace” or, in other words, prevent a fight. True peace gets to the root of the problem rather than preventing the symptoms. Peace is the absence of strife and sin. Why is there war and fighting and conflict? It is because of sin. When there is a lack of peace, whether it be in the home, in the workplace, in the government, or in the battlefield, you can be sure there is sin. The only way to broker peace, a true peace, is to get rid of the point of contention. The sin must be dealt with. When Jesus came, so did conflict. Why? Because he brought truth and shined the light of righteousness on the darkness of sin and the darkness went to war against the light. But as the Prince of Peace, Jesus came not to be a nice guy, but to deal with the sin problem. A nice guy would have come and not caused any trouble. He would have likely left town and been hailed a wonderful person, a nice man, very polite. The Prince of Peace was not a nice guy. Jesus did not come to make you feel good, but to save. We are at war with God in our hearts, and the only way to have peace with God is if the Prince of Peace deals with and settles the sin issue, once and for all. The Prince of Peace could only bring peace by disrupting and disturbing those souls settled in their sins so they would repent, turn to Christ and have peace.

Isaiah 9:6-7  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 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 perform this.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Or Fried Chicken

"Years ago I heard the story of an old preacher who told a group of younger preachers to remember that they would die. “They are going to put you in a box,” he said, “and put the box in the ground, and throw dirt on your face, and then go back to the church and eat potato salad.”

The Conviction to Lead by Al Mohler

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Parable of the Sower by Lewis Kiger

One major problem with the many proposed methods of church growth so prevalent among Evangelicalism today, is that it seeks to make the Word of God more palatable to the carnal tastes of men. However, this is a vain effort of the human mind to use fleshly means to reach the spiritually dead. 1 Corinthians 2:14 states, “The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

If “church-growth gurus” would study the Parable of the Sower, they would quickly learn the problem is not with the seed, it is with the soil. In other words, there is nothing wrong with the Word, nor can it be genetically altered to appease lost sinners. The heart of the issue is an issue of the heart.  
This is one of the rare parables that is found in all three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8.) Its repetition among the inspired writers confirms its importance.

In one of His very first parables, Christ compares those who share the Gospel to a sower out sowing seed in his field. The Master Teacher then goes on to say that the seed is the Word and that the soil represents the heart or soul of the individual. Other significant details shared in the parable are noteworthy, yet I will caution my reader not to try and make too much of every character mentioned and miss the basic lesson that Christ is teaching. It is tempting to allegorize the parables (and many do) and overlook the main point.

Christ is using this earthly story to teach a heavenly lesson. He is preparing His disciples for the
The Sower by James Tissot
difficult and often disappointing ministry that lay before them. To a group of men who mistakenly thought the arrival of the King meant the immediate arrival of the Messianic kingdom, Christ would clarify that their message is not going to be as popular as they might expect.

They will go out and sow the seed. Some of it will fall on the beaten path as hard as concrete. Before that seed has any hope of rooting, the birds of the air come and snatch it away. Others will seemingly receive the seed and sprout up quickly, but when the sun rises and the heat of the day bears down, the shoot will fade away not having enough earth to nourish it. Further yet, several will appear to have life and be growing, but the weeds and thorns will choke out the seed, and it will become barren. Lest His fledgling evangelists lose hope, Christ encourages them by saying, “But some of the seed fell on good ground. And it sprang up, increased and yielded fruit. Some thirty-fold, some sixty-fold, some a hundred-fold.”

This was Christ’s illustration, and behind closed doors He gave its interpretation to the Apostles.

Jesus explains some will reject the message instantly. That is just a fact of life. Others may seem to be committed converts, but when trials or troubles come, they quickly turn away showing they were not true believers. There are also those, who seem to have spiritual life, but when they must choose between serving God and serving this world it becomes evident they too were just make-believers. BUT, (and thank God for it) there are some who will hear the Gospel message. The seed will fall on good ground and they will become faithful and productive Christians. Even though not all will yield the same harvest, or are not as faithful as another, still the continued crop of fruit bears evidence that they are true believers.

The lesson our Lord would have us learn, is this; even though not all will hear, some will. So, don’t stop sowing the seed! We don’t need “bait-and-switch Gospel gimmicks,” we just need to sow the seed. There are some who God the Holy Spirit will prepare their hearts to receive the Word and we need to be faithful to sow the seed that He may give the increase.

Dear reader, has the Word of God taken root within you? Has your faith stood the test of trials and temptations? Do you continue to bear fruit for the glory of your Maker? If not, I pray that the Holy Spirit would break-up the barren ground of your heart, so that you are able to receive the glorious Good News that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.

Pastor Lewis Kiger
Memorial Heights Baptist Church

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Churches That Leave Their First Love

In Revelation 2:1-7, Jesus sends a message to the church in the city of Ephesus. It is amazing to consider the fall of Ephesus in light of all they were doing right. This church had a lot going for it, they were doing many good works in the name of our Lord Jesus. From the outside, they looked like the model church, but Jesus, the Great Physician, diagnosed a heart problem. They had left their first love. Ephesus was a doctrinally strong church, they didn't tolerate false doctrine, they were a hard working church, they were a sanctified church, and they were a bold and earnestly contending church.  But as Jesus said "nevertheless I have somewhat against thee". Jesus tells them they left their first love.

The first love is our love for God. We are to love God with our whole being. This doctrinally sound group's love had grown cold. A love of truth without a love for “the Truth” is not pleasing unto God. They had a love for the church without a fiery love for the Head of the church. They held to doctrine, but it had become simply a teaching to them. If Jesus is not the primary love and motivating factor in the church, the church has left its beloved and lost its focus. They left Him in their heart, but not in their actions. They were doing the right things and preaching true things, and maybe even for the right reason. But their hearts had grown cold to the person of Jesus. We should love the Church because Christ loves it, and not for any other reason.  We can’t love the work more than the one we are working for.

How can we avoid such an error? Fellowship and communion with the one you love. If you want to grow in your love of Jesus, you need to meet with Him. You need to commune with Jesus in prayer. You need to listen to Jesus speaking to you in His word. You need to walk with Jesus in your life. You need to obey Jesus as your Lord.  When you read your Bible, read it to hear your Lord. When you go to church, prepare your heart before you get there. Pray for the preacher, pray for yourself that you'll be able to receive the message. When you get to church, come expecting to receive a blessing. Sing out unto the Lord, thinking about the lyrics of the hymns. Bring your Bible to church and read along, listen intently, and apply the truth to your heart. When you go back home, think about the service and what you heard. The cares of the world  can choke out our first love. You can backslide by falling into open sin, but you can also backslide sitting in the pew every Sunday, or even from behind the pulpit, if you are simply going through the motions without a love of Jesus Christ. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Act of Preaching

We continue our series of reading through M.D.Loyd-Jones classic Preaching and Preachers. And we are now on Chapter 5, part 1. By the way, you still have time to pick up a copy and join me.

This chapter presents 11 elements of preaching that Lloyd Jones considers vital to the act of preaching.
  1. Action
  2. Authority 
  3. Freedom
  4. Receiving from the Congregation
  5. Seriousness
  6. Zeal
  7. Warmth
  8. Rapport
  9. Urgency
  10. Pathos
  11. Power
Action - this involves the whole person. Preaching is more than "giving a talk" but is the truth delivered through the personality of the whole man.

Authority. "The preacher should never be apologetic, he should never give the impression that he is speaking by their leave as it were; he should not be tentatively putting forward certain suggestions and ideas...He is a man, who is there to declare; he is a man under commission and under authority." Note that when a person tries to undercut the preacher, they first attack this very point by attacking the man they are trying to undercut the authority of his words. 

Freedom. Lloyd-Jones is speaking of pulpit freedom. He mentions what I think many have experienced, when fresh thoughts and a liberty of mind comes in the preaching act and the man feels particularly blessed. Applications of truth come to mind that never crossed our minds in the study. "Preaching should be always under the Spirit - His power and control..." Sometimes the best things I say when preaching come to my mind as I am preaching and that is the Spirit's work. You have to be free to ditch the outline, if need be. 

Next time, we'll consider some of the other points.

Friday, April 28, 2017

A Parable, a Prophet, and a King by Lewis Kiger

We were watching a movie not too long ago and unbeknown to us, it was one of those movies that had a hidden secret that isn’t revealed until the very end. As the surprising dramatic finale revealed itself, it left us sitting there wondering, how did we miss this important piece the whole time? Really, how could we have watched this entire movie and not seen this coming?

One of the earliest parables found in the Bible has a similar conclusion that provoked a similar reaction.

In 2 Samuel 12:1-7, Nathan (God’s prophet) appears before King David and shares a story with him. It is an infuriating account of a wealthy man, who had unexpected dinner guests arrive at his home. But instead of choosing one of the many sheep from his numerous herds to feed his visitors, this rich man selfishly slips over to a neighbor’s home; and snatches away his one and only little lamb to have it slaughtered and prepared for the banquet.

Upon hearing this story, King David became furious. His anger was triggered, and in fiery indignation he rises from the throne and pronounces that the man who has done such a thing, will restore four-fold what he has taken, and then be put to death. The king is livid, to say the least. David finds it outrageous that such an atrocious act would be done in his kingdom.

It is just at this instant, that the Biblical plot thickens…for at that exact moment; Nathan takes his prophetic finger and points it at the chest of the enraged king and with holy boldness declares to him, you are the man that has done this thing.

An uncomfortable silence falls over the throne room, as the royal monarch processes Nathan’s indictment.

As many of my readers are aware, the king had recently committed adultery with Bathsheba the wife of Uriah.

While out walking on the palace rooftop one night, David had observed this attractive young lady bathing, and rather than turning away; David allowed lust to give birth to sin in his heart and he sent for her and had sexual relations with Bathsheba.

The erring king then recalled her husband from battle and commanded him to go home and “spend time with his wife” to try and cover his crime. However Uriah, the faithful soldier, refused to engage in the privileges of marriage while his brethren were sleeping in tents on that battlefield. And in spite of several attempts, the king could not persuade him to spend intimate time with his wife, so in another moment of selfish weakness; David orders Uriah back to war, and commands his generals to position him in the bloodiest battle and then withdraw from him. Uriah is quickly killed.

Nathan Rebukes David by James Tissot
While these awful events were unknown to the majority of the people in Israel, they were not unknown to God.

The shepherd king who is identified as a “man after God’s own heart” has fallen. Though he had several wives and sundry concubines, yet he added further to these sins, by stealing away the only wife of a godly man.

Like a solid right hook out-of-nowhere, Nathan’s parable hit the king right between the eyes. David, who grew up tending his father’s flock was rocked to the core by this simple story.

With one fell swoop, the king went from righteous indignation to guilty brokenness.

It was this parable that God used to convict the heart of the stumbling king. It was this relatable illustration that Nathan shared that led David to repent of his sins, and to ask God for forgiveness.

Readers, this is the purpose of parables in the Bible. Not to reveal some deep theological doctrines and not to build prophetic positions on. But to relate clear and simple truths that provoke thought and action. Jesus often employed parables for just these reasons. To provoke thought and change.

King David must have felt like we felt, when we reached the startling climax of that movie…shocked and surprised. Like us, he never saw it coming.

But doubtlessly, he was thankful that a man of God had the courage to confront him in his sin and to encourage him to find forgiveness from the God of all grace.

Pastor Lewis Kiger
Memorial Heights Baptist Church

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Dragon's War

Revelation 12 paints the picture of the epic story of redemption. The story begins with a woman, clothed with the sun, standing above the moon wearing a crown of 12 stars.  She is nine months pregnant and has gone into labor. In this vulnerable position we see slithering toward her, a red, seven-headed dragon. This wicked beast is on the prowl, hunting her child. With a hideous grin, smiling through his vicious fangs, he waits to destroy her child. However, we read that the son is born, ascends to Heaven and the women escapes. The dragon missed his shot.

William Blake
The woman is the nation of Israel. The son, is the child of Isaiah 7-9; Immanuel, the Lord Jesus Christ. As God’s people looked and longed for the Messiah to come, so had the dragon; also known as Satan. About 4,000 years’ prior, the dragon rebelled against the Lord God and fell from Heaven like lighting. On Earth, God had created Adam and Eve and placed them in a perfect paradise. Enter the dragon, who spins a deceptive lie about God. They foolishly chose to listen to him, and rebelled against their creator and plummeted humanity into corruption. The dragon had won, despoiled paradise and usurped the role as ruler of the world. In the midst of this sad tale of destruction, God made a promise to Eve. Through the seed of a woman, a child would be born who would grow up and crush the head of the serpent. The dragon's day is coming. For generations, in a preemptive strike, the dragon tried  and failed to destroy the woman before the son was born, but he had failed. So when this promised  child was born, the dragon circled the woman ready to destroy the Son who came to destroy him.

Christ Jesus was born and lived and Satan did his level best to destroy the Son. The Son was hanging on a cross outside of Jerusalem, and the dragon seemed to have prevailed. The Son was dead and laid in a tomb. But as God said in the garden, the crushing of the serpent’s head would bruise the Son's heel. The defeat of the dragon came by the death of the Son, but the Son did not stay in the tomb.  He conquered the dragon, thwarted his plan. Jesus rose from the dead, leading captivity captive and ascended to heaven giving gifts unto men. Even though the dragon was defeated, he is still at large. Since he missed his opportunity to defeat the Son, he turns his anger to defeat the kingdom of the Son. He turned to finally devour the woman, but she is gone, hidden in the wilderness. He turns his wrathful eye upon the Son's Bride. Since that time, the dragon has been at war with her. The dragon came and murdered king Adam and his bride, and stole the kingdom. Our champion, the Lord and King Jesus, will come again, rescue His bride and then finally slay the dragon, once and for all.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Let the Elders Rule Tuesday with Timothy # 66

1 Timothy 5:17-18  Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.  For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.

This passage is a particular pickle for some of our Baptist brethren and, as I heard one preacher say, "this goes for the sistern, too". The Elders rule. What are we going to do with that?

Oversight of the elder was not a novel idea that Paul is proposing here. In fact, Paul says this in passing. The presupposition here was that the elders ruled, and here is how you treat them. Had this been a new idea in the church, Paul would have had to explain what this meant. We could do a Greek study, but, as is almost always the case, the text means the same thing in Greek as it does in English.  As a pastor admonishes those under his authority, and as a father rules his house, and as a man is the steward of his life and superintends his good works, so the pastor leads the church (1 Thes. 5:12; 1 Tim 3:4-5, 12; Titus 3:8, 14).  

If the first thought that comes into your mind is "church authority!" you may be a little imbalanced. If your first instinct is to kick against the pricks of authority and redefine and explain away Scripture when you find it offensive, then you need to ask if you are under the authority of God's Word? After the United States had won her Independence from Great Britain, some of the citizens so bristled at anything that looked like a monarchy, they objected good ideas that were in their favor. I think independent Baptists can get like that. Any mention of authority, oversight, and rule in the church and there is a visceral reaction and charges of dictatorship and popery fill the air. I'm wholeheartedly a congregationalist in polity and believe in church authority.  But it is clear that there is leadership in the congregation, there has to be, and if it isn't the pastor, then it is someone else. Of course there are bad pastors, just as there are bad church members. There are extreme cases where the man takes the office and imagines himself a king of his own kingdom, and there are cases where the pastor realizes he has taken a church which is someone else's kingdom. But let's be careful not to be imbalanced as a reaction against one particular evil. The body of Christ serves her Head, the Lord Jesus. We are all in the body under the kingship of Christ. Different members with different jobs, but all together as one. When we loose site of that, then all is lost.
Ephesians 4:1-3  I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;  Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
The office of pastor is a position of authority, under authority. The pastor serves a particular role in the body of the church, defined as outlined in the Scripture. The reason the qualifications of the bishop focused on his character is because you are electing a man to lead you and watch over your soul and character matters. The church disciplines, the church receives members, the church selects elders. The authority of discipline is with the church, so the pastor can rebuke and exhort, but the pastor cannot make anyone do anything. The shrewd politician understands this and takes advantage of it, but the godly see that a pastor is for their spiritual good. The true and blessed polity of God's churches depend on love, trust, and humility on all sides. The church selects its own elders who are qualified to lead and then they must voluntarily submit themselves to their leadership and oversight. If you can't trust your pastor to have oversight, why is he your pastor? Seriously, why? The book of Hebrews says that the pastor has to give an account, so that means that the church has called him to leadership and has recognized him as the leader (Heb 13: 17; cf. 13: 7).  The gentiles rule over others for their own gain, but Jesus disciples are to love and give sacrificially for the least of God's people. The servants and ministers of Christ follow their Lord and give themselves and give their life to live to bless and serve others. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Form of the Sermon. part 2

We have come to the second half of chapter 4 in our reading of Martyn Lloyd-Jones book Preaching and Preachers concerning the form of the sermon. This is an excellent section on preparing an outline. While there is more to preaching than form, and it can be a danger to become hardened  against truth if it doesn't fall into even the preferred form, the fact is "when truth is presented in this particular way it is more easily assimilated by the people, it is easier for them to take it in, to remember it, to understand it, and to benefit from it." The form Lloyd-Jones is found by the following steps:

  1. Exposition of the text
  2. Finding the doctrine in the text
  3. Application of the text to the hearers.
When you read a passage, you are not doing and information dump. You are not saying all the true things you can think the passage is saying. That is not a sermon. A sermon should have a theme. When you take a passage of Scripture, and expound it and then preach it, that sermon should have a point. You may say "my sermons usually have three points". Here is the key. Here is the difficulty and where most go off the rails. The "points" in a message should all be developing the main point of the message.

The conclusion of a sermon is not tacking the gospel on at the end. Rather the whole sermon should be working towards the conclusion. Read a passage of Scripture and find the meaning of the text. Next you examine it for the doctrine it is teaching us. Expound the text, get the meaning you are going to preach, have one doctrine that comes from the text, and seek to apply it. That is how you get your proposition.

Think of the proposition as being able to tell someone what your sermon was about in a text message. If it takes you 7 text messages to explain what your sermon was about, you probably didn't have a clear proposition. Work on that, think about the one thing you sermon is about. This is why some topical sermons are hard to follow. For example, they take a topic on marriage. Then there are three points about marriage from three different passages of Scripture. Each point is true and each of the points are all about marriage, but they are not related to each other in a logical flow of thought. Point one doesn't logically flow to point two and points one and two do not build to get us to point number three.

Here is an example of what NOT to do. I happened to be looking through some of my old notes recently and saw a sermon I entitled "We Must Preach Jesus" from Acts 4:14-23. The proposition was that the people of God can do nothing else but preach Jesus because we have no other message. My points were:
  1. Foolish Judgment 
  2. Fiery Zeal
  3. Fundamental Report
I had three points, and they were even alliterated! But I dropped the ball because my third point, though true, didn't fit with proposition of my message. I had opposition to the gospel followed by a zeal for the gospel preaching, leading to the example of the apostle serving through the local church. I hold to the truth of what I said, but it didn't fit together. My sermon would have benefited from the Sesame Street game, "One of these things is not like the other." The message would have been better served to only have the first two points and then a completely separate message for the report.

In summary, your message needs to have one main proposition and that one point needs to be derived from the passage you are preaching. The proposition is what you want people to do or believe based upon the exposition of God's Word. Each of your points need to advance your proposition. If you point doesn't advance the proposition, then you need to reconsider the proposition or reconsider your point. We might think of the sermon as a table, the proposition as the table top and each of your points being the legs.

Just an aside. I have found the easiest way to do this is when I go from point one to point two, write a one sentence summary of point one, restate my proposition, and then a one sentence summary of how that leads us to point two. Writing those three sentences can be difficult, but it will be a world of help to at least clarify your thought. There are tons of ways to do this. In Romans 9, Paul teaches a line of thought and then anticipates an objection to his first point, asks the question, and that leads him to his next thought. By preaching the whole chapter, you could use Paul's questions as your transition statements and the next line of thought as your points.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Resurrection Sunday

Why do you go to church on Sunday? Why not Saturday night or Tuesday afternoon? For several thousand years, the people of God set Saturday set apart for worship. But almost 2,000 years ago, an abrupt shift happened in the worship of God. A group of dejected disciples who had lamented the loss of their leader; disappointed apostles, mourning their missing Messiah were surprised with news that seemed too good to be true. The Lord rose from the dead (Luke 24:1-7). Early one Sunday morning in Jerusalem so many centuries ago, a couple women found the tomb of my Lord empty then found the Lord Jesus alive. From that Sunday, until this past Sunday and every one in between, Christians have assembled together in the name of Christ to worship the risen Lord (Mark 16:9, John 20:19; 20:26 Acts 20:7, I Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10). There has not been a Sunday since that blessed day in which the people of God have not met to worship. Jesus was crucified, laid in a tomb, and after three days and three nights, rose from the dead, verified and witnessed by multitudes (1 Cor. 15:4-8). Christ died for our sins, rose for our justification and because Jesus rose from the dead, you have hope of eternal life. The victorious Savior, laid down his life, and by his omnipotent power, took it up again. Jesus. Defeated. Death.

What does a Van Gogh painting of rabbits in a field
have to do with the resurrection?
Good question.
I love celebrating the resurrection. And praise God, He gives you 52 days a year to publicly rejoice in the resurrection of Christ. That is why the doors are open to the house of God every Sunday morning. Each Sunday is a bold declaration that Jesus rose from the dead. We shouldn’t have one day out of the year we set apart in commemoration of the resurrection because EVERY Sunday is resurrection Sunday. If your only thought of Christ and his resurrection comes once a year, and that with marsh-mellowly candies and mystical, egg laying bunny rabbits, you have a serious spiritual problem. The Bible doesn’t say anything about appointing  just one day out of the year to remember Jesus rose from the dead.  When Jesus rose from the dead, the disciples rejoiced in that fact together, every Sunday. We are told not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together on the Lord's day, and when we do, even if it is two or three who are gathered together, Christ is in the midst of that assembly.

If you love the Lord Jesus Christ, you will want to gather and worship Him. The Lord's day is the day of worship, the day of rest, the testimony of the resurrection, the declaration that you follow the risen Christ and that he is your Lord. Don't rob yourself of the ordinary means God uses to bless his people through Sunday worship. Don't let your children think that one Lord's day is more important than the others. I invite you to worship the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This Sunday and every Sunday after.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A good preface

This is from the preface of William Perkins book on preaching "The Art of Phrophecying". A winesome introduction as well as a preemptive strike against petty criticism. Good advice for reading anything, for that matter.

"If you are persuaded of this style of preaching, walk on with me; if you have some doubts, inquire with me; if you begin to see points at which you have wandered, come back on to the right path with me; if you see that I have strayed, call me back to the road you are on. Your appreciation of me will become disapproval soon enough if you do not like godly and moderate-minded men ! But if anyone has petty complaints about these pages—few as they are— my conscience is a strong enough defence against all criticism, because my only concern has been to serve the church of God. So I commit you to him, and this little book on the art of prophesying to you as well as to him."

Monday, April 17, 2017

You Must Be Born Again

No Preaching & Preachers this week, Lord willing, I'll post next week. I preached at conference for the Glade Creek Missionary Baptist Church this weekend, so I fell behind. The theme of the conference was on salvation and I preached on You Must Be Born Again.

If you are interested, here is the sermon. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Excuses, excuses. Proverbs 26:13

"The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets." - Proverbs 26:13 
Meet the slothful man. He is the idle and shiftless ne'er do well, puttering around working hard at keeping from having to work. With much fortitude, Mr. Sloth rolls out of bed because he has a lot of work he has to take care of today. Sitting down to breakfast, his heart is full of determination as his belly is filling with eggs; he's going to get stuff done. Walking out the door, he kisses his poor, longsuffering wife on the head and tells her that he's off to take care of business. On the porch, he takes a deep breath and looks up at the sun beating down on him. "Sure is hot, for 9 in the morning." No matter, better get to it. He gets to the end of the lane, and spots something off in the distance. "It's moving pretty slow, and whatever it is, it looks big from here." The shape, though he can't be sure from this distance, almost looks like –wait, is that…a lion?

His wife is doing the morning dishes when the door busts open and her husband wildly declares "There is a lion in the way; a lion in the streets! That vicious beast could have ate me alive!" He sits down in his favorite chair in the living room to recover and orders from his beloved a tall cool drink. "That was close. I could have died! I just wish I would have been able to get to work. Maybe tomorrow."
    Yawning Man (disputed attribution)
    Pieter Bruegel the Elder

If he were a character on a television show, he'd be the loveable lazybones. But in real life, it isn't very funny. Mr. Slothful isn't funny to his wife. It isn't very funny to his kids. It isn't very funny for those people who are depending on him to live up to his God given responsibilities as a man, to put his hand to his work. Was there a lion in the street? Who knows. Maybe, maybe not. If there wasn't a lion, there very well could have been one, in this man's mind, and what, do you want him to die?!? The point here is it was an excuse. And so what if there was a lion? He goes back to bed instead of, I don't know, taking care of the lion in the way! If there was a danger, there is a danger to everyone else in the community. I've lived long enough to know that if there were free tickets to the Super Bowl on the other side of that lion, he would have braved the danger. Whether working for someone else (Ephesians 4:28), or working on things around the house, or working for the Lord, be diligent in your calling. Proverbs 15:19  The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain.