Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Biscuits and Gravy


You can find my latest piece discussing a few meditations on biscuits and gravy HERE at Grace and Peace.

There are several more there. Thankful for all those who read the blog here. If you want to subscribe to the FREE substack, you can do so on the link. 

Friday, January 6, 2023

Traveling Thoughts


I wrote about my trip to the Bible conference in Silsbee, TX HERE

Check it out if you are interested, and subscribe to get them delivered straight to your inbox. 

Monday, October 24, 2022

Dad Jokes and Hermeneutics

"Dad, I'm thirsty!" "Hi Thirsty, I'm Dad." I'm not sure why men love to tell these silly jokes, but the dad joke is a universal genre of humor, with the universal reaction of sighs and eye-rolls. Not to break it down too much (as if it needs it) but the joke's premise is to take the literal meaning of the words and draw the wrong inferences from them. "Dad, I need $20 for a haircut." And the joke follows, "For $20, I'd get all of them cut, not just one." The child can't say, "I didn't say that," but they have to say, "that's not what I meant."

I saw a book titled Get You Unto the Great Men, that urges people to follow in the steps of the spiritual giants of the past and walk in the ways of the "great men," as stated in Jeremiah 5:5. The author wants you to have the right heroes, so get to the great men. Jeremiah said, "I will get me unto the great men…" but is that what he meant? Is Jeremiah telling you to go to the great preachers of the past and follow them? What if we could travel back in time and ask? "Hey Jeremiah, I was reading where you said we ought to go to the great men and follow their example, pretty good stuff. That'll preach!" Jeremiah might say, "First of all, I never said that. Secondly, I said that I would go to the great men (not you), and by great, I didn't mean wonderful but powerful, the leaders of the people. Still, I wasn't following their examples and certainly don't want you to. I was talking about God's judgment and Jerusalem's capture and destruction. Judah was evil, from the poor men to the great men. No one knew God's word, and they were foolish, even the "great men" who should have known better. Who told you that I was telling you to follow those guys?" You might clear your throat, "I, uh, read it in a book, and a preacher wrote that's what you said." Jeremiah might get a little upset and say, "That was part of what I said, but that's the opposite of what I meant. If you read the whole sermon, not just half a sentence, you'd see that easy enough. That's just a lie, putting words in my mouth, and actually part of what I was driving at here in Jerusalem."

The Bible is a unique book. No other book is God-breathed, and inspired or one that has its power. But it is a book, and that's how God chose to communicate to His people, in the simple and ordinary use of language. That doesn't mean the meaning is always easy to find, but we can’t know how to apply it if we don’t know what it means. The example above might have a Biblical principle (Proverbs 13:20), but drawing implications from a misunderstanding could be disastrous.

Step one is understanding the author's meaning when he said it. That's not the last step, but you shouldn't go a step forward unless you know what the author meant. Knowing what the words mean isn't understanding the meaning of the message. You can't consider the implications nor give an application from a text you outright misunderstand from the start. If I overhear my doctor talking about "free radicals," I shouldn't call the police to report that my doctor is trying to break a band of revolutionaries out of prison. I understood the words but didn't understand the meaning, so I made the wrong implications and applications.

I think it would be a reasonable thought to ask if Jeremiah were here, and I asked him if that's what he meant, would he agree with my assessment? You wouldn't want him to give you the dad joke eye-roll with your interpretation.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Don't Quit

Every pastor, at some point or another, has thought about quitting and doing something else besides pastoral ministry. Several years ago, I was going through a rough time, and I was depressed, discouraged, and on the verge of quitting the ministry. A friend invited me to a conference where Alistair Begg was preaching. Alistair is a fairly famous preacher out of Cleveland, OH. I had listened to Alistair on the radio for years and was always blessed by hearing that Scottish accent bring the Word. But, to attend the conference, you had to buy a ticket, which I couldn't afford. The meeting was for pastors, and during the day, there were continuing education preaching workshops.

With the ticket came a bundle of books worth more than the cost, but still, I couldn't afford it. I emailed the church, told them my situation, and asked if I could come and sit in the back and if there weren't enough seats, I'd stand. I got a quick reply that they would be happy if I came and heard the preaching. It was the largest church building I'd ever been in. The platform where the pulpit sat and the musicians played could probably have held 100 people. Alistair preached, and it was a true blessing. He preached on the pastoral ministry from I Timothy. I can tell you the text, but I can't remember much of what he said. But the Word worked in my heart that night, and it was just what I needed to help me persevere. I don't think I'd be a pastor today if I hadn't attended that night.

One of the men I came with left before the service started and returned with a stack of books. He asked someone if I could have the books that came with the ticket, and they were happy to give them to me as a gift. I haven't mentioned that it was a historic African American church, and the church's worship service wasn't really what I was used to. I was sitting next to two pastors who were as blessed by the preaching as I was. At the end of the service, we were encouraged to take the hand of the person sitting next to you as we sang and prayed. I'm not a little man, and neither was the African American man beside me. And we both chuckled, grabbed hands, and prayed to our Lord and Saviour as brothers in Christ.

At this low point, the people who made the most significant impact on me that night weren't the famous guys but the ordinary men I fellowshipped with. Seeing other fellow laborers, who shared the same burden as me, who were going back to problems, just like me, and who were looking to Christ for grace in times of need, just like me, lifted me out of the mire. It was the ordinary pastors that don't have any idea what I was dealing with, but their kind, gracious words helped and encouraged me. Pastors, you may forget how valuable your work is when life has you down. You don't know how many people out there are pressing on because of a sermon you preached that you felt like it was the worst ever preached. Keep going. You aren't alone. The Lord is with you and will sustain you. Don't forget, the Lord knows your frame. He died for sinners, but he also died for your failures, pastor. In glory, he won't meet his blood-bought child in Heaven with a scowl on his face. Think of the blessed Lord Jesus and what He did for you, and be thankful to be able to serve Him in His kingdom in even the smallest way. 

1 Timothy 6:11-16  But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Pray for your pastor

Steven J. Lawson wrote a book called Famine in the Land: A Passionate Call for Expository Preaching, in which he expresses his concern that, despite the number of churches in the land, sermons preached in churches and online, many of God's sheep are starving for the Word of God. He fears that the Bible is read but not preached and referenced but not expounded. The Bible, in many pulpits, is nothing more than a book of mottos that spark an idea about a topic or used to confirm a preconceived notion. Week by week, some people go to church to hear God's Word but hear everything but.

There are many pitfalls a man can encounter in his ministry. He can begin to talk about what interests him for a while and then slap a Bible verse on it and call it a day. He can grab a verse, wing it, and end up talking about what he saw on the news. Or, he goes the other direction, becomes fascinated by some new idea, and begins to leave the ground of Biblical orthodoxy. Not to mention the temptations and pitfalls that are around us daily. I encourage you to pray for God's men who faithfully labor in Word.

October is pastor appreciation month, so I'm told. I can tell you one thing your pastor will appreciate is your prayers for him. Pray that he would love the Bible, never grow bored of it, nor tire of its study. Pray that God would protect your pastor from infatuation with philosophy and the desire and lure for something new. That he would be content with what God has revealed in Scripture rather than looking to unlock mysteries that no man can know. Pray that God would grant your pastor the desire to teach the truth and make it plain, not forsaking the clear teaching of Scripture to enter the fog of intellectual sophistry. Ask that God would continue to teach your pastor and grant him the humility to learn, but also strengthen your pastor with the conviction to stand firm in the truth of Christ. Pray that your pastor would not let friendships, money, worldly possessions, or reputation keep him from declaring the truth of the Word and the courage to stand alone if need be (Ephesians 6:18-20). Pray that he would have the courage to stand against wicked men and that God would protect him when he does (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2). Ask God to bless and refresh your pastor's labors and his soul (Romans 15:30-32).

Is there a famine of preaching? Maybe so. But I know a lot of good, faithful, godly preachers across the country who care about truth and are careful to preach what the text says, who believe God's Word is inspired, inerrant, and infallible, and want the people in the pew to know what God says in that book. Do you have one of those pastors? Then thank the Lord for him, and pray for him.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Spot the Wise

Who are the wise and knowledgeable men in West Virginia? If so, where would we look for them, and how would we know when we found them? Many brilliant men and women are in West Virginia, so let's narrow the search. You may visit a doctor's office and see many diplomas on the wall. The doctor comes in and explains your symptoms and tells you that he is going to have to remove your appendix. He tells you not to worry, though, because the appendix is a hangover from evolution, a vestigial organ that causes us problems. This happened to me once. When the doctor said it, I wanted another doctor. He had knowledge, but no wisdom. Sidenote: in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, University of Duke scientists made the claim that there is, in fact, a purpose to the appendix, and Darwin was wrong about it, and it's time to update the textbooks. The doctor passed college and medical school, but he learned based on a faulty premise and incomplete data. Never stop learning!

What if I decided that I was going to put all of West Virginia's power lines underground, so the electricity wouldn't go off every time there was a slight westerly breeze (hey, it's my illustration)? Another side note: I lived in North Carolina for five years, went through the remnants of one hurricane, a tornado that touched down a few miles away, and two ice storms, and our electricity only went out twice because the power lines were underground. But the flat lands in eastern North Carolina are different from the hills and mountains in West Virginia, so I put bids out to some engineers to help work out the problems I'm going to have to overcome. One man rises above the others with his ingenious scheme to achieve the impossible and do it quickly. He'll require 1 billion dollars, but he can do it. During the negotiations, I discovered he had lied to me several times and sabotaged other engineers in their presentations. I have a brilliant man, but not a wise man. Do I want to trust my fortune and goal to a brilliant man, but also an immoral man?

James 5:13 says, "Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom." James tells us one way we can determine if a person has good knowledge and wisdom when talking about things that matter. Look at their life. When a person has wisdom, their life will reflect it because they have wisdom. The decisions they make and the words they speak come from the wisdom they have. When people can apply the knowledge of the Scripture to their life in walking with Christ, their wisdom will produce fruit. That's one reason why there are so many scandals among false preachers. They have intellect and can gather a crowd but have no heavenly wisdom, and their life shows it.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Doctrine of Demons

Have you ever heard that there are multiple dimensions or that God has created multiple creations? That we are in, perhaps the 6th creation now? Curious where that came from? Chris Rosebrough of  Fighting for the Faith breaks down this gnostic mystic's wild message and shows that these ideas come from ancient mystery religions, Kabbalah, and specifically Jewish mystics. 

Beware the doctrine of demons.

The entire video is interesting, but if you just want to hear about the multi-dimensions and multi creations, skip to around the 20-minute mark and watch from there. 

Friday, September 23, 2022

The Devil's Wisdom

I recently read a book on philosophy that came highly recommended for its brevity and humorous style. After the first chapter, I realized it wasn't a funny book but a mean, bitter book that was at war with Christ. The joke was on anyone who disagreed with the author, namely Christians. James 3:13-18 tells us if you have knowledge and wisdom but also have bitter envying and strife in your heart, you lie against the truth you say you believe. It's counterfeit wisdom because there is God's wisdom and the Devil's wisdom.

Wisdom is the right use of good knowledge. It's navigating this world, making sound judgments, discerning the situation, avoiding the bad or choosing the good. There are other kinds of "wisdom" or a false way of living. How do we tell which is which? Every heretic says he has a Bible verse.

One way to distinguish between God's wisdom and the Devil's wisdom is to see the fruit. Since wisdom is the application and the use of knowledge, watch and consider where that wisdom is taking you. If envy and strife are in your heart, then you are lying against the truth. If you are lying against the truth, how can you rightly use and exercise truth? The answer is you won't. The fruit of your "wisdom" will be fighting, strife, envy, and confusion, leaving a trail of evil in your wake.

On the other hand, God's wisdom comes from above. This heavenly wisdom is from God and taught and given to Christians by the Holy Spirit through the Bible. This knowledge is from the Bible but worked in the heart and mind by the Spirit. When you have this wisdom, which works itself out, you'll see purity, peacefulness, and gentleness. God's wisdom leads a man to admit when he's wrong. This wisdom will not be hard-hearted when shown wrong and will be thankful for someone who tells them they are wrong (Proverbs 27:6; Proverbs 12:1). Someone with true wisdom wants to go the right way. The Devil's wisdom would rather continue on the wrong path than to be corrected. God's wisdom is full of mercy and abundant in good fruits. Heavenly wisdom takes sides with the truth, no matter who is on the other side. The Devil's wisdom is a party spirit and will be partial to friends, family, and colleagues. Heavenly wisdom is without hypocrisy. When there is a war to win, and the only goal is to win, then a casualty of the war is sincerity and truth. The Devil's wisdom will make you dig in your heels and fight and lie to yourself and others, presenting a false front to win the war. God's wisdom will lead to sincerity.

When you live by the wisdom of God, you are a peacemaker. You desire that men and women come to Christ and find rest for their souls in the forgiveness of since, by grace, through faith in Him. This is the good news of the King, and we want people to know the peace of God. The fruit of that righteousness is sown in peace. Are you making peace or war? Is the goal truth or winning by any means necessary? True love will fight for the truth and defend it. True love will give no ground to error or heresy. It's not peace at all costs. True wisdom will desire all people, even our enemies, to come to the knowledge of the truth. True wisdom wants to be right and in the right way, and will listen to feedback and be willing to listen and accept criticism and not dismiss it straight away. 

James 1:5  If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Praying for the who?


I've written piece on whether or not Christians ought to pray for the dead. You can read it here.

I'm in a book group that recently read a Russian novel about a 15th-century Orthodox mystic and it's...well, a little strange. Not my favorite, to say the least. One theme of the book was time, and in our discussions, the concept of time came up, and then, whether or not Christians can or should pray for the dead. 

While that was going on, in preparation for preaching a message in John 17, JC Ryle mentioned praying for the dead. And, I've heard it suggested that it's a proper and even spiritual way to read the Bible in a few sermons recently. 

This piece is the fruit of my thinking on the subject. 

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Wuantia Adkins (1935 -2022)

Last Tuesday night, Wuantia Adkins went home to be with the Lord. The doctors told her about four years ago that she had a month to live. We had a church service at her home because we thought she wasn't long for this world. But she was back to church a couple of weeks later. She loved going to church. The family told me that when she started getting sicker, she would wake up and ask when the church service was. That was always on her mind and heart. Waunita loved the Lord's house. She loved hymns, often reading through them before church, and loved to sing one of her favorites, Saved to the Uttermost. Waunita was always good and kind to my family and me and always a blessing to the Buffalo Valley Baptist Church. She always had an encouraging word for me after sermons, and especially loved to hear about God's sovereignty in salvation. Wuanita was a devoted wife and loving mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother. And right now, she is with Jesus. She is free from pain, and she is free from disease, happy, and blessed.

But I want you to know that Waunita is not in heaven because she was a sweet lady. She is not in heaven because she went to church. She is not in heaven because she was a devoted wife or a loving mother. As far as people I know, she was one of the best. But she wasn't a perfect person, and she'd be the first to tell you that. She was a sinner by nature and a sinner by choice. The Bible says all have sinned and that sin's wages are death. All who are under the law are under the curse of the law. And that's every one of us. That's you. It's appointed unto man once to die, and after that, judgment. We are born into this world sinners and by nature, children of wrath, walking according to the course of this world. You know it, and I know it. We've all sinned, and that's a problem.

But Waunita IS in Heaven -- and it's because Jesus loved her. God, who is rich in mercy, sent His only begotten Son into the world to save his people from their sins. By God's grace, He gives eternal life in Christ. Waunita is righteous because she had Christ's righteousness. Waunita is in heaven because Jesus paid for her sins and gave her eternal life. She is in heaven because she knew Jesus was a Saviour and believed it and rested in Christ as HER savior. Waunita trusted in Christ for pardon, and she lived in Christ for power. And now she rests in Christ for all eternity.

"O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Corinthians 15:55-57.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Unity of the Faith

"Doctrine divides. We just love people and follow Jesus." I understand the sentiment. "Can't we all just get along?" etc. Unity. That's what Christians need. And I agree. So does the Scripture. The fourth chapter of Ephesians deals with church unity and urges God's people to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Paul then goes on to list the grounds of our unity. There is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father. That's a lot to be united over. We can disagree about a great many things that don't amount to much in the grand scheme, but I can walk a long way with a kindred Spirit who shares these pillars of unity with me.

But is doctrine the cause of disunity? Doctrine is teaching, and in Ephesians 4:7-12, just after the call to unity, Paul tells us the risen Christ has given gifts to the church, which he urged unity. For us, it's the pastor and teacher. Christ blesses His church with men who can know, understand, and teach doctrine. This doctrine aims to build up the church to the point where we come together in "the unity of faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God." Unity in the faith and unity in the knowledge of Christ.

Unless everyone in the world believes precisely the same thing, then doctrine will unite and divide. It has to. When a pastor or teacher teaches doctrine, you define it according to Scripture. That, in turn, will unite those who believe what the Scripture says and draw a dividing line for those who don't. You will also have men who willingly deceive and preach a dangerous doctrine. Wrong doctrine is hazardous to your soul, so it's essential to learn sound doctrine (Ephesians 4:14). The unity of the faith is the doctrines of Scripture, and to put a finer point on it, it's the knowledge of Christ. If you get the gospel wrong, what you believe about the church doesn't matter to me. If you get the gospel wrong, what you think about baptism doesn't matter.

Doctrine does divide, but the answer is not to shun doctrine but to learn and teach the truth. For example, to say we will unite around love, what do we mean by love? Biblically speaking, to love God and neighbor is a law. There are specific ways we must love and ways we cannot love, so even to say the grounds of our unity revolve around loving God requires some understanding both of love and God. How can we stand together if we have different interpretations of love and different views of God? Much disunity comes not from doctrine but preferences, or even worse, preferences in doctrinal disguise. Standing for "the truth" is much easier when the truth is defined by what you like and dislike. Unity is pleasant when faithfulness is measured by friendships rather than a commitment to Christ.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Hating Yourself?

When I was young, I heard many sermons deriding the concept of "self-esteem," saying that it was unbiblical pride. Being prideful and caring for your own soul are different categories. The Bible warns us against hating ourselves in an ungodly way. Proverbs 15:32, "He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.

People ignore instruction and correction because of pride because they love themselves. No one likes to be wrong. It's even worse when and when someone wants us back on the right track and tells us how to get there. The natural response of our fallen nature is to fight back because no one wants to be wrong. We feel like we are being attacked and then defend ourselves. We look for holes in their argument, excuses for our wrongs, blaming others for their evil intentions and malicious attacks on us. We think we are "protecting" ourselves, but the fact is, we are destroying ourselves. Out of twisted self-love, we hate our souls.

What would you give in exchange for your soul? If you despise your soul, you are trading it off for something, or you regard something more than your soul. When you refuse correction, you exchange your tender feelings for your soul. Sure, you might admit that you have done wrong or are capable of doing wrong, but no one living is in the position to tell you that. But the fact is, most people will see through it, and it backfires. The ego you think you are protecting by never admitting fault is damaged more by never admitting guilt. When it comes to your soul, despising the correction of the law is to hate the cure of the gospel.

When someone tells you that you are wrong, what should you do? The first thing you need to do is to listen. Try to understand what the person is saying to you. A helpful hint here is to reiterate what the person is telling you. Not in a snarky, over-the-top way, but in a way that fairly represents their argument against you so that you completely understand what they are saying. Don't put words in their mouth or look for ways to dismiss it outright. Listen to what they are saying to you. Next, try and disengage from the situation and look at it objectively. That way, you can get your pride out of the picture. David could see the wrong of the rich man who took the poor man's lamb when he wouldn't see what he did to Uriah. Don't accuse the person of attacking you. Look at the situation and see if they are right. Next, find forgiveness in Christ and make corrections if you are wrong. You have grown in understanding and grace, and are now better off than before. And, if the person calling you out really was doing so to hurt you, their plan backfired because now, with their correction, they made you better.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Royal Wedding

Psalm 45 is a unique and captivating Psalm about a wedding. It's a love song. There are a lot of different views about the identity of the happy couple. In the first verse, the Psalmist sets the scene by introducing himself. "My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer." We find him sitting at his desk, pen in hand. He's deep in thought, and his heart is full and overflowing with a good topic.

We aren't given clues as to which historical king this would be. Many people think it's Solomon, but it would just be a guess. Solomon wasn't a man of war, and verse five doesn't seem to fit a man of peace. If it were important, it would be in the text. It would be a mistake to assume it's Solomon and Pharoh's daughter and interpret the Psalm from there. And since I can't get into the author's mind, we need to go by what the Bible does give us. Hebrews 1:8 tells us that Psalm 45:6 is about Jesus, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre." It's hard to go wrong by letting the Scripture interpret the Scripture, so the best way to view the Psalm is to see it as a Messianic Psalm, one about Jesus.

I can't say for sure, but imagine the Psalmist was at a king's wedding. He watched the ceremony and was overcome with joy and happiness at the occasion. Everyone dressed in their finest apparel. The happy smiles of the bride and groom. Weddings are a joyful occasion, and the Psalmist's heart was full of good things, and his mind went to Heavenly things. Carried along by the Holy Ghost, he picked up His pen, meditating on what he had seen, and wrote about what would be. God made an eternal covenant with David, and His throne would last forever. The Messiah would come from His line and sit upon His throne. A marriage of one of David's sons had far more significance and meaning than weddings do because from this marriage would come the Son (Matthew 1:1).

The king is praised for who He is all throughout the Psalm, and the queen is praised for her connection to him. Her glory, as it were, comes from her union with the king. The Psalm is about the King of Kings and the bride He came to save (Ephesians 5:32; Revelation 19:7-8; 21:2). 

When Prince William married Kate Middleton a few years back, I preached on the Lord Jesus and His bride. I saw some of the coverage on television about a royal wedding, and it made me think about THE royal wedding. When you read Psalm 45, think of Jesus, His glory, His love, and His grace.

The bride eyes not her garments, 
But her dear Bridegroom’s face; 
I will not gaze at glory 
But on my King of grace; 

Not at the crown He giveth, 
But on His pierced hand; 
The Lamb is all the glory Of Immanuel’s land.

Samuel Rutherford

Monday, August 15, 2022

Stay on the Field

There is no "I" in team, as the saying goes. It's a cliché I heard a lot from coaches trying to get the players all playing together. Like all proverbs, even hackneyed sports proverbs, it depends on what you mean by it. A team, by nature, is a group of people working together for a common purpose. There can't be an "I" in the overarching objective for a team to work together. A quarterback, who is gunning for a high completion percentage, might not throw a higher-risk pass, even if it would be the best option for the team's sake. But, tell me that there is no "I" in team when the MVP is being carted off the field with an injury. Of course, the individual matters because the team is made up of individuals.
The church is a body, but it's made up of individual people. We should have the same desire for the glory of God, the same mind about our Lord Jesus, and the same love for one another. A member who is more concerned with their program than Christ's will not be on the same page as everyone else. But that doesn't mean the individual doesn't matter. Jesus gave us the commandment to love one another. But that doesn't mean we are not to also take care of ourselves. Paul said, in 1 Timothy 4:6, that Timothy (and by extension, all pastors) need to "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." Why should a pastor, and every member of a church, want their pastor to keep a close watch on himself?
One reason Tom Brady lasted so long is that he cared for himself. He took care of his diet, his body,  mind. Because what good was a player to the team if he wasn't physically able to play? The pastor needs to look to himself and do what's necessary to "stay on the field." Paul isn't saying being selfish, but that Timothy is a man, not a machine. How can a pastor help others if he's not in the word? How can the pastor warn others of sin if he isn't forsaking sin himself? How can the pastor preach without watching his doctrine by reading and studying? A man who thinks he's been in the ministry long enough to stop studying and be watchful for his soul is in great danger, not only to himself but to the church he pastors. When a pastor stops watching his doctrine, he either goes off on some crazy doctrine, or he just starts repeating himself with the same sermon over and over.
There is no "I" in church, but there are many members. Pray for your pastor because it's to your benefit that he does well. I never understood why church members fight against their pastor and do their level best to make him miserable. It's more advantageous to you if he's doing well, even if he's not doing what you want. As part of the team, the pastor must take care of himself, in season and out.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Discerning Discernment

 It's funny to think about how many "communities" are based on esoteric knowledge, hobbies, or interests. I'm in no way disparaging this, but there are groups of people who spend the better part of their entire existence involved in groups, events, and research that many people don't even know exists. There are hierarchies, leaders, politics, dirty pool, back-room deals, infighting, traditionalists, and progressives. Somewhere, there is a "foremost expert" on the Mothman, and somewhere else, there are people who want to be the foremost expert. 

There are groups of Christians who, we might say, specialize in certain areas of theology that many people would think odd or not even know existed. Good people spend the bulk of their lives studying and working in one area of theology. Some men may be particularly well versed in eschatology (the study of last things), or others may be very knowledgeable in church history. For the most part, Christians recognize and agree these are noble pursuits and are thankful for those who have this gift of expertise. One area that gets a bad rap is "discernment ministry," where people dedicate their time to defending the faith. When I was a kid, I heard it called "heresy hunters." 

Standing against false doctrine is essential work because the truth of Christianity is constantly under attack (Titus 1:9-11). Christianity is not defined by the culture or the times but by the Bible. The faith that we have received needs to be preserved and protected, according to the Bible. Discernment is a feature, not a bug. Jude 3-4 tells us that from the beginning, men "crept in unawares" to turn the doctrines of God's grace into tenets of loose living. The Bible, which testifies of Jesus, was twisted to deny Jesus as God, Lord, and Saviour. To be a Christian is to be discerning, to stand, defend, and protect the doctrines once received from those who attempt to change the historic principles found in the Scriptures.

However, one must be careful not to be consumed and thus become a full-time polemicist. The "communities" of discernment ministries focus on pointing out how people are wrong. It's a pastor's job to defend the truth, but it's not his only job. Jude wanted to write about the "common salvation," but he couldn't because of the false teachers. He wanted to talk about Jesus and His grace, but he had no choice but to defend the truth about Jesus from the heretics who tried to distort it. When people spend most of their time looking for polemics fodder, they get bitter, angry, and often self-righteous because they look for the bad, then find it. I went on a hike with a guy with the uncanny ability to spot a snake. He saw one in the leaves and it took me nearly a minute to spot it. I was thankful for his eye. But what if we got to the summit, he missed the view because he was looking around for snakes?

Christians are called to stand for the truth. To contend for the faith once delivered. But if that's all we do, or if that's all we are known for, are we really "great commission" focused? We cannot compromise on vital gospel truths, not even for a minute (Galatians 2:5), but how can we teach new Christians if we cannot tolerate someone not holding to everything we believe to be true (Matthew 28:20; Romans 14-15)? So we must fight for the faith and be patient and longsuffering with those who don't know the truth or know better. What's the balance? I'm not advocating a "third way" that makes everyone wrong but me. 

Some books in the Bible are controversial. Galatians, for sure, was written because false teachers had deceived the churches. It's very likely that in Colossians and 1 John, both were written to fight against a proto-Gnosticism that was gaining ground among God's people. The pastoral epistles, and Jude, deal more with the reality of false preachers and the need to act. Jesus was patient with the disciples, who were often wrong, but was harsh with the priests and Pharisees, who should have known better and were teachings of falsehood. 

No one at the church I pastor has an issue with being deceived by Kenneth Copeland. But that's not to say I've never talked to people that haven't. I knew what he believed and was able to warn and defend the truth, but if I spent hours listening to Copeland and preaching against him, what good am I doing to the people who 1) never hear him, 2) never come in contact with him, 3) aren't deceived by his teaching? Dealing with this type of situation, simply preaching the truth prepares the people to discern against an error they may encounter. There is so much heresy and false teaching in the world. How could you possibly correct everything everyone is teaching?  

Many of the other texts concerning false doctrine involve people in the church. Titus 1:9, Acts 18:28, and 2 Timothy 2:24-26 deal with trying to convince a person with the wrong doctrine to repent and believe the truth. A real person who is teaching lousy stuff in their midst. What do you do when they don't listen and keep dividing? Eventually, you must stop trying, deal with the matter in church discipline and move on (Titus 3:8-11).

The main goal is to defend the truth and protect the people in your church, not to go to war with everyone who attacks every church. The ultimate goal is for everyone in the church to be able to spot a snake in the grass for themselves (Hebrews 5:13-14; Philippians 1:9-11). I heard a famous pastor online talking about "the problem of the church today…." I thought, "maybe for your church, but that's not a problem where I am a member." Not every error is a problem in every church. 

I write this because of a situation in a church I've never been to, with a pastor I've never met. His primary focus was to point out heresy and false teachers. That's what he was known for and he was really good at it. But not only did this man destroy his ministry, but he also destroyed his family. I wonder if  he was looking to correct everyone for so long, he became angry and bitter against the world, as if there was no truth, no good, no sound Christians anywhere? If I'm not fighting for the truth because I love it, love God's people, and love Christ, then I'm just pugnacious. A man will fight for those he loves. But a man can also fight because he likes to fight. May the Lord help us all to see the difference. Perhaps that's the best way. Love your neighbor, the church you are a member of, and the Lord and His truth. 


Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Don't Be Offended

In John 16:1, Jesus said He didn't want the disciples to be offended. A person could take that passage and run with it today, especially in our highly sensitive, emotional culture. The Greek word translated "offended" in this verse is just as broad as our English word. It could mean many different things, depending on the context. The way you hear it most of the time today is about someone getting their feelings hurt. A person reads something they don't like and is offended, displeased, upset, or indignant. It hurts their feelings. Jesus does care for the disciples and is helping them because they are sorrowful (John 16:6), but it's not that kind of offended that He has in mind in this context.

 Another usage is to sin or break the law, such as in Shakespeare's Henry V, "If it be a sin to covet honor, I am the most offending soul alive."  We are closer to the mark here because Jesus did not want them to sin, but in what way? There is another usage of "offend," which combines the ideas we have so far. It's when you are tripped up by something and made to fall. Someone or something might happen that causes you to stumble on your path, or someone says or does something to make you stop on the right way and take off in the wrong direction. It's something that happens to you that's bad or vexing, that, in turn, causes you to do the wrong thing. You might have a stomach ache and wonder why you are in such a bad way until you remember the offending Ghost Pepper in your burritos earlier.

 In just a few short hours from the events in John 16, Jesus would be arrested, tried, and crucified. Their Lord, their Messiah, their hope, would be dying on a cross. They would be under attack, kicked out of their synagogues, and hunted down by people thinking they were doing God's work. Men that taught the Bible now use their interpretation to justify putting Jesus to death. But Jesus is telling the disciples this would happen, hurting their feelings, making them sad, and offending their sensibilities, so they would not be offended when the troubles started.

 The preventative for the offense was having faith in Christ. Jesus was about to die, but He would rise from the dead. Jesus is faithful to His promises and will fulfill His word. Jesus came to do the will of the Father, and He will not fail. When all was at its darkest and looked like all was lost, the disciples were to trust Jesus. Believe Christ. Faith is knowledge, assent, and trust. Jesus tells them what He's going to do and what's going to happen. That's the knowledge part. They will assent to that truth when the offense comes and trust Jesus' words. When facing death, the disciples remembered what Jesus said, knew that Jesus was faithful, and rested in His promises.


Friday, July 22, 2022

Set Free

In March of 1942, Major General Edward King surrendered to the Japanese Army in the Philippines. The Bataan surrender resulted in almost 70,000 Americans being taken captive by the Japanese. Hoping to find mercy and spare the soldiers' lives in the surrender, it resulted in what was known as the Bataan Death March, where some 600 American and thousands of Filipino soldiers died through execution, exhaustion, or disease on the way to the Cabanatuan POW camp. Sadly for some men, things were just starting to get worse.

For three years, the POWs of Cabanatuan suffered starvation, torture, disease, and torments that are hard to imagine. But the Army was not going to leave them behind. Led by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mucci, the 6th Ranger battalion was coming to bust them out. With skill, determination, a good plan, good men, and by the good providence and grace of God, the Rangers made their way through the jungle, around the thousands of Japanese soldiers and, with guns blazing, rescued all but two of the POWs, who died as the result of sickness on the march back.

Actually, three. They left Edwin Rose, but not intentionally. Edwin Rose was an older man who worked administratively for the British Army. He lost his hearing and was about half blind. Rose was in the latrine when the raid started, suffering from stomach problems. He had been in there so long that he fell asleep. While the rangers were shooting up the place, bombs were blasting, soldiers were shouting, and the deaf Englishman was asleep. Thinking they had cleared the site, assault commander Captain Robert Prince went back through the camp, calling for anyone left to come on. They had to go. Time was of the essence. But he didn't think to check the latrine. Hours later, Rose woke up, groggy and confused, but soon realized he had fallen asleep, so he snuck back into the barracks, careful not to disturb the others, and went back to sleep. It wasn't until the morning came that he realized there were no "others." He was all alone. Rose went and sat at the gate of the camp and figured someone would come back. Thankfully, someone did.

Wouldn't it be a shame to be free from prison and not know it? Christians, by faith and union with Christ, have died with Him and are raised with Him in newness of life. "He that is dead is freed from sin." We've been set free from sin's prison and the power of the law to condemn us. "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2).

The doors were flung open, but some continued living like a captive, burdened by sins already forgiven and unable to grasp the truth of what Christ has accomplished for us. Child of God, in Christ, you are set free. Now we can live with joyous gratitude to our Saviour.

Leery of Freedom

When the Rangers arrived, many prisoners were confused (and so were the Rangers). Several of the POWs began to argue with their deliverers. The freed prisoners asked who the Rangers were and, when told, asked, "what's an Army Ranger?" They wondered why they should listen to them and others questioned their deliverer's uniform choice. Rather than follow the Rangers to safety, they pushed back and struggled to leave the place they dreamt of going. One frustrated Ranger spun a questioning POW around and gave him a swift kick in the direction of the door.

Colonel Duckworth was the American commander of Cabanatuan and informed the Rangers that he was in charge and they just couldn't just come in there and break them out of prison. The Japanese had made very clear that there were to be no escapes. "No one leaves unless I say they do!" He was so accustomed to being under the Japanese's servitude that he distrusted his freedom. Finally, it began to dawn on the prisoners they were being rescued.

Some Christians, when they realize they have been set free by Christ, are disoriented by their freedom and question whether it is a good thing to be free from the law's condemnation. I know that sounds strange, and it was weird to write. But it does make sense to a self-righteous soul who has been trying for so long to keep the law to earn God's favor and see that there is liberty in Christ Jesus. Preachers, like Colonel Duckworth, fearful that church members will get lax, preach the law to Christ's freemen as if they were still in bondage.

The Christian has been set free from the condemnation of the law and is now free to obey God in peace and liberty. We are free from God's judgment and are set free to serve Him. We are set free from the tyranny of sin to follow Christ in the law of liberty. Once the POWs realized they were saved, they gladly obeyed the Rangers. They did whatever they asked them with gratitude.

We are the children of obedience (1 Peter 1:14), children who obey our Father. We are not the enslaved people who try and work out our salvation, nor are we the prisoners who live in fear of retribution from our hard master. No, Satan was the harsh master. Sin was the dark dominion we were held captive in. Christ is the liberator. He rescued us from the "dark Egyptian night" and set us free, but too often, people think they would be better off as slaves in Egypt. At least they had onions.  

Jesus died for sinners and set the captives free. Trust Him as Saviour. And when you consider what Christ has done for you, you'll gladly follow him, grateful for His grace. How could we not desire to listen to and obey our deliverer?

Monday, July 11, 2022

Doomed to Repeat


I thought of this comic while reading Stephen Kotkin's biography on Joseph Stalin. Kotkin starts by giving a big-picture overview of the history of Russian politics and how centuries of events unfolded to make the perfect situation for the brutal, murderous dictator to rise to power. There are sections about conflicts between Russia and Ukraine. People agitating the Populus, pitting one side against the other flaming unrest with the government. Inept leaders, led by corrupt powers. Food shortages, supply chain issues, and unnecessary and endless wars. Does it seem like you've heard this story somewhere before? It was interesting to read that Stalin went to seminary to become a priest and left a Marxist. I guess some things never change. Marxists like to rewrite history because some things never change, ensuring people don't see the playbook.

 Solomon summed it up quite nicely in Ecclesiastes 1:9-18, "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us." It's part of the vanity of life in a sin-cursed world to see people repeat the same mistakes repeatedly and be powerless to do anything about it other than pray and mourn for the future. It's not just nations. Individuals make the same mistakes over and again. Generations of people follow in a long line of sinners who commit the same sins expecting different results. So many people have a story like, "Yes, drugs and alcohol destroyed my parents life, was the cause of me growing up impoverished, but it's made me so sad, it drove me to drinking." Same old song, just a different verse.

But I'm not without hope because the cycle will be broken one day. It won't be by hypervigilant postmillennialists winning the culture for Jesus, but Christ's return will break it. One of these days, Jesus will set all the things Adam broke right. He will rule and reign, and the nations will be subject to Him. Here is one bit of history that won't be repeated. Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, came into this world to save sinners. He was crucified and died on the cross. Jesus' dead body was laid in a tomb, and after three days and three nights, He rose from the dead. The Lamb of God died as a substitute that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. The living Lord Jesus is a Saviour you can trust (1 Peter 1:3-5).








Friday, July 8, 2022

A Way That Seems Right

"There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." Proverbs 16:25

How do you know what is right and wrong? In 1996 Bill Clinton signed the defense of marriage act. In 2008, Barack Obama defined marriage as "the union between a man and a woman." In 2012, the Supreme Court essentially decided gay marriage was the law of the land. This year, Ketanji Brown Jackson, in her Supreme Court confirmation hearings, couldn't define a woman because she wasn't a biologist.

We are told that we cannot look back on history as any reference to morality because we are progressing toward the future. After all, history is full of racist bigots whose morality is imposed upon us by the oppressive puritanical patriarchy and bourgeois sensibilities. Solomon wrote, "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man." We all have our opinions of what is right and wrong. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama once believed it seemed right that marriage was between a man and a woman. What they once confessed was wrong, they now champion as right. What changed? What has happened in the last 40 years that has caused people to call good what they once called evil? Is morality nothing more than what the people are ok with at a particular time?

We sowed the wind and now are reaping the whirlwind. We have formed a society with many rules but no reason for them. We have morals built on sinking sand. There is no framework to say that any act is immoral other than our collective scruples, and how long will that stand?

Our God created us to know that certain things are right and wrong. It's not a coincidence that murder is and has always been wrong. There are objective moral standards outside of us. Yet, the emotions of the inner person of the correct political class are now our guiding principle. We have created a world where ethical standards are subjective and come from gnostic knowledge. It takes work to deny certain natural truths, such as the difference between a man and a woman. It's unnatural to form a construct that denies physical reality. But that's what we have done. We've made a world divorced from reality and truth and now must suffer the consequences.

When people give themselves over to a denial of God and basic categories of good and evil, the Lord gives those people over to a reprobate mind. In other words, God lets people do what seems right, apart from the light of revelation or the light of natural law. There are no breaks in this clown car, and we are heading off the cliff. It won't be until we believe the Lord Jesus and turn to Him that we will be delivered out of darkness into the light of truth. There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but apart from God, that way that seems right are the ways of death.

Monday, July 4, 2022


I heard a preacher say he had never doubted his salvation a moment in his life. Good for him, but that wasn't the case for those who listened. We have an entire book of the Bible whose theme is that you believe in Jesus and how to know if you are saved (1 John 5:13). It seems somewhat likely that our Lord is showing us how we can have assurance because there can be reasons why it's not there. John, in his epistle, shows some characteristics of a child of God, so you can know you know. John doesn't write the epistle to scold Christians or cause them to doubt, but that they have assurance and joy (1 John 1:4). Too often, 1 John is preached like a mule skinner to whip church members into shape and shake them to their core. John isn't a fruit inspector to determine the quality but wants us to see if the fruit is there at all.

A Christian will have spiritual fruit. No fruit, no life. That's also what Jesus said (John 15:1-7). But life is not in the fruit; it's in the vine. Spiritual fruit can add to and support assurance of salvation. Still, it's not the ground of assurance. Assurance of salvation comes from resting in what Christ did for me, not what I do for Christ. Suppose you point a sensitive soul to look within, without stressing to look to Christ. In that case, it's little wonder this poor Christian is downcast or giving up. They look into their heart and see the remaining corruption and despair they haven't truly believed. They don't look to see if there is fruit. They measure it and inspect it to see whether it is enough or good enough. Their assurance is grounded in their works, which aren't that good.

Legal preaching, that urges Christians always to do more and try harder so the Lord will love them and bless them in sanctification will make hypocrites more confident in their hypocrisy and sensitive Christians more despairing of their salvation. Who wins? The hypocrite needs the law to condemn him and the gospel to show the way to eternal life. What the Christian needs when doubting is generally the gospel. Many times, a soul who spends too much time looking at their inward life, continual failures, and lack of zeal will condemn themselves to the point of doubt. Of course, we sin (1 John 1:8), but what's the answer? "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." 1 John 2:1-2.

A sensitive child of God knows they are a sinner but forgets that Jesus is a Saviour or that He is their Saviour. When you sin, come to Jesus, who saves sinners. Rest in Christ, who keeps His sheep. He does not fail, so trust Jesus.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

God's Will

"I don't know what to do. I don't know God's will for my life. I wish God would show me a sign." Have you ever felt like that, faced with a choice and trying to make a decision and figure out God's will?

What you mean by God's will for your life might not be what the Bible means by it. God has a decretive will, which is what He has ordained to come to pass (Isaiah 46:9-11). It's also referred to as His secret will. The second category is the preceptive will of God, where God tells us what to do, and it's His will for us to do it. God's decretive will must always come to pass while the preceptive can be disobeyed. When trying to make a decision, make sure you are looking to know God's revealed will and not try to figure out His secret will.

Romans 12:1-2 tells us we can know and test " what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God," revealed in Scripture. When faced with a decision, ask, "What does the Bible have to say about this specific situation?" Do what the Lord said, and that's His will for you. If you are trying to decide if you should move in with your girlfriend, you could read 1 Thessalonians 4:3, which says, "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication." That's God's will for your life in that situation.

Most Christians want guidance in situations where the Bible doesn't tell us one way or the other, but you have to make a choice. What job should I take? Should I buy that car? Christians don't want to be "out of the will of God." I believe that's thinking about the issue in the wrong way. God's will for your life is not like a road; every time you get off the road, you are further and further from happiness. God's will for your life is to live and walk by faith in every situation He has put you in, following His preceptive will (Romans 8:5), knowing we are in His decretive will (Romans 8:28).

Make sure you have the categories right in your mind. God gave the Christian His revealed will as our guides as we live our life in Christian liberty. When faced with a choice, search the Scriptures, pray for guidance, asked wise people in your life for their opinion. When you have determined that you are making the best choice based on what God has said, what is best for you and your family, and even what you want to do, proceed by faith and don't spend your life wondering what might have been. Sinful decisions will undoubtedly lead to pain, but wise decisions don't always lead to perfect happiness. Every choice will lead to other problems and bumps in the road, even wise decisions. That's not being out of God's will. That's living life in a fallen world.

Friday, June 3, 2022

The Rainbow

 Last week, I was on I-79, almost to Elkview, and saw a rainbow. I know that that's not front-page news, but I still looked, wondered, and smiled. Rainbows have been a subject of fascination and legend for thousands of years. We all know of the myth of the pot of gold at the end of it. I saw the end of a rainbow once. I was in Eastern Kentucky, pumping gas across the road from where they transload coal onto barges and ship them down the Ohio River. And right in the middle of a big mountain of coal was the end of the rainbow. It probably was a pot of gold for someone. The Norse legends say the rainbow was a bridge to the gods, and others say it brings good luck. Rainbows are everywhere in June because someone decided that the rainbow would symbolize pride in and pride for sexual sin. The rainbow means different things to different people, but it does have a definitive meaning. The rainbow is not a symbol of pride or tolerance -- it's the token of a covenant.

 A long time ago, this world was a wicked, wicked place (Genesis 6:1-8). Humankind had given itself over to every imaginable evil, and God said He would destroy man from the earth in His justice in a worldwide flood. "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD." Noah deserved wrath because he was also a sinner. Grace doesn't save good people but bad. God isn't going to give Noah what he deserved, but God saved Noah because He is merciful and gracious. According to God's instructions, Noah built an ark. When it was time, Noah and his family, along with all the kinds of animals, entered. And it started to rain. It didn't stop until the world was covered in water. When the waters receded and Noah and his family left the ark, God made a covenant with humanity that He would not destroy the earth again with water. The token of the promise is the rainbow.

 Maybe you don't look at the rainbow when it appears. But God looks at it in view of His covenant (Genesis 9:8-17). It doesn't matter what you see when you look at it. What matters is what God sees. We call it a rainbow. God called it a bow. It's a bow without a string, laid down. God's weapon of justice in flooding the earth is laid down, and He won't destroy the planet in the same way again.

 When you see a rainbow, you should think of God's forbearance. We are still wicked, but God is longsuffering. Remember His faithfulness; God keeps His word. Remember God's holiness and His wrath; sin will be punished. But also remember His grace and mercy to sinners who come to Jesus by faith. Jesus saves sinners, and in Christ, there is a better, permeant "ark" to find rest. When you see the rainbow, think of Christ.

 Published in the Clay County Free Press

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Hulk Smash

 "But now ye also put off all these; anger…."Colossians 3:8. I watched the Incredible Hulk television show starring Bill Bixby as David  Banner and Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk when I was little. Banner was a scientist, and in an experiment gone wrong, he was forever changed. Whenever he gets angry or in a dangerous situation, he becomes a giant, green-skinned monster with super strength that can't be controlled or reasoned with. The opening scene has the famous line, "Mr. McGee, don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."  As a boy, I liked it when he got angry because I wanted to see the giant green monster smash stuff. Banner had to try and live a chill life because being an angry man was dangerous for everyone in society. He probably had to avoid paying attention to politics or expecting McDonald's to be able to provide him a milkshake. But sometimes (like every episode), he was in a situation where life was on the line, and his anger over injustice pushed him to save the day. 

God gave us the emotion of anger for a reason for it, and it's good if used rightly. Our problem with anger comes from our fallen nature. We get angry at the wrong things and then don't deal with anger in a godly way. God doesn't fly off the handle or become out of control in His holy wrath. But God is angry at sin and the wicked. In that sense, we should model our anger after God. The first thing we need to do is find out why we are angry. Sometimes, you just might feel mad for no particular reason. If you don't know why you are mad, you have no just reason for it and have to put that off. But, let's say you have a good cause. Think about why. You either have a good reason or a bad reason. If you are sinfully angry, you need to deal with your sin and heart. The fruit of the Spirit is not a chip on your shoulder. But, if you are angry and it's for a good reason, you also need to deal with that good use of the emotion. God gives us anger to motivate us to action, but it must be tempered by our reason and our conscience guided by Scripture. Even if you are just, you can't go "Hulk smash" on everything when you are mad. But, that emotion, tempered by meekness and guided by Scripture, motivates us to action, protect the weak and innocent, and bring justice to the guilty. If you get mad at someone over something they said, in our Facebook society, you can simply block them and delete them from your life. But you are not taking the high road. If your brother sins against you, anger should motivate you to go to him (Matthew 18:15) and deal with the sin rather than add more evil to the situation. 


Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Good News for the Guilty

God tells us the truth about ourselves. Why would he do otherwise? There is no reason for God, who is truth and loves truth, to do anything else but tell us the truth about ourselves. The testimony of God is we are guilty of breaking His commands, and not just a little bit, but in total. Not just a few bad things here and there, but we are not what we ought to be, from the inside out. We don't love our neighbor as we ought. We don't love God with all our heart and strength. In truth, we don't love Him at all. That's God's testimony about us in the Bible. Horatius Boner wrote, "Conviction of sin is just the sinner seeing himself as he is, and as God has all along seen him."
What are we to do? You cannot come to God on the grounds of what he has already condemned. The Lord has judged us guilty, and our hearts set at enmity against us. We can't very well come to God and offer him our hearts. The only way we can come to God is by a way that He has accepted, the way God Himself has given. It's a way outside of ourselves. Our only hope is Christ. We cannot come to God to offer something to gain his forgiveness, nor can we come to God to do something to earn peace because we are sinners.

The Pharisees tried to clean up the outside of the cup, but that didn't do them any good because they were filthy on the inside. They tried every way possible to avoid touching, eating, tasting, to stay clean, but it wasn't that which went in that was the problem, but that which came out of the heart. If anyone could have come to God by their outward works and found peace with God through praying, fasting, working, zeal, and personal righteousness, it would have been Paul. No one had a pedigree like him. But he said all his righteousness was like dung (Philippians 3:8). His only hope was outside of himself because he was the problem. Jesus Christ came to save sinners. He came to clean them of their sins and also justify us. God imputed to us Christ's perfect righteousness. There is forgiveness of sins, and there is perfect righteousness and perfect obedience given to us by faith. Christ kept the law for us. Paul would happily give up his righteousness for what Christ had done for him.
You can't get yourself right to come to Christ. You can't pray yourself right to come to Christ. You can come as you are, or you can't come at all. Christ came to save sinners. Not decent people. Not people who try hard and are doing better. Christ came to save sinners. As the hymn says,  

"Come, ye weary, heavy laden, 
lost and ruined by the fall; 
if you tarry till you're better, 
you will never come at all."

Come to the Saviour and find peace with God. 

Monday, May 2, 2022

Did Jesus Go To Hell?

The teaching that Jesus suffered in Hell is not in Scripture. This viewpoint assumes much where the Bible is silent and eventually leads to disastrous consequences if you carry it out to its natural conclusions. There are three reasons why Jesus did not suffer in Hell. The first, which is the most easily refuted, is that the Bible tells us where Jesus was during the crucifixion and after His death. The second reason why Jesus did not go to Hell is what the Scriptures reveal to us about the nature of Christ. Either Hell will need to be redefined from an actual place to a state of mind or being, or the nature of Christ must be redefined, or we must say that Christ left the cross during his bodily crucifixion. Lastly, the Scriptures tell us where the work of redemption took place, and that was on the cross.

First off, in this article, when referring to Hell, I'm speaking of the place of judgment, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, where the worm dies not; not the place of the dead or the grave as is sometimes translated in Scripture. I believe in a literal Hell, a real place where the souls of men who die without Christ go and suffer for their sins. The focus of this article is whether Jesus was sent to the fires and torments of Hell to pay for sins. It's clear from the text that Jesus was nailed to the cross (Matthew 27:29-35) and remained there (Mark 15:30) until He gave up the ghost (Luke 23:46) and at that point, He went to paradise (Luke 23:43). While on the cross, Jesus said, "It is finished" (John 19:30), speaking of the work of redemption, which eliminates the possibility that Acts 2:27 refers to the fires of Hell, but to the place of the dead, or the grave, or that or I Peter 3:19 refers to a suffering Jesus preaching in Hell fire. A cursory reading of the gospel accounts is enough to show that Jesus could not have suffered in Hell because He was on the cross when He suffered, then went to paradise. It would be a strange paradise indeed, if it was a place of suffering.

From the very beginning, people have been wrong about Jesus. In Matthew 16:13, Jesus asked His disciples, "Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?" The answer to that question is of eternal importance. There is no wiggle room here. There is no "difference of opinions" in response to that question. Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the Living God." Upon this Person and this truth, the church was built. Jesus said this wasn't earthly wisdom but truth given by the Father.

But notice, from the start, men were confused about Jesus. They didn't know who He was. They had opinions and thoughts but did not know who Christ was. And deceivers have attacked the Lord's people on this point from the very beginning. One of the earliest heresies centered on the nature of Christ, deceiving by coming up with the wrong answer to the question, "whom say ye that I am?" Even while the Apostle John was still alive, a form of proto-Gnosticism began attacking the vital truth of the person and nature of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle John said, 1 John 4:2-3 "Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world." People look at the news, see the conflict with Russia and Ukraine, and try to discern the times and seasons. They see the rumblings of Antichrist everywhere, and they are looking for it in globalism and mandates and lockdowns. But sadly, Christians miss the very place that John warns us the spirit of antichrist resides, in heresy, and the denial of Jesus Christ, the Son God.

The best way to protect ourselves from heresy is to be grounded in the truth (Ephesians 4:13-15). I want to lay a foundation for the theological truth concerning the person of Jesus Christ in this article. There is a lot here, and I don't intend to say everything about these subjects but I hope to whet your appetite to dig deeper. I also want to uphold that Old Landmark of the nature of Christ. Friends, you may hold to Baptism and church ordinances. Still, the first and original Landmark of the church was that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the Living God," and if you don't have Christ, it doesn't matter what you think about Baptism, church organization, or wine in the Lord's supper; you can go to Hell full of church truth. JC Philpot said, "There are two things which every child of God has the greatest reason to dread; the one is evil, the other is error. Both are originally from Satan; both have a congenial home in the human mind; both are in their nature deadly and destructive; both have slain their thousands and tens of thousands; and under one or the other, or under both combined, all everlastingly perish but the redeemed family of God."

First, let's consider the Trinity. Our God is the One true and living God in three Persons. There are two different terms in discussing the Trinity, the ontological Trinity and the economical Trinity. Ontology is the study of being, so when we speak of the Ontological Trinity, we consider what the Bible says about the being of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit without considering creation and redemption. The Economical Trinity speaks about what the Bible says about the Trinity revealed in creation, redemption, and human history.

God doesn't change, and there is only one being of God in three persons, but for our finite minds to understand what the Bible has revealed, theologians have given us categories to help define what we are speaking about. So when we think of the economic Trinity, we distinguish among the Godhead in their roles in creation and redemption. The Father chose a people unto salvation, in Christ, and then sent his Son into the world for our redemption. The Son accomplishes our redemption on the cross, and the Spirit applies that redemption to us. One God, in three persons, distinguished by what they do in particular for us in the covenant of redemption.

The ontological Trinity is when we think about the nature of and being of God. So what the Son did for us doesn't make Him the Son. The Son isn't the Son because He came to the Earth, but the Son came to Earth because He was the Son (Romans 1:3-4). That's why the need for those two categories of thought. Also, know that God does not exist in different modes at different times, nor is God divided into thirds. Each person of the Trinity is true God. Jesus and the Father are one. We don't use terms of quantity when discussing the Trinity (fully or 100%), but we use terms of quality (True God). Since the Son is truly God, He is equal to the Father in power, glory, being. He is from everlasting to everlasting. One in being, but distinguished in persons, from all eternity. The Father always was, the Son always was, the Spirit always was, and each person always will be. To believe in Jesus is to believe in the Father, and to look upon Jesus is to see the express image of the Father (John 1:14; Hebrews 1:3; II Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15). The Father is truly God. The Son is Truly God. The Spirit is Truly God.

Let's now consider the begotten Son (John 3:16). John 1:1 tells us Word was with God and the Word was God. Christ did not become the Son of God when He was born of a virgin (remember, He was always the Son ontologically), but the Son was "made flesh" and dwelt among us in the economy of redemption. Jesus is the Son of God. Not in terms of a title, not an official sense, but truly the Begotten One. When Jesus said He was the Son of God, the Jews knew He was talking about His being and being one with the Father because they charged Him with blasphemy (Matt. 26:63; John 5:18; 10:36). How is Jesus the Only Begotten? Not because He came into existence in eternity past. I have heard people say that Jesus was born twice, but that's not true. Nor is it true that Jesus became the Son when He was born in Bethlehem. Jesus is the begotten One, the Son by eternal generation. Jesus never came into being. There was never a time when the Son did not exist. The eternal generation of the Son was not a choice by the Father to bring the Son into being, but a necessary act of the Father. Louis Berkoff wrote, "This does not mean, however, that it is an act that was completed in the far distant past, but rather that it is a timeless act, the act of an eternal present, an act always continuing and yet ever completed. Its eternity follows not only from the eternity of God, but also from the divine immutability and from the true deity of the Son. In addition to this, it can be inferred from all those passages of Scripture which teach either the pre-existence of the Son or His equality with the Father, Mic. 5:2; John 1:14, 18; 3:16; 5:17, 18, 30, 36; Acts 13:33; John 17:5; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:3."

Eternal generation means that the Father, from all eternity, communicates the One essence of the being of God to the Son. Now, that's hard to understand because we are finite beings. But it's evident in Scripture and something you believe and receive by faith. Don't try to think up examples or illustrations about the Trinity. Just receive the truth from Scripture and be satisfied with what the Lord has revealed about Himself. John Gill warns us, "Without his eternal generation no proof can be made of his being a distinct divine Person in the Godhead." John Owen rightly said, "Whoever denies Christ the Son, as the Son, that is, the eternal Son of God, he loses the Father also, and the true God; he hath not God. For that God which is not the Father, and which ever was, and was not the Father, is not the true God." Jesus, the Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, entered into His own creation.

This leads us to our next stop, the hypostatic union, which refers to the truth that Jesus is both true man and God in one person. Hypostasis is Greek for subsistence (translated person in Hebrews 1:3) so that union refers to the fact that in the incarnation, the Son added to His divinity, humanity, and Jesus has both a human and divine nature. Two errors to avoid, that Christ had only one nature, or to separate the natures to the point that Christ was essentially two separate persons (Nestorianism).

Christ is truly God and truly man without confusion, meaning Jesus didn't become a third thing by mixing divinity and humanity. The human nature did not become divine, nor did the divine nature become human. It's not that there are two persons, a divine person, and a human, nor a human body and a divine mind and no human soul. But in the one person, there are two natures, at once true man and true God. "Before Abraham was, I am." This same person who spoke to the Jews, spoke to Abraham, so this proves another nature in the same person. Great is the mystery of godliness! This union is without change, meaning the Word was still the Word and didn't become something other than the Word. Nor does it mean that Jesus was half God and half man. This union was without separation. Christ Jesus was one as God and man. He did not lay down His divinity in His humanity. Jesus didn't do away with His divinity or leave it behind, but it was the assumption of human nature "into the personal subsistence with the Son of God," where two natures were in the one person of the Son. In Jesus, there was the union of the two natures in the same person. It is an everlasting union, as Christ now sits bodily at the right hand of the Father, evermore the Godman. He veiled His attributes, but never could He abandon them or leave them behind. R. Scott Clark said, "The incarnation is a great mystery, of course, but we can say what we should say and we should always say that Christ is one person, not a composition, in whom two, distinct natures are indivisibly, inseparably united and that the incarnation is for our salvation and for the glory of God."

Why did all this happen? Jesus, the Eternal Son, the Word made flesh came into this world to fulfill the eternal covenant of redemption where in eternity, He voluntarily willed to come and redeem the elect of God given to Him by the Father, accomplishing the work of redemption on our behalf. The only possible way was through the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). But not the blood of bulls and goats. It was necessary that Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, came in the flesh and that He suffer and die for sins (Hebrews 2:17). It "behooved Him," or it was His necessary duty and responsibility as the second person of the Trinity, in the economy of redemption to die for sinners. God's Holy wisdom required the broken law be paid for by the same nature that sinned against Him, and so our Redeemer had to be a man.

Where did this redemption take place? It took place on the cross, where Jesus paid the sin debt. He bore our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). It was on the cross where the wrath of God was satisfied (Isaiah 53:10) when His soul was made an offering for sin. The suffering of Christ was far greater than the physical death that He suffered as He bore our sins. Doubtless, Christ suffered beyond imagination, for Christ drank the cup the Father gave Him. The agony of Christ suffered as the perfect man suffering for sinners is beyond my comprehension. Christ suffered the equivalent to the wrath the elect deserved, not exact in every form and fashion. It was a hellish suffering, though not Hell itself. Due to the infinite merit of Christ and the infinite worth of the Son of God, He could satisfy divine justice as a substitutionary atonement in His vicarious death (Isaiah 53:5). But it was at Calvary, not in Hell, that Jesus suffered. It was the blood of Jesus Christ that was sufficient to pay the price of our propitiation (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:1-2). In terms of redemption, the purchase of His people, the Bible points to the physical death and shedding of blood and price (Hebrews 9; Colossians 1:14; Romans 3:24-25; Revelation 5:9; 1 Peter 1:18-19). Christ is the propitiation for our sins by the blood (Romans 3:25). The blood cleanses us from sin (1 John 1:7).

Jesus did not go to Hell, or literally burn in the fire. During the three hours of darkness, Jesus was on the cross, not in Hell. Jesus was alive, not dead. Remember, the hypostatic union, the Lord was not the Logos, in the shell of a body, but He was true man and to say the living body and rational soul of Jesus could be conscience on the cross in body, while also literally in Hell denies the humanity of Christ and makes Christ something other than true man. Or, to say that Jesus paid the penalty on the cross, then also went to Hell after to pay for sins is unbiblical. Jesus said He thirsted, He told John to care for His mother, He told the thief that he would be in paradise with Him. All on the cross, where Jesus, in the flesh, with His true, rational soul, spoke, and thought and felt, and prayed. The only way Jesus could be in Hell while his body was on the cross was if Jesus were two different persons, which he most certainly is not. The penalty for our sins was paid in the death of Christ and the shedding of His blood. The wrath of God's justice fell upon Christ on the cross because He became sin for me, and in my place, bore my sins and paid the debt owed to justice. He became a curse for us (Galatians 3:13), and God made Him to be sin for us "that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him "(2 Corinthians 5:18-21). Sin was imputed to Him, rather than Jesus became a sinner. Rather than me paying for my sins in Hell, Jesus paid for my sins on the cross. When Jesus said it was finished, it was over. He was still on the cross, and He never left. He had been there the whole time. When Jesus died, He went to paradise (Luke 23:43). He died once for all for sin, not twice. Jesus died physically and rose from the dead physically. That is the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). We were reconciled in the "body of His flesh" (Colossians 1:21-22), the body and the blood (Luke 22:19–20), As preachers, let's be careful with our words (James 3:1). As Baptists, let's uphold the first and most significant Landmark of them all, the doctrine of Christ.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Christless Christianity


I saw a video of an alleged pastor preaching a sermon on the resurrection of Christ. Well, sort of. He didn't preach, but he wrote a play. And it wasn't really about Jesus and His death and resurrection. It was about The Avengers, the Marvel comic book characters, and the superheroes portrayed the people from the gospel accounts. It was a retelling of the gospel as if it happened in comic books. I won't give any more detail of the blasphemy, but take my word for it. It was worse.


A few days later, I listened to a religiously conservative pastor preach a sermon, and the message had just as much Christ in the message as the comic book play. Seriously. He preached from the Bible and had many Scriptures, but the sermon had no Jesus. There was law from beginning to end but no grace. Do this and don't do that, but no Jesus. With no Jesus, there is no hope, just condemnation.

Paul preached against sin and preached commands. There are many commands in Paul's epistles for Christians, but not without Christ. Paul names Christ, Jesus, or Lord over 50 times in the book of Philippians alone, one of the favorite books for assurances robbers (Phil 2:12). In the first chapter (Philippians 1:12-21), Paul thought about his situation. He wasn't thrown in jail for preaching politics but for preaching Christ. And he was ok with that. Not that he wanted to be imprisoned, but that his suffering furthered the gospel. While Paul was in bonds, other people stepped up and preached Christ. Some preachers hated Paul and preached Jesus to spite Paul. Some faithful brethren preached Jesus out of good will, and Paul's bonds encouraged them to press on. Despite their motives, Paul rejoiced because Christ was preached. Not a retelling of Christ, but the true Christ in a true gospel. Paul knew Christ was with him.


Paul said, "…that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Paul wasn't ashamed of being locked in the hoosegow because he preached Christ. He wasn't ashamed of being attacked for his message because He preached Christ. The pastor who preached Ironman should be ashamed. He should go be an insurance salesman rather than a preacher if that's what he's going to preach. But is it any better to preach in the traditional style without Jesus Christ? Other than stomping on people's toes with behavior modification, what's the point? The law must be preached, but it must be preached lawfully. 

The two men and their churches couldn't be more different. Their sermons, in some ways, are almost opposites. But strangely, they were similar in that there was hardly any Christ in either. There are topics the Bible addresses that we need to address. Let's make sure we address them as Christians. Jesus said the Old Testament testified of Him, so let's make sure as Christians we don't Jesus out of the Bible when we preach. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Building Together


Several years ago, I had just moved across the country and was in between jobs. A builder hired me for a project he needed help with and wanted to utilize a particular skill set that I had. I was strong enough to lift heavy tools and pack stuff back and forth from the truck and tall enough to reach them up to the builders on the roof. At this job, they were replacing the roof on a man's house and today was the day to get the trusses on the house, and there wasn't enough of the regular crew to get those big heavy things up on the roof by themselves, so this was my moment. 

We had been on the site for a couple of hours. Men walking up on the roof, saws cutting, hammers nailing, and all that goes along with building, and suddenly, a man walks out on the porch with a cup of coffee. It was shocking because I assumed the house was empty since half the house didn't have a roof. He stood on the porch, sipped his coffee, looked about with a nod of approval, and went back inside. He was paying for a job and was checking up on it.

I'm afraid some think this is the church membership model. Come to church, watch the pastor do his thing, nod the head approvingly, shake the head disapprovingly, and return home. The church isn't merely a performance of the preacher and singers but the gathering of the saints to build one another up in love (Ephesians 4:7-13 ). Romans 12:6-8 tells us that the church members have different gifts according to our grace. Gifts of teaching, giving, exhortation, comfort, and mercy, to name a few. These gifts are for the local church.

There are all sorts of reasons you should go to church. The Lord Jesus is there. The Word of the Lord is preached. Jesus said you ought to. It's good for you, but a church member also needs to be there for everyone else. The idea of a "spiritual person" who isn't serving Jesus in His church is a foreign concept to Scripture. God's people need one another. Sometimes we need our burdens carried. Other times, we need to carry someone's burden. When life is hard, God's people need the fellowship and encouragement to keep looking to Christ. Something supernatural occurs when the church gathers together and worships the Lord through the preached Word. When the Lord's people gather on the Lord's day, together in the Lord's church, to hear the Lord's man expound and proclaim the Lord's Word, the Lord blesses His people.

 Carrying tools and lifting things didn't win me an award. But it was important enough for the builder to hire me for the job. That made my part a necessary and needful role in the overall building up of this house. Don't minimize the gift God gave you, nor underestimate its importance in the house of God. It's the Lord's church, and He'll build it up. I'm just thankful and happy to be a part of it, anyway I can.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

What's the Difference?

John tells us in the 13th chapter of his gospel that Jesus, 'having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end." This is a preface for the second half of John's gospel. The first 12 chapters cover three years of Jesus's ministry, and the last nine chapters cover about a week. From this point until the arrest, Jesus is instructing and comforting his people. The first verse is an essential introduction to understanding what Christ Jesus says to his own. He loved His people and loved them to the end. He illustrates that love when he washes the disciples' feet. As the Godman loved His own in the world, He calls His disciples to love one another. But then, in John 13:16-20, Jesus tells the 12 that one of them is an imposter, a betrayer. One of them will "lift up the heel" against Him. We know it's Judas, but the disciples had no clue. Jesus dismisses Judas from the table and tells Him to go and do what he had committed to do. Judas leaves.

Jesus then said now was the time God would be glorified because Jesus is about to lay down His life as a substitute for the sins of His people, taking their place at Calvary's cross, the just for the unjust. He gives the 11 remaining disciples a new commandment, to love one another. Jesus, who will be leaving soon, who loved His own, tells His own to love each other. Not tracking with the Lord's message, Peter asks Jesus why he can't follow Him and presses the matter to the point Peter claimed he would die for Jesus. The Lord said not only will Peter not die for Jesus, but he'll also deny him three times.
I listened to a sermon recently, and the preacher told his congregation that there were likely Judas' in the church. Not only God-haters, but hypocrites, who come to church and read their Bibles but don't really love Jesus. He held a standard of righteousness that people would have to meet, or otherwise, they are probably not even saved. He pointed people to follow godly examples of people who wouldn't betray the Lord. Don't be a Judas, be a Joseph. My question is, what's the difference between Judas and Peter? But is that the point? All the man said about Judas was equally valid of Peter. Peter listened to preaching, was always around Jesus, and confessed Him as Christ, but denied the Lord. Peter didn't live up to the standard the man set up to test if one was the real deal.

The only difference between Judas and Peter was the love of Jesus. Jesus loved Peter freely, completely, unconditionally, not because Peter was good, but because He chose to love him and loved him unto the end. The point is the marvelous grace found in the perfect Saviour. "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."