Thursday, December 27, 2012

Biblical Commentary

In the preface of their commentary on the Psalms, Tony Ash and Clyde Miller suggest that "everyone should write a commentary on the psalms." What they seem to be saying is that the intense study of the psalms that went into the writing of their commentary was such a blessing that they feel everyone should attempt such a process, although obviously few would to carry it to completion.

Their words sparked a different thought in my mind.

Let me suggest that every Christian does produce a commentary not only on the psalms but on the whole Bible. Perhaps none of our commentary is committed to writing, but that does not mean that it fails to speak to those around us.

If we do not allow scripture to mold our lives we are teaching that the Bible is of no importance. This can be done by refusal to study the Bible, or by approaching the Bible cafeteria style -- studying the parts we like, ignoring the rest. Such behavior indicates an arrogant faith in ourselves as wiser than God.

But if we allow the Bible to mold our lives then we effectively point others to the book as one that is practical and useful in life. Such a life points our the true interpretation and application of scripture.

The words of scripture should be on our lips in daily conversation. Our lives should show evidence of an effort to live by its teachings. We should often be found reading scripture and gathering with others to study it. Such actions are a biblical commentary of the very best kind.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Start Where They Are

Jesus began by asking for a drink (John 4), because water was on the mind of the woman at the well. Peter started with an explanation of the odd sounds people were hearing on Pentecost (Acts 2). Paul quoted Greek poets to the people of Athens (Acts 17).

What people really need is the gospel. But to get them to hear the gospel we must begin with what is on their minds at the moment, or at least with something with which they are familiar.

This time of year, people are thinking an odd jumble of thoughts: about a stable, a baby, a fat guy in a red suit, and something about making resolutions. We can condemn them for errors in their celebration of Christmas, or we could start where they are and try to move them toward the gospel. I think that the Lord would prefer the latter approach.

There are all kinds of facts that are really not worth an argument. The odds of Jesus actually being born on December 25 are less than a 1 in 365. The fact that he was placed in a manger does not prove that he was born in a stable, since poor people often kept animals right in their houses. The Bible never says how many men came from the East to worship him. It could have been three, but could have been thirty-five for all we know. These are all unimportant matters.

An important question might be, "What does the birth of Jesus indicate about us?" [Our desperate need for a savior...] Or, "What does it indicate about the Lord?" [His willingness to save...] These are better points on which to begin.

I am glad that people think about Bethlehem this time of year, because it is easier to get their minds from Bethlehem to Calvary than to get to Calvary from Wall Street or Washington or the football stadium. Let's start where they are and lead them where they need to be.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

December 16, A Date That Should Live In Infamy

No, I am not a week late. I am not thinking of December 7, although that date deserves what President Roosevelt said about it. I am thinking of today, December 16. Do you realize the things that have happened on this date? There were some things that you might consider good -- like the Tea Party in 1773 -- but there have been plenty of tragic events as well.
On this date in 1811, a series of earthquakes began in Missouri which rerouted the Mississippi River. Imagine what that would be like today.
On this date in 1838, the Afrikaners (Boers or Voortrekkers) under General Pretorius defeated the Zulu in the battle of Blood River.
On this date in 1864, the battle of Nashville took place. Have we forgotten that more Americans died in that war than in any other in history?
On this date in 1942, Heinrich Himmler ordered the Roma (Gypsy) peoples moved to Auschwitz for extermination.

I might be wrong, but I suspect that nearly every day of the year is the anniversary of some tragic event. History is full of injustice. It could be depressing. It would be depressing if it were not for one other event.

Today we gather not to remember any of the events mentioned above but the one event that makes all else bearable. Every first day of the week we remember that the most tragic event in history was reversed, three days later, into the most wonderful event in history. The death of Jesus was the most unjust and depressing event in history; but the resurrection of Jesus, three days later, gives us hope in the face of all discouragement.

No matter how many battles are fought and lost, no matter how many depressing things happen, we have hope. We have hope that the same power that raised Jesus can raise us as well.

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:11

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Healthy Lifestyle

Americans spend a lot of money on health food, exercise equipment, gym memberships and other health related things. Still, we are unhealthy, overweight but undernourished.

The problem, for many of us, is that we are not consistent. We exercise hard for a day or two, we eat well once in a while, but we do not maintain a consistent pattern of healthy living. We do healthy things occasionally, but we do not have a healthy lifestyle.

Spiritual health works much the same way. We should not expect to develop good spiritual health on one or two healthy meals per week. We should not expect to develop good spiritual health when we get no spiritual exercise. Consistent spiritual feeding through Bible study, and consistent spiritual exercise through worship and service are essential to the development of, and the maintenance of, spiritual health.

Do not blame the doctor if your lifestyle - unhealthy eating and lack of exercise - ruins your physical health. Do not blame the Lord (or the preacher) if the same pattern exists in your spiritual life. We need a healthier spiritual lifestyle.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wrong Question

I received a message today that asked, "Forty years after the Roe vs. Wade case, are we winning or losing?"

I am sure that there could be all kinds of answers given to this question, and other questions like it. But, unless I am greatly mistaken, "are we winning or losing" is not the kind of question we ought to be asking. I do not recall that the Lord ever indicated that we should shape any part of our lives on the basis of winning or losing. The Lord's call is not to winning or losing, but to faithfulness. Again and again he calls on us to be faithful. I do not recall him ever asking, "Don't you want to be on the winning side?"

I can imagine what some of you may be thinking. "Doesn't he promise that we will be 'more than conquerors'? Does that not indicate that we will be on the winning side?" Yes and no.

In the book of Revelation the term conquer or conqueror occurs quite often. Look at those occurrences some time. Look at them carefully. Ask yourself, "In this book, what does it mean to conquer?" The answer, I think you will often find, is that to conquer means to be killed for your faith. What Jesus calls being a conqueror is what the world calls being a loser, being defeated, being conquered.

If forced to answer most of the "winning or losing" questions, I would probably have to say that the righteous appear to be losing -- in the world, in this country, and even often in the church. But what we ought to be asking ourselves is "Are we being faithful." If we can honestly say "yes" to that question, the other one does not matter.

The Bible tells me which side is going to win in the end. It also tells me that the side that wins in the end is going to appear to be losing most of the time between now and the end. Our responsibility is not to worry over winning or losing. Our responsibility, win or lose, is to be faithful.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Memory Aids

In 1662 The Act of Uniformity required every minister in England to conduct church services according to the Book of Common Prayer. Those who would not do so were forbidden to preach. One of the 2000 ministers who lost their opportunity to preach was John Whitlock. In speaking to his congregation just before the law went into effect, he advised them on how they could remember the teachings of scripture if they were long deprived of faithful preaching. I will summarize some of his suggestions.

First, if you would remember the truth, be sure that you love the truth. It is hard to remember that for which you do not care. But the things we love most we remember best.

Second, if you would remember the truth, be sure that you apply it and put it to use in your life. Ideas frequently put to use are remembered. Concepts rarely applied are quickly forgotten.

Third, meditate on the truth. Think about it for at least a few minutes each day. A few minutes each day of reading God's word and thinking about its promises would do much to aid our memories.

Fourth, talking over some portion of God's word with others will help keep it fresh in our minds. What one forgets, another may remember. We can, and should, stir one another up to love and good works. We should call things to one another's remembrance.

Fifth, we should ask God to help us remember his will. We should pray for grace to recall and faith to apply his word.

We are not forbidden to hear faithful preaching, as people were in 1662. But many of us are taking very little advantage of the opportunities we have to learn his will. Let us strive to learn and remember. If you have trouble recalling good biblical teaching, try using these five memory aids.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thankful Always?

If you are like me, and like most of us, you may have a little trouble obeying Ephesians 5:20, "giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." I admit it, I struggle with that command. But let's not give up, let keep trying. I will try to set an example.

I am thankful for the IRS. I do not think they do a great job, and I think that income tax is a foolish way to fund government, but I have lived places where the tax was more unfair and more poorly administered.

I am thankful that I am not big and strong and athletic. If I were, I might have be tempted to rely on my physical strength.

I am thankful that I am not a genius. If I were, I might rely on my brains instead of God's word.

I am thankful for the current unrest in our world. I feel bad about the people who are hurt by it, but I pray that it will lead some to consider the long-term view and to be less focused on this world.

I am thankful that my car had a problem a week ago Wednesday. I was at home on that Wednesday. If the problem had come up on Thursday, when I was in Canada, it would have been much more difficult to handle.

Speaking of Canada, I am thankful that fuel is a dollar more per gallon in Canada. The extra dollar of tax on fuel in Canada makes me realize how much better off we are, and the extra tax is helping Canada pay off its debt.

These may be silly examples, but I hope they help a bit. The truth is, most things we complain about could be much worse. We should be more thankful, even for the things that are not pleasant. And then there are the things for which we can be heartily thankful.

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15:57).

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Why Is November 11 Veterans Day?

November 11, known as Veterans Day in the States and  as Remembrance Day in Canada, was set aside to remember those killed in World War I, which ended at 11:00 AM on November 11, 1918. More than 37 million people died in that war. Taking into account the population at that time (less than two billion) and the current world population (about 7 billion), this would be the equivalent of 130 million people being killed today.

Several countries experienced the loss of 3% of their population during the war. In today's terms, if the United States were to lose 3%, that would mean that 9 million people would die nationwide. Toledo alone would lose 9000.

Since most of the deaths in this war were of young men, the demographics of entire nations were changed. With the loss of so many young people, the average age went up dramatically. With the loss of so many males, the balance between males and females was lost. Of course, in some countries the losses were, sadly, more general -- with men, women, children, and the elderly all being killed.

This week, I will wear a poppy in memory of those who died in that terrible conflict. I will mourn, not only the tragedy of that war but the forgetfulness of humanity. This week I will be reminded of both in a single moment. As I drive across southern Ontario I will pass an amusement park called "Earl Haig Fun Park." I will shed a tear for the 20,000 men Earl Douglas Haig sent to their deaths on July 1, 1916, the 20,000 more who died under his orders on July 2 ..... But most of all I will weep over the insanity of a world that has forgotten, that thinks it cute to have fun at a park named after a colossal tragedy.

But why should it surprise us that the world has forgotten the tragedy of 1914-1918? Millions of people will gather this day for what they call Christian worship and hardly give a thought to Calvary. Such an assembly might be called a positive thinking rally. It is not Christian worship.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

We Must Remember In November

Romans 1:32 Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

We practice the secret ballot in the United States. No one is to know how you vote, unless you choose to tell them. That is a good practice. I have lived where it was not done that way. You do not find out what people really think when you force them to vote publicly.

But do keep one thing in mind. There is one person who will know how you vote. I do not want to know. The poll workers will not know. Your spouse may not know. But you will answer to God for your vote.

He has indicated quite plainly, in the verse quoted above, that those who give approval to sin are just as guilty as those who commit sin. Giving approval to sins such as homosexuality -- the topic under discussion in Romans 1 -- is as much a sin as practicing homosexuality.

So, if you choose to cast your vote for candidates supporting sins such as homosexual marriage or abortion, you are just as guilty of these sins as if you had committed them yourself. If you choose to cast your vote for candidates who support persecuting our citizens who refuse to pay for insurance that covers abortions, you will be held guilty of the persecution that will be meted out in the next few years.

So, if you do not wish to stand before God guilty of murder, guilty of homosexual sin, guilty of persecuting the church, then you better be careful how you vote. I am forbidden (by an unconstitutional and unjust law) to name names. But you know who these candidates are (if you do not, you ought not to be voting at all).

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Using The Sword

In my spare moments, I have been working on making a knife. I think that it is going to be nice when it is finished. The blade is of fine Swedish steel. It is very sharp, and should hold its edge. I am making a walnut handle for it that I believe will balance the blade nicely and be easy to grip. But, I am not deceived about the use of this knife. No matter how well the knife is made, it will be next to useless in the hands of the inexperienced. A well trained chef prefers a good knife, of course, but can do more with a mediocre knife than a novice could do with the finest cutlery. We tend to blame the knife when we have difficulty carving our turkey, but the real problem may often be with the person using the knife rather than with the knife itself.

The word of God is compared with a sword in a couple of places (Eph 6:17; Heb 4:12). The word is said to be capable of great things, yet many people, even many Christians, do not seem to believe that the word is capable of much in their lives. The problem is not with the sword but with the inexperience of the ones attempting to wield it.

If you have a knife, a sword, or any sharp tool, learn to use it. Learn to use it or you might as well get rid of it. The finest of blades is more a hazard than a help in the hands of the inexperienced.

Ditto with the Bible. It can do, it has done, great things in the hands of those who know it well. But in the hands of those who have never taken the time to understand it, those who just take up a verse here or there with little thought or understanding, the Bible is not helpful. Get to know the sword of the spirit. You cannot use it if you are not familiar with it. And you dare not wait till the evil one storms your house to learn its use. Then it will be too late to learn how to use it.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Greater Works

"Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father." John 14:12

Have you ever pondered John 14:12? If Jesus had not said it, I might question it. How can it be that we ("whoever believes in me") will do greater works than he did? He walked on water. He fed the multitudes. He raised the dead. How can it be that we will do anything that even remotely compares, let alone anything greater?

He is not talking about any of us as individuals acting on our own. I never have, I never will, do anything that remotely compares to his mighty deeds of power. Nor have you; nor will you, acting on your own power. But empowered by the Holy Spirit and acting as a part of Christ's body, we should be regularly participating in deeds as great and even greater than any accomplished in Christ's earthly ministry. That may sound ridiculous but don't blame me; I did not write John 14:12.

It is as his church proclaims the gospel that people are saved, not merely from physical but from spiritual death. It is through his church that the manifold wisdom of God is made known, not just to the earthly rulers in Jerusalem but to the "principalities and powers in heavenly places" (Eph 4:10). It is to obedient members of his body that he grants his Holy Spirit to enable these deeds (Acts 5:32; 1 Cor 12:13). It is not his earthly physical body, but his living spiritual body, the church, that is "the fullness of him who fills all in all" (Eph 23).

Do you participate in the doing of the greater works? Are you an active member of the body that accomplishes this, or are you just a spectator, dead weight, a tagalong? We were destined for greater works. Let's do them.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Called For What?

Most people make a little "small talk" before they come to the point. But occasionally one has the frustration of dealing with a person who seems unable to get past the small talk and come to the point. They do not seem interested in knowing why we phoned or came by. They act as if we could have had no other purpose than the reciting of pleasantries. They ramble on about the weather, the ball team, or their aches and pains. It never seems to occur to them to ask, "Why did you call?"

The Lord has called us, but he did not call us to make small talk. He did not call us to get our advice, on matters big or small. He has called us to be saints (Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:2). That is the goal of his call.

To be a saint is to be holy. In fact the NIV uses the word holy, rather than saint, in 1 Corinthians 1:2. To be holy, to be a saint, means to be a person set apart for the Lord's special use.

Think about what this means, and about what it does not mean.

He did not call us to merely be saved from the consequences of our sin. He wants us to be saints. He did not call us just to gather a people who would sit around and praise him once a week. He wants us to be holy. He did not call us so that we could go on living just like everyone else, and yet somehow end up in heaven at the end of life. No, he wants us to be different, separate, holy. A special people for his special use.

I do not like to make a call, especially a long-distance call and then have the other party keep the conversation from getting to the point of the call. When God called us, it was costly. Let us not frustrate the purpose of his calling. He called us to be his special, holy, people. Let us honor the purpose of his calling.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Field of Dreams

In the movie, "Field of Dreams," a farmer is walking in his cornfield and hears a voice saying, "If you build it, he will come." The farmer takes this to mean that, if he builds a nice baseball field in his cornfield, the great "Shoeless" Joe Jackson will be brought back to life. As it turns out in the movie, he builds it and Shoeless Joe does come back -- along with several other dead people, including the farmer's father.
I have not been wandering around in the cornfields, but I have been hearing a lot of voices saying, "If you build it, we will come." Some have said, "Build up a better Bible school program for our children, and then we will come." Others have said, "Get more people our age for us to fellowship with, and then we will come." Unfortunately, I have to say, "This is not the movies, folks, and what you are asking is not something like a baseball field that can be built that way."

We cannot build the Bible school program without children, children who come regularly. If you want to see more people your age here, invite people your age, and then be here yourself to welcome them. It is not really a question of my building it and anyone coming, it is a question of your coming and our building things together (with God's help).

Our culture is used to fast food, convenience stores, and ready to wear clothes. But faithful churches do not happen instantly, they have to be built, and they are not built by the efforts of one or two. A faithful church is grown only where people are willing to rearrange their priorities and work under God's grace and to his glory.

If you come and work with us, we can build this church into something that will glorify God in this area. But if folks keep saying, "Do this and that and fix this other, and then we will come," nothing worthwhile will come of it. I cannot build it, you cannot build it, but if you join in the work with God's help we can build it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Finding Our 'Niche'

The Bible teaches that we each have different roles to fulfill. We are not all eyes. We are not all hands. We are not all feet. Each of us has been given different gifts by God and we have different roles to fulfill. (cf. 1 Cor 12:17)

Some have tried to claim that every Christian should be a teacher or that every Christian should be an evangelist. It is true that every Christian should be supportive of teaching and evangelism. It is true that all Christians should be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks the reason for the hope that is within them (1 Pet 3:15), but that is not the same thing as being an evangelist. There is room, in fact there is need, for specialization within the body.

Finding our 'niche' is an important part of achieving happiness and success in the Lord's work. The church has a unified purpose, but to accomplish that purpose we each must evaluate our talents, the needs at hand, and we must make a decision as to how we can best help in the work.

Our 'niche' is often determined more by the needs at hand than by our evaluation of our own talents. If you are asked to serve in an area of work where you do not feel particularly gifted, accept the challenge and trust the Lord to supply the ability. To serve only in areas where we are already comfortable does not allow for growth and does not indicate that we are walking by faith.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

My Vacation

If I were a factory worker, performing the same task in the same location day after day, I would probably want to take a vacation in which I moved about from place to place. But I am not a factory worker. My daily life is not highly repetitive. Consequently my idea of a vacation is a little different. Instead of traveling for a change of pace, I would prefer to sit still for a change. Instead of seeing the sights, I would prefer to read a few good books (a few of the hundreds I hear about but do not have time to read).

I just ended a two week vacation. Not by choice I had to travel about 2000 miles during the two weeks. But I still found time to read. This is what I read:
  1. A biography of Ernest Kevan, the first Principal of London Bible College. It was a good biography, and a relaxing read, but nothing outstanding.
  2. A biography of Hugo McCord. I studied under Hugo at Oklahoma Christian, so I was perhaps more interested in this book than the average person. The biography needed better proofreading and editing. But anyone interested in Hugo McCord, or in his biographer, Earl West, might really enjoy this book.
  3. A history of the first 50 years of the United Bible Societies. I am very interested in the work of Bible societies, and have known a number of people who have worked with Bible societies. But again, I do not particularly recommend this book.
  4. The Meanest Man in Texas, a biography of Clyde Thompson. Now that was an interesting read. I think anyone who enjoys reading even a little bit, might enjoy this book. I should warn you, however, that Clyde Thompson was indeed a violent and dangerous young man. He committed four murders. The transformation of Clyde Thompson is one of the greatest stories of grace. This would be a great book for anyone, but especially for anyone who is in prison, or who has a loved one in prison.
  5. Prayer: A Biblical Perspective, by Eric J. Alexander. This is an excellent, 12 chapter, study of prayer. It is as good as anything I have read on the subject, and far better than most. It would be useful for individual reading or group study (although there are no discussion questions with the book).
  6. Each for the Other, by Brian Chappell. This is the best book on marriage that I have ever read. I encourage everyone who is married, or who plans to marry, or who works with those who are married, to read this book.
In case you are interested in any of these, the 1st and 5th are published by Banner of Truth and can be purchased from their website Brian Chappell's books are available from Amazon or Christian Book Distributors. The biographies of Hugo McCord and Clyde Thompson were both purchased from the Freed-Hardeman University Bible bookstore, and are unlikely to be available elsewhere.

Monday, August 6, 2012


One day, when I was in high school, I happened to be at the city park playing tennis at the same time the team from Lakeland Community College was practicing. Don Delaney, the coach, asked me to join him as he played against his doubles team. I played well. After one particularly brilliant shot, he asked what my plans were for college.

Don Delaney had seen me at my best. I was relaxed. I was playing well that day. But overall I was not a good tennis player. In fact, as much as I hate to admit it, I do not think that I ever won a match in high school or college. My record was 0 and 18, or something like that.

An occasional brilliant shot does not make one a good player. An occasional mistake does not make one a bad player. Babe Ruth struck out 1330 times in his career.

What coaches seek is a consistently good approach to the game. Of course, every player fails occasionally. Of course, even a poor player does things right occasionally. But what we should seek is to do the best we can, as often as we can.

That is true in life as in sports. The best of us makes mistakes. The worst of us gets it right occasionally. But what is the consistency? Is it our habit to "walk in the light" or is our habit to try to do as little as possible or to hover around the darkness whenever we have the chance?

Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that we save ourselves by consistency. The most consistently upright of us has no chance in the judgment, apart from Christ. We are all sinners. But the most consistently upright is honoring the Lord, while the fickle, the lukewarm, the occasional Christian is dishonoring him.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Adapt & Die

For longer than I can remember we have been told that the church must change with the times or it will die. There is a sense in which the claim is true, but basically the claim is an once of truth wrapped in several pounds of falsehood.

The churches that have changed the most are dying fastest; while the most conservative churches seem to grow, at least a little bit. The most change-willing church in this country has been the Episcopal Church. According to a recent New York Times article, the Episcopal church has lost nearly a quarter of its membership in 10 years. Not a single Episcopal diocese in the country has seen an increase. On the other hand, according to an NPR report, the fastest growing sect among the Amish happens to be the most conservative Amish group, the Swartzentruber Amish. Interesting.

I agree with Sundar Singh that (when in India) we should "offer the water of life in an Indian cup". In Africa we should have offered it in an African Calabash. We should adapt the method of presentation to the extent one can without damaging the content of the message.

But as soon as we start tampering with or de-emphasizing the content, we lose. As soon as we seek to be an entertainment option instead of a group of submissive worshippers, we lose. As soon as we begin to teach what is popular instead of what is right, we lose.

The world is full of "suit yourself" options. We cannot compete in that market. We will not even be noticed in that market. What is rare is uncompromising proclamation of the unvarnished gospel. With that approach we may offend many, but we may win a few.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Month of Fasting

Be kind to your Muslim neighbors. Ramadan began Friday, and it will be particularly difficulty this year. During Ramadan faithful Muslim men will not eat (and most of them will not drink) during daylight hours. Ramadan is difficult enough when it falls in the winter, when the daylight hours are shorter and one feels less need of liquids. But this year, with the observance running from July 20 to August 19, it is going to be very difficult.

The observance of Ramadan means different things to different Muslims. Some, for example, see it as a chance to show how physically tough they are. But the main idea of Ramadan is to remember the giving of the Quran. Muslims fast for a month to show honor to their holy book.

Now I would not want Christians to honor the Bible the way Muslims honor the Quran. From my point of view, the Muslim attitude toward the Quran seems to border on idolatry. The Quran holds for the faithful Muslim the place that, for the faithful Christian, should be reserved not for the Bible but for Jesus. But, while I think Muslims doubly mistaken, I certainly admire their dedication.

Which leads me to certain questions, 'If Muslims will spend a month fasting for a book that we do not believe to be true, what should we do to show our respect for a book we do believe to be true?' 'If Muslims will spend a month fasting for a book that we do not believe provides salvation, what should we do to show our respect for our Lord, who provided our salvation at great cost to himself?'

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. Psalm 138:1-2

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Going Without Water

How long do you go without a drink? I went about 13 hours without a drink recently, and I was not happy about it. Most of us have learned to "drink plenty of fluids." We realize that getting plenty to drink is an important part of how we remain healthy.

How is it with your soul? How often do you give it a drink of the living water?

It amazes me that some Christians have so little interest in the food and drink of the soul. Some people who show tremendous concern for their physical food and drink behave as if spiritual food and drink are a matter of small importance. How can this be?

We realize that we must eat and drink to remain healthy. We realize that we must be careful what we eat and drink -- that we cannot eat junk food and remain healthy. How is it that we do not see the application of this to spiritual matters?

We must eat and drink often, and we must eat and drink that which is good for us. Real spiritual food and drink, and real spiritual exercise, these are the keys to spiritual health.

Do not try to exist without a steady, healthy spiritual diet. Do not expect spiritual healthy while consuming spiritual junk food. Eat proper food, and drink plenty of good spiritual fluids.

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God. Psalm 42:1-2

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Abiding In Christ

Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 (ESV)

If we would live securely in Christ, if we would produce spiritual fruit to the glory of God, we must abide in Christ. Apart from him, we can do nothing. That is the unmistakable teaching here. But how do we live this out in our lives? How do we abide in him?

We abide in him by following his word. Jesus says, "Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you" (3). It is his word that cleanses us and makes us fruitful; but to have that effect the word must do more than just enter our ears. His word must find a home in us, it must abide in us (7).

We also abide in him by means of prayer. Jesus said, "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you" (7). Prayer demonstrates our dependence on the Lord. The prayerless Christian lives as if capable of doing without the Lord. Failing to pray is a declaration of independence, a practical cutting oneself off from the vine. The withering of the prayerless branch is only a matter of time.

It is only by means of his word entering and abiding in us, and our words ascending to him in prayer that we abide in Christ. How is your prayer life? How is your Bible study? Are you abiding in Christ?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Task At Hand

"I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything; but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do."
These words, written by E.E. Hale and made more famous when quoted by Helen Keller, have inspired millions. They are similar in their intent to the statement of the Apostle Paul, "For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have" (2 Cor 8:12).

Too many of us focus on what we cannot do. We should instead focus on what we can do. As a song says, "If you cannot sing like angels, if you cannot preach like Paul, you can tell the love of Jesus and say, 'he died for all.'"

There are very few things in the work of the church that require a significant amount of skill or training. Most of the work of the church requires little beyond willingness. But instead of rising up and doing the simple tasks that are close at hand, too many seem to be waiting for some large, spectacular or distant task.
Remember, "a task at hand is worth two in the bush."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Unexpected Results

Years ago, one of the arguments advanced in favor of legalizing abortion was that it would reduce the number of unwanted children in our nation. In case you have not noticed, the attitudes fostered by abortion have had the opposite result. There are more unwanted and abused children now than there were before Row vs. Wade.

Doing evil that good may come often has these unexpected results.

Years ago, one of the arguments advanced for reducing church discipline was that it would help the church grow. After all, if we did not drum people out of the church, it was argued, we would have more people in the church. In case you have not noticed, this also has failed. Lowering standards within the church has resulted in a church that looks so much like the world that there often seems to be no point to church membership. Interestingly the greatest reductions have come to the denominations with the lowest standards of membership.

Years ago, one of the arguments advanced against spanking children was that, if they were not spanked, kids would feel more loved. They would, it was claimed, turn out better with milder use of discipline. In case you have not noticed, it does not seem to be working. I had a large extended family (more than 30 cousins). We were all spanked. The overwhelming majority of us turned out well. We certainly love and honor our parents. I see less love for, and much less honor for, parents of the spankless generation.

Maybe we should quit trying to predict results and just do things God's way. Maybe, since he said that shedding innocent blood is a sin, we shouldn't. Maybe, since he said to maintain discipline in the church, we should. Maybe, since he said that children need the rod of correction, we should give it to them. Of course, we will not apply his commands perfectly, so we will not always get perfect results. But I'll bet we would do better than we are currently doing.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Not Arrogance

I trust that you will not think me arrogant if I say that we have had some wonderful weather this past week. I take no credit for the weather, I simply observe the fact that it was beautiful. To note the beauty of nature is not to be arrogant. It is just to note a fact. In a similar way, we should be able to rejoice in our health, our abilities, our knowledge of God's will, without pride or prejudice.

There are no self-made men. We did not bring ourselves into the world. We did not build the homes, the schools, or the churches in which we were nurtured. We have nothing of our own making. All that we have has been received as a gift from God (delivered through various means).

We need to ask ourselves what Paul asked the Corinthians, "What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?" (1 Cor. 4:7) We need to ask this question frequently.

The Lord has blessed us with many resources and talents. We can enjoy them. We should make use of them. We should rejoice in them. But we should no more get prideful regarding these than we would become prideful upon observing a beautiful sunset. We should enjoy a beautiful sunset, but we should not pretend that we created it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bo and Woody, One on One

"Saturday November 21, 1970, Woody Hays and Bo Schembechler went one on one at Michigan Stadium. Each coach left his team at home, and they just played football against each other, one on one. In 1971 they were going to do a rematch in Columbus....."

It would have been unique, if it had happened. But, of course it did not happen. No one is interested in seeing coaches play one on one. The teams played in 1970, as they always do. Woody and Bo never played one on one. Joe Pa and Bear Bryant never did. Nor did John Wooden and Adolph Rupp. It just is not done that way.

The whole team plays, not just the coaches. In fact, while the coaches may work longer hours than the players, those hours are mostly worked behind the scenes. Actual physical contact with the opposing team is not to be engaged in by the coaches (when Woody forgot that, he lost his job).

Is it really supposed to be different in church work? All too often, church members act as if they have elders, deacons, and preachers to do the work for them -- to engage the world for them. Logic would indicate otherwise, and the scriptures certainly indicate otherwise, but often we do not operate by logic or the scriptures.

The task of the various gifts given by God to church leaders is not to enable them to do the work, but to enable them to equip the whole church for the work. "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith ...." Ephesians 4:11-13

Last week I told someone that this congregation has a better level of involvement than most congregations in the area. I believe that to be true. It is not, however, something to be proud of. While our level of involvement may be higher than at other congregations, it is still dismal. We have some who are very involved, but some who do practically nothing.

But do not worry yourself over the rest of the congregation's level of involvement. The only question you need to ask is about your own level of involvement. "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" 2 Cor. 13:5

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

God Hates Divorce

Cecil May is a professor at Faulkner University. He publishes a newsletter titled Preacher Talk. In the most recent Preacher Talk, Cecil May noted that the ESV, the version he normally uses and a good version in many respects, does a poor job on Malachi 2:16. The verse should read "God hates divorce." The ESV, while still indicating that divorce is not good, weakens the wording.

Brother May goes on from this to say, "God hates divorce, but he loves divorced people. Some are divorced by their partners against their will through no fault of their own. Some were at fault and have repented and been forgiven. Some continue in rebellion and sin and are in the same condition as the rest of mankind when God loved us and Christ died for us (Rom 5:8)."

Amen! And, while we are on the subject, let us add that God hates all forms of sexual immorality. His statements about premarital sex, extra marital sex, and homosexual sex are all perfectly clear. He hates them all, but he desires to bless and forgive those who are involved in them.

Let us, like God, hate the sin but love the sinner. Let us not be like those who, in the name of love, cling to and justify the sin. That is not loving the sinner. That is like a doctor telling us to keep our cancer and enjoy it. Sin destroys the soul as surely as cancer destroys the body. It is not love that motivates people to justify sexual sin. It is disguised hatred.

Those who justify homosexuality do so out of a deep-seated and hidden hatred. It is hatred of God, for it denies his design in making us male and female, and denies his word which repeatedly condemns this sin. It is also hatred of the ones toward whom love is being expressed, for no one who loves would leave another in the grip of such a perverted and soul destroying practice.

Let us, like our Lord, learn to love the sinner even while hating the sin. Sexual sin (whether premarital or extramarital, heterosexual or homosexual) is to be hated by all who call themselves Christians. The ONLY way we can truly love those engaged in such things is to hate what they are doing and try to rescue them from it. Any other reaction is just hatred in disguise.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Player Who Would Not Practice

Once there was a player who would not practice, and sometimes even missed games. The coach spoke to him about it and the player replied, "Coach, you told us once that everything we do must be done with our sport in mind. You told us that everything we eat, how we sleep, and everything else we do effects us as players. So I am always careful what I eat; and I only watch movies that have a sports theme. I even bought a blanket with balls on it so that even in my sleep I am reminded of our sport. Everything I do is colored by my commitment to the team. So, even if I do not show up at practice, and sometimes miss games, you still need to know that I am 100% committed to the team."

The coach then explained that, while it is true that eating, sleeping and everything a player does effects their play, there is still a need to be reliable in regard to practice and games. The coach closed by saying, "I am glad that you are trying to put even normal everyday activities to good use. That is very important, but it is no substitute for direct involvement with the team."

As Christians we must, of course, "do everything in the name of Christ" (see Col 3:17, 23-24). But we must also take our share in the work of the body of Christ, the church. We must urge one another on to love and good works; we must not neglect to meet together (Heb 10:24-25). Yes, everything we do is to be colored by our commitment to Christ, but that does not make everything we do a substitute for direct acts of Christian worship and service. Yes, every penny we spend should be spent in a manner pleasing to God, but that is no substitute for our responsibility to give to the church.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Foolishness We Must Preach

Many modern churches seem to think that we will be saved by means of political engagement. Others think that it is marketing techniques that are needed. Some still cling to the ever popular heresy of legalism. What all of these have in common is their human-centeredness. As different as they may be in details, they are all based on what we do.

It will not be our political schemes, marketing tactics, or legalistic keeping of rules that will save the world. As Paul told the Corinthians, "For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe." (1 Cor. 1:21)

What the world needs is not another human plan but the divine one. What is needed is not a powerful messiah figure but a crucified one. The folly of the cross, the Savior who does not save himself, is what needs to be proclaimed.

Most modern preaching is based on carefully calculated human wisdom. This preaching, in trying too hard to please man, inevitably displeases God and leaves us unsaved. It replaces the power of his weakness with the weakness of our strength.

The cross - a symbol of shame, of defeat, of failure - became, in God's plan, the centerpiece of glory, honor, and salvation. Presenting that message will not win the world's approval, but it is the world's only hope.

We face a paradoxical choice. We can present a wise sounding and popular human-centered message, or we can present the apparently foolish idea of the Savior who did not save himself. Presenting the apparently wise message will turn out to have been foolish. Presenting the folly is wise.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


It is a fact in this fallen world: weeds require no cultivation, no care, no watering. Weeds come of themselves without effort on our part. But the desirable crops demand attention, and they demand it constantly.

No, I am not writing a column on gardening. That is Chery's hobby, not mine. I refer not to literal weeds but moral and spiritual ones.

Children pick up our bad habits effortlessly. Our faults are passed on without planning or intention. But the great truths of our faith, the heritage of our culture, the desirable aspects of our lives require cultivation, watering, constant care.

Why is it so?

It is all a part of the curse that descended on the earth when humanity fell into sin. Did you think that it was only to literal weeds that the Lord referred in Genesis 3:17-18? No, it is not only the literal weeds that have proliferated. The spiritual weeds are the greater concern.

Therefore we must put forth real effort to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10). Backsliding will come of itself, effortlessly. But spiritual progress will always demand both intention and effort.

Each generation must intentionally, prayerfully, and carefully pass on the faith to the next (Ps 71:18; 78:4-8). Evil will tempt without planning. Error will occur without effort. But for the faith to be passed on we must be intentional and diligent.

If we plant no garden this spring, we will reap no desirable harvest in the fall. Weeds will plant themselves and care for themselves. The desirable crops will not.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

How Should The Church Respond?

In Britain, as here in the States, Christian morality is under attack. No longer are unbelievers satisfied to live immorally themselves; they now insist that Christians must not criticize their immorality and even that we must subsidize it. In response to recent efforts to legalize homosexuality in Britain, The Banner of Truth recently made the following comments. I believe that these comments are correct and that they are equally applicable here in the United States. I have added the words in brackets for clarity in our context. The rest is quoted directly from The Banner of Truth’s April issue.

"Let every Christian act as salt in society, and share in every endeavour to uphold the standards of the Word of God, but let ministers [and all Christians] realise that the great contemporary problem is not in society as such but in the church— the church’s great business is not to be lobbying, signing petitions, etc., but to be awakening the [spiritually] dead. Ultimately it is only an increase of real Christians that can change society and public morality. The absence of conviction of sin in the church has been a primary cause of what has happened in the nation. Let the fear of God be restored here first. We believe that such is the biblical approach to the present situation. God is very active in judgment in the present. The message of the atonement is fundamentally the only one that is truly relevant." (Reproduced with permission. The Banner of Truth magazine is published by the Banner of Truth Trust

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Clothes Communicate

What we wear says something, before we say a word. Clothing does not identify us perfectly, but it helps identify us. We recognize a policeman, a fireman, a doctor, and others by what they wear.

A "mind the gap" cap tells those who have been to London that the wearer of the cap has also been to London. A Budweiser T-shirt indicates to others that the wearer drinks beer. In both cases, the facts might be otherwise. The cap may have been a gift from someone who traveled to London. The shirt may be a hand-me-down. But the wearer of these items has no one but himself to blame if people take the items at face value.

The truth of this observation goes far beyond travel caps and beer T-shirts.

Mike Royko, columnist for the Chicago Tribune, once wrote about an illogical young woman who walked down the street wearing a miniskirt and then became angry when she thought a man had sounded his car horn at her. She had invited such behavior and then, illogically, taken offense at what she had invited.

What are we saying with our clothes? Many of us have had to wear ill-fitting hand-me-downs at times in our lives. We simply had nothing else. So, of course, we are understanding of those who have nothing else. But what of those who have nice clothes, or could have, but prefer to dress like tramps? It is hardly logical to willingly dress like a tramp and then act surprised that others respond to you as such.

Whether we care to admit it or not, our clothing says something. As Christians, we are commanded to be concerned with what our words, actions, and clothing may communicate. We ought not to be expensively overdressed and thus communicate a love of worldly splendor. Nor should we be underdressed and thus communicate a careless attitude or a lack of concern for morality.

Col. 3:17, 23-24 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. ...
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ

1 Tim. 2:8-10 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.

1 Peter 3:3-4 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing— 4but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'’" Matthew 7:21-23

I had a student once who believed that everyone who claims to be a Christian is one. While that may have been a comforting doctrine to this young man, it is not a biblical teaching. It flies directly in the face of what Jesus said. It is not everyone who says "Lord, Lord," but the one who does the will of the Father, who is approved by God.

Of course, none of us does God’s will perfectly. We are saved by his grace (Eph 2:1-10). We must be infused by his Spirit (Rom 8:9). We do not save ourselves by our works, but the direction of our deeds demonstrate the direction of our hearts (see James 2:14-20). According to Titus 3:11-12 his grace will lead us to repentance, it will train us to renounce sin. If we are not being led to repent, this indicates that his grace is not really at work in us.

In Africa we had a lot of trouble with counterfeit medicines -- pills that were sold as antibiotics that were really just fakes. In America we have a lot of trouble with counterfeit faith in self-granted grace that claims to save but in reality leaves people just as they were before.

Saying "Lord, Lord" proves nothing. True faith in the true grace of God will transform our lives. The "after" picture of our life is not supposed to look like the "before" picture. Christ came to save us from sin, not just from the consequences of sin.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Do We Love Him?

He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" (John 21:17)

There are those who serve for what they will receive, and there are those who serve for the love of him whom they serve. Far be it from me to say that one who serves for the reward is totally wrong. I, like anyone else, appreciate a reward for my effort. But is it only for the reward that we serve? Is it only for the avoidance of the punishment that we follow?

Work done in love is done better than work done merely for a reward. Service rendered for love is of a different quality than service rendered for pay. The one called to "feed the sheep" of Christ is to follow him for love, not for what they will receive.

Yes, we all desire heaven as our eternal home, but why do we desire it? To desire it merely for self is to desire what we would not enjoy, even if we could achieve it with such an attitude. Heaven is a place of eternal praise, and those who go there must go for the love of the one who is to be eternally praised. As one hymn reminds us:

The bride eyes not her garment, but her dear bridegroom’s face; I shall 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.

Friday, March 2, 2012

One On One, Or Many Will Never Hear

The following is a true story. The names were changed to protect the guilty.

A friend, whom we will call Joe, recently related an experience that I wish I could call unusual. It was a Sunday morning, worship had just ended, and Joe mentioned to another member, whom we will call George, a recent special event in the congregation. George responded, "When is that coming up, I want to attend." Joe responded, "It was yesterday." George replied, "Why didn’t anyone tell me?"

The event had been repeatedly announced both in the church bulletin and in the verbal announcements. That Sunday before this conversation took place, the fact that the event had taken place was mentioned several times during the service. Yet George was somehow unaware that it had taken place.

There are a lot of Georges in the world. There are many people who are oblivious to everything that is said in the bulletin or from the pulpit. If they are to hear anything, it must be said to them face to face, one on one. For some odd reason, they ignore everything that is said to the group as a whole.

Don’t be like George. Listen to the sermon and the announcements. Read the bulletin. Apply them to yourself.

If you know a George (and I suspect you do), get with him one on one and teach him the gospel. Odds are, even if he has come to worship for years, he has never heard it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


"Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!" (Psalm 46:10, ESV)

Why do we stay so busy? Why, even when we are not going and doing, do we seek noise? Why is there always a radio or television on? Why are we afraid of stillness, allergic to quiet, unwilling to endure solitude?

There is a time for action. There is a time for speech. There are times when to remain silent would be sin, to be inactive would be cowardice. But there is also a need for quiet. There is a need for solitude. There is a time to allow silence.

When we stay busy, it is hard to see how we are expressing our dependence on God. Constant activity seems to imply that we are central, indispensable.

When our world remains noisy it is hard to reflect. We may know the truth, we may discuss the truth, but we can hardly reflect on it. And truth that is not reflected upon and applied is of little value in reclaiming our lives. If we are to draw near to God, we need to listen to his word in Bible study, confess our need in prayer, and quietly reflect on how it all needs to work out in life.

Inactivity is evidence of spiritual illness. So is constant activity. Engage in intentional spiritual activity this week. Also engage in some intentional quietness this week. Let it be quiet enough to allow you to think. You need it. We all do.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Compliment

Someone paid me a rare compliment the other day. They said, "You are one of the least creative people I have ever known."

Does that not sound like a compliment to you? Maybe you need the context to understand. The point was that my lessons are not my own, but attempts to faithfully present what the Bible itself says.

The comment took me back to another conversation long ago. I was a teenager at the time; Grady McKnight was an older brother in our congregation that often taught Bible class and sometimes preached. I had given three sermons (and had fainted during the first two). Brother McKnight asked me when I would give another lesson. I replied that I was waiting until I had found something original to say. He shook his head and replied, "If it is original, then it is not Bible and we do not need it."

I hope the compliment about my lack of creativity was true. I wish it were more true. I try to allow not only the content but the structure of my sermons to be determined by the text itself. But, of course, I do not always succeed.

When I fly, I do not get to choose my own pilot. If I did, I would not look for the most creative pilot I could find, but the safest. I do not need anyone looking for a new route to London. I will be much more satisfied with the proven route, carefully followed.

Originality and creativity are great in certain aspects of life -- and deadly in others.

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 1:3, ESV)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Why The Emphasis On Baptism?

I am often asked a question that goes something like this, "Why does the Church of Christ put so much emphasis on baptism?"

We put an emphasis on baptism for several reasons.

1. The command to baptize comes from our Lord (Matt 28:19), and we take very seriously what he has commanded. "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
2. Baptism focuses us on the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord (Rom 6:3-4). "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life."
3. Baptism places us in Christ (Gal 3:27). "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ."
4. Baptism is involved in removing our sins (Acts 2:38 & 22:16). "And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’" "And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name."
5. Baptism saves us (1 Pet 3:21). "Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."

Do not blame me for the Bible’s teaching about baptism. I did not write the Bible. If I had written the Bible it might not say these things about baptism, but I did not write it, and it does say these things. In view of what the Bible says about baptism, the question ought not to be "Why do you emphasize it?" The question ought to be, "Why do so many who claim to be Bible believers delay submitting to the Lord in baptism?"

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Extreme Life Makeover

I have never watched Extreme Home Makeover, but I know the concept of the show. A house is remodeled to help a needy family. Or is it?

In most cases, what really happens is not the remodeling of an existing home but the destruction of the existing home and the replacement of that home with a new one. In most cases, the changes that are desired are too extreme for the existing structure to support them. In other cases, it might be possible for the existing structure to bear the weight of the additions, but one would end up with such a strange looking house -- with odd roof angles and two or three styles -- that it is better to rebuild the whole house.

Is there a lesson here?

How many of us are trying to tack a few Christian concepts onto a way of life that is non-Christian? It does not work. The existing structure is unable to bear the weight of the new additions, and the whole thing looks very odd.

Jesus warned us against trying to patch his teachings onto our ways of looking at things. "No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved." (Matthew 9:16-17, ESV)

The Christian life begins with death, burial, and resurrection (Rom 6:1-4). It is not to be a minor remodeling job, but an extreme life makeover.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Not Fully Cured

I welcome the news that "Susan G. Komen for the Cure" has suddenly developed a conscience about the misuse of funds. The folks at Planned Parenthood can whine until they are blue in the face. The plain fact is that it never was right, never will be right, never could be right, for a group that solicits funds to preserve life to turn around and give any portion of those funds to a group that exists to destroy life. In fact, even if the difference were not so marked, it is just plain wrong to request donations for one thing and then give the money to something else.

The move announced this week is a step in the right direction, but I still have a problem with what the Komen people are saying and doing. First, they should not hide behind a statement like, "we will not give any of our money to an organization being investigated by congress." No, they should come right out and admit that what they have been doing was terribly dishonest and immoral. They should also promise that they will never do such a thing again, no matter how the investigation of Planned Parenthood turns out.

Money given in good faith by people who want it used for breast cancer research should never, ever, ever be given to an organization whose primary purpose is anything else. That is especially true when it is clear that many of the people giving would have been horrified if they had known where their funds were really going. Take a clear, forthright, bold stand on this, Susan Komen, or you will never get a dime of my money, and I will use whatever influence I have with others to get them to stop supporting you.

Let’s face it. If I were to solicit funds to drill water wells in Africa, and then turn around and give those funds to an organization that builds chicken coops in Asia, I would be (rightfully) called dishonest. If I were to solicit funds to drill water wells in Africa and then turn around and willfully give those funds to someone who poisons water in Africa, I should be locked up for life, if not executed.

This is a simple matter of honesty. Susan Komen for the Cure has not been honest with people. Come clean now. Admit the wrong of what you have been doing and solemnly promise to never do it again. Anything short of that and we will not see you as fully cured.

UPDATE: This just in (Friday, 3 February, noon)...
Susan G. Komen for the Cure has given in to the illogical pressure from the mindless but controlling minority and reinstated funding for Planned Parenthood. This organization has shown what it is really made of -- equal parts dishonesty and cowardice. I am only one; I do not have much influence; but I will use what influence I have to see to it that you never receive another dime from anyone who cares about logic, honesty, or justice. This is incredibly shameful, dishonest, cowardly, and immoral. English is a rich language, but there are not enough words to express the disdain thinking people must feel toward your organization.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Born of Adversity

Judges, Jeremiah, 1 Corinthians, Colossians, what do these biblical books have in common? These four, like many of the biblical books, were born of adversity. Had Israel not descended into chaos after the death of Joshua, we would not have the book of Judges. Had Judah not rebelled against the Lord in the days following the death of Josiah, we would not have Jeremiah. Had the church in Corinth been peaceful, united and holy, we would not have either First or Second Corinthians. Had Paul not been imprisoned and unable to visit the church at Colossi, or if they had not been tempted to embrace a dangerous false teaching, we would not have the book of Colossians.

So, what is the moral of the story? Does that make the chaos of the Judges era good? Does that make the sin of Josiah’s sons positive? Does that make the disunity at Corinth or the false teaching at Colossae desirable? No, of course not.

But it does remind us that the troubles and frustrations we face are not new. As God has used troubles in the past in a positive and helpful way, so he can today. The Bible will never contain a book called The Letter to Toledo. But what happens here, even though it be frustrating and often negative, will be used by God for good.

Try to remember that. I will try to remember it too.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. James 1:2-3

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What Would It Prove?

The claims started long ago. The claims were meaningless, and turned out to be false. Yet, some people let them shake their faith. I was just a youngster, and Lyndon Johnson was President, when a couple of scientists claimed that they had created life. Further investigation proved their claim to be so exaggerated that one might have been tempted to call it an outright lie. They had managed to blast some soup they had mixed up with enough electricity to form a few random amino acids. That was all. But to hear the atheists crow you would have thought that they had produced a human baby without the use of either egg or sperm.

Last week a few papers again carried the claim that life had been created in a laboratory. Reading further, it turns out that a single cell form of life, brewer’s yeast, was coaxed into becoming a multicelled form of life. So, once again, the supposed great proof of the general theory of evolution, turns out to be so exaggerated as to be nearly a bold faced lie.

Suppose that someday they do it, what will it prove? If after a hundred years of trying, with trillions of our tax dollars spent, some scientist really does manage to produce life from non-life, what will it prove? Perhaps all they will have proven, if they ever do it, is that it takes intelligence and effort to do it. They will have proven, in fact their efforts already have proven, that it could not have happened on its own. Left to itself, non-living things do not become living things. We know that. But those who are desperate to disbelieve refuse to face the fact.

If they ever do it, they will have proven nothing we did not already know. But perhaps, as Aaron Dicus, professor of physics at Tennessee Tech, predicted, "Secure is life from mortal mind; God holds the germ within his hand. Though men may search they cannot find, for God alone does understand."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Those Who Give Approval

"Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them." (Romans 1:32)

When I was a boy it was believed that Christians did not dance. But every election year I find Christians dancing. They are not literally dancing; but they are dancing all kinds of rhetorical jigs trying to justify the unjustifiable. Whether we choose to face the fact or not, the person who gives consent to wrongdoing is as guilty as the person who does the wrong.

The person who knows that murder is wrong is guilty if he gives someone else permission to carry out a murder. Although no blood has literally stained his hand, he may be even more guilty than the person who did the deed. While the one who plunged the knife may have been confused and thought that he was doing right, the one who stands back and says, "I would not do it myself, but I will allow him to do it" knows that murder is wrong and will be held fully guilty. This is the plain teaching of passages like Romans 1:32 and Luke 12:47-48.

Those who vote for pro-abortion candidates are as guilty of sin as any woman who seeks an abortion, any doctor who performs an abortion, or any politician who justifies abortion.

I would not want to stand before God guilty of shedding innocent blood. If I vote for those who justify it, I am as guilty as if I had done it myself. You can dance if you wish. I will stand firm on that plain and rather obvious fact.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Knowing God

The most critical matter in a church, or in the lives of individual Christians, is not what they do or how they worship but what they think of the Lord. Right ideas about God will lead us to correct errors in our lives and worship. Wrong ideas about our Lord will lead us into errors in life and worship. So, even if we are in the wrong in some of our actions, where there is a right understanding of God, there is every hope that improvement will come over time. But where we have wrong ideas about the Lord, even if we are good moral people and worship according to the biblical pattern, there is a good chance that we will be led astray.

A.W. Tozer said, "We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God." Those who believe God to be unjust are likely to become unjust in their dealings with others. Those who believe God to be undisciplined and undisciplining tend to become overly permissive with those they are called upon to supervise.

There are nearly as many false ideas about God as there are people on this planet. In the beginning, he made us in his image; but, ever since the fall, we have been trying to make him in our image. In our thinking we lower him to our level (Ps 50:21), instead of seeking to know him as he really is.

People say that they want eternal life. But they are not interested in knowing the God of the Bible. They prefer to cling to the God of their imagination. We cannot have eternal life without knowing God, the real God, not the God of our imagination. Jesus said, "this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (John 17:3).
Live right, worship right, but most of all, know God! Knowing God through his word, this is what will sanctify our lives (John 17:4-17).

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Illusion of Sudden Change

An earthquake seems to be a sudden event, but, in reality the forces that bring about an earthquake have been building slowly for months, years, decades, even centuries. What seems to us a sudden event is the culmination of a long process.

The same is true spiritually. There are times when we seem to make sudden progress in our spiritual life. There are times when someone seems, quite suddenly, to fall away from the Lord. But in both cases there was an unseen preparation for that moment. A long period of prayer and consistent Bible study is capped with a seemingly sudden enlightenment. Or a long period of neglect ends in a catastrophe that seems sudden, but which is, in reality, the natural result of our failure to feed the spiritual life.

A crisis may bring the strength or weakness of the soul to light; but the strength or weakness is the result of our daily walk with the Lord. When a crisis forces a decision upon us, we appear to make a decision in that moment. But, in reality, our preparation or failure to prepare will have already made the decision. The crisis reveals our character, it does not create our character. Our spiritual character is formed by our daily practice, not by those rare moments of crisis.

What will your daily practice be in 2012? The crisis that will prove the nature of your character may not come this year, but the moments that will produce your character will come. They will come every week, every day, every hour. How will you use this year?