For it is by grace you have been saved...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Who Am I?

The whole Facebook thing has caused me to do a bit of “soul searching.” As I look down the list of my friends, seeing the tiny little icons that represent them, it causes me to wonder. Who are these folks really? Do these pictures represent who they truly are, who they wish to be, just one side of a multi-sided personality, etc.? And then the question comes back: who am I?

I have had several pictures on my “profile.” What is it I’m trying to say about myself with these? As I think back through some pictures of myself over the years, which of these is a true reflection of who I truly am?

Is it the “pastorly” me?

Or the family me?
Or the crazy me?
The NASCAR freak?
The big bad hunter? (Ha!)

We have all these pictures of ourselves out there. We use some of them on Facebook and other things as our “identity.” Again, what is the motive, what are we trying to show people, what are we trying to say about who we are?

Maybe it’s just the end of the year reflection stuff causing me to take these profile pics way too seriously, read way too much into it all. Or maybe God is truly working in me to cause me to have a genuine concern about the image I portray to others.

Maybe it’s because I’m reminded that image we are to be portraying is not an image of ourselves at all. Romans 8:29 says, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (emphasis mine)

Our goal is not to reflect the various sides of our own personality, though certainly God has given us those. We are not to be about the business of trying to fit some image of ourselves that we think others will like, etc. Our goal, our desire is to reflect Christ. So that others will see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven (Matt. 5:16).

So the answer to the question “who am I?” really has less to do with me, and more to do with Christ. I am a sinner saved by grace. I am a new creation in Christ. I am a child of the King. The list from Scripture goes on and on. (all quotes are ESV)

Rom. 8: 37 - We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

1 Cor. 3:9 - For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.

1 Cor. 4:10 - We are fools for Christ's sake.

2 Cor. 2:15 - For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.

2 Cor. 5:20 - Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.

2 Cor. 6:16 - What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God.

Eph. 2:10 - For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We are members of His body and members of one another. (Eph. 4:25; 5:30)

You get the idea. Here’s hoping that in the coming year, we find our identity in Christ; that we live in such a way that others see Him in us; and that like John the Baptist, our chief desire is that He increases and we decrease. Because in the end, I only want to hear one means of identifying who I am. I just want to hear my Father say: "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

Friday, December 11, 2009

MacArthur on TBN and Tetzel

John MacArthur has long been one of my favorite expositors. It's nice to have those out there who are standing firm on the Truth in the face of the pseudo-biblical, pop culture charlatans out there who seem to be so popular, even within evangelical circles.

Here are Pastor MacArthur's latest thoughts on the Word Faith garbage that fills the airwaves at TBN. He even likens them to Luther's "nemesis," the indulgence seller John Tetzel. Hadn't thought of it that way before, but it's a very good comparison.

Go HERE to read this fantastic article.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas - Part of an Eternal Story

Charles Spurgeon once said of Christmas: “THE birth of our Lord Jesus Christ into this world is a wellspring of pure, unmingled joy. We associate with his crucifixion much of sorrowful regret, but we derive from his birth at Bethlehem nothing but delight. The angelic song was a fit accompaniment to the joyful event, and the filling of the whole earth with peace and good will is a suitable consequence of the condescending fact. The stars of Bethlehem cast no baleful light: we may sing with undivided joy, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.”

He said: “I do not wonder that the men of the world celebrate the supposed anniversary of the great birthday as a high festival with carols and banquets. Knowing nothing of the spiritual meaning of the mystery, they yet perceive that it means man’s good, and so in their own rough way they respond to it. . . The Birth of Jesus not only brings us hope, but the certainty of good things.” (Spurgeon #1815, The Great Birthday and Our Coming of Age)

And I say Amen to all of that. But should we not be just a bit alarmed that those who know “nothing of the spiritual meaning of the mystery” seem to act as if they know what this holiday is all about. We have all these romanticized images of the manger scene, and folks think if they know that, they know the story.

But there is so much more to this story than that. In fact, this story is not just a story, but part of a much bigger story that God has been telling since the beginning of time. Galatians 4:4-5 says, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

“The fullness of time” reminds us that this is part of something much bigger than just one night in Bethlehem. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not making light of the birth of God the Son, how could we ever do that? I’m just trying to remind us that it’s not just about a little pink baby in a barn. This is about the Divine Plan of God that has been at work for all eternity past.

It includes creation, the fall, and God’s electing plan beginning in Abraham and his lineage. It includes the foreshadowings in the garden, in the flood, and in the Exodus. Throughout the whole of the Old Testament, God sets up prophets and priests and kings as a foretaste of the coming Messiah who will be prophet and priest and king all rolled up in one. The birth of the babe in a manger is simply the fulfillment of all that God has been doing since the beginning. This story has been going on for thousands of years as God has been working toward this ultimate act of Divine intervention into the story as the Word takes on flesh and dwells among us.

More importantly, the story is about more than a birth; it’s about a death. In the celebration of Christ’s coming, we need to keep in mind that the primary purpose for His coming isn’t found in Bethlehem; it’s found at Calvary.

This story that has been being written for generations and is finding a climax in God’s intervention into history in a remarkable way; this story that is now centering on the coming of God’s Son; this is a story that has a purpose. And that purpose, the reason for the coming of the Son is redemption.

To redeem us. To buy us back; or even to ransom us. This is a word for the marketplace. A transaction is taking place. More specifically it’s a word from the slave market. We are slaves to sin. Verse 3 of Paul’s letter says that we “were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.” This goes back to the beginning of the story as I mentioned earlier. Sin entered the world; and all of creation fell. As a result, man is born into this world under the yoke of slavery. We are in bondage to sin and death. This is the heart of the human problem.

I know there are many who don’t believe mankind has a problem. But the truth is we have a problem of monumental proportions; eternal proportions. We are enslaved to sin, sentenced to death because of that sin. Scripture says the wages of sin is death.
We are under the curse of sin and need to be rescued; ransomed; freed from both the sin and its consequences. And this is what Christmas is all about. God sent His Son to redeem us, to give us the forgiveness and reconciliation we so desperately need. I know we think that’s the Easter story and not the Christmas story. I know you think I’ve got my holidays mixed up. But both Easter and Christmas are part of bigger story God has been telling. And the truth is, Christmas would be completely insignificant without Easter.

God didn’t just send His Son into the World to give us some great images to celebrate in December. He didn’t send His Son so that we could have a reason to decorate trees and buy gifts and do Christmas pageants for our kids to look cute. He sent His Son to redeem us. The babe in a manger came in order that He might grow into a man, live a perfect life, and give that life as a perfect sacrifice for our sin. He came to die. He came to suffer the penalty of sin in our place. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

He came that sinful man alienated from God might find reconciliation; and even more, that we might become the children of God. That He might adopt us as sons. John 1:12 says that those who receive him, who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

And once we come to Christ in faith and find redemption and adoption, we discover that we have become a part of the story of what God is doing. An ongoing story. We are looking forward to that day when our Lord returns and takes us to be with Him. We are looking forward to those heavenly mansions Jesus has promised His children. We are looking ahead to that better country Hebrews speaks of. Looking forward to the continuation of our story which will go on throughout eternity.

The story of Christmas is truly part of an eternal story. It’s a story that God has been writing since the foundation of the world. A story that He continues to write; continues to direct toward the end He has already foretold is coming. A story that includes the redemption of His people; and is ultimately being told for His glory. A story that may begin here, but for those in Christ, one that will never end.

This Christmas, as we look to this central element of the eternal Divine story of redemption, the question we need to consider is: have I found my place in this story? As we celebrate the coming of the Babe of Bethlehem, have we come to grips with the reason for His coming? My prayer is that we never lose sight of the purpose of this story; and that we continue to use the miracle of Christmas to call men, women and children to repentance. This is, after all, the reason for which God took on flesh and made His dwelling among us.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

It Will Cost You Everything

Last spring I was privileged to attend a conference at Rockport Baptist Church in Arnold, MO where my friend Scott Lee is pastor. One of the speakers that week was Tim Conway from Grace Community Church in San Antonio, TX. His ministry was a blessing.

Since then I’ve discovered one of the “side ministries” of Grace Community, a website called I’ll Be Honest. For the most part it’s a collection of video sermons and sermon “jams” from some excellent speakers.

Thought you might enjoy the latest from that site, from Steve Lawson. It’s worth your time.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Spirit of Christmas Past

I believe I’ve mentioned before my somewhat odd hobby of collecting antique hymnals. One of the reasons I enjoy these old collections so much is because it is a constant reminder of the incredible wealth of music that has been written for the church down through the years, only the tiniest fraction of which most of us are aware of.

As we begin this Christmas season, this is more evident than ever. Most of us only really know a handful of Christmas hymns, and yet there are so many that have been penned.

One of the favorites in my collection is the 1833 edition of Church Psalmody: A Collection of Psalms and Hymns, adapted to Public Worship. Selected from Dr. Watts and Other Authors. (Gotta love those titles!)

For your enjoyment (and the broadening of your horizons) here are just a couple of my favorite texts devoted to our Lord’s birth found in that little book:

BEHOLD ! the grace appears,
The blessing promised long ;
Angels announce the Saviour near,
In this triumphant song :

2 " Glory to God on high,
And heavenly peace on earth ;

Good-will to men — to angels joy,
At the Redeemer's birth!"

3 In worship so divine
Let men employ their tongues ;
With the celestial host we join,
And loud repeat their songs —

(Isaac Watts)


REJOICE in Jesus' birth!
To us a Son is given.
To us a Child is born on earth.
Who made both earth and heaven!

2 He reigns above the sky.
This universe sustains —
The God supreme — the Lord most high,
The king Messiah reigns!

3 Th' almighty God— is he.
Author of heavenly bliss!
The Father of Eternity,
The glorious Prince of Peace!

4 His government shall grow,
From strength to strength proceed;
His righteousness the church o'erflow,
And all the earth o'erspread.

(from collection by Josiah Pratt)


HIGH let us swell our tuneful notes.
And join th' angelic throng;
For angels no such love have known,
To wake the cheerful song.

2 Good-will to sinful men is shown,
And peace on earth is given ;
For lo! th' incarnate Saviour comes
With messages from heaven.

3 Justice and grace, with sweet accord,
His rising beams adorn;
Let heaven and earth in concert join —
To us a Saviour's born.

4 Glory to God! in highest strains,
In highest words be paid;
His glory by our lips proclaimed,
And by our lives displayed.

(from collection by John Goss)


WE come with joyful song,
To hail this happy morn:
Glad tidings from an angel's tongue,
"This day is Jesus born!"

2 What transports doth his name
To sinful men afford!
His glorious titles we proclaim —
A Saviour — Christ — the Lord!

3 Glory to God on high,
All hail the happy morn :
We join the anthems of the sky.
And sing—"The Saviour's born!”

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Borrowed Thanksgiving List

Here is an absolutely beautiful list of thankfulness from Erik, the Irish Calvinist. To all I say a hearty "AMEN!"

Realizing that thankfulness is not merely manners but a spiritual apprehension graced by God (Rom. 1.21; Col. 3.17), I have a short list of things I am thankful for this am…
-I am thankful that God made a covenant with his Son to save his people from their sins (John 17.4)

-I am thankful that God created this world as the stage to display his glory (
Ps. 19.1-7)

-I am thankful that God created men & women to reflect his image, enjoy his creation and rule righteously over it (
Gen. 1.26-28)

-I am thankful that God did not destroy the world when our first parents sinned, but instead announced that he would bring relief (
Gen. 3.15)

-I am thankful that God continued to lovingly communicate redemption through the prophets at various stages (
1 Pet. 1.10-12)

-I am thanfkul that Jesus, God’s Son became a man without ceasing to be God, in order to earn my redemption (
John 1.1, 14)

-I am thankful that Jesus, motivated by love and in obedience to his Father, fully obeyed the Law of God in the place of a rebel like me (
John 8.29; Matt. 3.17)

-I am thankful that Jesus own life of obedience is a sufficient basis to credit & cover me with so that I might stand blameless, holy and beyond reproach in his site (
Rom. 3.26; Col. 1.22)

-I am thankful that the sufficiency & perfection of Jesus’ work is eternal, it will not fade and is forever acceptable in the site of God (Heb. 7.25-27)

-I am thankful that Jesus did not cave into pressures, become weak, or turn aside from the cross as he marched resolutely to Golgotha in order to be the surety for my debt of not obeying God’s Law (
Matt. 26.39)

-I am thankful that upon that cross Jesus fully drank the divine cup of wrath that was due a rebel like me; the foaming, fully fermented cup of righteous wrath, that was due me, is now empty and therefore I have peace with God (
Rom. 3.24-26, 5.1)

-I am thankful that Jesus powerfully rose from the dead, furnishing proof that he is who he said he was, and God has accepted him (
Acts 17.31)

-I am thankful that Jesus is the head of the church, that is he is the Lord and lifegiver of it (
Col. 1.18)

-I am thankful that Jesus will come again for his church, finally defeat all of his foes, and put all things into subjection to himself as he will rule over creation righteously as the Last Adam (
Eph. 1.10-12, 20-22; 1 Cor. 15.24-25)

-I am thankful that God has given his Holy Spirit to point me to Jesus, instruct me in Jesus, by unfolding the Word of God that I might know, enjoy and be satisfied in God alone (
1 Cor. 2.10-16; 2 Cor 3.17-18)

-I am thankful for many many other blessings this Thankgsiving, however, at the end of the day the source and substance of all that is truly a blessing is the knowledge of, experience of and joy in God himself.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Follow up to "Thankful for God's Providence"

On the heels of my reminder that our nation has historically focused on God's Providential Hand during the Thanksgiving season, I find out that our current leader has chosen to focus on many other things and leave God out of the equation altogether. (not that I'm surprised)

Read my friend Rodney's take on it here:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thankful For God's Providence

I know it’s two days before Thanksgiving, but by the grace of God we hope to be at Grandma’s house for the big day, so now is as good as time as any to drop a few thoughts about the whole thing.

Most of us know the facts about those hearty Christian families setting out across the vast sea to find a land in which they could worship freely and serve God according to their conscience instead of according to the whims of kings and corrupt church leaders.

We know that those first couple years in this new land were very difficult to say the least. But those that survived pressed on, and after 3 years, the governor of the new Plymouth Colony, William Bradford issued that famous decree calling all citizens of the colony to gather for worship and the giving of thanks.

What’s interesting about that first proclamation, and I know you’ve heard this before, is how God-focused it was. “Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest . . . and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as he has protected us . . . (and) has granted us freedom to worship God . . . " He called for “all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones” to gather at the meeting house “there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.” The day was set aside for recognizing and appreciating the providential hand of God at work.

And down through the years, the official Thanksgiving proclamations continued to mention that. The first official proclamation from the Continental Congress on November 1, 1777 began: “FORASMUCH as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received…” Actually, that one goes on to speak specifically of the “merits of Jesus Christ;” language that has grown increasingly sparse. But anyway…

The first presidential call for a day of Thanksgiving by George Washington in 1789 begins with similar language: “Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor…”

Official Presidential statements were off and on for several years, and then in 1863 President Lincoln issued what was to be the first in an unbroken series of autumn proclamations of thanksgiving. Even in the midst of a civil war he recognizes “the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.” His proclamation calls for a” day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”

Do you notice a pattern here? At the heart of all of these statements of thanksgiving is a recognition of the Providence of God. God’s providence specifically mentioned 3 times in that first Congressional statement, and in nearly all the presidential proclamations for the next hundred years.

As recently as 2007, George W. Bush issued a proclamation reminding us to be “ever mindful of the many ways we have been blessed,” and that “Our country was founded by men and women who realized their dependence on God and were humbled by His providence and grace.” Again the focus on God’s providential hand.

What, then, are we to be most thankful for? I would say, the continued Providence of God. By definition, God’s providence is simply “that preservation care and government which God exercises over all things that He has created in order they may accomplish the ends for which they were created.” We may not always see that hand, but it’s there.

The Easton Bible Dictionary ends the article on Providence with: “The mode of God's providential government is altogether unexplained. We only know that it is a fact that God does govern all his creatures and all their actions; that this government is universal, particular, efficacious, embraces events apparently contingent, is consistent with his own perfection, and to his own glory.” Again, in simpler words, we may not understand it, but we know it’s there. And that should give us confidence and cause us to be truly thankful. To know that God’s hand is at work still, and His people ought to be looking for it, and depending on it, even when things look like they’re out of control. God is still God; He is still King; He is still on the throne; and His people can take great comfort and encouragement from that truth.

Quite honestly there are days I struggle with that. Like many of you there are times when I really question things. What exactly is going on? What is God doing? It seems like so much wasted effort some times. Sometimes it seems like we’re just beating our heads against a wall. I don’t know what the plan is.

But I do know there is one. And our responsibility is to remain faithful. To keep serving and doing what God has called us to do, and trust the Providence of God to accomplish the plans of God; knowing that indeed His plans will prevail. His purposes will succeed. His will, will be accomplished because He said so.

I don’t know who said it, but someone once put it like this: “God writes with a pen that never blots, speaks with a tongue that never slips, and acts with a hand that never fails.” Knowing that should give us great confidence, and cause us to truly bow our knees in gratitude and thanksgiving. His providence has led the church all these years. His providence led our founding fathers to this land. His providence has continued to bless us with the freedom to worship and serve Him. And it is our duty, as our forefathers repeatedly said, to thank Him for that providence.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Misunderstanding Grace

I love the subject of Grace. That should be obvious by the title of this stop in the blogosphere. In fact, my two favorite subjects of all time are Grace and God’s Sovereignty. I believe those to be the two dominant themes in Scripture. However, I’ve noticed that many misunderstand the subject of grace; or at least have an incomplete view of what it’s all about.

Some people see the grace of God as something like the benevolent love of a senile old grandfather. He just loves us so much, because we’re so loveable, and He just sort of forgets about our sin. To be sure, there is some element of truth in there. God does indeed love us, though it’s not because we’re so loveable. And His grace does cause Him to not hold us accountable for our sin, but it’s not just forgotten about, is it? It has been dealt with righteously in the sacrifice of His Only Son. Grace is a costly thing. It’s the ultimate sacrificial action of a holy and righteous God, preserving both His justice and His mercy at the same time.

Others focus on the grace of God as nothing but fire insurance. And certainly it is about providing our most basic need, which is forgiveness and reconciliation with a Holy God. But that’s where most of us stop: It’s about getting saved. It’s about escaping the flames. It’s about the forgiveness of sins and that’s it. Well it is about those things, but that’s not it.

Reading through Titus recently I was reminded again of God’s ongoing purpose of Grace in our lives with these words:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14, ESV)

So grace is about bringing salvation, but it is also about training. It’s about disciplining us, educating us, teaching us to do several things:

1. To Purposely Avoid Sin. Verse 12: training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions. Other translations say denying ungodliness and worldly lusts. One paraphrase says to turn our backs on a godless, indulgent life. (MSG)

But however you translate it, the point is the same. God’s grace at work in our lives should cause us to come to hate sin, to turn from it, to abhor it, to do all in our power to abstain from it; have nothing to do with it. If God is at work in you, if you have come to Christ by grace through faith, if His Spirit is truly at work in your life, then one of the noticeable effects of His presence should be a growing hatred of sin and an ever increasing passion to avoid it.

2. To Progressively Seek Holiness. Again in verse 12: training us…to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. Kings James says soberly, righteously, and godly. It’s not enough that we turn away from sin, we also need to actively, and progressively turn toward God in holiness.

And that doesn’t just mean the “big” sins vs. the “big” acts of holiness. It goes to the little things. Alexander Maclaren put it this way: “Ah! If our likeness to God does not show itself in trifles, what is there left for it to show itself in? For our lives are all made up of trifles. The great things come three or four of them in the seventy years; the little ones every time the clock ticks.” Which is to say that we ought to be focused on seeking godliness and holiness and self-control and righteousness in the little things all day, every day.

It means seeking to live godly lives not only out in public where everyone sees us; but at home with our wives and children. It means seeking holiness in those everyday moments when we’re alone, driving in the car, when we think no one else can see us or know our thoughts. It means seeking to honor and glorify Christ with our every breath.

3. To Patiently Anticipate Heaven. I know that we don’t often put patiently and anticipation together, but that’s exactly what’s required of us here. Verse 13 says, we are to be waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

John Gill writes of this verse that we should be “looking for this… to be desiring it with the heart and affections set upon it, longing to be in the enjoyment of it, and yet waiting patiently in the exercise of faith and hope.”

We’re only passing through; Scripture says we are strangers and aliens here. This is not our home. We long for our true home, that better country Hebrews talks about. We may have never seen it, we really don’t know that much about it, but we know who’s there waiting for us, and that makes us long for it.

4. To Passionately Serve Christ. Verse 14 says that part of God’s purpose in grace is “to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” God wants a people who are zealous for good works. Not just willing to work, but zealous for it.

And this isn’t the only place in Scripture where the work of grace in our lives is associated with God’s desire for us to serve him. Probably the most well known verses on grace are in Ephesians 2 where Paul writes: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

We know that well. For me, it’s the foundation for my theology of Grace. But we often overlook the very next verse where Paul completes the thought. Verse 10 of Ephesians 2 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God’s purpose of grace is that we passionately, zealously serve Him because we were created for this very purpose.

Just wanted to challenge us all to think of grace a little more. And then ask ourselves: Is the grace of God at work in your life. First and foremost, have you experienced that grace by faith in Jesus Christ? Have you come to Him in faith and found the salvation we all desperately need?

And if so, do you see the continued work of grace in your life? Are you purposely avoiding sin; progressively seeking holiness; patiently anticipating heaven; and passionately serving Christ? Can you say an unreserved yes to all four of those areas?

Our forgiveness, our justification, is only the first step. God wants to continue His sanctifying work in you as well. My prayer is that we would all seek Gods’ purpose of grace in our lives, that when He does return, those most glorious words will reach our ears: well done, my good and faithful servant.

Thanks for letting me preach.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Just Another Right Wing Wacko

I truly fear my head is about to explode. Information now coming out of Texas is saying that this incredibly tragic event at Ft. Hood could have been prevented in so many ways. Not only were there many warning signs in the life of this one sick individual, but now we’re being told that a Senate investigation had suggested the possibility of this kind of action by Islamic radicals over a year ago.

Meanwhile, does anyone remember that it wasn’t all that long ago that a Missouri State Highway Patrol profiling memo suggested that the home grown terrorists we should really be watching out for are Conservative Christian, Pro-life, anti-tax types? Never mind the real threat, let’s focus on those dangerous “right wing radicals.”

Then to top it off, I read this report that Chicago Mayor Daley was actually blaming gun-loving Americans for the tragedy at Ft. Hood. It seems that if we didn’t like guns so much, anti-American terrorists wouldn’t be killing us. In what universe does that make sense?

I’m not sure I have anything really profound to say here. I’m just so amazingly frustrated that there is a whole society out there which is built on the firm ideology calling for the death and destruction of America, Israel, and anyone else subscribing to any semblance of a Judeo-Christian worldview. And yet the mainstream media and other liberals in this nation still refuse to call that terrorist threat what it is. Instead they want to continue to pass the blame for all the world’s ills onto Conservative, 2nd Amendment supporters.

When will we throw away all this political correct garbage and simply face facts? The largest threats we have to our freedom in this nation are: 1) Radical Islamic terrorists who simply read their Koran and act on its demand to kill all those who fail to convert; and 2) All the liberal/socialist types who would continue to seek to gag and disarm God-fearing Americans.

I pray regularly that our nation will wake up before it’s too late to stop this slide. Ultimately I know that what we need more than anything is a genuine revival, for God’s people to get out and share the Gospel and see hearts genuinely changed. But in the meantime, it just breaks my heart to see this land I love being ruined by such ignorance.

Sorry about all that. Just another right wing wacko needing a chance to vent a little. Now back to regularly scheduled programming.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Charity by Guilt - One Man’s Rant

I walk into the convenience store to pay for my gas and the clerk asks me, “Would you like to donate a dollar to help feed the hungry.” Somewhat surprised by the question, I said a soft, “Uh, no thanks, not today.” She gives me a disapproving look and takes my gas money. I walk out feeling guilty because they must think I don’t care about the hungry.

Never mind the fact that our church has an ongoing benevolence ministry in which we help those in our community who are struggling; people we see face to face, know the need, and try to offer more than just a monetary “fix.” Never mind the food pantry we have at church to help as well. Never mind the fact that I have no idea what organization the C-store is collecting money for, or who exactly it’s helping, etc. I’m still made to feel that I don’t care about “the hungry.”

Same day. Different store. As I’m checking out with my toilet paper and bag of M & M’s (strange I know, but..), the clerk asks, “Would you like to donate your change to help teach someone to read?” Having just been through something similar I’m less surprised, but still not sufficiently guilty to part with my change.

What I want to say it, “I already pay a hefty amount in property taxes to support the government school, which by the way, my kids don’t even attend. That’s because we are teaching these kids to read at home. Which by the way takes quite a bit of money when it comes to buying curriculum, etc.; which we purchase on only one income since my wife stays home to give those children individualized attention. So actually, by putting this in my pocket I am giving my change to help someone read, thank you very much.”

Of course, I don’t say that. Just another, “Not thanks, not today.” And another shaking head at the insensitive, uncaring, miser who won’t give his money to another unknown organization to do who knows what with.

Now please don’t misunderstand. I know there are some really fine organizations out there who are doing some wonderful things to help folks with a variety of needs. And I know that they need funds in order to operate. But I really dislike the pushy, put-you-on-the-spot method of asking for funds at the local store where we have no idea who these organizations are, what exactly they are doing, where they are operating, who exactly is benefiting, etc.

And I don’t like the implication that if you don’t give your dollar or your change that you somehow don’t care about “the hungry” or “the reading challenged.” We actually give quite a bit to various ministry endeavors, as well as involving ourselves personally in some of those. But we’ve become a society that is so fixated on throwing money at problems that I guess this charity by guilt thing works, or they wouldn’t keep doing it.

But here’s a good lesson in stewardship. If you’re going to give to charitable causes, you are much better off giving directly to organizations that you know and trust; groups that you know are using those funds wisely; groups that you know are meeting real needs in the best way possible.

Start with your local church, and find ways that you can not only give financially, but get involved personally. Because ultimately, unless we feed the hungry with bread and follow it up with the Bread of Life, all we’ve done is help someone find temporary relief on their way to ultimate suffering. Unless when teaching folks to read we show them the True Word, all we’re doing is allowing them to fill their heads with worthless knowledge in the end.

And since we’re not supposed to even let the right hand know what the left hand is doing when giving to those in need (Mat. 6:3), then we don’t need to explain ourselves to the store clerks just so we think we’ll look good in public. And if you’re still feeling guilty and feel the need to make a donation, I know where you can send some money to help feed at least four hungry kids and help them to read all at the same time. Just drop me a check in the mail.

Monday, November 2, 2009

An Argument Against Alcohol – Revisited

I’ve been doing this blog thing for about 2 ½ years now and a couple of things stand out. One, there are actually people out there bored enough to read this. And thanks to the little tracker widget thingy, I can even see where some of you are. And two, the number one thing that is being read is an article I wrote over two years ago regarding “An Argument Against Alcohol.”

I must say that I’m shocked that this is the article folks find so fascinating. I’ve written about all sorts of personal and theological and political issues, but the biggest response, the most hits, involves this observation that really was sparked by a NASCAR race. It seems that especially in Europe and the UK, this is a popular destination in my little blog world.

So, I’ve been rethinking the whole thing. I’ve re-read my comments and tried to decide if now, two years later, I still feel the same way. And the answer is yes. Some of the comments received on that post reflect some misunderstanding. It’s not my position that Scripture forbids the consumption of alcohol in and of itself. Need I remind you of the whole water-into-wine episode?

No, my argument was, and still is that it is wiser for the Christian to abstain for valid Scriptural principles other than an outright ban on alcohol. Chief among those principles is simply the issue of thinking more of others than yourselves, and seeking to not be a stumbling block to others.

The truth is that alcohol consumption is a problem for millions and the cause of problems for millions of others. Here are a few facts on alcohol/alcoholism I came across:

•Annually, more than 100,000 deaths in the U.S. alone are caused by excessive alcohol consumption.

•Nearly 18 million Americans (8.5 percent of adults_ meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol abuse or alcoholism.

•Approximately one in four children in the U.S. under 18 years old is exposed to alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence in the family.

•Alcohol is the top drug of choice for children and adolescents.

•Each day, 7000 children in the U.S. under the age of 16 take their first drink.

•More than 35 percent of adults with an alcohol problem developed symptoms such as binge drinking by age 19.

•Alcoholism costs the U.S. between 40 and 60 billion dollars per year.

•Alcohol–related crashes (i.e., those in which a driver or pedestrian had a blood alcohol concentration greater than zero) account for 41 percent of all fatal car accidents

•Alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes kill someone every 31 minutes and non-fatally injure someone every two minutes.

•There are more than 100,000 Alcoholics Anonymous groups worldwide.


Since we know the ill effects of alcohol, and we know that so many of our brothers are struggling with the issue, why would the caring, mature Christian wish to flaunt his “right to drink” just because there is no direct ban in Scripture? Why do we not consider:

Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. (Rom 14:20-21, ESV)

But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. (1Co 8:9, ESV)

"All things are lawful," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful," but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. (1Co 10:23-24, ESV)

Why is this such a big deal? Why is the consumption of alcohol such an attraction among Christians that we are willing to ignore the health and well being of so many around us just to “partake?” Again, I’m not arguing the “cleanness” or “uncleanness” of alcohol in general. It’s not a sinful beverage on its own. But can we not see that it’s simply wiser to abstain for the sake of others?

OK, bring on the response. (I hope, if anyone is still reading this!)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Reformation Day! (reprint from last year)

It's my understanding that there are a few pagans out there who mark this date with some other bizarre set of rituals, but for those of us who know better, today is Reformation Day.

That's right, today marks the anniversary of that day in 1517 when one brave little monk rose up against the tyranny of the Roman Church, nailing his "95 Theses" on the church door in Wittenburg, Germany. He took a stand for the principles of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. And the rest, as they say, is history.

This is a great time to get the family together, play some Bible based games (or the ever popular "Pin the 95 Theses on the Wittenberg Door"), talk a bit about Church History and the courage of men like Luther, Calvin, etc. And you can top off the evening by watching the Luther movie which came out a few years back.

For your Reformation Day enjoyment, here are some clips from the movie along with some Christian music to boot . If you haven't seen the movie, watch this clip and then run out and buy the whole thing! Semper Reformanda!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Life, Death and Life

It’s obviously been a couple weeks since I’ve posted here. I’ve never been very consistent, writing as things of interest came up. But for the last couple of weeks, things have been really crazy.

Life itself happened to us. My wife’s van finally got to the point where we were putting so much into repairs each month just to keep it running that we thought it would be better to put that money towards a newer vehicle. Of course, as soon as we picked that vehicle up, my truck went kaput. Figures.

The house continues to fall apart. More plumbing this time. And of course, while the plumber is there he says, “By the way, you have termites.” Figures. It’s life.

But in the midst of all that, a little perspective was gained due to what we in ministry call a “run” on the hospitals. We can go months at a time with no one in the hospital, and then whamo: everyone at once. We’ve had several serious health situations in our church family, one of which ended in the passing of one dear sister into her eternal reward.

After two plus weeks with no day off, 12-14 hour days, all of this happening just when we’re having our three day Baptist Association annual meeting, of which I’m supposed to be Moderator, I get home late one night and my kids are trying to be nice and give me sympathy. I appreciate that, but it’s all made me think. I told them, yes, it’s been a rough couple weeks and I’m worn out. But it’s not me in that hospital bed and I didn’t just bury my wife. So I’m good. No complaints.

This has all been a good reminder for me of what’s truly important in life. But it’s also reminded me once again of what’s important in death. It was a joy to do this most recent funeral. I know that sounds strange. But this dear sister had struggled with cancer for over two years. She was so sick, so weak, suffering so much. And by God’s grace, her faith in her Lord remained firm to the end. It was a joy to stand before the literally hundreds of folks who came to the service, and speak of God’s grace and mercy, knowing our sister is beginning even now to sing her eternal praise; to invite others by the grace of our Lord Jesus to prepare now to join her in that.

Living well and dying well are intimately connected. Because we remember that real life isn’t about transmissions and termites. It’s not about health and houses. Life is about Christ. Glorifying Him with every breath, right down to the last one. Life is about preparing for our eternal home and our eternal task of serving, honoring and glorifying our precious Lord and Savior. That’s when real living begins in earnest.

Thomas Brooks once wrote: “A Christian knows that death shall be the funeral of all his sins, his sorrows, his afflictions, his temptations, his vexations, his oppressions, his persecutions. He knows that death shall be the resurrection of all his hopes, his joys, his delights, his comforts, his contentments.”

Life, Death and Life. We endure the first, leading to our encounter of the second, so that we may enjoy the third. Praise God! As Peter says,
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
(1 Peter 1:3-7, ESV)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Come To Christ

Here is a short video excerpt from Paul Washer found at a website called This is maybe the best 3 1/2 minutes you'll spend today.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Priority of the Word - follow up

For a perfect example of the lack of the biblical emphasis I discussed in my last post, read this little piece over at the Pyromaniacs site.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Priority of the Word

As I’ve been preaching through the book of Acts, I’ve been excited about reaching chapter 20 (only took me 14 months to make it here!). I love this chapter for two reasons: Paul’s farewell address to the Ephesian elders, and the story of Eutychus.

Over the years I’ve joked that the reason I love the story of Eutychus is because it allows me to say, “As bad as my preaching is, at least it’s never killed anyone.” Paul can’t say that. However, there is a much more serious point to this story.

We occasionally get caught up in the amazing and unique aspects of a story and miss the underlying point. We fixate on the Jonah’s sojourn inside the big fish and forget the whole point behind it; things like Israel’s racism and failure to be a missionary people, God’s sovereign choice to have mercy on whom He will have mercy, etc.

In Eutychus’ case, we focus on the sleeping in church, falling out of the window and dying, etc. and we overlook one thing. How little attention is given to the whole thing.

Just a refresher. Paul is preaching in Troas at a Sunday night church service. He preaches on and on and on, past midnight. It’s at about that time that poor Eutychus is finally overcome by sleep and makes his fatal fall. Paul goes down, prays over him, God miraculously brings the boy back to life, and they all go back upstairs.

Now here’s the really interesting part. They don’t spend the rest of their time focusing on Eutychus. They don’t put him on stage and begin asking questions. “What’s it like to be dead?” “Did you see heaven; what’s it like?” “Did you see your family?” “Did you see a white light at the end of a tunnel?” You get the idea. No one asked him to right a book on his “90 Seconds in Heaven,” though I’m sure he could have made a mint off of it.

No, instead they go back to the church meeting, share communion, and then Paul goes back to preaching. Amazing! It’s because they knew that the Word of God is the Priority! Eutychus couldn’t have told them anything that was more important than the Word of God Paul was preaching to them.

This is why they were here to begin with. This is in the days before weekends. Sunday was just another work day in Troas. These people gathered together after work because the Word was that important. Paul spent so much time because he knew he was leaving in the morning, and there is just so much in this Word that is important to get out. Even a death and resurrection in their midst isn’t more important than the proclamation of this Word.

I’m sure you can make all the appropriate applications to the Word Faith types, and those who want to focus on miracles and revelations. It even has something to say to those who want to entertain just to draw crowds (boy, could Paul have built on this one!)

Folks, there is nothing more important, more relevant, more imperative for His people to focus on than the miracle of His written Word. May the church find this as our priority once again.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

True Humility - addendum

In case you're interested, here is the speech from David Robinson I mentioned in the last post.

Friday, September 18, 2009

True Humility

I'm not the biggest basketball fan. Growing up in St. Louis, it was Baseball, Football and Hockey. Later I developed my passion (obsession?) with NASCAR. But being a sports fan in general, I have always tried to at least catch NBA playoffs and of course March Madness.

In the course of that, I came to appreciate David Robinson of the Spurs. Though a great player, he always seemed to be humble, and I often heard of his faith as well. He was recently inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame, and this genuine humility came through again.
Voddie Baucham did a wonderful job putting the Robinson speech along side the more self-centered address by legend Michael Jordan. I encourage you to go HERE and read it. Good job, Mr. Robinson.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Our Amazing Creator!

As usual, I'm a day late on things. Living in the hometown of Edwin Hubble of Hubble Telescope fame, you'd think I'd pay some attention to things involving the old eye in the sky. Our local TV news did a little story on the latest pics from the telescope, and after following their link to the Hubble website I was overwhelmed by the pictures there. My first thought was "Our God is an Awesome God." So I'd been preparing to write about God's glory in the universe and direct people to the Hubble site. And then, lo and behold, Dr. Al Mohler just did that, and did a much better job than I ever would. So let me just direct you to his blog post HERE, and then encourage you to go the the Hubble site HERE and prepare to be amazed at our Amazing Creator God. He is Awesome in the strictest definition of that term.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Obama Speech Not A Problem for Us

The whole controversy surrounding the President's address to our school children was not an issue for our family. Why? Because our children are not in government schools. Here's a great old video explaining why.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Book Review: Fearless by Max Lucado

I have to admit that it’s been awhile since I read a Max Lucado book. Earlier in my ministry life I read several. And while I enjoyed them, to me they came to represent in part what was wrong with the church in general: namely, an overly simplistic approach to the Gospel; Christianity-lite. I know that sounds arrogant and judgmental. I really don’t want to be. It’s just that these books are in large part written for “the masses,” and let’s face it; like it or not, “the masses” in the church today have been taken in by a shallow Gospel; a “me-centered” religion where Jesus is my BFF, not the Holy Creator and Redeemer of the world.

Anyway, when Thomas Nelson offered to send an advance copy of Lucado’s latest book Fearless to review, two things made me say yes, both related to the topic. As the title suggests, this is a book about living life without fear; overcoming anxiety. And as I’ve confessed on this blog before, this is an issue I struggle with, so that’s one reason. And two, we live in a world of ever growing fear, so this is certainly a timely issue. So here we go.

There is much to like about this book. Like some previous offerings, it still has a tendency to be overly simple in its approach to the gospel. Often more care is given to turning a clever phrase than to adequately present the reality of man’s depravity vs. the holiness of God and the sacrifice in Christ that was necessary to bridge that gap.

However, there are some places where the message is less sugar coated. Speaking of the disciples in the boat with Christ during a storm, Lucado points out that “this story send the not-so-subtle and not-too-popular reminder: getting on board with Christ can mean getting soaked with Christ.” The Christian life is not the pleasure cruise so many want to make it out to be, and that reminder is welcome.

And yet, in the midst of those things, we are reminded that God has commanded us to not fear. Lucado points out that the largest percentage of direct Christ-issued imperatives in the New Testament are of the “Do not be afraid” variety. Have courage. Take heart. Do not fear. It’s a command.

The book then deals with a variety of areas in which we experience fear: fear of insignificance, fear of violence, fear of global crisis, fear of death, fear of the future. In each case, we are given some good Scriptural reminders of how God has made provision for these issues. Ultimately, the reminder is that God has given us Himself: just as Christ was in the boat with his disciples, He has promised to never leave nor forsake us. We know that, but need the reminder often. In enjoyed the repeated focus on prayer and God’s presence, the ultimate fear busters.

I was a bit disappointed in the chapter on the “fear of disappointing God.” He actually suggested that Adam and Eve’s original sin stemmed not from pride, but from fear. He pushes the text a bit to make the point. And the truth is, that in our sin, we do disappoint God. So much so that it required the death of His Son to overcome the breach of relationship. But at the same time, I understand the point that those who are truly saved need to rest in the finished work of Christ, and not constantly live in fear that somehow we will do something to make God take back that salvation.

Likewise, I was a bit uneasy with one of the final chapter’s insistence that God cannot be defined by doctrine. I think I know what he’s saying; the whole “let’s not underestimate or limit God” kind of thing. But in truth, God has given us His Word to give us some “definition” of Himself, and that Word tells us to hold on to sound doctrine, to promote sound teaching, etc. We have to be careful not to open that door to wide so as to make anything and everything that claims to be “godly” acceptable.

Still, overall I enjoyed the reminders given here, and the group discussion guide at the end was certainly helpful. The whole thing could be summed up well by the quote from John Chrysostom shared by Lucado on p. 88: “What can I fear? Will it be death? But you know that Christ is my life, and that I shall gain by death. Will it be exile? But the earth and all its fullness is the Lord’s. Will it be the loss of wealth? But we have brought nothing into the world, and can carry nothing out. Thus all the terrors of the world are contemptible in my eyes; and I smile at all its good things. Poverty I do not fear; riches I do not sigh for. Death I do not shrink from.”

As Paul reminds us in Romans 8: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:31-39)