You have the words of Eternal Life!

The truth of the gospel and its POWER is found in the Scripture. It will feel as though the remainder of this week is redundant, but it is intentional in order to drive home the reality that the word is life and from the Word, we are taught!

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“Half truth is no Truth, like being half dead.”

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Learn the Word of God!

If you need food and I don’t have any food there is nothing I can do to help you eat. The same is true if we desire for God to use our mouths to bring His sheep to faith. If we are not learning the Scripture, we are not being prepared to have proper evangelism in our lives. Outlines, acrostics, pneumonic devices, “roads”, examples, apologetics, evidence etc. cannot bring ONE person to faith. Only Scripture can give you the tools to give others the truth!

Go listen to our weekly hour-long podcast “Theology Answers” that can be found over at “TheologyAnswers.com” and is a part of the Christian Podcast Community

 

“Half truth is no Truth, like being half dead.”

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Reading Scripture is the victory…

There is sometimes more superstition related to spiritual warfare than there is the truth. Whether the battle is guilt, shame, doubt, sickness, family, sin, temptation, or everything in between, the Bible is the only weapon we have and thankfully, it is the only weapon we need.

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“We don’t need to learn how to tie satan up or kick him out of the window. We have the sword of God!”

 

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It appears that the death of Billy Graham has brought out a type of worldwide idolatry masked under the guise of appreciation. I won’t speak to Graham but I have to speak to the matter most disturbing relating to the authority of what Scripture teaches. If one holds to the sufficiency and efficacy of Scripture as the arbiter of truth, the full revelation of God, and the place by which they find the gospel of grace, then I must object to this overwhelming bandwagon of foolishness concerning “other” means of salvation. Scripture teaches that God’s word is profitable for teaching, that it is the message of the cross of Christ and His atonement (that is the gospel), that it is the Power of God unto salvation, and that those who do not hold to its authority and message are condemned already because they do not believe on the Son of God.

Paul teaches in Romans that God uses the preaching of the gospel by the power of Spirit in order to bring regeneration and that no man can come to trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ without this working of the Spirit. The point being that if Scripture teaches this and so many who profess to be “in Christ” are refuting this in favor of a kinder, more gracious God who would not “condemn” a man because of his lack of hearing, then to what end are we able to believe in any portion of Scripture?

We must hold the full Witness of God through the Scripture to which we would all do well to pay attention. Even the personal testimonies of the Apostles were not the authority of the revelation and message of Jesus Christ. Peter tells the church to listen to the Scriptures through which God will save them and secure them. Paul tells Timothy that the Word of God is able to make one wise and the means of salvation. What a glorious truth! Listen to the word of God, listen to the Scriptures and reject anyone who tells you that there is salvation found through any other medium!

Success can be confusing. No matter the field or context of life, measuring success is a dominant desire. This measuring becomes problematic when the matrix is misunderstood. Ignorance of what constitutes success can bring a plethora of issues both externally and internally in the life of an individual or organization. Considering successful ministry can be daunting and I know in my tenure as a pastor I’ve been taught conflicting thoughts on how to know if I am successful. For over 20 years the idea of ‘counting’ heads and money has been the measure of success but if we peer into the pages of scripture, there would be no example of a successful church, pastor, apostle or Savior if that were the case. Others have concluded that success should be based on the experience of the individual or the congregation. They would posit that true success isn’t how many, but rather, how powerful the experience. Again, if this is measured in comparison to the New Testament, there would be no historic picture of success found in these measurements.

There is the room of course, for many conversations of practical wisdom as it relates to dealing with people, communicating, caring and doing life together, but any human being can pull off successful ventures of gathering up people with a common goal or vision. It only takes a brain and a voice. The problem comes when all this discombobulated instruction on success invades the mind of a pastor or congregation and they begin to make strides to ‘measure up’ according to man’s wisdom. While I’ve spoken to these things before, I want to know just put the authority where it should be; the Word of God.

When we want to see an amazing feat we can go to either a magic show, and be deceived and enjoy it, or we can go to a sporting event or daredevil exhibition. Either way, there are many amazing things to behold in the world of daring humanity. If we want our breath to be taken we can listen to a chorale of voices singing the classics of old, a symphony bringing the trills and tonal harmonies to life in our ears, or we can view the grandeur of the sea, the mountains or the beyond! Sadly, all of these things, while awe-inspiring, are not majestic or awesome in comparison to the glory of God. So, in man’s feeble mind, he has tried to find other ways to behold the power of God and then painted the canvas of “worship” and “church” with these silly and boring tactics.

How amazing would it be if I were preaching this Sunday and out of the blue I began to float in the air and fire came from my hands as I read the words of Jesus? People would think they had witnessed a miracle and their hearts and minds would be overpowered by that experience. Likewise, if I walked out into the congregation and touched the ailing and their bodies were actually healed, legs grew back, eyesight restored; people would lose their mind in amazement. What if I were able to know things that were not mine to know or had the ability to provide music that would shudder the soul and cause others to feel, what they thought, the very presence of God? I would submit that all of this, even if it happened in greater detail, would be boring and nothing in comparison to seeing the glory of God face-to-face!

So, if we want to SEE a miracle, it is better to stop looking for the next great “work” of God and realize that there is already a perfect miracle for us to behold every moment of our lives! Jesus in John 6 says, “This is the work of God that you believe in the Son that He has sent.” See, the people of John 6 wanted more miracle food. When Jesus refused to feed them in their hunger and commanded them to be satisfied in Him, they wanted a sign for Jesus to prove Himself as worthy. In the same manner, many professing believers seem to believe in anything they can feel, create, and experience that satisfies their flesh instead of actually believing in Jesus Christ and His finished work of redemption. The point is that success in ministry is not measured by the number of people in the pews, money in the bank, missionaries in the field, miracles on the stage, healings in the clinics, or tongues in the air like cymbals. It is measured by the majesty and glory of God in the face of the people of God, who believe, worship and love each other with all authority. So how then are we to measure this? How is this experienced and evident in the life of the church? Through the Word of God Alone!

God’s word faithfully proclaimed is the only measure of successful ministry.

2 Timothy 3:[16] All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, [17] that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

ὠφέλιμος – means valuable, profitable, having worth and bringing a yield. So, the word of God, which is God speaking, is profitable for all things that the church needs. It teaches (doctrine), reproofs (disapproves), corrects (sets right), and trains in righteousness (teaches Christ). The successful pastor is equipped for every good work through the Scripture. That is the miracle of God and a display of His creative power at work. His word being taught, His sheep hearing and heeding, and His people being governed by the Miracle of New Life by His everlasting Grace. Anything else is just boring and of lesser awe than this!  Stop seeking out the devil’s measure of majesty and rest in the revelation of God to you.

Rest in Christ!

Some of the most engaging fodder of man center on what Scripture has not revealed.  My entire life I have always been a philosopher, thinking more than anything else I do. I remember vividly daydreaming as a boy where my mind would contemplate deep things while becoming lost in the plethora of endless introspections. Many people today, while they may not expressly waste countless hours as I have in thought, do spend a great deal of time placing faith and hope in theological thinking instead of biblical teaching.

There is always room for thinking. We are required to think, to hold every thought captive, to meditate on the Word of the Lord, and to have wisdom and discernment. This isn’t the point of my premise. The point is that often times we land our theological plane on the runway that isn’t paved and quite honestly, doesn’t exist within the pages of Holy Writ. For example, many of us have a humanistic view of Lucifer, the Devil. He’s often thought of in caricatures of the ghastly and demonic (as portrayed by literature and film) when in reality, he is the angel of light and his beauty is grand. He is a deciever, so he purposes to disguise himself to be “like God.” Hell is another area of grand extra-biblical thought. Some people feel that the Devil is in hell and runs the place, when Scripture teaches that God has exiled Satan to the Earth and at the Day of Judgement, Satan will be assigned to hell.

What causes these types of controversies? Or worse, what causes this type of teaching. It’s one thing to posit, it’s a whole other conversation when what is not clearly taught in scripture is presented as fact. Well, several things are at play here.

  • Oral Tradition – Many people hold to unbiblical views on matters because their view has just been handed down for ages. It’s what they’ve always thought and heard and therefore, they have never really questioned it.
  • Obtuse Teaching – To think that pastors and bible teachers are exempt from their own presupposed traditions would be an error in judgment. Many who teach just restate what they think and have heard. While some of these matters are not grievous heresies, this type of teaching – lazy and thick-headedness – produces a vast ignorance among the church.
  • Organic Thinking – Our minds actually come up with really creative ideas. Some of the things that I have pondered, while not found in scripture, are absolutely worthy of a screen play! Well, maybe not, but they are at least within the confines of human imagination. And often times, they are very logical. Our minds come to the table with many “what if it is like this?” To which we have to answer, “What does Scripture teach?”
  • Obstinate Toughness – This is just being hard headed. We just do not like to be wrong and when we see something different that what we ‘know’, we tend to refuse it. The good thing is that God can overcome the hardest of hearts through the blood of the lamb. This unwillingness to learn is a bad sign because it reveals a refusal to know the truth of Scripture, which is to know the One True God.

We should be like the Bereans who inquired the Scriptures when they heard Paul teach. We should be students of the word and study to show ourselves an approved worker. Imagine learning something from someone who never learned what they were teaching, but rather they just repeated what they had heard. Are they a student? Are they qualified to teach?  Being that we worship God from how He is revealed in Scripture, it is vital that we know Him rightly. We should test every idea that comes into our heads and our ears. And when what we ‘know’ conflicts with what God teaches, we should rest in what we see from the Bible. We know that God is always good. We can rest securely in everything that is taught in Scripture and better, we can rest securely in those things that are not explicitly taught, knowing that these things are settled as the mysteries of God.

Rest well beloved,

Pastor James

ThePointSketchAs long as there has been sin in the world there have been people with problems. Adam’s first issue was the fact that he was naked and then ashamed; Eve likewise. Since then the problems of humanity have compounded to an immeasurable proportion and it is very likely that things are not going to get better for humanity any time soon. The Good News is that Jesus Christ has suffered temptation, suffered in the flesh and risen from death and ascended into Heaven to “prepare” us for the presence of God (Among Many Things found in redemption…). So, those who know the love of God IN and THROUGH Jesus Christ ALONE can have joy in the midst of the problems. As believers, we know that all things are for our good and in time we will see the outcome of such in all circumstances. We understand that God is sovereign and that nothing is out of His touch and decree and that even in the worst of times His love for us is visible, effectual and known.

To this point then let’s remind ourselves of the love of God.  First, God is love. So, He is known as love in His nature, love, holiness, character and actions. Second, if we love God it is only because God first loved us. Third, God’s love is only known through Jesus Christ the Son whom HE (God) put forth to satisfy His judgment against us and bring justice for our sin according to His holiness. We learn that there is no greater “love” than for a man to lay down his life for a brother, therefore, God loved the world in this way (so loved) that HE gave His Son.  So, we summarize the love of God in the following way:

  1. God is love.
  2. God’s love is only known through the GIVING (sending and killing) of Jesus His Son.
  3. God loves us in the giving of Jesus Christ to die for our sins in that we cannot pay for them ourselves.

So, if we understand God’s love this way according to scripture, then we can rightly assume that to DISAGREE with God’s love through the Son is to REJECT the love of God. Those who reject the love of God are condemned already (John 3:16-18) and are subject to the wrath of God’s hatred for sin and sinners. Hmmmm….. Let that soak a minute and now let’s move to the point of our conversation.

Ministry often times is man-centered. It can been seen in a selfish light of “I want a friend”, “I want a shoulder to cry on”, “I want someone to pity me.” Of course this is not exclusive nor is it the rule but everyone can resonate with such statements. Let’s consider true ministry as “An attempt or effort to love others as God has loved us.”  Thinking this way should have already opened your eyes. So, if God ONLY LOVES in the giving of His Son, then in the same manner (like in Ephesians 5:22-25) we should love each other as God loves us. We are unable to put Jesus the Son on the cross for He has already fulfilled His ministry as the Lamb but we are able to POINT TO THE LOVE of God for us and in doing so we are LOVING each other.

Ministry takes on a whole new light when we think biblically and especially when people come with their problems.1 Thessalonians 5:14 teaches that the church should be admonished when idle, encouraged when downhearted and strengthened when weak.

Everyone needs a good ear from time to time and it is always good when a believer seeks out counsel from a brother or sister in the local family of faith. In this seeking of counsel often times it comes to the point of just listening to someone whine about how bad things are rather than seeking good counsel. In the end it is always improper (according to our understanding of love) to allow someone to just fall into pity and self-centeredness for any reason. Our love for them should point them to the promises of God through His word and in the admonishing of the idle a stern warning comes first to BE IN THE WORD and BE IN THE BODY.

Without these two things no counsel will work, no hope will stick, no joy will arise. To give someone a shoulder to cry on while they live in continual disobedience and rejection of what the scripture teaches on how they are victors is “like” casting a diamond into the sea in hopes it would swim to a new family for their wealth or maybe like throwing a pearl in a pig sty. In other words, it does NO GOOD at all to just allow someone to ignore the power of God and His gospel just to have a pity party.

The answers to life come from God’s word, the power of victorious living come from the word, hope and courage come from God’s word… grace comes from God’s word. The letter of James tells us that those who see and do the word of God are victorious and rest on a solid foundation and just like Psalm 1, their feet will be planted and produce great growth. So, when someone needs wisdom, we go to scripture and show them to “ask and it will be given.” When someone needs comfort we exhort them to believe Jesus Christ when He says, “come to me all who are weary.” When one comes broken in their battle over sin we show them that Christ has suffered in every way and with every temptation but has sinned not. Others come with worry and in need of answers to their problems that they would find an escape and Godly council says, “stand fast in the fiery trials” and “do not be surprised” when they come.

Being out of the word of God and away from God’s people is like asking God to save you from burning as you set yourself on fire. Well maybe not quite as dramatic… but you get the point. At the cusp of this matter lies the ministry of the church of Jesus Christ, who are ambassadors of the living God through the redemption that is theirs in Christ. Sadly, many who want counsel want more than what the Word of God offers or want to be free from the pain of this life and sadly apart from the Word they will never find answers.

So what is the point of this rambling treatise? For all of those who diligently minister to those in need, please remember that the greatest ministry is the ministry of the word and the greatest friend is found in the body of Christ. So as we labor to answer the questions of life for others and we point them to the word of God we put our hope in Christ not ourselves. If we find some who refuse to hear and heed the word but they keep coming back for something else, it may be that we have to just clearly show them we have nothing more for them. Part of the pain of the Father’s discipline is being alone when we reject the Father’s instruction. Not to say we abandon others but we surely have to be clear that there is little we can do to help if they will not hear.

Warn the idle, encourage the downhearted and strengthen the weak through the word of God – if they do not listen, pray that God will cause them to listen and in their silent and lonely search for hope, God the Spirit will guide them back to His written word and back into the intimacy of His Holy People!

Lord Bless!

Recently the discussion of preaching has been in my ears and before my eyes.  Sadly, like most pastors and church goers, preaching has taken a back seat to “felt needs”, humanism and pragmatic comedy and proverbial enlightenment.  Creativity has taken the place of awe of the Creator and application has replaced worship.

Much needs to be said, however, much has already been said for thousands of years on this topic.  Sadly, the debate will continue and many will dismiss the reality of the present state of the church as “where we are” and try to fix it by continuing down the path of a reducing the Word of God to a plan apart from a Person who is Jesus Christ our KING!

In this, for those who desire to truly know, here a few thoughts on preaching.  Historically, there have been many thoughts on preaching and in reality, preaching doesn’t always mean right teaching. Sometimes preaching is just noisy nonsense.  It would also do everyone well to visit 2 Timothy 4

[4:1] I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: [2] preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. [3] For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, [4] and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. [5] As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

(2 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV)

In light of this, the command PREACH THE WORD is enforced by the amazing reality that God in His awesome power and purpose in Christ has come and His Kingdom is established through His glory, therefore, Jesus will judge all creation and one can be certain He will judge preachers according to James 3:1.  Thus, preaching is required of pastors, it is required of those who are called by God, not to deliver man’s creative exploits as derived from the scriptures, but with complete patience, one must reprove, rebuke and exhort through teaching of the Apostle’s writing as it was intended to be read and understood.  Many will not approve of such things in the name of “church growth” but Paul addresses that as well, that the time has come where people will not endure the truth.

Look at what Spurgeon had to say in line with this:

Hearing the word of God produces in us a spiritual lowliness or humility as we are guided and taught by God. It is from Scripture that we find hope, joy and sufficient grace in our daily journeys. It is through the right preaching of Scripture that the church is instructed and encouraged in the work of the ministry. Hearing Scripture brings joyful tears to my soul and often do I weep in the presence of its reading. Paul teaches that faithful preachers are found in faithful pastors who care for the church. They are gifts to the church. So, those pastors who are not faithful preachers are a curse, not a gift. Preaching rightly the Scripture always does two things and reveals three things at a minimum:

  • Faithful preaching CONFRONTS the hearer. The gospel in itself is confrontational as is the awesome majesty of God.
  • Faithful preaching COMFORTS the hearer. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. So those who are confronted by the reality of God’s holiness are shown His measure of redemption by Grace Alone!

What does Scripture show us?

  • At all times it reveals to us WHO GOD IS.  This is theology, the knowledge of God’s being, essence, person. 
  • At all times it reminds us WHAT GOD HAS DONE. This the narrative of history over which God is sovereign and He does all things for Himself by Himself and out of the counsel of His own will. We know we can be sure that God will act as He always has.
  • At all times it shows us WHAT GOD WILL DO. This is the promises of God that we look forward to. Amen.

Without preaching there is none of this. There then is no worship, no joy, no hope. 

[12] For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
(Hebrews 4:12 ESV)

As Paul reflects on the majestic and powerful Gospel of Jesus Christ in 2 Corinthians 4, he proclaims that there is no cunning, creative tampering of God’s word but a direct statement of the truth.  The question then comes, “what then of those who desire not to hear such things?”  His answer…

[3] And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. [4] In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
(2 Corinthians 4:3-4 ESV)

The good news is that by the direct statement of the truth of God’s word, many will come to faith.  One problem in the church today is that God has been removed from the teaching and preaching and those who come to faith have come to a gospel that is not of God but of man.  This man-centered gospel has removed the truth and replaced itself with a method and a response which is not the gospel.  To that, let us take heed and preach the gospel; I dare to say it is not in season in most communities of faith, but oh the glory of the POWER OF GOD to save those who have ears to hear.

 Worship

Worship is one of the wonders of the Christian life creating awe, an opportunity of expression and a sense of overwhelming joy that is unsurpassed.  This joy is fully known because of Jesus Christ, the One and only Son of the living God who created all that exists for His glory.  Jesus, in His glorious and triumphant life, death and resurrection, has secured the eternal forgiveness and life for all who believe.  Because of this great work, God is revealed to the lost sheep that they might be saved.  From the beginning of time, God has established Himself as the object of great worth, praise, adoration and reverence.

Though our current attitude toward worship changes from season to season and generation-to-generation, the scriptures teach us all that is needed in order to understand worship, participate in worship and celebrate Christ who is the object of our worship.  Worship, in a nutshell, is praising something because of its worth.  As the church, we understand that the only one who is worth anything in this universe is the one who created it all, the Lord God Almighty who has made Himself known through His Son, Jesus the Holy Anointed One of God.  These lessons will engage the mind and the heart in the action of worship and allow the learner to look deep into the cavern of their soul and discern what is the greatest joy and affection found.  They will be able to see clearly God’s plan for worship through His creation, His holiness, His worthiness, His character, His justice, His mercy and His love toward His children.

Paul says in the book of Romans chapter 8 that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.[1]  Therefore, we must now take time, to view scripture through two lenses:  a lens of theological truths, and a lens of consequences of worship.  Then we will understand the great God worthy of great worship!

Continue reading “A Few Thoughts on Worship Through the Scripture”

2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV)
15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

This text has resonated with me over the last few months as I have considered why so many people work so hard to fight the sovereignty of God.  It’s texts like these that are completely misquoted that cause such a concern for the power of man in redemption.  Over the years I have heard this verse to be used to explain why someone must grow, learn and serve.  Although I think it is a good point, the “unsaid” assumption is that man people read this verse to say, “You will be approved by God if you work unashamedly in truth.”  Although there are many variations, this is one of them main teachings of this verse.  If one would take just a minute and look at the verse, even in English, it says nothing at all to that point. Continue reading “Test of Sonship, NOT Test for Sonship”