December 5, 2021
The Theme Of Your Life
Whether you are listening to a lecture, watching
a film or reading a book, assessing the main theme is an inevitable process we all partake in. There are certain big
ideas or principles that naturally rise to the top, catching our attention. No difference is seen when attempting to
encapsulate the definition of what it means to be a Christian. Without hesitation or question our response should be
unanimous, Love. Throughout the halls of the canon of Scripture, love is undoubtedly the major theme. God’s
love is displayed through His sovereign will and plan, bringing redemption to His children. The means by which God brings
this redemption about is through the perfect display of love in the person of Jesus Christ. In the ultimate expression
of love, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, suffered and died on a cross for our sins. No greater love has there ever been
or can ever be shown. Every facet of the character and nature of our triune God contains the very essence and personification
we consider all the many ways in which love is expressed and displayed by God, there is no greater example to be found.
In fact, every theological endeavour must be approached under the fundamental principle that everything that comes from God
is love, because God is love (1 John 4:16). Justification, substitutionary atonement, reconciliation, salvation, sanctification,
perseverance, glorification, no matter what area you want to delve into, they are all saturated with the love of God.
Love is the main theme; the overtones of love are divinely extensive.
As we venture to grasp the overwhelming love of God, let us never forget
the responsibility that is placed upon His children. Those who have been reconciled to God through the gift of salvation,
made possible by the blood atonement of Christ, have a responsibility to express the love of God through their lives.
In John 14:15 Jesus explains that keeping the commandments that He has given is proof of one’s love for the Lord.
This means that if one does not keep the commandments of Christ, they are proving through their actions that they really do
not love Him. There are two commandments in particular that Jesus gives that really encompass the entirety of what it
means to love and follow Christ, which He explains in Matthew 22:36-40. First, God’s children must love the Lord
with all of their hearts, soul and mind. This is a love that is made possible only by God Himself first loving us (1
John 4:19). Loving God is the greatest commandment, Jesus makes this perfectly clear. The second commandment,
found in Matthew 22:39, is that God’s children are to love their neighbor as themselves. What this means is that
loving other people is of great importance to God, thus He places that expectation on His children. These are two commandments
that go together, not to be isolated or chosen between. In fact, 1 John 4:20 says that no one can say they love God
yet hate his brother, for they would prove themselves a liar. Not to mention the aforementioned verse in John 14:15,
which places genuine love for Christ on one’s obedience to His commandments.
The point I intend to make is that which God’s Word
has already made far superior in fashion. If we profess our love for God, claim that He has done a mighty work in our
heart, then our lives should reflect His love in everything that we do. God’s love should be the very thing that
motivates our hearts, causing us to love Him as well as love His people. Paul challenges the church in Corinth to check
their motivation, because if it is not out of love, it is useless and damaging to their witness for Christ (1 Corinthians
13:1-3). I think Paul was on to something. I firmly believe that it would do us all good, myself included, if
we give a fair assessment of the motivation of our heart. How are you doing at loving God? Are you loving others
in a way that glorifies God? Are you giving conscious, intentional thought to the ways in which you express the love
of God through your life? Can you confidently say that you are keeping the commandments of Christ, not begrudgingly,
but gladly? I trust if you are being honest with yourself, this gives you something to prayerfully consider and most
likely something to work on as well. May we not grow complacent with love, rather may our pursuit of loving God and
loving others be the thing that brings Him great pleasure. By His Grace And For His Glory,
November 28, 2021
history is a fascinating study that yields both encouragement as well as a much needed dose of reality. Different time
periods provided various challenges and difficulties for those who faithfully kept their allegiance to Christ. Though
manifested in countless ways, persecution is an inevitable mainstay throughout the ages (2 Timothy 3:12). The blessed
hope of the redeemed is the promise of our Lord, that He will bring us into His presence for all eternity. In fact,
this divine act is as good as done, for God’s promises are given with finality, His gifts are irrevocable (Romans 11:29).
These are the truths that fuel saints to endure times of hardship and suffering. There is a particular phrase that has
served as an anthem for the downtrodden, a motto for eternal focus, that is MARANATHA!
In his farewell statement to the struggling church in Corinth,
the Apostle Paul uses the term Maranatha in 1 Corinthians 16:22. Maranatha is an Aramaic word that means “come,
O Lord” or “the Lord is coming.” Why did Paul choose to leave them with this expression? Paul,
no stranger to persecution (2 Corinthians 11:25-28), fully comprehended the importance of maintaining an eternal gaze (2 Corinthians
4:18). Paul even struggled with the strong desire to go home with the Lord versus remaining in the world to fulfill
the purposes God had set before him (Philippians 1:23). Knowing the Lord will not return one second before the time
that He has established from before the foundation of the world, Paul found great comfort in uttering “Maranatha.”
Paul knew the Lord's return was certain and he longed for that glorious day.
Without question the second coming of Christ is closer today
than it was back on the days of Paul. Was Paul mistaken about the nearness of Christ’s return? In the very
words of our Lord through the Apostle Paul, me gonoito (Greek phrase for May It Never Be, or God Forbid). No man knows
the hour or the day of the second coming of Christ (Matthew 24:36), but Scripture is clear that we are to be prepared.
As followers of Christ we are to live in expectation of His return, being ready at any and all times. May we heed the
lessons found in the parables of the 10 virgins as well as the parable of the talents. Being ready for the return of
Christ is a position that is wrought forth out of a heart that loves the Lord. While we wait for that splendid day,
let us encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ with this wonderful truth, Maranatha. Times may get tough, this
world will let you down more times than you can count, but don’t lose heart, Maranatha. This is the promise that
we cling to, Maranatha!
By His Grace And For His Glory, Pastor Sam
November 21, 2021
The Real Holiday
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, many scramble to find the perfect
turkey or the perfect ham, an age old battle of proteins. For most of us, Thanksgiving is rather redundant, occupying
but one spot on the calendar and coming to pass with little variance from year to year. Even as Christians there is
the cliché of proudly retorting against the norm, demanding that we are to be thankful every day. Though there
is brilliant truth in maintaining a spirit of Thanksgiving, I charge you dear Christian to not miss out on this cyclical opportunity
that lies before you.
Even if it be in the most obligatory of ways, sharing what one is thankful for
is an occasion that is heartfelt by design. Many will post their sentiment on social media, construct a list through
a touching card (yes mailing cards does still exist), or conduct a well rehearsed pre-dinner speech. So, using the platform
that God has granted me, I will take a moment to divulge something that makes my heart overjoyed with thanksgiving.
I am thankful for the wonderful truth found in 1 Peter 1:3-4 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. What
a beautiful passage that tells of the wonderful working of God in our lives, accomplishing what we could not accomplish on
our own. This passage explains that it is God who initiates rebirth, maintains our position in Christ, and declares
the certainty of our eternal dwelling in His presence. Though it seems natural to focus on the blessing received, the
real source of thanksgiving is in the Giver. Let us not bask only in our position as beneficiaries, rather allow us
to place our attention on the source. God alone is worthy of all of our praise, for His attributes, character and nature
are gloriously perfect and pure. God is a God worth celebrating.
To say that God is the One I
am thankful for seems like an easy Sunday School answer, but I challenge you to find a more suitable candidate. We should
live a life that reflects the thankfulness we have for our great God, Thanksgiving Day included. Let us use this day
to tell others about the blessed hope that we have through our Lord. Let us seize every moment we have to proclaim His
excellencies and explain the reason for our assurance. Thanking God for our inheritance, one that is kept secure through
His mighty power and authority, is worth sharing. I urge you, don’t look at Thanksgiving as just another Hallmark
holiday, the one day a year where cranberries and yams have relevance. Instead, use this as another day to exalt the
name of the Lord, singing His praises to those whom He has put in your path. To God be the glory.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
November 14, 2021
No Time To Cower
It is interesting to me how
different ones will attempt to define what Christian persecution is. No doubt persecution comes in many
different forms, however, it is troubling to hear the watered down versions that exist in much of the dialect today.
The Bible is blatantly transparent about not only the reality of persecution, but the certainty of it as well.
Paul explains to his young pupil Timothy that ill treatment for the cause of Christ should be expected, more yet it
is required of a follower of the Savior (2 Timothy 3:12). Paul, being a mouthpiece for God at this point
in time, minces no words; you cannot live a godly life in Christ without suffering persecution.
I must admit that the blessing
of living in such a wonderful country as the United States, also comes with some troubles. Living in such
an affluent country, one that for so long has allowed freedom to worship as one sees fit, makes it difficult to properly ascertain
a verse such as 2 Timothy 3:12. It would be absurd to suggest that Americans should not appreciate these
freedoms and instead desire a more persecuted way of living. However, this also does not give license to
be complacent and naive either. Many Americans have attempted to sympathize with this verse by inserting
their own life experiences as examples. Let’s get something straight. Someone
cutting you off and stealing your parking spot in the Walmart parking lot is not Christian persecution. The
waiter/waitress being rude to you is not Christian persecution. Chick-fil-A being closed on Sundays is
not Christian persecution. We need to stop calling inconveniences and annoyances, Christian persecution.
Religious persecution is the
singling out and mistreating of a particular group based solely on their religious beliefs, or in some cases their lack of
religious beliefs. The Apostle Paul was a wonderful example of what it meant to endure hardships for the
cause of Christ. While writing to the church in Corinth, Paul states that he had been beaten with rods
three times, stoned, shipwrecked, lost out at sea, in danger from every form of harm, sleepless nights, jailed, and the list
goes on (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). Many faithful men and women throughout redemptive history have given
their lives for their unwavering allegiance to Christ. Martyrs like Jan Huss, Hans Bret, Stephen, Bartholomew,
John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Catherine of Alexandria and countless others serve as examples of steadfast faith, even in
the face of the most severe forms of persecution. I am certainly not suggesting that all persecution comes
in the most drastic forms, but let us not assume that they never will either.
Over the last couple of years I have noticed an alarming
trend. With the onset of the COVID scare, bitter in-fighting with topics like critical race theory, gender
identity, social justice, there has been a large-scale withdrawal from churches across the country. Why
are people leaving churches, with many renouncing faith? Because for some, this is perhaps the closest
they have come to persecution. The very thought that things might be getting rough is the very thing that
has them running for the hills. As believers should we be worried about this mass exodus? Well,
on one hand we never want to see a person make the assessment that they don’t need the church, even more concerning,
that they don’t need Christ. But, know this, if that is the assessment they have made, they were
never part of the Church in the first place. John speaks directly to this type of behavior in 1
John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But
they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. Unfortunately many have
chosen to follow what they perceive to be Christianity, when really what the Bible calls for is those who will pick up their
cross daily and follow Jesus Christ (Luke 9:23).
As uncertain times lie ahead, there are also a number of things the true Church
can count on as certainties. Will persecution increase? I believe that is a safe bet.
Will nominal Christianity and easy believism weed out those who were just along for the perceived benefits?
Though it has happened, I believe we haven’t seen the last of it. Will we be confronted to
make a defense for the faith we have? The Bible says we should be prepared for this (1 Peter 3:15).
you to ask yourself this question. With this information provided, does this excite you or frighten you?
You may insist that it is a combination of the two. However, may I point you toward the source of
encouragement and strength, God’s Holy Scriptures. 1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved
brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in
vain. God will sustain and strengthen you as you pursue a life that is holy and pleasing to Him.
Finish the race well!
By His Grace And For His Glory,Pastor Sam
November 7, 2021
Who’s In Your Corner?
sport of boxing has been a significant part of my life for a good number of years. What is known as the
“sweet science”, boxing has been around for a quite some time, in fact it became an Olympic sport all the way
back in the 7th century. Typically boxing is viewed as an individual sport, pitting one combatant against
another. When the bell rings, the fighters take center stage, dueling it out ‘mano a mano’.
But, it is what happens between rounds where I find a wonderful life lesson.
Every boxer has a corner team, consisting of three
cornermen. These men often go unseen, but their role is a vital one to the success of the fighter.
What is the purpose of a cornerman? The cornermen have three primary responsibilities; these are
to provide instruction, give encouragement, and address damage sustained during the round.
There is no question that
as believers in Christ, we are in a fight. Though this fight is one of a Spiritual nature, it is a fight
nonetheless (Ephesians 6:12). Like a good fighter, it is of great benefit to be trained and prepared for
the battle. However, one very important part of the equation, that we needn’t overlook, is the value
of having good people in your corner. During the round a fighter can get pretty beat up, bruised and bloodied.
A corner team only has 60 seconds of influence and impact on the fighter.
One cornerman has the specific role of working on the damage
that the fighter sustained during the round. The “cutman” ices down areas of swelling and stops
areas of bleeding. Like boxing, ministering in a dark and dying world can be tough, offering up its share
of bumps and bruises. Through the body of Christ, God puts people in our lives who can sooth our pains,
patch up our wounds and get us ready for another round.
Another cornerman has the role of encouraging the fighter.
Sometimes a weary fighter needs to be reminded that they are capable of taking down any obstacle that stands before
them. When we have a rough round in life, a timely word of encouragement is oftentimes the very thing we
need to press on. Paul reminds the church in Thessalonica that encouraging one another should be a priority
in their lives, 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
third cornerman has the responsibility of coaching the fighter, giving necessary instruction to increase the fighter’s
success. This provides the fighter with pointers on faults they may have made as well as things they could
be doing to be more effective. If we are being honest with ourselves, we all could benefit from a faithful
friend sharing Biblical instruction with us from time to time. Whatever the case may be, good Biblical
instruction can be critical to our mission for Christ.
While the Apostle Paul is coaching his young protégé Timothy, he encourages him by speaking
of his own battle, 2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
The question we must ponder, as we continue to fight the good fight, is who do we have in our corner?
Those who have submitted their lives to Christ have already been declared victorious, through the victory that is found
in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:57, Romans 8:37). But, in this day to day grind of life, who has God
put in your life to be your cornermen? Surrounding yourself with brothers and sisters in Christ who will
be there to get you through the tough times is important. And, know this, they will need you in their corner
as well. For me, my wife has always been in my corner. I could not imagine fighting
this fight without her and with each passing day I am thankful for His provisions through my wife. If I
could challenge you this week, it would be to let your cornermen know how much you appreciate them. Also,
don’t forget to praise God for putting the right people in your life to keep you fighting the good fight with confidence.
Until the final bell, keep swinging.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
October 31, 2021
Can I Trouble You For Some Change?
my eyes are drawn to the canopies of changing hues around me, these rustic reminders give forecast of what’s to come. I’ve
come to realize the most consistent thing about Ohio weather is….change. But, there are a great many people
who don’t like change, they resist it at all cost. Some traverse southward to enjoy a climate that offers
little to no change from month to month. For the more stubborn, they rely on denial as a coping mechanism (you
will notice these individuals quite easily, those who wear flip flops in mid-January). Why is there such a resistance
to change? Is it out of comfort that many bristle at change, perhaps fear of the unknown or the unfamiliar? Whatever
be the case, this is a cause to question our own tendencies on this issue.
For those who have been saved by the grace of God, there is an
undeniable change that marks our very position in Christ. If it had not been for change, we would still be bound
by our sin, instead of enjoying the security that is found in the finished work of Christ (Romans 6:6). Furthermore,
dying to old self is the only way in which we are able to comprehend the new life that we have in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). For
God so loved us that He sought us out, doing the regenerative work within our hearts, ensuring that we would no longer be
who we once were. God does not draw individuals to repentance, only to have them remain unchanged. Though
we require change, the Lord Himself is not subject to change, for He is immutable in all His ways (James 1:17), His perfection
needing no alteration.
magnificent change that God wrought in our lives is not the end of advancement and the beginning of complacency. Quite
the contrary, we are called to be in constant change. Our lives as children of God should find us continuously
being molded and shaped into the image and likeness of Christ, through the progressive process of sanctification (1 Thessalonians
5:23, Philippians 1:6). If we remain afraid of change, we just may be missing out on growing and maturing Spiritually. So,
take off your flip flops, put some boots on, enjoy the falling leaves and thank the Lord that He brings about change.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
October 24, 2021
Thirst Quenching Words
of the wonderful blessings attributed with Spiritual maturity is the increased appreciation believers have for the Word of
God. The God given gift of illumination allows His children to comprehend the deep truths of Scripture.
In my studies, through cross referencing, I came to a familiar passage, Romans 11:29 For
the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Now to some this may just look like a short
sentence, only 10 words long. However, the depth of this verse is really quite remarkable.
Through the careful study of this one verse, many wonderful implications arise, not to mention a myriad of applications.
Please allow me to just scratch the surface.
First off, the Apostle Paul is writing to the church in Rome, encouraging them as they stand firm in their faith.
In this verse, two things are mentioned as being of God, both gifts and the calling. So, with that,
we know that God is the source of the gifts and the calling that are mentioned in the text. This is an
encouragement, as well as a reminder of who God is, the great Provider. Paul does not attempt to flatter
the church, nor provide them with self motivation. Instead what we see is Paul using the promises of God
as the one and only source of encouragement. Contextually speaking, Paul is using the steadfastness of
God towards Israel to serve as a transcending principle that applies to all His children.
First are the gifts of God.
Well, simply put, the gifts of God are vast. Keeping with the context, in reference to God’s
gifts that are seen to His people Israel, we recognize grace, mercy, forgiveness, faithfulness, provision, protection, love,
guidance, assurance, peace as just some of the gifts God alone provides. This truth transcends to all those
who call upon the name of the Lord for salvation, meaning all believers are partakers of these wonderful gifts of God, and
frankly many more.
Next we read the phrase “the calling” of God. What is the calling?
This calling is known as the effectual call of God, whereby He brings sinners to repentance. The
Greek word for calling in Romans 11:29 is ‘klēsis’ which means a divine invitation. This
word is not to be confused with an instruction of God, or a verbal utterance, for that Greek word is ‘phōneō’,
as seen in Luke 23:46. What Paul is describing is the sovereign calling of God, a calling whereby God draws
His children to Himself for salvation (John 6:44). From a grammatical standpoint, we know that this is
a very particular calling, since Paul uses the singular form and not the plural. If Paul had been referring
to many verbal utterances, He would have used the phrase “the callings of God.” Not to mention
the phrase “the calling” is accompanied by the gifts of God, narrowing down the exclusiveness of who could receive
Finally we read that both the gifts of God as well as the calling of God are irrevocable.
The word irrevocable means this decision by God is one that is not able to be changed or reversed. The
beauty of this word is it solidifies the fact that when God draws a sinner to repentance, does the work of regeneration, lavishes
His grace upon them with Godly gifts, He will never ever go back on that. It is not in God’s character
to change, in fact the opposite is true, He is immutable. From these 10 words we find assurance of eternal
security, power and authority in the actions of the Lord, and wonderful promises that should leave us in awe at His majesty.
These are words that should give us great confidence in who we are in Christ, not based on personal merit, but in the
faithfulness of God. Again, this is simply scratching the surface of this wonderful verse.
I pray that
as you approach the Holy Scriptures that you are encouraged to dig deep, recognizing the power of God that is provided within.
May your passion and desire for God’s Word increase with each new day (Psalm 119:15).
By His Grace And For His Glory,
October 17, 2021
Truth Be Told
A man is as good as his word! All throughout
history a great deal of value has been placed on upholding one’s word and exhibiting honesty. Likely you have
taken part in your share of pinky swears, spit handshakes, or perhaps even uttered the ever binding idiom “cross my
heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.” Though childish and outlandishly absurd, how did a phrase like
this even find inception? Why is there such a need to ensure one’s truthfulness? Phrases like “To
be completely honest” or “If I am being honest” are all too common. The reason that so many persuasive
words have been attached to personal honesty is because by nature mankind is simply not honest. We have no reason to
be trusted, therefore we go to great lengths to convince others of our sincerity. To be more specific, the unregenerate
heart is by definition “deceitful” (Jeremiah 17:9). Human propensity is toward deceit and deception.
However, God is
not only trustworthy, He is the very essence of truth. John 17:17 tells us that God’s Word is truth, while John
14:6 explains that Jesus Christ is the truth. Unequivocally God is the source of all truth and in Him there is no deceit
found. For those of us who have called upon the name of the Lord for salvation, we have a responsibility to not only
know the truth (John 8:32), but also to be of the truth (1 John 3:19), as well as uphold the truth (1 Timothy 3:15).
Apart from Christ, there is no truth.
We need to encourage one another to remain steadfast in the truth and not get so caught up in the
“world of information”. When we have questions, the tendency is to Google our inquiry. This digital
information age can be very helpful, but it can also create dependency on the wrong thing, as well as the inadvertent lowering
of our discerning guard. In 1985 John Fogerty wrote the song “Because I Saw It On T.V.”, mocking the blind
belief that so many had placed on the information that television was providing. We have come a long way since 1985,
though in many senses it seems like we have drifted backwards from that time. Nevertheless, disseminating information
has only increased, making our responsibility to uphold the truth that much more critical.
We have the living and active Word of God (Hebrews
4:12) that serves as a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (Psalm 119:105). Absolute truth is not found in
a website, news channel, politician or social club. Truth is found and truth is sourced in the One True God. Brothers
and sisters I pray that you are encouraged to stand firm on the unwavering, unchanging Word of God. It is relevant,
it is sufficient, it is the very instruction that we need to live out a life that is holy and pleasing to the Lord.
In a world of darkness and deceit, may we cling ever so tightly to the God of all truth, shining like a bright beacon of light.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
October 10, 2021
For What It’s WORTH
one of the most disheartening things to witness a child of God go through is feelings of low worth. On the other hand
this condition is one that brings great delight to the ears of the evil one. Now, there are plenty of preachers and
orators out there who will tickle ears, using motivational persuasion to convince their hearers that they are wonderful and
special individuals, in fact 2 Timothy 4:3 warns against this very thing. Unfortunately this type of emotionally charged
cheerleading completely misses the mark in terms of where our worth lies. Make no mistake, a universal truth among the
body of Christ is that our worth and value are found in Him and Him alone. This should never be a cause for offense,
rather it should be the source of great rejoicing.
Too many times I have heard brothers and sisters profess they feel as though they
have nothing to offer. Therein lies the problem, feelings getting in the way of truth. Because the truth is that
God’s children have a tremendous amount to offer. This value is not in merit or personal achievement, rather it’s
in the living and active God working in and through our lives. The Bible says that we are God’s workmanship, created
to do good works for Him (Ephesians 2:10). 2 Corinthians 5:20 says that we are ambassadors for Christ, making us representatives
of the Messiah and King. The very fact that He calls us His children (John 1:12) means that we are heirs to the heavenly
throne (Romans 8:17), receiving an eternal inheritance (1 Peter 1:3-4) from our Father. We (the church) are called the
bride of Christ, the object of His affection. Though we are undeserving of such titles, the Lord magnificently empowers
us to do far more than we could ever comprehend. We are strong because we find our strength in the Lord (Psalm 46:1).
We are wise because the Lord has enlightened our minds and our hearts (Ephesians 1:8). We are made anew through the
redemptive work of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). The dark world we live in is illuminated by the light that we
shine for Christ (Matthew 5:14-16). So, it pains me when I hear a brother or sister say that they have nothing to offer.
We are worthy ONLY because God has made us worthy.
Not only do we simply possess worth and value through our Heavenly Father, but
we have also been given a monumental responsibility. As children of God we are given the privilege and responsibility
to share the most important news imaginable. In God’s perfect design He chose us to be the instruments by which
the good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ would be proclaimed and advanced to the lost and dying world. Sharing the
gospel is not just for a cast of religious elite, or those with seminary degrees. Spreading the good news is a responsibility
that is given to ALL of God’s children (Acts 1:8). We are worthy because the One we serve is worthy. Not
only our value, but our very identity is found in the Lord.
My prayer is that you cling to the wonderful truths
of God, even when feelings and emotions would suggest otherwise. If given the chance, this world will beat you up, toss
you around and spit you right back out. Do not give the devil that foothold. You are fearfully and wonderfully
made (Psalm 134:19) in the precious image of God (Genesis 1:27) to do great works for the glory of His mighty name.
Our worth is a reflection of His goodness and grace. May we not squander our time in self doubt, rather let us rejoice
with confidence in our Lord.
By His Grace And For His Glory,Pastor Sam
October 3, 2021
Capable to be Incapable
Undoubtedly followers of Christ
are to continue to grow in knowledge and understanding of who Christ is (2 Peter 3:18). The ongoing diligent study of
His character, nature and attributes is of great value, but more importantly, He is glorified through our efforts. Commonly
through the depth and breadth of these studies, differing conclusions arise among individuals. One topic pertaining
to the character of Jesus that has been a cause of debate is the peccability of Christ. The word peccable comes from
the Latin verb ‘peccare’ which means to make a mistake or a moral infraction. Impeccable comes from the
Latin verb ‘impeccabilis’ which means blameless or immaculate. The debate does not surround whether Jesus
Christ committed any sin or not, for this is an issue quickly solved through Scripture (1 Peter 2:22, Hebrews 4:15, 2 Corinthians
5:21, 1 John 3:5). Jesus never sinned, there was no fault found in Him, He was the spotless lamb without blemish (1
real question that fuels the dividing line between peccability and impeccability is whether Jesus is capable of sinning.
Those who believe that Christ is peccable, capable of sinning, rely heavily on the account of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness
by satan. However, the presence of a tempter and the act of being tempted, does not conclusively determine the peccability
of Jesus. If you were approached by someone who tried to entice you to eat cold fish sticks, you would likely not even
give it consideration. Though there was a tempter present, as well as a potential source of temptation, your complete
lack of interest in the temptation did not make you give in or falter. In the same way Jesus was tempted by satan, but
He never gave in to the temptation, He remained in complete control. So, to use this account as a means to prove that
Jesus is capable of sinning is inconclusive as well as unreasonable. Another dangerous implication with making the claim
that Jesus is capable of sinning is this would mean that God the Father and the Holy Spirit are also capable of sinning.
Since there is cohesiveness between the three persons of the Godhead, there is also perfect equality in terms of each One's
character and nature as well. The Bible is saturated with phrases like holy (1 Samuel 2:2), righteous (Psalm 145:17),
sovereign (1 Chronicles 29:11), and perfect (Matthew 5:48), describing the character and nature of God. Since God the
Father is described in these ways, so must the Son and the Holy Spirit. The assessment that Jesus is peccable (capable
of sinning) is not supported by Scripture.
Many have misinterpreted that Jesus Christ was half man and half God, a mistake that greatly diminishes
the deity of Christ. Jesus was fully man (100%) while also remaining fully God (100%) (John 1:14, Colossians 2:9).
Jesus never possessed a sinful nature, therefore He also did not possess the capability of sinning. To make the proclamation
that at one time Jesus had the capability of sinning is to completely call into question His deity. This would more
than insinuate that the character and nature of Christ is one that is developing and growing, an assault to the immutability
of our Lord. Hebrews 13:8 tells us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, He does not change.
So if Christ is not able to sin now, which He is not, then He wouldn’t have been able to sin at any point in time.
Though God’s children
certainly are not impeccable, we do have the perfect example in Jesus Christ, who not only knew no sin, but the capability
of sin is not found in Him. Without question the Bible teaches the impeccability of Christ. Jesus Christ is perfect
in every way. He is holy, righteous, sovereign, gracious, as well as impeccable. Let this be another wonderful reason
to praise the Lord for who He is, perfect in all His ways.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
September 26, 2021
Soli Deo Gloria
As we reminisce of
the importance of the Protestant Reformation on church history, we must consider the cause behind the charge. What was
the point in addressing the faults of the Roman Catholic Church? Why go to such great lengths to prove a proper interpretation
of God’s Word? Countless numbers of men and women were barbarically murdered for their bold stance against the
tyranny of the Roman Catholic Church. Did they give their lives in vain? The undeniable drive and purpose behind
this movement was Soli Deo Gloria (To The Glory Of God Alone).
Over the course of the last four weeks we have
looked at some of the major fundamental truths that God’s Word reveals. The Latin phrases that describe these
truths were popular during the Reformation and are still of great value today as well. Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone),
Sola Fide (Faith Alone), Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), and Solo Christo (Christ Alone) all support this final truth, Soli Deo
Gloria (To The Glory Of God Alone). Why were many martyred for their faith? Because they knew that standing firm
in their faith was worth giving their life for. They knew that God’s glory was far more important than their carnal,
temporal lives. After all, the glory of God is what the Christian life is all about.
As born again saints
of the Lord Most High, we have a unified purpose to glorify God in all that we do. Bringing honor to God can only be
accomplished through a changed heart, a heart that has been transformed to desire the things of God. If the motive and
intention of the heart is not fixed on pleasing and serving the Lord, then no matter what we do, that work would be in vain.
God’s glory should be the singular agenda behind everything His children do. Sola Scriptura is where we honor
God through a high view of His Word (Matthew 4:4). As we study Scripture we know and understand who God is and what
He desires in our lives. This knowledge is not to achieve intellectual prowess, rather it is for the purpose of exalting
His name and living a life that is holy and pleasing to our Lord. Sola Fide is recognizing that we are saved by faith,
a faith that finds it’s authorship in Jesus Christ and not in the fortitude of man (Hebrews 12:2). This acknowledgement
is one that properly gives God the glory for providing for us what He alone can provide. Sola Gratia is the awareness
that without the grace of God, we would never be able to bring Him glory. God’s grace is the means by which all
praise and glory is given unto Him. Without the grace of God it would be impossible to love, honor, serve and worship
His Holy name (2 Corinthians 12:9). Solo Christo professes the truth that Jesus Christ alone justifies sinners.
The atoning blood of Christ is the only means by which man can be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). Acts
4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
Being made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), we were fashioned for the purpose of bringing honor and glory to God.
Soli Deo Gloria is the culmination of the other four solas, the reason for all things. We have the responsibility to
glorify God in all things. Why are we to love others, placing their needs above our own (1 John 4:7-10)? To glorify
God. Why are we to be diligent in prayer, making our requests known to God (Philippians 4:6)? To glorify Him.
Why are we to be zealous about pleasing Him (1 Thessalonians 2:4)? Because it glorifies the Lord. 1 Corinthians
10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Whether you are grocery
shopping, working, playing golf, spending time with your family, mowing the lawn, paying bills, whatever you do, ALL things
should be done for the glory of God. May we live our lives in a way that reflects the glory of God, a life that has
been bought by the precious blood of Christ. Like so many of the great Reformers may we be increasingly passionate about
exalting Your Holy name. SOLI DEO GLORIA![
By His Grace And For His
September 19, 2021
The Protestant Reformation was a monumental time for the true Church to stand firm against the false
teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. At a quick glance it could appear that there really wasn’t a great deal
of difference between the two camps in terms of doctrine and theology. However, there are crucial details that we must
be aware of, details that make significant implications to the whole. The most prominent issue in the Reformation was
by what means an individual is justified. The Roman Catholic Church held that Jesus was the divine Son of God, that
He was born of the virgin, Mary, lived a perfect life, suffered and died an atoning death on the cross for sin, and was subsequently
resurrected. So what exactly was the issue?
Solo Christo is the Latin phrase meaning “Christ
Alone”, and this is the precise root of contention that arose during the Reformation. Roman Catholicism
held to the belief that justification was not solely a work of Jesus Christ. The ecumenical council of
the Roman Catholic Church that met during this period of time (1545-1563) was called the Council of Trent. The
response that came out of the Council of Trent during the Reformation was that man’s justification was a combination
of Jesus and the sacraments. Though there are seven sacraments that the Catholic Church holds, two are
specifically focused on the justification of the sinner. The council held that water baptism was necessary
to receive God’s justifying grace. Then if a “mortal sin” was committed, withdrawing
God’s grace, there was a second sacrament that must be made to right the wrong that was committed. Penance
was the secondary sacrament they believed would reconcile man back to God through confessing the unrighteous deeds before
the priest. It is this grievous perversion of the fullness of Christ’s atoning work that fueled the
The Bible teaches that God justifies a person
through the finished work of Christ on the cross (Romans 5:1-2). We are not justified by works or by merit,
rather we are justified through the righteousness that is found in Christ alone (1 Corinthians 6:11). It
is only through the means of Christ that God can look at a forgiven sinner as holy, righteous, spotless and blameless (Colossians
1:22). Imputed righteousness is the term used to describe this process. Imputed literally
means to ascribe something to someone else, in this case it is the righteousness and perfection of Christ being ascribed to
all of God’s children. Paul explains in Romans 3:20-22 that man cannot be justified by his own means,
but God, in His goodness and mercy chooses to view us as righteous on the account of Christ’s righteousness.
Again in 2 Corinthians 5:21 Paul states that it is the perfection of Christ that makes possible the believers righteous
status. The imputed righteousness of Christ is final, it is not temporary. The Catholic
Church held the position that man needed a mediator between God and man; unfortunately their folly was selecting another equally
fallible man. But, the Bible teaches that Christ Alone is our Mediator, the only One sufficient to reconcile
us to God (1 Timothy 2:5).
There is no Christianity without Christ.
May we find great comfort in the finished work of Christ, doing for us what we could not and would not do ourselves.
Like the great Reformers may we stand firm on the foundation of Christ Alone (1 Corinthians 3:11), for all other ground
is sinking sand (Matthew 7:26). SOLO CHRISTO!
By His Grace And For His Glory, Pastor Sam
Perhaps the clearest passage in Scripture that defines the source of
our salvation is Ephesians 2:8-9 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. Though echoed throughout
the halls of Scripture, it is in these two verses we read that without the grace of God, salvation would not be possible.
During the Protestant Reformation, Sola Gratia (Grace Alone) was the Biblical rebuttal to the grievous error of the semi-Pelagianism
that the Roman Catholic Church had adopted, which supposed that man had an important co-working role with God in the accomplishment
of salvation. However, the Bible teaches with certainty that God saves man not because of man’s willingness to
assist God in the process; rather God saves man in spite of man’s rebellion and resistance. John 6:44
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. The Greek word for draws is ‘helkō’, which literally means to drag. The imagery of God having to drag sinful man to confession
and repentance is supported by Romans 3:10-12 as it is written “None
is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become
worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Throughout history,
and still alive and well today, man has undermined the grace of God with prideful tendencies to share in the works that are
exclusively God’s. But, as Ephesians 2 states, it is not a work of man; instead it is a gift of God.
very definition of grace is getting what one does not deserve, it is unmerited favor. It is incumbent upon us to recognize
the countless ways that God bestows His grace on sinful man. Anything that can be characterized as good is a result
of the grace of God. Grace is the only thing that keeps mankind from being immediately cast into the eternal fire of
hell as a result of his sinful nature. It is by grace alone that God made man in His image (Genesis 1:27), as the object
of His affection (1 John 4:9), for the purpose of His glory (Isaiah 43:7). Grace alone is the source of God sending
His only Son to be the proprietary sacrifice for sin (John 3:16, 1 John 4:10). By grace, God draws us to Himself (John
6:44), initiating within us what we could not do without Him. By grace we are made known of the personal sin which separates
us from the Holy, Righteous God of the heavens and the earth (Isaiah 59:2, 1 John 1:9). By grace we have the ability
to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18). By grace we are saved (Ephesians 2:8-9), whereby we receive the Holy Spirit
to guide and aid us in a life lived out for the glory of God (Acts 2:38). By grace we bear God-honoring fruit, evidence
of the genuineness of our salvation (John 15:16). Grace alone is what keeps us secured in Christ for eternity (John
6:37). And by grace, those who have been saved will partake in the worship of the Lord for all eternity (Revelation
From cover to cover, the Bible reveals the undeniable grace of God in all things. On
earth we will never fully know or comprehend the magnitude and fullness of the grace of God. We should be thankful for
the valiant men of the Reformation who refused to compromise or go along with the gross deviations that characterized the
Roman Catholic Church. May we find ourselves praising the Lord with ever increasing fervor, as we recognize the grace
He has lavished upon us, for our very existence as God’s children is a result of His amazing grace. SOLA GRATIA!
By His Grace
And For His Glory,
September 5, 2021
During the Protestant Reformation true biblical Christianity was
being rediscovered by faithful men who fought tooth and nail to break through the heretical rubble that had built up as a
result of a Roman Catholic stronghold. God emboldened different individuals who would stand firm on the Word of God
as the source of all truth and wisdom, thus Sola Scriptura was a key, non-negotiable principle to Christianity. It is
within the confines of the God-breathed Scriptures that the source and function of faith is revealed. However, it would
be this lucid truth that would be the source of great contention. Specifically in terms of justification, the means
by which man is reconciled to God, differing views existed, and frankly still exist today. Thankfully, God’s Word
is not vague regarding justification. The Apostle Paul leaves no room for confusion in Romans 3:21-26, explaining that
justification is a gift by the grace of God, and that the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ is received by faith. Therefore,
faith is a requirement to salvation. We see further evidence of this in Ephesians 2:8-9 which explicitly cites faith
as the means God uses to redeem His children.
Although this passage in Ephesians emphasizes the critical nature
of faith in salvation, the reader is also confronted with the reality that salvation is completely a work of the Lord.
So, what does this mean about the nature of saving faith? This is where another distinction must be made and that is
the difference between faith and saving faith. Everyone has faith, whether it be in evolution, the government, faith
in self, faith in a sports team, you name it. This type of “general” faith is a combination of inkling and
wishful thinking. On the contrary, saving faith is not only sure, but it is not subjective either. General faith
is dependent on the individual, whereas saving faith is dependent on the Lord. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus is the
founder (author) and perfecter of our faith. In order for saving faith to be final, sure and complete, it needed to
be a work of God. It only makes sense that the very faith that is necessary to reconcile sinful mankind to Holy God,
is given by the Creator as a gift to those whom He calls His children (John 1:12). The Bible says it is impossible to
please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6). God receives honor and praise when His image bearing worshippers live by the
faith He has granted to them (Romans 8:29).
Sola Fide means by faith alone. This is really what separates
Christianity from all other religions, but it is what separates the true gospel of Jesus Christ from all other false gospels.
Particularly concerning the Reformation, Roman Catholicism was entrenched in man made traditions and rituals. When traditions
carry the same weight as the Word of God, or in some cases more weight, theology becomes greatly perverted. Catholicism
has long operated under the belief that man is justified by faith as well as works. Inevitably when one of those elements
is viewed as tangible (works) and one intangible (faith), the former becomes the area of overwhelming focus.
Any gospel that is taught whereby faith is not the sole means which man is justified by, is a false
gospel. Galatians 1:9 As
we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him
be accursed. Sinful man is justified by God-given, God-sustained faith in the propitiatory sacrifice
of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin. This is not simply the gospel of the Reformation; it is the one true gospel
of Jesus Christ, echoed throughout the entirety of Scripture. May we recognize the importance of these truths and praise
God for accomplishing in us what He alone can. SOLA FIDE!
By His Grace And For His Glory,
August 29, 2021
Though instrumental in
the Protestant Reformation, the importance of the five solas is certainly not limited to that time. These are five biblical
truths that are vital to a proper theology. Sola Scriptura is the Latin phrase that means “Scripture Alone.”
Although tantamount in importance, this particular sola has significant impacts on each of the other four. Scripture
is quite literally the Word of God, His divine message to His creation, given by the precise means of His choosing (2 Timothy
3:16). The Bible carries with it descriptions that can be said of no other writing, no other author, and no other message.
God’s Word is inerrant, infallible, authoritative, completely sufficient, and the essential sustenance we need for life
(2 Peter 1:20-21, John 17:17 Matthew 4:4).
During the Reformation the very Word of God was taking a back seat to Roman Catholic
tradition, choosing the laws and rituals of man over the clear commands of God. The Lord used bold men to call attention
to this atrocity, demanding that men and women devote themselves to the unchanging, unfailing Word of God, repenting of their
former ignorance. This was a pivotal time in church history, as many renewed their commitment to Scripture or aligned
themselves for the very first time.
500 years have passed since the Reformation, yet the same issues persist today.
To many, the Bible means nothing more than a book full of fables and myths. For the most part, even the reverence and
respect for the Bible among the general public is but a memory. Those who live their lives by it, who take it as absolute
truth, are considered narrow-minded and fanatical. The Bible has been taken out of the schools, in some cases administrations
have demanded it not be brought in by any students. My family and I were recently at a hotel, surprised to see that
the nightstands did not contain a copy of the Bible, as they had in the past. Even in the evangelical world, many professing
Christians and churches pick and choose what parts of Scripture they want to use and disregard the rest, making for themselves
a smorgasbord of self-defined truth. Believing in part of the Bible is akin to denying it entirely. It is either
the Word of God or it is not.
For true, biblical Christianity, the precious Word of God is non-negotiable,
as it is the gift that God has given to His people. Through the holy words of Scripture we are able to know who God
is and what He desires in our lives. What we know about Jesus, His teachings, His death, atonement, resurrection, ascension,
the need we have as fallen man to repent and submit our lives to Christ, God providing the Holy Spirit as a seal and helper
to guide our lives in a way that honors Him, and the glorious promise of eternal life for those who have placed their faith
and trust in the Lord alone, all this is found in the blessed Scriptures. One cannot love God, love Jesus, yet be indifferent
about the Bible. The importance of Scripture cannot be overstated, it is the sweet honey that every child of God should
crave above all else (Psalm 119:103).
Sola Scriptura focuses on the unique qualities that are exclusive to the Word
of God alone. By His power and authority God has preserved His very own Word, so that we can be confident that it is
all that we need in order to live a godly life in Christ Jesus. Extra-biblical texts can be of great value, but Scripture
alone has the power to impact the very heart of man (Hebrews 4:12). In the face of Roman Catholic fallacy, the great
Reformers stood firm on the principle of Sola Scriptura, Scripture Alone. May we search within ourselves to determine
what our view of Scripture is. If our view be anything less than amazement at Its supreme authority and sufficiency
coupled with a ravenous desire to adhere our very lives to It, then may we fall to our knees in repentance, imploring God
to forgive us for our unbelief. Like the valiant Reformers, may we have an increasingly reverent attitude toward the
unchanging, unfailing Word of God. Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
By His Grace And
For His Glory,
August 22, 2021
When we ponder the significant events throughout church history, there is no question that the Protestant reformation
sticks out as a monumental one. It was in the early 1500’s that Roman Catholicism had reached its heretical peak,
dominating Europe and regions far beyond. In 1517 the former Catholic monk Martin Luther, having searched the Scriptures
to discover the real truth of God’s Word, decided to take action. To address the blatant disregard the Roman Catholic
regime had for the Word of God, Luther constructed the 95 Theses, detailing these deviations. On October 31, Luther
nailed his theses to the doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg Germany, a prestigious Catholic Church in the area.
Many events would
transpire during the reformation, but what was forced to be reckoned with was, what was the basis of one’s theology.
A bright light was shown on the man-made traditions of Roman Catholicism, traditions that ignored the explicit teachings
of the Bible. Therefore, proper theology had to be established, a theology that was based on Scripture and not the other
way around. A series of distinctions were made that separated the belief system of the Reformers and that of Roman Catholicism.
These 5 core beliefs of the Reformers are beliefs that we should be well aware of today, as they are fundamental to true biblical
Christianity. These core beliefs are called the 5 solas. These 5 Latin phrases stand as a beacon of truth, extracted
straight from God’s Holy Word. The word sola in Latin means “only”, being seen interchangeably in
these phrases as the word “alone”. They are as follows:
1. Sola Scriptura
2. Sola Fide (Faith Alone)
3. Sola Gratia
4. Sola Christo (Christ Alone)
5. Soli Deo Gloria
(To The Glory Of God Alone)
I believe it is of great importance that we know and
understand what each of these phrases mean, as they are vital to a proper theology. Over the next 5 weeks we will be
looking at each of the solas, breaking down the meaning, implications and proving the necessity of their inclusion into an
accurate theological position. Through this series my prayer is that we will not only remember the importance of knowing
a little bit about church history, but more importantly that God would be glorified through our examination of the 5 solas,
as His glory is clearly seen through each one.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
August 15, 2021
Prone to What?
Everyone has their own preference when it comes to style of music, even if it is within the same genre of music.
I have always favored hymns and older Christian songs, as they generally have lyrics that are pulled right from the very Word
of God. This is not an attempt to attack or criticize modern music, although I certainly have legitimate concern with
what passes as “music” today. Anyways, I digress. One song in particular that I thoroughly enjoy is,
“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” This wonderful song was written in 1758 by the 22-year-old Robert Robinson
who lived in Swaffham UK. Though this song has become quite popular, there are those who bristle at a very particular
couple of lines.
song speaks of the great need for Christ and the comfort that is found within His sovereign grace and mercy. But it
is toward the end of this lovely song that some take issue with. The words are as follows “Prone to wander Lord
I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” In a song that highlights the wonderful provisional care of the Lord,
even in seeking out lost individuals, why then would it conclude in such a way? Are we to assume the writer was not
mature in His faith? Did he question his salvation? I would argue it is really quite the contrary. It is
because of the maturity of faith the writer can articulate the struggle that all believers face. What we are really
dealing with in this line of the song is the natural tendency of all mankind. By nature we are wanderers.
In fact the song even alludes
to the fact that mankind does not naturally follow after God with this line, “Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering
from the fold of God.” Scripture is transparent as to the natural heart of mankind (Jeremiah 17:9, Ezekiel 36:26,
Mark 7:21-23), one that is incapable of seeking God (Psalm 14:2-3), let alone holding fast to the Lord forever. Our
allegiance to Christ is only accomplished through the mighty power of Christ. Robinson understood that it was only through
the loving grace of God that He was able to be sealed, pardoned, redeemed, and kept in the care of the Lord for eternity.
What Robinson also knew, something that we should be keenly aware of as well, is that if left to our own abilities, we would
wander from the God we love. The reason many have issues with singing that particular line in the song is because the
truth frightens us at times. May we not think so highly of ourselves that we look down our long hypocritical nose and
say, “Well I would never do that”, that’s just pride talking.
It is because of this important self awareness that
Robinson writes this line “Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee.” Knowing the
very propensity of his heart, he acknowledges God as the source of all goodness and security. A fetter is a chain or
shackle that is used to bind a prisoner’s ankles. It is only in Christ that we have the desire to be shackled
or bound to His loving care.
So next time this song plays, whether it is in your car or at church on Sunday morning, don’t hesitate
to sing with great confidence and assurance that the Lord is the only One who keeps our heart from wandering off. The
song is not meant to be a downer or to cause us to wallow in self-pity; rather it is to magnify the Lord for doing what He
alone can do. I would challenge you this week to ponder this, does the music you listen to elevate the Lord or elevate
self? This challenge also applies to listening to what is called “Christian” music. I think you may
be surprised how many songs place mankind in such a positive light, while far less give the glory and honor to God alone.
May we be found diligently and faithfully striving to think less of ourselves and more of our Great God.
By His Grace And
For His Glory,
August 8, 2021
mighty work that God does in an individual’s life, through salvation, really is a remarkable thing. Much of Scripture
speaks to the truths that surround the new life that a believer has in Christ. This new life is one that is positionally
sanctified, has experienced regeneration, been redeemed, forgiven, and more. So often a great deal of emphasis is placed
on the things that are guaranteed to be “produced” by this new life, and rightfully so. The Bible is abundantly
clear that a follower of Christ will bear fruit in their lives (John 15:1-27), put on the things of God (Ephesians 4:23-24),
as they are quite literally a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
These are all wonderful promises that God ensures His children through this salvific
change. But, what is not preached, taught, or even understood as often as it should be, is the things in which believers
are to put to death. In Colossians 3 we read a wonderful chapter that is not only explanatory about the reality and
certainty of the new life that one has in Christ, but also the old life that cannot cohabitate with the new life. In
fact, in Colossians 3:5-10 we read a very direct charge to put old, sinful ways to death. What this means in the most
practical sense is God does not wish us to put on things that are pleasing to Him while at the same time indulging in the
things of the flesh. Following Christ is not merely an addition to our lives, it is a radical change in all areas of
danger this can cause is the tendency to look only for the positive changes we see in one's life, while completely ignoring
the sin that needs to be addressed. The new life we have in Christ demands we put the old ways to death. This
is not to suggest that we will never struggle with unhealthy passions and desires, but the habitual lifestyle of being slave
to sin has to be put to death. Only by the grace of God are we able to put away our old self and put on the things that
honor and glorify the Lord. Praise God for doing what we could never do on our own. If you need some encouragement,
I would suggest you read Colossians 3 this week.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
August 1, 2021
Food For Thought
There are times when we read a passage
in Scripture and misinterpret the meaning. This should not come as a great surprise, for at times, even
the intended audience in the Bible was guilty of misinterpretation. A classic example of this is found
in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13. Not only did the church in Corinth get confused with Paul’s instructions,
but many today still get tripped up on this passage.
The most common mistake is making the
assessment that this passage advocates that believers should have nothing to do with those who sin in the ways the passage
describes (sexual immorality, greed, swindling, idolatry). It is upon careful examination that we see Paul
is attempting to set the record straight, for the church in Corinth had already misconstrued the previous teaching of Paul.
We know this because in verse 9 Paul uses the past tense (wrote) when he reveals that a letter had already been sent
to the Corinthians prior to this current letter they are reading. In that letter, which many scholars call
the Lost Epistle, Paul was perhaps too vague for the spiritually immature Corinthians (1 Corinthians 3:2-3). Apparently
the church in Corinth was looking past the sin in their own lives, while they condemned non-believers for engaging in the
same dishonorable practices. It is quite clear that they missed Paul's point. So, it
is here in this passage in 1 Corinthians 5 that we see Paul be much more specific, as to ensure his audience understands this
It is ludicrous to place an unrealistic expectation on the unbelieving world to not
practice sin, for that is exclusively what they operate under. This is precisely why Paul says that if
the Corinthian church was to avoid people who practiced these sins, they would have to go outside of the world to accomplish
that task. Paul did not have unbelievers in mind when he wrote his original address to the church.
This time, Paul makes himself blatantly clear and we see that in verse 11. The distinction Paul
makes here is that believers are not to associate with those who bear the name of Christ, while at the same time partaking
in habitual, unrepentant sin. With this much needed clarity, no mistake can be made as to what Paul is
commanding. Those who bear the name of Christ are ones who profess that they are believers, but their calloused
hearts toward the sin in their lives reveals their spiritual deadness. In this passage Paul makes it clear
that the expectation of accountability falls between true believers in Christ, specifically the body of Christ.
Unfortunately, many make the realization that Paul is not instructing that believers set unrealistic
expectations on the unregenerate and stop there. The question we must ask, in order to properly understand
what Paul is conveying, is what does this mean for us? How then are we to treat those who bear the name
of Christ yet live like the rest of the world? It appears we are given the directive to not eat with such
persons, but what exactly does that mean? Many will point to the gospel account of Jesus eating with the
sinners and the tax collectors; does this mean Paul was teaching what was contradictory to Christ?
In the day and culture that Paul was writing this letter to the Corinthians (app. A.D. 95), eating dinner with
someone was a symbol of acceptance and fellowship. What Paul is telling the Corinthian church, and what
we too must heed, is not to support or condone the actions of professing believers who remain in their unrepentant sin.
This is tough to come to grips with and even more difficult to practice. Paul is not making a suggestion
or even asking the Corinthians to consider this notion, rather he is commanding that they follow this God honoring protocol.
When we casually mingle with those who bear the name of Christ, while they hate Him and forsake Him with their lives,
our association is one of an enabling nature. To continue hanging out with these individuals, acting like
everything is ok, makes us complicit in a way. Instead of eating (showing acceptance) with these individuals,
what we really should be doing is sharing the gospel with them. It is the power of the gospel, through
the sovereign working of the Lord that can change not just their actions but their heart.
question we have to ask ourselves is, are there those who profess Christ, but are really lost, that we are remaining silent
around? Are we playing golf with them, having lunch with them, carrying on like there is nothing wrong?
If so, we must stack up our actions against what we find here in this passage. Are we honoring God
with our complicity? Or, should we be sharing the gospel with them? Bearing the name
of Christ is a very serious thing, one that should not be taken lightly. Jesus was not eating with sinners
and tax collectors because He just needed someone to hang out with. Jesus was eating with these men because
they were spiritually lost and He heralded the message of salvation. He called men to repent and put their
faith and trust in Him alone. May we express reverence and respect with the way we hold true to the commands
that we find in God’s Holy Word.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
July 25, 2021
at different times throughout my adolescent years, changing my mind about what I wanted to be when I grew up. At times
I wanted to be a zookeeper (so I could feed the lions, obviously), sometimes a firefighter, other times a professional athlete.
Even if those professions seemed like a possibility to me at the time, that didn’t mean I adorned any of those titles.
My desire alone to be something did not make me that thing. My how far we have come from that time.
Today one of the big agenda
items being pushed is the proper (or politically correct) use of pronouns. No, I am not talking about English 101, what
I am referring to is the self identification surge that is being propagated. If it wasn’t outlandish enough to
have boys wanting to be girls and girls wanting to be boys, now this movement is demanding that everyone else address them
by the pronoun they want to be identified as, at any point and time. Think this is a joke? Here are some of the
facts, and keep in mind, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Elementary schools and all the way up to the college level, boys and
girls (which apparently we are not allowed to say), are being taught that there are many different gender identities.
In fact, depending on the source, there is said to be over 64 different gender identities. In some schools, thankfully
not all yet, students are taught to use the properly assigned pronoun in relation to the litany of gender identities.
Taxpayer’s dollars hard at work? You be the judge.
A popular musician has classified herself as non-binary. Now stay
with me on this one. The way the gender identity community has identified non-binary is “people
who feel their gender cannot be defined within the margins of gender binary. Instead, they understand their gender in a way
that goes beyond simply identifying as either a man or woman.” A gender
that goes beyond identification? What does this even mean? If anyone would know what this actually means, you
would think it would be the people that are propagating this, right? However, that is not the case. Here is a
quote from this same musician “I accidentally misgender myself sometimes! It’s
a huge transition to change the pronouns I’ve used for myself my entire life. And it’s difficult to remember sometimes!”
It is difficult for her to remember her identity, because it is complete nonsense. If she doesn’t know
who she is, how then does she expect others to address her appropriately? This last quote really hits the nail on the
head though “As long as you keep trying to respect my truth, And as long as I remember
my truth, The Shift will come naturally.” This artist has certainly confused
her own delusion with actual truth. She forgets who she is and has to be reminded what her truth is? Yet, this
is the distortion that societally we are going to great lengths to comply with.
Some states have begun to bring forward
legislation that will hold one legally liable for not calling each individual by the specific pronoun that they associate
with at any given time. A teacher in Virginia was fired because he refused to address a transgender student by the title
and pronoun that they demanded. One can imagine where this is headed. There are over 64 gender identifications,
more than a hundred pronouns, and we are moving toward a time in which we will be held legally responsible for addressing
each and every person by their specific preference.
I am sure this is not the first you have heard about this, and
likely you have given this some thought. Allow me to be of some assistance. WAKE UP CHRISTIAN! We are to
be pillars and supports of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15), not encouraging and advocating false. The Bible is very clear,
God created man (Genesis 1:27) and woman (Genesis 2:22-24), nowhere in Scripture do we find the other supposed 62+ genders
listed. Gender is not subjective, it is the wonderful identity that God has given us, not to be altered or manipulated.
question has to be asked, where does this end? What is next on the horizon that will start as “pushing the envelope”
then become “commonplace?” If one feels like associating as a CEO, will that be grounds for being granted
that position? If one wants to identify as a millionaire, will the bank be forced to comply and give them what they
want? As absurd as this sounds, we are not exactly dealing with logic and common sense. As a society we have drifted
quite far from rationality.
Brothers and sisters we need to make sure we stand boldly for the truth, while at
the same time having a loving and tender heart towards everyone. We must realize the despair that exists with this gender
identification movement, as many are searching to find some source of fulfillment. Sadly, there is no pronoun that will
satisfy this void in their lives. Only by submitting their lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ will they find true,
unending joy and peace. The only identity that matters at all, is who we are in the eyes of the One who created us.
We don’t have to sacrifice truth in order to show the love of Christ to others, for His truth is the most loving thing
we can share (John 14:6) By His Grace And For His Glory,
July 18, 2021
The Spirit of Joy
Far too often we use the word happiness and joy almost interchangeably. However, happiness
and joy are not the same things, and as followers of Christ, this is a distinction we must understand. Happiness is
an emotional feeling, something that can be experienced through a multitude of different stimuli, making happiness subjective
to the individual. This good feeling can come and go depending on the environment and circumstances that are present
at any given time in a person’s life.
Joy is different from happiness in that joy comes from the Holy Spirit, i.e. it is produced by God.
Joy is the God-given ability to experience the riches of His grace and mercy, both in the current world as well as the certain
hope of eternity in His presence. The Bible does not say that God wants us to always be happy, again, because happiness
is a fleeting emotion, while joy is a position of the heart. In Galatians 5 Paul lists the different fruit that believers
possess by no other means than the Holy Spirit working in and through their lives. You will notice in that list that
happiness is nowhere to be found. However, one can plainly see that joy is one of the fruit that the Spirit provides.
The purpose of
making this distinction is the tendency for so many, shamefully at times myself included, to lump happiness and joy together.
The danger in doing this is not recognizing the grace of God in our lives as we should. Going to the mechanic to get
your car fixed is not generally a scenario that produces happiness. Cleaning up after your dog, disciplining your children,
sitting in traffic, doing laundry, getting a call from a telemarketer, these are not typically things that generate happiness.
But, we live in a society that promotes personal happiness as something that is to be constantly pursued. What about
those who are born again believers in Jesus Christ? Well, you will be pleased to know (notice I did not use the word
happy?) that the pursuit of happiness is not found in Scripture. What is found in Scripture is the God-given gift of
joy, with the assurance of joy being seen through the presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. What
this means is that when we express joy, others can see the evidence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. What this also
means is that if we say we love and serve the Lord, yet we are not expressing joy, we are squelching the Spirit. 1 Thessalonians
5:19 says “Do not quench the Spirit.” The word quench literally means do not extinguish the Spirit.
One of the ways that we can quench the Spirit is by living in a non-joyful way, which does not benefit anyone (ourselves,
other believers, non believers, or God).
Brothers and sisters we have so much to be joyful about. It is when we ruminate on these things
that we cannot help but to exhibit the joy that we have. God, in His great love and mercy, has brought us out of the
darkness (spiritual death) and into the light (spiritual life) (1 Peter 2:9, 2 Corinthians 5:17). Our sins have been
forgiven through the blood payment, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ (1 John 1:9, Ephesians 1:7). We have literally
been plucked from the fire and promised eternal life in the presence of our Savior (Romans 6:23, 1 John 5:13). In the
meantime, God has given us His guarantee by indwelling us with the Holy Spirit, sealing us as His forever (1 Corinthians 2:12,
Ephesians 1:13-14). Really the question is, how can we have anything but joy if we are in Christ? Our human tendency
is to get caught up in the temporal, whether we are happy or not, when we should be focused on the greater importance, the
world that we live in does not always yield happiness, but the God we serve gives us ample reason to be joyful. My encouragement
is that you don’t get bogged down with the circumstances of life. The world can stifle your happiness but it cannot
steal your joy, so cling to the latter. The challenge is, find joy in the Lord no matter what life throws at you, be
a people of joy in the Lord. Let your joy be the thing that others take notice of. Perhaps those who see the joy
in your life will inquire of your reason for it. What an amazing opportunity at that point to give an account for the
reason we have joy.
By His Grace And For His Glory, Pastor Sam
July 11, 2021
Wisdom Of The Heart
When you think of wisdom, what is the first thing that comes to mind? I presume that some would contemplate
some of the great thinkers like Albert Einstein, or Aristotle, or perhaps from a leadership perspective some would think of
George Washington or maybe Eisenhower. No doubt there are elite experts in every field imaginable, from science, to
literature, to doctors and lawyers, to trades such as plumbing and welding. The common thread among these diamonds in
the rough is the wisdom they possess to perform at the top of their field. When one thinks of wisdom and where wisdom
lies, we undoubtedly affirm that wisdom is in the mind.
Proverbs 2 is a wonderful chapter, revealing the value of wisdom. But,
it is in this wonderful chapter that we also run into a truth that may leave us scratching our head. In verse 9-10 we
read that when one understands righteousness and justice, wisdom will come into the heart. It is upon reading this entire
chapter that we gain the proper context to more appropriately understand the meaning. In the beginning of Proverbs 2
we read that one gains wisdom through receiving God’s Words and responding in obedience. But, we would do well
to always consider the heart motive that must exist to receive God’s Word and likewise to respond in obedience.
Only a heart that loves the Lord and desires to be faithful in pursuing the things of God would receive and respond favorably.
see, Godly wisdom is achieved only with the mind and the heart, not one acting independent of the other. To have wisdom
of the mind and not of the heart would simply be academic wisdom, better defined as intelligence. To have wisdom of
the heart but not of the mind would be limited by a lack of information. This individual may have good intentions but
no knowledge on how to properly apply those intentions to positive action. It is in this wonderful Proverb we find that
the wisdom that God provides through our earnest seeking of Him, affects every part of our lives, as we use this gifted wisdom
to honor Him. The yearning for wisdom that is conveyed in this Proverb is a desire that is wrought forth from a heart
purposed in serving the Lord. So, while this wisdom may or may not win a Pulitzer Prize, or invent the next best technological
advancement, it is a wisdom that pleases our Lord. Praise God for not only giving us the capacity to attain true godly
wisdom, but also granting us that wisdom which affects our entire being, mind and heart, manifested through God honoring action.
I would encourage you to read Proverbs 2 this week and be reminded of the goodness of our Lord. God graciously answers
our petition for wisdom, when we ask with a sincere heart. James 1:5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him
ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
July 4, 2021
the other day my wife and I were discussing a disturbing trend that we have not only noticed ourselves, but friends have echoed
this same observation. In our assessment it seems that there is an increase of unkindness going on at just
about every level. Oftentimes unkindness rears its ugly head in the mundane, the simple day to day circumstances.
Perhaps the waiter or waitress got your order wrong, or you had to wait longer than expected at the BMV.
Maybe the student driver accidentally pulled out in front of you, or the internet connection keeps going in and out.
Whatever the irritant may be, COVID, the government, unkindness seems to be the all too common response.
of Christ, we need to be very aware of how we are acting as well as how we are reacting to situations that face us on a daily
basis. After all, kindness is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), we should be showing kindness
to others as much as we possibly can. There are two things we need to keep in mind in terms of kindness.
One, we needn’t expect kindness out of the unbelieving world. Listen, this world is not always
going to be nice to us, people will be cruel and they will be rude. But, let’s be completely honest,
what should we expect? We all like to think there is a common decency that exists in the world but that
is more wishful thinking than it is reality. But, when others are unkind to us, we have a wonderful opportunity
in that moment. Fighting fire with fire sure isn’t going to shine the light of Christ; it is not
going to positively affect them in any way. Instead, we should be responding in kindness, even when we
don’t feel like it, or don’t think kindness is warranted. After all, where would we be, had
kindness and grace not been extended to us?
Second, showing kindness should be a trait that we consciously and diligently seek to practice.
The Bible is filled with instructions for children of God to be kind to not only one another, but to everyone (Luke
6:31, Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:12-14). When we are kind to others it reflects the love of Christ, displaying
qualities and character that come from the Lord. On the flip side, if we do not show kindness to others,
what does this show them? Well, it shows them that Christians are not any different from the rest of the
world. In fact, it makes us out to be hypocrites. It ruins our testimony.
Imagine this for me if you would. Let’s say you go into a coffee shop and stand in line to
order your drink. The line is moving slow and you know it is because the new guy behind the counter is
not keeping up with the morning rush. You finally get up to the counter, make your drink order and wait
yet again for the drink to finally arrive. Instead of the iced drink you ordered, the less than confident
waiter hands you a hot drink. Frustrated you react in a less than desirable way, causing the waiter to
apologize for his actions. After giving him the cold shoulder you proceed about your day. Fast
forward, Sunday morning comes along and you are standing at the front doors greeting, a role you have come to enjoy.
A new couple pulls up and gets out of their car, proceeding to advance toward the front doors, when you notice the
familiar face. It is the waiter from the coffee shop. I trust you know where this is
going. What kind of testimony do we have at that point?
I am not suggesting that followers of Christ don’t
have bad days or never act in unkind ways. But, this should not be the norm; it should not be how others
would define us. As the fallen world that we live in becomes more and more unkind, may we be different.
May we show the love of God to others through our kindness (Luke 6:35).
By His Grace And For His Glory,
June 27, 2021
What I Needed To Hear
They say a little bit of encouragement goes a long way. Then
it should be assumed that a lot of encouragement goes even further right? It is no surprise that we live in a world
filled with ups and downs, hills and valleys if that suits you better. Hopefully there are more hills than valleys,
but nevertheless, there are times when circumstances have us down. Finding encouragement in times like these is like
a cold, refreshing drink of water on a hot summer day, it hits the spot.
As followers of Christ
there is often a certain stigma that is attached to feeling down or discouraged, after all, we are children of God, heirs
to the throne. But, we are human too. While keeping things in perspective can certainly be of great benefit, life
can still be tough sometimes. That is why encouragement can be so instrumental, especially in these times. One
can find encouragement from family, friends, even complete strangers. Thank goodness God knew we would need encouragement
as well, and there is no greater encourager than our Heavenly Father.
God used the Apostle Paul
to bring great encouragement to the church in Colossae. In the opening of Colossians 1, Paul tells the believers in
Colossae that he has not stopped praying for them, which is an encouragement in itself. However, it is in this prayer
of Paul’s that we not only find great biblical truth but also some of the most encouraging words one could hear.
Colossians 1:9-14 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be
filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord,
fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all
power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified
you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us
to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Though some may find
this to be more of a charge or an instruction, I believe this is more specifically a well timed, well needed encouragement.
Paul states some of the wonderful promises of God, results of walking in a manner that is pleasing to Him. But, the
real zinger, the pinnacle of encouragement is found here in verse 12, where Paul states that God has qualified them (all believers)
to share in the inheritance of the saints. Brothers and sisters this is glorious truth. When the throws of this
world have you feeling down, this is the promise that should come flooding into your mind; that no matter how unworthy we
feel, you are qualified through the power of God. We are not unworthy, because we are not living for ourselves or by
ourselves, we are not alone, we have been saved by the grace of God, we are sons and daughters of the king. Verse 13
and 14 are the icing on the cake really, reminding us that we have been delivered from the world of darkness to the marvelous
light through the blood atonement of Jesus Christ.
Friends, I would encourage you to jot this passage
down, highlight it, underline it, whatever you need to do. Feelings and emotions will come and go, but God’s promises
will never fail us. I pray you find encouragement from the sweet words of our Lord.
His Grace And For His Glory,
June 20, 2021
Who Said Change Is
As a follower of Christ I must say one of the attributes of God that I am utterly thankful for is His immutability,
that is His unchanging character, nature, and will. The fact that God does not change, His will does not
change, His desire and purpose does not change is remarkable. A.W. Pink says this of God’s immutability
“He cannot change for the better, for He is already perfect; and being perfect, He cannot change for the worse.”
Truth be told, it is upon realizing this truth that many frivolous arguments should gain no further ground.
So, why is the immutability of God so important? What arguments should be dropped at the doorstep
of this unquestionable truth?
Scripture is filled with teachings of God’s unchanging nature. Psalm 102:26-27
tells of the things that pass away, but God remains, James 1:17 explains that the Father does not vary or change, Numbers
23:19 reveals that the Lord does not change His mind, Hebrews 13:8 says that Jesus Christ is the same past, present and future.
This divine character of God is one that certainly separates Him from mankind. We have all experienced
moodiness, and if we are too prideful to admit our own, we at least recognize that other people can be moody, meaning their
attitude changes from day to day. The result of moodiness is a variance of reactions and outcomes generated
from the same source. Obviously you can see the negative quality of moodiness, making it difficult or impossible
for one to navigate and predict efforts given. Thank goodness this is not true of God, there is no such
thing as catching God on a bad day. If this were true, we would really be in a world of trouble.
Could you imagine if one day God desired one thing and the next He condemned it? Of course you can’t
think of that, because this is not how God operates. His immutable nature is one that offers consistency
So, what implications does this have on how we function and behave? It
is far too common for churches, as well as individuals, to view change in a way that suggests God’s Word is ever-needing
to be adapted to the current social and cultural milieu. Without explicitly stating it like this, their
actions, as well as their arguments against Scripture, speak loud and clear. To give an example, one of
the common deviations today is the view of LGBTQ. Many churches and professing believers vehemently proclaim
that the homosexual lifestyle is one that should be embraced as the new “norm” and that it fits in Christianity.
This is why it is imperative that we know and understand the importance of God’s immutable character.
This is not a matter of interpretation, nor is it a matter of an isolated or obscure text. The Bible
is distinctly clear on ALL sexual immorality being sinful and dishonoring to God (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, Romans 1:26-27,
1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10, 1 Corinthians 6:18, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, Ephesians 5:3, Galatians 5:19, Colossians 5:3,
1 Corinthians 7:2). The immutability of God extends to all three persons of the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy
Spirit) as well as the Word of God. God’s word has not changed, His character has not changed, His
standard has not changed, and what He has deemed to be sin has not changed. It is not our responsibility,
nor is it our possibility, to change what is and is not right in God’s sight. Cultural and societal
influences do not dictate truth.
This is just one of many examples of the “change” that has been demanded
in the face of an unchanging God. Another big one is the false belief that one can lose their salvation.
This would mean that God has adopted us into His family (Ephesians 1:5, Galatians 4:5-7, John 1:12), made us heirs
to the kingdom (James 2:5, Romans 8:17)……..but then changed His mind and cast us back out. This
is not a biblical construct at all, it is simply bad theology and a low view of God.
Thankfully we have
a very clear obligation to obey God (John 14:15, James 1:22, John 14:23) and not to conform to the world (Romans 12:2).
I would encourage you to praise God for His consistency, for His immutable nature. Because if you
have been saved by the grace of God, He has promised to keep you and give you eternal life, (John 3:16, Romans 6:23, John
5:24, Matthew 25:46), escaping wrath and experiencing the endless love of God.
By His Grace And For His Glory,Pastor Sam
June 13, 2021
Doing Whatever It Takes
The book of 1 Corinthians is a wonderful book, filled with practical ways in which to live
a purposeful life for the Lord. In Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, he addresses many issues that they
are facing, most of which are self-inflicted, due to their lack of spiritual growth. One need not be overly astute in
order to pick up on the stern, but loving corrections that Paul frequently applies to this letter. In chapter 9 Paul
gives a defense for anyone who would question his motives and purpose for ministry. Paul was not milking the system
for an easy vocation filled with cushy benefits. Quite the contrary, ministry came at a cost, one Paul was starkly aware
of. But, this was not a deterrent of the faithful Apostle; rather it was part and parcel for living a life of service,
spreading the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.
But, then we get to verse 19-23 of chapter 9, a commonly misinterpreted and misunderstood
passage. A quick read through, without contextual support, would appear that Paul is saying he will do whatever it takes
to reach someone with the gospel of Jesus Christ. What exactly does that mean? If Paul would go to any length
to reach the lost, would he even go so far as to sin? The passage does say that he became all things to all people;
this seems a bit extreme doesn’t it?
A closer examination of the passage at hand will shed some much needed light on the common
confusion. Paul is in no way suggesting that he would do anything that would go against what God forbade. For
instance, in verse 20 when Paul states that to the Jews he became a Jew, He was not insinuating that he literally conformed
to Judaism. The point the Apostle was making was the importance of knowing his audience. Was Paul deviating from
the truth? Absolutely not. Within the confines of the Word of God, Paul was being the most effective evangelist
he could be. Nowhere are we given any indication that Paul compromised in word or deed. Being able to relate to
his target audience gave him a precise angle of sharing the gospel. The gospel didn’t change, the message was
the same, but the tact and approach was more directed to the situation.
I could go on and on and dissect each scenario that Paul lays out in this passage,
and don’t get me wrong, there is great value in that kind of extensive study. But, for the purpose of this musing,
may we focus our attention on how this applies to our lives? How do we become all things to all people, while maintaining
a right standing with God? Though there is no exact formula or step by step instruction in terms of relating to each
person that needs to hear the gospel, we can learn a lot from the wise Apostle. Sharing the gospel often means we have
to go outside of our comfort zone and talk to others we wouldn’t normally talk to, in places we wouldn’t normally
go, who have interests that are not the same as ours. My point is, Paul was not simply sharing the gospel with family
and friends, and by no means is that to suggest we shouldn’t be sharing the gospel with family and friends. But,
he was trying to reach everyone that he could, even if that meant being relatable with a crowd he wouldn’t normally
associate with. Paul knew the message he heralded was worth the effort. The question is, do we?
In a day and age when easy
believism is doled out in mass quantities like an evangelical Pez dispenser and friendship evangelism has become the “new
norm”, appreciating the work and effort Paul put forth can go unnoticed if we aren’t paying careful enough attention.
May we find encouragement in the approach that Paul had for reaching the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ. May it
cause us to look for new opportunities we hadn’t thought about before or give us the motivation we need to witness to
those we have been putting off for far too long. I would challenge you this week to look at this passage here in 1 Corinthians
9:19-23 and do a little further studying. My hope and prayer is that you would be moved to heed the example that is
found in the Apostle Paul. Lord, may we all be found as faithful stewards of what You have entrusted us with.
By His Grace
And For His Glory,
June 6, 2021
One of the ways that we can exalt the name of the Lord is to acknowledge His
traits and characteristics. It is always a beneficial practice to consider the many wonderful attributes of God.
Categorizing these qualities of God is another helpful exercise that will likely yield a better understanding of God’s
grace. One way, but certainly not the only way, to make distinctions between attributes is to break them down between
two groups, communicable and incommunicable. The word communicable can mean the ability to communicate to others or
to transmit something to someone else. The latter is what best pertains to the subject at hand. In the medical
field, communicable is what denotes a disease that can be transmitted from one thing to another, thus communicable is transferable.
what are some of the incommunicable, or non transferable, attributes of God? One that certainly comes to mind is the
sovereignty of God. God’s sovereignty is something that separates Him from everything else, for God alone is sovereign
(Job 42:2, 1 Chronicles 29:11-12). There is only One Creator God, making this another incommunicable attribute of our
Lord (Colossians 1:16, John 1:1-3). Commonly we think of the omnis of God, He is omniscient (all knowing 1 John 3:20),
omnipotent (all powerful Psalm 147:5) and omnipresent (in all places at all times Isaiah 44:6). A few more attributes
on this list would be that God is the Lawgiver and Judge (Ecclesiastes 12:14, Isaiah 33:22), He is perfectly Holy, Righteous
and Pure (Psalm 11:7, 1 Samuel 2:2, Psalm 12:6), He is immutable (Malachi 3:6), He is self existing (John 5:26) and so on.
Again, these are attributes that God alone possesses, mankind cannot achieve these qualities nor does God transmit them to
His children. These are attributes that make God who He is, worthy of all of our praise. Acknowledgment of these
characteristics of God is a wonderful way to be reminded of His greatness and majesty. God is God and we are not.
are attributes that we receive through salvation, as beneficiaries of the extension of His grace. These are qualities
and characteristics that God desires us to have, thus He has transferred them to His children. Communicable attributes
include the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control
(Galatians 5:22-23). These are attributes that are perfect in the Lord but transferred in part to the saints as verification
of life change and further sanctification (being made into the image of His Son). Praising God for these attributes
is really twofold. On one hand we thank God for importing into our lives, qualities that we would never and could never
attain on our own. On the other hand we again are reminded that God alone is the perfection of all of these traits.
would we go through the work to distinguish between these qualities, what is the purpose? I believe it is always important
to be reminded that we serve a God who is worthy to be glorified, whose character and nature is praiseworthy. Knowing
that there are things which are unique to God is important to knowing Him at a greater level. I would encourage you
this week to identify the different attributes of God, then determine whether you think they are communicable or incommunicable
and why. Don’t shoot the messenger, I am not demanding homework or a well constructed diagram. But, I can
assure you, taking the time to be mindful of the attributes of God will never be done in vain. May He be glorified in
your pursuit to know Him more and more with each day He gives you.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
May 30, 2021
Embracing Propositional Truths
Throughout church history there
have been various attacks from both outside the church as well as within. The attacks from outside are expected, but
the ones from inside tend to be the most surprising as well as damaging. With the ever increasing pressure to ‘normalize’
the church in terms of cultural relevance, there has been a widespread abandonment of recognizing the propositional truths
that are made in God’s Holy Word. How could this even be possible? How could professing believers purposely
suppress absolutes that are so clearly revealed within the Holy Words of Scripture?
Under the influence of a postmodernist hangover, new movements
are proclaiming something, but it is not the truths of the Bible. Rather, this new wave (primarily, but not limited
to, the emergent church) insists on gleaning personal interpretation from Scripture, essentially developing one’s own
definition of truth. Many of this ilk will take an account in the Bible and refuse to make any propositional statements,
extracting only what they want to as a personal theory of sorts. Perhaps the greatest atrocity in their deviation is
that which surrounds the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. If we believe the Bible is inerrant and infallible, we know that
there are a lot of propositional truths to be made within the atonement account. Some, but certainly not all, common
propositions that are made are.
1. Jesus Christ literally was beaten, tortured and hung on the cross in Calvary.
(Matthew 27:26-30, Mark 14:65, John 19:18)
His death paid the penalty for the sins of man
(1 Peter 1:18-19, 1 Peter 2:24, 2 Corinthians 5:21)
It was God’s will and plan of redemption
to crucify Christ (Isaiah 53:10)
These are propositions, not based on one’s feeling or emotions, but derived directly from the Word of God.
No matter how much theological gymnastics one does, these truths still remain.
However, there are increasing numbers of those who will refuse
to accept any propositions, fearing that it is narrow-minded and intolerant of other viewpoints. Some have taken the
crucifixion account of Christ and allegorized it, stating that His death was merely symbolic for taking people's pain and
afflictions away from them. This is not simply a case of wrong interpretation, it is heresy. To deny the actual,
literal death, resurrection and ascension of Christ is to not know Christ at all (Matthew 10:33). The question has to
be asked, where does this madness stop? If there are no propositions to be made at all, what actual, definitive truth
can we extract from Scripture? And that is precisely the point. In an effort to appeal to everyone, to not step
on anyone’s toes, all opinions and interpretations are valid, as they are true to the person who holds them. This
is the kind of blasphemous garbage that is captivating many of the “progressive” church movements.
The apostle Paul reminds his
young protégé Timothy that the church is to be a pillar and buttress (support) of the truth. Brothers
and sisters I implore you to do the same, for there has never been a more critical time in church history for us to be pillars
and buttresses of truth. The Word of God is sufficient and it is certainly worth upholding. Movements and fads
come and go but the Word of God remains eternal (1 Peter 1:25, Matthew 24:35).
By His Grace And For His Glory,
May 23, 2021
For Christians, the Bible is
undeniably significant in knowing who God is as well as what He has purposed for His children. All true followers of
Christ must affirm the importance of the Holy Scriptures, as it is imperative to life and faith. However, we live in
such a time that has seen an increase of scrutiny toward the Bible, making it vital that we know not only where we stand on
our view of Scripture, but why we hold that position. Bibliology is the theological discipline and study of the Bible,
combining elements of origin, history, authorship, etc. But, like any theological matter, there are differing views.
One area that has
been widely debated is the theories of inspiration of the Bible. There are four main lanes of thought that most Christians
fall into. The nature of these different views demands that we choose a lane, because the reality is only one can be
right. I am confident that further detail will reveal striking clarity as to which ones are theories and which one is
there is the idea that the Bible is a remarkable human book without divine inspiration. This would suggest that talented
men penned the words that they felt were pertinent to the Christian faith; which also means that God did not have any supernatural
oversight to the contents at all. The problem with this theory should be glaringly obvious. This would deny the
sovereign nature of God, placing Him in a position of hoping these writers would write something good about Him, since it
is in a sense out of His hands. This view elevates the ability of man while greatly reducing the power of God, stripping
Him of having any control of what the Bible contains. Not only do the Scriptures not support this, they actually reveal
quite the opposite (John 1:1, 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Another theory is that the Word of God is partially inspired. This theory suggests that there
are times in the Bible where God influences the writers (via His speaking to them directly or the guidance of the Holy Spirit)
and there are times when the writers pen their own thoughts and words. The confusion this would cause is quite obvious,
not being able to determine what is of God and what is of man. Man does not coauthor the Bible, again 2 Timothy 3:16-17
is clear on the source of Scripture. It is ironic that one would use the term Word of God while at the same time insisting
that fallible man had an equal part in “creating” the Bible. This view also puts a high view on man while
attempting to limit the power of God.
Yet another theory is that of God’s divine control devoid of any human adjunction. This
theory states the Bible is a book which is independently divine, having been dictated mechanically to men. What that
means is there are no outside factors present in the writers. While this theory does recognize the sovereignty of God,
it fails to recognize the method in which God Himself compiled Scripture. The Bible was assembled over the course of
nearly 1,600 years, by 45 different writers. There is substantial evidence that the individual books contain the nuances
and traits of the writers. We see differences both grammatically as well as stylistically. One example is the
way that Paul and James both address the event of Abraham nearly sacrificing Isaac on the altar on Mount Moriah. Though
the writers did not contradict one another, they certainly gave to different angles of the same scene. Without question
God inspired these men to write the words He wanted, but their personalities are also embedded in the text.
That leads us to the last mode
of thought in regards to the inspiration of Scripture; which is verbal plenary inspiration. What this means is the Bible
is entirely of God, every single word being completely His words, while at the same time incorporating the individual personalities
of the individual writers. This view does not diminish God’s sovereignty in any way, rather it recognizes the
inerrant word being transmitted through human writers. What is so wonderfully unique about God using these means is
that His infallible and authoritative word is brought to us through fallible men, further displaying His glory. Inspiration
was given to the writers in multiple ways, one on one encounter with God (Moses), direct revelation from God (Prophets), the
Holy Spirit, etc. We see the evidences of this all throughout Scripture as the writers use their uniquenesses (the detail
of Luke the physician, the fast pace of Mark, the boldness of Paul), while at the same time having a unified message that
reveals God and His redemptive plan.
While I understand there are different viewpoints taken on this theological issue,
I firmly believe there is only one logical and biblically supported view. Verbal plenary inspiration is God inspiring
the writers to both utilize their uniquenesses while at the same time unequivocally revealing the complete expression of God
through every single word (Matthew 4:4, John 17:17). I leave you with the words of God that were given through the Apostle
Peter, 2 Peter 1:21 For no prophecy
was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
By His Grace And For His Glory, Pastor Sam
May 16, 2021
of you who know me, know that I am a stickler for the importance of theology. As I have discussed before, there is a
progressive movement that operates under the guise of Christianity, which states there is no need for theology. This
absurd logic unravels quickly as there would be no definitive statements made about who God is, what He desires and consequently
what our purpose in this world is.
There is another deviation that I want to address, one that really took shape with
the postmodern movement, and that is our ethics determine our theology. It is the thought process that assumes what
our belief is on ethical issues will formulate our theology. The problem with this would be glaringly apparent.
One might say, I live with my boyfriend/girlfriend, therefore I choose to look at Scripture in a way that does not condemn
that type of living. This sounds outlandish but rest assured, this happens all the time. One could argue that
the Bible is not current in terms of cultural views on couples living together. One could even argue the definition
of fornication, a definition that is somehow constructed to condone the situation that benefits them.
would be the common issue of lying. One could say that white lies are harmless, in fact in some cases they might just
spare others feelings from getting hurt. Ethically lying is something that can be discerned whether it is beneficial
or not. There are certainly instances in Scripture where lying wasn’t completely and utterly condemned by God.
Take for instance the deception of King David, as he faked his insanity before Achish, the King of Gath. David was afraid
of what Achish might do, so he pretended to be insane. God did not harshly rebuke David in this instance, so there must
be validity to the occasion for lying….right?
Building theology based on our ethical views is a backwards way of operating as
a follower of Christ. There are factors that contribute to our ethics, like individual (feelings, emotions, personal
history & experience) and social (cultural, definition of “normal”). On the contrary, theology is determined
by Scripture, the unchanging, timeless Word of God. God’s word is not subject to changing cultures and time periods.
When a statement is made based on our understanding of Scripture, theology is being formed. For instance, since the
Bible says that God does as He pleases (Psalm 115:3), rules over all with great power and strength (1 Chronicles 29:11-12),
and does everything according to His purpose (Isaiah 46:9-10), then we can conclude that God is sovereign. He is not
sovereign because we feel that way, or because that makes sense to our logic, He is sovereign because the Bible clearly defines
God as such.
Theology should always determine our ethical behavior. If we go back to the issue of lying that was
previously mentioned, the Bible says that a lying tongue is an abomination to God (Proverbs 6:16-17, Proverbs 12:22), that
we should not lie to one another (Colossians 3:9-10, Exodus 20:16), and that lying is attributed to the likeness of satan
(John 8:44), therefore we can confidently make the theological statement that lying is wrong. David may have not been
struck dead on the spot when he was deceitful before King Achish, but that did not justify his actions either.
very simply put, is the study of the nature of God, a nature that we see explained throughout the canon of Scripture, His
very own Word. The more we study God’s Word, the more we know who He is. Our theology should determine how
we live our lives, meaning, it should dictate our ethical behavior. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 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
By His Grace And For His Glory,
May 9, 2021
read an article that a dear brother in the Lord gave to me. The contents of the letter were appalling but, I must say,
I wasn’t overly surprised by it. Bethany Christian Services (BCS) is the largest Christian adoption service in
the country. For over 75 years the organization has stuck to its deep biblical roots and values, helping place children
with qualified, Christian married couples. Unfortunately, in the face of societal pressure for inclusion and acceptance,
BCS has made the announcement that they will welcome LGBTQ couples as adoption candidates. In a time of rapid degeneration
in our country, BCS’s decision to kowtow to the group shouting the loudest is at the expense of denying the principles
that the organization was founded upon, biblical principles.
The biblical family structure has been
attacked for many years now, meaning, this did not just happen overnight. Scripture is very clear that marriage is between
one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24), an understanding BCS seemed to have a firm grasp on. So, what happened?
What causes an organization that operates under the banner of Christianity to bend and comply with the ebb and flow of society?
It’s called compromise. I am not talking about the kind of compromise that settles for Italian food when you really
wanted Mexican. I am not talking about the kind of compromise that took the good deal on the silver car when you really
wanted red. What I am talking about is the worst kind of compromise of all, the compromise that goes against the very
Word of God. The Bible is not vague when it comes to the sinful condition of a homosexual lifestyle (Leviticus 18:22,
1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Timothy 1:10). For years BCS did precisely what this country needs, provide
a service that dedicates its efforts to maintaining a biblical family model. With this latest decision they have purposely
deviated from the family structure that God has designed; a decision that comes with monumental repercussions.
confusion this places on little boys and girls that will be raised in this perverse kind of family dynamic is heartbreaking.
Like I said, this has been a slow fade, but when will we say enough is enough? Paul gave the instruction in Romans 12:2
not to conform to this world, even written nearly 2,000 years ago these are valuable words to us today. The nature of
living in a lost and dark world is that the world does not seek to honor God nor attempt to operate under biblical principles.
To stand firm on the Word of God takes courage, boldness, and commitment in remaining steadfast to the Lord, no matter what
the world is shouting in opposition. BCS’s capitulation is a victory for the world, one that comes at the expense
of dishonoring God. As time goes on, inevitably as societies move forward (notice I didn’t say progress) cultural
norms change. But, as followers of Christ we acknowledge that the Word of God is unchanging and our adherence to it
is something we mustn’t deviate from. It is sufficient for all things pertaining to living a godly life (2 Peter
1:3-4), a truth that stands apart from what our culture has defined as “normal”. BCS’s abandonment
of the truth of Scripture is an indictment to their organization and the beliefs they have long claimed to stand upon.
My encouragement brothers and sisters is that we understand our need to remain faithful to God (Hebrews 10:23), even
when we are pressured to do otherwise. I would also encourage you to pray for BCS, that they would repent and turn back
to their commitment to honor God. Stay the course my dear brothers and sisters, fight the good fight.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
May 2, 2021
Loving God Means Loving God’s
I hope you have enjoyed journeying
through the different ways to assess spiritual maturity. Though this is not an exhaustively complete list, these areas
are in fact found rooted within the canon of Scripture. This week we are going to look at the area of God’s people,
more precisely, our attitude toward the ‘Church’. First, I must clarify that when discussing the ‘Church’
we are specifically looking at the Body of Christ. Scripture uses several terms when describing God’s collective
saints; biblical phrases like The Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27, Ephesians 4:12, Romans 12:5), The Bride of Christ (Revelation
19:7) and of course The Church (Matthew 16:18, Ephesians 5:25-27).
As followers of Christ we are part of The Body of Christ universally, which is
the collection of all men, women and children who have been saved by the grace of God. God has divinely brought this
family together, all for the purpose of bringing honor and glory to His precious name. Within the Body of Christ there
are many functions, giftings and roles that God has given to the individual members (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). This is
the design of God, that though we all have individual responsibilities, we are also meant to operate and function as one cohesive
Body, again, for His glory. However, while this truth is very clearly defined in the Word of God, many have taken it
upon themselves to make this as a matter of opinion, viewing it as one suggested possibility.
I have encountered numerous individuals throughout
my life who have vehemently proclaimed that they haven’t a need for the Church, for other believers to be in their lives.
Typically it is a case of one who has been scorned by a bad Church experience or an unfavorable childhood memory of Church
that they refuse to let go of. Whatever the case may be, none of these excuses negate the design and purpose for The
Body of Christ. In fact, I firmly believe that at the very core of why individual professing believers would be indifferent
about the need for fellowship with other believers boils down to one word…..accountability. Accountability is
one of the wonderful functions of the Body of Christ, as brothers and sisters rely on one another for support as they strive
to live a life that honors God. But, if one makes the ill advised choice to isolate themselves from the gathering of
believers, they are not allowing themselves to be part of what God has established. This may not always be the case,
but again, I believe this is because they don’t want accountability nor do they want to be under any form of authority.
For those who enjoy
the many wonderful benefits of the Body of believers, there are still questions that we need to ask ourselves. Here
are several questions regarding our attitude toward the Body of Christ.
1. Is the Body of Christ a good thing but not necessary?
2. Do I focus more
on what I get out of the Body or how I can be a benefit to the Body?
3. Do I genuinely
love and care for EVERYONE in the Body of Christ?
Do I pray for my fellow brothers and sisters?
5. Do I recognize that the Body of Christ is a family, one that I am not in charge of picking or choosing?
6. Do I praise God for providing the Body as a source of encouragement, support, accountability, strength,
When we are impartial about the Body of Christ, there
are some serious implications that we must recognize. What we are really saying is, that which God has designed and
fashioned is really not our cup of tea; a rather damning statement to say the least. If we love God we must love God’s
people as well (1 John 4:7-8). I would encourage you this week to pray that God would give you a heart of thanksgiving
for the Body that He has orchestrated, recognizing His perfect, sovereign will. God has constructed the Church and it
is our responsibility to be a functioning, active part of that Body. The Church is for the glory of God, may we find
great delight in that.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
April 25, 2021
spiritual maturity is not an exact science, but it is a beneficial assessment of the growth that God has produced in our lives.
One of those areas of growth can better be described as a replacement process. That replacement is the removal of entitlement
and deservedness for the recognition of the grace of God. God is glorified when we shift our focus from ourselves to
Him, for He is rightly and justifiably a jealous God (Exodus 20:5, 34:14, Deuteronomy 4:24). But this crucial shift
in focus doesn’t just happen instinctively; it takes a conscious effort against our natural tendencies.
It should come as no surprise
that we live in what can confidently be described as the most entitlement driven society in existence. Billions of advertising
dollars are spent targeting one of mankind’s most primal desires, self satisfaction. Convincing the general consumer
that they are deserving of a product and should treat themselves is not a difficult sell. This same general premise
spills over into every aspect of life and as believers we need to be very careful of this pitfall.
I am disheartened by the influence this monumental
push for self entitlement has placed on the church. Many couples going through difficult times in their marriage hear
that still small voice of the world telling them they deserve better, they deserve to be ‘happy’. Or perhaps
the potential for an uncomfortable situation is the very thing that keeps you from ever sharing the gospel with someone else.
Or maybe it is the self indulgence of frivolous spending backed by the justification that you work hard and deserve it.
It might even be the pride of knowledge, even biblical knowledge. This is a pride that demands respect from others,
because after all, they should know who they are talking to, right?
I realize these may be extremes, but entitlement and deservedness come in many
different forms and severities. This is to be expected of the secular, non-believing world, but it is not what God desires
out of His children. God delights when we recognize Him for all the many ways He extends His grace in our lives.
It is rather easy to look back over the course of our lives and see the big moments where God has lavished grace upon us.
The moment of salvation, the birth of a child, the provisions and protection through a health crisis, these are all obvious
events we can pinpoint. But, what about the day-to-day? Are we in a constant state of acknowledgment regarding
the grace of God in our lives? This is an indicator of spiritual maturity.
I had the pleasure of going fishing with a great friend
and brother in Christ a short time ago. He and I share a love for the outdoors and it was a blessing to spend that time
together. Unbeknownst to him, he would provide me with a much needed reminder that morning. He got a bite, set
the hook and reeled in a nice striped bass. As soon as the fish got into the boat, my friend said in the most genuine,
appreciative voice “thank you Lord for that”. Was I surprised He gave praise to God, of course not, but
nevertheless, it was a great reminder to recognize the grace of God in everything. Am I suggesting that God is heavily
concerned about our success out on the lake? I am not, but I can assure you, He does care about our heart. When
we have a heart that is fixed on Him, and operate our lives with a consciousness of giving God glory for the ways He grants
grace in our lives, He delights in that. Life can be fast paced and if we are not careful it can get out ahead of us.
Recognizing the ways in which God provides our lives with grace is something that requires diligence. Here are some
questions we need to ask ourselves.
Do I use phrases like “I deserve
this” or “I don’t deserve this”?
Am I constantly looking for injustice or mistreatment?
3. Do I consider myself undeserving of God’s grace?
4. On a typical
day, do I spend more time looking after my own interest or recognizing God for who He is and what He is doing in my life?
5. Do I only recognize the grace of God in hindsight?
The fact is, if you have been saved by the grace of God, you have undeservingly been given the greatest
gift of all. When you had nothing to offer, nothing to give, God saw fit to intervene in your life and change your heart,
changing who you are at the very core. What you were entitled to and deserving of was death because of your sin.
But, God did the work in your life that you could not do because He is full of love, mercy and GRACE. Ephesians 2:8-9
explain the wonderful working of God’s grace in salvation “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.” I would encourage you this week to give this some serious thought. I am certain that
you will not be disappointed that you took the time to acknowledge the grace of God in your life.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
April 18, 2021
The Most Powerful Thing We Can Do
As we consider the different ways that we can measure spiritual maturity, we must recognize these are not subjective
points, rather they are deeply rooted in the confines of Holy Scripture. The reverence we place on the Word of God,
the way we view the sin in our lives, as well as how we care for those in need, these are all practical ways of assessing
spiritual maturity. Another very important element of spiritual maturity is our heart toward prayer. God’s
Word is exhaustively clear on the critical nature of prayer, therefore we must give proper attention and focus to this understanding.
The late Jonathan Edwards said “Prayer is as natural an expression of faith as breathing is to life.”
the unique and divinely created means by which God’s children can speak to the great Creator of the world. The
very concept of prayer is one that should leave us in awe, that God would provide a way that sinful mankind could approach
the holy and righteous throne of God. We see Jesus serve as the perfect example of how one ought to pray in Matthew
6:9-13. We can break down prayer into two main categories, prayers of supplication and prayers of praise.
of supplication are also known as prayers of petition. This is where we make our requests known before God, recognizing
Him as the provider of all things for our lives (Philippians 4:6). Many have wrongly depicted God as some sort of genie
in a bottle, waiting to grant our every wish and demand. This is certainly not the case, nor would Scripture support
that illogical notion. Assuming that prayers of supplication are simply for temporal “stuff” is not only
a far too narrow view, but a shallow one at that. A spiritually mature individual will pray for things like guidance,
direction, wisdom, perseverance, endurance, boldness, opportunities to minister and share the gospel, patience, things that
would lead to a more God honoring life. These are important things to pray for because we know, by God’s Word,
that these are things that God desires out of us. When we have a firm understanding of this, we can better interpret
verses like Mark 11:24 and John 15:7. When we know what the will of God is, then our prayers will reflect that, praying
for things that honor Him and not indulge self.
Another form of prayer is prayers of praise, a form that unfortunately
is seen far less than prayers of supplication. Genuine prayers of praise are certainly a good indicator of spiritual
maturity. These types of prayers are seen all throughout Scripture. The book of Psalms is filled with wonderful
examples of God honoring praise, singing of His glorious name and exalting His excellencies. The very nature of a prayer
of praise is placing focus on God and not on oneself. The more we are acutely aware of His constant extension of grace
in our lives, the more we should be found praising His glorious name. We live in a society that is driven by entitlement,
expecting certain things based on our perceived deservedness. Praising God should not be done only when we feel we have
received our fair share, rather we should recognize the need to praise God all the time, humbly acknowledging that we are
undeserving of His love and mercy. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says that we should pray without ceasing, that means that we
are to be in a constant state of prayer, having a heart that is purposed on communicating with God.
Here are some questions to
consider this week as we take a closer look at the area of prayer in our lives.
Does the thought of praying without ceasing make sense to us, or
do I find this an unreasonable task?
What form of prayer do I focus on most often, supplication or praise?
3. Do I only praise God when I feel like He has answered my prayers in the way I wanted Him to?
4. Is prayer my “go to” or my last resort?
5. When is the last time I have praised
God for who He is?
6. When is the last time I have asked God to reveal the things in my life that need to be corrected and
changed, so that I can live a life that is more pleasing to Him?
My hope is that you would be encouraged this week to take a deeper, more
intentional look at this area of your life. As always, I pray that God would use this time to draw you closer to Himself,
for His glory. By
His Grace And For His Glory,
April 11, 2021
Need For The Needy
Over the last several weeks we have
been assessing the different ways in which we can measure spiritual maturity. This is not to assume there is some magic
formula that exists, but undoubtedly Scripture provides clear foundational truths that mustn’t be ignored. These
are characteristics and attributes that serve as evidence of genuine, growing faith. So far we have looked at the importance
of our view of God’s word as well as how we view the sin in our lives. Today we are going to look at an area that
is often overlooked, but certainly not because Scripture is silent or vague about the issue.
As followers of Christ we should have a strong passion and desire to care for those who are in need. 1 John
3:17-18 tells us that if we have resources at our disposal and we see that someone else is in need, yet we turn a blind eye
to their need, the love of God is not in us. Did you hear that? Verse 18 follows up by explaining that we are
not to just to love with our words, but with our actions. Because if our actions don’t back up our words, we are
just a noisy gong (1 Corinthians 13:3). Words don’t fill bellies and keep people warm from the cold. James
teaches this very same thing in chapter 2, stating that if we are all talk and no action, that we have dead faith.
When we think about those who are in need, this can really encompass a lot of different things.
Some individuals are in need of food, some money, or clothes, a helping hand, a listening ear, encouragement, etc. For
those who are lost spiritually, they have a need for the gospel, to hear the good news of Jesus Christ and the redemption
that is found through Him alone.
I have been extremely blessed in my
own life to see the desire to meet needs modeled by a man I respect dearly. I have known Ron Morris for over 20 years
(he happens to be my wife’s grandfather). Ron has volunteered at a local Christian rescue mission in Central Illinois
for over 30 years. The mission is designed for men who are struggling to meet their basic needs. The shelter provides
meals for the men, a warm place to stay, complete with showers, change of clothes and more. The mission even has programs
that teach skills to the men so that they can get involved in the workforce and provide a stable income. But, more importantly
than all of those things, the mission provides men with the gospel message. Two times a day, volunteers come in to preach
a message, maybe even sing a few songs with the men. The men who come to the mission come from all walks of life.
Some are drug addicts, alcoholics, criminals; some are just plain down on their luck, products of tough circumstances.
The rescue mission has been serving that community since 1955, but many drive by it daily and don’t even know it exists.
You see, it is hard to get volunteers to serve down at the mission. It
takes time, it takes effort, it takes desire. Faithful men like Ron Morris have served, making the ongoing work of this
ministry possible, because they love God and love God’s people. I cannot even fathom how many messages Ron has
preached down there, how many times he has gotten last minute cancelations and quietly stepped up, doing what needed to be
done for those men to hear the message of Jesus Christ. He has missed some family dinners and holiday gatherings, sacrificing
to meet other’s needs. Through his actions, he demonstrates a heart for the needy. His example has been
instrumental to me. In fact, it was many years ago that Ron first asked me if I would preach down at the mission.
Now, since he was family, he certainly had some pull. I agreed and have preached down there many times after that.
I firmly believe it is always more of a blessing to me than it is to those men.
cares for those who are in need and so should we. Proverbs 14:31 Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker,
but he who is generous to the needy honors him. We honor God through our actions in serving those who are in
need. So, here are some questions we must wrestle with.
1. Do I have a genuine heart for those
2. When is the last time I have taken action to meet the needs of others?
is the last time that I have prayed for God to make me aware of others needs?
As we contemplate these things, my prayer
is that God will work in this area of our lives. May God be glorified as He continues to grow us into the image and
likeness of Christ.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
April 4, 2021
I hope you have been both encouraged and challenged as we have considered the different ways in which
one can measure spiritual maturity. Last week we looked at the importance of how we view scripture, a critical element
of spiritual maturity. Another area of importance is our attitude toward our own sin, in other words, our level of contrition.
Simply put, contrition is our degree of remorse over disappointing God. Contrition is a noun and contrite is the adjective
form. We see several times in scripture that a proper feeling about our sinful condition is to have a contrite heart
(Psalm 51:17, Isaiah 57:15, 66:2)
We know that God is grieved by our sin, for every sin is quite literally against
Him (Psalm 51:4, Ephesians 4:30, Psalm 78:40). God hates our sin (Proverbs 6:16-19, Psalm 5:5, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10),
thus we too should hate and forsake our sin. What that means is living a habitual life of unrepentant sin speaks volumes
about our attitude toward sin and quite frankly, our attitude toward God. To love God is to want to please Him (1 Thessalonians
2:4, Hebrews 13:16), to bring honor to His name through our life and conduct (1 Corinthians 10:31). That means that
if an individual is indifferent to sin, is not affected by their sin, then their desire to please self is greater than their
desire to please God.
Consider the earnest expression of David’s heart in Psalm 51, one that is anything but complacent
about his sin. It is safe to describe David’s anguish as deep contrition. Plus, to prove his sentiment was
more than just lip service, David implored the Lord to search his heart in Psalm 139:23-24. I would encourage you to
contemplate these questions.
When was the last time I was broken over my sin?
2. Do I allow the reality of God’s view of my sin to trump my feelings and emotions?
3. Is there habitual unrepentant sin in my life?
4. Do you
care enough about your sin to ask God to search your heart, knowing He will actively work to eradicate that sin from your
5. What kind of verbiage do you use concerning your sin? Do you downplay it, attempting to justify
sin on the grounds of inclusiveness, with remarks like “no one is perfect” or “the Bible does say we are
I would challenge you to give considerable thought to these questions this week.
May God be glorified through your diligence to look deeply into the area of sin in your life, and consequently be honored
by your response to hate and forsake it.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
March 28, 2021
Sharper Than A Two Edged Sword
Last week I explained that over the next several weeks we would be looking at the
different ways that spiritual maturity can be measured. Spiritual stagnicity is what Paul rebuked the Corinthians
for, while just a short time later encouraging the young Timothy to grow so that he could see progress, both in his life as
well as the lives of his hearers (1 Timothy 4:15). When God does the work of regeneration in our lives,
we are changed at the very core of our being, a change that affects every part of our lives, that is the power of God at work.
As followers of Christ we want to ensure that we are following Him well, which is why spiritual growth is a vital component
that we need to be cognizant of. One area of spiritual growth, one with monumental impacts, is our view
of the Bible. This may sound like a simple area, but I believe it is the most overlooked as well.
Going back to what Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, the believers in Corinth were not growing in their understanding
because they had let worldly pleasures get in the way of their desire for the Word of God and living by Its truths.
If we proclaim to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30), then we cannot be indifferent
about His Word. We cannot love the Lord and not love His Word (John 14:23), they are intrinsically intertwined.
1 Peter 2 the Apostle Peter gives the example of a baby longing for milk, tying this to the yearning we ought to have for
the things of God. If you have ever experienced a baby who is well past their scheduled feeding time, you
will understand exactly what Peter is talking about here. Not only do babies desire milk, crave milk, but
they also need milk for survival. If one thinks this to be too strong of a comparison, it is a clear sign
they are guilty of the very error this teaching exposes. We should long for the Word of God, as it is essential
for spiritual life and growth. Matthew 4:4 says that man shall not live by bread alone but by every word
that comes from the mouth of God. This verse is not talking about an obligatory process, rather it is describing
the necessity of being fed by the Word of God, nourishment that cannot be achieved by any other means.
will boldly state the characteristics of God’s word, that it’s inerrant, infallible, authoritative, sufficient,
all these things being true. But, they speak little of their attitude toward the Holy Scriptures.
I am often reminded of the stories that are told of soldiers that have gone all over the world to fight for our freedoms.
One of the highlights of a soldier’s day is when the mail gets distributed among the platoon. Letters
from home are coveted property and the reaction from the troops makes this abundantly clear. All anxiously
await their name to be called and when it is called they rip the envelope open with excitement. They read
the letter with intensity, hanging on every single word. The letter gets read not once, but time after
time, revealing the value that its contents provide. As believers we too should have a similar attitude
toward the Word of God. The desire we have for His Word should be second to none. You
see, we can say many great things about the Bible, but actions reveal the desire of our heart.
Along with this, we must recognize
the Bible as the final Word in all matters. What this means is the Word of God is superior to our feelings,
emotions, and traditions. Our lives should be constantly molding and forming to the truths of His Word.
The Bible is living and active, discerning the thoughts and intentions of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12). Anytime
something in our lives doesn't line up with what Scripture says, our actions and attitude in those moments tell a great deal
about our view of the Bible. A good mark of spiritual maturity is recognizing that Holy Scripture is never
changing but should always be changing us.
With our view of Scripture being a barometer of sorts,
regarding spiritual maturity, what kinds of questions should we be asking ourselves? Here are just a few
starter questions to ruminate on this week.
- How would I describe
my level of passion for the Word of God?
- When there is a problem in my life, what is the main source I turn to for guidance and wisdom
(family, friends, google, Bible, feeling/emotions)?
- Do I really believe that the Bible is relatable to everything in my life?
- Do I allow the Bible to
be the final word in all matters of my life?
I pray that through this intentional look into this area of your life that God
would do the necessary work for you to have a proper view of His Word. May we glorify God with a heart
that is zealous for His Holy Word.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
March 21, 2021
Pass The Meat Please
that gets asked with regularity is how does one measure success in a church? I take issue with the question itself,
since success is a word that requires explanation, as success is a rather subjective idea. The appropriate question
to ask, not to mention the more biblical one, is what level of spiritual maturity exists within your local congregation?
While success can be subjective, spiritual maturity is easier to define, since scripture has given us great insight on the
In 1 Corinthians 3 the Apostle Paul addresses the church in Corinth with a rather pointed rebuke.
Those within the church had been succumbing to the worldliness that was so pervasive in that city. Paul had brought
them the gospel message in his earlier journey, many received the gospel, placing their faith and hope in the Lord.
But, as time went on they were not living a life that was glorifying to the Lord. Needless to say, Paul had expectations
for the church in Corinth and we see that as he corrects them in chapter 3:1-3 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh,
as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready,
for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only
in a human way? Here
we see that Paul had assumed that over the course of this elapsed time, the church would be growing in terms of spiritual
maturity. But, to his dismay, that was not the case. Paul uses the familiar analogy of spiritual infancy and milk.
Just like babies need life sustaining milk to survive, individuals need the truth of the gospel to bring about spiritual birth.
However, and to Paul’s point, babies do not continue to drink milk alone for the entirety of their lives, they eventually
grow up, not only tolerating solid food but also desiring it. Solid food is the deeper truths of scripture, understandings
that come through the increase of wisdom and knowledge in the Word of God.
The frustration that Paul expressed in this passage demands that we take a good hard look
at the spiritual maturity that is present in our own lives. The question is, how do we do this? How does
one measure spiritual maturity? There are certainly some indicators in this particular passage that we can glean, but
this is most assuredly not an exhaustive teaching on the marks of spiritual maturity. Why is this important you may
ask? I believe the Bible is quite transparent on the issue of spiritual growth. God desires us to grow, to become
more sanctified and useful for His will and purposes. Colossians 1:9-10 And so, from the day we heard, we have
not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the
knowledge of God.
the course of the next several weeks we are going to look at and break down the different areas of Christian life that serve
as a barometer of sorts for measuring spiritual maturity. I pray this will serve as an encouragement as well as a challenge.
Please join me in prayer as we look to our Heavenly Father and desire to be found faithful in all our ways. I am confident
that there will be some areas revealed that will cause needed action, but I trust the attention will be rewarded greatly and
the Lord will be glorified.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
March 14, 2021
Don’t Confuse Me With The Facts
In light of some of the recent
events, it occurs to me that as a society we have somehow lost our ability to distinguish the difference between historical
fact and personal opinion. This is not a trend that is isolated to governmental protocol or the way our
country was founded, but it is actually infiltrating the church quite rapidly. The serious danger in all
of this rests on the perceived solution that if you don’t like the truth, just cancel it, pretending it never happened.
Now, I know many of you reading this are probably shaking your head, thinking this to be an infantile reaction at best.
But, let’s take a look at what has happened as of late in the ever growing confusion of fact and opinion, plus
the consequent reaction to the issue.
It is a fact that George Washington was one of the founding fathers of our country.
He was the first president of the United States of America. These are irrefutable facts.
It is one’s personal opinion whether George Washington was a good person or whether his practices were ethical
or not. However, an individual's assessment of his merit and character does not change the facts about
his presidency or his intricate role in this country's inception. One’s opinion cannot erase the
facts from existence, facts are still facts.
When a child is born, they are either born as a little boy
or a little girl, these are biological and anatomical facts. Now, for a boy to say they feel like a girl
or a girl to say they feel like a boy, this is a matter of opinion, but their opinion does not change the facts of who they
are, better yet, who God made them to be. Opinions do not dictate facts.
does this relate to the church and those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ? Unfortunately this
kind of mode of operation, one that runs off of factless opinions is all too common. There are those who
feel like hell is too drastic of a measure, in their opinion it is unloving and cruel. Instead of focusing
on the facts that scripture reveals about hell (Revelation 21:8 Matthew 10:28, Matthew 25:36), they choose to believe it doesn’t
In God’s grace and mercy, He sent His very own Son, Jesus Christ to die on the cross, providing
the only way for man to be reconciled to God. This is a fact. Unbelief is an opinion,
one that does not change the facts. There is even a dangerous church movement right now that states that
God would never have truly sent His very own Son to die, since this would be called “cosmic child abuse”.
Instead they claim the gospel accounts are not to be taken literally. Again, this is their opinion,
but it does not change the facts.
There are far more examples of this dangerous trend but they all have the same underlying problem,
letting personal opinion overrule facts. This kind of practice places a low view on scripture and a high
view on self. If we are not careful, I think we might start seeing a push for removing parts of scripture
to best suit one’s feelings. Now, this is just my opinion, it is not a proven fact.
Word is truth (John 17:17), by nature it is inerrant and infallible. No amount of opinion can change the
truth of God’s word. I hope you find great encouragement in that. It is quite
understandable to have an opinion on certain matters, but let us not be unnecessarily confused with what is fact and what
is opinion. Praise God and rest on the assurance we have through His Holy Word.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
March 7, 2021
Where Strength Is Found
Without question, the Bible
has many amazing characters that serve as examples, some good, some bad. Perhaps one of the most fascinating characters
is the Nazarite, Samson. It is a story most of us are familiar with, but one that has an often forgotten lesson.
From the beginning God gave detailed instruction of how the boy was to be raised, born of a barren woman to be set apart
for God’s purposes. One of those details was an untouched mane, which the young man attributed to his great strength.
Samson was a man who knew what he wanted, arguably passionate to a fault. He was also a very strong and virile man,
a warrior to be reckoned with. First his heart was set on pursuing a Philistine woman, despite this act being taboo
to say the least, since they were known as enemies to everyone, especially Israel. At their wedding feast, Samson challenged
the young men in attendance with a riddle. Out of frustration the young men threatened the bride to be, demanding she
coerce the brute into revealing his answer. Samson gave in to the woman’s pleas and indulged her wishes.
After learning that he had been tricked, the Narcissistic Nazarite had a personal vendetta that would see him stop at nothing
to get revenge. In his mind the mission was clear, kill all the Philistines that he came in contact with.
warpath included burning the Philistine’s fields by way of live foxtail torches and killing 1,000 men with nothing more
than a jawbone of a donkey and fierce determination. Samson was a seemingly unstoppable force, that is until the harlot
Delilah entered the scene. For Samson this was lust at first sight, forgoing any logic or reason to pursue his new desire.
Low on morale and manpower, the Philistines decided to try another route in stopping the great Samson, they bribed Delilah.
After repeated attempts, finally Samson gave in to the woman’s inquiry, divulging the source of his strength, his long
hair. Upon cutting his hair, guards came in and seized the Nazarite, gouging out his eyes in the process.
now Samson’s life had been a rollercoaster of highs and lows. He was used by God, yet he didn’t even realize
his desperate need for the Lord. What could Samson possibly have left to offer in this life? Well, the answer
is nothing. Samson had nothing to offer. Thank goodness God did have something to offer.
brought Samson into a large assembly where they were making great sacrifices to pagan gods. Samson, blind and powerless
was brought in by guards. He asked the guards to allow him to rest between two columns in the building. With over
3,000 people in attendance, Samson did what he had failed to do in his entire life thus far, submit to the Lord. In
a genuine petition to God, the seemingly weak man prayed “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may
be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes (Judges 16:28). The Lord responded to Samson’s prayer and provided him with more strength
than he had ever had before. Placing one hand on each pillar, Samson pushed with divine power, collapsing the building,
killing himself along with the 3,000 Philistines.
You see, even for a man of great physical power, nothing
compares to the power of submitting to God. In that moment of submission we see the single greatest thing Samson did
in his life. If you have been born again into a new life in Christ, submitting to the Lord is the single greatest thing
you have ever done, which is done only by the grace of God and all for the glory of God. True strength is found when
we submit ourselves to the Lord.
By His Grace
And For His Glory,
February 28, 2021
New Package - Same Heresy
This past Sunday I had the privilege
of preaching on James 5:15, as part of a systematic journey through the book of James. While digging deep to accurately
exegete this verse, we looked at the error that exists among many false teachers. One of those groups leading many astray
is called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). It gives me no delight to call attention to this false teaching movement,
however it is careful attention indeed that is required to remain watchful against these wolves (1 Peter 5:8). So what
is the NAR? Why is this movement so dangerous?
The charismatic movement gained a great deal of steam in the 1960’s, from there spawning new
groups along its path to present day. One of those groups was pioneered by C. Peter Wagner, who after organizing a massive
meeting with other like-minded leaders in 1996, called themselves the New Apostolic Reformation.
The ‘New’ in the NAR describes the revelation
that these self proclaimed modern “apostles” receive from God. They believe this is a God-given role that
exceeds the role of a pastor/elder, since their self proclaimed title equips them with the same miraculous functions as the
apostles of the Bible. Of course, this lofty title is one they capitalize on, boasting of their ability to receive new
revelation from God, as well as perform miracles and healing. Anytime one claims to receive new revelation from God,
they directly undermine the sufficiency and authority of Scripture (Deuteronomy 4:2, Proverbs 30:6 Revelation 22:18-19).
When God is not enough, leave it to fallen man to step in and assert himself as the missing link. The emphasis placed
on the leaders of these churches is appalling, not to mention in complete contradiction to God’s Word (1 Corinthians
major error in this false teaching movement is the belief that the church is establishing a new order of control on earth.
Insisting that God has appointed modern prophets and apostles to set things in order on earth is not a biblical premise.
But, they believe it is their responsibility to govern and dominate every facet of life, from politics, to the arts, to economy,
and so on, bringing about a utopia of sorts. This not only contradicts the reign that satan has been allowed to
have on earth (2 Corinthians 4:4, 1 John 5:19) but also ignores the second coming of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, Hebrews
movement preys specifically on the younger generation, swooning them with what has been known as their ‘hook’,
contemporary music. Organizations like Bethel and Hillsong pump out chart topping song after song (these are musically
talented people), while flying under the banner of this horrendous NAR movement. To say that music is used as the gateway
would be a severe understatement. Creating an experience is their top priority, while God’s Word takes a back
preaching the true gospel of Jesus Christ, elevating man while devaluing God, seeking signs and wonders to validate personal
prestige, ignoring the sufficiency and infallibility of Scripture are just a few of the many reasons why this movement is
one to avoid completely. This abominable movement is leading many astray and we need to be on guard, being able to spot
the wolves for the sake of protecting the sheep. This is nothing new, false teachers have been cleverly concocting innovative
deceptions since biblical times (2 Timothy 3:1-9) and I am sure we have not seen the last attempt. It is important that
we remain steadfast and immovable when it comes to standing firm on the Word of God and upholding His precious name with all
reverence and honor (1 Corinthians 15:58). Press on, proclaim the truth and refute the false.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
February 21, 2021
Shutting The Door To God’s Ear
undeniable that the Bible exhaustively clarifies the importance of God’s children being defined as people of prayer.
Prayer is a vital component of our relationship with God, a privilege that cannot be overstated. As it should, prayer
is prescribed for every circumstance, recognizing God as the source of all healing, growth, forgiveness, mercy, restoration,
as well as being worthy of all praise. But, very rarely do we give adequate attention to the things we do that cause
a fracture in our communication with God.
First, it must be stated that prayer is reserved for those who are in
Christ, who have confessed their sin and believed upon the Lord for salvation. James 4:3 reveals that those who do not
receive what they are praying for is due to the fact that they are asking wrongly. There are a number of ways to pray
wrongly, or come before the Lord in an improper way, one of those being with a heart that has not been regenerated by God.
The unrepentant heart does not love God nor does it desire to serve God. Unregenerate sinners are driven by their passions
and lusts, which we see in Psalm 66:18 results in God not listening to their prayers, while Psalm 28:9 calls these prayers
an abomination. By the grace and mercy of God, there is one prayer that unbelievers can pray that is heard and answered
by God every time, which is the prayer of confession, crying out for the forgiveness that is found through the atoning blood
of our Savior Jesus Christ ( 1 John 1:9, Psalm 32:5, Acts 3:19).
But, what about believers? What about those
who have experienced forgiveness through the saving grace of God in salvation? How can the prayers of saints be unheard
or unanswered? To answer these questions we need to understand the nature of our fellowship with God. Prayer is
a wonderful privilege that we undeservingly get to partake in, but it is also a great responsibility. 1 Corinthians
4:2 tell us that as good stewards of what God had entrusted us with, we should be found faithful. Therefore not being
a good steward would reveal that we are consequently not being faithful. As believers, we too can have unrepentant sin
present in our lives, making the words of Psalm 66:18, as well as Isaiah 59:2, sear with conviction. Unconfessed sin
damages our fellowship with God and even affects the area of prayer.
Another passage to be familiar with is 1 Peter 3:7.
In this verse we see that the way a husband treats His wife is of utmost importance, in fact, so much so that not adhering
to biblical instruction in this area can hinder one’s prayers. This passage not only highlights the significance
that God places on marriage, but also the reverence that one needs to maintain when approaching God in prayer.
one of the most overlooked commands (not suggestions), scripture explains the care that we have for the poor holds us accountable
to God. Proverbs 21:13 minces no words as it explains the hypocrisy that exists with those who would turn a deaf ear
to need, yet continue to petition God for their own. In keeping consistency as a Just God, He holds us accountable for
our actions, and disciplines us in ways that He sees fit. The wonderful words of Proverbs 3:11-12 show us that God disciplines
those He loves.
Although as believers we cannot be rejected by God, we can experience the strain in fellowship at
the hands of our own disobedience. Prayer is vitally important and something we need to take very seriously. May
we have a desire to heed the remarkably sincere prayer of David in Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! When sin is revealed in our lives, dealt with by confessing it
unto the Lord, He is glorified through our obedience and as well as our desire to seek Him above all.
By His Grace
And For His Glory,
February 14, 2021
Oftentimes when students get
through (pass) literature and grammar classes, they sigh in relief, hoping to never have to use that information from there
on out. But, before you go and wipe any and all data from the existence of your mind, might I caution you to consider
rethinking your actions? You see, we use literature and grammar all the time, more often than you are likely aware of.
Even if one does not enjoy reading, we use literary principles all the time. Parents will occasionally speak “code”,
using symbolism to conceal the matter of the conversation from their children. Sometimes we use sarcasm (“sometimes”
being sarcastic in itself), other times we use hypotheticals, instructions, or even allegories.
As believers, we should have
a strong desire to not only read God’s Word, but also understand Its meaning. The Bible uses many different literary
forms, so we have to be aware of these and notice when they are being used. Let me give you an example. In John
10:9 we see Jesus referring to Himself as a door. Revelation 13:8 calls Jesus “The Lamb Who Was Slain”.
If we don’t understand the use of metaphor in these passages, we would get unnecessarily confused. It would certainly
be a wrong conclusion to render that Jesus is a rectangular structure on hinges with a handle, or that He is a fluffy animal
with four legs and hooves. There are a number of major literary devices used in particular sections of the Bible and
getting these mixed up can cause great misunderstanding.
The book of Genesis, as well as the four gospels, was written
in a historical narrative form. That is, these books are to be read as literal, as they give a detailed account in order
of the events that took place. Of course within these books, as previously mentioned with John 10:9, there are uses
of other literary forms as well. Symbolism, metaphors, parables, and more are used to support the lesson being explained.
We see wisdom or lyrical books, written by use of poetry throughout Psalms and Proverbs. Even within this poetic style,
subcategories are used, such as acrostic and alliterations.
The knowledge of the use of hyperbole (exaggeration) can
save us from believing we have to cut off our hand if it ever causes us to sin (Mark 9:43). Parallelism helps us determine
the unified meaning of what appears to be two or more unique phrases. There are also prophetic books (Isaiah, Daniel,
Malachi, etc) as well as books of instructions or epistles (Ephesians, 1 &2 Timothy, Titus, etc.).
is the point of all of this? Does this mean that we need to all go back to school and master literature and grammar?
No, take a deep breath, because that is not what I am suggesting. What I am suggesting is that you give more caution
and thought to what you are reading, where in the Bible you are reading it, and use the necessary tools to interpret the passage
correctly. We are to be students of the word. With that said, it does take work and effort on our part.
Start off slow, recognizing the major themes first (narrative, poetic, prophetic, allegorical). I can assure you of
this, the instance of wrongly interpreting a verse will be greatly reduced if we recognize what literary style is being utilized.
You don’t need to be a literary genius to know and understand the Bible; thank goodness that is the case. But,
the more we are equipped with the tools to rightly interpret scripture, the more we will understand who God is and what He
desires in our lives. It is worth it.
By His Grace And For His
February 7, 2021
It is always disheartening to me when the gospel message is shared in any way that deviates from what we
see laid out in scripture. One of those deviations that has increased in popularity, as many churches have endorsed
this ideal, is what is known as friendship evangelism. Why do I say deviation? Well, simply put, the ideology
behind friendship evangelism is seen nowhere in scripture.
So, what is friendship evangelism? It is the
belief that one must establish a friendship and build a level of trust before sharing the gospel. Now, let me pause
by saying, there is certainly nothing wrong with sharing the gospel with your friends, in fact this is the appropriate and
God honoring thing to do. But, becoming friends with someone is not a qualification to sharing the gospel.
very center of a friendship is the shared commonality with the other person. Friendships are born out of many different
interests, like sports, work, hobbies, family, etc, etc. The more time two people share together, the closer friends
they become, furthering the level of trust. Friendship evangelism supposes this is the ideal scenario in sharing the
gospel. Is this biblical? Is this the way that Jesus shared His gospel message. Is this the way the disciples
shared the gospel? In Mark 16:15 we read the instruction that Jesus gave to His disciples regarding the sharing of the
gospel - And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”
Obviously in this passage we see no indication that suggests that friendship had to be established before sharing
Another fault with friendship evangelism is the appearance of deception. Since “the right time”
to share the message of salvation through Jesus Christ is subjective to the one sharing, this can actually be viewed as distrustful.
Because it is after trust is established and the friendship has matured that you are going to now reveal the most important
thing in your life. First off, this should be glaringly evident to your friend anyhow. If they have no idea that
you are a Christian and that you are living your life for Christ, then needless to say there is a problem. Secondly,
your friend may feel tricked, and rightfully so, as you were not divulging pertinent information from the get go.
does friendship evangelism lack logical sense, it lacks biblical support as well. John the Baptist preached the message
of repentance (Mark 1:4), Peter preached a message of repentance (Acts 2:38), Paul preached a message of repentance (Acts
26:19-20), and more importantly Jesus Christ preached a message of repentance (Matthew 4:17, Luke 5:32). A certain level
of friendship is not a prerequisite for preaching the message of repentance. The false notion propelling friendship
evangelism is man-made and at the very least creates the tendency to greatly limit the number of people you share the gospel
with. My prayer is that you are encouraged to share the good news of Jesus Christ with as many people as the Lord provides
you with. Friend or not, this is a message that all need to hear. Who knows, they may have not been your friend,
but by the grace of God, they may become your brother or sister in Christ. Let us seize every opportunity we are given.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
January 31, 2021
expectation does not have to be uttered for it to be ever present in our lives. Stop and think about it for a moment,
we place expectations on just about everything in our lives. When you turn on the shower faucet, you expect warm water
to come out. When you put the trash out by the curb, you expect the garbage truck to take it away. When you work
hard, you expect to be compensated. When you get married, you expect your partner to be loving and faithful. In
our judicial system, you expect justice to be upheld and maintained.
Perhaps one of the most expectant things is the joy
of childbirth. When a woman becomes pregnant, the expectation is that in roughly nine months, a baby will be born.
Our lives operate a great deal under expectations. But, what happens when those expectations do not turn out the way
we had planned? What happens when we find ourselves the exception instead of the product of expectation? I have
seen the grief of marriages that have fallen apart, babies that have been stillborn, and lives that have been rocked by unmet
expectations. These are certainly trying times that will test one’s faith.
I am afraid so many live their
lives fixated on the positive expectations, the ones that are pleasing and desirable. But, as followers of Christ, we
have expectations that scripture has clearly laid out. 2 Timothy 2:12 tells us this, Indeed,
all who desire to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. This is pretty straight forward isn’t
it? So, as believers in Jesus Christ, we should expect nothing less than persecution for our faithful allegiance to
Him. If we do not take heed of this truth we will be blindsided when this inevitable persecution comes marching through
the front doors of our lives. Ignoring this truth is not the antidote to ridding persecution from our lives.
15:19 Jesus explains that because He has chosen us out of the world, the world hates us. Did you hear that? The
world does not love you and think your faithful obedience to Christ is endearing, it hates you, opposing who you are at the
very core. Folks we need to hear this. Because the expectation is, if we are a “nice” person and treat
others with respect, we will live peaceably with all. This is simply not the case. Scripture has not led you astray,
your expectations have deceived you. We need to filter our expectations through the lens of Holy Scripture. Expectations
are a good thing, as long as they are attached to the promises of God. But, take heart, not all the expectations are
as heavy as persecution, trials and tests. Here is just a short sample of expectations that are formed from the wonderful
promises of God.
Romans 10:9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised
him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 8:28 And we know
that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
James 1:12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has
stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him
1 Peter 5:10 And after
you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore,
confirm, strengthen, and establish you
2 Corinthians 4:17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight
of glory beyond all comparison
Philippians 3:20-21 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior,
the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even
to subject all things to himself.
John 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will
take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
I pray you find assurance in the promises of God. I
also pray that as we navigate through life, that we would be aware of whether we are creating our own expectations or submitting
to the expectations that are found in God’s Word. Lord, continue to mold us and shape us into what You desire
us to be. By His Grace And For His Glory,
January 24, 2021
One of the most wonderful things to hear is the testimony of an individual that has been radically changed
by God. When we hear the word testimony, it should remind us of the wonderful work that God has done and continues to
do in our lives. However, I have noticed an unhealthy, and all too common, dialogue that exists with many testimonies.
Although a testimony is personal, there is such a thing as making it too personal. Let me explain.
How often does one’s story
start off with, “I was a pretty good person”, or “I wasn’t terrible, just the typical guy/girl”?
Sadly, this is a tragic way to begin one’s testimony. If this is how one begins, the hearer has already been misled.
Apart from Christ we are all sinners (Romans 3:23) with wicked hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) that have us in a spiritually dead state
(Romans 6:23). With that said, no one was pretty good and the typical guy/girl is sinful and rebellious. To begin
a testimony in this way is a major misunderstanding of the sinfulness and depravity of mankind.
The next part of the testimony
is the explanation of how salvation took place. Again, a common misconception revolves around phrases like “I
invited Jesus into my heart” (found nowhere in scripture), or “I decided to let Jesus into my life” (again
not in scripture). Up to this point the word I, me or my has been used a great deal. When we had absolutely nothing
to offer a Holy God, by means of His grace, He intervened in our lives. John 6:44 tells us that no one comes to Christ
unless God draws (‘helko’ literally drags) them. In God’s perfect redemptive plan, He not only accomplishes
salvation in lost souls, but He also initiates it (John 6:65) and instills the faith required to accomplish it (Hebrews 12:2),
sealing them (Ephesians 1:13) for eternity (John 6:37). God’s sovereignty, His grace, love, and mercy should be
the focus of every testimony.
Even when the testimony moves to post-salvation, many unnecessarily insert too many personal pronouns.
“I have become a better person”, “I have grown in such and such a way”. Again, this shortcuts
and undermines the source of all of these changes in our lives. Our testimony should not highlight ourselves, rather
it should point to the Glory and Majesty of the Lord, the only One capable of changing who we were. Our testimony should
serve as a firsthand account of the wonderful salvatory work of God.
An easy way to break down a testimony is in 3 areas,
life before, during and after salvation. The only ownership we should be taking in these areas is the first area.
It was our sin that separated us from the perfect Holiness of God (Isaiah 59:2), making us sinners in need of a Savior (Ephesians
2:1-10). May the testimony that we share be one that honors and glorifies God for doing what He alone can do.
My prayer is that the Lord would provide you with many opportunities to share the story of how He changed your life forever,
and that God would use that to touch the lives of others.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
January 17, 2021
The Casual Casualty
The word nominal can be defined
as a role or position that operates on name only, meaning it does not possess any supporting attributes or character of the
role/position. Today, there are many who profess the name of Christ, but their proclamation is as far as it goes.
The nominal Christian often lives a life of complacency, with little to no regard for what is taught through Holy Scripture.
I came across a wonderful passage (1 John 3:1-10) that explains the severity of this kind of complacent lifestyle.
John is delineating in this passage is the stark difference between a true child of God and everyone else. A true child
of God is one who is defined as hating sin, removing sin from their lives at all cost. Sin is recognized in their lives
and, by the power of God working in them, earnestly resisted. Those who do not go on practicing sin are shown to be
God’s children by evidence of their faith. What a wonderful testimony this is to the power of God to not only
change behavior, but to change the heart of sinful man. We see in verse 9 that those who are born of God (spiritual
birth), cannot go on practicing sin. John goes on to intimately tie in salvation, abiding with God, to the character
of God Himself. What that means is, if a person was truly saved and continued to live a life of sin, practicing sin,
then this would make God a liar. This would mean that the work He has done in that person’s life was not effective
enough to actually change them.
Those who practice sin do not abide in God, they are not His children. It does absolutely no
good mincing words or watering this truth down. I am afraid that is precisely what has gone on for far too long.
The church has either been too quiet about sin or too inclusive with their definition of who God’s children are.
Here is the deal, it is not up to us who God’s children are, it is up to God, and His word is explicitly clear in what
that looks like. Making a profession of faith and then living a life of sinful rebellion is nothing more than nominal
Christianity. Many churches are afraid to speak in these kinds of terms because they might offend people, they might
even lose some attendees. But, listen to what John says here in this passage through the Holy Spirit. Verse
8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil; and Verse 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God,
and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not
love his brother.
Many would say this kind of directness is not loving, it is too harsh and rigid. Those feelings
are brought forth from a distorted view of what love really is. Loving someone is telling them the truth. The
truth is if we abide in the Lord, we will live a life that reflects that. And if one lives a life of habitual sin, then
they are not of the Lord, rather they are of the devil. We need to stop fostering an environment that supports and encourages
nominal Christianity. May we be found faithfully heralding the truth of God’s word, unhindered and unedited.
Nominal Christianity stops the moment an individual cries out to the Lord for forgiveness of their sin, repenting and submitting
unto God in salvation. For it is not our clever rendition that has the power to change lives, rather it is the Sovereign
God who has spoken with saving power through His Word. Praise be to God for doing what He alone can do.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
January 10, 2021
It was a hot day in the heart of Texas, normal weather for the locals
I’m sure, but hot for this Midwest boy. My wife and I had flown to San Angelo Texas with the youth group we led
at our church. Accompanied by two other adult volunteers, we were in for a great, but eye opening, week of serving the
Lord. We quickly found out that feeding these hungry youngsters was a feat in and of itself. It was while preparing
for breakfast one morning that I received a wonderful reminder of the grace of God.
of eggs cartons were brought in by the ranch owner and that morning it was my job to cook up the eggs. I got out a large
bowl and began to crack the eggs, emptying the contents into the bowl. On my way to the 40 egg goal, if memory serves
me right, I believe it was egg number 33 that caught my attention. This egg cracked just like the rest had, but as I
emptied the contents into the bowl, something was noticeably different. This is the first time in my life that I had
come across a black, rotten egg. The rotten stench of sulfur permeated the air instantly. Out of impulse, trying
to save the batch of good eggs, I attempted to scoop the vile contaminant out. This was a futile attempt however, the
entire batch was ruined.
It wasn’t until later that I contemplated
the significance of that morning mishap. It reminded me of the sin that infects the lives of all people. If I
had a dollar for every time I heard someone say that they are a good person because their good deeds outweigh their bad, I
would be living high off the hog. This unbiblical notion is one that presumes God is into numbers, having good deeds
negate the bad that we do. This is far from the truth. You see, our sin is like that rotten egg I encountered
in Texas. As soon as that bad egg entered into the bowl, it ruined everything, forever changing the integrity of the
mixture. Such is the case with sin in our lives, it doesn’t go away because we tack a couple of good deeds on.
The severity of this condition is one that must be addressed, as spiritual death and sin are intimately connected (Romans
I could not remove that bad egg from the bowl, neither could any of the
onlookers. In the same way, we cannot fix the damage that sin has created in our lives, neither can anyone else.
Only through Jesus Christ can we be made new (2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:20), can we be cleansed (1 John 1:9), can we
have our sins forgiven (Ephesians 1:7, 4:32) and forgotten (Isaiah 43:25, Hebrews 8:12). It is by the grace of God that
He takes the tainted, rotten, undesirable and makes them into useful, new, wonderful creations for His glory. May we
bring glory to God, by recognizing Him for doing what He alone can. By His Grace And For His Glory,
January 3, 2021
Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know
On Sunday morning we have
been systematically going through the book of James. In the fourth chapter of James we are taught that our lives, as
followers of Christ, are ones that should be lived by the guidance and direction of the Lord (James 4:13-16). The decisions
we make are important and they are many. But, how does one maintain a consistent focus on making decisions that honor
In Proverbs 3 Solomon provides a wonderful look at how we can accomplish
this task. In verse 5 we see the need to trust God with all of our hearts. Trust can be a fickle thing can’t
it? We extend trust based on our knowledge of the one being trusted, don't we? We determine if the person has
good character and if they are proven by experience. Oftentimes we trust an individual with carefully selected things
but not necessarily the important stuff. But, here in this verse we see that we are to trust the Lord with our whole
heart, with everything that we have. The Lord is certainly trustworthy and proven (Psalm 18:30, Isaiah 25:1).
When we wholeheartedly trust in the Lord, we will inevitably cease to lean on our own understanding (V:5). If we lean
on our own, carnal, finite understanding, we would not be completely relying on the sovereign, omniscience of God. In
all humility, we have to consciously yield our own understanding to seek the understanding of God (James 4:7).
In verse 6 of Proverbs 3 we read that we are to acknowledge the Lord in all of our ways. The
Hebrew word for ways is ‘dârak’ which literally means road or journey. That means that our trajectory should be one that is in a constant state
of acknowledging the Lord. Notice the verse says in all your ways acknowledge Him. This removes any tendency to pick
and choose what part of our lives we choose to acknowledge God in. The verse is explicitly clear that we are to acknowledge
God in everything, in every circumstance. Recognizing our need to trust in the Lord should permeate every part of our
When we trust fully in the Lord, instead of our own intuition, and acknowledge Him in our lives, then
we are left with a wonderful promise. The promise is found in the latter part of verse 6, He will make straight your
paths. Trusting in the Lord provides clarity, knowing that He will set our course according to His will and purposes
for our life. There is no better place we can be than in harmony with the will of God, the path of His choosing.
can be fickle, but we have every reason to put our full assurance in the Lord. May we commit to acknowledging Him in
all our ways, for He alone is worthy.
By His Grace And
For His Glory,
Claus And Effect
It has always been compelling to me how so many will teach their kids to love,
idolize and adore a false character (spoiler alert) like Santa Claus, yet retort of the absurdity at the belief of an Almighty
Sovereign God. Nevertheless, those who get all wrapped up in the holidays (pun intended) will inevitably feel a bit
lost when the festivities come to a swift close. The excitement is over and they are forced to move on to something
else to fill their time. But for believers, we have cause to continue our celebration. We have a great deal in
common with the Bible character Anna.
We find the account of Anna in Luke 2:36-38, following the birth of Jesus Christ. This is the
only place in scripture you will find this prophetess, but we need not forget her important role. Depending on how you
interpret her age, Anna was likely between 84-104 at the time of this account. She was a devoted woman of God, spending
her days praying, fasting and worshipping. Verse 38 tells us that Anna began thanking God among those who had been waiting,
indicating Anna too had been waiting. Clearly her thanks to God were directed toward the birth of the Messiah, the One
that they had been waiting for.
As children of God, we have the finished work of Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.
Although the work is finished, let us not forget that we, in similar fashion to Anna, have much to look forward to.
Fulfilling scripture, Jesus will one day return to establish His kingdom, war against opposition and bring about judgment
(Revelation 19:11-16, Zechariah 14:2, Matthew 25:31-46, 2 Corinthians 5:10). Just like Anna continued to praise God,
even after the Messiah was born, we too will continue our praise of the Lord for eternity. Our joy and hope are fixed
on the promises of God and no season of life can change that.
As the lights come down this Christmas and once lively evergreen trees are seen
dried out on the curb, may we be reminded that we have a Savior that is so much more than temporal, fading, stuff. I
hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas. But, on December 26th, I pray that you find just as much cause to celebrate.
For our God is worthy.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
December 20, 2020
The Working Of The Spirit
draws closer, many believers will read through the account of Christ’s birth, found in Luke 1 and 2. It is wonderful
that the more we read scripture, things are brought to light that we may have not noticed before. I think spiritual
maturity plays a part in this, as we grow in knowledge and understanding we start to recognize the details more, as they pertain
to a greater understanding of the totality of scripture. For many who will read this account, the tendency is to focus
on the glory that is revealed through God’s orchestration of events and circumstances. However, a commonly overlooked
reality is the integral part that the Holy Spirit had throughout this unfolding.
The Holy Spirit is mentioned
five times throughout this account. In an unprecedented fashion, John The Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit while
still in his mother Elizabeth’s womb (Luke 1:15). Part of the message that the angel Gabriel relayed to Mary was
that she would be filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). This was to be done so that Mary would undoubtedly accomplish
all that God had planned through her. Mary was a common young lady who God used as an instrument to bring the Messiah
into this world, God taking on the form and appearance of man. The means by which He accomplished this through her was
that she be filled with the Holy Spirit. We see that the Spirit was actively at work in the lives of those involved
in the account.
When Mary went to visit her relative Elizabeth, sharing with her all that had transpired, Elizabeth
was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41). She too was part of the master plan of God, as was her husband Zechariah,
who would also be filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:67). A short while later we see that Simeon was given revelation
that he would see Christ before his life would come to a close, a revelation that was given by the Holy Spirit (Luke 2:26).
So, you may be thinking, what is the significance here, what do we do with this knowledge of the Holy Spirit?
the Holy Spirit is commonly viewed as a lesser part of the Trinity. In other cases, the Holy Spirit is perverted and
made out to be something that we experience through special services, calling on the Spirit through repetitious music and
low lit gatherings. These are both major errors that do not give the Holy Spirit the proper reverence that is due.
As followers of Christ we have the Spirit of God who works in and through us to accomplish His will and purposes for our lives
(Romans 8:9). The same Spirit who was active in the birth of Christ is the same Spirit who we have at work in our lives.
This is certainly a remarkable truth that should cause us to praise His wonderful name with Thanksgiving.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
December 13, 2020
If you haven’t noticed, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas (in my best Bing
Crosby voice). There are so many things that get people excited about Christmas. For some it is picking out the
perfect tree, others it is adorning their home with lights and ribbons in spectacular fashion, for others it is the multitude
of delicious foods they get to enjoy (one’s that will inevitably lead to many New Year’s resolutions, but that’s
another story entirely). Whatever warms your holiday heart, without question the highlight for the masses will be exchanging
gifts. A great deal of time, energy and effort are put into giving the perfect gift. Commonly parents are particularly
eager to generate a great buzz around the gifts their children will receive. In many cases, this is the highlight of
the season, the grand finale if you will.
Sadly even many Christ following parents have fallen victim to this focal distraction.
Trust me, I don’t write this from a high and mighty seat in an attempt to cast down judgment on my fellow brothers and
sisters in Christ. Rather, this is a reflection that I am wrestling with and I have a feeling that I am not the only
one. As believers we should make every attempt to be devoted in a life of faithfulness and obedience to the One True
God. The excitement that we enjoy is brought forth through the salvation that we have received through the blood of
Christ. Jesus Christ is the cause of great excitement for all believers. Ironically, during this Christmas season,
there are multitudes of other things that vie for our attention and excitement. We vehemently proclaim that Jesus is
the reason for the season, but is He the reason for our excitement?
Church services, giving to the less fortunate, reading
the account of Jesus’ birth with your family, these are all great things. But, have they become routine, have
we taken them for granted? I am not suggesting that from this point on we should revolt and forego all traditions and
norms, that is certainly not my intent. Instead, my encouragement is that we refocus our excitement around the birth
of Jesus Christ, the greatest gift of all. May we spend less time wondering what is in that oddly shaped package underneath
the tree and more time celebrating that we have a Savior that emptied Himself and took on the form of man (Philippians 2:7),
providing the only way for our salvation (Acts 4:12, 1 Timothy 2:5). No Black Friday or Cyber Monday deal could ever
compete with that. May we not allow anything to take precedence over our celebration of Jesus Christ. Let’s
use this opportunity to share with others why we are excited about Christmas.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
December 6, 2020
No Censorship Required
concerning to me the “softness” that many have unnecessarily inserted into scripture. This softness generally
comes by way of misinterpretation, an interpretation that is made to accommodate feelings and emotions. One recent example
is one’s rendering of the parable of the 10 virgins that is seen in Matthew 25:1-13. In this parable there are
10 virgins (representing professing believers) who are going to meet the bridegroom (Jesus Christ). There is a clear
distinction between the virgins, 5 are diligent and prepared and 5 are lazy and unprepared. The nature of their preparedness
is a direct correlation to the love, or lack of love they have for the bridegroom. The 5 who were prepared and eager
about their meeting depict 5 believers who truly love the Lord. The 5 who were not ready depict unbelievers, who made
a profession of their love but their actions revealed their indifference.
To misinterpret this passage would be
to make the unwarranted conclusion that all 10 of these virgins are believers, 5 prepared and useful and 5 not prepared and
complacent. So, how do we clear this up? There are actually several ways to remove this confusion. First,
if you look at verses 11-13 the 5 unprepared virgins come to the door of the bridegroom (Jesus) and ask to be let in.
Notice the Lord’s response, “I do not know you.” This is not a threat to the omniscience of the Lord,
rather it is a repeated phrase that signifies those who have rebelled and rejected Christ (Matthew 7:23). Not being
known by Christ is the opposite of being known by Christ, that we see in John 10:14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. So the very fact that the bridegroom (Christ) rejected
the 5 unprepared virgins and stated that He did not know them, this should be a closed case as to the condition of the 5 virgin’s
But, there is further clarity to this understanding. The parable of the 10 virgins is tantamount
to the parable of the talents. We have the same lesson being revealed in the parable of the talents. There are
3 servants that represent 3 professing believers and the master who represents Christ. The actions of the first 2 servants
revealed the love and faithfulness they had toward the master, while the lazy and unconcerned actions of the third servant
revealed his lack of love for the master. The third servant was in the exact same boat as the 5 virgins who were rejected,
they were unprepared. Their unpreparedness wasn’t a result of not doing enough work in advance, rather it was
found in their unregenerate hearts. Just like the 5 virgins were rejected at the door, the third servant in the parable
of the talents was rebuked by the master and as we see in Matthew 7:30. The master ordered that the servant be cast
out to the outer darkness, in the palace where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. This is not a low lit area of
heaven, this is a clear reference to hell (Matthew 13:42, Luke 13:28). To interpret either one of these parables as
believers who simply differ in effectiveness is just plain wrong.
Brothers and sisters, God’s Holy
Word does not need our tweaking and adjusting to make it more palatable. It is not our responsibility, nor right, to
censor the Word Of God so it is easier to stomach for the masses. These two parables serve as a warning for those who
are not ready when the Lord returns, as Matthew 25:31-46 clearly defines. Being ready when the Lord returns in glory
is submitting our lives to Christ, laying down pride and putting on humility in servanthood for the Lord. These parables
are not about trimmed wicks, oil and buried treasures. They are about the condition of the heart and the reality of
what will take place when Jesus Christ returns to settle accounts.
My encouragement is that we approach the Word of God
with reverence and respect, not as a book of good ideas that needs our fine tuning. May we have a high view of scripture,
trusting in every word God has brought forth for our benefit to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus.
His Grace And For His Glory,
November 29, 2020
Thanksgiving Is Not Canceled
approach Thanksgiving we concede that this year has not been the typical year. In fact, many will forgo their normal
family gathering in light of the ever present virus that has demanded global attention. As we reflect on the events
of the year, the recap is a rather dismal one. Masks have gone from hot topic to standard attire. Our kids are
growing up in a time where sickness is the scuttlebutt and charts and graphs can be seen on every news outlet. Politics
vie for focal supremacy yet fail to offer any clarity or resolution. High school and college sports fans deal with partial
seasons at best and professional sports fans are left with inundating social messages from athletes who have forgotten if
they are running for office or playing basketball. Riots, violence and hate have become commonplace in many cities across
the nation. Many lament about 2020 being the worst year in recent history.
Although I understand the unusual
nature of this year, I am not altogether surprised either. In John 16:33 Jesus tells his disciples that in this world,
they will have trouble. Trouble has certainly not vanished in the last 2000 years. However, take heart, neither
have the promises of God vanished in that time. Psalm 103:19 tells us that God is on the throne that He has established
in heaven, ruling over all that He has made. Our God is not silent, rather He is always working to accomplish His perfect
will (Psalm 50:2, Isaiah 46:9-11). As followers of Christ we have been given the wonderful promise of security in Him
(John 10:27-29, John 6:37, Romans 11:29). And praise God our hope, joy, peace and comfort are not of this world (Romans
15:13, 2 Thessalonians 3:16, Jeremiah 29:11, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4). My encouragement to you is this, don’t look
at 2020 as a year void of things to be thankful for. Instead be thankful that 2020 has been a year that aids in our
appreciation and understanding of God’s grace in our lives. We have so much to be thankful for. We serve
a living and active God who reigns supreme, victory has already been won. The last part of John 16:33 is a wonderful
promise that we can rest on, Jesus said “But take heart, I have overcome the world.” Sorry world, you can
try to take our Thanksgiving, but you cannot take our thankfulness.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
November 22, 2020
Rages But The Victory Is Won
No matter how well an athlete trains for a competition, nerves are still commonly
present. Sometimes these uneasy feelings are masked behind a braggadocious facade with boasts of unwavering
confidence. Nevertheless, the presence of nerves are just under the surface. These nerves generate out
of a fear of the unknown. Did I train hard enough? Did my opponent train harder? What if
I make a simple mistake, human error, a slip? These are things an athlete mulls over, even the ones who seem calm
and unfazed. In sports, it isn't over until it's over. Whether it be a last ditch effort haymaker, an
interception, a buzzer beater, you name it, but the fact is, it isn't over until it's over.
Fortunately for those who have submitted their lives to the Lord and Savior Jesus
Christ, this is not the case for them. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that, as believers, we are in a battle. This
battle is with an enemy, an adversary, that fights tirelessly and vigorously. Our enemy, satan, is very good at
what he does. 1 Peter 5:8 says that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to destroy or
devour. Logically one could conclude that this is a rival that is deserving of our concern. However,
for those who are in Christ, there is absolutely nothing to fear.
As well trained as satan is at his craft, he is no match for our great God. 1 Corinthians 15:57 tells
us that God has given us victory through Christ. Romans 8:37 calls us conquerors, while 2 Corinthians 2:14 says
that we are led in triumph by Christ. Romans 8:31 gives us the confidence in knowing that our relationship with
Him is one that should not fear opposition. We will in fact be in battle daily, always fighting to be pillars and
supports of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15), while fighting against the schemes of satan (James 4:7). We have no reason
to falter in our pursuit, as we find our confidence and strength in Him alone (Isaiah 41:10, Ephesians 6:10). Unlike
the undetermined outcome that exists prior to an athletic event, our battle as children of God has already been won. Thank
you Lord, that we have victory through Your precious name. Having no reason to fear, may we march forward in all
boldness through the power of Your Spirit (2 Timothy 1:7).
By His Grace
And For His Glory,
November 15, 2020
the sunset behind the green rolling hills near Bethlehem, the shepherds were about to embark on the night shift. The
cool of the night would be ushered in and the noise of the day would grow quiet. Shepherds in those days had to be fearless,
not letting anyone or anything harm the sheep they were entrusted with. They also had to be attentive, knowing the situation
and the condition of the sheep at all times. When nightfall came, an increased level of awareness was most certainly
present among the shepherds. Predators of all kinds would roam the land in search of such a meal. Wolves are commonly
viewed as a sheep’s worst nightmare, but the Bible also lists lions and bears as possible advisories to the flock (1
In the profession
of a shepherd, no news is good news. An uneventful night was all those who tended the flock could hope for. Any
sound or rustling in the tall grass could send the shepherds into a mode of fierce protection. On the night that Jesus
Christ was born, shepherds in a nearby field were about to experience an unprecedented event. Luke 2:8 says that while
the shepherds were keeping watch over their sheep, an angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around
them. Suddenly this uneventful night became a divine display of God’s glory. The fear that must have immediately
gripped these men would have them wishing it had been a lion or a bear instead. God used this magnificent event to tell
of the Savior’s birth. We recognize the contrast between the humble, quiet birth of Christ and the glorious, attention
demanding revelation of His arrival.
Undoubtedly this event was one that the shepherds would never forget. For those of us who have been
saved by God’s grace, we can relate, at some level, to what the shepherds must have felt that night. For us it
was not the glory of the Lord shining down in the middle of the night or an angel of the Lord speaking audibly to us.
But, the miraculous work that God has done in our lives certainly leaves us in awe, recognizing His glory and majesty.
I encourage you this week to thank God for the many ways that He has shown His glory in your life. The tendency is to
look at particular accounts throughout scripture and marvel at the ways in which the Lord worked, and rightfully so.
But, let us not overlook the spectacular work that God has done in our very own lives. May we ruminate on ALL of the
wonderful ways that God displays His glory. Lord, it is all for Your glory. Romans 11:36 For from
him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
Free To Be Slave
I am often baffled by those who feel they need to choose a specific
camp when it comes to a particular theological stance. Don't get me wrong, there are without question stances that need
to be made and maintained when it comes to proper theology that is formed from the truths of scripture. But, there are
those issues that are really not issues at all. I have witnessed brothers and sisters who have adamantly demanded that
believers are free and liberated, and no longer slaves. On the other hand I have also encountered those who declare
with persistence that we are slaves to God. So, the question that unavoidably springs forth is, which one is right?
Herein lies the problem with the debate, assuming that since one is right that the other has to be wrong.
Those who stand on the premise that we are liberated and free are correct.
Galatians 5:1 says For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again
to a yoke of slavery. This verse is explaining the freedom that Jesus Christ has provided from the law, we
see a similar example in 2 Corinthians 3:17. Then in a more than convincing passage, John 8:34 points out that those
who practice sin are slaves to sin. However, in verse 36 we see that the Son, Jesus Christ, is the source of freedom
and liberation from sin's enslavement. This is a crucial understanding that scripture reveals, that Jesus Christ came
to save people from their bondage of sin. If we are compelled to choose a camp, this one is looking pretty promising.
Those who stand firm on the understanding that we are slaves,
must provide ample evidence. Romans 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves
of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. In this text we see that those
who are in Christ have been removed from sin's enslavement and become slaves of God. It would be irresponsible for us
to reason that this is merely a transfer of slave ownership alone. Rather, this is a momentous positional change that
is done only through the salvatory work of God. The only way that we can be freed, liberated from the eternal grasp
of sin's clutches is by God drawing us to salvation. As Matthew 6:24 says, we cannot serve two masters. Luke 9:23
tells us that as believers in Jesus Christ we are to deny ourselves and follow Him. The Lord is our Master and we are
His servants. Suddenly this camp has us wondering what side we should be on.
I hope you are picking up on where this is going. This is a classic case of the unnecessary
nature of needing to choose between two theological principles. In this particular case, both camps are completely right.
By the grace of God, He has provided the only way to be free from the bondage of sin, through the redemptive blood of His
Son. When an individual is drawn to salvation by God, they are then removed from sin's enslavement and placed into servanthood
of the Lord, a slave of God. The two camps are not opposed to one another, rather they are two parts to a whole.
As I have stated on many occasions, my encouragement is that we always look at what we are saying and ask ourselves the question
"what does this say about God?" In this case, both angles of approach say the same thing, that being a slave
to God is the only way to be free from eternal punishment that we deserve as a result of our own sin. Praise be to God
for providing mercy and grace to an undeserving lot like us. He is good.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
November 1, 2020
The Road Less Traveled
is a passage in scripture that has always produced within me a mix of emotions. In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus teaches the
familiar lesson about the narrow gate and the wide gate. The rich depth that permeates this short passage is staggering.
Every time I come across this section of scripture it seems that another facet in understanding is brought forth, which I
liken to another layer of the onion being peeled.
I study the Word of God, the more certain I become that the narrow gate is in direct correlation to the size of the path.
We read in verse 14 that the way that leads to life, eternal life, is hard. And all God's people said "Amen",
right? The Christian life is one of trials, tests, persecution, and opposition (John 16:33, 2 Timothy 3:12). As
born again believers in Jesus Christ we work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) in this life long
journey of sanctification. Humbly serving the Lord is an extraordinary privilege, one that exceeds anything that the
world could offer. But, make no mistake, it is, as the scriptures reveal, a difficult journey. When we understand
the extent of what it means to pick up our cross and follow God daily, we know our lives were not meant for ease and comfort.
Few are on this path, a few in comparison to the other path. But, those who are on this path know they are on it, they
are confident. This is a confidence that comes not from their own achievements and merit, but one that comes from the
promises and power of God. No one is on the path to life by accident. There is no confusion, as all who press
on do so by the grace of God alone.
gate is wide and in a similar correlative fashion, the path is wide as well. On this path there is a diverse group of
people, from all walks of life: rich and poor, wild and passive, rude and arrogant, quiet and pleasant, violent and abusive,
unassuming and shy, passionate and apathetic. However, the path has but one common thread. Inclusion to this path
is not defined by the color of one's skin, the amount of good deeds done in one's life or even whether they attended church
or not. Thus lies the confusion that exists on this wide path. The one thing that knits the droves of individuals
on this wide way is they have never repented of their sins. In a steady march toward the wide gate, even many religious
people obliviously proceed; religion is not what determines position.
As I get older the thing that frightens me the most is what the reaction of those who will enter through
the wide gate will be. They have enjoyed a life that cost little, denying the Messiah who gave everything. But,
what really gets to me is the confusion. Many are confused and think because of the way they lived their life, or they
were raised in a Christian home by Christian parents, or they attended church as a youth, or they raised their hand during
an invitation, that this was more than sufficient to gain them access to the narrow gate, heaven. None of these scenarios
reveal the real condition of the heart. This is where I am left motivated and charged up. I, we, have work to
do. There are a lot of people out there who think they are good, that think they are deservingly on the narrow way,
by virtue of works and self righteousness. We need to share the full saving gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone that
we can. Because we should not be happily complacent with the path that we are on, while giving little thought to the
masses that push toward the wide gate of destruction. Lord, please give us an increased sense of urgency and passion
to reach the lost. May we live and act like we have the most important message of all to share.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
October 25, 2020
In the fifteenth chapter of the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul places a great deal of emphasis on unity within
the body of believers. In fact, Paul goes so far as to point out that we are not only to come together on Sunday morning
for a moment of unity, rather we are to live in harmony with our brothers and sisters in Christ (Romans 15:5). The word
live denotes a constant state, one that is not just part of life but essential to sustaining a healthy spiritual life.
Thank goodness Paul does not leave us with this good intended ideal without any practical ways in which to accomplish it.
Earlier in that same chapter we see that
putting others needs into focus and building them up is a key element in fostering unity (v2). It is also made clear
that this is not merely a goal and personal aim of Paul, but this was the character and nature that Jesus Christ exhibited
(v3). Jesus Christ came to serve others (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45), providing us with an example that we should strive
to emulate to the best of our abilities. And one of the ways we can do that is to faithfully and diligently be equipped
in the proper teaching of the Word of God, so that we can be in one accord and have one voice in our praise and glory to the
Father (Romans 15:6).
How does that work? This is not to assume we don't have a personal responsibility and ability to worship and honor
God. But, it would be absurd for us to assume that we all have a different set of parameters when it comes to what pleases
God. Pleasing God is our aim, it is a vital function and purpose of a follower of Christ (Galatians 1:10). Something
that the Bible is very clear on in terms of what pleases God is unity within the body (1 Corinthians 1:10, 1 Peter 3:8, Philippians
2:2, Colossians 3:14). These passages are not talking about denominations or affiliations, rather they speak to the
body of believers collectively, those who have believed upon Jesus Christ as the only way. When the body adheres to
these commands that scripture has laid out, they function in such a way that glorifies God harmoniously, in one voice.
Who but God could bring together a group of former bond servants to sin, rebellious and wicked as we were, to form a pleasing
bride that would be spotless and blameless in the sight of the Lord, with the ability to exalt His majesty through one, united
Satan wants nothing more
than to bring division and dissension to the body. That kind of chaos and strife is what defines his character.
Let us be steadfast in prayer for the church, both locally, and universally. My challenge to you this week is, take
some extra time to devote to praying for the body, that we would be found united and of one voice and one accord. For
this is pleasing to the Lord.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
October 18, 2020
May I Have A Word
It is always intriguing to me how one word or a short phrase can
have such profound meaning behind it. The affirming words "I do" at a wedding encompass so much. All
the communication that took place prior to the wedding day, perhaps the premarital counseling that the couple went through,
the time and energy that have been invested in one another, it all culminates to this simple yet powerful phrase, "I
do". Not all words and phrases bring about such a positive outcome though. Far too many families have been
impacted by the painful words from a doctor that has to break the heart-wrenching news "you have cancer".
Words can change lives and the ramifications are vast. Whether it is the army general who gives the command "charge",
the NASA engineer that says "blast off" or the judge who gives a declaration of "guilty", word can possess
In John 19 we read the account of Jesus Christ suffering on the cross at Golgotha.
After experiencing what no man could endure, Jesus said these words found in verse 30, "It Is Finished".
The enormity and the power of this statement was one that would reverberate for eternity. In that moment Jesus Christ
had completed His redemptive earthly ministry in the flesh. His blood atonement on the cross was sufficient for all
sin. Salvation was made exclusively possible through repenting and confessing our sins to Him and acknowledging Jesus
Christ's penal substitutionary atonement. "It Is Finished". That thing you did that
is so bad not a day goes by that you don't think about it, "It Is Finished". That legalistic
lifestyle of constantly trying to tip the scales of good works over bad in your favor, "It Is Finished".
The guilt and shame you have been harboring for as long as you can remember "It Is Finished".
Those feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness, "It Is Finished". The life that
is slave to sin and bound for hell, "It Is Finished." There is great power in the words of
Thank You Jesus for doing what we could not do, thank You for saving us from ourselves. Thank
You for the finality of the work that You did on the cross in our place. May we never forget the power in that phrase,
may it bring us to our knees in thanksgiving as we marvel at Your grace, love and mercy.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
October 11, 2020
As I look out our back dining room window the changing colors of the maple leaves
quickly reminds me that a new season is being ushered in. Soon enough the leaves will fall, the air will grow colder
and pumpkin spice will be replaced with the fragrance of spruce and peppermint. For all the complaining that can be
made at the expense of the erratic Midwest weather, I do love the changing of the seasons. It’s always amusing
to watch “out of staters” getting off the planes in the Midwest airports. Apparently no one mentioned to
them that a week-long trip would warrant a coat, jacket, shorts, sandals, and snow boots.
Apostle Paul had a great deal of valuable instruction for Timothy, the young man from Lystra. In 2 Timothy 4:2
Paul urges Timothy to preach the word; in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience
and teaching. Timothy had been entrusted with weighty responsibility of leading and shepherding the church
in Ephesus. Paul knew that Timothy would find out soon enough that there would be times where the message of Christ
would be heard with ease and conversely there would be times when that message would not be well received. Thus Paul
encourages Timothy to preach during all seasons. The results of good biblical preaching and teaching are what Paul mentions
in the latter part of verse 2, to reprove, rebuke, and exhort. These are results that God’s Word can produce in
Though the Midwest weather may be ever changing, there is no doubt that we live
in a time where the Word of God is in large part, out of season. God’s Word has been taken out of schools, taken
out of homes, and sadly, even taken out of many churches. The truth that God’s Word contains brings about an acknowledgment
of sin, and sin brings to light the separation between the lives of fallen mankind and the perfect holiness and righteousness
of God. As followers of Christ, we have a responsibility to herald the name of Christ, to proclaim and share the saving
gospel. We need not worry ourselves with the nature of the season we are in. Instead, let us boldly preach the
message of the Savior, which is never changing. Hebrews 13: 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and
forever. So grab your coat, your stocking hat, your sunglasses and t-shirt, because we have work to do.
By His Grace And For His Glory,
October 4, 2020
The End Of The Story
During a discussion in a men's bible study one Friday morning, we got talking about Mary, the mother of Jesus.
We were commenting on the extraordinary responsibility that God had set before Mary. A few of the men shared their thoughts
on what that must have been like for the young betrothed virgin girl. When the angel Gabriel told Mary of the monumental
task that she was about to embark on, one is led to wonder what was going through her mind. Mary was a young engaged
girl, who, before that day, likely day dreamed about the future. Whatever her plans and aspirations were, God intervened
with a different ending to the story of her life.
asked the guys in the group, if God had not intervened in their lives, how different would the end of their story be?
Without hesitation some of the men shared about the predictability of how their lives would have played out. Most commented
that their sinful behavior would have landed them in jail or worse yet, the morgue. It was a sobering moment as all
in attendance recognized the grace that God had lavished on their lives. You see, these men knew who they were before
they submitted their lives to Christ and they knew the trajectory that old life had them on. They could have easily
finished the story of their lives. BUT......God had a different plan for them. God's redemptive plan in their
lives would change the ending.
If God has done a
mighty work in your life and brought you to salvation through His Son Jesus Christ, then you have great cause for rejoice.
The God of the universe and all that it contains saw fit to change the end of your story. He is the only one that can
take the enslaved sinner, change their heart and declare them righteous. However, there are a great many people out
there who are living out the very predictable story of their lives. They are dead in their sins, being condemned by
the very thing that ensures their story's unsurprising end. But, God's message of hope, the saving gospel of Jesus Christ,
is a message that changes lives, it changes the ending. My encouragement for you this week is to find someone to discuss
this with. Ask someone how they see their life playing out, ask them to write their ending. This gives you a wonderful
opportunity to share with them. As followers of Christ, we did not write our ending, God did (Ezekiel 36:26, 2 Corinthians
3:18). Praise God for doing what we couldn't do. To you alone Lord we give all honor and praise.
By His Grace And For His Glory,Pastor Sam