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