Friday, April 30, 2010


In Christ's model prayer, He teaches us that we are to rely upon God to supply our needs, especially food (Matt. 6:11). He told us not to worry about our food because God loves us more than the fowls of the air (Matt. 6:26). Here, He was referring to our sustenance, but could He also have been hinting at other things? For instance, Jesus called Himself the "Bread of Life" (John 6:48-58). Our daily relationship with Jesus is also a provision of God, in that the Father drew us (John 6:44); the Son died for us (John 3:16); and the Spirit convicted us and provided us with the faith to believe in the living Christ (John 16:7-11; Eph. 2:8-9).

Partaking of our daily bread may also have another meaning. He told His disciples that His food was to do the will of the Father (John 4:34). I doubt that any Christian would question the fact that the Lord wants us to do the will of the Father every day. A little over a year ago, I was hospitalized with blood-clots in my lungs. The doctor was very clear that I might not make it. A pastor came and asked if he could pray for me. I told him he could on one condition; if God was going to let me live, I wanted to have a way to serve Him daily. Obviously I lived, and the blog you are now reading is the ministry He gave me through my pastor. I still don't know what a blog is, but I praise God for the opportunity to send my thoughts around the world.

Today, God has supplied us with another form of daily bread. The daily devotional, Our Daily Bread, published by RBC Ministries (Radio Bible Class) is available to anyone who asks for it, and it is free ( However, I suggest you support the ministry financially and in prayer. I read it the first thing every morning, and start my day out "eating His bread." God has literally spoken to me on one occasion to turn back and look at the message on a specific day. As soon as I read the title, my mind immediately returned to something that had occurred on that day, which I had not yet understood. It was my first day in seminary, and during chapel, I had an emotional "melt-down." There I was, a forty-four year old sobbing uncontrollably. The date was September 2, 1986, and the title was "God's Love Softens Hearts." At the time, I did not know what had happened, but now, God was showing me that the experience was the result of His changing my heart from being rock-hard, to being teachable. He had broken me. Again, I found myself weeping. My God had worked on me, and here He was describing "the operation" so that I would realize that He was with me every day. Getting saved, or being born again, is great, but knowing that the Creator of the universe is orchestrating my metamorphosis into Christ-likeness boggles my mind! Oh, what a great God we serve!

Thursday, April 29, 2010


The older I get, the more I realize the importance of a good doctor. I have had severe health problems for years, and now at sixty-seven, my body is almost useless. Degenerative Spine Disease, Congestive Heart Failure, and Pulmonary Thromboses have taken me a long way from the days when I ran pass-patterns for Roger Staubach and played Judo in Japan. Having been a career U.S. Navy, I have seen more than my share of doctors. The thing I hated most about the V.A. Hospitals was that I rarely saw the same doctor twice. I soon noticed that nearly every one of them would glance at my chart and then tell me, sometimes in subtle ways and sometimes not so subtle, that the doctor I had before was an idiot. It was as if they had to change my meds to convince themselves that they were better doctors. For instance, I was on and off of Coumadin (a dangerous blood thinner) nearly every other visit. It was as if doctors had self-esteem problems and were using patients to convince themselves that they were good doctors.

Ironically, I have heard two patients describe the same doctor as wonderful and horrible. In fact, there have been times when I have felt my doctor vacillated between the two extremes. I would like to say that he was having a good or a bad day, but I am afraid that is not why I thought of him as one or the other. He was a good doctor when he didn't mention that I was obese, when he didn't harp on me exercising, and when he correctly diagnosed and prescribed medicine that worked. I appreciated him when he didn't interfere with my lifestyle and when he saved my life, but was less appreciative when he "began meddling." If I liked his advice or agreed with his instructions, he was great, but....

Isn't it strange that we treat God's Word the same way? We would never admit it, but the goodness of God depends on whether or not we want to obey Him. He is "good" when His Word tells us about His great love for us, but when He tells us He expects us to love others, especially the jerks, idiots, and useless, His expectations seem so unreasonable. I don't want to love them. Or when He tells me that gossip is just as much a sin as murder, then I cringe. I want to cry out, "I am not as bad as a murderer!" but in my heart, I have assassinated the character of friend and foe alike.

I have come to believe that if I have a problem with others, including God, the problem is really mine. I judge based upon what pleases me and what does not. I am so glad that God does not have mood-swings. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever; He is Love, and He is Good. Praise Him, especially when His Word reveals our sin. As my loving Father, He only wants what's best for me, and from me (Hebrews 12:3-17). Doctors, for the most part, like parents simply try to do their best to help us be as healthy or as successful as possible. God wants no less, and He will get it from His children one way or another. So we might as well trust Him and take our "medicine." After all, it is good for us.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


"John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from Him Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come...I Am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty" (Revelation 1:4, 8). "And the four living creatures had each of them six wings about him, and they were full of eyes within; and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was, and is, and is to come" (Revelation 4:8). The Lord, through the Apostle John, is saying to us in the final book of the Bible, "Fear not! The same God Who demonstrated His great love for us throughout history, and Who is directing me to write concerning the future, will be there through it all!" The words of a song fill my heart as I write this. "Through it all. Through it all. I have learned to trust in Jesus. I have learned to trust in God."

"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). The Father is eternal (Deuteronomy 33:27; Romans 1:20). The Holy Spirit is God and therefore eternal (Acts 5:3-4; Hebrews 9:14). And, Jesus is eternal (Psalm 102:27; Isaiah 9:6-7; Luke 1:33). God does not change, ever (Malachi 3:6). God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). It has been a while since I heard someone say, "God said it; I believe it; and that settles it!" Perhaps we all need to say that more often. In a world that no longer believes in absolutes, we stand out by saying that the Bible is absolute truth. To the world, we appear as fools, dreamers who "need to get a life." Ironic, isn't it? Believers in Christ are the only ones who actually have a life, and it is abundant, and it is forever!

"In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:2-3). It would seem unnecessary to have to say this, but it is possible that not everyone reading this post has placed their trust in Jesus Christ. Faith is a gift (grace) from God, and by accepting Jesus as Lord, believing that God raised Him from the dead, and declaring your faith to others, you are born again as a child of God (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 10:9-10; John 3:3-17). When we accept Jesus, we become part of His body, we are in Him, and since He is eternal, we possess eternal life (1 Corinthians 12:27; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 3:26; 1 John 5:2.) After all, it is impossible for someone to give you something they do not possess themselves. My favorite verse is 1 John 3:2, which says, "Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. Yes, now we know we shall be like Him!

It is my sincere hope that every person reading this post will take the time to look up the references! Believers will be encouraged, and skeptics will know that I have accurately represented the Word of God (Acts 17:11 - They checked out the Apostle Paul, so obviously readers should always verify what I say.)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." In the beginning of what? It obviously does not mean that God had a beginning, for the Word tells us God had no beginning (Deuteronomy 33:27; Romans 1:20; 1 Timothy 1:17; etc.).That is one way that God is different from His creation, in that He is eternal. God could have just as well said, "I WAS, and I AM, and I WILL ALWAYS BE." That is one of the reasons many students of God's Word believe that Melchizedek was a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity or the Godhead (Romans 1:20; Colossians 2:9). Not only was He a priest, but He was the king of Salem (Hebrews 7:1-3). It is also telling that He gave Abraham bread and wine, and Melchizedek accepted tithes from him (Genesis 14:17-24). If Melchizedek had no beginning, He was obviously not merely a man, for man was created on the sixth day of creation (Genesis 1:26-31). And, last but not least, the Holy Spirit Who is the Third Person of the Trinity, is God and eternal (Acts 5:3-4; Hebrews 9:14).

Everything apart from God had to be created, and therefore, it must be concluded that "the beginning" is the beginning of time. An obvious question arises in that Genesis One does not tell us when the angels were created. Since they are not eternal, nor are they listed in the creation account, most assume angels were created before time began (Isaiah 14:52; Ezekiel 28:13-17; Luke 10:18; 1 John 3:8; Revelation 12:7-9). Job 38:4-7 speaks of the "morning stars" and the "sons of God" being present during our creation. These titles refer to angels (Job 1:6 - 2:7). Also, as can be seen from 1 John 3:8, Satan was already in rebellion when "the beginning" occurred. The fact that they were created to minister to man suggests that they may have been created just prior to the "the beginning" (Hebrews 1:14).

What about heaven itself? Did God have a throne that was eternal? Did Jesus sit at His Father's right hand before creation? (John 17:5; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22). I do not know the answer, but I have a theory. I believe that before there was anything, including the heavenly throne room of God, there was only God. In order for Him to create light other than Himself, He had to create darkness by restricting Himself to a separate place. Then He could create light. He chose to create a place called heaven (the third heaven - 2 Corinthians 12:2). On the first day of creation, God created the heaven well understand to be the universe. And on the second day, He created the heaven we understand as our atmosphere (Genesis 1:1; 1:6-8). So Chronologically, the three heavens were created third, second, and first. It is odd, but it makes sense when one considers that man would exist in them chronologically, that is, flight, space travel, and hopefully all my readers will dwell in the heaven of our great God!

So, what was there before anything else existed? God says, "I WAS!"

Monday, April 26, 2010


Unbelievers who are rational and honest will admit that Jesus actually lived on Earth, but of course only as a man. They usually describe His life by saying, "He was...." And unfortunately, many Christians live defeated lives because their faith is focused upon the Cross, the Resurrection, and the Ascension as past events. To them, "Jesus was...." This group, while praising the Lord for what He has done, also looks forward with great anticipation to His Second Coming, when "He will...." Hymns are sung and sermons are preached that speak of golden streets, mansions, crowns, and freedom from worry, disease, pain, sin, and death. What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see! Hallelujah! We sing "Amazing Grace" about the past, and "When We All See Jesus" about the future. But what about now? Even when most of us speak of Jesus now, during the age of the Church, few say "He is...." without adding "about to..." or "coming soon."

Today, most Christians are worrying about which party is in the White House, the corruption in the Congress, terrorists, abortion, homosexual marriage, illegal immigration, etc. And while I agree that these issues are of extreme importance, they have replaced the Church's assignment to focus on winning the lost to Christ and teaching those who accept Him as Lord. Most do not regularly attend church, read their Bible, pray in faith, or give to support missions. Instead, they focus upon their work, family, friends, hobbies, etc. They will show pity on the homeless and support causes to save the planet, save abused pets, save historic sites, etc., but seem to have forgotten that someone had cared enough to share Christ to save them. I do not know the percentage but I believe nearly 100% of all people who accept Jesus are invited to a Bible study or to church. But since only a small percentage of professing Christians still go to church, it is unlikely that they are inviting others.

It is as though the Church has forgotten God's name: I AM! Jesus seldom spoke of His pre-incarnation existence, nor did He particularly focus upon the future. He said, "I AM" and then "the Bread of life; the Light; the Door; the Good Shepherd; the Son of God; the resurrection and the life; the Way, the Truth, and the Life; the True Vine" (John 6:35; 8:12; 10:7; 10:11; 10:36; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1). Jesus IS the food that sustains us. He IS the Light that guides us. He IS the Door to which we are to lead others. He IS the One who cares for and protects us. He IS God's Son. He IS our hope for resurrection and eternal life. He IS the Roman Road, the Word of God, and the Life in Whom we are to live. He IS, as the Vine, our source of nourishment, relationship, and reproduction (fruit carries the "seed" to produce new life). Who Jesus was, and Who He will be are important, but Who He IS to you today determines whether or not you are being a faithful Christian. His name is, "I AM!"

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Finally, after much thought and study on the proper interpretation of the word "perfect" found in verse eight, I have come to the conclusion that it really does not matter if one, the other, or both a true.

Those who are Charismatics will accept neither the completed New Testament, nor an individual walking perfectly before the Lord, as being the correct meaning because they have experienced the manifestation of the Spirit in their own lives. In fact, they will declare that it is only when they are walking in the Spirit that He manifests the gifts through them. Sin requires confession to remove unrighteousness, at which point, they become the righteousness of God in Christ (1 John 1:9; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Instead of Christian maturity causing the gifts to cease, it is the very thing that allows the Spirit to work. As for the New Testament being completed, that officially occurred when the Apostle John penned Revelation around A.D. 100. As for the Church, the first evidence that the New Testament was recognized as having twenty-seven books and having them in the current order, was a letter written by Athanasius in A.D. 367. It certainly would be hard to argue that the gifts stopped before the New Testament was accepted as complete. One would expect that someone would have written that the gifts ceased, but as far as I know, no one did.

Those who believe that the gifts ceased upon the completion of the New Testament will also continue to do so. And, where the Charismatics see spiritual maturity as the prerequisite for the manifestation of the gifts, others see the exercise of spiritual gifts as evidence of immaturity. They will point out that prophecy is the best gift and quote 1 Corinthians 14:1-5, but they should be reminded that 1 Corinthians 13:8 says that prophecy also will cease. In Revelation 11:3, after the Rapture of the Church, there will still be prophets prophesying. I know many of you reading this will point out that there is a difference between Old Testament prophets (which the two witnesses are dispensationally speaking), and New Testament prophets. One foretold future events, and the other interprets what is already revealed. However, I am not sure I can make that distinction.

Since neither side in the debate over the exercise of spiritual gifts will ever convince the other, what possible hope is there for Christian unity? 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 provides the answer. That is probably why Paul wrote it in the middle of the two chapters. Summed up, the verses describe Christlike behavior between parties that do not agree. Christ's prayer for unity can only be realized when all believers in an assembly bind themselves together in love. I repeat: Romans 14:13-21; 1 Corinthians 10:23-24; Galatians 5:13-14; Ephesians 4:3; Philippians 2:1-8! We are free; free to love one another. All else is sin.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Yesterday, I ended with the big "if." If the Word of God, being completed, determines when the gifts mentioned would cease, the modern Church has a serious problem with doctrine. I suggested that the main cause for division between those churches that are Charismatic and those which are not, is the interpretation of a single word of Scripture: teleios. This word, meaning "ended, completed, or perfect, is the same word used in James 1:25 where it speaks of "the perfect law of liberty." The Old Testament was anything but the "law of liberty"; Paul described it as the source of bondage (Galatians 4:21-5:1). In this passage, he contrasts the two covenants, one as a source of bondage and the other the source of liberty. So non-Charismatics refuse to acknowledge the gifts as genuine because they believe the need for them ended with the completing of the New Testament.

The same word, teleios, is also used to describe the born-again Christian who has reached maturity. It is the Greek translation of Matthew 5:48; 19:21; John 17:23; 1 Corinthians 2:6; Ephesians 4:13; Philippians 3:15; Colossians 1:28; 4:12; James 1:4; 3:2. Therefore, since it is possible for a believer to reach the level of perfection mentioned in these verses, when that occurs, the gifts would cease. But, do they cease to be active in the one who has matured only, or altogether? The obvious answer is neither. Paul spoke in tongues more than all his readers (1 Corinthians 14:18), and few would doubt that he had reached Christian maturity. Then again, Paul did not see himself as being perfect (Philippians 3:13-14). Plus, it would make no sense for the gifts to cease when only one believer matured; the gifts were to be manifested in believers for the edification of others (1 Corinthians 14:5, 12, 26).

Perhaps the key is found in another word: unity. In His last recorded prayer, Jesus asked that His disciples be "made perfect in one" (John 17:23). Since the gifts are only needed to edify the Body of Christ, and His Church is made perfect in unity, once the Church achieves unity, the gifts will cease. Ephesians 4:1-16 combines the relationship between unity, maturity, edification, and gifts. Logically then, if manifesting the gifts is a sign of a lack of maturity in the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 13:9-12; Ephesians 4:14), and the gifts were to cease only upon reaching maturity, and the Church is more divided than ever in its history, the gifts have not ceased. We have the completed Word, but we do not have unity. We have the gifts, proving we do not have maturity. When unity comes, then the gifts will cease!

I will attempt to reach both sides in the area of Spiritual gifts tomorrow, Lord willing, and as always, I covet your prayers. Until tomorrow, God bless you as you strive to win the lost by striving for unity.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Paul, in his attempt to correct the church at Corinth's ignorance and resulting abuses in the area of Spiritual gifts, wrote what is now known as Chapter Thirteen, the Love Chapter. He began by saying that the gifts are worthless unless rooted in, and motivated by, love (1-3). He then defined agape love by teaching them what it is, and what it is not (4-7). The last six verses teach that, while love is eternal, Spiritual gifts are not; they will serve their purpose, and then cease. Today, there is great debate over when that would occur. There are two main views, based upon different interpretations of the words "when that which is perfect is come" (10). The Greek word translated "perfect" is teleion, from the root teleo. The word is uses to describe: completeness, maturity, and perfection.

Now comes the hard part. What is the goal? Some say the gifts were given to establish the Church until the New Testament was completed. The three gifts specifically mentioned seem to support this view. Tongues were a sign to unbelievers and served as "credentials" to authenticate (1 Corinthians 1:22; 14:22). There is also evidence that it was the speaking in tongues that convinced Peter that the Samaritans and the Gentiles were to be considered part of the Body of Christ (Acts 2:4; 8:17-18; 10:44-47). Since the New Testament clearly teaches that there is no exclusion to admittance (Galatians 3:26-29 for example), members of the Body of Christ no longer needed to see proof of salvation. Jesus said that the whole world would know His disciples by their love, one for another (John 13:35). While many Christians still believe tongues are necessary, their position on the gifts of knowledge and prophecy is less ridged. Most everyone, whether Charismatic or not, views the New Testament as the measure against which "words of knowledge" and "prophecies" are judged.

A second interpretation suggests that spiritual perfection or maturity is the goal. This is less likely since Christians never reach total Christ-likeness in this lifetime (Romans 7; 1 John 1:5-10; 3:2). Even if it were possible for an individual to achieve spiritual perfection this side of heaven, the gifts are for ministering to others. The gifts, therefore, would only cease when all the Body of Christ has reached spiritual perfection. Another interpretation, closely related to the individual becoming spiritually perfect, is that they will cease when the Perfect One returns. While true that we will be like Him at that point (v. 12; 1 John 3:2), Paul's correction would again seem pointless.

Paul compared the gifts of the Spirit to "childish things" and whatever was to come with being "a grown up" (v. 11). He suggested that the gifts of the Spirit provided only partial knowledge, but that when the "perfect" comes, we shall have complete knowledge. By comparing James 1:22-25, we discover what it is that accomplishes this; the Word of God. If the Word of God, being completed, determines when the gifts mentioned would cease, the modern Church has a serious problem with doctrine. It is hard to believe that the interpretation of one word could result in the fragmentation of the Church, especially since its division is due to a lack of love and a desire to fulfill Christ's prayerful plea for unity (John 17). To be continued....

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Chapter Twelve begins with Paul implying that his readers are ignorant. Chapter Fourteen ends with him implying they had previously been lacking in decency and self-control. The remainder of the two chapters consists of their mentor informing, reproving, correcting, and teaching them in what would become part of the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 3:15-16). Chapter Thirteen also implies something; it implies that they lacked the first of the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and they were failing to live in the image and likeness of God (1 John 4:8, 16; Genesis 1:26-27). Instead of humility and selflessness, they thought too highly of themselves, and arrogantly sought to be the person against whom all should measure themselves. He had seen these "qualities" before (1 Corinthians 10:24; Philippians 2:4; Romans 12:3). Here, in Chapter Thirteen, Paul defines Christ-likeness as the true measure of one's stature.

In the first three verses, he states that spiritual gifts (abilities) and religious acts of charity are worthless unless motivated by the love for God and for one's fellow man. The gift of tongues, the least of all the spiritual gifts (12:10), and the gift of prophecy, the highest of the spiritual gifts (14:1), are useless to the Lord if they are not motivated by love. Neither are oaths of poverty and martyrdom. Love has to be the "why" of our actions. The word charity in Chapter Thirteen is translated from the Greek word agape, which is the highest form of love; it is the same kind of love that God had for His lost creation (John 3:16). It is a love that is totally selfless. It cannot be earned, nor is it deserved. It does not require reciprocity. It is a thought, word, or deed that is the fruit, the product of the indwelling Spirit of God. The New Testament has another Greek word for love, phileo, but it has to do with a mutual bond between two persons, a brotherly love.

The next four verses (4-7) describe what love is and what it is not. God-like love is long-suffering and kind, but it is not envious, boastful, or proud (4). It acts well-behaved and it does not act inappropriately; it is not self-centered, it does not respond to provocation, nor does it think like Satan (5). God's kind of love weeps with those who weep, and rejoices with those who rejoice (6 - Romans 12:15). Love tolerates, trusts, is optimistic, and suffers through all things (7).

Love, God's kind of love, never fails, never quits, never gives up. This fruit of the Spirit is as eternal as is God Himself. It will never end. However, Paul had some sad news for the Corinthian church; those things that so infatuated them and which were misused, would soon be gone. The gifts of prophecy, tongues and knowledge would be replaced. There has been much debate as to what would replace them, and when it would occur. Tomorrow, Lord willing, I will try to explain the different theories or interpretations of the rest of the chapter. If I ever needed prayer before, I certainly need it now. God bless in Jesus name. Amen.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


As I often tell my friends, I spent the next two years, two months, two weeks, two days, and too long as Pastor of the little, but "perfect" church. Although with the exception of one sermon/teaching session, I never felt so empowered by God's Spirit; I was clearly anointed. Even though the church was truly blessed (by some power, and not necessarily God), it was a spiritual disaster. One hundred thousand dollars in the bank, new facilities, paved and striped parking, a church which had at one time twenty-six deacons, was almost totally void of evidence that believers attended. With a congregation of about sixty or so, one might wonder why so many deacons. First of all, nearly all had either died or had ceased to be a part of the church (I buried three the first five weeks I was Pastor). It seems that my predecessor had the philosophy that in order to "keep the money in the church," he ordained all of the men. Hard to believe, but true; he told me himself.

Ironically, the next two plus years were spent dealing with fights over the furniture the deacons ordered to convert the Youth classroom into a deacon's room; the "roomless" and leaderless Youth; whether or not the Pastor had embarrassed the church by buying a washer and dryer for a needy family (with my own money, I need add); etc. instead of over "tongues." As far as I can remember, the subject never came up again following my "triumphal entry." I had succeeded in redirecting the contentious focus of both factions against me. You know, the way to unite people is with a common goal, or a common enemy: I was apparently to become the latter. The "final straw" came when, at a "business meeting," a huge debate ensued over whether or not to give our custodian a pay advance to help him catch up on his child-support. The true nature of the majority reared its ugly head, resulting in both the Janitor and the new Youth/Music minister walking out, never to return. Just as I imagine Peter would do, my following sermon threw down the gauntlet: either our "team" was going to have to start playing as one, or they needed to get a new "coach." As is usually the case, the "team" remained and the "coach" was liberated!

It would be nice if I could say that it was the work of the Spirit described in 1 Corinthian 13 that had prevented the church split, but I am not sure either faction knew of the chapter between the two on the Holy Spirit. It was as though they had studied tongues on the left (chapter twelve), tongues on the right (chapter fourteen), and nothing in between (perhaps they were triskaidekaphobic). I wish that church had been unique or an exception to the norm, but unfortunately the Church, pictured by Paul as the Body of Christ, has splintered so many times that I often believe most Bibles had omitted the chapter altogether. Instead of being knit together as one, "arms" seem to be insisting everyone else "has to be an arm" or they are not saved. It would almost be laughable if it were not for the fact that the exact same problem plagued the Corinthians (12:12-31). Not much has changed over the past two thousand years. Tomorrow, Lord willing, I will focus upon the "love chapter." Pray for me.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


If there ever was a Bible character that I can relate to, it is Peter. He always took things to the extreme. If he wasn't jumping in the water to swim to Jesus, he was amputating ears (John 18:26; 21:7). One minute, he was led by the Spirit of God to acknowledge the true identity of Jesus, and the next he was being rebuked for being led by Satan (Matthew 16:16, 23). He declared to all that he would never deny Jesus, and sure enough, that is exactly what he did (Matthew 26:34, 72). And, although much slower than John, it was he that entered the empty tomb (John 20:3-6). Finally, after being told to stay in Jerusalem and wait to be empowered by the Holy Spirit, Peter decided to hold a business meeting to replace Judas (Acts 1:3-26). Jesus would replace Judas eight chapters later with someone Peter would not have considered in a million years: Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:1-16). Peter's impulsiveness resulted in Matthias becoming one of the twelve; he is not heard of again in the Bible. Jesus chose Paul and he ended up writing nearly half of the New Testament.

Years ago, I was a member of a Southern Baptist Church which had accepted the manifestation of Spiritual gifts during its services. Its reputation for unity was widely known. A small church in Western Kentucky needing a pastor, contacted Southern Seminary for resumes. Because it was about to split over "tongues speakers," they reasoned that a member of Graceland might be just the person to keep the church together. It didn't matter that I did not want to be a pastor; they "knew" I was the person God wanted for them. I went there, preached what God put on my heart, and turned them down.

Within a week, I heard a voice. I can't say it was with my ears, but it was just as clear as if it was. The voice said, "You go and let her come on the weekends." I thought the "voice" was merely my thoughts. It wasn't until the next day, when I was telling a pastor friend about it, that I had one of those "ah-ha" moments. Right in the middle of a sentence, I suddenly realized that the "voice" was speaking in the second person. It was not, "I will go..." but "You go." That is when I knew God was the One speaking. I became the pastor of a very dysfunctional church the following week. Lucky me!

My first official sermon consisted of two points. Yes, I know every good sermon has three, but I wasn't trying to be good, I was being obedient. The first point was from 1 Corinthians 14:39, "...forbid not the speaking of tongues." Surprisingly, I heard no applause nor gasps of outrage, and I waited to give them a chance to respond. My second point was from the very next verse. "Let all things be done decently and in order." This point was explained using several references, such as: Romans 14:13-21; 1 Corinthians 10:23-24; Ephesians 4:3; and Philippians 2:1-8. All that I preached could be summed up in one chapter: 1 Corinthians 13, or for that matter, in two verses, Galatians 5:13-14!

To be continued.

Monday, April 19, 2010


John Chapter Seventeen is the Last Will and Testament of Jesus Christ. As with all who are about to die, He wanted to make His will absolutely clear for all generations to come. If Jesus had a tombstone, He would want John Seventeen written upon it. And just as those who love a family member or friend that has passed away want to honor their dying wish, so do those who love Jesus want to honor His. At least one would think so. Jesus prayed to His Father that His followers be united, be one (vv. 11, 21-23). Because He wants to save a lost world, our unity is the evidence of God's truth in us, our "credentials." "By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35). It proclaims emphatically that God sent His Son (17:21), and that He loves those who were created to be in His image and likeness as much as He loves Jesus (17:23). It is so obvious. He traded Jesus for us. If I thought it possible, I might even say He loved us more.

Unity is essential for another reason. God also wants to reach His people, Israel. In Deuteronomy 32:21, God told Moses that He would take those who did not exist as a people, fools (those who believe in their heart that there is no God (Psalm 14:1), and make them into a nation to provoke Israel to jealousy. 1 Peter 2:9 identifies that nation; it is a people known as the Church, the Body of Christ. Just as the lost Gentile world was to recognize us by our unity, Israel would observe the Spirit working in the Church and long for the closeness they once had with God. But unfortunately, neither the lost world in general, nor the people of Israel have had an opportunity to witness our oneness. Still, God has managed to save millions in spite of us.

Finally, it is of the utmost importance that the Church does everything possible to maintain unity so that it can function as Christ intended. In Ephesians 4:1-16, Paul provides the formula for our successfully fulfilling His mission for us. He begins by emphasizing the characteristics of those worthy of being used of God: those who are the lowly, the meek, the long-suffering, and who forbear one another in love. Their peaceful unity will be directed by the Holy Spirit (vv. 1-3). The Holy Spirit always produces fruit that unifies the Church! Oneness is seen in seven-fold description of the Church (vv. 4-6). God has provided, as a gift to His Church, Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers for the specific purpose of developing disciples for the work of ministry, that is, enlarging and the building up His children (vv. 7-12). The next verse is crucial; it tells how long His design for growth will continue. "Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect (mature, complete, unified) man unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (v. 13). This provides sound doctrine and insures that every believer recognizes the role he or she is to play in the one body (vv. 4; 14-16).

Want to please God? Want to win the lost to Christ? Want the Church to grow numerically and spiritually? Allow the Holy Spirit, and only the Holy Spirit, to guide your thoughts, words, and actions. The result will change you, and it will change the world.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Yesterday, I suggested the Lord's Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19-20 could be divided into two equally important parts: soul-winning, and discipleship. I said that the Church has done a remarkable job in proclaiming the Gospel and baptizing converts. I also said that the Church has failed miserably at growing disciples. I base this upon fifty plus years of observation; thirty-nine as a Christian, and many years as an "outsider." I believe Gandhi said it well when he answered a reporters question as to why he was not a Christian since he so often quoted Jesus. He replied, "I would have become one years ago had I not met so many of them." Christians do more to sabotage the effort to win the lost than all the minions of Satan put together. The Church has failed to emphasize the importance of studying God's "instruction manual" for the Christian life. The most common term the world uses to describe us is "hypocrite," and as a result, much of our over-emphasized effort to reach the lost is ineffective.

I believe the problem lies in the local church. A lack of emphasis upon teaching how one is to live as a Christian; turning a blind eye toward sinful attitudes and actions; and a total emphasis upon soul-winning messages have all contributed to the vast majority of Christians remaining mere babes. Pastors wonder why so many of their members quit coming to their churches, when the answer, while not monolithic, is that they often feel they are not being fed. They long for the "meat" of the Word; the "milk" no longer meets their needs. By emphasizing discipleship, Christians "of all ages" will grow, do the work of the ministry within the local church, and serve as genuine examples of Christ to a lost world.

Another factor in failing to reach unbelievers is church division. I often think about two local churches that sit side by side along the highway. There is no fence, no difference in the color of the grass, nothing that shows where one's property ends and the other's begins. I wonder what the unbeliever thinks when he passes by? They both have crosses on them, use the same Book, and meet at the same time, and yet they don't seem to be willing to work as one. Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church is said to have become so disillusioned by church splits that he decided to start his own. He lived as a young man during the years 1814-1830 during which the Methodists divided four times and the Baptists six (No Man Knows My History, Fawn Brodie, 1954). Whether or not that was his reason for "creating" his version of the truth is not the point; the Church, while in the midst of the Second Great Awakening, was splintering at an unprecedented rate. Not a whole lot has changed.

Tomorrow, again Lord willing, I will attempt to stress the huge importance that church unity plays in winning the lost to Christ. As always, God bless you and please continue to pray for me and my church.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


What a question. We have all probably asked it of someone, but exactly what does it imply? As a child, one might ask a parent just before appealing for something. In that case, it shows that the answer will be believed based upon the parent's permission. If he says yes, he loves me; if he says no, he does not. And not just children think that way. Often, we in a marriage judge the sincerity of our spouse's answer based upon getting our way. Perhaps the most obvious example is when a child of God questions Him. God, if You really love me, You will give me the desires of my heart, and oh, by the way, You said You would in Your Word (Psalm 37:4). Most Jews and Christians know the promise well, but how many take it in the context of our doing good (v. 3), our delight in the Lord (appreciation, gratitude, worship - v. 4), and our obedience to His direction (v. 5)? In other words, God's answer is not based upon His loving us, but it is based upon our love for Him.

Jesus only asked one person if he loved Him. After Peter denied knowing Jesus three times (Matthew 26:69-75), he was so sure that he no longer would be used of Jesus that he decided he might as well return to his old job and go fishing (John 21:3). Jesus had said, "But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father, Who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:33). Jesus loved Peter so much that He went to the sea shore to minister to all His disciples, but especially to Peter (John 21:1-17). He asked Peter, "lovest thou Me?" three times. Most students of the Bible believe that Jesus was giving Peter the opportunity to publicly proclaim his love for Him. Three times he had denied Jesus, and now he humbly declared his love three times. Jesus knew the answer, but He loved Peter and wanted him to forgive himself. Jesus had taught them earlier that if they really loved Him. they would show it by keeping His commandments (John 14:15). Now, Jesus gave Peter a commandment: Care for My sheep.

Notice, Jesus didn't say he should go find sheep. All of the sheep were in the fold. One becomes part of the sheep when he or she becomes a Christian. No, Peter was to feed the sheep he had. A great deal of the church's attention has been focused upon the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19-20, and rightly so. But unfortunately, as is usually the case, Christians tend to focus upon one part of God's Word, declaring it to be God's will, and ignore the rest. Those same verses do say go teach the world about Jesus and baptize those who accept Him. The Church has done a remarkable job of spreading the Gospel through the media, missionaries, and personal witnessing. Where the Church has failed miserably is in the area of making disciples and teaching them. "Baby Christians" need the "milk of the Word" (1 Peter 2:2). Mature Christians need the meat of God's Word (1 Corinthians 3:2). The idea of discipleship involves teaching and mentoring in the disciplines taught by the Lord. 2 Timothy 2:2 calls for mature Christians to focus upon teaching the faithful so that they are able to teach others. What about the lost? If the Church focuses upon training Christians, who will win the lost? Tomorrow, Lord willing, I will try to answer that. In the mean time, pray for me.

Friday, April 16, 2010


During every election, candidates declare a need for change, and offer themselves as the agent needed to accomplish it. What does the call for change imply? Is change good or bad? Why is there a continual call for change? Will change eventually improve things until we have reached utopia? Let me try to answer these questions one at a time.

A call for change implies several things. A condition currently exists. Not everyone agrees with the current status. The agents calling for change do not have the power to make the change, or they would already have done so. The call for change is an effort to produce enough dissatisfaction to rally voters to support "a better way of doing things." It implies that change will improve things.

Change can be both good and bad. It is recognized as good when it moves a people closer to the ideal. It is viewed as bad when it actually moves them away from the ideal. It is both when there is an even balance of pros and cons, a trade-off, a compromise, when the majority is temporarily satisfied. It is the ideal that must be evaluated to determine the value of change. In fact, the ideal is in a constant state of flux as well.

There is a continual call for change because life is not perfect, and utopia is not achievable as long as there are those who never see the glass as full, let alone half full. I once heard of a person looking for the perfect church being told not to join it because it would no longer be perfect. Contentment, by definition, is accepting the imperfect gracefully. Contentment is encouraged in the Bible (Lk 3:14; Phil 4:11; 1 Tim 6:8; Heb 13:5). Being contentious is not (Rom 2:8; 1 Cor 11:16; Titus 3:9; 3 Jn 1:10). Unfortunately, those who are not content are always the ones "rallying the troops." Those who are content have no need.

The main problem with change is that some times it makes things worse. One area may improve but at the cost of another. Some people will be blessed by a change, and others will feel disenfranchised by it. I guess the ultimate question is whether the "improvement" justifies the casualties. Generals are infamous for declaring victory in battle, even though perhaps thousands have lost their lives to achieve it. Churches also suffer from a constant state of discontentment. Some are never satisfied with something, and in order to change it, they consider those hurt, or worse driven away, to be expendable. I am reminded of Jesus, having ninety-nine sheep (percent works here as well) safely tucked into the fold, He relentlessly searched until He had found the one which was missing. To me, that means that absolutely no one is expendable. He also said something about the consequences of offending one of His little ones (less spiritually mature works her as well) as being worse than suffering being cast into the sea with a millstone attached. Be very careful. The change you make may be far more costly than the "improvement" is worth.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


On Tuesday, I wrote that failing to do that which we know to do is sin (James 4:17). On Wednesday, I wrote that we are commanded to love others, and that love is choosing to live a life of self-sacrifice for all others at all costs. Today, I would suggest to you that it is impossible for you and me to love everyone all the time. The good news is that when we fail to love even our enemies, we have access to forgiveness (1 John 1:9). The great news is that even though it is humanly impossible, because we are in the Father, in Christ and in the Holy Spirit, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26; Luke 1:37; 18:27; Romans 8:9; 1 Peter 5:14; 1 John 2:24). Possible, but not probable. Therefore, the less than perfect Christian will live a life that is sort of like a roller-coaster: we love, we fail to love, we confess, we love, we fail to love, we confess. We are constantly in and out of fellowship with God and always will be in this life (Romans 7; 1 John 3:2). "It is Friday, but Sunday is coming."

I have struggled with guilt my whole Christian life. When I first accepted Christ, I loved everybody. But it didn't take long to discover the old me still existed. Religious people were the first I found it difficult to love. Notice I didn't call them Christians. They may or may not have been, but they sure knew how to quench the Spirit in me. Then there were the family members. I don't think I had better go there, on the chance that one of them will actually read one of these posts. I soon discovered that I had new enemies. As long as I was lost, we got along just fine, but as soon as I accepted Jesus, I was no longer a friend but merely someone to avoid. I read the Book of First John and as a new Christian, I began to doubt my salvation; I found it impossible to love. I pleaded with God to fill me with the Spirit that I might produce fruit, but I didn't seem to get what I longed for. I was miserable. Then it happened.

A friend of mine and I went to minister to a woman recently widowed. She had three children and in addition to her loss, she had no income. I watched as he sat at the kitchen table going over her bills. All of a sudden, I was so filled with grief, I had to leave the room. As I sat on the floor of the dining room sobbing uncontrollably, he rushed in to see what was going on. I told him I didn't know between sobs, and he asked what I was thinking about when overcome. I told him that listening to her, I felt so helpless because her situation seemed so hopeless. It was then I heard the Lord speaking to me. Yes, I know what you are thinking, but I don't care. He said to the best of my memory, "You wanted to love like I love, but you are not able to handle it. I will teach you to love a little at a time, or you will be overwhelmed. Trust Me."

I still don't love like Christ loves, but I know that He isn't surprised or disappointed. He knows me. He knows my heart, and He loves me. He will work to change me until I see Jesus face to face; then I will do the impossible, I will always love (1 John 3:2)! Oh, come Lord Jesus!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I am sure I shocked a few readers yesterday when I said that a Christian can do whatever he or she wants, that doing the things that get us called "hypocrites" are not forbidden, and that Christians are not bound by the Law. So, if anyone is still out there reading this, thank you for either understanding what I was saying, or for your tolerance. For those who stopped reading at that point, I went on to say that just because ALL things are lawful (1 Corinthians 10:23) does not mean we can actually do as we choose; it means that our choices must be motivated by love for others (the rest of the chapter). But, what exactly is love?

Love is choosing to live a life of self-sacrifice for others at ALL costs. Biblical examples abound, the chief of which is the love of the Father sending His Son, and the Son's willingness to come (John 3:16; Philippians 2:5-8). Stephen's prayer is another (Acts 7:60). Jonathan loved David. The father loved his prodigal son. Paul loved the Jews, and he wrote an entire chapter on the subject (1 Corinthians 13).

In my life, the person who stands out was my grandfather. For the last twelve years of my grandmother's life, she was bedridden from Parkinson's Disease. He clothed, fed, bathed, and changed her, totally without help, never leaving her side. When she died, in my ignorance, I thought she was certainly better off, and at last, he could go to church, go to the store, visit friends, etc. Instead, he literally died soon after from mourning over his love of more than fifty years. And, love is seen in the examples of Sister Theresa, in five missionary families that continued to love those that killed their husbands and fathers, and in the wounded soldiers who refuse to return to the States because of their love and concern for those in their unit.

The Law of God is the definition of love. Jesus said that the entire Old Testament could be summed up as defining love (Matthew 22:40). Paul said, "For ALL the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Galatians 5:14). John said love is the total message (1 John 3:11), it is THE commandment (3:23; 4:21), we love by obeying the commandments (5:2), and he declares that living by the commandments is the very definition of love (2 John 1:6)! The commandments are no longer legally binding on me, but obedience to them is how we love God and our neighbor. I am free to love.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


The unbelieving world is constantly watching Christians looking for that "Ah-Ha" moment. It is as though they cannot wait to catch one of us sinning. They are well versed in "the rules" Christians must follow, and they are seldom disappointed. Catching a Christian doing what they believe is wrong (for us, not them) gives them great joy. It allows them to use their favorite word for us, "hypocrite," and it provides justification for their rejection of Christianity. Few have read the Bible, so how did they come to their understanding of our moral code? The answer is obvious; they have heard Christians protest their behavior. Over the years, we have condemned a long list of sinful behaviors, and although they totally disagreed, they listened.

Unfortunately, the loudest and the most judgmental are the ones that have the world's attention. Just as in the days of Jesus, the Church has its own Pharisees and Sadducees. There is nothing new about this. Paul had to make a trip to Jerusalem (Acts 15) and he had to rebuke the believers in Galatia for legalism (Galatians 3:1-5). Throughout its history, the Church has focused more upon controlling society's behavior than on winning the lost. It is the Good News (the Gospel) that changes individuals, not legal restrictions.

Sin is the manifestation of man's selfish character. The Bible defines it two ways: things that a person does that are contrary to what he or she believes is the right thing to do (Romans 14:23), and things that a person knows he or she should do, but doesn't (James 4:17). In both cases, sin has to do with what the individual believes. It is not universal truth which applies to everyone. Paul declares that the Law no longer applies to the Christian. He says, "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient; all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not" (do not build up the brethren - compare 1 Corinthians 10:23 with Romans 14:19). A Christian is free to do whatever he or she wishes as long as it does not offend others or cause them to join in against what their conscience tells them is wrong (1 Corinthians 10:23-33). Our religious nature constantly tries to bring us back under the bondage of the Law (Galatians 3:1-5; 4:9-11).

So, does that mean a Christian can do whatever he or she wants? No! There is a law that is binding on all who would seek to please God through obedience. It is the Law of Love. "For brethren, ye have been called unto liberty, only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For ALL of the Law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Galatians 5:13-14; compare with Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 6:43-48; 7:12; 22:40; Romans 13:8-10; 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13; and 1 John 3:23). Love is putting another first; sin is putting oneself first. Go and sin no more!

Monday, April 12, 2010


I recently saw a short film on YouTube called "It's Friday." Apparently there are several versions, but they all depict the powerful metamorphosis that took place in just three days nearly two thousand years ago. The film might be summarized by saying that Friday represents the day Christ was crucified, when the world rejoiced and the Devil danced in victory, only to become terrified the following Sunday. The narrator does an awesome job and throughout the three minute film, he keeps reminding all who will hear that it is only Friday; Sunday is coming! The Church Age is like Friday, its only Friday, Jesus is Coming!

No one knows how many years will have passed between the two events, but not a day passes without the world demonstrating its hatred for our God and for us. God's children have been tortured and killed throughout the entire Church Age for having faith in Jesus Christ, and today is no different. We seldom hear of the atrocities that occur in many nations around the world, but there has been a consistent effort made to rid the world of both Jews and Christians. Genocide and ethnic cleansing are very common in many parts of Africa, but occur to a smaller degree all over the world. Don't you wonder why so little is mentioned of these slaughters in the media? Even when the media does tell of hundreds and thousands being hacked to death or starved, nothing is said about who is doing it, and the identity of the victims doesn't seem important to them either. Just a hint: our President says that Muslims are a people of peace; that ought to tell you as much about his knowledge as it does about his Christianity.

None of this comes as a surprise to Christians who study the Word of God. Jesus repeatedly spoke of persecution that was ahead for His followers. It boggles my mind that they thought He had come to take over the world and establish peace forever, even after the Resurrection (Acts 1:6), but that doesn't occur until "His Coming - The Sequel." In the mean time (pun intended), the persecution of believers has been "as advertised." John 15:18-19 teaches us that the same hatred that motivated the slaughter of our Lord would be aimed at His disciples. In His prayer just before going to the cross, Jesus prayed for His Father to protect us from evil. I had always thought that He meant to protect us from harm, but after studying the History of the Church, and after hearing of the atrocities that are occurring on a daily basis around the world, I have come to a new understanding of the meaning of His prayer. He wasn't asking God to physically protect us, but to protect us from becoming like those that hated us, to protect us from evil itself. In Matthew 6:13, Jesus is not teaching us to ask God for a hedge of protection, but that we won't be tempted to respond in kind! He had just taught them to love their enemies and go the extra mile (5:37-48). WOW! How could I have gone through Bible College, Seminary, and heard forty years of preaching and never seen this? We should pray for God's protection from our nature when we face trials and persecution from the world. Jesus said those would come (John 16:33). The victory we need is over ourselves, not our enemies. Lord help us to live in unity that together we can show forth Christ until He comes!

Sunday, April 11, 2010


I heard a great sermon this morning from Southeast Christian Church. The preacher was equating a person's attempt to meet God's standard of holiness by personal effort, with someone setting up a computer using a power-strip, and after plugging in the various components, then plugging the power-strip into itself. Mankind has developed hundreds of religions, each having step-by-step instructions on how to become and remain holy. Every single one of them teaches that the power to satisfy their god's requirement(s) is found within oneself. They all say that the secret to achieving oneness with their god is found in personal discipline. But what does the Bible say?

The power to become born again or to be saved is found in hearing and believing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Romans 1:16 says, "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Gentile or non-Jew). Salvation is not possible without faith, and the Word of God says that even the faith to believe the Gospel is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Personal discipline does not work, even after being saved; Paul describes the struggle a Christian has living for Christ in Romans Seven. And while he admits being unable to live a Christlike life, he is not discouraged, because he knows the transformation necessary is also the work of God (Philippians 1:6; 2:13). Both salvation and sanctification (being set apart by and for God) are the work of God Himself. If there is any glory received due to one's changed life, it all belongs to God!

Some may think that the Gospel referred to above is the first four books of the New Testament, the four Gospels. It is found in them, for sure, but Paul has simplified, or better yet, summarized the Gospel for us in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. He reminds the Corinthian Church that the Gospel they have believed has three parts, all essential to produce salvation: Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; Christ was buried (according to the Scriptures); and Christ rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. That's it in a nutshell. Romans 10:6-13 says that whether Jew or Gentile, whosoever calls upon the name of Christ, believing that He is their risen Lord, shall be saved. Paul said that the preaching of the cross was foolishness to unbelievers, but that it was the power of God resulting in salvation to those who believe (1 Corinthians 1:18).

The Christian life begins with God's power revealed by God and believed by man. The God Who created us, tolerated us, sacrificed Himself for us, and drew us to Himself, loves us! Jesus rose from the dead to show us that the payment for our sins was finished, and that His sacrifice satisfied His Father Who raised Him to life. He rose from the grave and ascended to His Father so He could send us the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that worked in Him (Luke 4:14; Romans 15:19) now dwells within every born again believer (John 14:17; Romans 8:9). By having the Holy Spirit within us, we are "plugged in" to the only true source of power: God. Only a fool would forget his source and "plug in" to his own power to live for Christ (Galatians 3:1-3). To Him be the power and glory forever. AMEN

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Two days ago (Thursday), I confessed that I am drawn to "cops and robbers" television shows. I mentioned that the law enforcement folks were always looking for evidence that a suspect had the means, the motive, and the opportunity to commit the crime. That started me thinking about the effectiveness of the Church in reaching the lost for Christ. Please do not think that I am equating soul-winning to criminal activity. On the contrary; I am saying that a lack of soul-winning is more like criminal "inactivity."

Soul-winning is not merely a New Testament phenomena. Proverbs 11:30 says, "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise." Fruit is evidence of the identity of a tree, and it contains seed. In the parable of Jesus, seed was defined as the Word of God (Mk 4:14). The fruit of an apple tree bears seed that becomes another apple tree; the Christian bears seed that will "grow another Christian." That is why Jesus told His disciples to go teach, baptize, and nurture "their offspring" (Matt 28:19-20).

Long after Saul of Tarsus became the Apostle Paul, he wrote that one becomes a born-again believer when he believes that Jesus is his Lord, and that God raised Jesus from the dead (Rom 10:9-10). Then he asks a logical question: how can a person believe something they have not heard? After all, faith can only come when one is exposed to the Word of God. A soul-winner has to share the Word of God. There are a variety of ways this can be done. Money can be spent on printing of Bibles or other materials containing the plan of salvation. Printed materials, such as Gideon Bibles, can be distributed. A person can tell others about how the Word of God changed their life. If called of God, a person can become a preacher, evangelist, Sunday school teacher, or a missionary. Today, some of us have access to audio and video recordings, radio, television, the internet, magazines, and newspapers. We have the means.

There are several good reasons that we should witness for Christ. One, He told us to. Two, we want our loved ones to experience their own relationship with the Savior. Three, we want our neighbors and co-workers to experience their own relationship with the Savior. Four, we receive a joy unspeakable when we see someone we told about Christ respond in faith. We have the motive.

Based upon all of the means available to us in this generation, and realizing that of all people, we have the freedom of speech and print, it is impossible to say, "I didn't have the opportunity." There is a whole world out there that needs to hear the Gospel, and believe it or not, the Holy Spirit is opening doors for YOU to share it with individuals. Having your sins confessed, having studied the Word of God, having prayed for the Spirit's direction and help, you and I definitely have the opportunity.

The question is, will we witness for Christ, or will we be guilty of "criminal inactivity?" It is up to US!

Friday, April 9, 2010


Have you ever had a song "stick in your mind?" Throughout the day, you find yourself "singing it" even though you do not know all of it. And what is amazing, you don't have to hear it to begin thinking about it in the first place; it just shows up. The song can be something silly, something sentimental, or something quite spiritual. I have had a song with me for the last day or so, and because I am beginning to know how to use my computer well enough to look it up, I discovered it was "Praise the Lord" by Russ Taff. The song is a proclamation of victory over Satan based upon the finished work of Jesus Christ. I find myself praising the Lord every time I "hear it."

I decided to look up the song's premise (God inhabits the praises of His people) in the Word of God so I could write about it today. Much to my surprise, none of the word combinations took me to a Bible verse. After changing "inhabits" to "inhabiteth," etc., I finally found Psalm 22:3. Although the wording is not exactly as I had remembered hearing it quoted, it was the verse. "God inhabitest the praises of Israel" was the actual wording. Of course, "Israel" and "His people" are not the same thing (yes, I know, the nation of Israel is His people). I began wondering if the verse applied to the Church. As a dispensationalist, one can not be too careful, what with the constant danger of falling into the "Replacement Theology" trap and all.

The Lord answered that question by reminding me of something that happened a few years ago when I was leading a Chapel Service for the Christian high school where I taught. In the nine years of weekly services, no other service matched the response of the students that day. I had decided that instead of preaching a sermon, I would read a verse of Scripture about praising God, and then pause for a student or two to share a praise testimony. Ironically, I began with Psalm 22:3 and I will never forget what followed. Student after student stood and praised God for something he or she knew He had done for them. Students that I was sure were wasting their time attending a Christian school stood and, some with tears and difficulty keeping their composure, honored God for His goodness. Many were openly weeping as I am doing now as I write this. After running far past time for lunch, there seemed to be and end to the testimonies, so I gave an alter call to come, kneel, and pray. I am guessing, but of the nearly two hundred students, at least a third came. The weeping continued, and lives were changed that day, especially mine!

So, I pray that Russ Taff's song will continue to pop up. He really does inhabit the praises of His people, both those of Israel and those of the Church. "Praise the Lord - He will work for those who praise Him; Praise the Lord - for our God inhabits praise; Praise the Lord - for those chains that seem to bind you, serve only to remind you, that they fall powerless behind you when you praise Him." Praise the Lord!

Thursday, April 8, 2010


I hate to admit it but I really like "cops & robbers" shows on television such as Law and Order, CSI, Criminal Minds, and my favorite, NCIS. Apparently they are very popular with others as well, because there are now several spin-offs. I suppose the attraction has a lot to do with good writing, good acting, and the fact that the good guys eventually win. Regardless of whether or not a person is a Christian, viewers want evil to get what's coming to it. We want justice to prevail. In watching these shows for years, I have noticed that the District Attorney always wants the conviction handed to him or her on a silver platter. Yes, means, motive, and opportunity to commit the crime are still important, but a confession seals the case. "You have got to get him to confess!" So the detectives tell the suspect that they have enough evidence to put him away for the rest of his life, but that if he confesses, the judge may be lenient. They say, "You might as well confess and make it easier on yourself."

Christians are also called upon to confess. A Christian must confess his or her sins to God in prayer in order to regain a good standing with God (1 John 1:9). There is also evidence that confession of one's sins to the elders has something to do with whether or not a sick person is healed (James 5:14-16). So, if a Christian wants to be healed, or if he wants to regain a right standing with the Lord, he is required to confess his sins. He "might as well confess," if he ever wants to walk in the Spirit again.

While confessing to criminal activity or to sins is something both Christians and non-believers have in common, there is another type of confession that provides a much greater benefit to an individual. In order for a person to be saved from the consequences of their sins, they need to have God's forgiveness. Simply confessing to being a sinner does not change anything. It just means I agree with God that I am lost. No, in order to have my sins removed by the blood of Jesus, I need to make another kind of confession. I need to confess that Jesus is the Son of God (1 John 4:15). I need to confess that Jesus has come in the flesh (1 John 4:2). I need to confess that I believe that Jesus is Lord (Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:8; John 9:22; 12:42). Romans 10:9-10 tells us that if we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, we will be saved. Obviously we have to really believe and allow Him to be what we confess Him to be: our Lord. Simply saying it does nothing to alter one's lost condition (Matthew 7:21-22; 25:11; Luke 6:46).

The Word of God makes it quite clear that every person that has ever lived will, one day, confess that Jesus is the Son of God and worthy to be called Lord. Philippians 2:9-11 says that every knee should bow and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Trust me, if God says something should be done, He will see to it that it is done! So the only question is, are you willing to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and confess Him now, or is God going to have to make you do it at the judgment? It is going to happen. So you might as well confess now while it will improve your life and assure you of an afterlife. When you believe, make sure you tell somebody. It matters.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Yesterday, the Lord reminded me of how His Word (Luke 12:11-12) had given me peace in the face of an accusation that could have sent me to prison, or worse, could have ruined my testimony for Christ. I prayed as I had never prayed before, and there came a peace over me as I knew the outcome was totally in His hands. Within hours, my accuser admitted he had made the whole thing up, and to this day, I have not worried about life or death. I am His. The Bible provides wisdom, courage, comfort, and assurance to those who trust in Him.

Christians are warned to walk in the Spirit so that we do not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Galatians 5:16), and again to live in the Spirit as we walk through this journey called life (Galatians 5:25). Before each of these admonitions to live surrendered to the Spirit's direction, there is something quite interesting. In Verses 13-14, the Lord provides us with the understanding that all of the Law, all six hundred plus individual laws including to love the Lord, are fulfilled when we walk in love toward our neighbor. Because that seems impossible, He then tells us how to accomplish it: walk surrendered to the direction of the Holy Spirit (v. 16). That is followed by a check-list of things that are of the flesh, and of things that are of the Spirit (vv. 19-22). How do I know whether I am walking in the flesh or in the Spirit? Check the list. Is what I am doing motivated by love for others, or is it for my own sake (v. 26)?

Having the right motive as we walk through each situation is very important, but it is just as important, perhaps even more important that the "neighbor" recognize the sincerity of our motive. For that, we need to allow the Spirit to do the talking. I believe that can only be accomplished when I have my sins confessed and I am walking in righteousness (1 John 1:5-10). Righteousness comes when unrighteousness departs. Repentance and confession of sin cleanse us, leaving us righteous. The two conditions are like light and darkness; only one can be true at one time, and when one leaves, the other returns. That of course only applies to those who have been born again having Christ's righteousness in the first place. What has never been there can not return. You must be born again.

My neighbor may not react in a way that demonstrates he or she understands my motive, but if I am walking and talking as the Spirit leads, the Spirit will take what is said and use it to convict or encourage the one for whom He has given me a burden. Having Bible knowledge and thinking I am able to accomplish change in someone is, not only arrogant, it is almost blasphemy. To think I am so righteous that I don't need to walk and talk in the Spirit will result in failure every time. And no matter how well-meaning I am, the person to whom I speak will recognize the difference between the fruit of the flesh and that of the Spirit. If I am speaking in the flesh, I may regret the change in my neighbor (Acts 19:13-16). The Spirit always speaks the truth in love. I usually speak the truth in anger. Father, forgive me for my self-righteousness!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


The ability to remember can be a wonderful thing. My memories of my grandfather's love for me and my grandmother are golden. On the other hand, memories of the rest of my childhood bring great sadness, and for many years, anger. But time and the grace of God have done wonders to take away the negative. When I became a Christian nearly forty years ago, I was taught that I was to forgive, and the Lord used Christ's words on the cross to help me; "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." I realized that my parents did what they believed was best, just as I had with my children, and had any of us known the damage we were doing at the time, we certainly would have made different choices. I was able to forgive them, and I was able to forgive myself. Perhaps that is an indication that I have become a little more Christlike since God says He will forgive and remember no more (Isaiah 43:25). I am still working on the "remember no more" part.

God has given us the ability to remember so that when times are difficult, we are able to look back and remind ourselves that He has never failed us in the past, so we can trust Him to get us through our present problems. The Feasts of Israel were designed by God so that Israel would remember what they represented in their past. Hundreds of years later, Christians would come to understand that they were a picture of Christ's First and Second Comings. In Exodus 12:14-24 and 13:3-10, Moses was told that Israel was to remember what He had done for them. Again, Joshua was to have the leaders of the twelve tribes to each remove a stone from the dry Jordan River and place them together as a memorial of the day the Lord dried up the Jordan for them to cross (Joshua 4:1-7).

Christians celebrate the birth and the resurrection of Jesus out of love and gratitude, even though the Lord did not instruct us to do so. He did tell us to baptize and to partake of the Lord's Supper which help us remember His death until He returns (Romans 6:4 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). There is some irony in the fact that the two holidays we chose to celebrate have become something more about ourselves than about Him. On the other hand, Baptism and the Lord's Supper are very spiritual events.

A few years ago, I was the Principal of a Christian school, and as such, I was responsible for disciplining children for making wrong choices. I was also responsible for the hiring and firing of teachers. It almost felt like there were lawyers surrounding the school instead of demons. I never knew when I would get a letter informing me of some terrible decision I had made. I had to trust that the God Who had brought me to that place and had given me that ministry, would do as He always had in the past. I trusted Him to honor the promise Jesus made concerning wisdom on how to answer when accused (Luke 12:12). When my worst fear finally happened, I remembered His promise, and even though I praised Him for delivering me, I praised Him more for the peace I had while facing those determined to destroy my testimony. Memory is good!

Monday, April 5, 2010


The term "devolution" is apparently rarely used in our culture because I do not believe I have ever heard it before. Of course, everyone has heard of "evolution," true evidence that Satan is better at communication than is the Church. While evolution is the false belief that inanimate material changed into living matter, which in turn, changed over time into progressively more advanced plant and animal life, devolution describes the opposite effect of time on something. Within what man worships as "science" (1 Timothy 6:20), there is no law that supports the concept of evolving to a higher degree of complexity, while there is a law that contradicts the idea of evolution: the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The First Law says that matter can neither be created nor can it be destroyed (which necessitated the theory of the Big Bang). The Second says that everything that exists is in the process of decay, or becoming less complex. It seems that Science doesn't play by its own rules.

The devolution of faith describes how, over time, the Word of God has become almost powerless due to several factors. Satan, with his minions of demons and unbelieving men, has continually attacked the validity of the Bible to the point that a recent survey showed that over fifty percent of "conservative Christians" believe there is more than one way to go to heaven. That proves, if nothing else, that the Word of God is being rejected as absolute truth by well over half of Christendom as a whole (John 14:6; 17:17). Along with "scientific" challenges, clergy committing atrocities, and hundreds of denominations declaring theirs is the only true church, there has been a large number of Bible "versions" published which disagree on the text. And even if a local church picks a version that it believes is the most accurate, the preacher continually says that it is a mistranslation from the original language, and that he is competent to correct it. There is little wonder that the world has become so hardened toward the truth.

Well, be of good cheer my brothers and sisters. None of this has caught the Lord off guard. In fact, He tells us through Timothy that this is to be expected. In 1 Timothy 3:16, the Lord says that the truth of the Gospel "is without controversy." When Paul wrote this passage, the Church was in agreement concerning the Deity of Christ and the truth of His Gospel. However, in the next five verses, he describes the expected devolution of faith. "In the latter times" refers to just before Christ returns. False interpretations of doctrine, coupled with a neutralized conscience, will not only hinder evangelism to a lost world, it will destroy churches from within. (So much for the Post-Millennial and Amillennial views.) So don't let resistance to your witness surprise or deter you. Be found faithful in sharing God's Word when He comes for you.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


We are told in the Word of God to only accept something as truth if there are at least two witnesses to verify it (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1). If there is only one witness, or the two or more witnesses do not agree, then the charge against the accused is not substantiated, and the case is supposed to be dismissed. It is strange that the religious leaders who insisted that everyone obey every law, scriptural and man made, held a trial at night and convicted Jesus without proper witnesses (Mark 14:55-59). One charge against Him was His claim to rebuild the temple in three days, and the irony is, Jesus did say that in John 2:19, but they couldn't even get their story straight.

Today, we have four Gospels which testify to the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. And while it is true that they present Jesus using differing emphasis and different words, the consistency of the four should be enough to convince the world that Jesus does still live. We sing a hymn in church that says "He lives within my heart." That is true of every born again Christian, but it does not testify to the resurrection of Christ in bodily form. For forty days, people touched Him, ate with Him, and listened to Him, because He was alive! Those witnesses had no problem accepting Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies concern the Messiah. They knew Him. As my pastor pointed out today in his sermon, the variety of scenes, activities, and people present to observe varied for forty days. Then they agree that He was no longer living on earth but was ascended to His Father. He suggested that if it were merely a mass hallucination, or some sort of spiritualizing of His presence, it would not have abruptly stopped. More importantly, had Jesus remained dead, His body would have been produced by His enemies to silence the talk of His resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:1-4 presents the Gospel message that all that occurred was "according to the Scriptures." Verses 5-8 list some of the occasions where witnesses stated they had seen the risen Lord. Notice it wasn't just by a few of His closest disciples who experience what were brainwashed to believe. He was seen by Thomas who refused to believe until he could touch the wounds (John 20:28). He was seen by disciples who had doubted the women's report that the tomb was empty (Luke 24:11). He was seen by two travelers who had given up on the One they had hoped was the Messiah (Luke 24:13-35). He was seen by the Apostles in the upper room (Acts 1:3-4). And He was seen by a crowd of over five hundred at one time, although the Bible doesn't tell us when and where (1 Corinthians 15:6).

Yes, there is enough evidence provided by a large number of witnesses to believe that Jesus was raised to life on that Sunday so many years ago. Now let me ask you a question. Are you a believer? Have you confessed Jesus as Lord and believed that God raised Him from the dead? Well, I am from Missouri. Prove it. Are there at least two people that will testify that they are certain that Jesus is your Lord? Someone has asked, "If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?" That is an excellent question. I hope and pray that the answer is yes.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Every born again Christian is in the process of becoming Christ-like through the work of the Holy Spirit. I doubt that any would disagree, but remembering that we also are in the process and have not yet arrived is another matter. James wrote about how easy it is to forget our own imperfections while insisting on correcting others (James 1:18-26). There is a vast difference between teaching the truth and attacking those who have yet to "arrive at our level." I have learned that I still need to learn. What I was dogmatic about yesterday has, on occasion, been wrong. Having had to "eat my words" has humbled me, and yet, I am afraid I still mistakenly believe I am the one with all the answers. What a fool. How does God tolerate my arrogance?

Every Christian would agree that God knows everything about us, but it appears that not every Christian is aware that they do not know everything about Him (1 John 3:2). I will be the first to admit that I do not understand the Trinity. I believe it, but I don't understand it. I do not understand why God loves everyone enough to die for them, knowing full well that most will reject His offer of forgiveness. I do not understand why God loves me; I have accepted Christ and yet I am so far from being Christ-like that I don't even love me! I cannot wait for the day when I actually am Christ-like and really know God even as I am known of Him!

Another doctrine that I do not understand is that Jesus was fully human and yet He was also fully Divine. It appears from Philippians 2:5-8 that Jesus "changed forms." He had been in the form of God, but He chose to take on the form of man. The text suggests that He was equal with God, but He became equal with man. I am fully aware of the doctrine of the hypostatic union, but I certainly don't understand it. How can the Eternal die? Why did He not know the answer to His disciple's question (Mark 13:32)? Why did He pray? Why did He say to His Father, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"

There is a lot more about my Lord that I don't understand than there is that I do. I do believe that Jesus was, is, and always will be God, and I also believe that as long as I am studying to show myself approved of God, He is pleased with me. At this stage in my knowledge of God, I believe that when the sky turned dark, the earth quaked, and the veil was torn from top to bottom, my Lord and Savior was separated from the Father by my sin. And being separated, He cried out trying to understand why He felt He was alone. His very next reported saying was, "I thirst." My question to you is, Was He thirsting for water, or was He thirsting for righteousness? Jesus taught that those lacking righteousness are blessed when they thirst for it (Matthew 5:6). I don't know the answer, but I do know that dogmatism is far less pleasing to God than is humility!

Friday, April 2, 2010


"This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, 'In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year; ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats. And ye shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month; and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening'" (Exodus 12:2-6). As Christians, we all know Who the lamb represents; it is Jesus, the Lamb of God, our Passover (John 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:7). But who chose Him to be our Passover Lamb? And when was He chosen?

John 3:16 tells us that the Father sent Him to die for us. Philippians 2:7-8 tells us that Jesus, Himself chose to be our sacrifice for sin on the cross. Luke 4:18 tells us the Holy Spirit led Him to preach the Gospel that included the cross. Revelation 13:8 tells us that even before the world was created, Jesus was already accounted as slain. The crucifixion occurred on the fourteenth of Nisan, four days after Jesus, the Lamb of God, was chosen on the tenth day of the month. But again, who chose Him?

Six days before the crucifixion, Jesus went to Bethany where He stayed with the family of Lazarus, and I believe He stayed two days before going to Jerusalem (John 12:1-11). On the tenth of Nisan, Jesus entered Jerusalem and two groups of people chose Him. The crowds chose Him as their King, not knowing their King would be put to death, and His enemies chose to have Him put to death rather than allow Him to ruin their livelihood (John 11:47-57). Again, the crowd being disillusioned when it became obvious that Jesus was not going to free Israel from the Romans, chose Jesus to die when offered the choice between Him and Barabbas (Luke 23:13-21).

People today are still being offered a choice. The Gospel has been preached. The Spirit has convicted hearts and provided the faith to believe. Now it is all up to us. Will you choose to recognize Jesus as your Lord and Savior, or will you choose to ignore God's tug on your heart, and continue being the god of your own life? The choice is really that clear: choose to repent of being your own lord and accept Jesus as Lord, or reject Him. Rejecting Him will not change what happened to Him, but it will definitely change what will happen to you. You are going to spend eternity somewhere; it is your choice. Time is short; won't you please choose Christ?

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Not long ago (March 23-26), I wrote a four-part series entitled "The Evolving Church Age." In it, I tried to explain how the Church went from being a small Jewish Sect, to becoming a large, divided monstrosity. While Christian understanding of the doctrines and prophecies in the Word evolved over time, the Church's regard for unity devolved into thousands of denominations, all believing they are right and everyone else is wrong. It has even gotten to the point where many believe only they are saved. I have met many believers, who upon finding out I profess to be a Christian, began asking my views on the doctrines that are unique to their "brand" of Christianity. Was I baptized? How was I baptized? Did I receive "the baptism of the Holy Ghost?" How often do you go to church and on which days? Does your church have elders, bishops, apostles, etc.? Only when I have answered every question to their satisfaction, am I accepted as a "true brother in Christ." Having met their standards, I can be assured of spending eternity with them. I am not sure I want to.

Recently, I had a facebook friend whose family member had died. In an effort to comfort and encourage him, I said that, assuming she was a Christian, the loss was only temporary and that he would spend eternity with her. His response was, "She was not a Christian. She was a Catholic." My heart went from hurting because a friend had lost a loved one, to hurting because that same friend had such a narrow view of what constitutes being a Christian. In his mind, Catholics are all going to hell. It is incredible that many denominations feel the same way about members of other denominations. While this phenomena has become epidemic within Christendom, it is not new. Paul ran into it in the divided church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 3:1-15). He had earlier helped reconcile Jewish and Gentile believers in Acts 15, and in Galatians 3:26-29. But, as they say, history has a way of repeating itself.

When I first became a believer in Christ, I also fell into Satan's trap by becoming "a discerner" of who was, and who wasn't saved. If a person held beliefs different from mine, like the obsessive compulsive person that I am, I set about "to convert" them to "the truth." Over the years, I have grown some in my understanding of God's Word and His children. I know that I am not going to change these folk's minds, and to even try would simply get me labeled as a liberal, or worse, as a heretic. In a way, I am glad that I understand this now, because I spend far less time trying to convert others to my view on doctrine, and more time on trying to reach the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

One of the reasons the Church has failed to reach the world for Christ is found in the Lord's prayer in John 17. Four times, He asks His Father to make believers unified. Verses 11, 21-23 declare it is our unity that convinces the world God loves them. So instead of focusing on what makes us divided, we need to focus on what makes a person a Christian: confession that Jesus is Lord, and the belief that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10). Period!