Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Following Christ and Killing Our Babies - Part 2: Christmas

She’s only a teenager even though she is engaged to an older man. Her family is not wealthy and neither is her future husband’s family. Both of them live in a small community. Her education has primarily been at home. Her fiancé has had some education but is now learning the trade of his father, namely, carpentry. Their life together holds no outstanding promise. It will be a life requiring sacrifice and suffering but it will be a life together.

But now the “gossip chain” is in full force throughout the town. The young girl is pregnant! As if that isn’t bad enough, the father is not the fiancé! Disgrace is upon her, her family, and her promised husband.

Remarks are being heard such as “How can she take care of a baby? She’s much too young.” “I bet the engagement is off now. She’ll be all alone. How will she provide for the child?” “Maybe she should get rid of the baby. She can’t afford it. She can’t take care of it. She won’t have a man to help her.” “Yeah, an abortion would be the best route for everyone.”

Such words and thoughts would likely be common place in 2008. I can almost visualize her parents secretly driving their young daughter to the local Planned Parenthood clinic for a referral (and maybe a voucher) to an abortion clinic. Or, perhaps the daughter runs away on her own to “take care of the problem.” Many in our country would think nothing of it and, in fact, agree wholeheartedly with her actions.

But, when we relocate this story to Nazareth in the Middle East, reposition it in time to 6 B.C., and attach the names of Mary and Joseph to the engaged couple, most of us see things in a different light. Mary was well aware who the father of her child was: the Lord God Himself! Joseph, initially deciding to divorce (break off the engagement) quietly to avoid shame falling on Mary, was convinced by God not to do so. But no one discussed abortion because all knew the unborn child was just that, a child. It was not a fetus but a baby. No matter how difficult the situation was going to be, the baby would be born. Praise God that was the case. If Mary had become pregnant under similar circumstances in the United States these days, the outcome may have been different.

Certainly the birth of Christ gives solid Scriptural support against the notion of abortion. Even before Jesus is conceived in Mary’s womb, the angel makes this clear. Gabriel announces to her “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (Luke 1:31). The word “son” is the direct object of both future tense verbs “will conceive” and “bear”. The conception of Mary’s baby is a son, not an it.

Scientifically, we know today this is true. The child’s sex is determined at the moment of conception. At that moment, you know the species and the sex. In Mary’s case the new offspring will be a human male. Despite the fact the conception begins with one cell, the result of that conception is finalized: human male. No matter its appearance, no matter how small, no matter it is within a woman’s womb, conception has resulted in a new human life.

For over 35 years in this country we have given people the right to kill this life at any point prior to its actual birth. Somehow we believe by doing so we are helping the expectant mother. Maybe so but at what cost? We are killing a human life no matter at what point during the pregnancy the abortion is performed.

The birth of Jesus is a testimony to the sanctity of human life. Jesus WAS a male child at the moment Mary conceived. Praise God she never considered or pursued a pro-death solution.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Deeply Worried Place

The headline on the “Money” section (section B) of Tuesday’s USA Today reads “Poll: USA’s a deeply worried place”. The subtitle of the article, written by John Waggoner, was “79% of those asked fear nation in for a depression”. The remainder of the article goes downhill from there. One paragraph discusses the impact of the economy on retirement:

“Another 62% said they were worried about having enough money for retirement. ‘For those of us getting closer to retirement, the stress level has increased dramatically because we have seen huge losses in our home values and our 401(k)/IRA balances’…”.

Well, I never think much about retirement since I don’t ever see myself doing so. Oh, I may change jobs or doing something less demanding that my present occupation but retiring? I just can’t seem to find that concept in the Scripture. As I read God’s Word, my retirement begins the day I find myself in glory with the Lord.

Be that as it may, my “worry” for our nation is not in its economic condition. Yes, the economy is bad when compared to the past few years. But what greatly concerns me about the United States may be found elsewhere in the same USA Today. Note some of the stories covered by Tuesday’s paper.

“The impeachment process begins for Illinois governor”
“Shoe thrower called hero, ‘hothead’”
“Vegas bets on its ties to Mob”
“Sect leader convicted of sex crime”
“Probe continues in Palin church fire”
“Relatives of toddler await word on remains”
“American security expert kidnapped in Mexico”

Unrighteousness abounds even in the good, old United States. The economic depression pales in comparison to spiritual depression our nation is in. Unfortunately (although Providentially!), our future looks no better. The Obama administration has publically made statements indicating our nation is headed toward more unrighteousness, especially in the realm of killing unborn children.

Perhaps part of our economic turmoil is the result of God’s judgment upon our nation for our growing wickedness. But, the bottom line is clear: America is in a spiritual depression and needs a mighty revival from God. Scripture says “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12). Let’s face facts; our nation no longer considers its God to be the Lord. If it has a god, it is the god of secularism, materialism, “me-ism”.

Those of us who truly know Jesus as our Lord and our nation’s Lord need to pray earnestly and continually for God to send a revival through our churches and across this land. The United States will never regain its place in the world as a “city on a hill” until it turns from its sin. For God has said, “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).

May God have mercy on each of us and upon our nation.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving to God in 2008

Certainly Thanksgiving Day in America is a special time for thanking the Lord for His many blessings. Since my Thanksgiving thoughts this year center on my family, I posted an entry in our family website here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Following Christ and Killing Our Babies: Part 1

“I’m a follower of Jesus Christ and also pro-choice.”

Oh, really? From this point forward, you will have to PROVE to me you are truly a follower of our great Lord and God Jesus Christ. I don’t believe you.

Personally, I am sick and tired of hearing remarks like these from individuals who simply want somehow to justify their support of killing our children by invoking the name of the Lord. Do you honestly believe Jesus Christ, if He were physically present at the moment a doctor (maybe I should say butcher) was performing an abortion, would support that action? How blind are you?

Over the coming weeks I will post entries in this blog arguing that a true follower of Christ will NOT support pro-death. Some things I am going to say are not going to be well received. But, in my opinion, this is the most critical matter facing our nation. True believers must return to the battlefield because the war is about to intensify. Our President-Elect has, both in word and deed, proven he will be the most radical supporter of the pro-death movement ever to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

“But I am a Christian! Abortion is legal in the United States and it is a matter between a woman and her doctor. There is no contradiction between my faith and my stance on life.”

HOG WASH! If you profess to be a child of the Lord and support pro-death policies and practices then I must conclude one of the following 3 possibilities:

1. You are truly born again but are ignorant in your understanding of what God says about life.

2. You are truly born again but are living in rebellion and disobedience before God by supporting death.

3. You are fooling yourself and are in danger of eternal punishment in Hell because you are not truly born again and are not a true follower of the Lord Jesus.

I see no other possibility. A true follower of our Lord who is seeking Him and who has studied the Scripture knows in his heart that abortion is immoral and sinful in the sight of God, PERIOD.

So, what I am going to do in subsequent posts is to look at each of the above possibilities. My next post will examine the Scripture and present the case against abortion based on God’s Word. Next, I will consult the Scripture to see what God says about His true children who, despite their knowledge of the Word, still support death over life. My third post will examine the Scripture to see who the true believers of Christ are. I suspect each of these “three posts” will consist of multiple posts.

My sincere prayer is those who are in the “pro-choice” camp and claim to be Christian would wake up and sincerely examine their position. I believe if they do, many will turn from being pro-death to pro-life. I also believe many will realize they are lost and doomed and will sincerely and truly repent and trust Jesus Christ for their salvation.

May God bless my efforts by preserving the lives of many Americans who are yet to be born.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Killing Our Unborn Children

Over the waning weeks of the Presidential campaign, God began to impress on my heart the issue of abortion even more deeply than before. I believe President-Elect Obama's stance on this issue may be a contributing factor to this growing conviction. Despite claims from his camp, it has been proven that our newly elected President not only supports abortion, he also supports partial-birth abortion (a technique never medically required from what I understand), and, even worse, supports not caring for babies who are born despite an attempted abortion (which I consider to be infanticide).

I have opposed abortion for as long as I can remember but my hatred of the practice has now increased. Exactly how I am going to express my growing opposition to "baby killing" is still not certain. However, I do expect to be more vocal in blogs and in letters, especially to politicians at all levels. Furthermore, I expect to be more "confrontational" to those who profess to be Christians yet support killing our unborn.

That brings me to my letter to the President-Elect which I e-mailed to him today. It is my opening political attack on abortion and calls for President-Elect Obama to lead the charge to ban the practice. I firmly believe my opposition to abortion is Biblical but, in this letter, I based my argument only on civil rights. Since my future arguments against abortion will likely find a home in this blog, I decided to include my letter to the President-Elect even though it contains no Scripture references. Future posts will clearly outline the Biblical arguments this evil practice.

November 5, 2008

President-Elect Obama,

Congratulations on your campaign and your victory! Your election is further proof of the greatness of the United States of America!

I did not support your candidacy and did not vote for you yesterday. Your past legislative record and your remarks throughout your career alarm me. I have written blog entries and letters opposing you throughout the past few months and will continue to oppose the policies you outlined in the campaign. Nevertheless, I respect you as my next President and will pray for God to give you wisdom in your position as the leader of the free world.

Your election fulfills the dream of the Civil Rights movement. The African-American community, once slaves to white Americans and often punished and even killed as such, have now seen America erase that dark spot in the election of one of their own as President. Praise God such racial slavery has been removed from our nation! But, Mr. President-Elect, there still remains a civil rights battle in our country. There are still those in the United States who are in bondage and at the whim of their masters. They need their rights restored and I call on you as President-Elect to make this your number one priority. The group to whom I refer are our unborn children.

Every day in our nation since 1973, 4000 unborn Americans have their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness destroyed because their mother exercises her “freedom to choose”. The life of the mother, rape, and incest account for a small percentage (less than 5%) of the abortions performed in our country. Thousands of unborn Americans lose their right to life everyday at the hands of a mother who doesn’t want to be burdened by them.

Mr. President-Elect, women do not lose their “right to choose” if the practice of abortion is ended. When women engage in the sexual act they exercise their choice and must accept the possible consequences of that act, namely, a new, unborn American.

I call on you, President-Elect Obama, to lead the charge in our nation to eliminate the barbaric practice of killing our unborn citizens and, instead, to restore their right to live equally with other Americans.


Bruce D. Walker
St. Charles, MO

Monday, November 3, 2008

Render to Caesar

And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. And they came and said to him, "Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone's opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?" But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, "Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it." And they brought one. And he said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" They said to him, "Caesar's." Jesus said to them, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they marveled at him. Mark 12:13-17
I briefly touched on this passage in my Sunday School class yesterday as we continued our quick exposition of the Gospel of Mark. Obviously, it was the Lord's providence to bring this text to our attention on the Sunday before election day!

This short incident contains so much which can be discussed. Yet I only pointed out a couple of items during class time.

1. Jesus certainly instructs His followers to obey their rulers (i.e., government). This makes sense because God has ordained the government ruling over us. Paul makes this quite clear in Romans 13 among other places. Jesus, being God in the flesh, understood this truth. We are to obey the commandments (i.e., laws) of our government except ...

2. ... when a government law is contrary to the law of God. Peter stated this argument concerning civil disobedience in Acts 5:29. The religious leaders commanded the apostles not to preach Jesus. Peter responded, "We must obey God rather than men."

3. In the first century, Caesar (and Rome) often commanded men to do things contrary to God's Word. Some of the Caesars demanded worship which, of course, Christians would not give to any but the one true God. Such situations resulted in many conflicts between authorities and the Lord's followers.

4. Obviously, conflicts should not arise when the laws of government are consistent with the law of God. In the Mark 12 passage, nothing in God's law forbids the paying of taxes to the government. So, Jesus commanded men to do just that.

5. First century Palestine differs from twenty-first century America, though. Jesus and His followers had no say when it came to who was Caesar or who occupied a seat in the Roman Senate. They could not prevent men who might be opposed to the Word of God from occupying those positions. But, in the United States, WE ELECT OUR CAESAR! Our government leaders are REPRESENTATIVES chosen by us! What a unique but wonderful blessing God has given us in terms of our government!

6. Therefore, when we elect OUR CAESAR, let's elect men and women who are most likely to lead and legislate in agreement with God's Word. By doing so, we reduce the likelihood of future conflicts, the necessity for civil disobedience, and bring glory to God as a nation.

Tomorrow is election day. Vote wisely for YOUR CAESAR!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Josiah and the United States

Perhaps it is a “stretch” to compare Judah and its ruler King Josiah to the United States and President Reagan, but, I must confess, that is one of the first thoughts to cross my mind when I was reviewing the life of this great king. The story of Josiah may be found in 2 Kings 22-23 and 2 Chronicles 34-35.

The Northern Kingdom of Israel had fallen to the Assyrians in 722 B.C. and, a few years later, threatened Judah. At that time, Hezekiah reigned as king. The Scripture notes “And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done” (2 Kings 18:3). Sennacherib led the Assyrians towards Judah and was threatening to take Jerusalem. Hezekiah prayed and requested the prophet Isaiah’s counsel on the matter. Isaiah responded that Sennacherib would not take the city. Sure enough, that night an angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrians and Sennarcherib plus his army returned to Nineveh.

Hezekiah, a devoted follower of the Lord, though, was followed by his son Manasseh, one of the most evil kings in the history of Judah. He ruled for fifty-five years and idolatry was very much the story of the nation. Manasseh’s son, Amon, took over the throne after his father’s death and the Scripture says “he abandoned the Lord, the God of his fathers, and did not walk in the way of the Lord” (2 Kings 21:22). His servants assassinated him and his son, Josiah, was appointed king at the age of 8.

Josiah began to seek the Lord at an early age (2 Chronicles 34:3) and, in the 18th year of his reign, the Book of the Law was discovered in the Temple. Immediately, Josiah instituted reforms in the land of Judah. 2 Chronicles 34 paints the picture:

Then the king sent and gathered together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. And the king went up to the house of the Lord, with all the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the priests and the Levites, all the people both great and small. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the Lord. And the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book. Then he made all who were present in Jerusalem and in Benjamin stand to it. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers. And Josiah took away all the abominations from all the territory that belonged to the people of Israel and made all who were present in Israel serve the Lord their God. All his days they did not turn away from following the Lord, the God of their fathers. (2 Chronicles 34:29-33)

Josiah would be killed in battle just 13 years later. Judah immediately fell back into sin and, twenty-two years after Josiah’s death, Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians destroyed the city of Jerusalem and took Judah as its prisoner.

Obviously, the revival under King Josiah was an outward revival. Did the King truly trust the Lord and follow Him? Yes, the Scripture indicates Josiah was sincere in his commitment to God. But the people were not as sincere and their return to sin following Josiah’s death clearly reveals the terrible truth: Josiah’s revival was an outward revival to them. Nothing changed in their heart.

Look at the text I just quoted. Note these two phrases: “Then he (Josiah) MADE all who were present … stand to it.” “All HIS days THEY did not turn…”. Judah experienced a national revival under King Josiah but, regrettably, they did not experience a true spiritual revival in their hearts. They remained far from God.

Every time I read this story, my mind quickly recalls the events of the 1980s. The United States had suffered greatly during the prior decade. We experienced the sin of Watergate and the resignation of a Vice President and a President. The war in Vietnam finally ended but not without significant human losses and civil unrest in the states. We elected a Washington outsider as President and soon discovered that was a mistake. Hostages were taken overseas and gasoline prices went up. And to epitomize the spiritual depravity of our nation at the time, the Supreme Court called the act of abortion constitutional. The United States gave its blessing to the killing of its own unborn. We needed a revival.

Then President Ronald Reagan appeared. Quickly, the outlook of Americans changed. Americans were proud again to be Americans. The Soviet nation clearly was on the downward path. The economy drastically improved for most citizens. There seemed to be a religious revival in our country during the 80s.

Our scenario sounds much like Judah. Reeling after Manasseh and Amon, the nation needed a Josiah and there he was. Reeling after the miseries of the 1970s, the nation needed a Reagan and there he was.

Unfortunately, the scenario after Reagan is much like the situation in Judah after Josiah. The revival under Josiah quickly waned because it had no spiritual roots. The revival in our country has waned as well because it had no spiritual roots. The evidence of this truth is the outward boasting of sinful acts you see in our country today: abortion, sodomy, “gay” marriage, boasting terrorists, business theft and so on.

We need a revival in our nation. We need a revival which will shatter the bondage of sin we see on all fronts. But such a revival must be a spiritual revival sent by our Lord and not simply a “national revival” from a politician or a political party. We need God to move in the hearts of His people bringing repentance and a renewal of their lives to His service. We need God, through His Spirit, to regenerate the hearts of many Americans who are without Christ resulting in their conversion to the Lord and their justification before God. Only when God brings about a true spiritual revival in America will we see an America which, once again, shines among the nations of the world.

Let us pray for our nation and for God to bring great, spiritual revival to the hearts of all Americans.

Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Christ in You

Thank goodness, the 2008 election is almost here and, therefore, almost over! Politicians have been running for office more than 18 months and I, personally, am tired of the whole affair. My understanding of the position of each Presidential candidate is stated elsewhere in my blogs so I need not repeat those. I have done what I can to convince others of the dangers of voting for various candidates and my concerns for our nation. My positions have been expressed in the blogs, verbally, and, possibly, in a local newspaper. All I can do from this point forward is to pray and to vote.

But I want to clearly state that I have absolutely NO HOPE that any of the Presidential candidates can rescue our nation from its road to destruction. Elsewhere, I have used the analogy of a locomotive racing down the hill toward oblivion. If we elect John McCain, he will try to put on the brakes to our runaway train and, possibly, slow it down just a bit. If we elect Barack Obama, he will throw the train into full speed forward and the end will approach much more rapidly. Yet neither candidate can stop our nation’s destruction and, even more importantly, turn it around and put it on the right path. There’s only one person who can do that: Jesus Christ.

Paul wrote to the Colossians the following phrase in chapter 1, verse 27: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The hope for any soul to ever be right with God is found only in the Lord Jesus Christ. Only He can take a life on the path to eternal darkness and turn it to the path of light. Only He can take a depraved sinner and declare him (and, ultimately, make him) to be perfectly righteous before God. Only Christ can accomplish the radical change each of us needs in our life so that we may be right before our Creator.

The same is true of any nation. God has ordained the government we have (Romans 13) but doesn’t promise it will exist forever. God’s intention is not that we rely on our government but that we rely on Him. God does not intend we place our hope in any man (including any politician) but that we place our hope in Christ. Our nation needs a spiritual revival, not a political one. We have lost our nation’s spiritual moorings.

So, after much research, analysis, and prayer, I will pull the lever for John McCain and Sarah Palin next Tuesday. But, no matter whether Senator McCain or Senator Obama is declared to be the President elect on November 5th, my hope for my personal salvation and for our nation’s future will remain firmly on my Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ.

May He be glorified even next Tuesday!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Began to Teach

My Bible reading yesterday brought me to John chapter 7 and Jesus’ encounter with the Jews (i.e., Jewish leaders) during the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. Early in the narrative, Jesus does not openly appear during the Feast and, by verse 11, the Jewish leaders are looking for Him. The following two verses grabbed my attention:

“When the festival was already half over, Jesus went up into the temple complex and began to teach. Then the Jews were amazed and said, ‘How does He know the Scriptures, since He hasn’t been trained?’” (vv. 14-15, Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Some observations I made as I read this text included:

(1) Jesus acts based on His schedule, not man’s. The Feast of Tabernacles lasted from the 15th to the 21st day of the Jewish month of Tishri (roughly our October) and the Jewish leaders were looking for the Lord. But Jesus refused to follow their desires and remained hidden until the middle of the festival. When the time was right, He appeared. Jesus always acts based on His schedule for He is the sovereign God.

(2) Jesus taught. Yes, at times Jesus healed, at times He helped others with physical needs and so should we. But over and over again in the Gospels, you see the focus of the Lord’s earthly ministry was one of preaching and teaching. He proclaimed to man their spiritual need and God’s spiritual provision, namely, eternal life through the Son. Teaching and preaching the Word of God is still a critical necessity in the 21st century because men, women, and children need to know how serious their spiritual condition is and how wonderful the grace of God’s provision is.

(3) Jesus taught the Scriptures. The Jewish leaders confirmed this fact with their response in verse 15. Jesus spoke the true Word of God. When we preach and teach our message is to be the Word of God and not our opinion. We don’t simply teach what we know others want to hear. Jesus could have done that when He taught in the Temple. He knew what the Jewish leaders believed and He knew He could earn their friendship and assistance by teaching what they taught. But Jesus was not in the Temple that day to earn friendships and popularity with the religious leaders. He was there to teach the Word of God no matter how it affected His listeners. Likewise, we are to teach and preach the Scriptures even if we know some who hear it will be offended.

(4) Jesus taught in such a way as to keep the attention of His audience. While this is not outwardly said in this text, I believe the implication is there. It would seem if Jesus’ teaching did not grab the attention of His audience, the response of the Jewish leaders would have been to ignore Him altogether. Who cares if He knows the Scriptures and teaches them if no one listens to Him. The amazement of the religious leaders at the grasp of Scripture Jesus has implies the listeners that day were, indeed, listening.

(5) The Jews were amazed. As I understand the text, the Jews were not amazed at what He said. They recognized He knew the Scriptures. What amazed them was Jesus had such knowledge of the Scriptures yet had no formal rabbinical training. They had attended such schools and were recognized as scholars. Yet here is one proclaiming the Scriptures without such training. How remarkable is that! Perhaps we should be a little more cautious when our pulpit committees reject individuals simply based on the degrees they have received according to their resumes.

Don’t you wonder what the Lord taught that day? The Scriptures are silent on that so we can only speculate. Could it be He used the festival to explain the passages in the Pentateuch which described the protection God gave His people during their wanderings in the wilderness? Such teaching, of course, would also remind the people of Israel’s sin of disbelief at Kadesh-Barnea which resulted in the 40 years of wandering. Such sin demanded a sacrifice and He would be the perfect, complete sacrifice. Perhaps He used the festival, which marked the completion of the harvest, as an opportunity to teach about the fields which were white unto harvest with souls. Or maybe He used the festival to teach how the peace and prosperity seen in the Feast of Tabernacles foreshadows the peace and prosperity which will come with the Lord’s reign on earth.

May the Lord guide me when I teach and preach in such a way that my message is only the Word of God and that the Holy Spirit would grab the attention of my audience and drive that message straight to the heart!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Economic Crisis

The United States House of Representatives approved a "bail out" bill today ending a fierce debate in our nation's captial over the past two weeks. I use the word "ending" quite loosely for the economic problems of our country are far from over. Personally, I was against such a "bail out" and had asked my representatives to oppose it. Nevertheless, both houses of Congress have approved the bill. No matter who is elected the next President, they will inherit quite a mess.

I briefly chatted with a work associate this week. He has been looking forward to retiring in a couple of years. Like most of us, his retirement package has been hammered hard by the activity on Wall Street these past two weeks. He told me he had cashed out his stock, taking quite a loss in the process. But he feared the entire economy was about to crash and decided to get what he could on the deal. Since I am no economic expert, I have left my investments alone. I'm certain that was probably not very wise but I decided just to ride this out.

My family is not wealthy despite the good salary I make. Raising my children and trying to provide for my family without being a complete Scrooge consumes lots of my funds. Also, contributing to the work of our local church as well as various missionary ventures requires significant investments. So, I have never considered retiring from working until the Lord makes it impossible for me to work. I am not complaining, just stating the facts. Accumulating money for retirement has never been a priority in my life. We are not wealthy and likely never will be.

So, in the midst of such turmoil as we have seen this month, it is easy to get caught up in the world's view of the situation and panic about our future. At times like these, we need to return to God's Word. Listen to Paul's Word in 1 Timothy 6.

Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. (1 Timothy 6:5-11)

Being rich is not necessary evil. Loving one's riches and living for them is.

Let us be satisfied with what the Lord has given us and make certain our number one goal in life is to glorify Him.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Ezra's Confession

My daily reading schedule took me to the last two chapters of Ezra. Of course, chapter 9 is Ezra's famous prayer of confession which most of us have read multiple times. However, reading this chapter 9 today made a deeper impression on me than in past readings. Perhaps this is because there are so many similarities in my life to those days in Israel. They had sin in the camp primarily due to the marriage of the chosen people of God with those of foreign backgrounds in direct disobedience to the commandment of God. They disobeyed and mixed the world into the things of God.

I certainly see this in the life of our nation. The Judeo-Christian background of our country seems to be crumbling more and more each day. The United States needs to repent and return to the faith of our fathers.

This mixture is also obvious in our churches, even those which profess to be evangelical. Some members sit in the pews who never exhibit any of the grace, mercy, or love of God in their lives. They do nothing which bears any evidence of God's regenerating work. And what can we say of those "members" who rarely attend worship or participate in our church's fellowship? Yes, there is a "mixed marriage" in many of our churches.

And I see this most clearly in my own life. How easy it is to permit the world to enter in and contaminate us even as we are trying to serve our Lord.

Therefore, I took Ezra's confession much more to heart during my reading today than I have in the past. Here is his confession for your reading and consideration (Holman Christian Standard Bible).

6 And I said:

My God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face toward You, my God, because our iniquities are higher than [our] heads and our guilt is as high as the heavens. 7 Our guilt has been terrible from the days of our fathers until the present. Because of our iniquities we have been handed over, along with our kings and priests, to the surrounding kings, and to the sword, captivity, plundering, and open shame, as it is today. 8 But now, for a brief moment, grace has come from the LORD our God to preserve a remnant for us and give us a stake in His holy place. Even in our slavery, God has given us new life and light to our eyes. 9 Though we are slaves, our God has not abandoned us in our slavery. He has extended grace to us in the presence of the Persian kings, giving us new life, so that we can rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem.

10 Now, our God, what can we say in light of this? For we have abandoned the commandments 11 You gave through Your servants the prophets, saying: "The land you are entering to possess is an impure land. The surrounding peoples have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness by their impurity and detestable practices. 12 So do not give your daughters to their sons in marriage or take their daughters for your sons. Never seek their peace or prosperity, so that you will be strong, eat the good things of the land, and leave [it] as an inheritance to your sons forever." 13 After all that has happened to us because of our evil deeds and terrible guilt—though You, our God, have punished [us] less than our sins [deserve] and have allowed us to survive — 14 should we break Your commandments again and intermarry with the peoples who commit these detestable practices? Wouldn't You become [so] angry with us that You would destroy us, leaving no survivors? 15 LORD God of Israel, You are righteous, for we survive as a remnant today. Here we are before You with our guilt, though no one can stand in Your presence because of this.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Stennett Family: Never Deviated, Never Compromised

Some of my reading time yesterday included a chapter from a work on the British Particular Baptists. The specific chapter was writted by B. A. (Benjamin Ashworth) Ramsbottom, editor of The Gospel Standard. He briefly covered four generations of the Stennett Family which I found fascinating. Four generations of ministers and devoted servants of the Lord from one family (Edward, Joseph, Joseph the younger, Samuel)! Actually, in 1950 Oscar Burdick wrote a dissertation on the Stennett family and included a fifth generation Stennett (Joseph V)! How I long for my family's history to be such servants even beyond five generations.

Mr. Ramsbottom's final two paragraphs provide an excellent summary of the chapter.

So we give thanks to God for the Stennetts, especially because of their faithful witness to the truth. They never deviated, they never compromised. Some of them were called to suffer, some of them had the greatest allurements to draw them aside, but they never deviated from the truth.
Their witness stretches over a period of a hundred and fifty years: first, the Civil War; then Commonwealth times, the times of the Puritans; then days of persecution; then times of toleration; then the Age of Reason, in which there was awful spiritual decline in Great Britain; finally the Evangelical Revival, and afterwards. Their witness stretched over all those times--a period of a hundred and fifty years. Learned, refined, honorable, above everything else godly, they were faithful to the truth as in Jesus. They never deviated, they never compromised.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Baptist History Celebration 2007

Recently I obtained a copy of “Baptist History Celebration 2007: A Symposium on Our History, Theology, and Hymnody”, a volume containing addresses given at the Tercentenary Anniversary Tribute to the founding of the Philadelphia Baptist Association. The conference was held at First Baptist Church of Charleston and had many speakers on several subjects.

Flipping through the pages just to survey the book, I stumbled onto the article “Transatlantic Patterns in Baptist Theology 1609 to 1800” by William H. Brackney. I turned to the final paragraphs of the article to see Dr. Brackney’s conclusion and read the following:

After more reflection and discovery of local congregational and personal theological data, and with the inclusion of multiple types of Baptists in England and North America 1600-1750, we can reach several ongoing conclusions. First, on both sides of the Atlantic in their early development Baptists were a theologically engaging people. The charge that we have no theology or that our theology is a poor version of someone else’s, must be permanently silenced. … We can go even farther and assert that early Baptists lie in the stream called the Reformed tradition (read Calvin, with a spoonful of Luther and Hubmaier) in contrast with other possibilities like the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, or spiritualist alternatives. What distinguished all of our theological reflection from the rest was our preoccupation with ecclesiology. … Baptists have felt deeply that such matters were not extraneous to the theological task but inherent in it.

There is a lot to discuss in that one paragraph alone and, one day, maybe I will do so.

I look forward to reading through this collection of what appears to be great pieces on Baptist History!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Reformation: A Revival of Religion

The study of the Protestant Reformation has been one of my loves since I attended the Criswell College many years ago. Yesterday, I completed reading "The Reformation: A Handbook" by T. M. Lindsay, first published in 1882, and found the work quite interesting and informative. In his closing chapters, Lindsay discusses the principles of the Reformation. One of his paragraphs grabbed my attention and I thought I would share it on this blog.

The church which ought to have shown the way into God's presence seemed to surround the inner shrine of his sanctuary with a triple wall of defence which prevented entrance. When a man or woman felt sorrow for sin, the church told them to go, not to God, but to a man, often of immoral life, and confess their sins to him because he was a priest. When they wished to hear the comforting words of pardon spoken, it was not from God, but from man, that the assurance came. God's grace to help to holy living and dying was given, they were told, through a series of sacraments which fenced man's life round. He was born again in baptism; he came of age in the church in confirmation; his marriage was cleansed from the sin of lust in the sacrament of matrimony; penance brought back his spiritual life slain by deadly sin; the sacrament of the Lord's Supper fed him year by year, and deathbed grace was imparted in extreme unction. These were not the signs and promises of the free grace of God under whose wide canopy, as under that of heaven, man lives his spiritual life. They were the jealously guarded doors from out of which grudgingly, and commonly not without fees, the church and the priests dispensed the free grace of God.

In that same chapter, Lindsay describes how the medieval church developed into the entity which prevented man's way to God. His discussion centered on Pope Gregory VII (Hildebrand), Francis of Assisi, the Mystics, and, finally, ended with Luther. Here is two of his summary paragraphs:

All down the stream of pious medieval life men and women had been yearning to get near God, but their yearning came out in different questions, and in each succeeding revival probed deeper. Gregory asked, How can I be separate from the world? Francis said, How can I be like Christ? The Mystics sighed, How can I have inward fellowship with God? Luther asked, How can I have the sense of pardon, and know that God has forgiven me my sin? ...

The Reformation revival of religion has this question of heart religion always before it, and always answers it in the same way. Men get pardon from God by going to God directly for it, trusting in his promise to pardon. God's free pardoning grace revealed in the Person and work of Christ, and man's trust in this promised grace, are the two poles between which the religious life of the Reformation always vibrates. God, for the sake of Jesus Christ, has promised to pardon his people's sin. The sinner trusts this promise. That is the simple religious aspect of the Reformation movement. All men who, having felt the need of pardon, and having perfect trust in the promise of pardon that God has given in Christ Jesus, go to him, and, casting aside all thought of themselves or of what they can do, simply rest on that promise and leave all to God, have the pardon and the sense of it.

Amen and Praise the Lord!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Hopkins: We Need Revival

My dear friend and brother in Christ, Pastor Creth Hopkins, has posted an article on his blog on the subject of our need for revival. This article has been published in their local newspaper. I encourage you to check it out!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Beddome: On the Love of God

I thoroughly enjoy the writings of the British Baptist pastor Benjamin Beddome. Here is a brief excerpt from his sermon on John 16:27 entitled “On the Love of God”. I hope you enjoy his thoughts.

Our love to Christ, therefore, cannot be the cause of God’s love to us, but is a stream flowing from it; his grace in regeneration produces it; his grace in sanctification preserves and increases it. Love, as well as faith, is the gift, the free gift, of God … If God had loved us no more than he does the devils, we should have remained the same enemies to Christ as the devils are. …

God’s love to us is infinitely superior to our love to Christ. The latter is mingled with coldness and indifference. Such is the imperfection of it, that the Christian often questions its reality; but God’s love is like his nature, boundless; as incapable of addition as it is of diminution.

pp. 19-20, Sermons: Printed from the Manuscripts of the Late Rev. Benjamin Beddome

Monday, August 18, 2008

Daily Bible Reading Programs

Over the years I have used several types of daily Bible reading programs, those programs designed to help you read the entire Bible in a single year. One I have used on several occasions is the program developed by Robert Murray M'Cheyne and published by Banner of Truth. Each day you will read from at least 4 different books (both Old and New Testament) and will ultimately read through the Psalms and the New Testament twice. I enjoy this approach very much.

This past Christmas one of my daughters purchased for me a Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), a newer translation I did not own. Just before the new year began, I ran across a Bible reading program by John R. Kohlenberger III, "Read Through the Bible in a Year". His approach follows the Bible chronologically. Not having pursued that approach before, I committed to use Kohlenberger's plan and my new HCSB for my 2008 Bible reading.

Today is August 18th and my readings are in Ezekiel. I have reached that time in Israel when the Kingdom of Judah falls to the Babylonians and is taken into captivity. As one would suspect, my journey so far has been exclusively Old Testament based. I do not begin the New Testament until September 30, though I would argue that part of John 1 should have been read in early January.

As I read, I mark those passages which jump out at me in one way or another. So my HCSB presently provides somewhat of a map of where I have been (and not been!). When I complete this year, it will reflect those moments in 2008 when the Lord impressed me while I was reading His Word. Of course, I suspect I will continue underlining in this translation during the coming years as well.

To date, the HCSB has been an enjoyable translation to read. However, I find the reading program somewhat burdensome. Let's face it. Even those of us who like reading the history of Israel, long for some New Testament from time to time! Waiting almost 10 months to reach ANY New Testament seems a bit too much.

So, while I will continue to use my HCSB in the future, I do not expect to embark on another year's journey through the Bible using a chronological approach. Once is quite enough, thank you very much!

Maybe I can find a reading program which reads the Old Testament and New Testament chronologically but at the same time. In other words, each day you read a bit from each Testament but do so in chronological order. That would be more tolerable.

Perhaps if such a program does not exist, I could develop my own.

If you have a favorite Bible reading program, I would be interested in knowing what it is.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Caution for Pastor Search Committees

While on the subject of Pastor Search Committees (see previous post), I want to issue a caution to such committees.

Usually a search committee will develop a "requirements list" for the church's future pastor. Often this list is based on perceived church needs or likes. One of the items normally on that list is some level of formal education. If you read search committee postings for potential pastors you will often read "Seminary graduate" or "Masters degree required" or something similar.

I have nothing against a committee having a "requirements" list or making education one of those requirements. However, I believe the true "requirements" list for a pastor is the one recorded in the Scriptures.

Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:2-7; ESV)

There is nothing here demanding the prospective pastor to have a formal education. Obviously, if he is to be an able teacher he must know the Word of God (not only factually but also theologically). Yet I have met many "uneducated" men who have a better grasp and understanding of Scripture than some seminary graduates. History confirms this truth. Probably the most notable example would be Charles Haddon Spurgeon. What a shame (or should I say sin?) if the "search committee" of the New Park Street Church had told C.H.S., "Sorry, but you have no formal education, no seminary degree, so our committee will not consider you for the position of our pastor."

Please do not misunderstand me. I am NOT arguing against formal education or seminary training. Rather, I am attempting to make the point that our search committees should look first to the Scriptures for the requirements of a pastor, not to their lists.

Perhaps instead of viewing the "requirements list" as requirements, maybe committees should take them as guidelines. The primary mission of the committee is to determine if the man being considered meets the requirements listed in Scripture AND if the Lord has called this specific man to be their next pastor.

No matter what approach a committee takes in attempting to discern the qualifications of a prospective minister, I exhort them to seriously question ANY candidate on their Bible knowledge and theological understanding of Scripture. Such a practice should apply whether the man sitting before them is a seminary graduate with a Th.D. degree or someone who has no formal education past the 6th grade.

Friday, August 8, 2008

"Manners" and Pastor Search Committees

As early as 2003 while serving as a bi-vocational pastor, the Lord put a burden on my heart to be willing to serve some congregation somewhere as a full time pastor. The burden became so great by 2005 that I submitted my resignation to the small church I was pastoring in order to help them transition to another pastor before the Lord put me in a full time position.

Well, it is now 2008 and the Lord has not opened the specific church door to me, YET. For these past 5 years, many church openings have been brought to my attention. With the internet, you can view such openings via a variety of searches. On any given day, you can locate dozens of full time Southern Baptist church pastor openings. Add to this the various Baptist papers and I could spend all my free time sending resumes to various churches in almost all states. However, I have refrained from operating this way.

When I become aware of an opening, I quickly pray about the situation. If I do not sense a response from the Lord, I disregard that specific opportunity. When the Lord does impress me about a certain church, I then spend some days praying about it. In a few cases these past 5 years, the Lord continues to convict me about these specific churches. I then send a copy of my resume to those churches.

Needless to say, while I have sent resumes to less than 1% of all the openings I have seen in the past 5 years, I have sent several. Therefore, I can say I have some experience with how pastor search committees treat such resumes.

Please note the following statistics based on my personal tracking:

  • Over 78% of my resumes never receive one word from the pastor search committee; no phone calls, no e-mail responses, and no snail mail letters.
  • 21.7% of the time I have received one response, the overwhelming majority of those are "no, thanks" (some of them, though, are simply notes telling me my resume has been received).
  • About 2.5% of the time, the pastor search committee has responded to me two or more times. Usually one of these contacts is to inform me my resume has been received and one of the other contacts informs me I am not being considered.
I find such percentages appalling! They indicate a disrespect for the candidate on the part of the search committee. By not responding to the individual, they leave the minister "hanging". Is this how we should treat the servants of God who are simply responding to the conviction the Lord has placed on their heart?

Since I am employed full time in the business world, I also have experience sending my business resume to various companies whenever I am looking for a new position. Secular corporations treat their applicants with much more respect. Companies have always responded with, at a minimum, two letters: one stating my resume/application has been received and the other indicating I am no longer being considered for the position. I can't think of one experience in my 35 years of employment contrary to this.

If you are on a Pastor Search Committee, you need to demonstrate respect for those servants of Christ applying for your pastorate. In some way, acknowledge receipt of their resume. Also, when your committee determines a given applicant is no longer being considered, notify the applicant of this situation immediately.

Church Pastor Search Committees should put secular employment departments to shame with their communication to the applicants. I exhort such committees to commit to communicating diligently with EACH applicant.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Sermons and Their Delivery #4: Plagiarizing Sermons (continued)

Having discussed plagiarized sermons with some who have done such plagiarizing, I know what one of the follow up issues will be: “What’s wrong with preaching someone else’s message if that individual has given us the permission to do so?”

My last post concluded that plagiarizing a sermon is stealing. Plagiarizing is stealing the structure, thoughts, and words from the individual who did the original work. But what if that author has told others they could preach his message with his blessing? Doesn’t that eliminate the “theft” aspect of plagiarizing?

It amazes me that any preacher would encourage another servant of God to preach his message. Maybe that’s because I don’t consider any of my messages worthy of repetition! Yet, some preachers have done just that. For example, Dr. James Merritt, a popular Southern Baptist pastor and past President of the convention, has a web site in which he sells sermons. Furthermore, at the Pastor’s Conference of the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention, he encouraged fellow pastors to obtain his Father’s Day message and preach it to their churches, noting it was not plagiarism since he gave them permission to use it. Oh, really?

I will admit a sermon is not plagiarized if (1) the author has given permission for its use and (2) the user informs his audience that the message is not his. Receiving the author’s permission does eliminate the “stealing” aspect of plagiarism. But what about the deceit of the speaker when he preaches this message to a congregation who believes the message is his? The violation of the 9th commandment is still there. If you intend to preach a message that is not yours, my fellow minister of Christ, then tell your congregation at the outset what you are doing.

Even if a man of God had the permission of the sermon’s author to preach it and informed his congregation what he was doing, there are several reasons for not using such a sermon. Allow me briefly to return to my earlier definition of a sermon:

… an exposition and application of God’s Word which has been internalized by God’s messenger and then delivered by that messenger to the people for whom it was intended.
First, is such a message really intended for the audience to whom it is to be given? Has God truly convicted His messenger to preach another’s message on that day to his flock? Certainly He could do this. In fact, maybe there are times when He does do this. But I am sure such a situation would be the exception, not the norm.

Second, has such a message truly been internalized by the messenger? He hasn’t done any work in preparing it (other than, perhaps, changing some illustrations, etc.) so how can it be a part of him? When he delivers it will the passion of the message be evident or will it be a fake passion he must add in order to get a response from his audience?

Third, how much praying has the messenger done over the message? Since the message is not a “part of him”, it would seem any prayers offered to God over it would be of the form “Help me to deliver this message in a convincing way” or “Help me to read this message clearly”. Is that how we pray over messages? I hope we go beyond praying just for the delivery and include praying for the message, its content, and its structure. Of course, with a “borrowed” message, who needs to pray for those things?

Could there ever be a situation where a pastor is forced to borrow a sermon and deliver it? I suspect there are times like that in the lives of some. If the preacher MUST proclaim another’s message then he should be certain he has permission and make it clear to his congregation what he is doing. But, as I said above, such situations should be few and far between.

For preachers who plagiarize sermons on a regular basis, I can see only two reasons why they do so. First, they have no idea how to construct an expository sermon. If that is the case then they should seek the necessary training. All of our seminaries have courses on this subject. Some local Baptist schools offer such training as well. And I’m sure there are area pastors who have this skill and would gladly guide another servant of God who asked them for help. Preachers, if you can’t put together your own message then seek training or get out of the pulpit!

The second reason for plagiarizing sermons is laziness. If you know how to build an expository message but simply don’t do so then you are lazy. Be honest. You will find time for everything else in life except the time (and labor) necessary to prepare the meal for your sheep. Maybe you stay in bed most mornings. Maybe you spend most of your time in the office involved in counseling sessions. Maybe you spend your Fridays on the golf course. If you are willing to put your energies into these aspects of your life but not into your sermon then get out of the pulpit!

I close this post once again appealing to those pastors who plagiarize sermons. Stop it, men! You are to be examples of integrity to your flock and the overwhelming majority of that flock understands that plagiarism is wrong. That’s why you try to hide what you do in the pulpit each week. It’s time to repent to God and to your people. Then you can return to the Lord’s Word with a pure heart and prepare the spiritual bread your flock needs for spiritual nourishment.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sermons and Their Delivery #3: Plagiarizing Sermons

The preacher was expounding Philippians 2:5-8 for his congregation. He proclaimed:

The fourth thing He set aside were His eternal riches. It would be impossible for me to explain how rich He was but I know what 2 Corinthians 8:9 says, it says He was rich but for your sakes He became … what? … poor. He was so poor, He said the foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head. I always think about John’s gospel where it says, "And every man went to his own house and Jesus went to the Mount of Olives." Why? He had no house. Poor.
What a great exposition! Maybe you are thinking, “I wish my preacher could preach like that!” Unfortunately, the man who proclaimed these words was not the author of them. With only minor modifications, these are the words of Dr. John MacArthur . My best estimate would be the sermon that morning was 80% of MacArthur’s sermon verbatim.

I regret to say this is not the only incident of its type I have personally heard. One year I heard an Easter Sunday morning sermon from 1 Corinthians 15:12-20 which described six gifts of the resurrection. The sermon was well delivered. However, the preacher was not speaking his own words. For the most part, the message was one delivered by Dr. John Piper on March 31, 1991 to his church.

Fellow ministers of the Gospel, this is plagiarizing pure and simple. Piper’s organization says:
The essence of plagiarism is to give the impression that the ideas or words of another person are actually your own. This can be done intentionally (in which case it is outright theft) or unintentionally but either way it is wrong.
One minister I confronted on this matter said he didn’t see anything wrong with it. He was simply borrowing from another’s work. To quote a sentence or two from another servant of the Lord in your message may be borrowing. To quote their message almost verbatim without noting your source is plagiarizing. I tried to convince him of this fact pointing out that any student of mine who submitted a paper which used the material of another author to the degree his sermon did would receive a zero for their paper because it was plagiarized. He was not convinced. Years have passed but I have since heard him plagiarize other messages.

Another “preacher” I once heard not only quoted the text of another minister but also used that minister’s personal illustrations as his own. He passed off the words and the experiences of another man as his! Yet, when I accused him of this, he did not deny it but neither did he admit to any wrong doing other than saying, “I no doubt could have done a better job of putting it in my own words.” Using your own words, doesn’t eliminate the plagiarism, brother!

One preacher to whom I pointed out his plagiarism noted, “As many pastors, finding enough time in a week is certainly a difficult thing.” Good grief, man, are you God’s servant or not? As a pastor there is nothing more important in your ministry than preparing and proclaiming the Word of God. If you can’t find the time to do so then you need to eliminate some of the other things in your life (e.g., your golf game).

Certainly there will be weeks when ministering to your congregation will reduce your sermon preparation time. But even then you are God’s chosen servant. You know His Word. Seek Him in prayer and trust His Spirit to use you despite your lack of preparation.

The first time I discovered a preacher plagiarizing another’s message, I was shocked. However, if you do an internet search today, you will discover many men are plagiarizing messages. Even The Wall Street Journal contained an article on this subject in 2006.

Plagiarizing is theft pure and simple. Those who commit this act are violating the 8th commandment (“Thou shalt not steal”). Furthermore, they are also violating the 9th commandment (“Thou shalt not bear false witness”) because they are deceiving their congregation by giving them the impression the words, the thoughts, the structure of the message they are hearing is that of the preacher when, in fact, they are those of another.

Having confronted some who are guilty of this sin, I know many of them will disagree with my last paragraph. They do not believe they are stealing or deceiving anyone. If you truly believe that, fellow preacher, then I challenge you to stand before your people with your plagiarized sermon this Sunday and tell them upfront what they are about to hear are the words of so-and-so. You won’t do it, will you? Why? You won’t do so because you do not want them to know the truth. Your conscience tells you what you are doing is sinful.

Brothers and fellow ministers in Christ who are guilty of plagiarizing your sermons: PLEASE CEASE THIS PRACTICE! I call on you to confess to the Lord your sin, ask for forgiveness, ask Him to help you prepare your own expositions, and then confess your faults to your people. If you cannot do so then you should step down from your pulpit. If your church confronts you on this matter and you will not repent then you should be removed on the grounds you are not proclaiming the Word of God. Rather, you are preaching the word of MacArthur or Piper or some other Christian leader.

Let us be true to God’s calling and preach His Word, not the words others preach about Christ. Let’s not be one of the seven sons of Sceva (Acts 19:13-16).

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sermons and Their Delivery #2

As noted in my earlier post, I see a sermon as:

… an exposition and application of God’s Word which has been internalized by God’s messenger and then delivered by that messenger to the people for whom it was intended.

While the sermon is an exposition and application of God’s Word, it carries the marks of its author as well. Two men of God may choose the same Biblical text, find the same principal theme in that text, and, possibly, even the same points of presenting that theme. Nevertheless, the sermon will reflect each man’s style, resources (internal and external references), education, background, etc.

Furthermore, many times the application derived from the text will also vary due to not only the difference in the authors but also to the difference in the recipients. Sermons will vary in their composition.

The same may be said when it comes to the delivery of that message. Each speaker will present a message differently. Some men are monotonic, some are not. Some men read their messages, others do not. Some will use extreme gestures, others may barely move. The Bible doesn’t say much about the actual delivery of the message. Certainly you would expect some passion if the sermon has truly been “internalized by God’s messenger” before being presented. But even the characteristics of those hearing the message may change the way in which the preacher actually delivers the message (e.g., a sermon I preach only to children will, most likely, be delivered differently than if I present it to a typical congregation).

Since the application of a message is primarily geared at the recipients of that message, is it ever appropriate to preach a “repeat” sermon? In other words, if God burdens you with a message to be delivered to a specific group at a specific time, should you ever preach that message at a future time?

Again, the Word of God does not directly address this matter. I haven’t found anywhere in the Scripture which forbids this practice. On the other hand, I have not found any text which supports it.

From a common sense perspective, it doesn’t seem to me to make much sense for a preacher to preach the same exact sermon to the same congregation. Repeating a message smacks of laziness on the part of the preacher. Yet, if God truly guides the preacher to repeat a message to the same congregation then I will not argue with the Lord. I suspect most church goers won’t even recognize a repeat sermon! Furthermore, most of us need to hear the same thing over and over until we get it. I would hope, though, this would be a very infrequent occurrence.

But what should we think concerning a preacher delivering the same sermon to a different congregation? While the application of a message should be directed toward the recipients of that message, there are several applications of Scripture which apply to virtually any congregation (e.g., the necessity of the sinner to repent and believer). Surely such a sermon could be shared by a minister to two different congregations.

In real life this is often done by ministers we call evangelists. These men usually have a collection of their messages they preach repeatedly to different groups. Since the primary thrust of sermons from an evangelist is for conversion, the application of their message would be appropriate for any congregation (or group).

Surely if God can lead a man to preach the same sermon to the same congregation more than once He can also lead a man to preach the same sermon to multiple congregations. Personally, when I preach I try to have a fresh word for the people to whom I am speaking. I have heard that was the case with Spurgeon as well. He did not believe in repeating a message.

But in lack of Scripture forbidding the practice, I cannot say a preacher should never repeat one of his messages. If God has given him that message, if it is expository, if it burns within his heart, and if its application is appropriate for those to whom he is delivering it, then so be it.

I do close with a warning to my fellow preachers. Take great care not to get in the habit of repeating your messages even to other listeners. If you do you will find yourself becoming lazy in your sermon preparation and your listeners may find they are being fed stale bread rather than a fresh word from God.

Next, a matter of great concern …

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sermons and Their Delivery #1

I have some thoughts on preachers and their sermons which I am going to share in this blog over the coming days. Some of what I say may be harsh but I believe it is Biblical and it needs to be shared.

Almost any book you pick up on the subject of homiletics will define and discuss the “sermon”. However, one of the best descriptions of a sermon I have ever seen is given by the prophet Malachi at the beginning of his message: “The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.” There are several thoughts I pick up from this introductory verse.

Most translators renders the Hebrew word massa’ as “oracle”. The noun used here comes from the Hebrew verb nasa’ which means “to lift or carry” (which, by the way, has always been easy for me to remember since I have a deep interest in the space program!). So, the principal meaning of the word used by Malachi is “that which is lifted or carried”, hence, “a burden” or “heavy load”. So I prefer the King James Version in this particular case.

Other prophets use this word as well to describe their prophecy/message (see Nahum and Habakkuk for examples). I see these prophets telling us the message they are about to give is a burden they are carrying. It is a burden in the sense it is their responsibility to share it with the people of God. Also, it is a burden to them, a weight on their heart. This is one characteristic of a sermon delivered by any prophet (or preacher): it should be a burden to them, a responsibility which has become a part of them (i.e., it has been internalized by them) and a message which they must share.

But this message is not just the opinion of the speaker. Preachers may be passionate about a great many things and may speak passionately on those subjects. At the same time, though, the message they deliver may not be a sermon or a burden from the Lord. When we lived in the Dallas area, I knew preachers who were passionate fans of the Dallas Cowboys. They could speak at great length about the team and individual players and do so with gusto. But what they proclaimed was not a sermon.

As Malachi notes, this burden he has is the result of the Word of God (literally the word having its source in and belonging to Yahweh). He has received God’s message and it is that message which must be proclaimed, not simply his personal opinions or interests. Therefore, a true sermon must be founded upon the Word of God. Its theme must be rooted in the text of Scripture and its points must come from Scripture. In my mind, the message that best meets these criteria is an expository sermon.

Malachi continues and notes that his message, the text the Lord has given to him as a burden, is for a specific people: Israel. God’s Word is given for a particular audience. For us who are preachers of the Gospel, I believe Malachi is instructing us that his message (and our messages) should be applicable to the people for whom they are intended. If you are a pastor with a congregation then God will lay a burden on you from His Word. You are to extract the message from the text (not read your message into the text) and then discern application(s) for the audience to whom you will deliver it.

Essentially, God’s people need food (that’s the exposition) and they need fresh cooking (that’s the application). I enjoy reading sermons of great preachers from the past and often learn considerable truth from their exposition. However, I usually find much of the application they have in their messages do not directly apply to me today. The food is there but requires some new cooking.

Finally, Malachi adds that the sermon is his, i.e., he is the one presenting the truth to the people. Obviously, in the case of the prophets, what they presented by means of writing was the actual revelation of God, inspired and without error. This is true of all the Scripture. It is God’s Word BUT it is written in the language of men, language which differs by their style, knowledge, training, environment, etc. It is God’s message but it is also THEIR message.

That should be the case with the messages we deliver. We expound God’s Word but WE are the ones who develop the outline, gather the illustrations, discern the applications, and deliver the message.

That’s what a sermon is to me. It is an exposition and application of God’s Word which has been internalized by God’s messenger and then delivered by that messenger to the people for whom it was intended.

Faith, Not Politics? The Matter of Abortion

My son's website has an entry in which he discusses a New York Times article from June 1 entitled "Taking Their Faith, but Not Their Politics, to the People". Much of the article revolves around the local church known as The Journey. After reading the article, I do have some concerns. However, I intend to limit this entry to the matter of abortion.

"The easy thing is to fight, but the hard thing is to put your gloves down and work together towards a common cause. ... Our generation would like to put our gloves down. We don't want to be out there picketing. We want to be out there serving."

These remarks from Scott Thomas, the director of the Acts 29 Network, seem to imply 2 things: (1) picketing is not serving and (2) Christians (evangelicals) are not serving today. As an "older" believer, I'm not certain how to take these remarks. Does Rev. Thomas mean that when I stand on a highway holding a sign promoting pro-life over pro-death I am not serving my Lord by pointing out the sins of others? Does he mean when I send my financial support to clinics and other medical facilities to assist those women who decide to give birth to their children rather than having them killed I am not serving the Lord? What exactly does he mean by this statement?

Earlier in the article, the author writes:

"They say they are tired of the culture wars. They say they do not want the test of their faith to be the fight against gay rights. They say they want to broaden the traditional evangelical anti-abortion agenda to include care for the poor, the environment, immigrants and people with H. I. V., according to experts on younger evangelicals and the young people themselves."

Like it or not, we will always be at war with the culture because we are opposed to sin whereas most mankind is not. This is certainly true when it comes to the matter of abortion. What are we expected to do? Do we "take off our gloves" and say to the pro-death crowd, "Now I oppose murdering our children. But I want to love and support everyone so how can we work together in this situation? I know. The pro-life group will continue to support women shelters, adoption, etc. and the pro-death group can continue to kill the unborn." Wake up, people, this is war, like it or not. We will speak out, we will protest, we will work to change our laws, we WILL continually engage in the culture war BECAUSE abortion is a sin of terrifying magnitude against our great God and Lord!

Later in the article, we read a quote from one "Journey" Bible study member to another: "Did you see my boy Barack today? I thought he did well, really well."

My response to him would be, "Brother in Christ, do you know that 'your boy' supports the killing of the unborn, including the procedure known as partial birth abortion? How can you, a man who professes to be a follower of Christ, ever support or vote for an individual who supports the killing of the unborn?"

You see, you cannot separate the morality from the politics on this issue. If you call yourself a Christian and can elect someone who supports abortion then I must conclude:

1. You do not consider abortion to be a sin.
2. You do not consider abortion to be a more important issue than, say, the economy, the environment, or illegal immigration.
3. You actually are not a true believer.

Well abortion is murder and that's a violation of God's commandments. If the commandment not to murder isn't good enough, then how about what Jesus says concerning children in Matthew 18? And those who have no problem killing unborn children can not be trusted in their dealings with anyone. If your heart is not moved by killing babies then how can I believe anything you say or do?

My goal in life is to bring glory to God and that goal is true in all areas of my life INCLUDING the political. On the subject of abortion, I am in a war against culture and my government because they support what God's law forbids. I will fight that war with whatever means I can which do not violate our nation's laws and the laws of our God. I will picket and protest. I will fund women's centers. I will counsel when I have opportunity. And I will be involved in the political process of our nation. I will NOT sit down with pro-death supporters and compromise God's Word.

As I have said on other occasions, I will never knowingly vote for any pro-death candidate at any level of office. If I am faced with a choice of only pro-death candidates, I will either not vote for that position or will write in someone else's name.

When it comes to this issue, Rev. Thomas, I will keep my gloves on, thank you very much!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Evaluating Preachers #2

Another “preacher evaluation” metric I heard voiced in the past few weeks has to do with the preacher’s “volume”. In this particular case, it seems that a loud preacher is to be rated “lower” than a quieter preacher.

Once I preached a funeral sermon to a large gathering held in a funeral home parlor. My sermon was on the two thieves crucified with Christ. I must admit, my message became quite passionate. After 10 or 15 minutes, I noticed a couple of elderly ladies in the back get up and leave and as they left I could hear them muttering something. Later I asked some folks in the back what those ladies were saying as they left. Basically they were giving their less than enthusiastic opinion about that “loud Baptist preacher”! So I guess the “volume” metric was in force even several years ago.

I really do not see anything in God’s Word, though, concerning the volume of the preacher’s sermon. In Acts 2:14, the Word says Peter lifted up his voice which I understand to mean he spoke loudly. Maybe Peter was loud simply due to the size of the crowd, I don’t know. But to judge a man based on the volume level of his message instead of the content of the message doesn’t sound very Scriptural to me.

Personally, if the Spirit of God moves the man of God to lift (or lower) his voice as he preaches, so be it. A preacher who is passionate about the Word of God cannot preach in a monotonic voice.

Friday, July 18, 2008

PETA, Pigs, and Publicity

This morning’s news programs were spending time discussing PETA’s (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) complaint against the Army for their proposed trauma training exercise, namely, shooting pigs and treating their gunshot wounds. The notice is also given on various web news sites (e.g.,

Now I have nothing against the Army or pigs and have no way of knowing if this is ethical treatment of pigs or not. Should we shoot pigs in order to train medics on how to save American soldiers wounded in action? I don’t know. What I do know is the media is publicizing the matter and many commentators are taking the side of the pigs.

My question from all of this is why are folks so much more concerned over the shooting of pigs than they are of the murdering of unborn babies? In the United States alone, over 170 babies are murdered each hour. Yet, when an individual or an organization raises its concern about such an atrocity, the media often finds a way to “put down” the protestor or simply ignore them all together. Oh, but let someone complain about shooting pigs and watch how much publicity is raised!

To be sure, the Bible does not contain a verse which EXPLICITLY condemns or condones abortion. “Thou shalt not commit abortion” is not listed as one of the commandments. Nevertheless, Scripture is clear: abortion is evil. Exodus 21:22-24 indicates judgment for those who unintentionally cause a miscarriage. Therefore, judgment would be required for those who intentionally take an unborn life.

All human life is from God and is in His image (Genesis 1:26-28). Passages such as Luke 1:39-42 and Psalm 51 teach God knows those in the womb and is involved in a person’s history/life prior to his birth. And Psalm 127 teaches children are gifts from the Lord and He has chosen to give us those gifts via the womb. To destroy life before its birth is to reject and destroy God’s gift.

May the Lord forgive us, our media, and our nation for being so concerned about pigs but so unconcerned about our unborn posterity.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Evaluating Preachers #1

Recently I have been made aware of a new method (at least new to me) for evaluating preachers of the Gospel. Some believe the messenger should give Scripture references whenever they refer to a text from the Bible. By “Scripture reference” I mean they expect the preacher to give “book, chapter, and verse”. The fewer such references provided during the message, the lower the evaluation given to the servant of the Lord.

Such a method for evaluating a preacher and/or a sermon is a poor one at best. I know of no place in the Scripture where God’s Word commands the messenger to give the reference whenever he quotes a Biblical text. Certainly he is to preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2) but Paul never told him to give book, chapter, and verse. In fact, in those days, there were no chapters or verses!

Many of the greatest preachers throughout church history have proclaimed the Word of God without giving the accompanying reference to the Scripture they just quoted. Look at Spurgeon’s sermons and how often the “Prince of Preachers” doesn’t even tell you which book he’s quoting, let alone give the exact reference. Sometimes when the sermons of these famous servants of God are published, the actual reference is added. Often, though, the reference was not delivered as part of the message. Does this make them “bad preachers”?

Even when the New Testament authors quoted their Old Testament counterparts, they certainly never gave us book, chapter, and verse. Sometimes they tell us the author. Sometimes they simply say “It is written”. Sometimes they quote the passage and never tell the reader anything about its location. Does that make them “bad preachers”?

Now don’t take me wrong. When a minister of the Lord quotes a work other than Scripture, he should make certain to notify his audience that this quote is not his. The messenger of God should NEVER take credit for another man’s work. But even in that situation the messenger doesn’t have to indicate the exact location of the reference. “Someone has said” is sufficient for me. “Luther noted that” is good enough to indicate a quote from Luther.

But when it comes to Scripture references in the midst of a message, simply noting “the Scripture says” or the “Bible notes” is good enough when I am listening to a message. If I ever want a specific reference location I will ask the speaker after the sermon. Actually, those of us sitting in the pew should have enough familiarity with God’s Word to recognize when the man of God is quoting it!

If you are a preacher who always gives his Scripture references as he proclaims the Word of God, good for you. If you are a preacher that frequently quotes Scripture as he preaches but does not always provide the reference, good for you. Just make certain you are a preacher proclaiming the Word of God.