Spiritual Laziness

September 11, 2019
Spiritual Laziness

I recently heard Alexander Strauch, a well-published and reputable author who served as an elder in one congregation for over 50 years, talk about spiritual laziness in a way that hit me between the eyes. Here is a rough paraphrase of what he said in an interview:

From the time of the Fall, man has been spiritually lazy. He can use all his energy to do many, many things but sit down and read the Bible and ten minutes later, “Oh, my neck hurts;” or, “Oh, my eyes, they might be bleeding!” Time for prayer and, five minutes of prayer, “Whew, I’m tired; I’m exhausted.” I can sit and watch a two-and-a-half-hour movie, or I can watch two movies back-to-back for four hours, no problem. But, study the Bible? Fifteen minutes, that’s max. We are inherently spiritually lazy, and the things of God come to us in a difficult way.[1]

The last phrase is certainly true. The things of God come to us in a difficult way. Work is required for the Christian life. Spiritual growth, which the Lord wants for all of us, requires that we put forth effort. We have to pray and study.

The Fall (and our own continuing sins to boot) has taken a toll on all of us. While we mean well, we tend to struggle on matters of spirituality. As our Lord Jesus put it, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt 26:41). What I find very interesting is that the remedy for this problem was given in the same verse by our Lord in the phrase just before the famous statement. He said, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.” The remedy for overcoming the weakness of the flesh is to be that much more watchful and prayerful. Commentator Leon Morris has helpfully written, “A willing spirit is not enough; it must be supplemented by prevailing prayer.”[2] Well-meaning words are inadequate. Good intentions are deficient. We should add, too, that Jesus is not just giving us an excuse that we can use whenever we fail. Scholar Craig Blomberg reminds us, “Jesus’ proverb is often casually reapplied almost as an excuse for human shortcomings but, in context, is an incentive for disciples to resist temptation.”[3] I’ve heard Christians jokingly reference this verse about their own moral lapses. However, Jesus’ goal is for His followers to overcome temptation, not to have a good excuse when we fall to it!

Thus, here’s the main point: If you want to overcome the weakness of your flesh, then you are going to have to be spiritually alert and constantly prayerful. You can succeed in your spiritual life, and that is our Lord’s desire. You can grow more spiritually mature, and that is God’s purpose for you. Do you want this for yourself, or are you just at ease in your spiritual sloth? I say: Let us not sleep! It is high time to awake out of slumber! Couple spiritual disciplines with your good intentions, and God will give you strength.


[1] H. B. Charles Jr., #087: Alex Strauch Interview, The On Preaching Podcast, podcast audio, August 16, 2019, https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/on-preaching-with-h-b-charles-jr/id888503224?i=100044707608.

[2] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, Pillar New Testament Commentary Series, 1992.

[3] Craig Blomberg, Matthew, New American Commentary, 1992.

Lessons on Suffering: Introduction

September 8, 2019
Lessons on Suffering: Introduction

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. —John 16:33

(1) Limited Knowledge.

We should begin with an obvious point, as if you didn’t already know it, but I do not have all of the answers to the questions you may have on this subject over the next several weeks. And yet, I do not want you to ever think that the Lord has not provided enough in the Scriptures to guide us. He does give sufficient light to our paths. I also do not want you to ever get the idea that I am not willing to address the most difficult of questions. We are not those Christians who just dismiss difficult questions as if they don’t matter. We owe more than that to ourselves, to one another, and to our youth.

Moreover, while Bridget and I have endured a few hardships in our lives, that we do not talk much about, I confess that I have not suffered like some of you have or are suffering even now. But I do want you to know that I empathize with you and want what’s best for you and will do what I can to ease your burdens. You should know that I love you.

(2) The Reality of Suffering.

Pain and suffering are very real experiences. We do not want to deny that fact or neglect it. Christ promised trials and persecutions; believers have struggled throughout history just as much as anyone else; Luther basically taught that to be a Christian requires three things: prayer, study, and trials (adapted from Horton).

(3) Prosperity Gospel Errors.

Pop-culture Christianity makes the problem that much worse because it promotes the false idea that Christians should not suffer. It follows after New Age ideas like mind over matter, the magic of positive thinking, word of faith concepts like speaking things into existence. Prosperity preachers teach that if you have enough faith, you will not get sick and you will not struggle. They promise health and wealth.

Even for those of us who don’t believe the whole of the Health, Wealth, and Prosperity doctrine, we are still affected by it. We often question ourselves when trials come. We ask, “What have I done to deserve this?” And, “Is God mad at me; is He punishing me?” Or we say, “Maybe I haven’t been a good enough Christian or had enough faith or done enough good deeds.” Let me assure you, Christian, that suffering is notalways due to your sins. God does not operate on a “enough faith” kind of system. Our Lord taught us that if we just have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains.

(4) The Essence of the Problem.

Christians believe that God is omniscient (all knowing), correct?  We believe that God is omnipotent (all powerful), right?  And Christians believe that God is omnibenevolent (all good/loving), true?

If these things are all true of God, then why does He allow evil, suffering, and pain to persist in this world and, especially, in the lives of His children?

Many have claimed that all three of these things cannot be logically true of God. For example, if God is all-loving and He is all-powerful, then why does He not stop the horrific storms in this world and terrible diseases and all the like? There would be nothing to stop Him—at least not from our finite vantage point.

And that is where we must begin as we think about these things. We should not conclude there but begin there as we open our Bibles to see what God has said. The Bible actually provides many answers to these gut-wrenching subjects. I believe that a biblical, Christian worldview is the most coherent perspective offered and provides the most answers to these problems. Everyone on this planet must grapple with these issues, no one is immune from suffering, pain, and death, but biblical Christianity provides the most help by way of worldview. It is the most consistent.

(5) Sample List of Different Types/Terms

Natural Evil: We live in a fallen world
Satanic Evil: The devil and the demons are active
Suffering: A more general term for all kinds of things
Pain: Suffering, or unpleasant feelings, felt in the physical body.
Death: The moments and the culmination of termination of life, which is itself the wages of sin.
Disappointment: When we do not meet up to our own or others’ expectations.
Persecution: Poor treatment by others precisely because you’re a Christian.
Divine Discipline: The Lord uses punishment to teach His children to do right.

What is Sin?

September 4, 2019
What is Sin?

The question we want to answer in this article is simply: What is sin? Now there are many other things that need to be addressed on this topic, and we typically want to provide application, but I want to spend the space here only answering that one question.

There are many in our day who would deny such a thing as sin. The word is repulsive to some and useless to others. Theologian Jack Cottrell has written that the modern man does not want to think of failures as sin “because sinconnotes a wrongdoing for which one is responsible before God, and modern man does not want to see himself in this light. He will take his evil and his failures to sociologists and psychologists, but not to God” (159). Cottrell goes on to quote Karl Menninger writing, “A problem may be ‘evil, disgraceful, corrupt, prejudicial, harmful,’ but never sinful” (159). So, the term itself has been abandoned by the popular culture and, more than that, even banned in some sense.

There are many terms used in the Scriptures and in Christian theology for the concept of Sin: Ignorance, error, inattention, missing the mark, irreligion, transgression, iniquity, lack of integrity, rebellion, treachery, perversion, abomination, sensuality, immorality, selfishness, and fallenness. (Many of these are listed and discussed in Erickson).

What is sin? Sin, simply put by one encyclopedia, is “A transgression of God’s commands or any failure to meet his standards; as a verb, the word means ‘to violate the divine law, to commit an offense against God or others’” (Zondervan EB). To give a more nuanced definition, theologian Millard Erickson writes, “Sin is any evil action or evil motive that is in opposition to God. Simply stated, sin is failure to let God be God and placing something or someone in God’s rightful place of supremacy” (513).

Erickson (515) goes on to teach us that our understanding of God gives us an understanding of sin. If God is imperfect or unaware or indulgent, then human behavior is not that serious. But, “If God is a very high, pure, and exacting being who expects all humans to be as he is, then the slightest deviation from his lofty standard is sin and the human condition is very serious.” Thus, we know what sin is because we know who God is. This is maybe the best insight we have into a definition of the concept of sin.

As good a place as any to get an introduction to the term and concept of sin is in Genesis 3-4 which recount the Fall of Adam and Eve and, later, the first murder as Cain killed Abel. Among many things that can be learned, here are just a few thoughts:

[Gen 4:6-7] God confronts Cain about his anger with a question. We would probably be safe to assume that he is allowing Cain to confess his sin (Gen 3:9). Cain knows right from wrong, he is conscious of God, but decides to rebel against Him. He did not trust God to accept him if he did well. “It takes faith to believe that God always does what is right” (Waltke, 98). Sin is personified in this verse. It takes on a serpent-like quality (“lies at the door”), and it desires to rule over the man. This creature or thing, as sin is seen, is supposed to be mastered instead by the man.

We can consider Psalm 51 as well, which is King David’s confession of sin after the Bathsheba episode and the ripple effects of it. Here are a few, brief comments:

[Ps 51:3-6] Confession of Sin: A variety of words are used for sin (which is a poetic way to stress the seriousness): transgression, sin, evil, iniquity.
There are a few things that are clear and must be confessed by all of God’s people:
(1) we have sinned
(2) our sin has offended God  
(3) God judges our sin blamelessly
(4) sin has affected us to our core

At the heart of sin is rebellion. Notice that the biblical concept is never separated from God. The term is very practical but also very theological. We rebel against God. We do not obey God. We trust ourselves more than we trust God! This is sin, and the perfect, holy, and just God must judge it righteously.

Now, I said at the beginning that I would not concern myself with giving application, but I do have one to share with you. Our understanding of sin will have massive implications for the nature and style of our ministry (Erickson, 515). If we actually believe that God is holy, then we will believe in the concept of sin. And if we believe in the concept of sin, then we will evangelize, calling on people to repent of their sins and be born again (ibid.). As Erickson plainly says, “If . . . the problems of society are rooted in radically perverted human minds and wills, then the nature of those individuals will have to be altered, or they will continue to infect the whole” (515). Sin perverts the individual human and the whole human race. Because we believe these things, which the Bible teaches, we make it our mission, as a church, to tell of the saving acts of God in Christ. We are going to preach the whole counsel of God. We are going to call on men and women to repent of their sins. We are going to tell people that they must be born again. This will dictate our preaching, teaching, evangelism, outreach, missions, youth ministry, and everything we do as a church.

What is Mankind's Purpose?

August 6, 2019
Bible Study Notes
What is Mankind’s Purpose?

When people ask the question, “What is God’s will?” or “How do I know God’s will?” they most likely mean, “What is God’s will for my life, specifically?”
* Now, we will get to that question, but we will start from the very general and move to the specific. We will eventually get to how you can discern things for yourself, specifically.
* There are general truths, commands, and expectations that apply to all of us. So, we will start there and move to the more personal by the time we conclude this four-week study.

Why did God create us? What is the general purpose for humanity? What is the universal reason for life?
* The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks this question as their first in a list of several and answer it by saying, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” With this general statement, I agree.
* While we are not Presbyterians or Calvinists, we can affirm when someone has stated the truth. I find this statement to be true and enlightening. Of course, it is still a very general statement, but it is a good place to begin the discussion.
* Let us look at the Scriptures that are provided for each of these two points.

(1)Your Purpose is to Glorify God
Ps 86:9; Isa 60:21; Rom 11:36; 1 Cor 6:20; 10:31; Rev 4:11
* For God to be glorified is for Him to be made known, to be praised and honored, to be thanked; it is for His worth to be declared and appreciated.
* Now, that can take on a lot of different forms. We can all glorify God in many of the same ways, but there are also specific ways that we can glorify God. We’re not all going to be preachers, or missionaries, or school teachers, or caregivers, or fill in the blank. Generally and specifically, your purpose in life is to glorify God.

(2)Your Purpose is to Enjoy God Forever
Ps 16:5-11; 144:15; Isa 12:2; Luke 2:10; Phil 4:4; Rev 21:3-4
* How amazing it is to know God and to enjoy a relationship with Him! How wonderful it is that God be glorified while at the same time that we can be satisfied. John Piper has famously summarized this idea in the phrase, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” God’s glory and your satisfaction are now mutually exclusive. They actually go hand-in-hand. Thanks be to God!
* God does not get much glory out of grumpy, gloomy, boring Christians. He is glorified when we are joyous in Him. There is great joy and peace in believing (Rom 15:13).
* Our joy is not in created things but the Creator. Now, He uses created things as tools for our joy and satisfaction—there is great joy in watching a sunset, driving up a mountain, visiting the beach, raising children, or serving others. Yet, fullness of joy is found when these things are properly understood as created by God, given by God, undergirded and surrounded by the Creator, and when we give our thanks to God for all of these things. Fullness of joy is in knowing God and receiving all things with gratefulness to Him.

What are we to dogenerallyspeaking?
* Gen 1:22 “Be fruitful and increase” which I might liken to the Great Commission in Matt 28:18-20.
* Gen 6:5 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
* John 6:29 “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.”
* 1 Cor 10:31 “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Let Us Do Good (Galatians 6:7-10)

July 12, 2019
Let Us Do Good (Galatians 6:7-10)

7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Of the sowing and reaping idea, I think we all can understand it even though, for the most part, we do not live in an agricultural society any longer. This is a straightforward principle of life whether we are talking about a farmer and his crops or a person’s spiritual life. If you plant a rose bush, you will not have an apple tree to bloom. Likewise, if you sow to the flesh you will not bear the fruit of the Spirit. This is what you get: if you sow to the flesh, you reap destruction; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap everlasting life. Our focus must be on the good. We must not grow weary in doing good.

A farmer works hard, often from sun-up to sun-down. He does not see the fruit of his labor for a long period of time, but it does eventually come. Likewise, we must not be impatient. In due time we will reap what we have sown. We have all sorts of opportunities to do good. Let us look for those opportunities and act when the times come. Christ has already secured our salvation. We do not have to earn it. Now we are free to go out and serve others, do good, and enjoy life.

And, we should do good to all, especially to the household of faith, that is, our Christian brethren. So, our good works should first and foremost be directed toward the church, our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, yet our good deeds should overflow out of the church and into our communities. We should do good to fellow Christians as well as our families, neighbors, coworkers, and friends. It is hard work, serving others and always doing good, but the Lord will reward His people in due time. Don’t grow weary in doing good! Don’t give up!

An Overview of Satan and His Cohorts

July 3, 2019
An Overview of Satan and His Cohorts

Let’s begin with a brief summary from one of our theologians, “. . . God’s work of creation includes both a visible and an invisible universe. The latter encompasses the realm of created spirits, especially angels. Some of the inhabitants of this sphere are evilspirits: Satan and his demons. These were not created evil but became so through the exercise of their God-given free will. The corruption of the old creation began with the introduction of sin into the spiritual universe by these powerful spiritual beings, who then became actively involved in the initial and ongoing corruption of the visible universe. These evil spirits are thus a contributing factor in the proliferation of sin and evil among human beings” (Cottrell, 170).

Thus, as many Christians know but are not studying much less fighting, there is a spiritual warfare to wage against the enemy. Satan and his demonic forces depress nations and communities harm Christian congregations, wreck whole families, and devastate individual lives. They seek to pull us away from our Creator and certainly do not want us to have a close relationship with Him as Father. They do not want the Gospel to go forth into the nations, and they do not want you to believe it and live it out.

If the satanic powers are working to that extent in the world and that intensely in our own spiritual lives, we would be foolish to not fight back. Have you wondered why you get into ruts and cannot get out? Have you asked yourself why you cannot overcome a certain temptation or way of thinking? Have you had similar questions about others, maybe family and friends? The answer may be that you or your loved ones are not engaging in the spiritual warfare that is raging all around us.

The Scriptures have much to say on the subject of Satan and his demons; what they are up to and how Christians should be responding to their attacks. We have been spending some time in The BLEND opening our spiritual eyes to these things and getting us thinking about the spiritual battle we must fight. We have several biblical principles to consider. For now, let me mention a couple.

First of all, we need to identify the enemy. We use the titles Satanand Devilfor the being who has led the rebellion against God. He is the enemy of both God and man, the adversary, the accuser, the deceiver, and the evil one. The angelic beings who have followed Satan in his rebellion against God and his opposition to mankind are called fallen angelsand most often, demons. They are disruptors, evil spirits, and impure spirits. It has been said, “That the demons are called spiritsas such indicates their basic metaphysical nature as a part of the invisible universe. That they are called eviland uncleanindicates their basic moral nature” (Cottrell, 172).

Secondly, we must always keep in mind the fact that Satan and the demons were created by God. They are not equal to God and are not divine. They are powerful spiritual beings but are merely creatures. Col 1:16 teaches us that Christ is creator of all things, including the invisible sphere where Satan and his cohorts reside.

What to Do with Your Worry (1 Peter 5:6-7)

June 5, 2019
What to Do with Your Worry (1 Pet 5:6-7)

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

This recalls Psalm 55:22 which exhorts, "Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved." Peter, of course, is also echoing Jesus' teaching ministry. Most notably, Matt 6:25-34 comes to mind when Jesus taught the multitudes during the Sermon on the Mount and commanded them multiple times saying, "Therefore, do not worry."

For commentary that succinctly summarizes the points of these two brief but important verses in Peter's letter, we may turn to a reputable New Testament scholar who wrote, “Seeing the relationship between the main verb (‘humble yourselves,’ v. 6) and the participle (‘casting all your anxiety upon him,’ NASB) is important because it shows that giving in to worry is an example of pride. The logical relationship between the two clauses is as follows: believers humble themselves by casting their worries on God. Conversely, if believers continue to worry, then they are caving in to pride. How can anxiety and worry be criticized as pride? We can see that it might be a lack of faith, but does it make sense to identify worry as pride? Worry is a form of pride because when believers are filled with anxiety, they are convinced that they must solve all the problems in their lives in their own strength. The only god they trust in is themselves. When believers throw their worries upon God, they express their trust in his mighty hand, acknowledging that he is Lord and Sovereign over all of life" (Schreiner).

Certainly, the main reason we cast our worry upon the Lord is because He truly cares for us, and He can actually do something about it! We know that God loves us. He gave us the absolute best when He gave us His Son who laid down His life for us. Why would He not now freely give us all other good things? He loves us and cares for us. He wants us to bring our burdens to Him so that He can do the heavy lifting. He is able to take away our guilt, give us confident assurance in the future, empower us for holy living by His Holy Spirit, give us everything we need for life and godliness, and more. Why would we not take our worry to such a friend?! He is the one with the "mighty hand" who sovereignly accomplishes His purposes in the world. When we turn ourselves over to Him, then we know that He will do what is best for us because we are a part of His family and His plans.

I suppose the last question we should ask and answer is, how do we take our worry to the Lord? How do we cast it upon Him? The apostle almost certainly understands this to happen through prayer. When we give ourselves over to the Lord in prayer, we may confess our sins and find forgiveness and cleansing, but we may also confess our concerns and worries to the Lord. We turn them over to Him, even "casting" them over to Him, trusting that He is more than able to handle our situations. This is faith. This is prayer.

Thus, we might picture a man in Peter's day who had a heavy load to carry from one place to another. He was humble enough to admit that he could not carry such a heavy load, so, little by little, he throws the items up onto the back of a faithful pack-mule who is able to bear the burden for him. We, too, must humble ourselves and cast each and every one of our worries upon the Lord through prayer so that He can do what we cannot.

Why Should We Pray?

June 3, 2019
Why Should We Pray?

Matthew 6:5-8 
5 And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.

If God already knows what we need, then why should we pray? Note that “you” is plural in vv5, 7 but changes to singular in v6 to highlight the need for personal prayer. Also note that Jesus does not say "if" you pray but "when" you pray. He expects us to pray and even to do it privately on a regular basis. The following are more biblical and practical reasons of why we pray:

(1) Prayer is communication with God. It is our continuing and growing relationship with Him. Morris reminds us that prayer is “not to inform the Father on matters of which he is ignorant, but to worship him.”

(2) Prayer is trust in God (1 Thess 5:17). When we pray, we are declaring our faith in God and dependence upon Him for our every need. That is why the apostle can instruct us to pray without ceasing. He means that we are to constantly trust God and voice that trust to Him in prayer.

(3) Prayer is spiritual warfare as we set our focus single-mindedly on the Lord (Eph 6:10-18; Matt 26:41). In prayer, we think of God, His Word, the Gospel, others, our own sins, the battle we want to fight against the enemy. We call on God to empower and even change us by His Spirit, and we claim His promises from the Scriptures.

(3) “The Bible assumes that people will pray to their God, since they are dependent upon Him for everything (our sin makes prayer even more of a necessity)” (Carpenter and Comfort) {Heb 4:16 obtain mercy and find grace}.

(4) The Lord is often waiting for someone to stand in the gap (Ezek 22:30 I waited for someone to stand in the gap). The Lord wants us to partner with Him in life and ministry. He intends to accomplish His purposes but has sovereignly chosen to include our prayers in those plans. He is ready and willing to 

(5) We pray because we know that the end of time is near (1 Pet 4:7 But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers).

(6) Prayer is obedience to God. He has commanded us from Old Testament to New Testament, from Jesus Himself to His witnesses after Him to pray, and even to do it continually. In this way, it is a spiritual discipline that brings about change in our own lives. As we continue to give ourselves over to prayer, we give ourselves over to God and His care and His working in and through us. We are changed from one degree of glory to another, we mature in Christ as our character grows more and more holy and godly, as we pray.

(7) “[P]rayer is not simply desirable but necessary” (Morris).

The Spiritual Nature of Sin and Restoration (Galatians 6:1)

May 22, 2019
The Spiritual Nature of Sin and Restoration (Galatians 6:1)

“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”

To contemporary, American tastes a verse such as this one is foul. We are stubbornly independent and private and do not want to be accountable to anyone. However, for those of a humble mind, willing to receive what the Lord is teaching, we see the wisdom and love of a Christian community which looks out for one another.

In the first place, the writer calls the church’s attention to the matter by addressing them as “brethren,” that is, brothers and sisters in Christ. They are all a part of the family of God. And, we are reminded, “One way in which brothers and sisters can support one another is by seeking to bring those who have committed a sin back into the fellowship of the community” (Moo, 374). Family should always promote the best for their loved ones. To leave someone caught in a sin or in a pit of despair, or, worse, to enable them to stay in that vulnerable and destructive state is not only unloving but cruel. Christian accountability starts with the loving, familial bond that we have with one another in the church.

The apostle speaks of potential circumstances where any one of the church members could be caught in a trespass (and the statement is so general that he surely has in mind any and all kinds of sins). If this scenario happens, and it is likely to happen to someone at some point, then those who are “spiritual” should seek for the person’s restoration. What does the term “spiritual” mean? One translator renders the phrase, “You who are Spirit people” which is said to be “a cumbersome attempt to carry over into English translation what Paul means by” the Greek phrase” (Moo, 374). What the writer means by this is to call on those in the church who have taken the exhortations seriously to “walk in the Spirit” (Gal 5:16, 25) to now carry out their Christian duty to help wayward brothers and sisters. To put it another way, Paul is not calling on a certain group of spiritually superior believers to aid the less spiritual; not at all. He is calling on all believers to do this God-glorifying, soul-saving work of restoration.

The goal is restoration, not humiliation or judgmentalism or cruelty or any of the sort. The goal is restoration. Another scholar explains, “Instead of looking down on those who have failed, people of the Spirit bear their burdens by helping them back up. . . . [W]e must restore the fallen by the Spirit whose fruit is gentleness (cf. 5:22)” (Keener, 266).

Lastly, we must always keep in mind our own life and attitude. Three possibilities have been offered for what the restorers may be tempted to do: (1) Become angry at the offender; (2) Become prideful or self-righteous; (3) Fall into the same sin as the offender (Moo, 375). Thus, the apostle stresses throughout the verse, and the bulk of this section in the epistle, that this work of restoration must be spiritual in nature. We must be dominated by the Holy Spirit in order to get these situations right. If someone falls into sin, they have fallen out of their walk with the Spirit. Those who are in step with the Spirit should seek to spiritually restore these folks “both for the sake of the transgressor (cf. 1 Cor 5:5b) and for the sake of the church’s public testimony (cf. 1 Cor 5:1b; 6:1, 6)” (Keener, 266).

The Christian and Money

May 15, 2019
The Christian and Money
Money is vitally important to life, and the Bible has no shortage of teaching on the subject. Christians should have a robust and complex view of finances. From OT to NT, God has said lots about money, and the Lord Jesus talked about it on numerous occasions. From saving money to spending money, investing and giving generously, from earning a living wage to being content, the evils and dangers of the love of money and wealth, and how to treat the poor; Christians have no excuse for not being responsible with their money.
To show you how important this issue is, let me remind you of a passage from our Lord. Matt 19:23-24 says, "Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Why is it hard for the rich to enter into the kingdom? Because it is easy to trust in riches rather than God.

And, let's just go ahead and admit what I have said in the past: We are not only talking about the upper 1% of American society—the governing officials or CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. We need to admit that we are filthy rich in comparison to most around the globe today and throughout world history. We are talking about the classic clash between storing up treasures on earth versus storing up treasures in heaven. Of course, we can see our treasures on earth. They are right in front of us, and we like them. They comfort us. They empower us. They entertain us and distract us. We trust in them. And, when we do, we fail to genuinely worship and obey God. 

If entering heaven is difficult for the wealthy, then I would think that we would take these issues seriously. How we view money and possessions, how we talk about money, how we use it; all these things matter to God and have a major impact on our souls!

Contending for the Faith (Jude 3-4)

May 8, 2019
Contending for the Faith (Jude 3-4)

Jude opens his inspired letter with fairly traditional greetings but then quickly starts the body of the letter with the famous line: “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”

Jude insists that he was ready to write to these brothers and sisters who are loved by God. With these words he shows that not only did God love these believers but so did he. Jude was especially eager to write about their “common salvation.” While we have not yet entered into heaven and the final state, we have in one sense already attained salvation. All born-again Christians share this common salvation and all the benefits of it. Jude had at first intended to write about all of those wonderful blessings of salvation but was interrupted with news of false teachers among these brothers and sisters. So, he felt it necessary to change course and write to the people in light of the present, precarious situation.

The express purpose of Jude’s letter was to exhort those people of God to “contend earnestly for the faith.” Of course, verse four is where we find the details of why this is so much more urgent than other things that may have been discussed in the letter. We learn from that next verse that certain ungodly men had somehow snuck in among the Christians unnoticed. These men were perverting God’s grace and denying the Lord Jesus Christ. A decline into unbelief does not happen immediately, it does not happen overnight. Apostasy is months or years in the making when Christians do not remain alert and steadfast. Allowing a little error here and more false teaching there eventually leads to a perversion of the true Gospel of God’s grace and an outright denial of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

And so, Jude tells the brethren to contend earnestly for the faith. The word “contend” that Jude employs was used in military and athletic contexts. The term “refers to a struggle or intense effort” (Schreiner, 435). Those ancient believers and Christians of every generation, including us today, are to fight for the faith. “The Faith” here is used in almost a technical sense meaning to convey all of what we believe and teach. “The Faith” is the Gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, all of the holy Scriptures, all the doctrines of God, historic theology, and the entirety of what we call “Christianity.” We are to fight to stay in our faith-relationship with God, to defend the truths of Scripture, and to promote the Gospel in our communities and around the world. This exhortation is all the more needed in our current day because so many are redefining the Faith or outright abandoning it.

This Faith we are speaking of has been delivered to the saints, that is, the church has been entrusted with these precious truths about God. Jude says that the Faith has been “once for all” passed down from the apostles through every generation signifying that, “No supplements or corrections will be tolerated. The gospel of Jesus Christ has received its fullest explication through the apostles” (Schreiner, 436). It is my responsibility and yours as well, all of us together as the Church, to promote and defend the Gospel of God’s grace and to live by faith in His one and only Son.

Therefore, we have two reasons to contend for the Faith given in these two verses of Jude’s letter. I’ll summarize them in reverse order. First, Christians must contend earnestly for the Faith because it has been given into our trust. We are to safeguard the purity of the Gospel by not only believing and defending it but also by promoting it. Second, Christians must content earnestly for the Faith because there are always ungodly people, from outside and from within the Church, who seek to pervert the Gospel and lead believers astray. Thus, we see both vertical and the horizontal motivators. God has made us responsible for the Gospel and men are seeking to use and abuse the Gospel. Be a believer in the Good News of Christ. Be a defender. Be a proclaimer. Contend earnestly.

Don't be a Chameleon

April 24, 2019
Don't be a Chameleon

I remember being fascinated by chameleons when I was in elementary school. You know, kids learn about all sorts of things in those early years from the weather cycle to rocks and even reptiles. It was fascinating to me that these lizards can change their colors depending on their surroundings. Of course, this may have several functions one of which is a defense mechanism that helps them hide from predators.

Yet, we are taught throughout the New Testament to not worry what people think about us or even what they may do to us. We should not even fear being killed by others for the sake of Christ. While chameleons may change colors to hide from predators, Christians are not to worry about enemies. We are to love our enemies, pray for them, and continue to witness to them concerning the things of God.

The apostle pleads with the church in Rom 12:2, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." What a fitting passage to meditate on at any point in the Christian life. New Christians need to learn this message, and long-time Christians need to be reminded of it. Unlike the color-changing chameleons, we are not supposed to conform to the world around us. We don't think like they do, we don't value what they do, and we even look different than they do because the knowledge we have changes the way we act.

To put it in Jesus' words, we can look to Matt 5:14, "You are the light of the world." Of course, He goes on to say in verse 16, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." So, we are not to hide out, blend in, and protect ourselves. We are to stand out from the world around us so that we may point people to God. Giving your life to the Lord should have several noticeable effects. Let the work of the Lord in your soul show out in your good works, not for the purpose of bringing attention to yourself but for the glory of God.

Live for the Lord. Seek to glorify Him. Have an impact on the world around you. Obey God no matter the costs. Put your hope in Him. For the sake of God and His Gospel, don't be a chameleon.

Doing What is Right

April 10, 2019
Doing What is Right

The last major section in the book of Genesis covers the life of Joseph, the son of Jacob. You will remember that Joseph was favored by Jacob, and this caused severe sibling rivalry. Joseph was also given dreams by God, and he taunted his brothers, and even his parents, about the dreams. So, the brothers, out of hatred for Joseph, threw him into a pit intending to kill him at some later point. Eventually, they decided to sell him into slavery instead, and he finally ends up in the house of the Egyptian named Potiphar. The narrative picks up here in Genesis 39.

Gen 39:2 tells us that, “The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.” We are told that Joseph was overwhelmingly blessed by God, everything he did was successful, and Potiphar’s family and dealings were even blessed by association. The end of verse six gives us a detail that sets up the next scene. We are told that Joseph was a handsome young man.

Potiphar’s wife grows to desire Joseph. She wants physical intimacy with him and tempts him day after day. Joseph’s behavior is commendable throughout this narrative. One of the first questions he asks is, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” This is a question we should ask ourselves when faced with temptations to sin.

We live in a time when the sexual revolution is raging, and the society is saying things like, “Do whatever you want. It’s your life. Whatever makes you happy. What you do with your body is up to you. There is no higher authority for your moral life than yourself.” These statements, of course, are lies from the evil one. When Joseph was all alone with this person, when no one was watching, when she was throwing herself at him, he still stands resolved that it would be a great wickedness and a sin against God that he will not commit. How exemplary! We do not have to give in to selfish, sinful desires! Meditate on Joseph’s life-story for yourself and teach it to your kids and grandkids.

Later in the narrative of Genesis 39, the woman ramps up her pursuits to another level and tries to take Joseph to bed by force. When the whole world would have said things such as, “Well, what’s a man to do? No one would blame him for going to bed with her. She gave him no option. . .” Joseph does what is right in God’s eyes and flees from evil. And, before you think that just because you are moral and do what is right that things will always go well for you, we are told that the woman framed Joseph with his garment that she stole from him and claimed that he tried to take advantage of her! Joseph cannot catch a break! He suffered for doing what was right. Yet, even in prison, we learn that the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy. Let us also do what is right despite the consequences so that our consciences may be clear, so that we may glorify God in a crooked generation, and so that we might find favor in the eyes of God no matter what others may think.

Praise to God—Our Christian Duty

March 20, 2019
Praise to God—Our Christian Duty

Heb 13:15 says, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”

One of the chief duties that every Christian is to fulfill is the worship of the living God. Believers from the very beginning of creation until now have been those who offered sacrifices of praise to God. There have been many different ways that this praise has been offered through the centuries, from the early days before the Law to the times of Israel when the people gathered in the Temple. The Church also continued to worship after the resurrection of Christ and found that they could at any place and time.

One aspect of biblical worship which seems to be consistent throughout human history is using our voices to praise God’s name. As another commenter affirms, “The OT sacrificial system has been set aside, but our grateful worship should still overflow to God” (ZSB).

Now, we are talking about Christian worship. Notice that the sacrifice of praise to God the Father is to be continually offered “in Him,” that is, through Jesus Christ. So, we no longer offer physical sacrifices, but we do continue to offer spiritual sacrifices which are pleasing to God. Jesus has laid down His life on our behalf, making peace between us and God through the forgiveness and cleansing of our sins. And on the basis of Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice, we now offer the spiritual sacrifice of praise to God’s name.

The primary ways in which we praise God today are through sacrificing our time and energy to be in the assembly to praise His name through song and other affirmations in the company of the saints, and we also sacrifice whatever it takes to confess God’s glory in the public square, whether pride, reputation, or any of the like. This is a continual activity for the Christian. Therefore, let us not give up praising God on Sundays and every day in between.

Key Values for Ministry

February 13, 2019
Key Values for Ministry

#1 Biblical (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

The foundational statement that should be made is that my vision for ministry is biblical.  I believe that the 66 books of the Christian Scriptures are the uniquely inspired word of God.  They are all believers need for things concerning life, faith, and salvation.  With such a high view of Scripture, I am led to study, teach, and preach the Bible with great dedication.  Each time I approach the pulpit, I do so with one goal in mind: to help God’s people better understand His holy word.  Our preaching/teaching, worship, and various ministries should be solidly based upon the Scriptures.

#2 Christ-Centered (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)

Second, ministry should be Christ-centered.  If we truly believe what the Scriptures teach, that Christ has died for sin once for all, then why would we bother with anything else?  He should be treasured above all else because He has done what we could not.  He has saved us from our sins, from this present wicked age, and from the wrath to come.  We should want to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  I am thoroughly convinced that the entire Old Testament points forward to Jesus Christ.  He is the fulfillment of all of what God said in time past.  The Old Testament was bringing us to Him in due time.  The New Testament, then, expounds upon the person and work of Jesus Christ while explaining how that directly and indirectly effects us.  Therefore, Christ is at the center of all the holy writings, and He should be at the very heart of all that we do in our ministries.

#3 Grace-Oriented (Romans 6:14)

The previous point leads to the next: ministry should be grace-oriented.  God has extended love, mercy, and grace to us.  We should do the same for one another and for those outside the household of faith.  If our holy Father is willing to forgive us of our sin against Him, then we must be willing to forgive one another.  A ministry/pastorate/congregation that is grace-oriented is quick to listen and slow to speak.  It is quick to forgive and slow to wrath.  It forgets those things which are behind and reaches forward to those things which are ahead.  To be grace-oriented is to create an atmosphere in the public worship times.  It is to create an atmosphere of grace in our meetings, events, ministries, and all the like.  When outsiders come into our gatherings, they should quickly realize that they have come into a place where they can rest.

#4 Team Ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16)

The vision I have for ministry is simple.  I believe that the pastor is charged with preparing his congregation for the work of the ministry and for building them up in the Lord.  This is, after all, the biblical pattern.  Thus, ministry is a group endeavor.  We are to serve one another and those who are in need.  We are to worship together, bear one another’s burdens, have the same mind, and together pursue holiness in Christ.  I believe in an every-member-ministry (as cliche as that sounds).  We must work together in our mission to make disciples of all the nations.  Every part must do its share.

#5 Open-Mindedness (Revelation 5:8-10)

The last thing I will say is that I believe ministry should be open-minded.  We should exhibit this value in many areas of the ministry, but especially in the area of racial and ethnic harmony.  We cannot be a respecter of persons when it comes to the task of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with unbelievers or within the household of faith.  We are not to hold the faith of our Lord with partiality.  God loves the world.  Christ died for all.  We are to make disciples of all the nations.  Right now, God is saving people all over this planet.  We must see all people for who they are, image bearers of our great God.  I will fellowship with and minister to anyone that I come in contact with that is willing to have a conversation with me!

Worship and the Christian Life

January 9, 2019
Worship and the Christian Life

Worship is a central aspect of the life of believers. This has been true since the time of the ancient Hebrews, through the early decades of the New Testament church, and even into our own day. The people of God have been instructed and exhorted to praise the Lord with their mouths as well as their actions.

In the Old Testament, for example, Psalm 95:6-7 famously urges believers, “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.” The New Testament encourages the same sorts of activities. Consider the call of Hebrews 13:15, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”

From Old Testament to New Testament, believers are actually commanded to worship and serve the Lord. This is a “Thus saith the Lord.” Christ affirmed this in Luke 4:8 by echoing and endorsing the fundamental teaching, “It is written: Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.”

What, then, are the basic elements of worship? The Lord’s people have always engaged in singing, prayer, teaching, learning, and fellowship. The church has always practiced baptism, when new disciples were converted, and the Lord’s Supper, even on a weekly basis. All of these things truly exalt the Lord as well as edify the people of God.

So as not to exclude the fact that we can and must worship the Lord at all times, let me conclude with the well-known quote of Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” The apostle is obviously framing this exhortation in terms of continual, daily worship, and most modern translators have rendered that last word as “worship.” The reasonable expectation of Christians is that they worship the Lord God every day as a living sacrifice. We offer our lives to Him as we submit to His will for our lives, obey His commands, and fulfill His purposes in the world. Let us be a worshipping people, inside and outside the gathering!