Ministerial Meanderings

God centered theology in a man centered world.

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Location: Springfield, Missouri, United States

I was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Laurel, Maryland. I served in the United States Air Force for 20 years then retired. Then God led me to become a pastor. I was converted to Christ in the summer of 1966. I enjoy the company of my wife, children and grandchildren. I live with my three cats Hobbs, Taz, and Chloe.

Friday, November 24, 2006

What Is It About Us?

What is it about us Christians that we simply refuse to "get it"? We are supremely devoted (with a singleness of mind and heart) to the Lord our God. We love His truth exactly because it is His truth. But alongside all that, we are marked as disciples of Jesus Christ by our love for one another. Said another way, the quality of the love that Christians show towards one another is the mark, the thing, by which even lost people will know that we belong to Jesus.

But when you look at our churches, tell me, do we really see a people whose hearts are knit together in love for one another? I confess, such churches are rare, very rare. Instead, we are mean people. We are grumpy and when it comes to love, we love to get the dirt on each other. We are gossips and backstabbers and rumor mongers. (Of course, I am speaking here of the royal "we"). But think my friend, is it not true? We are argumentative and divisive. We love to find reasons to be angry and hold a grudge against each other. These qualities seem to mark the modern churches of Jesus Christ. Is it any wonder the world laughs at us behind our backs? We talk holy but behave as bad as (or in some cases ... worse) than lost people do.

In all this, one thing stands out ... love is not something we talk about but it is something we do. The lost world ought to look at the Church and be able to see our love demonstrated to one another. Note that ... they should be able to see (by the things we do) how we love one another. To be salt and light we need to be loving people. Paul warned us in 1 Corinthians 13 that no matter how spiritual we are, if we are unloving people, it is all for nothing.

I offer this resolution, if love is something we are to do, then it is time for us to resolve to do it. I propose we purpose to read 1 Corinthians 13 this week, slowly and deliberately, and that we put into the practice the things from that chapter that the Holy Spirit lays on our hearts. Love, biblical love, is an action. It is time we acted like it. If we wait until someone else does it first, then we will always be waiting for our turn. Let's purpose to be proactive, let's make it our time now to be noted for our Christian love and to love in such a way that even the lost world sees us and knows we are Christians. Let's start now, today. To wait, even a minute longer, is sin. Amen?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Remember...

It is Thanksgiving Day 2006. I first of all want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving Day. I hope your day goes well no matter how you choose to spend it and celebrate the day.

In the book of Joshua, the Bible tells us that a generation arose after Joshua had died, who did not the know the God of their fathers nor the things He had done for them. Herein is the nature of thanksgiving, to remember what someone has done for us. When the Hebrews did not remember God they fell away into sin and pursued other gods. They failed to glorify God or to worship Him in any kind of acceptable manner (in fact, they did not worship Him at all). They didn't care. In the way the Hebrews acted, we see a pattern of the history of humankind.

Things happen and somehow we get out of trouble. Maybe God intervened or maybe God worked through someone else to bring things into a good resolution for us. Of course, we are happy and grateful. But then the crisis passes and we begin to forget. After a while, we hardly remember at all. The thing we used to celebrate and feel gratitude for now hardly moves us at all. We take it for granted, then eventually, we stop caring altogether.

So remember this Thanksgiving Day ... remember what God has done for you. And let us remember the many blessings we enjoy. Remember our families, especially our children, who are gifts of God to us. Remember that we live in a great and a free nation. Remember our men and women in the military and their families. They are making great sacrifices so that we can be safe at home enjoying the freedoms we have. Remember our law enforcement and fire and rescue communities. They work hard around the clock (even on holidays) to keep us safe at home. Remember that many other blessings that God brings to your mind. But first and last, remember the Lord your God. The life you have today, even your very breath, is a gift to you from Him. Happy Thanksgiving Day.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Thought of This Bothers Me ...

I have been pastoring and preaching for about 15 years now. In all that time, I can remember every single time I have used someone else's material in my preaching. Now I am not talking about quotes or illustrations... I am talking about someone else's material. I have used an outline by John R. Rice called "Sir, I have no man...", a soul winning sermon taken from John 5. I preached my own material on Dr. Rice's outline. I have used a John MacArthur sermon called "The Mark of a man of God." I called Dr. MacArthur and spoke to him personally to get permission to (again) preach my material on his outline. I have preached a Charles Spurgeon outline once on the topic of what you do shows what you really believe. In context, Spurgeon was talking about the poor turn out for Wednesday night prayer meetings versus the Sunday morning worship meeting. And finally, I once read "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" to my congregation in Nebraska. I told them I was doing it because I believe every Evangelical Christian ought to be familiar with that sermon. That is it. That is all.

That is why I am disturbed by what I read this morning on the Founder's Ministries blog. Dr. Tom Ascol reports on the growing phenomenon of pastors selling their sermons on the Internet. Worse, he writes of the pastors who buy these sermons to preach verbatim. They use these in an attempt to be able to get everything done in a week's time they have to get done. They are busy and it is easy to use someone else's material if it is available. According to Dr. Ascol, one popular preacher's website sells sermon manuscripts for $10 a piece and last year earned $1.7 million in revenue. That's a lot of manuscripts!

Friends, especially those who are preachers, we are appointed to our task by God Himself. He has not called us to do the easy thing but to open the Word of God to our congregations and feed them what they need (not what we rehash from some popular preacher who has no idea our congregation even exists). We are the undershepherds of the people of God under the Lordship of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Some might say I am picking at nits. Others might not. But this idea of buying someone else's sermons to preach to my church offends me. I was thinking about it ... if you think of preaching Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night ... that is 156 preaching opportunities per year. Over the course of 15 years that adds up to 2340 preaching opportunities total. Accounting for the times I have been out of a church or between churches, that is still over 2000 sermons. And I have preached someone else's outline only 3 times and someone else's message once. That is just me, but honestly, shouldn't that be all of us?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

No Other Name?

The Bible has some pretty clear and unambiguous statements about the exclusivity of Jesus Christ regarding salvation. Jesus said "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except by me." We are told "There is no other Name given among men whereby we must be saved" and "Whosoever will call upon the Name of the Lord will be saved." There are many others.

But it is popular these days to try and widen the scope of salvation so that people who know nothing of Jesus may also find their way into heaven. The Roman Catholic Church and others have said that "All truth is God's truth" therefore is any person follows whatever truth they have, they are, by default, following Jesus (since He is the truth). One of the most often used texts in support of this thinking is Romans 2:14. "So, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, instinctively do what the law demands, they are a law to themselves even though they do not have the law." They will say, "There, you see, these people are judged according to a different standard. God has a different way of dealing with those who have never heard the gospel."

The glaring error here is that Paul, in the first three chapters of Romans, is dealing with the universal sinfulness of mankind. Romans 2:14 is saying that one is convicted of their guilt by their conscience, even without the law. So, far from letting people off the hook (so to speak), they themselves are convicted by themselves of their guilt in sin. But I digress...

The question is this ... is there more than one gospel? Can a person find entrance into heaven without explicit faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, Lord, and God? The answer of course is "no."

The mercy of God in salvation is wide, so wide it encompasses all the world (John 3:16). There is no group of earthly people who will be untouched by God's merciful and gracious work in salvation. Our God is a God of love, and compassion, and mercy. God has provided for the salvation of sinners. He has provided in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Some people would like to believe that God is culturally sensitive ... that is He sent Jesus to us westerners, He sent Buddha to the Chinese, Krishna to the Indians, Muhammad to the Arabs. But this is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible says that when God purposed to save sinners, that He Himself, left the glories of heaven behind, and put on a robe of flesh and became a human being. God on earth as a man. That God Himself did for us humans, what we could not do for ourselves. The Bible teaches that God died in the place of sinners, as a substitute, taking on Himself the wrath we sinners deserve and by doing so He satisfied the demands of a righteous God in Himself for us. God came to the earth and He did so in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Son of God, the second member of the Blessed Trinity. There truly is "no other name." The mercy of God is wide but to experience that mercy, there is a single gate into the sheepfold ... Jesus Christ. Any man who wills may come, but he must come God's way by God's provision.

Beloved, don't go trying to rationalize in yourself telling yourself that you will find your own way into heaven. If you want to be a good, moral person, most any religion will do. If you want to be right with God, you must come to the Father through Jesus Christ. If you have never looked to Him in faith before, look today and believe that when He suffered and died, it was for a sinner such as yourself. When someone tells you any good person will make it to heaven, don't you believe it. Even Jesus Himself spoke against that idea.

Salvation is through a person, the Lord Jesus Christ. Buddha, Krishna, and Muhammad cannot save you. No one else can. Only God Himself can save and He walked among us as Jesus Christ. He did not come as anyone else. If you doubt me, be like the Bereans and search the scriptures, the Holy Bible, to see whether the things I am saying are true. Jesus said to the Jews, "You search the scriptures because in them you think you find eternal life; and they are they which testify of me." In truth, there is "no other Name."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Post Election Ponderings

I am glad the election of 2006 is over. Sometimes the campaigns are interesting to watch but by election day I have usually had such a fill of campaign ads that I am relieved to see it all pass. The election did not go well for the Republican party. President Bush has been left a lame duck President. He will face a hostile Congress for the next two years.

Already the blame game has started. It was the war in Iraq. It was the President's unpopularity. It was this, it was that ... everybody is sure it was someone's fault. Certainly the Democrats offered us nothing of substance. Certainly, a series of scandals among the Republicans close to election day hurt them. But the Republicans built up a voter base of Christians by portraying themselves as common people who share a common set of values and morals with other common people. But, as election time drew close, the Republican Party gave the common people reasons to question whether that was really so.

And let's not forget the nay sayers who have already begun to appear. Now, I will tell you the truth ... when Democrats propose legislation, they always seem to propose things that attack my morals, values, and worldview directly. That is just me. But the naysayers are out there and they are offering us a smattering of what is coming. Homosexual rights/marriage, more pro-abortion legislation, higher taxes, less personal rights and on and on it goes. It is enough to make you want to move to another country. Almost.

I would offer this about the election in retrospect. It is a different world today than it was Monday. Scandals and immorality have rocked the Republican Party and they paid for it. But we have a party rising to power who favor anything goes as long as it breaks new ground in libertarian freedom. People can blame each other, or themselves, or God but how about we look first to the Church.

The Bible says "Judgment begins at the House of God." If the politicians are immoral, if the nation is immoral, if good is being called evil and evil is being called good, is it not the people of God who are to blame first? Where is the prophetic voice? Where are the people of God? I will tell you. By and large, the people of God are just as immoral as they nation around them.

It is time we took this election (and the state of our nation in total) as a wake up call to look hard at ourselves. John MacArthur has said that "worldliness" is not a topic you hear preached about much these days. We are too busy being told that God wants us rich, healthy and prosperous. God has a wonderful plan for your life and it includes being happy and living with a good positive self image. It is time we learned again of sacrifice and commitment. "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church." We need people willing to give it all up for Jesus ... modern day martyrs. We need people who have counted the cost and who will pray "Lord, search me and try me. Show me if there be any wicked way in me." and then be willing to act when the Lord shows them. We need to learn again of sackcloth and ashes and real repentence and fervent prayer. We need a rebirth of holiness in the Church. And then, and only then, will we be ready to make a difference in the world around us.

If we want to see a more moral America, we need to see a more moral Church first. If we want to find an honest politician, we need to first find an honest Christian. Before we decry the lack of prayer in public schools, we need to repent over the lack of prayer in Christian homes. You see change begins with us, the Church of Jesus Christ. THAT is what I think we need to learn from Election 2006.