We Desperately Need a More Sure Word

Never before has the debate been so intense about the nature of truth. On the one hand, our culture argues strongly that autonomous human reason is the final word on truth, that there is no possibility of supernatural divine revelation, and that morality is entirely subjective. On the other hand, wise men and women take refuge in a more sure word from God, believing that God has spoken and has revealed Himself to us in an infallible way in the Scriptures – in the Bible.

Even within Christianity, there is a growing number of leaders who divide God from His Word, presuming to have the capacity to rule out various pieces and passages of Scripture as sub-par according to human reason. But the Apostle Paul declared something that I believe with my whole heart: “When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths.” (1 Corinthians 2:13 NLT)

I believe in God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And because I believe in God, I accept that He can speak and can preserve His Words through any medium He so chooses. One of my heroes in the faith, W. A. Criswell, said this about the revelation of God:

“The written word, the spoken word, the incarnate word are all three inseparably tied together. God is identified with his Word and the Word is identified with God – the written Word, the spoken Word, and the incarnate Word. Whenever I receive the Word of God, I receive God himself. When I believe the Word of God, I believe God himself. Spiritually, when I know the Word of God, I know God himself. When I trust the Word of God, I trust God himself. God and his Word are identified forever. The Psalmist says, ‘For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven’ (Psalm 119:89). God’s Word is like God himself, the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

In a world gone mad, we need a more sure word than what human reason has to offer. And while subjective morality has left us floundering and drowning spiritually, God has revealed and preserved His Word for anyone willing to hear it. And this more sure word from God offers an invitation with solid assurance that “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13 NLT)

When You’ve Fallen Out of Love

We don’t actually “fall” in love. We choose to act lovingly. Attraction might be instant, but love is cultivated over time. And since we don’t fall in love, we don’t actually fall out of love either. We stop choosing to act lovingly. And when we’re not cultivating a relationship lovingly, things get cold.

Jesus once wrote to a church that was guilty of losing its love for Him. They were going through the motions, holding to the truth, and behaving like a church, but they had stopped acting lovingly toward Him. Something had gone cold in their relationship with Jesus, and His admonition to them contains the perfect plan for any of us who are in the same boat.

“You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.” – Revelation 2:4-5 NLT

His simple three-point plan for rekindling lost love is simple. 1.) Remember. That is, remember what it was like when we were acting lovingly in the past. 2.) Repent. Change. Turn around. Decide to head back in the opposite direction. 3.) Return. Start doing the things you did at first. Choose to act lovingly again.

This is a good word for a church that has stopped worshipping Jesus with genuine love. It’s also a good word for an individual whose walk with God has grown stale. It’s a good word for married couples, or anyone else who feels that their former feelings of love have grown cold.

After all, love isn’t a feeling. It’s a choice to act – a commitment to do things that are loving. And it’s never to late to start loving again.

If You Love Anything More Than You Love Jesus…

I’m speaking to believers… is there anything in your life you’ve come to love more than you love Jesus? An entire church was guilty of this and Jesus addressed them in Revelation 2:1-7. The Ephesian church was like the average Baptist church as described by Vance Havner, “straight as a gun barrel doctrinally, and just as empty spiritually.”

They hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans, an early heretical cult. They worked hard at being doctrinally pure, but they had apparently come to value their doctrinal purity over even their relationship with Jesus. They had left their first love.

So Jesus gives them a simple, three-point challenge…

  1. Remember what it used to be like when you loved Him most of all.
  2. Repent, turn back, change directions.
  3. Do the first works – again pour your energy into your relationship with Jesus.

The fact is, our relationship with Jesus takes work, like any relationship. Marriages don’t grow accidentally, and neither does our walk with the Lord. It requires intentional cultivation by spending quality, intimate time with Him.

If you’re realizing that something else has consumed your affections, then listen to Jesus’ words and obey them. To repent can be thought of in four steps: 1.) see my fault, 2.) feel my fault, 3.) admit my fault, and 4.) forsake my fault.

In all of your remembering today, remember your relationship with Jesus.

The Light of the Knowledge of God

This article is based on a message from Matthew 2:1-12 from a series on the light of Christmas.

I’m beginning to preach a series of Christmas-oriented messages at Bethel on the theme of Light. It will consist of three messages…

  1. The Light of the Knowledge of God. God wants for us to know Him, so He has revealed enough light that we might pursue a knowledge of Him.
  2. The Light of the Glory of God. The shepherds beheld a myriad of angels and the glory of God and I think it dramatically changed their lives forever.
  3. The Light of the Salvation of God. As Isaiah said, “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”

Continue reading The Light of the Knowledge of God

Strange Outreach Concepts

I just opened my mail and received a postcard in an envelope. There is no return address and no organization or individual named anywhere. Just a postcard. And it reads…. “Friends, Neighbors, Americans, Be hastily preparing all for the fall of ‘That Great City’ as described in Revelations Ch. 18. Repent and be baptized and join Jesus on a white horse as described in Revelations Ch. 19. God bless.” Continue reading Strange Outreach Concepts

In the Beginning

This week is very monumental for me. I am preparing to begin preaching through the entire Bible this Sunday morning. It has been a ministry-long dream. Since reading the autobiography of Dr. W. A. Criswell, who preached through the Scriptures over an almost eighteen year period at First Baptist Church in Dallas, it has seemed an unreachable and impossible task. I can’t tell you how much I’ve thought and prayed about this assignment.

In my mind, I’ve tried to place myself into the shoes of my church members, some of whom may not survive to hear the end of it all in the Revelation. Won’t we get bored? Won’t we get bogged down in the law, the plans of the tabernacle, the genealogical tables? Will people really be interested? Will the messages be relevant to my life? Nobody has asked any of these questions yet, except for me, but they have lingered in my thinking.

Then I think on the positive side. God’s Word is the source of all the divine wisdom we have at our disposal. He grows people through His Word. My calling to ministry is a call to shepherd God’s people by feeding them the truth of God. No book is more special, no other subject matter is appropriate. Why not preach “all the counsel of God?”

One dominating thought, however, is “what if I mess this up?” What if I don’t cover enough material? Life is too short to rely on “do-over’s” and I will probably get only one or two shots at a series like this in my lifetime. From that thought flows the bottom line issue – I have only this life to spend for God’s glory. This may very well be the last series of sermons I ever preach. Will it be worth it in the end? Absolutely! My life and the lives of the people God assigns to me to shepherd will be forever changed and enriched by hearing the whole counsel of God.

The question I’ve come to grips with is, if preaching through the entire Bible in a single series was the only feat I ever accomplished, it would be worth it – I would have to do nothing in addition to it to have fulfilled my calling as a Pastor.

Already, I’ve become familiar with the greatness of modern science. Many Christians today are at war with the scientific community over evolution, the Big Bang, and other modern ideas. I’m not threatened by these, but rather encouraged, albeit for a strange reason. Both of these theories, hard to swallow as they are, actually substantiate the greatness of the Bible. Let me explain…

The Big Bang proposes that the universe is not infinite, that it had a beginning in time. Until 1913, the world thought the universe was infinite, that it had no beginning and would have no end. But because of the discovery that the universe is expanding rapidly, we can postulate that if you work backwards, everything was once together, before the expansion began. In other words, the universe had a starting point. What baffles modern scientists is, what then? What did things look like before the universe began its explosive expansion? To this the Bible says, in the beginning… God!

And what of evolution? Why in the world would I appreciate this crazy and impossible to believe prognostication? Because evolution is really a fragment of a larger idea that there is a logical progression to the development of life on this planet, and that development concurs with the first chapter of Genesis in its order and structure. The only differences are that what science assigns to billions of years really happened in six literal, twenty-four hour days. First the rocks, then water, then marine and plant life, then the beasts of the earth, and finally man. I was taught in Astronomy 101 that all of this took place over about thirteen billion years. The Bible declares God did it in six days. I choose the Bible, but I stand amazed at science’s validation of the order of creation. I’m no more impressed with the Bible, I’m just more impressed with scientists.

Ultimately, what I’m discovering is that Genesis was never intended to be a science or history textbook. It was not intended to stir up debate over the literal nature of the word “day” or whether there was a gap included for the geological ages. Rather, Genesis’ creation account is a hymn of praise to the Creator! Don’t miss this. The story of creation wasn’t given so that we might use it as a source of scientific data (though I believe its perfect, literal accuracy). It was given that we might know our Creator, be impressed with His creative acts, and choose to serve and glorify Him for eternity!

What an awesome discovery for me! I can’t wait to share it all with the congregation of Bethel Baptist Church. Please pray that I will have the necessary time to invest in the study of God’s Word so that I might not fail to present the whole counsel of God with pastoral wisdom and compassion. Pray that I’ll always see the relevance of each passage to our daily living. Pray that lives will be changed for the glory of God as we “journey through the word” together!

The Nightline Debate: Proving the Existence of God

Last night, millions watched the debate between Kelly and Brian Sabient (representing atheism) and Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron (attempting to prove God’s existence without using faith or the Bible). I have reviewed as much of the video as I can stand and have come to some interesting conclusions.

At first, I was disappointed in Ray’s use of Scripture in his opening comments. He had made a commitment to prove God’s existence without the Bible and then proceeded to use the Bible, handing ammunition to his enemies who took full advantage of the moment and exploited his mistake. After much thought and prayer about the matter, I’ve come to the conclusion that Ray had not choice but to use Scripture.

This was his chance to speak to millions of “on the fence” people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to hear the gospel. Further, Ray believes that the Word of God has the supernatural ability to pierce through the hardness of the human heart. And finally, Christianity has made the mistake before of attempting to prove God’s existence without the Bible and our attempts at doing so have failed to convert people or change our surroundings. A convincing argument for a Creator might be fabricated from the witness of nature, but a converting faith is only borne on the wings of God’s inspired revelation of Himself to mankind. What was Ray’s mistake? It was in agreeing not to refer to faith or the Bible to begin with.

The reason I could not stand to watch the entire debate online, stopping the stream early instead, was because of the knot that formed in my stomach as I listened to Kelly blaspheme God in such an extreme way. My heart breaks for her. It is apparent to all who watched that atheism leads to intellectual arrogance and belligerence toward Christians. This rebellious attitude is not only proof of the fall of mankind into sin, left unchecked it always leads to the ultimate end of a soul unable to repent because of the hardening of the heart through the deceitfulness of sin. Should Kelly continue choosing to blaspheme God, she will inevitably push her will beyond the point of ever humbling herself before her Creator. She expressed that she’d rather go to hell than to live in eternity with a God she perceives as unfairly violent toward sinners. I hope this isn’t a self-fulfilling prophecy for her.

The thought that terrifies me the most is that they have become preachers of a false gospel. It isn’t that they question a Creator, it’s that they persuade others to purposely break the command not to blaspheme the Holy Spirit (a misinterpretation of Jesus’ intent, by the way). I’ve encountered the writings of Richard Dawkins and other such rationalists who purport that Christians are guilty of indoctrinating generations of people into believing in a warmonger-god. Yet the skeptics themselves are actively and intentionally recruiting followers to join them in their hate-filled, angry tirade against the very God who bought them with the price of His own dear Son.

At the end of the day, there will be millions who simply will not believe the gospel record. This is nothing new and we cannot naively assume that we’ll ever rid the world of atheism or agnosticism by simply arguing science or Scripture alone. What does seem to be new is the intensity with which atheism belittles people of faith. It is as though the battle lines are being drawn more clearly. The forces of light and darkness are engaged in a more intense form of warfare than at any other time in the recent past. Perhaps we’re moving toward a climax.

Perhaps it is that the day is soon coming when men will make their final choices concerning God and His Son. Should you accept the record of the Bible as inspired and inerrant, as I do, then you’ll discover that the Bible itself predicts the rising intensity of this debate toward the ultimate battle between Jesus and the forces of darkness. Thankfully, we who believe, already have the rest of the story laid out before us, and… Jesus wins!