Saturday, February 27, 2016


I don't know about you, but there are times when I could say something to someone but I just don’t want to say things clearly and directly as I could.  There are times when I understand the truth about a situation but I don’t want to speak that truth in a way that would come across as harsh or offensive.  I have a tendency to want to soften things rather than to say something that might cause hard feelings. 

Sometimes we could call this "tact" or "being prudent."  In our day this kind of approach may also be labeled being "politically correct."  There are times when this is clearly the right approach, where exercising some restraint in the short-term helps hold a relationship together over the long-term.  But there are times when, as Christians, we might be making a mistake by shading the truth, thinking of the short-term and forgetting that our words and actions can have long-term, even eternal, consequences.

This idea came to my attention in an unexpected way as I was reading Luke 13 while waiting with my wife at the hospital last Sunday evening.  Jesus has been talking with some Pharisees, leaders among the Jews,  and he expresses sadness and disappointment over their spiritual condition and their historic rejection of the prophets God has sent to his people.  In the last part of verse 34 he says some very familiar words:

"How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!" 

And then in verse 35 he says:

"Behold, your house is forsaken" 

That phrase, "Behold, your house is forsaken" nearly stopped me in my tracks.  To be forsaken means to move away or depart from; to leave and be separated from.  Jesus is telling the religious leaders that because they, and the Jewish people generally, have repeatedly ignored God that they are going to find themselves abandoned by God.  They are supposed to be God's people, and yet because they ignore him God will separate himself from them.  They will be forsaken by God.

The Good News of Jesus, that God saves sinners through the death-and-resurrection of Jesus, is not just another one of many things a person may choose, or not choose, during their life.  When faced with a choice about the Good News of Jesus, we have the only choice in our lives that truly has eternal consequences.  One choice is that we can believe in him and have eternal life with him.  Any other answer is the same thing as saying "no" to him, and the consequence of that is being forsaken by him. 

Every believer in Jesus knows people, many people, who don’t have faith.  Sometimes our desire to share the Good News is muted by our desire to keep peace or not offend.  But the danger our unbelieving friends face is very real.  Let us be people know God's love so deeply that we are willing to speak the full truth of a merciful Savior to a world that desperately needs to hear and believe the Good News of Jesus.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

A pastors gotta read…

About two years ago I started reading multiple books at the same time, i.e. having more than one book going at any particular time.  Since then it has usually been one work of systematic or biblical theology, another book that is work-related, and then something of personal interest.  This general plan has grown a bit, at least at present, and the stack in the picture is what I'm currently reading.

Working our way up from the bottom is Calvin's Institutes, volume 2, my reading in systematic and biblical theology. I was hoping to finish this by Easter but it will take a bit longer than that.  I haven’t decided what will be next here, but I have narrowed my choices to two. 

Next is Amillennialism, by Kim Riddlebarger, my work-related reading.  I finished it today.  I keep an "on deck" collection of this category of reading, so I know what the next few books are.  And next comes Preaching? by Alec Motyer.

Next is my Bible.  Last year I read through it using the M'Cheyne reading plan. This plan guides a person through the Psalms and New Testament twice a year and the remainder of the Bible once a year.  Reading the Bible in a year was so good for me, personally and pastorally, that I'm doing it again this year and plan to repeat for at least as long I remain in pastoral ministry.  This year I have adapted the M'Cheyne plan, which ordinarily has four separate selections of scripture each day.  Instead of reading from four different books of the Bible each day I am reading 4-5 chapters from one book each day.

Next is a collection of sermons, and in this case a volume of the Classic Sermons series, edited by Warren Wiersbe.  One of the drawbacks of preaching each week is that I don’t get to listen to other pastors preach God's word.  I have about 20 volumes from this series, plus a number of other books filled with sermons that aren’t doing me any good just sitting on a shelf.  So this year I have added reading sermons to my reading "plan".  I'll add that this particular series has exposed me to the work of Alexander MacLaren and G. Campbell Morgan, and their sermons are pure gold.

Next is something from my general reading, in this case a brand new book about Teddy Roosevelt and his life-long fascination with natural history. My reading in this category is usually history, fiction or biography.

And finally, on top of the pile, is Preaching & Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  I've had it for a while and I'm not sure where I picked it up.  I have long known that many preachers highly commend it and two weeks ago I learned of an online reading group that was going to read it, so I signed up and got started.

A pastor has got to read.  A pastor has got to preach.  And a pastor has got to get out and do pastoral care, in homes, at the hospital, and even over the phone.  I am thankful that God gave me a love of reading, which over the past two years has helped shape me as I carry his love to his people here in Dulce.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

"…He spoke the word…"

This morning I preached from Mark 4:21-34, which is a series of three parables of Jesus, as told by Mark.  Looking again at the text this afternoon something caught my eye that I had missed earlier.  After telling the parables Mark ties things together in verses 33-34, writing this in verse 33:

"With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it." 

It is that phrase in the middle, "he spoke the word," that I had missed before, or at least I missed the importance of it.  Two of the parables preceding that verse are about the kingdom of God, but no one is going to have the first idea of what Jesus is talking about unless they have first heard and understood what Mark refers to as "the word."  And to understand what "the word" is we go back to Mark 1:15.  Jesus is in Galilee, saying:

"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." 

The gospel, "the word," is the good news that God loves sinners and He offers them reconciliation with Him when they turn from their sin and trust in God, alone, for their salvation. 

The salvation that came with hearing and believing the word that Jesus spoke as he taught the parables is salvation that is still available when a person hears that word today.

He spoke, and he continues to speak.  May you hear that word, receive it with gladness, and know the everlasting joy of a healed relationship with God.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, February 8, 2016

"…the man upstairs…"

A group of us watched the Super Bowl last night.  We were a mixture of Viking, Cowboy, Giants and Packers fans, but we live in an area where Broncos fans predominate and as the game progressed we were all cheering for the Broncos, who eventually took firm control and emerged victorious.  Immediately after the game Peyton Manning, the Broncos quarterback, was interviewed while still on the field, saying this:

“I’ll take some time to reflect.  I’ve got a couple of priorities first. I want to go kiss my wife and my kids, I want to go hug my family, I’m going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight, Tracy. And I’m probably going to take care of those things first. And I’m definitely going to say a little prayer and thank the man upstairs for this great opportunity. I’m just very grateful.”

It was the phrase "the man upstairs" that jumped out at me during the interview.  It is a somewhat generic statement of thanks towards God, although it seems to prompt a whole new series of questions, at least in my mind.  Such as who does Manning believe God to be; what is the basis for Manning's relationship, if any, with God; and what specific opportunity is Manning referring to?

I'll confess that  my mind was perhaps primed to notice this particular phrase.  Just one week ago I happened to have lunch with a man and our conversation took an unexpected turn as he shared with me his history of substance abuse, and his deliverance from that abuse and an otherwise very certain early and ugly death, due to the intervention of "the man upstairs" in his life.

I will also confess that I know nothing of the faith story of Peyton Manning.  I don't know what he believes, or what he considers to be nonsense. 

Additionally, I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to be a star on a national platform for many years, to reach the highest goal of everyone within your profession, and then, in the excitement of the moment, to be interviewed live on TV.  In these circumstances, Manning's demeanor was admirable.

But to the matter at hand…"the man upstairs."  If this phrase by Manning represents generic words of thanks to a generic god, it means nothing.  They are empty words and they fall on deaf ears.  The God of the Bible is not generic, and even better than that, He is personal.  He has been revealed to the world in the person of Jesus, and when we know and believe in Him, then we should name Him as the One we are thankful to, in all times the times of our lives, good and bad.

In Acts 4, as Peter and John give their testimony before the council of Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, Peter ends by saying this of Jesus:

"And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

In the thrill of a Super Bowl victory, Peyton Manning can name his beer.  May he also one day be able to know, and with confidence, name Jesus as his Savior. 

And may you too, know, love, and name the Name that stand above all names, the name of Jesus.

"For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. 
To Him be glory for ever."  Romans 11:36

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.