Monday, November 23, 2009

Sermon: The Secret of Thanksgiving

Tremont Community Thanksgiving Service
Tremont United Methodist Church
Sermon by Noah D. Lee
November 22, 2009

The Secret of Thanksgiving
Philippians 4:4-13

First of all, I want to say how happy my family and I are to be in Tremont. After 9 years of ministry in Texas, we decided we wanted to know what winter was and moved here. I accepted the call to be the minister of Tremont Baptist Church, effective July 1. We are thankful for the kindness and warmth we have received from the good folks here in Tremont.

I am particularly delighted to be involved in tonight’s service. It is very good and fitting for Christians who love the Lord Jesus Christ to come together and express our common commitment to the Lord, to pray for our community, and to demonstrate sincere thanks to our God for all the good he has done for us in the past year. I am grateful for all the preparations made by Reverend Travis and the good folks here at Tremont United Methodist Church. I’m also glad to see many of my friends from the Tremont Baptist Church as well as others from the community.

I’m a list maker. I’ve made it my custom for several years now to make a list of things I’m thankful for during the Thanksgiving season. At some point this week, I will find a quiet corner and write down things I am particularly grateful for over the last year. I won’t share my personal lists with you, but I did come across one you might find interesting.

5 Things Housewives are Thankful for During Thanksgiving
1. Automatic dishwashers. They make it possible to get out of the kitchen before the family come in for their after-dinner snacks.
2. Husbands who attack small repair jobs around the house. They usually make them big enough to call in professionals.
3. Children who put away their things and clean up after themselves. They’re such a joy you hate to see them go home to their own parents.
4. Football. They provide an opportunity for afternoon naps.
5. Smoke alarms. They let you know when the turkey’s done.

Thanksgiving is more than a day
I love Thanksgiving Day. Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while the aromas of lunch waft in from the kitchen… Eating a delicious meal with family… Watching football… afternoon naps… playing football in the backyard… eating leftovers… laughing… playing games… being with people I love the most in this world… What joy it is.

But for Christians, Thanksgiving shouldn’t come just one day a year. We may not have the elaborate celebrations or meals. But the spirit of thanksgiving ought to permeate our very souls.
The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Thanksgiving it a perpetual attitude and disposition all Christians are to have.

Question: How can we develop an attitude of perpetual gratitude?

The Secret of Thanksgiving
Tonight, for just a few moments, I want to share with you the secret of thanksgiving.

We find the secret in Verse 11 of our text.

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

Contentment is the secret to thanksgiving. Until you and I learn to be content, we will never be thankful.

Author and speaker Steve Brown writes in his book Jumping Hurdles:
“The most unhappy person in the world is not someone who didn’t get what he or she wanted. The most unhappy person is the one who got what he or she wanted and then found out that it wasn’t as wonderful as expected. The secret of a happy life is not to get what you want but to live with what you’ve got. Most of us spend our lives concentrating on what we don’t have instead of thanking God for what we do have.” (pg. 150)

How many of us have closets, garages, basements, and storage buildings full of stuff we thought might make us happy only to discover it didn’t.

But the issue is not just related to things. It is related to the circumstances of our lives. We are unhappy because of our job situation. Or we complain about the situations we find ourselves in.
Before we will be truly thankful in all circumstances, we must learn contentment in life.

Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs wrote a wonderful book on the subject of contentment titled The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. Burroughs, who died in 1646, was very insightful when he called contentment a rare jewel.

• Contentment, like a jewel, is a precious, priceless treasure. It is to be prized by every Christian because God himself values it so much.

• And like other costly jewel, contentment certainly is rare. It not only was the case in Burroughs’ day, but ours as well. In fact, an argument might be made that we, living in the 21st century, who benefit from and have much more than any other generation in history, are less satisfied and less content now than ever before.

Burroughs defines contentment as “the inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, freely submitting to and taking pleasure in God’s disposal in every condition.”

How can you and I develop such a spirit about us? How can you and I become content in whatever circumstance we find ourselves in?

Happily, it is something we can learn. Paul said, “I have learned to be content.” I am delighted to find a saint of Paul’s spiritual stature saying, “I had to learn something. Here is an area where I had to grow” because I have to learn it and grow in it too.

Background of Philippians and the Surprise of Contentment
Now it is one thing to be content when you have everything you need or want. It is easy to learn to be content when you are comfortable and free. It is easy not to complain when everything is going your way. We might be tempted to think that Paul was on easy street when he wrote Philippians. But we would be mistaken.

Paul wrote this letter while in chains. He was under house arrest. He had limited freedom, but he was not permitted to leave his house. He had guards with him 24 hours a day. He was dependent upon the kindness of others to provide for his needs.

When Paul wrote “I’ve learned the secret of being content in any and every circumstance” he was not sitting under an umbrella on the beach sipping lemonade watching the surf roll in. He was experiencing real hardship.

In fact, Paul’s entire Christian life was marked by hardship. In 2 Corinthians Paul chronicles some of the hardships he endured.

2 Cor. 11:23b-28 (NIV) …I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. [24] Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. [25] Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, [26] I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. [27] I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. [28] Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.

Let’s be honest. How many of us would have thrown in the towel with just a couple of those things happening to us?

Instead, Paul can write to the Philippian Christians, while in jail, “I’m content.”

How in the world can you and I learn to be content and by extension learn to be thankful? The same way Paul did.

I see Five practices Paul engaged in to learn contentment. They are the same practices you and I need to learn to develop contentment in our lives.

First, we must rejoice in the glorious presence of God.

Philippians 4:4-5

Paul says “Rejoice and be gentle.” The way we are able to do these things is by recognizing God is with us.

Jesus promised in Matthew 28, before returning to heaven “I am with you always, even until the end of the age.”

Hebrews 13:5 (NKJV) Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

When you are going through the best or the worst in life, you ought to always remember that the Lord is with you.

And let’s be honest, if the Lord is with us, what else do we really need?

Discontentment for a Christian is essentially declaring, “Lord, you are not enough in my life. I need and want something more than you. You are insufficient for my needs.” How blasphemous such an attitude is.

Content Christians are people who are keenly aware of the presence of God in their lives. They continually rejoice. They do not get stirred up or distressed with others. Instead they are gentle and calm of spirit because the Lord is near.

So first, we must rejoice in the glorious presence of God. Secondly, we must rest in the prefect peace and provision of God.

Philippians 4:6-7, 9

One of the greatest privileges we enjoy as Christians is the privilege of prayer. And oh how shameful it is that we would neglect such a precious gift. But for the Christian who is committed to prayer instead of worry, supplication instead of anxiety, what a gift of peace awaits!
Friends, contentment doesn’t mean we ignore pain, sorrow, or difficulty in life. Rather, it takes those things to the Lord and gives them to Him. We present our requests, our grief, our sorrow, all of it to the Lord and we lay it at His feet. And in exchange, he gives us his peace.
One reason so many Christians are not content is they are too busy with worry. And the reason they worry is they think God is going to fail. Or God is too small to handle their problems.
Peace of mind and spirit go hand in hand with contentment. And we will not be content until we lay our burdens at the feet of Jesus.

Dear friends, one of the many precious gifts we have from Christ through is cross is his continual, divine intercession for us. Jesus even now prays and intercedes for you while he sits at the right hand of the Father. So don’t hold on to your worries any more. Give them to Jesus. Get peace and learn to be content.

First, we must rejoice in the glorious presence of God. Second, we must rest in the perfect peace and provision of God through Jesus Christ.

Third, we must refocus on the beautiful things of God.

Philippians 4:8

It would do a world of good for some of you to not watch the news or read the newspaper for a week. Bad news sells and we can get fixated on all the bad news out there. It becomes like a toxin in our souls. Soon we have lost faith and we despair.

Instead we ought to look into that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. This means we ought to begin in the Word of God and spend more time there, listening to his voice through Holy Scripture.

We should focus on the good things and beautiful things God is doing. Even in the worst of times, circumstances and situations, we can find the good of God at work.

As the old hymn says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.”

First, we must rejoice in the glorious presence of God. Second, we must rest in the perfect peace and provision of God through Jesus Christ. Third, we must refocus on the beautiful things of God.

Fourthly, Let us recognize the kindness of God through his people.

Philippians 4:10, 14

The Lord has not created us to be alone. We are a family of believers, brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to love and care for one another. As the Lord so allows, we are to watch for and help each other in our times of need.

Galatians 6:10 (NIV) Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

God works through us to care for each other.

Sometimes we let pride prevent us from caring for each other. Don’t rob yourself of this blessing.

Be humble and be willing to be blessed by your brothers and sisters. And see the hand of God in all of it.

Finally, we have seen that to learn contentment like Paul, we must: rejoice in the glorious presence of God; rest in the perfect peace and provision of God through Jesus Christ; refocus on the beautiful things of God; recognize the kindness of God through his people

And fifthly, we must rely on the powerful strength of God.

Philippians 4:13

This is a very popular verse, used by many. Often, Christian athletes will use this as a life verse. It is the motto verse of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. But this verse isn’t about athletic ability or other forms of achievement.

This verse means, in its context, that you and I can do all that God would have us do, go through all God would have us go through, be all God would have us to be, because His strength is at work in us.

Again, Jeremiah Burroughs in The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment writes:
A Christian finds satisfaction in every circumstance by getting strength from another, by going out of himself to Jesus Christ, by his faith acting upon Christ, and bringing the strength of Jesus Christ into his own soul, he is thereby enabled to bear whatever God lays on him, by the strength that he finds from Jesus Christ… There is strength in Christ not only to sanctify and save us, but strength to support us under all our burdens and afflictions, and Christ expects that when we are under any burden, we should act our faith upon him to draw virtue and strength from him. (p. 63)

I’ve heard it said, “The Lord won’t give you more than you can bear.” It is a pleasant idea, but it doesn’t find support in the Bible. In fact, I think the notion that God won’t give you more than you can bear is completely unbiblical.

Jesus said in 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV) "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

No friends. You will have more than you can bear and the Lord will give it to you. But the Lord will never give you more than He can bear for you.

When we rely on his strength and power, we can be content in whatever we face, because we know He is sustaining us through it.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us learn the secret of thanksgiving. Let us be content. Let us delight in the Lord and in Jesus Christ, our Savior. Let us find joy, peace, beauty, kindness, and strength in him.

He supplies all our needs. He gives us our daily bread. He is the satisfaction of our soul. He is our savior. Let us therefore be happy with Him and give thanks.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In Appreciation of Veterans

John Rusk, Jr. (deceased) - US Navy, World War 2
Roy Lee (deceased) - US Army, World War 2
Frank Lee - Arkansas National Guard, Operation Desert Storm

I am proud to call these men my family members. They were pretty ordinary guys who had families and served their nation in times of need. Thank you!

I am also thankful for Grandma Lou, Granny Lee, and Aunt Belva for their loving support of their husbands during most difficult times.

And for all the other veterans out there. Thank you for your service.

God bless you and God bless America.

Shameless Advertizing Worked!

I won the NASB Large Print Ultrathin Reference Bible in Black Calfskin leather! How cool. Thanks Logos!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Shameless Advertizing for Logos Bible Software in an Effort to Win a Premium Bible

Logos Bible Software is celebrating the launch of their new online Bible by giving away 72 ultra-premium print Bibles at a rate of 12 per month for six months. The Bible giveaway is being held at and you can get up to five different entries each month! After you enter, be sure to check out Logos and see how it can revolutionize your Bible study.

Friday, October 23, 2009

22 Great Devotional Resources

Here is a list of 22 great devotional books. The really cool thing is you can win them... for free! Details at Whether you enter the drawing for the giveaway or not, these are excellent titles for the nourishment of your soul.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Three Ways to Improve Preaching

T. David Gordon concludes his book Why Johnny Can't Preach with three great suggestions to improve preaching.
  1. Have an Annual Review of your preaching. Ask some trusted people to evaluate your preaching and suggest ways to improve.
  2. Read poetry. Reading and understanding poetry requires close examination and consideration of a text. Honing this skill is crucial to reading and understanding the Bible. As an added benefit, this practice will increase your vocabulary and help you verbally paint vibrant pictures in the minds of your listeners.
  3. Write letters by hand. The discipline of thinking through thoughts and carefully composing them without the benefit of a delete button will help you craft your thoughts more carefully as you preach.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Kind of Pastor I Want to Be

If I am the best, most learned preacher in the world, but I do not truly love my parishioners, I might as well read the phone book to them in place of the sermon.

If I am able to forecast social and political trends, if I am a walking encyclopedia of biblical trivia, and if I am a man of faith who can work miracles, but I do not love my parishioners, I am totally worthless as a pastor.

If I give all my possessions to charity to demonstrate a life of total reliance on God, and if I carry an organ-donor card, but I am not known for my love, there’s no point to it at all.

I must be patient with my parishioners. I cannot ever be envious of pastors with larger churches, or businessmen with larger incomes, I cannot brag about my personal accomplishments, I cannot be full of myself, and I must never run roughshod over the “little people,” or even perceive that anyone fits in that category. The phrase “advancement in my career” does not mean climbing the ecclesiastical hierarchy, or becoming famous or even conspicuous. It means perfecting my love.

I must never insist on having my way. It is their church, I am their servant. I cannot be irritable or resentful in front of my congregation, however appropriate those emotions may be.

I cannot gloat over the errors of sinners, but must regard the sinners as loveable, and the errors as tragic.

I must rejoice only in the truth.

When it comes to my congregation, I have to put up with anything. I have to truly believe them every time they make a promise, no matter how many times they’ve failed to keep promises in the past. I have to allow any personal indignity that comes my way to slide off my back.

My parishioners must feel that my love has no boundaries, no conditions, and no end. They should feel free to confide even the most disquieting, painful, embarrassing, and humiliating experiences in me, because they know I am always on their side.

When I get old, my preaching will stop. When I am old, my abilities will fade. When I am old, I won’t be able to remember all the clever things I know. But my love can survive even the greatest disability of age or disease.

I cannot know all things. I should never pretend to have all answers. “I don’t know” is always a proper answer to a question if it is true; it is humble. God is too great to fit in my brain.

My faith in Jesus Christ, my hope for the resurrection on the last day, and my love for others are all important things, but the most important one is love.

Based on 1 Corinthians 13


Monday, September 28, 2009

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Long TIme, No Blog... Here's Why

So, big changes since the last time I blogged. Here's whats been happening in my world.

  • June 30, 2009 was my last day as pastor of Longview Missionary Baptist Church. I love that church. They are wonderful people of God who showed great kindness to me and my family. I spent nine amazing years of ministry there, for which I give thanks. Though we are separated by geography, I still have them in my heart (Philippians 1:7).
  • On July 3, 2009, I kissed my family good-bye and drove to Tremont, Illinois. For the next 9 days I lived in Carroll and Phylis Imig's travel trailer. I woke up to the roosters every morning. I hated being away from my family, but enjoyed getting to go know the great folks at Tremont Baptist Church.
  • On July 5, 2009, I preached my first sermon as Pastor of Tremont Baptist Church. We had a "passing of the baton" from their interim pastor, Dr. Adrian Lampkin, to me. The service was a "God and Country Day" service in the park. We had a great crowd of more than 140.
  • On July 12, I preached my first sermon in the church building. After preaching, I left to make the 12 hour drive back to Longview.
  • We packed up our house. A great group of guys from Tremont made the trip down to help us load a Penske truck and a 26 foot enclosed trailer (side note: I can't believe we have that much stuff!). On July 14, Sarah and I said good-bye to Longview by eating lunch at El Sombrero (really missing that place) and stopped in at Lifeway for one last perusal. Sarah and I made it to Cape Girardeau, Missouri for the night.
  • We closed on our house on July 15 and started unpacking. And then there was more unpacking. And still more unpacking.
  • Since July 15, we have painted everything but the kitchen and the hall that goes to the front bathroom, put in new carpet in the bedrooms and living room, and put in new vinyl flooring in the kitchen. We also put up a chain link fence so the kids could play in the backyard and not escape.
  • We've met several of our neighbors and really like all of them. We love our new little village. Sarah and the kids love to ride bikes to the market to get a free sample of cheese before going to the library. We've made some new friends. They don't replace our old friends, but they are nice additions to our lives.
  • In the church, we've had three people join by statement/letter, one by baptism, and I'm working with another one for baptism. The church is remodeling office space for me and the staff (it was much needed and the work they are doing is beautiful). Attendance is trending upward (in July, we averaged 127; in August, we are averaged 136 for worship). I'm starting a new Young Adult Sunday school class this Sunday.
  • As of this week, every thing in our home is pretty much settled. All the furniture is in place. We still have a few boxes in the garage, and a few more at a friend's house. And I still need to hang a cabinet in the master bathroom. But other than that, we are getting settled in our home.
  • The kids are adjusting very nicely. Abigail still talks about her Longview friends. We all wish there was some good Tex-Mex here. And I am sure this winter, I will miss the Texas winters.
  • But God has been very kind to us. Our lives are slowly being weaved into the tapestry of fellowship here in Tremont. We are excited to be a part of the community and looking forward to what God has in store for us.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Celebrating Calvin's 500th Birthday

500 years ago today, John Calvin was born. If you don't know who he is, just google his name. To celebrate his birthday I was going to list 500 things I appreciate about him... but that would take a long time. So instead, here is a list of 5 :-)

1. I appreciate the Institutes of the Christian Religion. Love him or hate him, Calvin's systematization of theology has had profound influence on every theologian since.

2. I appreciate Calvin's Commentaries. This is a rich set of studies over many (not all) of the books of the Bible. Great devotional material here.

3. I appreciate Calvin's Sermons. Similar to the commentaries, but much more pastoral.

4. I appreciate Calvin's love for Scripture and high view of God.

5. I appreciate how Calvin has discipled me five centuries later.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ministry Question(s) of the Day

1. What attracts young families (families with younger children) to a church?

2. What are families with younger children looking for in a church?

Recanting my previous Facebook declartion

I was not allowed to leave Texas until I promised to have a Facebook account. So, ignore my previous post about not having Facebook.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

What I'm Reading

Lectures to My Students by Charles Spurgeon
I'm reading this a few pages at a time each day. It is rich in its devotional wisdom and practical applications for pastors. (Read 30 pages.)

The Disappearance of God by Albert Mohler

This is a reworking of some of Dr. Mohler's essays and articles that appeared on his blog a few years ago. Some very important concepts are presented, especially in his article on doing Theological Triage. A must read for every minister and Christian. (Read about 50% of the book.)

Why Johnny Can't Preach by T. David Gordon
An very cutting, but necessary, book on the weakness of preaching today. Gordon argues the problem with preaching isn't with the seminaries' failures to adequately prepare preachers or even with the shortened attention span of congregations, but the fact that preachers don't know how to read the text of Scripture and then prepare a sensible sermon directly from the text. This book will step on your toes and challenge some of the more common ideas about preaching today. (Read about 60% of the book.)

Religion Saves: And Nine Other Misconceptions by Mark Driscoll
Based on a series of sermons Driscoll preached addressing the nine biggest questions his church was asking, this book is typical Driscoll. Some solid theology mixed with biting sarcasm and humor, sprinkled with a good dose of pastoral affection. Driscoll is a pretty polarizing figure, but if you can work past the stuff that annoys you, I have found some very good teaching and application. (Read the Introduction and first chapter.)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Happy Birthday Matthew!

Today is Matthew's second birthday! My little buddy is growing up fast.

Recently, my little man has been carrying a ball and a Bible everywhere.

Maybe he will be a baseball playing preacher?

Whatever the Lord has in store for him, I'll always love him!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

My prayers for my children

Yesterday was Abigail's birthday. Tomorrow is Matthew's. If (when Lord willing!) we have child number 3, I hope he or she will be born on June 25. That would be fun, right?!

Here is what I pray daily for my children.

  • That they would be saved.
  • That they would love God.
  • That they would love others.
  • That they would be wise.
  • That they would live according to God's Word and faithfully serve Him.

For myself, I pray:
  • That I will be a faithful husband and father.
  • That I will be a consistent example of Godliness.
  • That I will disciple and train them in the way they should go.
  • That I will have wisdom to raise and guide them.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Happy Birthday Abigail!

Today is Abigail's birthday! She is four years old.

Four years of amazing blessings.

Four years of a deeper understanding of life.

Four years of joy.

Four years of hard work.

Four years I cherish.

Four years of Abigail.

Thank you God!

Adrian Rogers on Church Growth and Progress

In reflecting on Acts 6:1-7 in his book The Incredible Power of Kingdom Authority, the late Dr. Adrian Rogers makes the following points:

  • Where there is life there is growth.
  • Where there is growth there are problems.
  • Where there are problems there are solutions.
  • Where there are solutions there is even greater growth.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Goodbye Texas, Hello Illinois

On Sunday, June 28, I will preach my last sermon as pastor of Longview Missionary Baptist Church.

I have accepted the pastorate of Tremont Baptist Church in Tremont, Illinois.

I love my LMBC family and will miss them deeply. I have been honored to serve as their pastor for 6 years and on pastoral staff for three years before becoming pastor. But I believe God is leading me to a new ministry. This is a bitter-sweet time for me. I am sad to leave so many people I love. But I am excited at the new possibilities and oportunites in Tremont. Following God's will for our lives may not be easy, but it is always exciting and obedience is always the best choice to make.

Please pray for Longview MBC and their search for a new pastor. Pray also for Tremont Baptist as they prepare to receive us. And pray for my family as we make the move and transition.

Monday, April 27, 2009

No Facebook or Twitter for Me

Occasionally, one of my buddies will send me an email invite for Facebook or Twitter. Just so you know, I'm not ignoring you. I just don't do either. Knowing me, I would waste entire days with those things. So, for my sanctification and self-discipline, I'm staying in the stone ages and staying away from Facebook and Twitter.

I will continue to blog.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Connection Between Godly Thinking and Godly Living

Godly living flows from godly thinking, and godly thinking comes from a vital, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.

-- Colin N. Peckham in Resisting Temptation, p. 61

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Books Coming Soon from Crossway

Crossway is one of the best publishing houses around. They publish some really solid and useful books. Here are a few they are planning to publish in 2009 that I am looking forward to.

  1. The Gospel in Genesis by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  2. Proclaiming a Gospel Centered Theology from T4G 2008
  3. the previously mentioned Ashamed of the Gospel
  4. R.C. Sproul's massive, two-volume passage by passage exposition of Romans
  5. The Power of Words and the Wonder of God by Desiring God National Conference 2008
  6. Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ: The Cost of Bringing the Gospel to the Nations in the Lives of William Tyndale, Adoniram Judson, and John Paton by John Piper
  7. Let Not Your Heart be Troubled by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Monday, April 20, 2009

New Edition of Ashamed of the Gospel Coming

Word comes today that Crossway is publishing a new edition of John MacArthur's Ashamed of the Gospel (buy the original here or here). God used this book to literally change my life and ministry. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I'm really excited about the second edition and the new material in it. This book is must reading for everyone in pastoral ministry and church leadership. Here is a link to the new edition so you can add it to your wishlist.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Lessons from the Apostle Andrew

Scripture doesn't have much to say about Andrew. He is is mostly a background character, usually in the shadow of his brother Peter and his friends, James and John. But when Andrew acts and speaks, it is pure gold. John MacArthur, in is great book Twelve Ordinary Men notes the following attributes about Andrew:

  • He valued individual people. He was always bringing others, including his own brother, to Christ (see John 1:40-41 and John 12:20-22).
  • He valued insignificant gifts. He was the one who brought the boys lunch of five loaves and two fish to Jesus when it was time to feed the 5,000 (see John 6:8-9)
  • He valued inconspicuous service. He was happy to stay in the background, playing second fiddle. He didn't need to be the center of attention, but faithfully served Christ, giving Him all the glory.
For these reasons, he was an effective personal evangelist and a great model for us to follow.

Oh Lord, raise up more Andrews in the church!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Bible Kind of Salvation: The Effectual Calling of God by W.A. Criswell

This is the transcript of a sermon by the late W.A. Criswell. What a powerful, truth packed, Scripture saturated sermon. Enjoy.


Dr. W. A. Criswell

Romans 9:15-16

6-05-83 10:50 a.m.

The title of the message in the published bulletin here is: The Bible Kind Of Salvation. It is actually a sermon on election, on the calling and choosing of God. And, as a background text—not as an expository passage, but as a background text, I read Romans 9, verses 15 and 16. Romans 9:15 and 16:

For the Lord said to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

So, then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.

If we are saved, we are saved by His mercy and by His grace, not by our deserving or by our striving. It is God who saves us and God alone. Our salvation begins in Him, not in us. The initiation is in His mercy, in His elective choice, in His calling, in His will.

We are saved in His grace. The Scriptures say such, as in Ephesians 2:1: “All of us are dead in trespasses and in sins.” We are corpses in God's sight, in the presence of His holiness. We are dead; we are corpses; we are dead. We are born in that death; we are born in sin—even conceived in sin. All of our propensities and affinities flow in the direction of sin. We are by nature set in a fallen direction.

Have you ever stood by the mighty Niagara? The great River falls over that precipice. It naturally does; it is uncoerced; it falls by nature. It cannot rise, it does not rise—it falls. And, each drop of water pushes the other over the rim of that great Falls. We are set in a fallen direction. Jeremiah 6:7 says we're like a fountain gushing forth water, a fountain of wickedness, all of us.

I am bound, paralyzed between two steel rails: One, my fleshly lusts and the other, my fallen will. And, I stand in the path of an inevitable judgment, inexorable death. I'm like a man paralyzed between two steel rails. And, thundering down upon me is a great chain of cars. I can look at that locomotive and seek to argue with it, “You're going too fast!” or, “You’re following too precisely these rails!” or, “Don't you have pity or understanding or sympathy?” The only thing I can do is to drop, is to fall flat on my face as the great juggernaut rolls over me. I cannot save myself. I, with you—we are dead by nature in trespasses and in sins. We are corpses before the holiness of God and a corpse cannot raise itself, it is dead. A corpse cannot will itself to be born anew; it is dead. A corpse cannot raise itself to a quickened life, it is dead.

And, I can stand and preach to a dead corpse and say, “Don't you see?” But, a corpse doesn't see. And, I can lift up my voice and say to a dead corpse, “Don't you understand?” But, a dead corpse does not understand. And, I can say to a dead corpse, “Don't you hear?” But, a dead corpse does not hear. It cannot will itself to a quickened life. It cannot choose; it cannot see; it cannot hear; it cannot think; it cannot understand; it is dead!

We are shut up, like Nicodemus, to the power of the generating Spirit of God to born us anew. We are shut up, like Lazarus, in the tomb to the power of Christ to raise us from the dead. We are shut up, like those dry bones in the vision of Ezekiel in Chapter 37: “O breath of God, breathe upon these dry bones.”

The initiation of our salvation, of our calling, of our regeneration, of our new birth, of our salvation, is in God and not in us. Consequently, our new birth, our regeneration, our calling is a gift of God. It comes, in the mercy and grace of heaven, “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy, God saves us.” So Paul wrote in Titus 3:5. If I am saved, if I am regenerated, if I ever see God's face in heaven it is because of His election, His mercy, His grace, His effective call.

Up there in heaven, I look down into the abyss, into the burning hell of those who have committed just the sins that I have committed. But, they are in damnation and I am with God in heaven. Oh, the grace and the mercy of our Lord that reached down even to me. I deserve to be damned but God has had mercy upon me.

A monument of grace,

A sinner saved by blood.

The streams of love I trace

Up to their fountain, God.

And in his mighty breast

I see eternal thoughts

Of love for me.

[“Ready, Aye, Ready”; C.H. Spurgeon]

It is God who saves me. That is not an afterthought of the Lord. In Ephesians 1:4: “According as God hath chosen us in Him, before the foundation of the world, having predestinated us unto the adoption of children.”

And, as Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1: “Elect, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” It is not an advantitious, a peripheral, an afterthought, thing that God has done. Before He threw these worlds out into space, God knew us, called us by our names and wrote them in the Lamb’s Book of Life in heaven. “Foreordained before the foundation of the world,” the mercy of God extended toward us. All of these steps, and all of these virtues, and all of these glories of our salvation are in Him. He has done it, God has done it.

In the sixth chapter of the Book of John, it is Jesus who has chosen us. John 6:37: “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me.” And, Verse 44: “No man can come to Me except the Father which has sent Me draw him.” In Verse 65: “Therefore said I unto thee, No man can come unto Me except it were given to him of the Father.” And, in that great high priestly prayer of John 17: “As thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to whom to as many as Thou has given Him.” In the sixth verse: “Thou gavest them Me.” In the ninth verse: “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou has given Me; for they are Thine.” It is God who reaches down, to save us in His grace, in His mercy, in His elective choice.

In the fifth chapter of the Book of Acts, we're introduced to a great truth: When I repent, my repentance is a gift of God. In the fifth chapter of Acts, 31: God, who exalted the Lord Jesus, a prince and a Savior, to give repentance. He gives repentance to Israel and the Holy Ghost whom God gives “to them that obey Him.”

In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Acts: God gave them, says Simon Peter to us Gentiles—“God gave them the like gift as He did unto us.” And, “when they heard these things, they glorified God, saying, “Then [hath] God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” God did it, God gives the heart repentance: the spirit of turning. We are, by faith, receiving the gift of God and that faith is a gift from God Himself.

In the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Acts: “God giving them the Holy Spirit,” in their hearts, purifying their hearts by faith. The faith that purifies us is a gift of God. In the Book of Romans, chapter 12: “This I say through the grace given, to every man… God deals to every man the measure of faith.” Our faith is a gift of God. Ephesians 2:8 and 9:

For by grace are you saved—by grace, the goodness and mercy of God—by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is a gift of God—it comes from God—not of works, lest any man—say, “I did it, look at me! Look at me, I achieved my salvation, I did it!”—Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Our salvation, our calling, our regeneration, our quickening, our being presented someday to heaven is a mercy, and a gift, and a grace of God. Now, when I read this in the Bible, I look in my heart. Is it confirmed in my experience? It is, and, not only in mine, but in every man who has ever come to know Jesus as his Savior: A man or a woman, every one of us. When we look back into our experience, our experience confirms what the Bible avows: that it was God who touched me. It was God who called me. It was God who reached for me. And, it was God who saved me. It was His mercy and His grace that I came to know Jesus as my Savior and in Him I was born anew.

I look back over the years of my own life. One of the young men with whom I went to school, in high school, twice he was sent to the penitentiary and, the last time, one of the convicts took a baseball bat and beat his brains out. He grew up in a beautiful Christian home, as I did. Why was it I was called and the grace of God touched me? Oh, the mercy of the dear Lord in heaven.

In my home, there grew up with me my brother, two years younger than I. I felt called of God to be a pastor when I was a small child in the elementary school. Why didn't he hear the call? He never did, I did—God called me and, I heard it.

In my home, my mother taught me to say, when I was a little child, when people would put their hands on my head and say, “Son, what you going to be when you grow old, when you get grown?” My mother—my mother's father was a physician. He was a physician in the Confederate Army, my mother's father was a doctor—she taught me to say, when I was a little bitty kid, “What you going to do when you grow up?” She taught me to say, “I'm going to be a doctor, like my grandfather.” My father and mother were deeply disappointed when I gave my life as a child to be a preacher.

I love the medical profession. When I was in Baylor, I took half a dozen premed courses, made the highest grades in all six of them—I loved it. I love a physician because of the marvelous open door he has to witness for Christ but, I disappointed my father and mother when I avowed: “God has called me and I've given my life to that call of heaven.” God did it! In the story of in 1 Samuel, old Eli and the little boy, Samuel, lived in the same tent, in the Tabernacle of the Lord. But, it was the little boy that heard the call of God. Eli didn't hear it—he did! It's in the mercy and grace of our Lord that we're chosen, elected, called. It's God, in His mercy that does it. And, every man's experience will confirm the avowal of the Holy Scriptures.

When we move toward God, we later learn God first moved toward us. When we love and trust the Lord Jesus, we learn later that it was He who first loved us. When we answer the call of God, we later learn it was God who first called us.

Those old, great hymns of the long ago were just like that. Isaac Watts—you sang a song by Isaac Watts just a moment ago: “Alas! And did my Savior bleed, and did my sovereign die… .”—Isaac Watts wrote this hymn, in 1748:

Why was I made to hear Thy voice

And enter while there's room,

When thousands make a wretched choice

And rather starve than come.

T’was the same love that spread the feast

That sweetly forced [us] in;

Else [we] had still refused to taste,

And perished in [our] sin.

Pit y the nations, O, our Lord!

Constrain the world to come;

Send Thy victorious Word abroad,

And bring the wanderers home.

[“How Sweet and Awesome is the Place”; Isaac Watts]

In like manner, long years ago, Josiah Conder wrote this hymn:

‘Tis not that I did choose Thee;

For Lord, that could not be;

This heart would still refuse thee

But Thou has chosen me.

Hast from the sin that stained me

Washed me and set me free.

And to this end ordained me

That I should live for Thee.

T’was sovereign mercy called me

And taught my opening mind

The world had else enthralled me,

To heavenly glory's blind.

My heart owns none above Thee;

For Thy rich grace I thirst,

This knowing if I loved thee

Thou must have loved me first.

[“Lord, ‘Tis Not that I Did Choose Thee”; Josiah Conder]

It is God who saves us! It is in His mercy that He reached down and touched us, and called us, and regenerated us, and saved us, and washed us, and cleansed us, and forgave us—it's God who did it!

I think of a man struggling in the river. And, he goes down for the third time, unconscious. And, he finds himself on the bank of the river, safe. And, as he lies there and looks up, he says, “Great, wonderful. In my struggling, I made one last effort. And, I threw myself on the bank. And I'm saved.”

But, the explanation doesn't satisfy the heart or the mind, does it? Instead, as he lies there on the bank, and he opens his eyes and awakens, he looks up into the face of a man standing over him, wet, exhausted from the struggle. And, the man says, “I saw you struggling in the river, going down for the third time, and, I rescued you.” That explanation satisfies my heart. I understand.

It is the same with my soul. When I say to my soul, “Soul, you did good. You strove and you tried and you struggled and you worked and you achieved and, you've saved yourself!” Somehow, it doesn't satisfy my heart and it doesn't satisfy my mind but, when I look up into the face of the Lord Jesus, and I say, “Lord, in Your mercy, and Your goodness, and Your grace, and forgiveness, You did it! Thank you, Lord—You did it! When I do that, it satisfies my heart and my mind. I have come into the great truth of the mercy and grace in the elective calling of God. And not only is that true when I look back through the years of my life, confirming what the Book says; but when I look forward to the age to come when with you, God's blood-bought redeemed, I stand in heaven.

We have in the Revelation, the Apocalypse, the songs that we sing. What are they? Are they, “All Glory to me, I did it!” or are the songs like this: Revelation 1:5— “Unto Him who loved me and gave Himself for me and washed me in His own blood, unto Him be glory and dominion forever and ever, amen.” Or, in that wonderful, wonderful song I love to hear our people sing: in Revelation 5:

Worthy is the Lamb who hath redeemed us by His blood, out of every family and tribe and nation.

And the whole creation fell down and worshipped Him who liveth forever and ever.

It is God in His grace and in His mercy Who saves us; there is an effectual calling of the Lord. There is a general call, a universal call. You find an illustration of it in Revelation 22:17, the last invitation of the Bible: “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come’”—The Holy Spirit of God and the church:

The spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth repeat the glad refrain, just let the passer by say, Come. Let him is athirst, come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

There is a general call. There were thousands who heard Jesus, in His day, saying: “Come unto me.” The general call: thousand heard Him. There are thousands who heard Martin Luther preach, John Chrysostom, Savanarola—thousands. There are uncounted thousands who heard George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards. And, there are thousands today, who listen to these great evangelists like Billy Graham.

The general call—some of them heard and really heard. Some of them, in the day of Jesus, responded. Some of them did in the days of Luther, of Chrysostom. Some of them did in the days of Whitefield and Edwards. But, the great vast majority of them refused. But, some heard and some responded; the effectual call of God. It is so today; many, many hear, but some will always respond. In the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, forty-eighth verse:

When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the Word of the Lord—and, listen—and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed, as many as were “ordained” to eternal life believed.

Look again in 2 Thessalonians, chapter 2, beginning in verse 13:

Brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation… whereunto He called you by our gospel.

There is a general call heard by thousands, most of whom will refuse. But, there is an effectual call, an elective call and there will always be some who respond with their lives. They hear God's call and, they answer in commitment, and in glory, and in gratitude, and in love, and in trust, and in faith. God always has His own—always.

As you so well know, I read Spurgeon, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great London preacher. I just read him all the time. When Spurgeon was twenty years old, he was pastor of the New Park Street Baptist Church in London, England. It seated 1,200 people. And, when he came there, there were 85 in the congregation—wasn't long until the throngs couldn't get in the house. They knocked out the back wall, rebuilt it and they still couldn't get in the house. One day, he held his service out in the field. There were over 12,000 there and the service ended with a vast multitude bursting into song; they just burst into singing.

And, Spurgeon later wrote of that meeting—He wrote: “That night, I could understand better than ever before why the Apostle John, in the Revelation, compared the new song in heaven to the sound of many waters. In that glorious hallelujah, the mighty waves of praise seemed to roll upward toward the sky in majestic wonder, even as the billows of the great ocean break upon the beach.”

A reading of the words of that sermon that was preached that night makes it easy to understand why the service just ended with hearts being raised heavenward in wonder and praise, just burst into song. He was preaching—and, I dug up the sermon that he preached that night in that field, 20 years old—He was preaching on the text in Matthew 8:11: “Many shall come from the east and the west and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” And, the young preacher was glorying in the triumphs of grace. And, here is what he said:

Oh, I love God's “shalls” and “wills”; there is nothing comparable to them. Let a man say “shall”, what is it good for? “I will,” says a man and he never performs. “I shall,” says he and, he breaks his promise. But, it is never so with God's “shalls.” If God says “shall,” it shall be. When God says “will,” it will be. Now, God has said here: “Many shall come.” The Devil says: “They shall not come.” But, God says: “They shall come.” You yourselves say:”‘We won't come.” God says: “You shall come.” Yes, there are some here who are laughing at salvation, who scoff at Christ and mock at the gospel, but I tell you, some of you shall yet come.

“What?” you say, “Can God make me become a Christian?”

I tell you, “Yes!” For herein rests the power of the gospel; it does not ask your consent, but it gets it. It does not say: “Will you have it?” But, it makes you willing in the day of God's power.

You say, “I do not want to be saved.” Christ says, “You shall be saved.”

He makes your will turn around. And, then, you cry, “Lord, save me or I perish.” Heaven then rejoices over you, because Christ has changed your will. If Jesus Christ were to stand on this platform tonight, what would many people do with Him? If He were to come and say: “Here I am, will you be saved by me?” not one of you would consent, if you were left to your own will. Christ Himself said: “No man can come to Me except the Father who hath sent Me draw him.” Oh, we want that drawing and here we have it, “They shall come, they shall come!”

Ye may laugh. Ye may despise us. But, Jesus Christ shall not die in vain. If some of you reject Him, there are some that will not. If there are some that are not saved, others shall be. Christ shall see His seed. He shall prolong His days. And, the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hands. They shall come; they shall come, and naught in heaven, nor in earth, nor in hell can stop them from coming.

No wonder that vast throng burst into singing and to hallelujahs—the grace of God, the effectual calling of God. Do I want to be saved? Then I can be, I'm one of God's elect. Do I want Jesus in my heart and in my life? Then, I can have Him, I am chosen in the Beloved. If I want to give my life to God, I can! He has chosen me, written my name in the Book of Life before the worlds were flung into space. O the grace and the mercy of our wonderful Lord!

Now, just once again, and I must close: May I confirm that in experience? When I came to be pastor of this church, soon to be 40 years ago, the church had ebbed over a period of many, many years. The great pastor was sought by the world and he was gone most of the time. And, no man can build a church, being gone.

And Dr. Truett was invalid, dying for a full year. And when I came to be pastor of the church, 43 years younger than Dr. Truett—when I came to be under -shepherd of this congregation, I fell on my face. I got down on my knees and I said, “Lord, dear God, if I am faithful in preaching Thy Word, and if I preach it as zealously and as earnestly and as fervently as I know how—Lord, if I am faithful in preaching Thy Word, will you send me souls? Will you?” And, as though He had spoken audibly in my ear, I heard God say to me in my heart, “If you are faithful in preaching the Word of God, I will send you souls. I'll do it.”

Nor can I tell you the thousands of instances in which I sit down with families, pray with them in my study, and they will say to me, “When we came to the city of Dallas, we never intended to join the First Baptist Church.” Or, “When we came to the city, and found our home located miles and miles away, we never thought to drive so far down to that church in the heart of the city of Dallas. But, we're here. God put it in our hearts. God spoke to our hearts and we have come.”

And, when I hear them say that, every time, my heart goes back to that promise of God: “If you are faithful in preaching the Word, I will send you souls.” God does it. The Lord did it. God does it, He speaks, He calls. And He gives us these precious families and these immortal souls.

Dear people, I've been preaching here all these years and years and years. I have never preached at a service here yet but that God has given us souls. At the 8:15 o'clock service this morning, we had a bountiful harvest. God will do it again this hour and He'll do it again tonight.

“If you're faithful,” says the Lord—“If you're faithful, I will send you souls.” It is the calling of God. It is the effectual choosing of our Lord. It's the most comforting thing in the world.

Somebody said to Spurgeon, “If I believed that doctrine you preach, ‘God's going to call, God has elected…’ then I wouldn't even try. If they're going to be saved, they're going to be saved anyway. And, if they're not going to be saved, no matter what you do, they're not responding. It would be the most discouraging thing in the world,” said this man to Spurgeon.

And, Spurgeon replied, “My brother, it's just the opposite. It's just the opposite. When I stand to preach, I know that not all will respond. But, God will always give me some. Some will always hear. Some will always turn. Some will always respond. God will always give me some. That's the most comforting assurance in this earth. God will not let His Son die in vain. God has a people He has elected and chosen for His glory. And, God will not let His minister, who preaches the gospel faithfully, lift up his heart and lift up his hands and make his appeal in vain.”

God will always answer from heaven and give us souls. It's the most precious assurance in this world. And we praise God for the mercy, for the love, for the grace that reaches down, even to us. May we stand together?


Copyright © 2008 The W. A. Criswell Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Want to Win a Calf-Skin ESV Study Bible?

Me too! That's why I putting this post up. Go visit Boomer in the Pew to discover how you can win your very own ESV Study Bible. But, if you beat me out, you should at least buy me one :-)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Preaching Granny Lee's Funeral Service

My Granny Lee passed away Tuesday. This morning I will preach her funeral service. Please pray for me that I will faithfully share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with my family.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I'm soooo prepared for this...

I love living in Texas because of cool stuff like this.

Everyone knows that if Zombies invaded Texas, they would not stand a chance. Zombies are by definition slow and dumb. And every Texan carries at least one gun and has three in the truck and 4 more back at the house. The fight would be so lopsided, I actually feel sorry for the poor Zombies.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Holy Resolve

We shall go on to the end,
We shall fight for the gospel in our own hearts and the hearts of our children and fellow believers,
We shall fight to believe God is sovereign and good and loving at all times, even in tragedy,
We shall fight with growing confidence and strength in Christ, the power of God,
We shall fight to forgive and do good to those who sin against us,
We shall fight to not forsake fellowship, even when we feel like quitting,
We shall fight to keep pursuing God in his Word and prayer,
We shall fight to put sin to death in our lives,
We shall fight to keep the simplicity of devotion to Jesus,
We shall fight for the glory of God, whatever the cost may be,
We shall never surrender…

(ht: The Blazing Center)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Piper's Pro-Life Talking Points

As President Obama continues to make good on his campaign promises to support the murder of children in the womb through the act of abortion, John Piper provides 15 taking points for us to consider and share.

"You will know the truth and the truth will set you free." - Jesus Christ

1. Existing fetal homicide laws make a man guilty of manslaughter if he kills the baby in a mother's womb (except in the case of abortion).

2. Fetal surgery is performed on babies in the womb to save them while another child the same age is being legally destroyed.

3. Babies can sometimes survive on their own at 23 or 24 weeks, but abortion is legal beyond this limit.

4. Living on its own is not the criterion of human personhood, as we know from the use of respirators and dialysis.

5. Size is irrelevant to human personhood, as we know from the difference between a one-week-old and a six-year-old.

6. Developed reasoning powers are not the criterion of personhood, as we know from the capacities of three-month-old babies.

7. Infants in the womb are human beings scientifically by virtue of their genetic make up.

8. Ultrasound has given a stunning window on the womb that shows the unborn at eight weeks sucking his thumb, recoiling from pricking, responding to sound. All the organs are present, the brain is functioning, the heart is pumping, the liver is making blood cells, the kidneys are cleaning fluids, and there is a fingerprint. Virtually all abortions happen later than this date.

9. Justice dictates that when two legitimate rights conflict, the limitation of rights that does the least harm is the most just. Bearing a child for adoption does less harm than killing him.

10. Justice dictates that when either of two people must be inconvenienced or hurt to alleviate their united predicament, the one who bore the greater responsibility for the predicament should bear more of the inconvenience or hurt to alleviate it.

11. Justice dictates that a person may not coerce harm on another person by threatening voluntary harm on themselves.

12. The outcast and the disadvantaged and exploited are to be cared for in a special way, especially those with no voice of their own.

13. What is happening in the womb is the unique person-nurturing work of God, who alone has the right to give and take life.

14. There are countless clinics that offer life and hope to both mother and child (and father and parents), with care of every kind lovingly provided by people who will meet every need they can.

15. Jesus Christ can forgive all sins, and will give all who trusts him the help they need to do everything that life requires.

Monday, January 26, 2009

5 Bible Translations I Love

1. English Standard Version -- this is my first choice when it comes to reading and studying. I love the ESV. The ESV Study Bible is a must have resource.

2. New King James Version -- I've used NKJV so long now, it feels natural and normal. It's like an pair of old shoes that fit just perfectly.

3. New Living Translation, Second Edition -- The NLT2e is far and away better than the original Living Bible or even the first edition of New Living Translation. There are areas that I think are problematic, but I love reading NLT2e. NLT Study Bible was released last year and it is a good study Bible.

4. New International Version -- I used NIV throughout college. It is an old friend I enjoy spending time with. I've recently started using Today's New International Version and so far, I really like it.

5. New American Standard, 95 Update -- NASB is the most literal Bible available. Excellent for serious, in depth study.

Honorable Mention:

King James Version -- although I don't use KJV on a regular basis, its beauty is unsurpased. I grew up with KJV and deeply apreciate this version.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Definition of the Gospel

The Gospel is the glorious truth and reality that Almighty God, in incredible love toward us sinners, sent His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, the God-Man, who lived a sinless life, died a sinners death, was buried and rose on the third day to make atonement for our sins and make peace between us and God.

All who, in genuine repentance and faith, confess that Jesus is Lord and believe He has risen from the dead, are saved.


What do you think?

Is this a good definition of the Gospel? Did I leave anything out?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

One of My Favorite Pictures

I took this photo at the Oklahoma City Zoo a couple of years ago.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Cause for Weeping and Much Prayer

Update: Justin Taylor offers this incisive commentary.

President Obama is moving to keep some of the worst promises he made during the campaign. His actions will result in the murder of countless innocent lives. Unfortunately, this will probably only be the beginning.

God help us.

Obama to Lift Ban on Overseas Abortion Funding

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Lack of Gifting is No Excuse for Disobedience

I believe God has gifted different believers in different ways.

My friend Jason is a gifted evangelist. I've been with Jason when he struck up a conversation with a stranger and turned it to the Gospel smoothly and easily.

Marilyn is a wonderful woman in the church I pastor. She has the gift of mercy. Several years ago her husband committed suicide. By God's grace, she persevered through it and grew through the experience. Now, she has a vibrant grief support ministry helping dozens of people throughout Longview because she is gifted at showing mercy to those in need.

Johnny and Michelle are two of the most generous people I know. They give freely to bless God's people and help missionaries. They aren't rich but they give richly.

And I could go on naming people and their gifts. We all are gifted differently and we should maximize the abilities, resources, skills, and gifts God has given us for His glory and His kingdom.

I admire and at times have a holy jealousy for these and other people. I wish I could do these good works like they do. God in His wisdom did not see fit to gift me in those ways.

But a lack of gifting is no excuse for disobedience.

As a Christian, I am to be faithful to share the Gospel. Even if I do not have the gift of evangelism.

As a Christian, I am called to be merciful to those around me. Even if I do not have the gift of mercy.

As a Christian, I am called to be a good steward and give to those in need and for Kingdom work. Even if I do not have the gift of giving.

Whatever gift God has given us, we should maximize our use of that gifting. If you have any talent or ability, use it all for God's glory.

But if you aren't gifted in some particular area-- like evangelism, showing mercy, giving to those in need, being a peacemaker, giving exhortation, being an encourager, being a prayer warrior, or any number of other things-- you still have no excuse for not obeying God and doing what He would have you do as a Christian.

Paul told Timothy, "Do the work of an evangelist." I think Paul wrote that to Timothy because Timothy wasn't very good at evangelism. And if you aren't good at something, it is easy to leave it off. But Paul didn't say, "Just do those things you are comfortable doing. Just focus on that little area you really excel at." No, Paul told Timothy to be obedient to Christ and do his Christian duty, whether it was easy or not.

There are many things in the Christian life that don't come easy for me. But my lack of gifting is no excuse for disobedience.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Prayer for President Obama and the United States

Almighty God, Heavenly Father,

You alone are the one true God, the maker of heaven and earth, the giver and sustainer of life. All things exist for your pleasure, purpose, and glory. Let all creation bow down before you alone, One God in Three Persons-- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You have made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth. You have determined the allotted periods and boundaries of our dwelling places. In your mercy and for our good, you have established governing authorities to provide order in society and protection from the wicked. No nation comes into existence and no authority has power unless you grant it.

On this day, as we the citizens of the United States of America witness the inauguration of our Forty-Fourth president, Barak Obama, we ask that you would bless our nation and our president and his family.

Bless our nation with the conviction of sin, righteousness and the judgment to come.

Bless our nation with genuine revival.

Bless our nation with Gospel preaching churches and Gospel living Christians.

Bless our nation with men and women of prayer.

Bless our nation with protection from Satan's vile work.

Bless our president with heavenly wisdom and a humble heart.

Bless our president with righteous advisers and godly counselors.

Bless our president with a holy heart devoted to Jesus Christ. May he seek the Lord all of his days and govern with justice.

Bless his family with protection from those that would destroy them.

Let all of your people who are called by your name humble themselves, and pray, and seek your face, and turn from our wicked ways.

Let innocent lives be protected in the womb and among the aged and infirm.

Let laws be enacted that are righteous, just, and fair.

Let the Gospel light shine brightly and boldly as Christians pray and embody the commands to love you with all that we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Some trust in horses, some trust in chariots, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

In the holy name of the Lord Jesus Christ I pray, Amen.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Inauguration Bibles

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating interactive graphic showing various Bibles and Bible verses used during Presidential Inaugurations. Very cool.

I pray that all our presidents would not only use the Bible as Inauguration decoration and symbolism, but actually read and govern according to the Scriptures. Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican or an Independent, God is very clear about our duty to the ruling authorities.

1 Timothy 2:1 (ESV)
"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,
for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Praying Ezra 7:10

Ezra 7:10 "For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel."

Like Ezra, I want to devote myself to the study of the Word of God.

Father, help me be devoted and disciplined to read, meditate, and study your word that I might know You and Your will.

Like Ezra, I want to devote myself to obeying the word of God.

Father, help me put into practice what I learn from Your Word. Help me to obey You, forgive me when I fail, and encourage me to never give up.

Like Ezra, I want to devote myself to teaching the Word of God to the People of God.

Father, thank you for calling me into ministry. By your grace, help me to preach and teach boldly and correctly. Guard me from all error. Help me to be clear. And help your people to hear, receive and believe the Word.

For Your glory and Your Kingdom, I pray in Jesus' name with the help of the Holy Spirit. Amen.