Quarantined (IBTR #49)

In the right situation, quarantining can be a splendid idea. Many, I have noticed, suggest it in the current Ebola crisis(?). Someone mentioned to me the other day that quarantining is often used in the Christian world. The Independent Baptist world, for the record, contains some of its greatest practicitioners.

Before we consider it in a religious context, we must remember what the goal of quarantining always is. A disease is cordoned off so that it might not spread. The idea is to keep it out.

In a most bizarre twist, many in certain groups use it to keep it in. That’s right! They work to keep the disease in!

They have some unscriptural ideas that they do not want to get out. They have some particular standard or church practice that they deem essential and they quarantine those inside their own circles from all others who might hold a different point of view. (The quarantining of those in the group who disagree is a subject for another day). That one who disagrees on some dress or music standard must be ignored, shunned, and never listened to. In that they think they are so right, it seems odd that they would quarantine those they deem to be well! It would be like quarantining all the Americans who don’t have Ebola and putting them in medical facilities while letting the two or three that do have the run of the country. I guess it could work, but it seems the long way around.

I suspect that in the churches I speak of the real reason for quarantining is never mentioned. What is it? Their great distinctive point cannot be easily defended with Scripture or logic, so they must quarantine so real, tough, honest questions can never get to their ears. Deep down they know how hopeless the cause they champion would be! It is a position diseased Scripturally. Quarantining is they last wall of defense where unquestioned position live.

I say quarantine disease away, but never truth. Truth is not diseased and needs no medical intervention. Let it stand for it never stumbles. It is too strong to ever fear. There are cases where fear makes no sense and truth is one of them. I don’t fear dandruff (it takes hair to have it!). Let it out and all will be healthier; that is if you really have it.

Read all articles in the series here.

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Standing Up To The World (IBTR #48)

ibtr48Does it seem to you that standing up to a questioning world, meeting their criticisms head on, and sharing Christ without fear, is what we are supposed to do? Surely, all of us Christians could agree with that. On the other hand, have you listened to those who speak of how bold they are in such scenarios, but their efforts are more the fiber of ridicule than persuasion? Having insults to mask cluelessness is a temptation for us all, but, perhaps, the Independent Baptist world has a large, ugly trail of it.

Isn’t it sad when a needy world asks tough, but legitimate questions and rather than dig or think, we attack? We say they are stupid, or how could they be dumb enough to misspell a word in their question (I just had to have “misspell” auto correct for me!). I have heard people called names, or that they had better just shut up and get saved or they will split Hell wide open (when the question just might be proof of their seeking itself).

That certainly slaughters the claim that we love souls. The truth is that our pride is held in higher regard than someone’s soul. We can’t appear to be anything less than an expert even if we could not answer the question and care little to dig it out.

Some say Jesus  spoke with ridicule at times. He did, but He also possessed perfect knowledge of the person he was speaking to. The other big difference was that He never did it to hide being found out for being uninformed. He never had need to hide lazy thinking and shoddy preparation. We would rather mow someone down than take a few hours to get a handle on the issues under consideration. The Bible has the answers but we would rather bark than dig.

Some go father than this and go for outrageous criticisms and insults. An opponent’s looks or weight are completely irrelevant and to use such statements as a Christian in a discussion is absurd. Besides the utter shamefulness of it, it likely drives the people we should reach as far away as possible.

Let’s you and me hold ourselves to far higher standard than that. Let love prevail, and work rather than run and hide. The stakes are too high.

Find all articles in the series here.

 

 

Songs Of A Suffering King by J. V. Fesko

 

photo (27)A good library will always include several volumes at end of the Psalms section that covers only certain psalms in a group or of a similar nature or theme–Imprecatory or praise or pilgrim psalms, etc. Perhaps you see fewer volumes on the first eight psalms discussing them as particularly united. Enter now Songs of the Suffering King by J. V. Fesko and published by Reformation Heritage Books.

Surely Mr. Fesko is right in believing that the Psalms are not in random order, and that Christ is prominent in the Psalms. In saying that the psalms are about Christ, he actually goes so far as to say that Christ is in every Psalm. To my mind, that is harder to prove in some psalms that others. Though Mr. Fesko stretched his theory here and there, this is a warm-hearted volume.

What you have is thoughtful exposition that will aid you in your own preparations, as well as serve as fine devotional reading.  He gives, for example, great insights in Psalm 1 before making it all about Christ. Even in disagreeing that Christ was there as much as he said, I left the chapter enriched. His theory worked better in Psalm 2 and his comments were outstanding there too.

Psalms 3 and 6 were my favorite of his expositions, but they were all thought provoking. Warmly Recommended!

 

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Jesus For Sale (IBTR #47)

By Guest Blogger Alicia Reagan

I sit and watch people. I can’t help it. It is in my DNA to be a complete nib nose. With that comes my horrible habit of thinking that I know everything about that person in about 5 minutes of watching them. Sometimes, I am right but most often I have completely called it all wrong.

I am a Pastor’s wife, a public speaker and a musician. I was raised in the ministry and grew up around preachers. Because of all these things, I have been in a lot of different environments and around a lot of different churches and pastors. There is something I have witnessed that greatly disturbs me.

I have witnessed some of these men telling their congregations to make sure that they share Christ. They implore them to witness, leave Gospel tracts, be faithful to church stuff and looks for ways to be a good testimony. You are around them in their daily life while they pastor a church. Then, they are not pastoring and they are suddenly the ones that are not faithful! They won’t show up for any sort of outreach. They don’t share Christ in their daily lives. They barely share a smile anymore! It takes me back and I find myself questioning their sincerity. Did they say one thing while they were the Pastor, and then live another way when they were not?

I do not want you to get the wrong impression that I see the negative often. I do not. But I have seen it enough that it bothers me. It grips my soul with a haunting question: do I market Jesus?

My husband and I love the ministry. My husband has given his life to the ministry. It is his calling. Ministry is not a career choice. Or is it? Do we love Jesus and show Him to others? Or, do we market Jesus to grow our own spiritual empires? Do we use the church to be personally successful? Is our success dependent on a good marketing campaign? Am I a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or am I the CEO of a growing church? These are real questions that must be at the heart of every one of us who are in ministry.

In the ministry of Jesus, we never find Him touting WhoHe was. He praised His Father.

In the ministry of Jesus, we never find Him bragging on His position. He took on the form of a servant.

In the ministry of Jesus, we never see Him acting better than anyone else. He took time and focused on all of the outcasts of the societal totem pole.

In the ministry of Jesus, people were always at the heart of all He did. He did not just speak it. He lived it out in front of them.

In the ministry of Jesus, He did not come up with new campaigns to bring them in. He went out among them.

In the ministry of Jesus, He did not worry about them remembering His anniversary, or if they thought about His raise, or if they were going to honor Pastor Appreciation Month. He worried about them not being followers of God.

I am afraid that many times, we have built “the ministry” into a noun and not a verb. It has become our identity instead of our description. It has turned into what others can do for me, instead of what am I doing for them. It has become my career instead of my passion. It has centered around me and not Jesus. Jesus has become the marketing platform for me to end up successful…in the ministry.

Jesus is not for sale. I believe His example in the New Testament, of turning over the money changers in the Temple, should provide a good example to us of His feelings about trying to market the things of God.

I love to see a genuine love for Christ…with no strings attached…flow out of a Jesus follower just because they love Him. I love being with precious Pastors who also let the love of Jesus flow out of them to others. I love to watch them love on others in practical ways which have nothing to do with adding to the attendance of their congregation. I am more interested in a Pastor outside of his church than I am inside it.

Jesus will build His church and we are to stay faithful. That is what is required of His followers. If Jesus is lifted up, He will draw men unto Himself. Success cannot even be measured in the ministry, for many of our rewards are eternal and will not be seen until we face our Savior. When we focus on a false definition of success, our pride will take us down every time.

Am I sharing Christ because I love Him and He changes lives? If so, that will happen no matter what your position in life. Or, am I sharing Christ so that I can reap the benefits of a larger congregation? If so, that will only last as long as you are the one trying to grow the attendance.

We must be alert to our motives. Instead of selling Jesus to build “our” ministry, let’s minister and show Him to others.

Mark 10:45
For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Find all articles in the series here.

This guest by my wife is the second time she has written one of the Truth Revolution articles. She often gives me ideas and helps talk to many who write us. I appreciate her help and suggest you check out her own fine blog aliciareagan.wordpress.com

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Books on the Ministry #15

Here are four more outstanding volumes on the ministry. Two are timeless classics, and the other two are lesser known but well worth reading.

1. The Minister As Shepherd by Charles Jefferson

I read this volume in the very early days of my first pastorate and no book has shaped my thinking more about what pastoring looks like. In line with Scripture, he deftly compares our work to that of a shepherd. There could hardly be a better approach. We could use his wisdom today. He says so many good things!

“It is not necessary to put grass into the sheep’s mouth.” “Dictators are out of place in the pulpit.” Of us: “They are his representatives, but they do not take his place, nor possess his power. There is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, God’s Son.” He points out that Jesus says, “Feed MY sheep.” He tells our reward as: “The reward of the shepherd is that he becomes increasingly like the Good Shepherd.” Wow!

Pastor, this book will change your life.

2. The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter

That this classic volume is still such a blessing shows the timeless nature of what we do. When I finished this book years ago I wrote on the fly leaf: “Excellent! He cuts pastors no slack! We must wholeheartedly serve God!”
He tackles some of the harder aspects of pastoring, including dealing with matters of church discipline. “Reformed” in this case means “revived” and you will see that he writes with the gusto of one revived!

This book has been incredibly influential for a long time and still has something to say.

3. Expository Preaching Plans And Methods by F. B. Meyer

When one is an expert marksman in tracking out warm, glowing expository messages from the pages of God’s Word, his words on expository preaching are worth hearing. F. B. Meyer was such a man. You will be blessed reading any of his messages.

Whether it be specific pointers or speaking to the big picture of expository preaching, he is quite helpful. I love how he quoted Philip Henry who didn’t go over their heads, nor under their feet, but to their heart.

Take this to heart: “Many a track of Scripture, when we first read over it, seems as though it were hardly worth considering, and then the hidden Christ is suddenly discovered.”

Another gem!

4. Master Preachers by Harold Calkins

Here is something different. He takes several of the great masters of preachers and tells us about their study and devotional habits. For me, it didn’t hurt that he covered some of my very favorites–Maclaren, Spurgeon, Morgan, Parker, Whyte, Jowett, Muller and others. I am shocked he included Harry Emerson Fosdick, but one gravel among diamonds can be handled I suppose.

He writes that you and I may have more effective and fruitful ministry. I can’t imagine the reading required to put this volume together. There are so many illuminating nuggets. Did you know that Whitefield read Matthew Henry through on his knees? Did you know that Muller prayed even more for his sermons than financial needs? He explained how MacLaren would draw out shades of meaning and people would respond how it was all in the text and how did they miss it. There is so much more.

Happy reading!

For all articles and books discussed in this series click here.

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Urban Legends (IBTR #46)

It dawned on me that we sometimes have some serious urban legends in Christianity. My familiarity with Independent Baptist has made me aware of several in our ranks. When I looked the definition up to make sure my terminology was accurate, I laughed. Wikipedia defines urban legends as “a form of modern folklore consisting of stories that may or may not have been believed by their tellers to be true, and often possess horror implications that are believable to their audience.” The story is often “the Bible teaches …”, when of course it does not!

My thinking went this direction from a letter a fine Christian lady wrote me. She had been lambasted for an opinion that she could not believe that 1 Corinthians 7:1 (“Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.”) meant that a male could not hug a female who was merely a friend goodby.

This lady, obviously one who has become a Bible student, said that verse meant ” ‘to touch a woman’ is a euphemism for sexual intercourse”. It is very good to not fornicate, the verse is saying. Her exegesis was quite good as she shared her conclusions about the first seven verses.

The strange thing was how it came to mean that touching the opposite sex would always lead to instant fornication. That urban legend is so strongly believed by some and thundered out as if disaster was certain. Of course there is a touching that could lead to danger, but that does not mean every innocent touch is the same thing.

Urban legends can be easily fixed. Just check out the facts. It is amazing how simple it is.

In Bible matters, just check out what the Bible really says. Look at the appropriate passages in context and define the words carefully. Bible urban legends die a quick death in the hands of one careful with his or her Bible.

You feel pretty silly for believing an urban legend after you find out what it really was. For sure, don’t let that happen in God’s Word.

Find all articles in the series here.

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Faulty Measurements And Misunderstood Results

Christians do it all the time. Pastors are the very worst. It can lead to great discouragement and pain. What am I talking about? Attempting to measure the results of our efforts for Christ when we know not how to measure, nor what success really is.

I guess in the end we worry more about the results of what we planned to do rather than being simple servants of Jesus Christ.
His plan, not fully even understood by us, is not enough for us. We live for what we might do for Him rather than what He might do through us. We carelessly blur the line till we are living for what we want to do and consider ourselves a failure when it doesn’t all work out as we planned. May I encourage both you and I to think about this from a different angle?

I read and reviewed a moving book about David Livingstone (link to review below). If you are like me, you count him as a hero and are inspired by his life for Christ. He was just a man. Perhaps he got a little sidetracked on exploring at the expense of his missionary efforts at times. He could be a little tough on those who worked under him in the harsh conditions of Africa and a few relationships were severed along the way. I am sure he was filled with regrets over the way he treated his wife and children. Still, he gave his life to the work he believed Christ gave him to do until that life was gone.

He clearly was led by God to see that exploring Africa would make a way for the Gospel. If the rivers could be mapped properly, missionaries could be brought in. He came to learn, quite accurately, that slavery would be a complete barrier to bringing the Gospel as no African would know the difference between a white slavetrader and a white missionary. So he went relentlessly.

In his later years he dealt with the discouragement of his results. One of his main expeditions was an embarrassing failure that haunted him his last years. Critics came out to agree with the worst thoughts his censuring mind could conjure up. The book I read showed these things really bothered him. His wife died just like her parents predicted she would if he took her to Africa. He mistakenly made finding the headwaters of the Nile his key exploration goal and he never found it. He exerted what influence he could in Africa and through letters to Europe to fight the slave trade. From his perspective, it was as ugly and bloody the day he died as ever.

He loved His Lord. On his last expedition he surely knew he was dying. He knew that meant his life would end with another failed exploration. Missions were not thriving in Africa and the slave trade marched on. I imagine he was a broken man, in body and spirit, as he knelt by his bed in prayer and then closed his eyes in death.

But Livingston was wrong. He measured his life by only what he could see. He forgot the very thing you and I so often do–what God is doing. As the book I read so magnificently showed, God was doing mighty things. He had no idea that the Lord was using his letters in Britain to kill the salve trade. He had no idea it would that the main slave market in Zanzibar would close within a month of his death. He had no idea that that army of missionaries that he dreamed of would in fact flood the African continent on the trail he blazed. He died thinking he was a failure and all lovers of Christian biography have David Livingstone volumes on their shelves. He was dead wrong.

I realize that after death we may not have the reputation Livingstone had, but it likely will not be the dark conclusions we imagine either if we have truly given our lives to serve Him. Our Lord feels no obligation to reveal all He is doing on a schedule that will massage our egos. In Heaven we can connect all the dots, but now are the days of simple service. Avoid measuring eternal results with instruments calibrated for time. Give Livingstone credit. He may have played some of the mind games of measuring results, but he never stopped serving his Savior. Right up to that day deep in Africa when he went home to look upon his Savior’s face. Let us follow his example there.

Book review:
The Daring Heart of David Livingstone

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The Daring Heart of David Livingstone by Jay Milbrandt

What do you really know about David Livingstone? Would you love a volume that in giving wonderful biographical narrative emphasized one of Livingstone’s greatest, yet seldom-discussed accomplishments? How about if the volume was gripping to the point it you did not want to put down? You should, then, check out the new release The Daring Heart of David Livingstone by Jay Milbrandt and published by Thomas Nelson.

The subtitle “Exile, African Slavery, and the Publicity Stunt That Saved Millions” clues you in his angle. I must confess that at first I was a little skeptical about that angle. Livingstone was a missionary, not a political crusader, right?

Fortunately, the book was not obsessed with its angle, but only developed it naturally as it went along. What you had instead was the famous story marvelously condensed and thrilling as ever. All the big events were there woven seamlessly into the story of the man and the author’s conclusions. Mr. Milbrandt can tell a story well.

The author showed Mr. Livingstone warts and all, yet you never lost your great respect for him. He had his struggles and he felt a failure on several occasions. Results were unpleasant actually at times too. Yet, Livingstone never failed to keep pressing on.

What the author demonstrated well was that Livingstone, though he died without knowing it, was one of the main reasons the slave trade in Africa stopped. He proved too that became ever more a goal for Livingstone. He was horrified at the tragic events he witnessed in the abuse, enslavement, and,even, slaughter of Africans.

The irony of so much of Livingstone’s goals being accomplished without him knowing it, and his lonely, humble life in Africa as he became a worldwide celebrity, is a most compelling story. In my view, it is a story of God at work in our world as well.

My only complaint is the missionary work of Livingstone was rarely discussed and portrayed as a minor thing. For the man who died praying by his bed in Africa, the evidence easily proves he was a servant of the Lord.

This book is a home run, and short enough for those readers who shy away from biographies that are a little too thick. You will enjoy this book!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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Spiritual Profiling (IBTR #45)

How fast can you size up someone as a dedicated Christian or not? Can you do it with a mere glance? If so, you may have a problem that pervades all of Christianity. It really thrives in the Independent Baptist world too. We too often become expert spiritual profilers!

Strangely, the idea for this post came from a family discussion we had in the van driving along. My son remembered an episode a few years back where we once just saw some people and said they must be Christians. It was based on how they were dressed. Then we saw them do something and said that we must have been wrong. My son remembered that episode and thought how silly we were. He was right!

We never spoke to them, nor really knew anything about them, but felt qualified to label them as sincere Christians. Then in a knee-jerk reaction, a few moments later, we felt equally capable of labeling them the opposite on the flimsiest of evidence. We have probably been more guilty of what I write of here than anything else, though we have dabbled in many of them.

It happens so often. Our pride convinces us we can tell with a glance, though somewhere deep inside we know better.

People are outraged when the police profile. As it usually goes, those who get profiled get far more angry than those who have the look the profiler finds acceptable. I could see the sense of it in radical cases (someone with a quintessential jihadist look in an airport), but beyond that it is only an inaccurate exercise at best.

In spiritual matters profiling is doomed from the start. It arrives at its conclusions with the wrong criteria. It’s like trying to add without arithmetic! Two people could walk by and one be dressed far more conservatively than the other, but how could that one thing prove which one is truly the dedicated Christian? The less conservative one may have prayed sincerely or just witnessed to someone while the more conservative one may have just yelled at some helpless sales clerk. I am not saying that one could not dress in a truly immodest way, nor am I suggesting profiling in the other direction either.

No, I am suggesting that we stop profiling all together. Jesus actually spoke of it in other terms. He said, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” He was not saying that you could not call something sinful that was biblically defined as such, but that you must not size people up by outward appearances. You do not know someone’s heart, and the things we often use to try are all the wrong things!

How do you think spiritual profiling would have gone had you tried it with the Pharisee and the Publican? Probably not a good idea, is it?

Find all articles in the series here.

 

 

 

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Biblical Portriats of Creation by Kaiser and Little

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Is the discussion of creationism now regulated to apologists only? Or is there still a place for expositors to open biblical texts and bring the discussion right off the pages of Scripture? Are such texts limited to Genesis 1-2? If you, as me, answer “no”, you will relish, then, this new volume by Walter Kaiser and Dorington Little and published by the Weaver Book Company.

Beyond two sermons from Genesis, the authors took us to Proverbs (3,8), Psalms (8, 19, 29, 33, 104, and 148), Job (my favorite of the sermons), Isaiah, Matthew and 2 Corinthians. The beauty is that the texts were not strained to draw out the story of creation, but it came out naturally in the course of solid exposition.

I love the passion in the sermons. They really are well done.

The name Walter Kaiser may ring a bell. He has been writing as a conservative scholar for many years. I have personally used several of his writings at times and believe him to be a thorough, trustworthy, and respected scholar. In this work, somehow, I saw more of the man. In addition to being a scholar, he appears to be a simple believer too. Mr. Doolittle is his pastor and Kaiser brought him into the project. His sermons are fine and it is enjoyable to see pastor and scholar working together.

I heartily recommend this book!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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