September 23, Revelation 12 and the Rapture

This article appears in the July/August edition of the Baptist Bulletin Magazine.

September 23 is quickly approaching! Is anyone in your church panicking about the supposed prophetic event that will take place on that day? You may be surprised to find that there are people in your congregation who are worried, because a great many self-anointed “prophets” have been proclaiming that the end of the world is just a few months away.

Many website and videos are promoting what is being hyped as the biggest prophetic event in 2000 years: the fulfillment of a sign in Revelation 12:1-2. According to some astronomers, on September 23, 2017 the sun will be in the constellation Virgo, (“a woman clothed with the sun.” v. 1). The moon will be at the feet of Virgo, (“with the moon under her feet,” v.1). The nine stars of the zodiac constellation Leo, plus the planets Mercury, Venus, and Mars, will be at the head of Virgo, (“and on her head a crown of 12 stars,” v.1). The planet Jupiter will be in the center of Virgo, and as the weeks pass after September 23, Jupiter will exit Virgo to the east, past her feet, (“being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.” v.2). Jupiter is the largest of the planets, the “king” so, (she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule the nations with a rod of iron.”

Many so called prophecy experts have concluded that this celestial super sign fits the requirements of Revelation 12 indicating the Rapture of the church will occur on or near September 23, 2017. (See an Answers in Genesis explanation and refutation of the September 23 controversy at bit.ly/AiGSept23). While it’s not surprising that this prediction has thrown Biblically illiterate people into a frenzy, what is shocking is that people from conservative, Bible-believing churches – who should know better – have bought into the hype as well.

For example, several months ago a member of another church called me, saying he was on the verge of quitting his job and selling his house to hunker down and await the fateful event. As I began to research and speak to others about this event specifically, and end times generally, I sensed an alarming amount of fear, anxiety, discouragement, and general unrest regarding the times in which we live, even among Bible-believing Christians. I have also sensed a great uncertainty and fear with pastors approaching this subject. Sadly, the man’s pastor could not answer his question and sent him to me. This exchange highlights how unprepared some shepherds are to teach on the subject, and how serious the consequences can be for the uniformed sheep they are leading.

Why the Lack of Teaching on End Times?

Perhaps no other subject of the Bible has provoked greater fascination or led to more speculation than  apocalyptic eschatology. It has profound mysteries, symbolism, predictions, and language that are unparalleled in the rest of Scripture. As a result, many feel it is too confusing, controversial, and generally irrelevant in light of more “important doctrines.” In his best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren openly discouraged readers from studying prophecy. “When the disciples wanted to talk about prophecy, Jesus quickly switched the conversation to evangelism,” Warren wrote, “He said in essence, ‘The details of my return are none of your business. What is your business is the mission I’ve given you. Focus on that!” Adding to this, a growing number of New Age church leaders such as Brian McLaren and Tony Jones are teaching Preterism — that the prophecies and predictions in Matthew 24 and Revelation had already been fulfilled by 70 A.D. So with all these incorrect and contradictory teachings, people are confused, desperate, and hungry for biblical truth.

Why Study and Teach Eschatology?

It is a major theme and emphasis of the Bible.

It is impossible to have a complete view of what Scripture teaches without studying future things. In His infinite wisdom, the Spirit of God has placed great importance on prophecy by devoting more than a quarter of the Bible to this subject. Paul tells his readers in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 “I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren.” Paul was writing to the church to answer its questions about life, death, and the return of Christ. These are fundamental questions that still weigh on hearts and minds today. It is our duty as Christians to have a good understanding of these truths so that we can instruct others.

 It exposes false teaching.

The study and teaching of eschatology is significant because it sheds light on false teachers and their heretical beliefs. Peter wrote, “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying Where is the promise of his coming? for since the father’s fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Pet. 3:3–4).

It prevents confusion and panic

By studying God’s Word, we are able to protect ourselves and others from ignorance in this area. People all over the world are living in bondage and fear regarding their own future, and that of humanity. It seems that things are spinning out of control with war, disaster, and famines, leaving many people in fear and doubt about what the future holds.  A study of eschatology is not just an intellectual pursuit by curiosity seekers but one that should lead to a better understanding of the nature of God and His eternal plans. No matter how bad things appear to be, God is working out His sovereign plan

We should not get caught up in sensationalism, dogmatically speculating on every bit of symbolism, and lose sight of the bigger picture. The message of Christ’s soon return needs to be preached with power and boldness to a lost generation. We can rest assured that in the end, God will win! Knowing this basic truth and thinking on it, will replace fear with hope.

In spite of what certain teachers state, instruction in Bible prophecy is not only relevant and necessary, but especially urgent now, given the times we are living in. God uses prophecy to teach us about what the future holds to encourage us and prevent the kind of fear and paralysis that leads to quitting a job, selling a house, and heading for the hills. Believers have no reason to hit the panic button, as Bible prophecy reveals the fact that God is in control of human history; everything that is happening around us is being divinely guided toward its culmination.

It involves Israel

The eschatological future of Israel has become an area of intense debate among Bible-believing Christians. By claiming that the church has replaced the Jews, the preterist & covenant view of eschatology distorts the covenants and promises God gave to His chosen people throughout the Old Testament. This replacement theology has, in many ways, contributed to the rise of anti-Semitism we are seeing throughout the world. We can rest in the knowledge that our God is not through with His chosen people. His promise to Abraham and his descendents was unconditional and not dependent on anyone or anything else. Though Israel is in a state of disobedience, the nation’s future inheritance will be realized in the Kingdom Age. What difference does this make to us? The same God who made these unconditional promises to Israel has made unconditional promises to you and me! Romans 11:29 tell us that “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”

It motivates believers.

Another important role of eschatology is to inspire and energize Christians. The study of prophecy in my personal life has spurred me on to win souls and accomplish tasks of eternal value. The imminent nature of the Rapture is cause for holy living as we anticipate the call of the groom for His bride at any moment. It has a purifying effect on how we live in the here and now (John 9:4).

It promotes worship and evangelism.

Biblical prophecy was written not to satisfy all of our curiosities, but to reveal Jesus Christ! He is the Lion and the Lamb, and Redeemer and righteous Judge.

If studying prophecy hasn’t led to a greater desire to worship God, it is in vain. We need to focus on worshipping the God of Revelation, Whose perfect plan is moving forward with absolute precision. He is still in the business of savings souls and transforming lives; and until He returns our mandate and calling is still the same; “Go and make disciples of all the nations

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Importance of Expository Preaching in the Local Church

The Importance of Expository Preaching in the Local Church

Expository preaching!? What in the world is that, asked a young junior high student of mine several years ago while I was leading a youth study one Sunday morning on the how-to of personal Bible study. Well, I said, expository preaching is where the pastor teaches through a particular book of the Bible, verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter, to expose the meaning of the text in its context. The student seemed to understand but wasn’t sure that was the way he wanted to study the Bible. In today’s sound-bite culture it would seem that expository preaching has become passé. More and more pastors have acquiesced to church members requesting topical sermons that scratch them where they itch. This is a dangerous trend that has in part led to the current state of shallow Christianity in America.

Prior to His ascension, Jesus commanded Peter to “feed my sheep” (John 21:17). Paul, in his letter to Timothy said, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2), and also to be a “workman that accurately handles the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15). Jesus taught that “man shall not live be bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).  As followers of Christ we come to church to meet with the living God. His Word must remain central to everything we do and say. Pastors should therefore focus on careful expository preaching in order to “declare the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). It is the Word of God alone that has the power to convict, empower, and transform a human life.

Expository preaching finds its roots with Ezra in the Old Testament with the public reading of the Scriptures and teaching of the law of God to the people. This pattern is followed by the Apostle Paul as he writes to Timothy, “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scriptures, to exhortation and teaching” (1 Tim 4:13). This does not mean that the preaching time becomes just a dry running commentary, or academic exercise. Proper and relevant application always needs to be made to the passage under consideration. Haddon Robinson, in his book, Biblical Preaching, defines expository preaching as follows, “Expository preaching is the communication of a biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, and literary study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit first applies to the personality and experience of the preacher, then through the preacher, applies to the hearers.”[1] This means then that the passage under consideration governs the sermon. People often find topical preaching preferable because it may directly address their immediate felt needs, but there are several problems with this approach.

Someone can hear a variety of topical sermons like, Being a Successful Christian, or How to Develop a Healthy Marriage, or Dealing with Finances, and never learn the skills to study the Bible on their own. By moving systematically through a book of the Bible people are being taught how to navigate and engage the text on their own. They learn to pay attention to context, word structure and genres. They will see that God’s Word speaks to a great variety of topics related to everyday life. This is essential in the local church as we seek to equip those under our care to be Bible expositors at home as well. When this is not done we are communicating a dangerous message that everything revolves around us, the trained professional of the clergy-class. This mecentric approach, where we want the Bible to address our needs and our agenda lies in stark contrast to a Theocentric, where everything revolves around God and what He wants to communicate to us. This is really a matter of authority. When pastor/teachers try to always be cutting-edge, or stand-up comedians, or tell endless stories to fill time, the Word is diminished and everyone is the lesser. God’s Word is sufficient and powerful enough to stand on its own without gimmicks.

One of the great benefits of expository preaching is that it forces us as pastors to carefully mine out the message of the passage, whatever that may be, rather than just pick and choose the parts we want to address. Believers need a balanced diet of spiritual food that does not emphasize certain truths to the neglect of others. This is clear in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (NASB). Expository preaching is therefore the most biblical method of delivering a sermon.

There are several essential components of any expository message that must be taken into consideration in order to properly instruct, reprove, and correct the family of God in their everyday lives. The first of these components is application. Expository preaching is not and should not be a dry, recitation of information for the curious, but it must include relevant application of the text in relation to the complexities of real life. In seminary we were instructed to write the words, “so what” at the completion of our sermon manuscripts. What is the average congregant going to do with what you have just spent the last 40 minutes preaching on? What will they remember an hour from now at the dinner table? The old adage, “information without application yields frustration” is as accurate as ever. Exegetical preaching must point people to the God of the Word and what He is communicating to His people.

As pastors our hearts desire should be for our people to feed on the Word and grow in their relationship with the Lord. This involves intentionally leading them to biblical truth, and allowing the Lord to transform them and us into His image. One of the most helpful pieces of wisdom I was ever given by my mentor was this, “you cannot legislate spirituality, that’s God’s job.” This small statement speaks volumes in terms of our responsibility as pastors to do all we can in presenting the message and then leaving the results to God. We trust that God speaks directly to the human heart through His Word. Expository preaching then helps foster a stronger and broader foundation for people to grow and mature, than would be gained by a topical approach.

Another significant benefit of expository preaching in relation to long-term sermon planning is the stability it creates. We, as pastors, know where we will be next week, and the week after. We are then able to meditate on the upcoming passage, allowing it to ruminate in our minds, and thus deliver a spirit-led, well-thought out message. This can be equally beneficial for the church staff in terms of worship planning, song selection, and other media considerations in a cohesive effort to enhance the particular theme being preached.

Interestingly, Dale Burke, former pastor of Fullerton Evangelical Free church, told me that even though he preached exegetically through a particular book of the Bible, he would split the book into various sub themes consisting of three to four weeks each. The book of Ephesians for example, may take four months to complete in total, but was broken down into four or five miniseries, so as to not allow the listener to think the series was, “dragging on.” This creative approach may or may not always be necessary or applicable but is an example of creativity within the exegetical preaching framework.

In conclusion, expository preaching is essential to the health and strength of the local church. In establishing the centrality and priority of the Word of God, the church grows deeper in their love and understanding of the God of the Word. While there are certainly times when topical sermons are beneficial and even necessary, Exegetical preaching should receive the lion share of the church’s precious time together.

                [1] Haddon W. Robinson, Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic 2001), 5.

Posted in Preaching | Leave a comment

Who is Your Pastor?

This article appears in the Spring edition of Today’s Pastor Magazine.

http://bit.ly/TodaysPastor_Fall2016

By Pastor Brian Richard

As Jim sat at his desk contemplating the latest encounter with an unhappy church member, he began to wonder where he had gone wrong. He left seminary with a head full of knowledge and a passionate desire to storm the gates of hell, but soon discovered that he was on the brink of an all-out civil war in his church. He had been in his current pastorate for about five years when the small flames that had been smoldering suddenly flared up into a four-alarm fire. While Jim had advanced theological training, he lacked the leadership training needed and thought that, as the “expert,” he didn’t need any help. The result was a church split that was disastrous and caused long-term damage for all involved.

The Danger of Ministering in Isolation

The scenario above is common for pastors who minister in relative isolation and is one of the biggest factors for burnout and ministry failure. God created us to live in community, making our spiritual gifts available to others, and leaning on each other for support, wisdom, and encouragement.

For the pastor, another pastor is ideally equipped to fulfill the role of supporter and encourager. A fellow pastor is someone who can understand our struggles, can challenge us in areas of need, and hold us accountable to moral purity. He’s someone who can see our blind spots and be open and honest with us. Someone who can ask difficult soul-searching questions that cut through the façade of the pastor as an unquestioned authority figure who never needs shepherding himself. Someone who can come alongside and help us see an accurate, unbiased view of our life and ministry. That someone is a peer mentor.

When discussing this subject recently with a group of colleagues, a pastor said, “I’ve never had a mentor, but I’ve always had God, and that should be enough.” While that statement is meant to sound spiritual, it’s a deadly, prideful mistake. It’s true that our relationship with the Lord is of utmost importance and certainly critical to our spiritual health, but He has also given us the privilege of relying on other men who can speak into our lives the truth and perspective we need to hear. Proverbs 19:20 (NASB) says, “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days.”

Root Causes of the Lone Ranger Syndrome

One of the primary reasons that pastors shy away from peer mentors is the fear of divulging their weaknesses, insecurities, and shortcomings. Like Jim in the scenario above, many shepherds accept the stereotype of the rugged individualist. Others have fallen prey to a dangerous celebrity mentality, allowing themselves to be placed on a pedestal. Church members like their pastors to have all the answers, but Scripture doesn’t support the concept of the Lone Ranger pastor, and it takes conscious, deliberate effort to avoid falling into this trap. Accepting hero worship may temporarily stroke the ego, but it will ultimately lead to a downfall because it takes away our dependence on God and our willingness to accept feedback from others. The Apostle Paul used a graphic illustration to emphasize our need for one another: “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, I don’t need you” (1 Cor. 12:21 NIV).

According to church ministry expert Thom Rainer, the average tenure of today’s pastor is between three and four years.1 The reasons range from unfulfilled expectations from both pastor and church to flaws in the pastor’s ministry that surface after a few years and fester as they are left unaddressed. Ed Stetzer, past executive director of LifeWay Research, stated, “Many seminary programs don’t even require courses on the people side — they’re focused on theology, biblical languages, and preaching, which are important, but almost half of the pastors felt unprepared for dealing with the people they were preparing in seminary to lead and serve.”2 While we live in an age of unprecedented resources, with books, conferences, and media available 24/7, we have a great need for another pastor to come alongside and love us enough to help us be the best man, the best husband and father, and the best shepherd we can be.

The Stakes Are Incredibly High

The consequences of a failed ministry aren’t limited to the pastor. They affect the pastor’s wife, children, grandchildren, friends, church members, ministry relationships and, most importantly, the testimony of Jesus Christ. When a pastor leaves the ministry because of burnout or moral failure, the effects echo through eternity, affecting multitudes of people, some of whom may not even be born yet.

All too often at the first hint of problems, a pastor will leave for greener pastures, only to discover that people are people, and they can’t be perfect either. Christ wants His church to function in harmony and fruitfulness, which requires that pastors surrender their independence and learn to trust another godly leader to help them through the trials and pressures of ministry.

A Message of Hope

The effort to create a lasting, stable ministry is worth it. Jesus Christ is worth it. His church and those He puts in our care are worth it. Our families are worth it. We owe it to the future generations of people who need a godly witness in an increasingly dark culture to be the very best shepherds of the flock we can be now.

Steps to Take

There’s no magic cure to for ministry problems, but there are steps we can take now to be the best stewards of our ministries and to prevent failure in ministry:

  1. Pray for God to lead you to a godly pastor whom you respect and trust to come alongside you and invest in your life and ministry. In turn, be willing to invest the time necessary to be his mentor as well.
  2. Be transparent and give that pastor permission to ask the difficult questions of the heart.
  3. Don’t delay! Find a peer mentor and immediately establish regular meetings in person, by phone, or both. It will be the most important thing you can do in your ministry to avoid a disaster.

It’s Urgent. Do It Now.

As you finish reading this article, you may well agree heartily with all that’s been said and then go on to the next task on your “to-do” list, promptly forgetting about this urgent warning. If you don’t already have a peer mentor, stop what you’re doing right now and find one. There’s nothing on your task list that’s more important. Your future and the future of your family, church, and community depend on it. Don’t become another statistic. Establish your support system right away. Years from now, you’ll thank the Lord that you did.

 

Sources

  1. http://bit.ly/pastoral-tenure
  2. http://bit.ly/abandoned-pastorates
Posted in Published Articles | Leave a comment

Judgment Day – Revelation 6

Chapter six marks the beginning of the Tribulation period on earth where God’s wrath is poured out on sin. He is a holy, righteous, perfect God, who cannot allow unbelief, disobedience, and rebellion against His Word to go unpunished. This is a foundational study that will set the framework for the rest of the book.

The tribulation period will be an unprecedented time in the history of the world. Jesus told us in Matthew 24:21, “Then there will be a great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall there be.” As we looked at the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, representing the first four seals, we noticed that the tribulation period will begin with the signing of a peace treaty between the Antichrist (represented on the white horse) and Israel. This will be a time of deceptive peace. He appears to be an honest, trustworthy leader but Israel and the world will be deceived into a false sense of security.

Shortly after the rider on the white horse brings global peace, the rider on the red horse brings global war. There will be a worldwide revolution where “nation will rise up against nation.” The Antichrist will show his true nature as he wars with Israel, and his enemies for a total takeover. The ravages of this time of war will bring the third rider, representing famine. The famine will be so severe that food will have to be weighed out and rationed. The average worker’s salary will barely provide enough food for himself for one day, and not enough to feed his family. The result of this will be an unprecedented time of famine and starvation.

The fourth seal is the ashen horse (a sickly yellowish green). This is represented by death and Hades moving across the earth. The dead will number one-fourth of the world’s population. At current numbers that would be over 1.75 billion people!

 

As we made our way through the rest of the seal judgments we were left in awe and thankfulness that we have been saved from this wrath to come. Let there be no doubt in your mind that this will happen one day soon, just as the writers throughout the Old and New Testaments predicted. At present, it’s not too late to turn to Christ. Who do you know that needs to hear Christ’s message of hope and rescue!?

Posted in Study of Revelation | Leave a comment

What Wondrous Love is This!

As we approach Good Friday and Easter Sunday I wanted to share some thoughts on a particular aspect of the Passion regarding the Cup of God’s Wrath.

In Luke 22:42  we see our Lord pray to His Father “if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” It was this “cup” that Jesus dreaded and was asking be removed. It begs the question, “why is “the cup” such a dreaded thing?”

The Cup of God’s Wrath

There are several primary passages related to “the cup” in Scripture. Psalm 75:6-10; Isa. 51:17; Jeremiah 25:15-20; and Revelation 14:9-11. In each of these passages, we find out that this cup is the cup of God’s wrath poured out on sinners. It is the fierce, righteous judgment on the nations for turning their backs on a Holy God. Jesus took this wrath upon Himself and was in extreme agony “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” – Matt. 26:38.

He was not in agony because He would be forsaken by men, but that He would be forsaken by God! Jesus was dreading the physical AND supernatural suffering of bearing the sins of the world and the wrath of God which they (we) deserved.

This wrath was a supernatural suffering in that it was unique. No one has ever, or will ever, bear this kind of weight again. It was unparalleled suffering from the sinless lamb of God who alone could truly understand the depth of God’s righteousness, man sins, and the wrath of God that was required.

Matthew and Luke tell us that as Christ prayed with great intensity to the Father about all that was before Him, He nearly came to the point of death. An angel was dispatched to Gethsemane to “strengthen Him” allowing Him to carry out the Divine plan.

Never ever lose sight of what the cross means. The level of His agony on the cross is equal to the level of our sinfulness and the disastrous consequences they bring. At the same time, the level of His agony is the measure of His love for us!. “In that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).  What an incredible God!

Salvation comes when a person comes by faith alone in Christ alone as the One who was innocent, and yet died in their place, bearing the wrath of God which their sins deserved. Those who reject Christ and His once-for-all sacrifice will one day bear the wrath of God for eternity.

In the midst of your Easter festivities, I beg you to pause and reflect deeply on the tremendous price that was paid on your behalf and share with someone why Easter is the greatest day on the Christian’s calendar – HE LIVES!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rejoice the Lord is King!

Here in chapter five of the book of Revelation, we see the Father reach out with a seven-sealed scroll. The scroll is the title deed to the earth. The earth came under captivity in the Fall but the scroll shows who really owns it. This is the official document that grants how He will regain possessions. Here in the hand of almighty, sovereign God is the plan to judge the universe and bring it all into the control of the One who is the rightful heir, Jesus Christ. This is the climax of human history! After an exhaustive search of the physical and spiritual universe from heaven to hell and all points in between, John’s attention is directed to the Lamb of God.

 

This passage has everything to do with the Triumphal Entry and the Resurrection of Christ. You see the Jews expected a lion as Jesus rode into Jerusalem. That’s why it’s so hard for the Jews to understand Christ. They expected the lion to come with force, overthrow the Roman oppressors, and set Himself up to reign as King. What they didn’t realize is that first He had to come as the sacrificial lamb and that His lion-like judgment was going to come at a future time. By the end of the week, they orchestrated a series of mock trials and turned Christ over to the Romans authorities saying, “He isn’t who He said He is, He’s no king, this is no shoot from the royal line of David, CRUCIFY HIM!”

 

Here in Revelation five, we see Christ step forward from His intercessory position at the right hand of God the Father and begin to finish what He started. Now He will roar with a ferocious, devastating series of judgments against the nations of the world. Now He will establish His everlasting kingdom in which believers will rule and reign with Him. 

 

All of this leads the Cherubim, the 24 Elders, every created thing, and millions upon millions in heaven to worship the only One who is Worthy, Jesus Christ. Friends, we will spend all of eternity worshipping the One who freed us from the penalty of our sins. We need to start practicing our worship down here because He alone is worthy!

 

Hosannah to the Son of David, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord (Matt. 21:9).

Posted in Study of Revelation | Tagged | Leave a comment

Opportunities or Obstacles? Be Coffee!

As I am teaching through the Book of Revelation and came to the church of Philadelphia I noted an important point regarding the antagonistic Jews and their disdain for the new Christians. These Judaizers were malicious in their opposition which prompted the Lord to say, “Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie, I will make them bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you because you have kept the word of My perseverance” (Rev. 3:9-10 NASB).

As contemporary believers we too face opposition. Anytime you are doing the work of the Lord, you are going to face opposition. It’s inevitable because we have an enemy who does not want to see us succeed, which brings me to an important point, faith sees the opportunity, where fear sees the obstacles.

In our day we have a plethora of voices telling us we’re narrow-minded, bigoted, and misguided. Friend, rest in the knowledge that this same Jesus, who promised the early believers that He would make their enemies bow down, will take care of our enemies as well; just stay faithful!  You may be rejected at work, in your neighborhood, or by your family because of your love and commitment to Christ, but remember, He’s promised to act on our behalf. One day “every knee will bow of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10-11).

Here is a great illustration of overcoming opposition with opportunity:

Be Coffee!! 

A daughter complained to her father about how hard things were for her. “As soon as I solve one problem,” she said, “another one comes up. I’m tired of struggling.” Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen where he filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to a boil. In one he placed carrots, in the second, eggs, and in the last, ground coffee beans. He let them sit and boil without saying a word.

The daughter impatiently waited wondering what he was doing. After awhile he went over and turned off the burners. He fished out the carrots and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. He poured the coffee into a bowl. Turning to her he asked, “Darling, what do you see?” “Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied. He brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. He then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee. She smiled as she tasted its rich flavor.

She asked, “What does it mean, Father?” He explained that each of them had faced the same adversity—boiling water—but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting, but after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg was fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. By being in the boiling water they changed the water. The father then asked his daughter, “When adversity strikes, which are you?”

Far too many Christians discover that when adversity strikes they are more like carrots or eggs than coffee. This results in many Christians and many churches bringing about little or no change in society. Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be the case. Like the small church of Philadelphia we can have a great influence on our community and world for the cause of Christ.

Winston Churchill said, “Most of the significant contributions that have been made to society have been made by people who were tired.”  Is anybody tired?  If you wait to get things done only when you feel good, you simply won’t get much done.  Press on today… no matter how you feel!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Keys to Bible Knowledge

I continue to receive requests to publish my study called, “Keys To Scripture Knowledge.” This series was originally done for teenagers but is applicable to anyone wanting to deepen their understanding of the “bigger picture” of Scripture. I have highlighted twelve distinct areas that need to be grasped in order to have a better understanding of how Scripture fits together.

In this first segment, I have highlighted the important aspects of Bible Study in general and why it is transformational to your life.

INTRODUCTION
to Bible Study

When you study the Word of God, you should do so with the goal of gaining a deeper understanding of its truths. Without a solid grasp on the various methods of study and the tools available for your use, Bible study can be difficult and frustrating.

As a  believer, you have been called to “Study” or to be “diligent” to show God that you are serious about your faith in Christ. ( 2 Tim. 2:15) To be serious about something requires that you have some proper tools for the task. It’s like trying to learn a new skill for the first time without any help.

Unfortunately for many people, that’s exactly what happens. We all have been told that we need to be studying God’s Word and we agree. But all the while, we are saying to ourselves, “I wish someone would show me how because I don’t know what I’m doing… or where to go to find out.”

Every believer needs to know what God’s Word teaches. Without a clear understanding of its truth, you open yourself up to being carried about by every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:14). You are unable to discern the false from the truth. The person that knows the truth will not be easily deceived by counterfeits.

The following brief section on Bible study is intended to help equip you to become a better Bible student. Several different Bible study methods are explained with instructions and examples.

Follow the instructions as closely as possible. You will hopefully gain an understanding of the various methods and tools. Not only will you enjoy using them now, but these helpful techniques will be a great asset to your own personal Bible study throughout your entire life!

As you work your way through this study, as the Lord for help in prayer. The Holy Spirit will guide you as learn to apply these new techniques. It will be a blessing to you as you journey down the road in your spiritual walk.

BIBLE STUDY HELPS

You need Bible study tools or helps to study the Bible effectively. If possible, invest in a study Bible.

STUDY BIBLES

A good study Bible is an essential tool for any student of the Word. This type of Bible usually contains a cross-reference system, maps, concordances, and various study helps. It is critical to understand that the commentary offered by the author (s) is not inspired. It is the words of Scripture which are inspired, not the words of men (2 Tim. 3:16-17). While The information provided in many study Bibles is very helpful, this factual information is often mixed with man’s opinions. Feel free to add your own thoughts and outlines in your Bible. Underline and highlight key verses that have special meaning to you.

If you’ve shopped for a Bible recently you know that there is a plethora of good choices. Be aware of the difference between a study Bible and a paraphrase Bible. A translated Bible, like the KJV or NASB for example,  attempts to communicate as word-for-word or thought-for thought as much as possible. A paraphrase takes the meaning of a verse or passage of Scripture and attempts to express the meaning in “plain language,” essentially the words the author of the paraphrase would use to say the same thing.  A paraphrase Bible should not be used as your primary Bible.

So which Study Bible is best? That’s a tough question! Make sure you choose a translation that is known for it’s accuracy and commitment to stay close to the original language. In my own personal study I have found several good translations that meet this criteria including, but not limited to the NASB, KJV, NKJV, ESV, and NIV.

What about the “Study” portion of the Study Bible? Again there is a good variety of choices here that really come down to personal preference. A few choices I have found particularly helpful have been the the Ryrie Study Bible, the Thompson Chain-Reference, and the MacArthur Study Bible. My best advice is to get a hold of each of them, look through them and dive in!

Commentaries

Commentaries explain many Bible texts so you can more easily understand their message. A commentary may or may not contain accurate interpretations, depending on the author. Commentaries are available in helpful one-volume editions or in individual editions. Here again the sky seems to be the limit. Ask someone you trust to recommend some good sources for you.

If you are just looking for something fairly basic to help you understand what you are reading I highly recommend The Bible Knowledge Commentary by Warren Wiersbe, author of the “BE” Series. I can recommend more at your request.

Online Aids

A great site is www.blueletterbible.org. This site allows you to study with a huge selection of translations (including Greek & Hebrew), as well as commentaries, reference materials and other study aids.

Biblegateway.com is another one of my favorites. It has reading plans, topical searches, almost all the translations, and other useful helps.

OTHER THOUGHTS…

As you begin this study stop and evaluate your relationship with Christ. Be honest with yourself. How are you really doing? On a scale from 1-10 how would you rate your current spiritual walk? Never be satisfied with where you are, strive to always give God your very best effort.

Did you realize that the type of music you listen to can greatly influence your outlook on life? Would you be willing to swap music files with Jesus Christ?  What about the stuff you feed your eyes  TV, Movies… would Christ be comfortable watching or looking at it with you? You get the idea, be careful out there, as a young believer, you have become the enemy of Satan. He wants to influence every area of life to make you as ineffective for Christ as he can. Don’t let him have any victory in your life!!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Amazing Love

How’s Your Love Life?

Love is perhaps the most universal yet challenging part of our lives. Love for God is the most important commandment (Mark 12:29-30), and is necessary to enjoy God’s blessing. Romans 8:28 tells us that “all things work together for good to those who love God, and are called according to His purpose.” In Deuteronomy 6:5 we are reminded of the great command, “You shall love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, soul and might.” The point here is that we are not to have a divided allegiance. As Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters” – Matt. 6:25. Has anything got in the way of your relationship with Him?

This last Sunday we were able to look closer at a church who had “lost their first love.” It is my sincere desire to help magnify your view of God and in turn love Him with a whole-hearted, everything we have type of love. Remember today the “so great” salvation He has provided for you. Remember His intense, personal love that He showed by sending His only Son to the cross for you. Remember His desire to grow you, bless you, protect you, and use you for His great purposes.

I urge you today, on this Valentine’s Day, to remember your first love. Renew your commitment to Him with an authentic Christ-centered love that flows through your affections, desires, and behaviors.

Always remember that the measure of a successful church is not the size of the membership but how well the members love each other, forgive each other, listen to one another, support and pray for each other, and reach out to those in need around them. This doesn’t come naturally so we need to constantly be working at the best we can. “We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19).

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Pastor Brian

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment