Wednesday, September 30, 2015



“So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me.”  (Ezekiel 33:7)
Pray for your pastor!  He has a task assigned to him by God which carries a great responsibility with a grave accountability.  I have copied these words from Matthew Simpson into the front of my Bible:
His throne is the pulpit; he stands in Christ’s stead; his message is the Word of God; around him are immortal souls; the Savior, unseen, is beside him; the Holy Spirit broods over the congregation; angels gaze upon the scene, and heaven and hell await the issue. What associations and what vast responsibility!
God spoke of his messenger as being a watchman on the wall—a sentry posted to sound a warning to the people when an enemy was approaching.  This is the thrust of Ezekiel 33.
God appointed Ezekiel to this duty (v.7a).  He didn’t have a choice in vocation.  This was not one job possibility among several.  His only choice was to respond to the call with obedience, or to disobey and face the consequences.  The pastor is not a volunteer; he was drafted!  This is his appointment.
The prophet was to hear the Word and share what he heard (v.7b).  As his position was not self-motivated, his preaching was not self-originated.  The pastor must prayerfully immerse himself in studying the Scriptures to comprehend what God says and then fearlessly and faithfully expound that message to the congregation—without deletion or addition.  This is his authority.
It is a job too big for a mere man, so the Spirit of God empowers the preacher.  Ezekiel had experienced this.  In a parallel passage in the third chapter, several times it is mentioned, “the Spirit lifted me up,” (v.12, 14, 24) and says, “the hand of the Lord was strong upon me.  (v.14)  This is his anointing.  What folly it is for a man to rely on his feeble intellect and ability to futilely try to accomplish a supernatural work!
The eternal destinies of men and women are at stake.  There is a day of judgment coming and the preacher must sound the warning.  Heaven is a happy place and hell is a horrible place.  The man of God raises the alarm, “Prepare to meet your God.”  (Amos 4:12)  People must be called to repentance and faith.  When the pastor discharges his duty, then the sinner is responsible with how he or she responds to the message (v.4-5).  The blood is then on their heads and off the preacher’s hands (v.6-8).  Sadly, many will not heed the warning.  Some, however, will (v.5b, 11). The blood off our hands and on their heads, then becomes the blood on their hearts that saves from sin!  The Lamb’s blood—the sacrifice of Jesus—is sufficient to cleanse the vilest sinner!  God wants us to be saved.  That’s why He sent His Son into this world.  Everybody ought to know!
While we have focused on the pastor’s call as a watchman, with a view of you praying for and supporting him in this burden, we must also come to grips with the reality that there are not enough preachers in the world to reach all the lost.  Every child of God has been called to be a watchman in the sense of being a Gospel witness.  Are you helping to sound the warning—or is there blood on your hands?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015



And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:24-26)

The Gospel is the message of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It is the Gospel that has the power to transform lives.  No wonder Paul said, For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes…” (Rom.1:16).  The church has been given the responsibility to proclaim and practice the Gospel.  If we don’t demonstrate changed lives that mirror our message, no one is going to listen.  Spurgeon said, “The world demands facts and these we must supply.  It is of no use to cry up our medicine by words; we must point to cures.  Your life will be the greatest argument for the Gospel.”  This is the Gospel according to you. 

Paul points out that there is A DEATH TO EXECUTE (v.24). This is not for an exceptional class of believers, but should be normal experience for all who are Christ’s.  If a man claiming conversion is still dominated by the flesh, he should reevaluate his standing with God.  At salvation we were brought into vital union with Christ—totally identified with Him.  Therefore, His crucifixion is our crucifixion. Jesus not only took our sins to Calvary—those deeds of evil we do—but was made sin for us.  He dealt with our old nature, the factory that manufactures evil.  It had to be, because we are lost not merely because of what we do, but chiefly because of what we are.  We are to die to the drives and desires of the flesh.  The flesh perverts the God-given drives and desires within us.

Secondly, the Apostle tells us there is A DYNAMIC TO EXPERIENCE (v.25).  Just as we are identified with Christ in His death, so we are in His resurrection.  He was made alive in the Spirit.  The Spirit gives us life also.  The same dynamic power that raised Christ from the tomb is now available to us for daily living.  To walk in the Spirit is to be Spirit-directed, Spirit-controlled, and Spirit-empowered.  Instead of following the impulses of the flesh, we are to follow the inspiration of the Spirit.  Our first step is to publicly confess our union with Christ in His death and resurrection.  In baptism, we make this testimony. We say that we have died to the old life and are risen to walk in newness of life.

Thirdly, there is A DEMONSTRATION TO EVIDENCE (v.26).  How can we know that our life has been transformed by the Gospel, that we are dead to sin, and walking in the Spirit?  There is evidence.  We do not become conceited. The Christian does not seek glory for himself, but to give glory to God. Another evidence is that we don’t provoke each other. Instead we seek to be peacemakers.  Another evidence is that we don’t envy each other. The one living the Christ life nails envy to the cross. I deny the message of the Gospel when I build up my ego by tearing down others, when I provoke someone into debate and conflict, or when I envy others.  Humility, peacemaking, and edification reflect Christ, while conceit, provocation, and envy reveal Satan.  Who are we showing to the world?

You are the only Bible some will ever read.  What is the Gospel according to you?

Monday, September 28, 2015


And David’s heart condemned him after he had numbered the people.  So David said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O LORD, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.”  ‎(2 Samuel 24:10)
Webster’s Dictionary has this definition:
Butterfly effect
noun:  a property of chaotic systems (as the atmosphere) by which small changes in initial conditions can lead to large-scale and unpredictable variation in the future state of the system.
The theory says that as a butterfly flaps its wings in South America, small ripples are made in the atmosphere that build over time and space, so that by the time they reach Texas they are powerful winds that spawn a tornado.  While I am not necessarily advocating that theory, it is a fact that a seemingly small action can end in significant repercussions.  That is what we observe in 2 Samuel 24.
David was a shepherd, a soldier, a singer, a sovereign—and also, a sinner.  He was a man after God’s own heart, but after all still a man.  With all his wonderful traits, there were yet wicked tendencies.  He had all the frailties common to the flesh—this human condition set in a fallen world.  He stood tall, but stumbled too.  The good news is that after each fall, he got back up and continued his walk with God.  That did not mean, however, that God’s forgiveness removed all the temporal effects of his sin.  The apparently insignificant transgression recorded here—like the butterfly effect—made a profound difference in 70,000 lives.
For an unknown reason, the Scripture tells us that God was angry with the nation and would move to judge them.  In His sovereignty, He permitted Satan to tempt King David to conduct a census of the army.  We know this from the parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 21:1.
We may wonder why David desired such a census and what was wrong with it.  It would seem he was motivated by carnal reasoning—seeking to lean on the size of his army, rather than look to the strength of his God.  Pride was at the root of this thinking, and that is a devilish thing God despises.  In our text, we do not find David seeking God’s will in prayer or searching God’s Word for guidance.  It was a fleshly decision driven by worldly desires, and the butterfly effect was unleashed.
Too often a leader may think he is not accountable to anyone.  He gets too big for his britches.  In this case, David’s head had swollen larger than his crown.  The horrible consequences were the deaths of 70,000 of his soldiers.  David thought he could trust the numbers he could put on the battlefield and God showed him that those numbers could be quickly diminished.  David found out that even if no man held him accountable, he was accountable to God.  He may have been the king, but God is the King of kings.
Thankfully, that is not the end of the story.  David found God to be holy and just—a God who judges sin—but more, a God who forgives and pardons.  If God were not merciful, there would be no hope for any of us.  The promise is that if we confess, He forgives.  This story reminds us that we cannot presume upon the grace of God—our wrong choices can have bad consequences—yet, neither must we despair of the grace of God—He does forgive.

Sunday, September 27, 2015


For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  (Galatians 3:26)

Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death!”  He recognized there is no life apart from liberty.  This is true spiritually as well.  Jesus came to give us life and liberty.  He said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”  What is this truth?  Our Lord responds, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  Jesus came to give us life through a personal relationship with Him that sets us free from the shackles of sin and death.  Paul explains further concerning the life of liberty in Galatians 3:15-29.

This liberty is a promise of God (v.15-18).  The word, “promise” is used eight times in Galatians 3:15-29.  Specifically, this promise refers to God’s covenant with Abraham. God chose Abraham in sovereign grace, Abraham responded by faith, and God imputed righteousness (3:6).

Since the covenant preceded the law, the false teachers in Galatia said that the law replaced the covenant.  Paul counters this with an illustration from the secular world (v.15).  A contract between two cannot be negated later by someone not a party to the agreement.  Neither could it be argued the covenant was fulfilled when the law was given, because fulfillment was in Christ (v.16).   Abraham didn’t make the covenant and promises.  God did—unilaterally and unconditionally.

What is given by promise is not earned by obedience (v.17-18).  Like oil and water, they don’t mix.   The Greeks had a word for agreement between partners.  That is not the term used here. Salvation is based on God’s faithfulness, not ours.

If the law did not supersede the covenant of grace, then why was it given? That is presented in verses 19-22.   The law is a compass to show us how far we’ve strayed.  It is plumb line to show how crooked we are.  It is a thermometer to show how sick we are.  This is meant to drive us in desperation to Christ.  The expression, “confined all under sin” (v.22) means “lock up in jail.”  The law sentences us to death row, but that causes us to seek pardon.  We can’t escape, so we must have someone intervene.   Like a mirror, the law shows us we are dirty, but cannot cleanse us.

Children need supervision and a restricted area.  Baby-sitters and playpens set limits that are good for them.   We are put in protective custody (v.23).  We are given a tutor (v.24-25).  In the ancient world this was a slave in charge of minor.  He had moral supervision and was a strict disciplinarian.   This is what the law is to us.  The tutor’s task was finished when the child reached maturity.  The word, “sons” (v.26) means “of full age.”  Christians have outgrown the need of a playpen and baby-sitter.  Adulthood brings freedom from that.  Why would anyone want to return to infancy?

Instead, we are to “put on Christ” (v.27).  In Roman society, when youth came of age, they were given a special toga.  The child of God has laid aside the old garments of sin and put on a robe of righteousness.  In Christ, there is no distinction of skin color, social class, or sexual category (v.28).   The ground is level at the cross.  The Jews thought they were Abraham’s seed because of keeping the law. Paul says it is a relationship to Christ by faith that makes us heirs of Abraham’s promises (v.29).

Only Christ can free us from sin and death.  Call out to Him today!

Saturday, September 26, 2015


LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle?  Who may dwell in Your holy hill?  (Psalm 15:1)
God designed us with the capacity for intimacy with Him.  We find Adam and Eve walking in the garden with the Creator, but then sin disrupted that fellowship.  It still does.  The good news is that God sought out those first humans and He seeks after us today.  David shows us how to have intimacy with God in Psalm 15.
The question is whether we will respond to this Holy God—will I deal with the sin barriers in my life?  The implication in David’s question (v.1) suggests that we dare not rush rudely into God’s presence, but must pause and approach Him reverently.  Does He love us and desire our company?  Of course!  Yet, He is God so holy—above and beyond us.
Our walk must be upright (v.2a).  We do not slink around as a serpent, but stand upright with a spine stiffened by conviction.  Our feet move in lockstep with God’s commandments.
Our work must be righteous (v.2b).  Our hands are not used to serve ourselves, but to serve God by serving others.  It isn’t just that we refrain from doing the wrong thing, but that we actively pursue doing the right thing.
Our words must be sincere (v.2c-3).  Notice that what is on our lips is connected with what is in our heart.  There is to be no hypocrisy or inconsistency between what we think and how we talk.  Integrity demands that we mean what we say and say what we mean.  Our words are spoken to build up not to break down.  Backbiting is banished from our mouth.  Such a person does not take advantage of his neighbor or use his friends.  He or she has the best interest of others at heart.
Our associations must be godly (v.4a).  You cannot run with the wrong crowd and walk with God.  They are going the opposite direction.  We will be influenced by our associations.  If we are enamored with today’s celebrities who have the morals of alley cats then we will find ourselves thinking, talking, and acting like them.  If we honor holy men and women by meditating upon and modeling after them, then their influence will inspire us.  When I study the lives of men and women who were intimate with God, they create a hunger in my heart for the same experience.

Our possessions must not possess us (v.4b-5a).  The person who walks with God is a giver and not a taker because that is the nature of God.  He or she will keep their commitments, no matter what it costs them financially, because they know if they fail to do so it will cost them much more spiritually.  Such a one resists the corrupting influence of the love of money.  Their character is not for sale.
We will not always do everything perfectly, but we can do it better progressively (v.5b).  These traits will be the hallmark of our life.  When people think of us, these characteristics will come to mind.  Best of all, God knows the inclination of our hearts and the God-directed life will bring us into His fellowship.  Our feet will be firmly planted on God’s path, with no backsliding.  We will not find ourselves taking the Devil’s detours.
It is our privilege to have fellowship with God.  Through Christ our salvation makes us righteous before God, and by His Spirit our sanctification enables us to live righteously as we draw near to Him.

Friday, September 25, 2015


I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.  (Galatians 1:6-7)

Martin Luther insisted that mastery of the message of Galatians was basic to understanding the Christian faith.  In these days of doctrinal deviation within the church and the cancerous cults outside the church, it is imperative that the gospel be clearly declared and defended.  Paul's theme is “the gospel of grace.”  Salvation is the free gift of God to all who trust in Jesus.  Therefore, this message is as vital for the twenty-first century as it was in the first.

The way the false teachers in Galatia had sought to destroy the message was to discredit the messenger.  Paul, the humble servant, would rather have declared the Savior, than defend himself, but felt it necessary lest his message be undermined (v.1).

Paul’s position was appointed by God.  When he spoke he did not speak with the authority of humans, but of heaven, for God—not man—was the origin of his message.  Paul was attacked because he  was not part of the original twelve.  Yet, remember his call on the road to Damascus?  He emphasizes the resurrection, for it was the risen Lord Who appeared to him.

He was an apostle of grace.  It is a term denoting someone sent on behalf of another.  It was used of a messenger with credentials—like an ambassador.  Paul had a special ministry to Gentiles and a sincere burden for the church.  While none of us are apostles like Paul, we are sent to represent Christ (see 2 Cor. 5:18-20).

Who was Paul’s audience (v.2)?  Galatia is the area of modern day Turkey.  There were populous towns along the trade routes of the region that lent to a bent toward materialism. The people were noted for fickleness and a love of new things.  They were prone to any ritualistic type of religion.  In addressing them, Paul dispenses with his customary compliments.  He doesn't call them saints as he typically did.   This shows the seriousness of the message.

Paul offers a prayer for them (v.3-5).   His theme was grace, so it was natural he pray they receive it.  Paul points them back to Calvary. This was Christ’s voluntary, vicarious, and victorious sacrifice—never to be repeated!  Religion says do; Christ says done!  The crucifixion satisfied all the demands of the law.   Because salvation is God’s work, He receives the glory.  Religion appeals to man’s ego instead.  That is its subtle seduction.

Paul doesn’t beat around the bush.  He is alarmed and doesn’t mince words (v.6-9).  He is shocked that they have so quickly abandoned truth for a counterfeit.  The language used here is of a soldier deserting the army.  They had deserted their fortress of grace and gone over to the enemy.  The crisis for this church was not persecution by the culture from outside so much as perversion by the counterfeits from inside.

Every purported message from God must be held up to the plumb line of Scripture. Deletion or addition is demonic and deserves condemnation.  "We believe in Jesus, but have something to add!"   That is the message of Mormonism, Roman Catholicism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Adventism, and others.  We must speak forcefully against this as Paul did.  They are attacking the Gospel and we cannot be mush-mouths.  It is a matter of life and death—really of heaven and hell.

Thursday, September 24, 2015



In the LORD I put my trust;

How can you say to my soul, “Flee as a bird to your mountain”?  (Psalm 11:1) 

Discourage—let’s break the word down.  Dis: a prefix meaning, “to take away.”  Courage is the state of mind that enables us to encounter difficulties and dangers with firm resolve.  So, to discourage is to take away that state of mind.  Discouragement is one of the chief weapons in Satan’s arsenal.  You may feel disheartened and downcast even now.  You are not alone.  All of us struggle at times.  None are immune from this withering feeling—not even a champion of faith like David could avoid seasons of gloom.  In the eleventh Psalm, David describes the discouraging conditions that arose from hearing disheartening communications.  Thankfully, we also learn from his example how to deal with discouragement. 

Either foes who meant harm, or friends who wanted to help give David bad advice—to flee (v.1-2).  It is the natural reaction to potential problems.  When we feel hemmed in, we look to fight or take flight.  David might have responded either way, but he chose neither—he chose faith.  He would run—not to the mountains, but the Master.  His refuge would not be in the darkness of a cave, but in the arms of the Creator! 

We are not certain of the circumstances of David’s difficulty, but it would fit the period of his life when the young hero was part of King Saul’s court.  David’s fame was growing, even as Saul’s was fading.  The envious monarch would try to kill David with a javelin several times.  For David to flee—as might seem best to do—would be tantamount to an admission of guilt.  Even worse, it would convey that God could not be trusted to care for him.  There would come a time when David would be directed to abandon his post and hide in the wilderness, but not now.  We must commit ourselves likewise to listen to the Word of God and trust in His direction, rather than heed the voices of men who counsel us with earthly wisdom. 

Now a second question is posed, “If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do?”  (v.3)  The foundations of a nation are the moral pillars that enable it to stand as a civil society.  When those are undermined, the nation falls.  King Saul had abandoned those principles and God had abandoned him.  The young nation was in peril from a leader gripped by madness and given to malice—a dark, demonic spirit abiding in him.  How much like our discouraging days!  What can the righteous do?  We can respond with flight—many advocate that—to withdraw into our church culture with isolation.  We can react and fight—others advise that—to war against the Christ-less culture with indignation.  To respond like David is to choose the way of faith.  Our task is to remain faithful—that means full of faith—standing on Christ the Solid Rock.  That foundation will never crumble! 

Faith chooses to focus on God (v.4a).  He resides in His holy temple and rests on His heavenly throne.  He is Sovereign over all.  His all-seeing eyes take note of all that happens (v.4b).  We need to seek His perspective.  Pure silver is separated from the dross by the refiner’s fire (v.5-6).  This is what God is doing when He permits fiery trials to come our way.  God loves righteousness and will watch over His own (v.7).  Trust in Him.  He cannot fail and we need not falter!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015



To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven….  (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
I type these words on the first day of fall.  It is a bright day where the sun is still warming the earth—reminders that summer has just ended.  Yet, looking out the window, I see the leaves beginning to take on the spectacular colors from God’s creative palette.  The days are shorter, the nights are cooler—and before you know it we will awaken to a frost coating the roof tops, car windows, and lawns.  My wife loves the fall—and I would not mind it so bad, except those colorful leaves soon turn brown and cover the ground—demanding to be mulched, raked, blown, and piled.  What follows is dreaded by me even more—winter.  Everything looks dead, the wind cuts through you like a knife, snow must be navigated, and the heating costs assault your bank account.  Changes—they are part of life—but, they are not always easy.
We may be a picture of health today and tomorrow comes with a diagnosis of cancer.  Some have enjoyed visits and conversations with elderly parents only to next stand beside a cold body in a casket—our smiles replaced by sobs.  Not all changes are bad, of course.  There is the promotion at the job which increases both pay and satisfaction.  There is the building of a new house.  Perhaps, there is the birth of a new son or daughter.  It may be something as simple as the experience of a new café with excellent food and delightful conversation with friends.
Spring turns to summer and summer yields to autumn and autumn surrenders to winter, only to find spring rising green from a warming ground before you know it.  We have no choice in whether change will come—it will.  We do have a choice in how we respond to that change.
God has a purpose.  He has a plan.  We must always remember this lest we become too comfortable in the good times and too distressed in the tough seasons.  Through it all, God is the unchanging One. He is immutable.  Christ is our anchor to life’s ship beset by winds of change.
These are seasons of change for our church.  Times of challenge are real.  This season does not call for us to give up, but to go on.  Good people have died.  Other fine folks have decided to worship elsewhere.  Familiar faces in leadership have decided to step aside.  We will miss them all.  The worst of it, of course, is that there will always be a few who walk away from the church because they are walking away from God.  That is the most tragic choice of all.
Brighter days are ahead.  There may be a period of more difficulty, but God’s grace will bring us through.  Fall can become winter.  Thank God, winter is followed by spring!  I am grateful for the privilege of serving as your shepherd. Pray that I will be faithful to God’s Word and to His flock.