Letting others do our thinking

“My wife handles the religion in our family.  Talk to her.”  –A man in Luling, LA giving his young pastor the brushoff when I tried to introduce the matter of his relationship to Christ

Who handles the big things in your family?

The old joke goes: “When my wife and I got married, we decided I would handle the big things in life and she would take care of the little things, like where we lived, the house we would buy, the car we drive, and such.  It’s worked well. And, so far, over these 40 years, there have not been any big things.”

I told a group of Facebook friends I was reading James Comey’s book “A Higher Loyalty,” about his years in government, first as a U.S.Attorney and then Director of the F.B.I.  It’s a fascinating book and contains much worth retaining. (Although, admittedly, it can be boring in places.)

Because the man is controversial, the book has been attacked and disputed from the Trump team and his supporters.

The reaction of Facebookers was along party lines.

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Baptismal regeneration? The controversy continues on how to be saved.

“And some men came down (to Antioch) from Judea and began teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according tot he custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’  And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren (there) determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue.”  (Acts 15:1-2)

And so we have what is called the First Church Council, convened by the early church fathers to answer the question ‘How are we saved?’  Is it by faith alone or are works of the law required?  Must a Gentile become a Jew to be saved?

The reason this is on my mind today is that I’ve been in a dialogue with a preacher in the Church of Christ denomination (although he and their leaders insist they are not a denomination!).  He gave me a packet of pamphlets written by one of their elders which he is distributing.  I took it home with me, read through them, and was answering them.  When I concluded he was more interested in defending their narrow (and erroneous) interpretation of the truth than in finding and doing the truth as taught in Scriptures, I shut the discussion down.

One of the pamphlets addresses the question “What must I do to be saved?” from Acts 16:30.  But instead of giving the answer Paul gave–“Believe on the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved, you and your household”–the writer proceeded to attack the very answer Paul gave.  In one paragraph, he writes:

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How to be all things to all people

I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.  –I Corinthians 9:22

Imagine someone saying, “I’ve decided to become all things to all people.”  You would wonder if they had a) lost their minds or b) chosen a shortcut to losing same.

That’s quite an assignment Paul gave himself.  He would, he informs us, become…

–as a Jew in order to reach the Jews.

–as under the Law in order to reach those living under the Law.

–as without the Law that he might win those who are without the Law

–as weak, that he might win the weak

And finally, as though to throw the net over the entire lost population, he says, “I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.”

How does he do that, we wonder.  Is the effective Christian worker to be schizophrenic, parceling himself out to this group and that group with the intention of winning them to Jesus?  And how does that work?

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The test of an honest person (when discussing religion)

“In all things, love.”  –I Corinthians 16:14

That’s one test of a believer and a mighty important one it is.  Our Lord said it is the mark of a disciple.  (John 13:34-35)

Look for the love.  Otherwise, you know this one with whom you are discussing scriptures and doctrines is no follower of Jesus.

The cultist you’re talking religion to across the table or across the continent feels no need to love you since he/she has decided you are not a follower of Jesus since you disagree with their doctrine.  I’ve sat at a table with a Jehovah’s Witness who was brutal and mean-spirited and who may as well have thought of me as a child-molester by the scoffing and belittling he was dishing out.  (I was a younger pastor, and had not learned that there comes a time when it’s all right to say, “This meeting is over,” and walk out.)

But while love is the first mark of the believer, there’s another test for determining whether the person across the table is an honest seeker.

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Seven things to understand when discussing religion

If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth…. (I Timothy 6:3ff).

Some people debating religion are this way, Paul.  Conceited and ignorant, rabble-rousers and mean-spirited.  I’ve sat across the table from them more than once.  It’s no fun, as you know.

But some are sincere and faithful brethren trying to get this right.

Help us, Lord.

If you are a Southern Baptist, as I am, you may find yourself having a problem with the theology of some people whom you happen to like and respect as brothers and sisters in Christ.  You respect them and would like to be closer friends, but this “thing” they believe and teach stands between you. So…

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Every pastor needs a plan

“As the Father hath sent me, so send I you” (John 20:21).

How are you going to grow your church, pastor?

If your church is not growing–i.e., reaching new people and discipling those God sends–your church is on the decline.  People die, people move away, some will grow lax and drop out.  No church is static. The pastor who sees his role as maintaining the status quo, keeping those who pay his salary happy and placated, is on a mission to disaster.

Every pastor needs a plan or strategy–a prayer, a personal program, a scheme or something!–for reaching outsiders and bringing them into the congregation and growing this church.

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Call it what you like, God calls it sin.

He who has little thoughts of sin never has big thoughts of God.  –Anonymous

Michigan State’s medical advisor to the nation’s champion acrobats has been sentenced to 175 years in prison for sexual transgressions.  (Update: More and more accusers keep surfacing with lurid stories of the crimes of this man, and judges keep adding years to his sentence.  He’d have to live several lifetimes to serve the complete sentence.)

Hundreds of young women have brought charges and accusations against him. They spoke through tears, telling how he ruined their lives.  To no one’s surprise, the doctor seemed unmoved by it all.  Anyone who would do such a thing has long ago hardened his heart toward God and rejected any thought of compassion toward his victims.  While the doctor did not deny touching these young girls, he explained, “I touched them medically, not sexually.”

Yeah, right.  The women–and the judge–thought otherwise.

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Book Review: “Evidence That Demands a Verdict,” 2017 edition

“But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense (apologia) to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (I Peter 3:15). 

Apologetics has nothing to do with apologizing.  The Greek word apologia in the New Testament means to reply or make a defense as to why we believe such a thing as the gospel of Jesus Christ, the integrity of Scriptures, or the existence of God. 

In the early 1970s, the publication of Josh McDowell’s “Evidence That Demands a Verdict” caused a sensation.  The thick book was eagerly devoured by pastors and laity, college students and campus ministers, housewives and college professors, seekers and skeptics, all searching to know more about the logical and historical basis of the Christian faith.

In 1972, I was 32 years old when that book appeared on the scene, and was ministering to college students by the hundreds.  The book was a Godsend. Heaven alone knows its full impact.

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Unless you are (fill in the blank), you cannot be saved.

“And some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1).

Here’s an interesting exercise for you.  You might wish to try it with your Bible study group.

Write out the above verse and leave two blanks in it.  It will read: “Unless you are _________ according to ____________, you cannot be saved.”

Then, see how many ways the group can fill those blanks based on the way people pile up obstacles to salvation.

UNLESS YOU ARE…

–baptized you cannot be saved

–using the KJV Bible, you cannot be saved.

–old enough and mature enough to understand everything, you cannot be saved

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Pastors and churches working together? Unheard of!

Need a text for this?  See below. We have several.

I hope the idea catches on.

This week I returned from Hearne, Texas, and a revival involving two churches some 5 miles apart.  Bethany Baptist, pastored by Randy Aly, and Elliott Baptist, Dale Wells pastor, are located several miles outside Hearne, population 4500.

This was their first attempt to join together in a revival, and my first as well.  Randy says he awakened one morning with it on his mind, and felt it was from God.  He called Dale and shared the thought.  The rest, as they say, is history.

We started on a Sunday morning in Elliott and ended  the following Sunday morning in Bethany.  During the week we had noon and nightly services in the same church, on alternating days.  A trailer with a sign reading “Revival here tonight.” was pulled back and forth between the churches.

Interestingly,  Tuesday night being Halloween, the Elliott church hosted “Trunk or Treat” instead of a service.  (A downpour limited the turnout, but a lot of people braved the elements for their kids’ sake. I sketched nonstop all evening.)  Then, Friday night being “football night in Texas,” we had no service.  But on Saturday, we picked back up with noon and night services.

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