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.


–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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Jesus and only Jesus. Why is that so difficult?

Only Jesus.

–No one has been to Heaven except the One who came from there.  John 3:13.  How clear is that?  He is the One who knows.

–No one can come to God the Father except through Jesus.  John 14:6.  How clear is that?  He is our Mediator.

–No one can know God unless Jesus reveals Him to them.  Matthew 11:27.  How clear is that?  He is the Revealer.

–There is no other name under Heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. Only Jesus.  Acts 4:12.  How clear is that?  He is our Savior.

–Jesus said He was given authority over all mankind.  John 3:35; 13:3; 17:2 and Matthew 28:18.  How clear is that?  He is Lord.

Here’s an outline that sums it up for me. 

It got me out of bed in the middle of the night recently.  Use it if you can and if the Lord leads…

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The credentials of those making huge claims

“Trust. But verify.”  –sign on the desk of President Ronald Reagan

Someone wants to invest your money and offers big rewards.  A person has offered to babysit your child for little or nothing.  A stranger wants to tell you how to get to Heaven.

Can you trust them?

How do you know?

The credentials of one making big claims or offering great rewards are everything.  We must not assume because they seem okay, look impressive, drive a big car or live in a huge house, and everyone speaks well of them, that they are trustworthy.  Con men and scam artists succeed by big talk, great confidence, appearing successful, and winning your confidence.  They depend on your naivete, and count on you not asking the big questions.

Credentials.  How do you know this person is who they say they are, that they are trustworthy?

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Destroyed for lack of knowledge–and loving it

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.  Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest.  Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (Hosea 4:6).

There is a reason people reject information that is new or different;  they love to be left alone in their comfortable deceit than to have to deal with all the changes required by the light.

Ignorance is bliss, they say.

The problem–whether with mankind or the redeemed–isn’t exactly a lack of knowledge.  If that were the case, we could remedy the situation by sending everyone back to school.

God would send educators to the church.  Instead, He sent prophets and shepherds.  He sent light-bringers. He sent a Savior.

Neither is the problem that people do not know the truth. Nor that no one has come to tell them the truth.  The problem is not that they have never heard the truth.  The problem is that they have rejected truth when it did come.

They are ignorant because they rejected true knowledge.   This is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light, for their deeds were evil.  (John 3:19).

Not knowing something and rejecting the knowledge of something are two different animals.

Over here is someone in darkness who yearns for the light. It comes and he awakens and all is well.  The hour is coming and now is when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live (John 5:25).

Stumbling in the darkness, they spurn the light offered.

The speaker of Truth comes and they run him out of town.  Or scoff and jeer and mock him.

They crucify Him.

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