Things the New Testament does not tell us

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable….that the man of God may be complete” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Those who demand a Scripture verse for everything they do place an intolerable burden on the Christian life, something never intended by the Heavenly Father. 

Some among us have all the answers about the Christian life and have solved all the mysteries of doctrine and theology.

Is there a verse of Scripture on that?

Stay tuned.

These “super-apostles” write me, taking issue with our positions in these articles.  They have it all worked out and find it incredulous that we do not see matters their way. The only explanation, they conclude, is that I must be a) unsaved or b) willfully blind.

Case in point: I wrote something about tithing for this website.

One of several online preachers’ magazines picked it up and sent it out to their 75,000 subscribers.  The tithe-haters came alive.

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What Satan is up to and how we may defeat him

We are not ignorant of his devices. (II Corinthians 2:11)

We actually know a good bit about Satan. More than we think, I expect. His history, his driving force, and his game plan are spelled out all through Scripture. We are left with tons of unanswered questions, but we know enough to understand how he works and what to do about him.

His devices. We know his maneuvers, his designs, his schemings, his wiles, and how resourceful he is. (Those are all different ways the Greek for “devices” is translated in various versions.)

Look at it this way. Satan is no fool. He has been studying human nature from the early days of the human race. He knows human psychology to a degree that any university in the land can only imagine. If they gave doctorates to serpents, he would have degrees out the kazoo. He is one smart dude.

He knows you.

The question before us, today, though, class, is this: do you know him? Do you pay attention to how he works?

There are two extremes to avoid: going to seed on Satan and seeing him in every thing, everywhere, is one extreme; and completely ignoring him is the other. There’s a balance somewhere in the middle where God’s people should take our stand.

If you are trying to do right, to live for God, to resist the encroaching infiltration of the world, then you are in his crosshairs. He has targeted you.

You’d better learn how he works and how to resist him.

Please note that I am not recommending that any of us specialize on the devil.

I’ve known a few ministers and a larger number of laypeople who seemed to focus on this archenemy. Every sermon they preached, every conversation they held, they talked about the devil far more than the Lord Jesus. Not a good thing. The Bible tells us to resist him (James 4:7), not to specialize on him.

We do far better by concentrating on the Lord Jesus Christ and obeying Him. However, if we do that effectively, we will soon encounter the adversary. From that moment on, we’ll be learning lessons about Satan whether we like it or not.

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Options the Lord did not leave open to us

“If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12)

The Christian faith is not a cafeteria from which one may pick and choose what to believe and leave the less appetizing choices behind.  It is a turn-key operation, to change the metaphor.  “It is finished,” said our Lord from the cross.  Salvation will not be needing my touches, God’s wisdom will not be helped by my cleverness, and the gospel will not be enhanced by my talents.  The gospel is a done deal.

Scripture says the revelation God has given us is sufficient.  “So that the (child) of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy  3:17).

Nothing is missing from this amazing salvation given us in Jesus Christ.

But we keep trying, don’t we?  Consider these attempts of ours to cherry-pick doctrines and truths…

One.

Some people insist, “The Bible is not a book of science. It is not a history book, in the same way it’s not a cook book or a travel guide.  It is reliable in terms of spiritual matters, but should not be expected to get all the other things right.”

Many would say that sounds right.

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The best kind of learning is what you teach yourself

From time to time, as I’m sketching at some event, someone will ask, “So, have you had training for this?” Or, maybe, “Are you self-taught?”

I don’t answer what I’m thinking.

What I say is usually a variation of, “I’ve had formal training. But mostly, I’ve worked at it. And I’m still trying to figure out how to draw better.”

But what I think is, “Do you think my stuff looks so amateurish I could not possibly have been taught?”

Can you imagine someone saying to Picasso, Pavarotti or Frank Lloyd Wright, “Did you take training for this?”

My friend Mary Baronowski Smith told me how she made herself learn to sight-read a hymnal so she could play anything she wished on the piano. Even though she was taking lessons, this skill was self-taught.

Here’s what happened.

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What you left out of your sermon, pastor

“Preach on sin, Pastor!”  When the old gentleman urged that bit of counsel upon me, I assumed he wanted me to harp on the ways of drug addicts and murderers and terrorists, sins no one in our congregation was committing.  But I think I know now what he meant.

And I think he was right.

Preachers who love the Word and are committed to the Lord’s people–well, a goodly number of them–have found that it is pleasant to the hearers and strengthening to his job security to leave out the sin business.

I’ve noticed this a lot.  And it’s not just one or two preachers.

Here’s what happens.

You preach a great text and share some wonderful insights you’ve gleaned. And they are good.  You end your sermon, satisfied that you have fulfilled your assignment from the Lord.   Little old ladies–God bless ’em!–brag on you at the exit, and you go home pleased with yourself.

But not so fast.

You left us wanting, Pastor.

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15 Satanic lies to keep you from God’s Word

“(The devil) was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar, and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

If I were the devil, I would do everything in my power to keep you from the Word of God.  I would say anything I could think of, anything I thought you would believe, anything that works, to get you to read other things.

As Paul said, “We are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11).  We know how he works.  And here are some of the lies we have noticed pouring out of his factory, all geared toward destroying confidence in God’s Word.

One. “You already know it, so don’t read it.”

He’s lying to you. You do not know it. I’ve studied the Bible all my life and in no way could I say I “know” it. I know a great deal about it, but there is so much more.  For the typical church member to shun the Bible because “I’ve been there and done that” is laughable.

Two: “No one can understand it, so don’t read it.”

He’s lying.  Even a child can understand a great deal of Scripture.  Meanwhile, the Ph.D. will find plenty to challenge his thinking.  Only a book from the Almighty could touch so much at every level of their existence.

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When people write you letters….

I’m a letter-writer.  That should surprise no one since I’m part of the last generation of Americans to have been birthed and brought up on letter-writing. As a child of the 1940s, I remember so well the joy of my mother as she opened letters from her sister and mother on the Alabama farm.  Living in the coal fields of far-off West Virginia, Mama missed her family so much.  Aunt Sis would often include a couple of sticks of Juicy Fruit gum in the envelope.  Mom would tear off a piece and make those two last a week.

When I went off to college, I wrote letters–to my parents and to my girlfriend.

Somewhere in my files now are personal letters to me from Dr. Billy Graham, Cartoonist Charles Schulz, and western author Louis L’Amour.

I’m 81 years old (don’t look it–ha–and certainly don’t feel it) and count it a privilege.  Five minutes ago, I put in the outside mailbox four envelopes: two of them paying bills, one to a minister in Alabama and one to a cousin who is battling cancer.

I believe in letter-writing. But it takes effort.

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Three reasons for the pastor to tell stories

“Jesus never preached without telling stories.” (Mark 4:34)

Pastor, your people love a good story. Listeners who have gone on vacation during the first ten minutes of your sermon will return home in a heartbeat the moment you begin, “A man went into a store….” or  “I remember once when I was a child….”

Those who have died early in your message will suddenly spring to life when you say, “The other day, I saw something on the interstate…” or “Recently, when the governor and I were having lunch at a local cafe…”  (smiley-face goes here)

We all love a good story. We’re so addicted to stories, our television brings us hundreds a day. Even on talk shows, the host wants guests to tell a story! Drop in on your local cinema and no matter which screen you’re watching, it’s all stories.  And the book publishing business–well, you get the idea.

There are a thousand reasons for dropping the occasional story into your sermon, pastor.  Here are three….

1) It makes the hard truth tastier, a little more palatable.

A good story sugar-coats the bitter pill you’re asking your audience to swallow.

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The most amazing/wonderful thing we do when reading Scripture

Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).

Whosoever surely meaneth me.”  — Gospel song by James E. McConnell, 1910.   

“He included me.”  — Gospel song by Johnson Oatman. 1909.

Every Christian I know does this and I do it too.  And yet there seems to be no easy explanation for it.

In Scripture, we will be reading where God is telling Israel how much He loves them, how He has loved them from the first, how His love is endless and that He has big plans for them, and what do we do?  We copy off those words and plaster them around the house, memorize them, and write them into songs of inspiration. We put them on bumper stickers and coffee mugs and t-shirts, and we build sermons around them.

We revel in those words.

We do this not because we are so impressed by God’s love of Israel nor touched by their closeness.  We do it for another overwhelming reason.

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And now, I’d like to say a few words to my fears

>“Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you” (Psalm 116:7).

Fears crop up from time to time.

They co-exist right alongside my faith, like tares among the wheat (referencing Matthew 13:30).

My faith and my fears are not friends, you understand, nor are they unknown to one another.  They have fairly well existed alongside one another from the beginning, so they are well-acquainted, in the sense that competitors on the gridiron who do battle in repeated contests come to know one another intimately.

I identify with the fellow who, when told that all things are possible if he could believe, answered, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24).

What do I fear?  Let me count the ways.  (I do this knowing full well that fears love to be given room and attention and energies, all of which serve to feed this cancer, causing it to mushroom.)

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