Seven Easter declarations people are dying to hear

“God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for HIm to be held in its power” (Acts 2:24).

It’s Easter, preacher. What are you preaching?

Don’t preach about Springtime, as much as we all love it. This is not the day for that.

Don’t make the analogy about how Easter eggs speak to us about new birth and all that foolishness.

Stay on track.

You have the greatest message on the planet; try not to weaken it with trivialities.

Tell your people–and all those whom the Holy Spirit will send this Sunday, not yet “your people,” but potentially so–that death could not hold Jesus Christ, that He is risen from the dead, and what that means to them.  (Never forget that every sermon has two parts: What? and So what? The “what” is the message of Easter; the “so what” is the application.)

So, what exactly does the Easter event mean? I’m glad you asked.

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What one minute can do

A hundred years ago* when I was just out of seminary and trying to pastor a neighborhood church in the Mississippi Delta, a radio executive taught me something I have never forgotten. (* Well, okay, 47 years ago to be exact.)

Benny Gresham said, “Each day at 9:15, we lose half our audience.”

Local pastors were given time for a daily 15 minute devotional. Pastors in the local ministerial association would be assigned a week at a time.  Some would show up each day and do the program live, while most would record them all at one sitting.

Gresham explained, “Most people don’t want to sit through a 15 minute preaching service on the radio. But they’ll listen to anything for a minute.  Even a test signal.”

He said, “If I were a pastor, I’d spend my money buying one minute spots and sprinkle them throughout the day.  And I’d try not to sound too preachery.”

Good advice, they say, is where you find it.

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The blind beggar of Jericho: Responding to the critics of the Bible

Critics of the Scriptures want to have it both ways.

If they find an inconsistency in Scriptures–the numbers seem not to agree, or a story is told in two or more different ways–it proves the Bible is man-made, filled with errors, and not to be trusted.  If they could find no inconsistencies, however, this would prove the church had removed all the troublesome aspects of the Bible in order to claim it to be inspired of God.

Either it is or it is not.

When one is determined not to believe a thing, nothing gets in his way. He can always find a reason not to believe.

Take the matter of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar of Jericho.  His account is told in three of the gospels, but he is named in only one (Mark 10:46).

This is my favorite story in all the Bible.

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Four things I wonder about the Scripture

One: I wonder if the Lord ever wants to put beside particular scriptures the Facebook line: “Just saying.”

I sometimes wonder when to take a teaching literally and when the statement in Scripture was intended to be less than a command, or even simply a side remark.

Sometimes the Apostle Paul will say, “I do not have a word from the Lord on this, however….” and give us his thoughts. (An instance is I Corinthians 7:25.) Christians are of two minds about this. Some say, “It’s as plain as it’s possible to get. What follows is not to be taken as a command. How much clearer could Paul make it than he did?”  Others respond, “Yes, but we have all these epistles of Paul which we take as Scripture, whether it jives with anything the Lord Jesus actually said or not. So, if it came from Paul’s heart (and pen), it’s scripture.”

So hard to know.

We would be in bad trouble without the Holy Spirit to help us with this. (We make a big enough mess even with His guidance!)

Two: I wonder whether some statements were intended just for the apostles but not for us.

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Heresies inside my church

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine….”  “Preach the word….with great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2,3).

For a pastor, the way to deal with bad theology in his church is always to preach the Word.

Just hang in there, year after year, teaching and preaching God’s unchanging truth.  The changes in your people will come as you remain faithful.

The word “orthodox” means “right thinking.”  Straight shooting. Sound doctrine. Solid reasoning.

We think of heresy as something the bad guys do, the “spiritual gift” of cults, and the aberration of the rebellious. After all, aren’t all heretics nuts? (We interrupt to recommend a book. A half century ago, Walter Nigg wrote “The Heretics” to establish that the great heresies in church history were the result of some pretty smart people with real grievances, and not ‘nuts.’  Reading it was life-changing for me. I checked alibris.com and amazon.com just now. A used copy or two is available, and new reprints are expensive. However, this is a great investment and the book will be a keeper.)

As Walt Kelly’s comic strip ‘possum Pogo once noted, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

There is enough heresy inside the walls of your church to start twelve new cults by breakfast.

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Why teaching sound doctrine is not enough

“All Scripture is inspired of God and profitable…” (2 Timothy 3:16).

In previous articles for this website, we have stressed the importance of pastors and teachers feeding their people a steady diet of healthy doctrinal teachings.  IScripture calls it “sound doctrine.”

This cannot be overemphasized. The Apostle Paul said, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another….” (Colossians 3:16).

Paul speaks of being “constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following” (I Timothy 4:6).

Teaching sound doctrine is a big deal for all believers.

Clearly, that refers to teaching the Bible with a thorough understanding of what that means, where each doctrine fits, how to live its teachings, and so forth.

But there is one huge thing more, without which simply teaching sound doctrine is not enough.

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10 ways some preachers undermine confidence in God’s Word

“All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable….” (Second Timothy 3:16)

We pastors love the Word of God.  We read it, study it, devote our lives to learning and teaching and preaching its riches.  It is our sole authority for what we believe and teach.

And yet.

We sometimes do things that undermine the confidence of our congregations in God’s Word.  By our (perhaps) well-intentioned attempts to communicate what we have learned and believe, we may actually do more harm than good. The result of that is to discourage God’s people from reading it on their own and feeding their souls upon its nourishment.  And when we do that, we are betraying them, dishonoring the Lord, and playing right into the hands of the enemy.

Here are 10 ways we sabotage the confidence of our people in Holy Scripture…

1) The pastor stands to preach without reading Scripture at all.

He says by his omission that Scripture doesn’t matter, that what counts is what he has to say.

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The other reason I believe so strongly

“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel….” (II Timothy 2:8)

Asking thoughtful believers why they are so dadburn confident of the truth of Jesus Christ will result in a hundred different answers.

My pastor says for him, it’s the Lord’s resurrection. It’s as historically verifiable as anything in ancient times and perhaps more. And if Jesus rose, then He’s still alive and how good is that!

In a recent blog here, I said that to me the scriptures “fit” and  just “feel right,” providing the number one assurance for this country boy. I recognize the arbitrary and subjective nature of that, but there it is.

Other reasons believers give range from the archaeological evidence to the miracles they’ve experienced or their grandma’s testimony.

But there’s something else that looms large in my mind, a fact that dominates almost everything else.

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Why God tells us to be perfect but doesn’t expect it

(Part 2 on this subject)

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

Would the Lord issue a command He does not expect to be obeyed?

We may as well raise the question before some reader does it for me and uses it to dismiss everything that follows.

Short answer: He’s trying to get something across, to teach us something important, by issuing the command.

Longer answer: everything that follows.

In His”Sermon on the Mount,” the Lord Jesus sets the bar alarmingly high for all who would live as His disciples.

–When persecuted, we are to rejoice (Matthew 5:12).

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Perfectionism: The cruelest burden we place on one another

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect….” (Matthew 5:48)

First, let’s get the theological argument out of the way.

Let’s make this perfectly clear: God knows you are not perfect and will never be this side of Glory.

And even clearer: “God does not expect sinlessness out of you and me. He is under no illusion about us.”  See Psalm 103:14 “He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” And Romans 3:10 “There is none righteous, no, not one.”

Got that?  The illusion of sinless perfection is all ours, my friend.

We read Matthew 5:48 and come away with the erroneous conclusion that God ordered us to be perfect, that perfect means sinlessness, and therefore we can be sinless.  But since we cannot achieve perfection–no one you know has ever pulled it off–then He has given us an impossible standard to live by, one that crushes us and frustrates us and forever disappoints Him.

The result would be that we forever live with a disgusted God and in fear of the celestial woodshed, the destiny of children who bring in failing grades.

Yuck. What kind of theology is this?  And yet, you and I know people who believe this and call themselves Bible students, serious disciples of Jesus, and even evangelists (“sharers of the good news”)..

Now, let’s drop the other shoe here…

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