Living for God without reading your Bible? Don’t even try it!

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4; quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3).

You cannot do this on your own.

Don’t try this by yourself.

The Christian life should come with a warning label.

“Try this without the Scriptures as your constant guide and you will fail.”

Many a well-intentioned child of God has gotten off on a detour in life by denying themselves the guidance of a daily time with an open Bible. Some have strayed into wickedness because they lost their spiritual compass. Millions have lapsed into a religion of feelings and opinions and hunches due to their ignorance of God’s Word.

–I met some women who told me they no longer worship with other Christians. One said, “God showed me that I am the church.”  Because they did not know their Bible (or had rejected what they did know), they turned their backs on the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

We cannot say this too strongly: he who rejects the Lord’s people is rejecting the Lord Himself.  See Luke 10:16.

Continue reading “Living for God without reading your Bible? Don’t even try it!” »

One “God” story–of which there are thousands like it

In the days of Communist Russia, when Christians were an oppressed minority, those who risked their lives for Jesus and the gospel often found God at work in amazing ways.

This is one of those stories.  It comes from my journal from January 5, 1992.  No one who believes in the living God will be surprised; all who believe in Him will be blessed.

Missionary Ralph Bethea was giving out Bibles in Russia. He went to one home where an old gentleman spoke of abandoning Communism and returning to the faith of his mother.  He had no Bible, so Ralph gave him one.

The old gentleman clutched it to his chest, then invited in his neighbors and read it to them for four hours.

One man in the audience was a former KGB agent.  Ralph led him to faith in Christ.

When Ralph ran out of Bibles and many people were disappointed, the ex-KGB man said, “I know where there are 40,000 Bibles.”

Continue reading “One “God” story–of which there are thousands like it” »

The mess we make because we like our doctrine soft and easy

“This is a hard saying. Who can hear it?” (John 6:60)

A fellow arguing for a cult religion scoffed at my statement that some doctrines are difficult and sincere Christian people differ on their interpretation.

“If it’s difficult,” he said, almost yelling with delight, “it’s because you are getting it wrong!”

I knew enough about his religion to be wary of anything he said.  The leaders of that religion grew tired of having to explain away the obvious teachings of Scripture and so they came out with their own translation.  Bible scholars scoff at what they did and Greek/Hebrew linguists assure us that no one involved in that translation–if we want to call it that–was trained and capable of such a mammoth task.

What these people did with Scripture in order to get it simple and make it say what they wanted was akin to a fellow trying to close an overstuffed suitcase by taking the scissors to anything that didn’t fit and snipping it off.  At the end, it closed easily. The only problem is that everything inside was injured.

Beware of anyone telling you there is nothing in the Bible difficult to understand.  (In the same way you want to be wary of those who say nothing in it is understandable. Both are erroneous.)

Something inside us wants doctrines to be simple.

Those people will reject doctrines that are difficult to get their minds around.

Continue reading “The mess we make because we like our doctrine soft and easy” »

Stop reading scripture so fast. Slow down and savor it.

So, you’re reading the Bible through in a year?  Or, like a few people I’ve known, you read it through every year for the umpteenth time.

Fine. But after you have done it two or three times, that’s enough. Don’t ever do it again.

Just my suggestion.

Reading the entire Bible in a year is like seeing Europe in a week: You will notice a lot of things you don’t see from ground level, but it’s no way to get to know a country.

After a few flyovers–two days in Genesis and one day in Romans, for instance–land the plane and get out and make yourself at home in Ephesians or Second Timothy.  Move in with the locals and live with them a few weeks.

That’s the only way to learn a country. It’s the only way to really learn a book of the Bible.

Continue reading “Stop reading scripture so fast. Slow down and savor it.” »

I suppose this guy thought he was doing the Bible a favor

One of our Louisiana state legislators, who shall go unnamed here, had a bright idea a few weeks ago. Since our state, like all the others, has an official state bird (the brown pelican), an official flower (the Louisiana iris), an official fossil (the petrified palmwood, whatever that is) and so forth, why not have an official book and make it the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

Great idea, huh?

He must have thought so.

The (presumably) well-intentioned lawmaker introduced the bill to make this official and promptly announced it to the world. Most everyone seemed to react in surprise and some with a good deal of negativity.  “This is the last thing we need,” many felt.

And they were right.

Continue reading “I suppose this guy thought he was doing the Bible a favor” »

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.

Continue reading “Seven Easter declarations people are dying to hear” »

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.

Continue reading “What one minute can do” »

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.

Continue reading “The blind beggar of Jericho: Responding to the critics of the Bible” »

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.

Continue reading “Four things I wonder about the Scripture” »

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 and 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.

Continue reading “Heresies inside my church” »