Jude: Five Statements About This Faith Of Ours

Calling the previous article and this one on the Epistle of Jude a “study” would be overstating the case, no doubt. Probably a “treatment” is more like it. Once or twice over lightly.

Those who love the Word will identify with what happened to me. After penning the previous article on Jude, I found that it lingered with me. Several statements in particular would not let me sleep last night. They kept insistig that they deserve more than the light reference we gave them previously.

Let’s call this: 5 statements that describe this faith of ours, from Jude’s epistle.

1) Ours is a revealed faith. (Jude 3)

“…the faith which was once for all entrusted to the saints.”

We did not “get up” this body of beliefs. We did not concoct it, think it up, work it up, knock it together using church councils or schools of prophets. It was given us by the Almighty.

Unless we settle this up front, nothing that follows will make any sense.

In their attack on the Christian faith, some will think they have found the fatal flaw when they point out that “your Bible was written by men; you Christians seem to think it was dropped from Heaven as a finished product.”

No one believes that. We cite the Apostle Peter when he says, “Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (II Peter 1:21).

God used human instrumentation. Scriptures are saturated with the fingerprints of its human authors, and far from denying it, we revel in it. We treasure the “warts and all” character of the Bible and the personal references from those used by God to pen it. “I Paul write this greeting in my own hand” (I Corinthians 16:21). “Do your best to get here before winter” (II Timothy 4:21).

2) Ours is a finished faith; it is completed (Jude 3).

Continue reading

Jude: Three of Us Chime In

Wellington, a local pastor friend, and I were having lunch recently. As I’m wont to do, I asked what he was preaching the following Sunday.

“Jude,” he said, “and it’s worrying me to death!”

I laughed. “Why?”

He said, “I’m doing a series through some of the shortest–and most overlooked–books of the Bible. I’ve done Philemon and II and III John, and so, locked myself in to do Jude this Sunday. I’m really having trouble finding a hold on it.”

Since I had not read Jude lately, my memory of what that book-of-one-chapter contained was fuzzy, so I had little assistance to offer him. What I said was, “Well, don’t try to cover everything in it. As I recall, Jude quotes from the Apocrypha.”

Wellington said, “That’s what’s got me. I don’t know what to do with that.”

The Apocrypha is the name given to the books between the Old Testament and the New Testament. What’s that? There aren’t any? Maybe not in your Bible, but your Catholic friends’ Bible has them.

Protestants do not consider these little writings as authoritative primarily because the Jews didn’t either.

In vs. 9, Jude pulls an illustraton from a small book titled “The Assumption of Moses.” Then, in vs. 14 he does the same from the apocryphal book of I Enoch.

Now, referring to these books is not the same as endorsing them. Clearly, the Christian community almost from the first has been in agreement that these do not belong in the New Testament.

I said, “When I get back to the office, I’ll read through Jude and let you know if I have anything worth sharing.”

A half-hour later, two things happened. One, I e-mailed him my take on Jude. And a few minutes after that, another pastor, Millington, and I were visiting in my office. He said to me, “I spoke at a Bible study luncheon today. Guess what I spoke on–Jude!”

Continue reading

Assessing Your Ministry: The Right and Wrong Way to Do It

If someone were to give a brief speech as to why you deserve a position of greater acclaim or responsibility or exposure, what would they say? The speaker would highlight the accomplishments of your ministry. And what are those?

What if he asked you in advance to write them out?

This week, a search committee assigned to find the successor to Dr. Morris Chapman who wears the interesting title of “President of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention,” gave its recommendation. Dr. Frank Page is their nominee, and will be made official at the annual meeting of our denomination a month from now in Orlando.

In their presentation on Frank Page, the committee hit the highlights of his ministry over these years, specifically from his last church, the First Baptist Church of Taylors, SC. The church runs about 2,300 on typical Sunday mornings, baptized 145 last year, and contributed some $6 mil of which 10% went to denominational missions. That sort of thing. They told of the two years he served as president of our denomination and of the missionary work dear to his heart.

Why did they do that? Why tell what he has recently done when the next assignment is completely unlike any aspect of that? Answer: it’s all we have to go on. The best indicator of future work is past production.

Everyone I know likes and respects Frank Page. We expect him to do well, and are blessed to have someone of his caliber in this slot for these days. But for our purposes here, I’m more interested in the way they assessed his ministry’s success by listing accomplishments.

What would they have said about you and me?

Would they list the attendance in my church as a sign of my success? The size of the offerings? The mission contributions? The denominational offices I have held? The books I have published? The buildings we’ve constructed? The mission teams we’ve sent out?

If so, a lot of us would have come up short. And yet–and this is the point I’d like to drive home–a lot of people who are having a successful Christ-honoring ministry will not have big numbers to post. (Incidentally, Frank Page would hasten to agree with that, for what that’s worth.)

The question before us, class, is: How do we go about assessing the success or failure of our ministries?

Continue reading

Fearing What They Fear (I Peter 3:14)

No one wants to be known by his fears.

“Fear hath torment,” says I John 4:18 and it’s exactly right.

We naturally resist our fears. Some dedicate their lives to eradicating all evidences of fear. An apparel company made a fortune from a line of clothing with the logo “No Fear.” The fact is no one but the most foolhardy is without a certain amount of fear, because it can be a good thing. The fear of injury and death motivates most motorists on the interstate to take few risks. The driver with no fear is usually “under the influence,” as we say.

“Do not fear what they fear,” reads the NIV on I Peter 3:14. The NASB, the standard in my preaching (as well as among my teachers) for most of my lifetime, makes that “Do not fear their intimidation.” And yet the footnote says “intimidation” is literally “fear,” which would make it read “Do not fear their fear.”

So, there’s a little interpretation involved in this. Scholars clearly aren’t in agreement whether the Apostle Peter is urging believers to resist the fearmongering tactics of their persecutors or to live by standards different from those around them.

Both are true, of course. Each is a truth of the Kingdom.

But in this context and for our purposes today, I’m opting for the NIV’s approach. “Do not fear what they fear.” (Hey, it’s my blog. I get to decide.)

In our culture, people are far more likely to be known for what they love and enjoy than for what they fear and hate and dislike.

Take the city where I live. New Orleans has devotees around the world, people who love visiting here and miss it intensely when they leave. Ask them what they treasure about this place and you will be inundated by a litany of their loves: the food: certain restaurants or cuisines, po-boys or etoufee or boiled crawfish; the music: this hall or that club, this band or that orchestra or a certain singer; the parks: Woldenberg on the river or City Park or Audubon; the neighborhoods: Uptown or the Garden District or the Quarter; the history: the quaint streets of the Quarter, the treasures of the Cabildo; the museums: the Museum of Art or the World War II Museum; the street cars, the sounds, the accents, the list is endless. And the Saints–how could I leave them out?

It’s all about loves, not fears. All who love a city are usually bonded by what they enjoy most.

And yet, when it comes to matters of faith and eternity, there are two kinds of people in the world today.

Only two kinds of people? Yep.

You will know them by their fears.

Continue reading

Last Ten: The Christian Bucket List

10. Make your own bucket list.

What would you like to have done before departing this earthly scene for heavenly realms? Build a plane? Jump out of a plane? Fly a plane as the pilot? Or just take a ride on a plane? Put it on your list.

We’re all so different, no two people’s bucket list will be alike. Some years back, I would have put toward the top of my list to attend the annual meeting of the National Cartoonists Society. These men and women are the heroes, so to speak, of this cartooning business, the best there are, and some are household names in America. I own original cartoons from many of them, drawings they did for their newspaper strips which are now signed, framed, and (mostly) displayed on the walls of my home. In the study where I’m working at this moment, 13 original cartoons are staring down upon me.

I’m past the groupie stage of cartooning, for the most part, so that would no longer be on my list. So, lists vary and they have a way of changing.

Make your own list.

9. Postpone your bucket-kicking event.

I’m not one who believes a day was calendared for your death the moment you arrived on the planet. There seems to be a lot of it’s-your-call involved in how long we live and when we die, based on how we take care of ourselves and the risks we take.

To postpone the time of our departure simply means to do a few basic things that should increase the length of our lives:

–eat better. More fresh fruits and veggies, and fewer fries and chips and empty calory-type foods such as cola drinks.

–exercise more. Take walks, do stretching routines, buy some small weights from Wal-Mart or an athletic store and tone up your flesh.

–have a full checkup with your doctor. You’ll have to take the initiative with this. If you call your doctor’s office and say, “I want a checkup,” unless he/she knows you, what you’ll get will be fairly worthless. Tell the doctor’s nurse you want a) a complete head-to-toe examination, b) blood work, and c) a colonoscopy (if you are 50 or older). If you are female and have not had mammograms as recommended, schedule one of those too.

–ask your doctor or a nutritionist to tell you what vitamins to take each day. In the 1990s, my primary care physician at Ochsner’s Foundation Hospital in New Orleans put me on a regimen of vitamins and a baby aspirin each day. She said, “Mr. McKeever, I think we have just prevented a heart attack in you.”

–lose some weight. Quit smoking. Laugh more. Get up off the couch, turn off the television (or computer!), and get outside. Go to the park with your children or grandchildren. Toss a frisbee or football. Laugh some more. Enjoy a snow-cone in some weird flavor (they’re called snowballs around here).

8. Widen yourself.

For one year, try this: each week visit your local library and spend a minimum of one hour in the periodicals section. This is the sitting area with tables and chairs and with magazines on display. Take down several magazines you have never heard of and flip through them. Read anything that attracts your attention.

If you are a preacher or teacher, always have a notepad handy. I guarantee you are going to run into fascinating articles with information you’ll want to remember. And think what fun it will be when you stand before your group and say, “The other day, I was reading an article in Rolling Stone magazine….” Or, Electronics Monthly. Or, Archaeology in Zimbabwe.

You may discover a new career this way. (It’s been done, believe me.) And if nothing else, you’ll broaden your scope.

Continue reading

Lost: The Crowning Evidence

The overwhelming proof of the lostness of mankind is that people rarely look up from the humdrum existence of their daily lives to ask, “Where is all this headed? What is out there? Where are we going?”

In a 1965 sermon reprinted in the May 2010 issue of “Decision” magazine, Billy Graham tells of the time when Robert Ingersoll, well-known atheist of the 19th century, was addressing an audience in a small town in New York. The orator forcefully laid out his doubts concerning a future judgement and the reality of hell.

At the conclusion, a drunk stood up in the back of the room, and said through slurred speech, “I sure hope you’re right, Brother Bob. I’m counting on that!”

Billy Graham commented, “Modern man does not like to think of God in terms of wrath, anger and judgment. He likes to make God according to his own ideas and give God the characteristics he wants Him to possess. Man wants to remake God to conform to his own wishful thinking, so that he can make himself comfortable in his sins.”

That struck a note with me. I had just been reading where someone did just that.

Continue reading

Lost! (10 Ways We May Know People are Lost)

“The Son of Man has come to seek and save those who were lost” (Luke 19:10).

Someone asked Daniel Boone if in all his wilderness travels he had ever been lost. “No,” he drawled, “but once I was bewildered for three whole days.”

Bewildered in a wilderness. Sounds like the place to do that.

The great difficulty in rescuing the lost–the assignment God’s children have been handed by the Lord Jesus–is compounded when the subjects do not realize their dire situation.

How would one go about convincing a lost person he was lost? And why do that in the first place?

Clearly, if one is on-board the damaged Titanic and while scurrying to get off the doomed vessel with as many survivors as possible, he runs into partying passengers without the slightest awareness of their situation, he needs to tell them. He will want to alarm them even, and convince them to take action to save themselves. Whether they will listen is another story.

If we know the hurricane is coming and this neighborhood is about to be destroyed, we will do all in our power to alert the residents.

The days of our lives are finite and this world is doomed. Someone needs to tell the passengers.

In trying to alert the Titanic’s guests or the residents of the Lower Ninth Ward the day before Katrina, you would learn far more about the lostness of mankind in a few minutes than in all the years of your life to that point.

Anyone trying to save the lost–whether at sea, in penthouses having the time of their lives, in prisons, or sitting in comfortable pews with hymnals in their laps–is going to run into a number of realities concerning this condition.

Most lost people do not know they are lost. And many do not care.

The corollary to that is that God’s people often do not seem to know people are lost either. We get taken in by the impressive house they live in, the expensive clothes they wear, their suave manner, or by their religious ardor. If they are really cool, as celebrities and politicians are cool, we’re tempted to give them a pass.

Lost is lost. People without God are in big trouble.

Here are some of the ways we know man is lost.

Continue reading

Humility: How Sweet, How Humiliating

Last Tuesday morning, TV celeb Julia Louis-Dreyfus received a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Well known–okay, she’s famous–as Elaine on “Seinfeld” and starring in the current hit “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” Julia had arrived, she thought (as she arrived?).

But then she noticed something. The star had her name misspelled.

Whoever had made the star had her name as “Julia Luis Dreyfus.” No hyphen and “Louis” was missing the “o.”

Julia called it “a great metaphor for show business. Right when you think you’ve made it, you get knocked down.”

“(It’s) how this business works,” she laughed.

I read somewhere that the celebrity or his/her supporters have to shell out $10,000 for the privilege of receiving one of those stars. So it’s not quite the honor it appears to be. And then they get your name wrong.

It’s no fun being humbled, particularly in public.

I’ve told on these pages how as a new pastor in Charlotte, NC, nearly a quarter of a century ago, I had the church purchase a nice ad to tell the city of our Sunday services (as well as, ahem, our new pastor). We laid it out, the newspaper’s people assured us it would be done just as we said, and all was well. The brand-spanking new pastor would be suitably announced and welcomed.

Saturday’s paper came and I eagerly turned to the appropriate page. There was our ad. It was indeed attractive. But wait–are my eyes deceiving me? Can this be right?

Underneath my picture, the ad read, “Dr. I. M. Pastor.”

I’m not making this up.

It turned out that this was a little in-house joke the advertising department played when laying out an ad. For a banking ad, the line would read, “I. M. Banker,” that sort of thing. But they always changed the line before it went to press. Except this time they didn’t.

On Sunday, my congregation was not sure what to think. Most had not seen it, and those who had were puzzled. Some said, “Our pastor has this quirky sense of humor.” He has that, I suppose, but he also has enough insecurity about himself not to pull such a self-deprecating stunt.

It was a tad funny, a good bit embarrassing, and completely humbling. An inauspicious beginning to what turned out to be the most difficult three years of my life.

I was reminded of the role humility can play by something that happened this week when someone asked a question about Bible prophecy.

Continue reading


A friend and I, both adjunct professors at our local Baptist seminary, were doing one of our favorite things: drinking coffee and talking about students, classes, theology, and such.

He said, “I tell my students there is one huge thing they must understand about human nature: people are stupid.”

I laughed, “Could you find some more theologically correct way of putting that?”

He said, “I mean it. Think about it. They can not be counted on to do even the most basic thing in life–look out for their own best interests.”

If that’s the definition of stupid–working against one’s own welfare–then it’s hard to argue with my friend.

–The drivers on the interstate around here comprise the alpha and omega of this argument for my money. Watch them risking their future and the lives of their riders for a little more speed, a little better position, a few more thrills. After watching a daredevil scoot in and out of narrow slots in high-speed traffic while endangering everyone around him, we would like to ask that driver, “Friend, was it worth what you risked to gain a little better position on the highway?”

We don’t do that, of course. We already know the answer: he wasn’t thinking. He was responding to the adrenalin in his system. He was not in control of his thinking. He was acting stupid.

–The daily newspaper in any city in America will furnish all the anecdotal evidence for the self-destructiveness of humanity. A medical doctor loses his license and livelihood and goes to prison for selling prescriptions for controlled substances, all for a little more money. A politician who was making a hundred thousand a year sells his influence for a tiny fraction of that, and ends up losing everything.

Friends who live a few miles west of New Orleans were all abuzz the other night. Helicopters were hovering over their homes. When a woman went out to put her garbage on the curb, a policeman suggested she stay in the house. The next morning, the newspaper announced that cops had arrested three people who had robbed a bank in that area. They had pulled ski masks over their faces, held up the bank, and then sped away. Witnesses called 911 and they were apprehended. They “owned” the loot from the robbery for a few hours; they will pay for that with 20 years of their lives.

–A respected pastor with a long record of service to God and the church “falls in love” with his secretary, a deacon’s wife, a counselee, or the church organist. To “fulfill his needs,” he breaks the hearts of his wife and chiildren, breaks the trust of thousands who have respected and followed his leadership, and breaks the vows he made to God.

What are you thinking?

“I wasn’t thinking,” one man told me. “I was stupid.”

In listening to such a confession, no hearer delights in the self-destructive behavior of the penitent. For there is one inescapable fact that looms over this entire conversation:

We are all stupid; we have all done self-destructive things. None are faultless.

And that is the saddest thing I know. People are so lost.

Continue reading

Saturday Night’s Angst (A Poem of Sorts)

(Or maybe we should say, “A Poem Out of Sorts.” I’m embarrassed to post this, but perhaps some pastor somewhere will connect with it.)

It’s Saturday night and sermon time–

When the brain starts to panic

And fears shift into overdrive.

I’ve worked on this message all week–

Labored over the text and yes I’ve

Checked the Hebrew and also the Greek.

You’d think by now I’ve have it down

To a system, a method, an art,

But here in my study, my brain has shut down.

It’s not that I don’t know what to do,

It’s certainly not a new spot to be in

When the calendar and the clock say a sermon is due.

I’ve got twenty-eight points and need just three;

Four directions and hardly a clue.

Dear Lord, I could use your simplicity.

What shall I do with all these notes?

Take them into the pulpit?

That would be a joke.

Maybe if I laid them aside

And went on to bed

My subconscious would organize

Everything God has said.

I’ve heard of preachers who can work all week

With hardly a thought of next Sunday morn,

Then stand and let it flow, organized and neat.

But that’s not me, Lord–O that it were!

To stand and proclaim with hardly a stir,

And know that I had delivered life’s elixir.

So, back to the study; back on my knees.

Here I am again, Lord; help me please.

Refresh my staleness with Thy heavenly breeze.

And then, Monday morning, I run across

The notes and recall how I tossed

And turned all night through

Worrying, “Lord, what should I do?”

Continue reading