Monday, October 10, 2011

Jesus Said Hard Things!

In our adult Bible class last Sunday morning the subject of part of our lesson was Christian Leadership specifically the marketing of the world verses Jesus' model seen the four gospels.
The Scripture we looked at was John chapter 6. After He fed the multitude and sent His men in a boat across the lake He walked on the water to them and they finished the journey to the other side of the lake.

The next day a lot of the people He had fed found Jesus and He confronted them in 6:26 telling them they hadn't followed Him in order to see more signs (vv. 2, 14, 30), but because He had fed them. In other words they were in it for the physical food they could get. Our Lord then tells them not to work for the food that perishes, but instead for the food which endures to eternal life (meaning Himself).

And Christ seems to have had enough of their attitudes concerning wanting more physical food and He decides to thin the herd a little, if you will, by saying some hard things. He told the crowd (called disciples vv. 50, 66) that He was the Bread of Life and all that, that metaphor entails (vv. 48-51). He makes it sound like He wants them to become cannibals (vv. 51-58).

Hard stuff, right? Of course He was using hyperbole to make His point concerning taking all of Him (trust, faith and all of that).

So the people realized that He was saying hard stuff and said to each other, "This is a difficult statement, who can listen to it?" And Jesus knowing all of this further pushed the issue telling them that He was telling the truth and that the physical profits nothing, but the spiritual is where true reality and life is (v. 63). Then He tells them that no one can come to Him as a true follower unless it is granted to that one by God the Father (v. 65), and the consequence to all of this is that many abandoned following Him (v. 66).

Then an astonishing thing happened, and this blows my mind (as we used to say in the 60s and early 70s). Jesus turns to the twelve (Peter, Andrew, James, John and the rest) and asks them, "You do not want to go away also, do you?" Incredible!

So, let this be an example to those in our day who use the world's marketing and promotion methods in and around the local church. Their worldly strategies go counter to Jesus methods.

Jesus said hard stuff to people and He didn't back down. He wanted them to count the cost of following Him and He wasn't all that concerned with the "numbers" but was instead more concerned with the quality of His followers, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father" (v. 65).

Here is a link to see some of the other hard sayings of Jesus and others in the Bible.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Greatest Letter Ever Written

I am in the middle of preaching through Paul's Letter to the Romans. This task is one of the most daunting things I have ever done. As I am taking the congregation God has given me to shepherd through what is called by the pastors and Bible scholars I read, "The Greatest Letter Ever Written," my head has been spinning as I try to communicate the deep truths that God had Paul pen under His inspiration.

In the past ten years I have preached verse-by-verse through the gospel of Mark, The Letter to the Hebrews, the life of Abraham from Genesis, and other Old Testament and New Testament books and passages, but Romans seems to be in a class of its own.

Don't get me wrong, I believe that every word in the Bible, Genesis through Revelation, is the very word of God without error in the original manuscripts. Period. Paul's Letter to the Romans is included. But Romans, with its tremendous truths of: depravity, justification by faith, sanctification, glorification, predestination, election, Israel, love and grace is truly special.
The last few weeks in chapter 7 my head seemed to be spinning as I studied Paul's writing concerning the two natures conflict within him. And chapter 8 is even more daunting. It might be the highlight of the letter, but as I talked to a colleague of mine today he told me to "wait 'till chapter 9 and my mind will be spinning again."

So, going verse-by-verse through Paul's Letter to the Romans is a sobering, scary yet exciting exercise. Pray for me as I continue studying and communicating God's great truth.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Music To The Glory of God

I love playing the mandolin. My new Weber F Gallatin is opening up and sounding better-and-better all the time. Someday it will be a great instrument for one of my grandchildren or someone else who wants to play music to the glory of God.

The last couple months I have learned an old fiddle tune titled Cluck Old Hen, and Sunday afternoon the band I play with is providing the music at our towns 100th Birthday Party.

We had a Christian contemporary music duo in church two Sunday's ago. They call themselves Temple Veil. They did a fantastic arrangement of the hymn Jesus Paid It All which I am trying to learn on the acoustic guitar. Theirs is a masterful arrangement where that old classic hymn is brought to life with contemporary instruments. It is really good.

If you play music and you are a believer in Christ, keep playing. Practice. Don't stop. Pick up your instrument(s) everyday. Make playing them part of your lifestyle. If you are a beginner don't give up. Playing music (at first anyway) is very hard, but don't give up. Keep at it. If you are talented enough to write some songs do that to God's glory. Your songs can even be instrumentals.

Martin Luther, one of my spiritual hero's said, "Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world." The only thing that I would ad to that is family and friends (which are tremendous gifts from God as well). But, just imagine the word without music. Now, I can think of a couple genres of music that the world would probably be better off without, but most musical genres at least have some positives qualities.

Luther also said,
"Next to theology I give to music the highest place and honor. And we see how David and all the saints have wrought their godly thoughts into verse, rhyme, and song." Music played to the glory of God is a glorious thing. The German reformer thought so highly of music that he said, "The devil does not stay where music is." Now I am sure that he was talking about the hymns and Christian music of his day and his culture. Songs with biblical lyrics, even today, surely would run the devil off the same way that a quoted Bible verse does the same ( Matthew 4:11).

So play, write, sing, and listen to music that is beautiful and magnifies the Lord. I confess I listen to secular music (oldies, classical, old country, bluegrass, music from the 30s, 40s, and early 50s) and yes I switch it off when the lyrics are immoral or are not God honoring. But I'm always drawn back to songs and music that are God-centered and Christ-honoring.

(photo is of Martin Luther playing music in his home with family and friends.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Christian Biographies

When is the last time you read a "good" Christian biography? I unabashedly love to read Christian biography. Today I finished a book by Pastor John Piper titled, The Roots of Endurance, which he wrote about John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce.

Piper chose these men from Church History to illustrate endurance in the Christian life to his readers. We know the name John Newton because of his hymn, Amazing Grace, and we know William Wilberforce from English history because through his work as a politician he worked to outlaw the slave trade and slavery in the United Kingdom in the early 19th Century. Newton was a slave-trader until the Lord intervened in his life saving him and calling him as a long-time pastor in Olney, England. Wilberforce endured years of ridicule and harassment as he fought to undo the hideous slave trade of his country.

I didn't know anything about Charles Simeon when I started the book (in fact I hadn't even heard of his name). Charles Simeon was the longtime pastor of Trinity Church in Cambridge, England for forty-nine years. Wow, forty-nine years as a pastor ministering to one local church. That to me, is staggering to think about and process. I've been here at First Baptist Church in Boulder, Montana for ten years (nearly one-sixth of my life). As I read about Simeon I thought about one shy of fifty years at one church. That would be forty more years here in Boulder. Again, it is staggering for me to think about.

And the forty-nine years is only a part of his endurance at Trinity Church. For the first twelve years after the bishop placed him there the congregation (pew-renters, that's what congregations did back then) paid their rent, but didn't attend church because they didn't agree with Simeon being installed as their pastor. So Simeon had to sit up chairs around the outside of the room and down the aisles so those who wanted to attend could. Again, as a pastor, that is hard for me to process, and even harder for me to comprehend, that Simeon endured it for twelve years. Piper writes that Simeon asked for a double blessing for those who did attend to make up for the one's that didn't. Also an amazing attitude from the long-time pastor.

Through the lives of these three men I've read about these past few weeks I have asked the Lord to grow in me that kind of joy and endurance. The people who are First Baptist Church Boulder have been extremely good to my wife and I. They have. I praise the Lord for them. But the pastorate is tough for a variety of reasons (just ask any honest pastor). And because of that, years and years of endurance in the pastorate of a local church is often times rare today.

So listen, back to my question about the last time you've read a "
good" Christian biography. I encourage you to find one and start it today. If you are like me you will discover many examples of how to live the Christin life from these Church History saints, for the glory to God.

(Image: Charles Simeon)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Weber Mandolins

Recently I purchased a new mandolin. It is a Weber mandolin model Gallatin F-style. It's a gorgeous instrument. I really enjoy playing it and use it to praise the Lord each week.

The Weber string instrument factory is located in Logan, Montana and my oldest daughter and I had the opprotunity to tour it two weeks ago. It was fascinating! Bruce Weber the founder and owner personally gave us the tour. We found out that Bruce is a nice gracious Christian man.

It was interesting to learn that Weber is the largest maker of mandolins in the United States. We also learned that Weber instruments are shipped all over the world. You can view the pictures of our tour on my facebook page. You can see the Weber mandolin website at and they are on facebook as well.

During the tour Bruce Weber showed us his company logo which is the Jesus fish intertwined with a heart (Jesus in your heart). What a fantastic idea. What a great witnessing tool for Christians who play Weber mandolins.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Your Pastor Has Style!

The first week of February my wife and I were blessed to be able to attend Moody Bible Institute’s (MBI) Founder’s Week Bible Conference in Chicago for the seventh time. Attending that conference always gives us a good spiritual shot-in-the-arm as we return to the work God has called us to.

Each time we plan to attend, I ask God to show me what He wants me to learn. This year I was surprised to have Him teach me that, ”I Have Style.” Stay with me now as you read on.

As I watched and listened to some incredible preachers such as James MacDonald, Erwin Lutzer, Chip Ingram, Haddon Robinson, Josh Moody, James Ford, and Gary Chapman I realized that each of these men have their own preaching style. Maybe you have read some of their books or heard them on Christian radio so you have a sense of what I mean. Over five days Karen and I heard twelve expository sermons preached by pastors and ministry leaders, again, each with their own style. We even watched a taped talk by Joni Earekson-Tada who couldn’t fly in to Chicago because of a snow storm.

Let me tell you what I learned from watching and listening to all of these biblical presentations. God uses all sorts of people with all sorts of styles.

James MacDonald was very dynamic and his sermons were highly interactive with the five-thousand numbered congregation. Josh Moody, who is from London, England read his manuscript as he preached in a very prim and proper English way and explained God’s word to us. James Ford is a black preacher from South Chicago, who, in being true to his culture, was very expressive as he brilliantly taught God’s word. Joni was as gracious as ever as she shared about her struggle with breast cancer last year as well as her ministry of Joni and Friends sending wheel-chairs around the word for the handicapped. Haddon Robinson, in his 80s, in his soft-spoken manner, masterfully told us the story of Hosea, and Chip Ingram’s sermon from Romans 12:1-8 was amazingly practical.

All this to say, again, God uses people with all sorts of personalities and speaking styles. You know what, after I attended MBI Founder’s Week 2011, I am much more comfortable with my own style as an expository preacher.

Christians, this is the reason I have written about this topic. If you are reading this, pray for your pastor and thank God that he exposits God’s word in his own style each Sunday and doesn’t try to be anyone else, because he has style too.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Problem Is Me!

After preaching through the first two and one half chapters of Paul's Letter to the Romans I've made it to chapter 3:21-22. After preaching about God's condemnation of sin and the sinner for weeks now (1:18-2:20) I could sense God's people feeling overwhelmed by the seriousness of what He was communicating to us through the pen of the apostle Paul. And I'm sure that was His point. God's point is that He wants the readers of Romans to get the whole force of what He thinks of sin. He wants Paul's readers to understand that in themselves they are depraved sinners.

For an opening illustration Sunday I played the song The Problem sung by the Canadian Contemporary Christian band Downhere. Last week I ran across a quote by G.K. Chesterton who responded to a newspaper editorial which asked, "What's Wong With the World, " by saying, "I am." I don't know if that's where the band found the idea for the song, but they echo Chesterton. I will have a link at the end of the blog to a recording of the song. Here are the lyrics.

The Problem - Downhere

There's got to be some reason for all this misery
A secret evil corporation somewhere overseas
They're pulling strings, arranging things
It's a conspiracy

Or what about the ones who shape the course of history
What if we petitioned for one grand apology?
I'll write to my prime minister
You, write your president

Everybody's wondering how the world could get this way
If God is good, and how it could be filled with so much pain
It's not the age-old mystery we made it out to be
Yeah, there's a problem with the world
And the problem with the world is me

Some will say the devil and his legions
They put us in a headlock of submission
But they lost all power over me
A long, long time ago

And since I was a kid you know I've caused a lot of hurt
And no one ever taught me how to put myself first
It came so very naturally
But I'm not a prodigy

So I will look no further than a mirror
That's where the offender hides
So great is my need for a redeemer
That I cannot trust myself
No, I cannot trust my self
I dare not trust myself
So I trust in someone else

The sooner you can sing along
The sooner you can sing this song
The happier we'll be
The problem with the world is me

It's a very biblically insightful song that hits the nail on the head that Paul's letter was building to in his first section, that is, the depravity of mankind and its remedy. This coming Sunday (Lord willing) as our congregation celebrates communion together after studying Romans 3:21-25 we will be thinking and focusing upon the remedy for human depravity, which of course is Christ. Romans 3:22 says that the righteousness of God comes to all men and women through faith in Jesus Christ, but they must believe. Again, this is the verse to which Paul was building in this section. Mankind is sinfully depraved and the only remedy is Jesus Christ.

The Problem Downhere: