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									                          INTRODUCTION

      My main purpose in writing Interpreter’s House is to
communicate the timeless truth of God’s word. There is one
central timeless truth in Scripture. We commonly call it the
Gospel. I begin this booklet with a presentation of the
Gospel. If you are a believer, I hope this will deepen your
understanding about what God has done for us in Jesus
Christ. If you are not a believer, my prayer is that God will
use this to bring you unto Himself. My Gospel beginning in
this volume, along with my other writings, are written in the
spirit of John, the beloved Disciple, who wrote –

And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete (1
John 1:4).



           HOW YOU CAN BECOME A CHRISTIAN

   Recognize your sinfulness and your need for a Savior


The extent of your sinfulness


Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth,
and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil
continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the
earth, and He was grieved of heart.
(Genesis 6:5)


All have sinned


For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
(Romans 3:23)




                                    1
The result of sin


For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ
Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 6:23)


Christ’s death showed God’s love


But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were
still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)


   Receive Jesus Christ as your Savior accepting God’s only
    provision for sin made available by grace alone through faith
    alone in Christ alone.


We cannot earn God’s grace. Good works are the result of salvation
not a requirement for salvation.


For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of
yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should
boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good
works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:8-10)


Since Salvation is a gift of grace, it must be received.


But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become
children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born,
not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of
God.
(John 1:12-13)




                                     2
We must confess our sins and receive God’s forgiveness.


If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is
not, in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us
our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we
have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
(1 John 1:8-10)


We must confess and believe and place our hope in Christ’s provision
for sin.


If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your
heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For
with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth
confession is made unto salvation.
(Romans 10:9-13)


We are made new in Jesus Christ.


Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have
passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are
of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has
given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ
reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to
them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
(2 Corinthians 5:17-21)




                                     3
      Repent of your sins, and turn toward God


       Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said
to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ―Brothers, what shall we do?‖
And Peter said to them, ―Repent and be baptized every one of you in
the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will
receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For this promise is for you and for
your children and for all whom the Lord calls to Himself.
(Acts 2:37-39)


       Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted
out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,
and that he may send Christ, appoint for you, Jesus, whom heaven
must receive until the time for restoring all things about which God
spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets long ago.
(Acts 3:19-20)




                                    4
                DOXOLOGICAL EVANGELISM


1 Corinthians 14:24-25

     But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters,
     he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the
     secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his
     face, he will worship God and declare that God is really
     among you.

      The context of 1 Corinthians 14 is Paul’s discourse
about tongues in the church. It is essentially a discussion
about plain language verses confused language in
proclamation, but it is also a discussion about the serious
intent of worship. Paul believed that if the word of God was
truly central to the worship service, unbelievers would be
convicted, called to account, fall on their face, worship God
and declare that God is really among you.
      Is such worship possible today? Of course it is. What
keeps such worship from happening?
      One of the great hindrances to true worship today is a
pervasive irreverence that permeates our culture and
invades our churches.         What would most unbelievers
observe about worship today? They would see that we are
more interested in the cup of coffee in our hand than we are
in hearing the Call to Worship. They would see that the chat
we are having with our friend is more important than
preparing to dialogue with God. They would see that if the
service or sermon gets a little long our minds turn from
feasting on the word to beating the Baptists to the buffet
line.   They would see that we are more interested in
analyzing the pastor’s demeanor than in listening to his
preaching. They would see that we stand, glare, and gawk
instead of joining in joyful praise when we are invited to sing
a new song that is not in the hymn book. They would see
that we bow before the altar of personal preferences more
than we do before the King of Kings.


                                  5
     Reverent worship is seeker friendly because it invites
the unbeliever to consider the Gospel. True worship is
gospel re-enactment. It is Christ-centered and gospel rich.
It makes unbelievers uncomfortable in a good sort of way
because it invites them to consider or at the very least begin
to consider that God is really among us.
     Edmund Clowney called reverent worship doxological
evangelism. The word doxology means more than the little
hymn we sing after the offering. Doxology literally means
word about the glory. Our doxology is our theology about
worship. Doxology is the words, ideas, moods, and intents
that drive our worship of God. Our doxology needs to be
governed more by Biblical theology and less by cultural
accommodation. In an effort to not offend outsiders, modern
worship too often moves dangerously close to being
offensive to God. If I have to make a choice, I would rather
offend a visitor than offend God.
     I don’t think I have to make a choice. A discernable
serious intent ought to be evident in our worship. Such
intent   will    make     unbelievers   uncomfortable,     but
uncomfortable in a good sort of way. As the secrets of their
hearts are disclosed, they might actually fall on their faces
before God.
     When the coffee cup and chatting stop being the focus
and reverent worship begins to be our aim, our worship will
begin to evangelize the lost. We will be able to invite people
to church and their lives might actually be transformed.
Our worship needs to be shaped by Hebrews 12:28-29 –

     Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that
     cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable
     worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a
     consuming fire.

Such an approach to worship will make both believers and
unbelievers awestruck. And Oh how we need to be struck
with awe about our awesome Savior!



                                 6
                    CHURCH BUILDING

      I have led two major church building projects. So what
I am about to say is not jealousy or sour grapes.
      Both times I led these projects, before it was all over, I
concluded that building projects in a church (or church
school) are like black holes. A black hole in astronomy is
believed to be a space where the gravitational pull is so
great that gravity literally sucks up all the light and energy
in a given space resulting in a “black hole.” That is why I
call buildings in churches “black holes” -- they absorb all the
light and energy around them!
      As I read the book of Acts, I have come to understand
that God gave the early church a message, the Gospel, and
a methodology to spread the Gospel. They did it without a
building. The early church was a church without walls –
they did not have the “edifice complex” of the modern
church in the United States. They met in the upper room
(Acts 1:13); they attended temple together and met in their
homes (Acts 2:46; 5:42); they ministered in a place called
Beautiful Gate (Acts 3:2); and they gathered outside the
temple in an open courtyard called Solomon’s portico (Acts
3:11, 5:12). Yet they grew from 120 to 5,000 in just a
short period of time (Acts 1:15; Acts 2:41; Acts 4:4).
      There is a vast difference from the way we do church
and the way they did church. You might argue that they
had a temple to attend so they had a building, but if you
know your history that didn’t last long either. About thirty
years later the temple was destroyed (70 A.D.). The big
difference between them and us is that they created
structures to support people and did not create structures
for people to support. In the modern church in America, we
have created structures, both physical and organizational,
that require lots of time and treasure to maintain. Ministry
becomes feeding the organizational machine. I understand
that we need structures and we need organization, but how
efficient and effective are the ones we have created?


                               7
      I would warn you – don’t answer that last question
unless you are prepared to think very differently about what
church is all about.
      Walls are like fences. They often serve only to keep
people out or even worse keep people inside. Our church
building walls have become both. It is almost impossible to
get anyone to think about the word “church” without
thinking about a building. Our loyalty has been transferred
from The Lord of the Harvest (Matthew 9:37-38) to (in too
many places) a half-filled building near you.
      My 25 year old son tells me that in his subdivision he
would guess that only about 1 out of every 4 households
attend church regularly That’s in Auburn, Alabama which is
pretty close to the buckle of the Bible belt! And Pensacola,
Florida is no different, or for that matter Baldwin County
Alabama, or where you live.
      We need to revisit and re-vision the word church in a
Book of Acts-shaped way.




                             8
                          CONTENTMENT

Lord, I am willing to –

     Receive what you give.
     Lack what you withhold.
     Relinquish what you take.

      Right after the death of his wife, Jerry Bridges received
a card with the above words on it (Bridges is the author of
several excellent books; his most recent Respectable Sins –
Confronting the Sins We Tolerate is a good one). Bridges
points out in Respectable Sins that emotions like anxiety,
frustration, discontentment, and unthankfulness are all
sinful. Our problem is that we do not see these rampant
emotions as sinful. We tolerate and condone, but do not
confront these sins in ourselves or in others.

      There is a troubling disconnect between what we say
we believe and how we live our lives. This bothersome
chasm is in all of us – we say we believe in the sovereign
providence of God – that God causes all things to work
together for good for those who love Him and are called
according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Yet truthfully,
most of us only believe it when things are going well and we
are getting what we want when we want it. We have a faith
that is willing to receive what God gives; some of us grow to
the point we can lack what He withholds (often begrudgingly
or bitterly); and some of us have no choice but to relinquish
what God takes (but we don’t like it very much!). That
relinquish thing is such a test because we have so much to
relinquish. The real question is can we have joy and
contentment with all three realities of faith and still believe
that God is good all the time and all the time God is good?




                                  9
     Paul told Timothy –

      Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, [7] for
we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of
the world. [8] But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be
content (1 Timothy 6:6-8, ESV).

     These are the words we are to live by regardless of
what happens in Congress, on Wall Street, or on Main
Street.




                                  10
                      THE GOSPEL OF GOD

     Pastor John Piper asks a probing question in his book,
God is the Gospel –

     Would you be happy in Heaven if Christ were not there?
     The critical question for our generation—and for every
     generation—is this: If you could have heaven, with no
     sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth,
     and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities
     you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever
     saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no
     human conflict or natural disasters, could you be satisfied
     with heaven, if Christ were not there? And the question for
     Christian leaders is: Do we preach and teach and lead in
     such a way that people are prepared to hear that question
     and answer with a resounding NO?

      In Romans 1:1 & 15:16, the Apostle Paul uses the
phrase, “the gospel of God.” The gospel of God means that
God is the source of the gospel; He is the one who gives the
good news; God is the authority behind the message of the
gospel, but He is also the goal of the Gospel. The intent of
the gospel is that we might first and foremost be right with
God. God has made this possible by His gospel. His gospel is
focused in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ; but the Gospel is
God’s way through Christ for us to know who God is and be
rightly related to God. God Himself is the most precious gift
of the gospel. This is the ultimate goal of our salvation. My
sins are forgiven that I might know Him. My life is sanctified
that I might be more like Him. I am assured of heaven that I
might be with Him. All the blessings and promises of the
Gospel are first God-centered not man-focused.

      The provocative question of faith is this – are we more
in love with the blessings of God than we are with God who
gives the blessings? The gift of the Gospel is not just a
spiritual life enhancer – a ticket to heaven, “Your Best Life



                                   11
Now” or “Seven Steps to a Better Marriage.” This is why
John Piper is right on track by saying – “God is the Gospel.”




                             12
                   GOSPEL AS GERUND

     A gerund is a word that has the characteristics of both
a noun and a verb. Gerunds have both substance and action.

      I would like to suggest that Gospel is a gerund, at least
in terms of how we should understand it. I have come to use
the term “gospeling” with my own congregation. Someone
pointed out to me that “gospeling” sounds too much like
“gossiping” which is something we have too much of in the
church anyway, but I am afraid we do not have enough
“gospeling.”

     The gospel is two witnesses, the Old Testament
prophets who foretold of Christ, and the New Testament
Apostles who preached of Him. The Gospel is two historical
events – Christ atoning death and His victorious
resurrection. The Gospel is two promises – forgiveness of
our sin and a new life empowered by the Spirit. The Gospel
requires two responses – repentance and faith. The Gospel
has substantive content. It is preached and must be obeyed
(Romans 10:16).

     The Gospel also elicits response or action. Everything
we do in church ought to be Gospel-saturated, Gospel-
focused, and Gospel-driven. This requires a “gospeling”
people committed to “gospeling” activities. The church is not
in the food and beverage industry. Many of our churches
have good cooks, but if you are looking for something good
to eat, the church may not be the best place in town. The
church is not an entertainment center. The world usually
beat us at that also. The one thing that we have to offer that
cannot be found elsewhere is the Gospel. Gospel should be
our focus, our intent, and most of all our passion.

    I saw a bank advertisement recently that declared,
“Reveal your real passion.” It was called “my expression
banking.” If you like, you can get the American flag, your

                              13
NFL team logo, or your College alma mater imprinted on
your checks and debit card. I am afraid that too much of our
passion is spent on patriotism and spectator sports. I love
my country; I am proud of the flag; and I love a good
football game as much or more than anyone; but I am
praying that God will give me a deeper passion for His
gospel and that He would ignite such a passion in His church
that we would truly be a “gospeling” people.




                             14
                 PROVOCATIVE LANGUAGE

      I was listening the other day to a short clip of Pastor
Mark Driscoll talking about provocative language in
preaching. Driscoll points out correctly that the language
and imagery of the Bible is anything but bland. It provokes;
it elicits a response; the words of Scripture are not easily
ignored.

     Modern preaching on the other hand has become just
one more notion in the marketplace of ideas. The preached
word can be received or not, but too often today it is mostly
ignored. I could write all day about the post-modern notions
that yield this calloused disregard for the preaching of God’s
word, but I also know that we pastors are partly to blame.

     Great preaching mimics the provocative character of
God’s word. Great preaching comes from a man with a
shepherd’s heart, a scholar’s mind, and a poet’s tongue.
Great preaching is born of a disdain for timidity. It is bold,
persuasive, consistent, and passionate. Great preaching
aims for the head and the heart of the listener, realizing that
only God can capture both, but that He can and does
through the “foolishness of preaching.”

      I do not always get there (does anyone?), but I am
committed to striving for the art. I do recognize it; and I
fully realize that the credit is not to be given to the
messenger, but to the message, and most of all to the Lord
who gave the message and sent the messengers.

     John Piper gets at it with this quote –

     Proud people don't say thanks. Tight-lipped, they take the
     diamond of God's glory, enter the pawn shop of pride, and
     hock it for the broken marble of self-reliance. Then they
     take this little idol home, set it on the mantle of their
     mind, and bow down to it in a hundred different ways
     every day. "Although we knew God, we did not glorify him


                                 15
as God or give thanks to him but became futile in our
thinking . . . claiming to be wise." Proud people don't say
thanks.




                            16
                  TONE IS IMPORTANT

     “I don’t like your tone of voice.” “Don’t use that tone
with me!” Mothers are particularly fond of these statements
(and too often for good reason!). Communication includes
both what is said and how it is said. Voice inflection, body
language, voice tone and texture all come to play in
conveying a message

      Paul says in Galatians 4:20, I wish I could be present
with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about
you. Paul understood that he was communicating by letter
with the Galatians and although letters have a tone, the tone
can so often be misunderstood by the reader. Preaching and
teaching, whether written or spoken, have a tone. Good
preaching is knowing not only what to say, but how to say
it; the greater challenge is how to say it, not what to say.
Churches have a tone; ministry has a tone; you and I
individually have a tone.

      One of the great dangers of the digital age is that as
our communication gets faster and more convenient, it also
becomes more impersonal. E-mail is less personal than the
handwritten note or typed letter. Both have a tone, but e-
mail is even more dependent on the interpretation of the
recipient. Most of us have learned the hard way how easy it
is to compose, click and send, and then regret it. In
contrast, I have written several letters that by the time I
finished writing them and/or typing them, by the time I
addressed the envelope, licked the stamp, and visited the
Post Office, I thought better of sending them. Chatting on
the phone is much different than texting on a cell phone or
chatting on-line. On the phone we can detect voice
intonation and nuance that is absent in written
communication, but even phone conversations are less
personal than face to face talking. The more digital we
become, the less personal we become, and the more


                             17
subjective our communication becomes. Medium does affect
message or how a message is sent affects how it is
received.

      One of the sad features of our modern modes of
communication is that we can communicate all day long and
never come into personal contact with someone face to
face. We can shop, talk, bank, and send pictures, buy gas
and “pay at the pump” and never come face to face with
another human being. The warmth of a smile, the
countenance of the face, the soulfulness of the eyes, a
hearty handshake, and a loving hug cannot be transmitted
digitally. The nuance of tone of voice is almost totally lost in
digital communication. Face to face communication can be
misunderstood, but it has fewer pitfalls than less personal
modes of communication.

      Speed also concerns me. We can say and reveal things
about ourselves that go out on the world-wide-web at the
broad band speed of light. These messages travel not only
fast, but wide. The things that are posted on-line often show
a lack of respect for the reader as well as a lack of self-
respect, modesty, and common sense of the writer. People
do not seem to get that what you post goes out faster and
more broadly than communication in the dinosaur era. This
can be positively used, but so often it is misused in our day.
We seem to think that if it is on my computer in the privacy
of my home or dorm room then it does not count, when in
fact, it counts more.

     We need to revise the old Bible School song –

     Oh be careful little hands what you text.

     Oh be careful little hands what you post.

     There’s a Father up above, looking down in tender love.

     Oh be careful little hands (and eyes!) on Face Book.



                                  18
                       TOTAL DEPRAVITY?

      At the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the
20th, the prevailing doctrine of man taught by academia in
the Universities of the world was that man is basically good.
In the first eight years of the 21st Century the same
worldview about man is deeply entrenched in our
educational system from pre-school to graduate school.
Granted there are exceptions, but the norm still is that man
is basically good and with proper guidance and education
man will be good, do good, and even get better. We’ve been
told this now for over 100 years!

      The historical data of the 20th century is in. The data
conflicts greatly with this worldview about man. The civilian
and military death toll of our wars adds up like this –

     World War I              15 million
     Russian Civil War        9 million
     Stalin era               20 million
     World War II             50-55 million
     Mao Zedong (China)       40 million
     Korea                    2.8 million
     Rwanda                   1.35 million
     Second Indo China War    3.5 million (Including Viet Nam)
     Cambodia                 1.65 million
     Afghanistan              1.8 million
     Iran/Iraq War            1.1 million
     Abortion in the U.S.     over 48.5 million (Since 1973)

   There are many other evidences of man’s sinful nature.
Paul takes three chapters in Romans to prove that man is a
sinner without excuse and that man deserves the wrathful,
righteous, judgment of God. Have we gotten the message
yet? Can man’s problems be solved by education, political
reform, or social revolution? The lessons of the 20th Century
answer these questions with a resounding NO! I am not sure
that even the words, total depravity, adequately describe
what we really are.


                              19
  God has spoken however not just about our sin, but about
the solution. It is summarized in one word – GOSPEL.




                            20
    A PROVERBS 31 WOMEN IN THE 21ST CENTURY

      Proverbs 31:10-31 describes a woman who fears the
Lord, an excellent wife, and a model mom. Customs change,
trends come and go, but Biblical principles are absolute and
timeless. With the passing of centuries between Proverbs
and now, the question before an honest interpreter of
Scripture would be “what does such a woman look like in the
21st century?”

      First, however, we must face a problem. Radical
feminism has caused considerable confusion about
womanhood. Motherhood is often spurned or at the very
least considered a burdensome biological necessity. Marriage
also is an expendable institution. A husband is          not
necessary for a woman’s fulfillment. Both marriage and
motherhood are considered by feminism to be impositions
upon the deserved freedom of true womanhood. Those
impositions are coerced by a radically patriarchal society.
One might however argue that there are patriarchal societies
and the western culture was once one, but in many ways
radical shifts have occurred over the last fifty years that
would lead one to say that while this may have once been a
man’s world, it is no longer such a world.

      These cultural shifts present a tremendous challenge to
the portrait of the woman described in Proverbs 31. The
woman of Proverbs 31 is largely defined, although not
entirely, in terms of two of her primary relationships – the
one she has with her husband and the one she has with her
children. The model woman of Proverbs 31 serves as a
corrective to the extreme and even subtle shifts in the
understanding of womanhood in our culture.

      As I read the text of Proverbs 31:10-31, three words
come to mind that summarize the woman described –
diligence, balance, and focus. The woman of Proverbs 31


                             21
was not a lazy person. Listen to the description; she is one
diligent woman –

[15] She rises while it is yet night

and provides food for her household

and portions for her maidens.

[27] She looks well to the ways of her household

and does not eat the bread of idleness.

This woman could not afford sloth in her life. She does it all
–

    She was a gourmet cook

[14] She is like the ships of the merchant;

she brings her food from afar.

[15] She rises while it is yet night

and provides food for her household

and portions for her maidens.




      She is a seamstress (she makes her own clothes and
       those for her family)

[13] She seeks wool and flax,

and works with willing hands.

[18] She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.

Her lamp does not go out at night.

[19] She puts her hands to the distaff,




                                       22
and her hands hold the spindle.

[21] She is not afraid of snow for her household,

for all her household are clothed in scarlet.

[22] She makes bed coverings for herself;

her clothing is fine linen and purple.

      She is a kind and benevolent social worker

[20] She opens her hand to the poor

and reaches out her hands to the needy.

      She is a real estate agent and a farmer

[16] She considers a field and buys it;

with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.

      She is a clothing merchant

[24] She makes linen garments and sells them;

she delivers sashes to the merchant.

      With all she has going, she still find times to work out,
       perhaps even a part-time aerobic instructor at the
       ladies’ fitness center!

[17] She dresses herself with strength

and makes her arms strong.

     The woman is Proverbs 31 is a busy lady. Diligence
describes her well.

       This woman was also incredibly balanced. She seems a
candidate for burnout, but she maintains a balance in her
life. In many ways, the woman of Proverbs 31 serves as a
corrective for the imbalances in the lives of women today.

                                    23
This woman was a wife, but more than a wife; she was a
mother, but more than a mother; she was a business/career
lady, but more. She was a social worker, fashion
coordinator, but more than these – still a wife, still a
mother. With all she does, she is always more than her
career at home or away from home. This may paint her as
superwoman, but a diversified balance is one of her primary
virtues.

     Last, she was a woman of focus. What focus? An
interesting structure is noted in the passage. It is framed in
the beginning and end with a suggestive notion. Her
husband is mentioned at the first, in the middle, and at the
end of the passage. Her household is mentioned early and
often. Her children join her husband’s praise song to her life
at the end of the passage. First, middle, and end of the
passage the focus is on her home. The woman of Proverbs
31 was many things, but never less than a wife and a
mother. Her home was what was most important to her.

     Many women would ask, how can I do all that I am
expected to do and still be a good wife and a good mother?
The same question could be asked of the woman of Proverbs
31. How did she do it all?

   Such a life is no doubt a challenge, but the model of
Proverbs 31 serves as a pattern, a guide, and a goal for
defining womanhood today. It also serves as a corrective to
the imbalances that exist today. Many women today walk a
tightrope of unfair expectations. If they work outside the
home, they are not dedicated to their marriages, their
homes, or their churches. If they stay at home, they are lazy
and are wasting their education, wasting their time, and not
helping out financially. In some circles today, stay at home
moms have become status symbols. A woman who does not
work outside the home is saying to the world, “my husband
makes big bucks so I do not have to work.” Or perhaps that
is what her husband is saying through his wife. A stay at


                              24
home mom has also become a supposed sign of spiritual
maturity. A spiritually mature woman does not work outside
the home. She can attend women’s bible studies and prayer
meetings. Those women who work cannot do these things,
so they are not very dedicated as Christians or church
members. This article was prompted by a questions that a
concerned husband asked me. His wife had attended a
women’s bible study. At the study, it was said in a matter of
fact fashion that women who worked were not spiritually
mature, otherwise they would be at home! My friend’s wife
has always worked outside the home. Her children are
grown now, so she was assured that what she was doing
was okay. This women works outside the home now and did
when her children were still living at home. She is a nurse.
She worked nights, so she could be home with her children.
Yet she left the women’s bible study that day feeling less
than a woman, less than spiritual, and less than a mature
believer. Laying aside the spiritual arrogance and pride at
the ladies’ bible study that day, Proverbs 31 defies all these
man-made and self-centered notions. The passage does not
contain a list of do’s and don’ts. Many would wish Proverbs
31 had a check list. There is an implicit checklist. These
principles seem to emerge from this passage of Scripture –

     Proverbs 31 allows, even encourages a women to work
      outside the home. What is implied may well be a home-
      based business, but the woman of Proverbs 31 was
      diversified. She was an entrepreneur. Her work was not
      focused on home, church, or work. She was a busy
      woman in all three of these areas.
     Proverbs 31 encourages a woman to make her husband
      and her household her primary focus in life. The
      question arises – how can a woman do everything else
      in Proverbs 31 and still be an attentive wife and an
      involved mother? I am not sure I can answer that
      question. I do not think the passage answers the
      question, but the principle is definitely there. As a
      woman considers a career or a job, Proverbs 31, if

                              25
    taken seriously, would cause a women to ask herself –
    “Can I do this and still be a good wife and a good
    mother?” The same question needs to be asked by
    every man who is a husband and a father also. After
    our commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and our
    relationship to Him, the most important place that calls
    for our diligent attention is our homes. Even those of us
    who have been called to Christian ministry must first be
    a pastor at home. To fail there is to fail miserably in our
    calling, and the Scriptures in more than one place
    explicitly state that God will hold accountable those
    fathers who neglect their families with the excuse that
    they are serving God.
   Conspicuously absent from Proverbs 31 is any mention
    of “church activities.” The closest thing mentioned is
    the help of the poor in 31:20, but even in this verse
    there is no mention of an institutional organization.
    This mercy ministry seems to be something that the
    woman of Proverbs 31 does on her own. One should
    note that the basic thrust of the life of the women of
    Proverbs 31 was helping others. Everything she did was
    for others – her husband, her household, her children,
    and those in need. There were no self-centered
    activities in her life (speaking of correctives! This lady
    did not buy into the “you deserve a break today,” “have
    it your way” attitude that prevails in our society!) She
    did not have time for any such foolish selfishness. She
    was focused on living for others. Many women in the
    church today who work outside the home are unfairly
    judged by those women who do not work outside the
    home. There is an implicit and at times overt criticism
    of women who work outside the home by those who do
    not. In many ways, Proverbs 31 challenges this unfair
    judgment. If a woman works outside the home, and is
    a dedicated wife and mother, she serves God well
    according to the pattern of Proverbs 31. Attendance of
    women’s bible studies, ladies’ retreats, and other
    church activities do not a holy women make according

                             26
to Proverbs 31. Those things just do not make the list
explicitly or implicitly. Proverbs 31 does not imply that
a woman can “have it all,” but it does give some
comfort to busy wives and mothers who today work
outside their homes either by necessity of by choice. A
women who takes Proverbs 31 as her goal will be busy,
but she will also be free. She will be free from the trap
of superficial and man-made or woman-imposed
activities that can be as distracting, or even more
distracting to her primary work of being a wife and a
mother. That may well be the great contribution of this
timeless text. It challenges women of this generation to
focus on husband and home, but it also challenges
women of the previous generation to rethink what it
means to be a spiritually mature Christian woman.
Times have changed, but God’s word has not. Proverbs
31 applies to womanhood today, as both a challenge
and a corrective.




                         27
                 THE OTHER KIND OF FREE

     How startling it is when something is absolutely free!
We defy such a notion with our statements like “there are no
free lunches.” There are seemingly always hidden costs,
surcharges, or at the very least a service tax. A common
fundraiser used is a free car wash, but in most cases when
they finish washing your car, you have opportunity to give a
donation to the sponsoring organization. Free does not
always mean free.

     It does at Fairfield. On a recent Saturday, we had a
“Free Car Wash” in our church parking lot. Person after
person offered us a donation, which we refused. We even
started using a phrase, “this is the other kind of free.” Time
after time, we were presented an opportunity to talk about
the free (the other kind of free) grace of God. We shared
cards with information about out church and one that had a
gospel presentation on it. Yet people kept trying to give us
money for washing their car. We washed common cars and
we washed luxury vehicles, a truck with huge tires, and
some ordinary, everyday trucks. People got out of their cars
and enjoyed a glass of tea or lemonade and chatted with us
as we washed. Most of them reached for their wallet in the
end and offered us money. The notion of free, the other
kind, was just something most of them could not quite
grasp.

     It is not a new phenomenon. Though the circumstances
were somewhat different, the issue was the same. A lame
man was laid at the entrance of the temple. He was asking
for money. Peter and John saw him, and Peter said these
words to him –

I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the
name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk! (Acts 3:6)




                                28
     The saving and healing power of Jesus Christ cannot be
bought or sold, but it is priceless. Grace is the other kind of
free –

      For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not
your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no
one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus
for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk
in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)




                                   29
                BEING THANKFUL IN PRAYER

      Prayer is not for the enhancement of our comforts

      but for the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom. (John Piper)

     What is the purpose of our praying? In Romans, Paul
says -- First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you,
because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. (Romans 1:8).
Thanksgiving was Paul’s first prayer priority.                     He
demonstrates this pattern in many of his letters –

     For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord
      Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give
      thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers (Ephesians
      1:15-16)

     We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when
      we pray for you, [4] since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus
      and of the love that you have for all the saints (Colossians 1:3-
      4)

     We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly
      mentioning you in our prayers, [3] remembering before our God
      and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness
      of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3)

     We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is
      right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of
      every one of you for one another is increasing. [4] Therefore we
      ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your
      steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the
      afflictions that you are enduring. (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4)

      Paul had a kingdom-focus. Although Paul had never
visited Rome and was not their founding Pastor, He could
thank God for the church at Rome. Paul was appreciative of
God’s work through others. Paul’s obsession was not who
gets the credit. Paul however wanted to be sure that God
alone received the glory.



                                  30
      I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither
he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives
the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).

   When you pray today, will thanksgiving to God be central
to your prayers? Do you think beyond your immediate needs
when you pray? We all need to learn more about praying
outside the box of our little worlds. The work of God’s
kingdom needs to be the focus of our praying and our living.




                                 31
  BLIND IN ONE EYE, CAN'T SEE OUT OF THE OTHER

     When I was a child, I often heard the expression –
“Blind in one eye and can’t see out of the other.” This always
seemed a rather funny, although serious statement. Most of
the time it referred to one’s inattentiveness rather than
physical sight, but a recent event in my life brought home
the statement literally!

     Over the 4th of July holiday I broke my glasses. I have
had the same ones for quite a while, but they were still
functional. My distance vision was still pretty good, but I had
noticed that I was having increasing trouble reading things
that were within arm’s length. It is not that my eyes are that
bad, it is just that my arms are not long enough! For
several reasons, a visit to the eye doctor became a
necessity.

     I once wore contact lenses and thought I might try that
again. The doctor suggested correcting my distance vision
with contacts, and since I was accustomed to glasses
anyway using reading glasses. It sounded like a great idea;
and it worked with some limitations. My distance vision was
greatly improved, but unless I had reading glasses handy, I
could not read a thing I was holding in my hands. To read I
needed glasses or those longer arms again!

     I decided to try a different option. I went back to the
doctor and now have one eye corrected for distance vision
and one for reading. It works wonderfully for me. No glasses
needed, but I now have good vision up close and far away.

     This experience made me think how important such a
vision correction is needed for our spiritual insight. We need
to see “out there”-- where God is leading as well as up close
– what is immediately before us.




                              32
     Sometimes our clear sightedness of things ahead can
blur our sight of what is right before our eyes; and at other
times we can be so fixated on what is before us that we
have no clear sight of what is ahead. Paul’s prayer in
Ephesians was for the kind of sight that was clear, up close
and personal, as well as focused on what is ahead –

having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what
is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his
glorious inheritance in the saints, [19] and what is the immeasurable
greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the
working of his great might [20] that he worked in Christ when he
raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the
heavenly places, [21] far above all rule and authority and power and
dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age
but also in the one to come. Ephesians 1:18-21

     Have you experienced such a lens change?




                                 33
                        CHRISTMAS BOXES

      I remember one particular Christmas. The children
were young. We made a special effort to buy them the
things they wanted for Christmas. Grandparents joined us in
the effort. The kids were delighted. On Christmas morning,
the leftover boxes and torn wrapping paper quickly filled the
living room. I gathered it all up and took it across the street
to a vacant field behind the church. There was no burn ban
in effect, so I lit a match to the boxes and paper. I stood
and watched, warming myself by the fire. It amazed me how
quickly the boxes and colorful Christmas wrapping paper
were consumed by the flames. I thought of how much
money and how much effort had been made to buy the
presents. In a matter of just a few minutes, the Christmas
trash was burned up.

      I enjoy the Christmas holidays. I celebrate it as the
birth of Jesus Christ, my Savior, more specifically the
incarnation of God – God became man, God becoming
human flesh and living among us. Special family times often
take place during the holidays. Christmas is special for these
reasons. Yet our baneful materialism blurs, even swallows
up the simple beauty of Christmas. Every year, we battle
against it, but the stuff of the world that so preoccupies our
lives year round grips us with a mindless obsession during
the Christmas season. We end the year with a morbid
fascination with the things that have held us prisoner since
New Year’s Day. We fight against it, but let us face the
truth, we too often lose the battle of keeping or putting
Christ back into Christmas.

     Perhaps Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians 3:13-15
should be our main way of looking at this holiday.

each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose
it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what
sort of work each one has done. [14] If the work that anyone


                                    34
has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.
[15] If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he
himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

      We must come to realize that the things of this world
will be consumed by the fires of judgment faster than the
flames consuming empty cardboard boxes and shredded
wrapping paper.

      There is a golden gift that cannot be consumed by fire.
It is not wrapped and placed under a tree. This gift was sent
by a loving God, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and placed in
a cattle stall. His name is Jesus Christ. A life lived for Him
will endure the fires of final judgment.




                                   35
                               DAILY
   In Matthew 16 (Mark 8, Luke 9), at Caesarea Philippi,
there is a converging of Biblical streams. Peter’s confession,
and the texts that follow, mark a watershed in the Gospel.
That which flows from the promises of God in the Old
Covenant passes through the manger at Bethlehem and flow
mightily to the affirmation that Peter makes “thou art the
Christ, the Son of the Living God.” The mighty waters of the
Gospel gather as Jesus says, “Upon this rock I will build my
church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” As
Jesus now instructs His disciples in following Him, the
stream of God’s salvation now flows swiftly towards the
cross and the resurrection of Easter Sunday.
     Upon this rock, I will build my church. The rock is what
      Peter said, his confession. The rock is the reality that
      this was revealed to Peter by the Holy Spirit of God. It
      is the conviction and the confession that are the
      rock. What Peter now knows and what as a result his
      says – this is the rock upon which Jesus builds his
      church.
     John Piper says of this passage –
      What I want to drive home here is the triumphant
      authority of this promise. World missions is not ultimately
      dependent on human initiative or human wisdom or human
      perseverance. It is ultimately dependent on the power and
      wisdom and faithfulness of the risen and living Christ to
      keep this promise: "I will build my church." Not, "You will
      build my church." Or, "Missionaries will build my church."
      Or, "Pastors will build my church." But, "I will build my
      church."
      Christ's radical way of winning the nations is by the death
      of himself and the death of his people. The gates of Hades
      will not prevail. They will be unlocked from the inside.
      Consider verse 18b: "I will build My church; and the gates
      of Hades will not overpower it." The gates of Hades are the
      gates of death. Hades is the place of the dead in Jewish
      thought. The gates of Hades are the gates that make
      death look powerful and secure invincible – as if what is


                                  36
      dead is dead forever and can never get out of death. But
      Jesus says, "These gates will not stop me from rescuing
      people from death."
      How will he do it? He tells us in verse 21. After he makes it
      plain that he is the Christ and the Son of God and that all
      authority belongs to him in the universe and that he has
      the power over death, it says, "From that time Jesus
      began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem,
      and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests
      and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third
      day." He will open the doors of Hades from the inside. He
      gets in by dying. He gets out by resurrection. And now the
      gates are his. Revelation 1:18, "I died, and behold I am
      alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and
      Hades." The keys were kept on the inside. That is why he
      went in. And when he came out he brought the keys with
      him. Now he will build his church. Death will take none and
      keep none that he finally wills to have.
     What Jesus tells us is an “inside job.” Jesus literally
      entered hell unlocking the door from the inside. He
      emerged on Easter Sunday with the keys in his hand.
      He made duplicates of those keys and gave them to His
      church. And that is why we can say with Paul in 1
      Corinthians 15, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O
      death, where is your victory? O death, where is your
      sting?”
     The words that Jesus now speaks are essential to
      Discipleship.

Matthew 16:21-28

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to
Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests
and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. [22] And
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "Far be it from
you, Lord! This shall never happen to you." [23] But he turned and
said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For
you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things
of man."




                                   37
[24] Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let
him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. [25] For
whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for
my sake will find it. [26] For what will it profit a man if he gains the
whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for
his life? [27] For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in
the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according
to what he has done. [28] Truly, I say to you, there are some standing
here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in
his kingdom."

      Peter was so right just a few verses earlier; now he is
       so wrong that Jesus sees Satan in Peter’s words. We all
       are such bundles of contradictions, such interesting
       combinations of great maturity and appalling
       immaturity.

      My daughter, Ashley, has a coffee cup. On it is a
       picture of a very distressed looking lady. Her hair is all
       a mess, she looks very ruffled. Under the picture is the
       caption, “Life is just so daily.” In Luke’s rendering of
       this text, the word “daily” is present. “If anyone would
       come after me, let him take up his cross DAILY, deny
       himself, and follow me.” The Christian life is just so
       daily. The need for cross bearing, self denial is
       perpetual. It is constant. We live in a self-indulgent
       world yet have been called to self-denial. Our call is a
       DAILY necessity, because our sinful nature is to put our
       self-interest, our agenda, our plans, our needs, our
       thinking, ahead of and even in the place of God’s call to
       discipleship.

CONCLUSION

      Am I thankful for the victory Christ has given me over
       sin, death, and hell? Am I telling and showing others
       this hope in the way that I live? Does a resulting joy
       exude from my life that is evident to others?




                                   38
   Am I committed to DAILY discipleship? Is self-denial
    my life style? Am I resistant to the self indulgent ways
    of the world? Is there simplicity in my livelihood? Or is
    my life’s ambition to get more than I give?




                             39
                           FACEBOOK

   Many of you have heard of or perhaps are participants in
a digital phenomenon called Facebook.

     Facebook is the number 1 photo sharing application on
      the Web.
     More than 24 million photos are uploaded daily via
      Facebook.
     Facebook has 100 million active users.
     While popular with high school and college age people,
      the fastest growing segment of Facebook users is 25
      years of age or older. More than half of Facebook users
      are outside of college.
     A version of Facebook is available in fifteen languages.

     While I could make much of the upside and the
downside of Facebook and the other aspects of our digital
age, I would rather focus on the most important “facebook”
– the Bible. The Bible is the most important Facebook --

     Early in Genesis we read about the fallen face of Cain
      indicating the ruined race of mankind –

           Genesis 4:5-6

           but for Cain and his offering He (God) had no
           regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face
           fell. [6] The Lord said to Cain, "Why are you
           angry, and why has your face fallen?

 Moses wanted to see God’s glory, but was not allowed to
see the face of God

Exodus 33:17-23 (see also Exodus 34:29-35)

                And the Lord said to Moses, "This very
           thing that you have spoken I will do, for you


                                40
          have found favor in my sight, and I know you
          by name." [18] Moses said, "Please show me
          your glory." [19] And he said, "I will make all
          my goodness pass before you and will proclaim
          before you my name 'The Lord.' And I will be
          gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will
          show mercy on whom I will show mercy. [20]
          But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for
          man shall not see me and live." [21] And the
          Lord said, "Behold, there is a place by me
          where you shall stand on the rock, [22] and
          while my glory passes by I will put you in a
          cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my
          hand until I have passed by. [23] Then I will
          take away my hand, and you shall see my
          back, but my face shall not be seen."

 Paul saw the fading glory on Moses face as a pointer
towards the eternal glory revealed in the face of Jesus Christ

          2 Corinthians 3:7-18

               Now if the ministry of death, carved in
          letters on stone, came with such glory that the
          Israelites could not gaze at Moses' face
          because of its glory, which was being brought
          to an end, [8] will not the ministry of the Spirit
          have even more glory? [9] For if there was
          glory in the ministry of condemnation, the
          ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in
          glory. [10] Indeed, in this case, what once had
          glory has come to have no glory at all, because
          of the glory that surpasses it. [11] For if what
          was being brought to an end came with glory,
          much more will what is permanent have glory.

             [12] Since we have such a hope, we are
          very bold, [13] not like Moses, who would put
          a veil over his face so that the Israelites might
          not gaze at the outcome of what was being
          brought to an end. [14] But their minds were
          hardened. For to this day, when they read the
          old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted,



                                 41
         because only through Christ is it taken away.
         [15] Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a
         veil lies over their hearts. [16] But when one
         turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. [17]
         Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit
         of the Lord is, there is freedom. [18] And we
         all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of
         the Lord, are being transformed into the same
         image from one degree of glory to another. For
         this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

          2 Corinthians 4:6

             For God, who said, "Let light shine out of
         darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the
         light of the knowledge of the glory of God in
         the face of Jesus Christ.

Our eternal, heavenly hope is a face to face promise –

         1 Corinthians 13:12

         For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then
         face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall
         know fully, even as I have been fully known.

         Revelation 22:4

         They will see His face, and His name will be on
         their foreheads.

      I am not a Facebook participant, at least not of the
digital kind. I am a confessed digital dinosaur. I would not
pass judgment on you if you are a Facebook person. I
would just simply remind you that the most important
Facebook is the Bible; and we would do well to spend more
time in it than on any website!




                                42
                 LOVING MY BRIDE AND HIS

    I was awe-struck recently by reading a short article
about Charles Wesley. Wesley was a circuit riding preacher
whom God also gifted as a musician. Three short entries
from his diary demonstrate his resolve to preach the gospel
–

     Wednesday, March 23 – I was . . . not to set out till past seven.
      The continual rain and sharp wind were full in my teeth. I rode
      all day in great misery.

     Thursday, March 24 – I resolved to push on for Garth, finding
      my strength would never hold out for three more days riding. At
      five (a.m.), I set out in hard rain, which continued all day.

     Friday, March 25 – I took horse again at five; the rain attending
      still . . . the weather grew more severe. The violent wind drove
      the hard rain full in our faces. I rode till I could ride no more;
      walked the last hour; and by five dropped down to Garth

     Wesley had a dual purpose in going to Garth. Garth
was where he would preach, but also ask for the hand of
Miss Sallye Gwynee, whom he would marry. Charles Wesley
was driven by the love of two brides, one his own wife, the
other belonging to Jesus Christ. As a husband and pastor, I
am asking myself what drives me?

     I love my wife and my children – I know I would ride
against a cold rain and wind for days to see them. I would
walk through the fires of hell if necessary to save them.
Thankfully Jesus had already done that.

      My on-going repentance is leading me to think
differently about Christ bride, His Church. How much do I
love the church that Jesus died to redeem? This seems an
easy question, especially for a Pastor, but it is a hard reality.
It is at times much like riding on horseback for three days
against a cold, harsh, winter wind.



                                   43
     Paul commands husbands to love their wives as Christ
loved the church (Ephesians 5:25ff). Rediscovering the
depths of Christ’ love for His bride deepens and strengthens
a husband’s love for his earthly bride. The reality of loving
both brides is a concentric concern that rolls and rotates
around together for all Christian husbands, and especially
for pastors.

     I have been in Christian ministry now for nearly 30
years. I have never given up one single creature comfort in
serving the Lord or his church. Sure, I have had some
challenges and heart aches, but I have in the words of a
Christian song, mostly talked about deep water faith while
standing in the shallow end of the pool.

     I have resolved that if loving either of the brides the
Lord has given me to love means stepping out of my comfort
zone, then I pray He has made me ready to get cold and
wet, and ride hard against the winds of darkness.




                             44
                           NOSE FLIES

You anoint my head with oil (Psalm 23:5).

      The shepherd anointed the head and particularly the
nose of the sheep for two reasons. First, it was a soothing,
healing ointment for scratches and wounds. These minor
cuts could easily become infected and lead to more serious
problems for sheep. Second, the oil served as an insect
repellent. Sheep are particularly susceptible to an insect
commonly called, “nose flies.” A sheep infected with nose
flies would become so irritated he would literally bang his
head on a rock trying to find relief. This would cause serious
injury, even death to a sheep.

   I believe there are many things in life like nose flies.
Without the anointing of Christ, His saving grace, many
times we would want to go out and bang our heads against
a rock. Even with that blessed anointing, we sometimes at
least shake our heads at some things. Here are some flies
that have gotten into my nose recently –

     Scripture teaches that the borrower is a slave to the
      lender (Proverbs 22:7). Let’s apply that precept to our
      troubled economic times. Our government has
      borrowed money from the Chinese and other foreign
      governments to finance our continued American greed.
      Are we prepared to be a slave to these foreign
      governments?
     Our government borrowed money using our names and
      making       our     children,    grandchildren,    great
      grandchildren, and probably great, great, grandchildren
      collateral in the process. I heard this morning on the TV
      news -- “the federal government is offering money to
      banks and banks are taking it.” I am not making this
      up, these were the verbatim words spoken. Imagine
      that – banks taking money that is offered to them! Now
      follow the logic – the banks are taking our borrowed

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      money from our government who borrowed the money
      from foreign governments. Then the banks will loan our
      borrowed money to us. We will pay interest to the
      bank, who will pay interest to the government, who will
      pay interest to the Chinese. Apply Proverbs 22:7 to this
      – are we prepared to be the slave to the banks, the
      government, and the Chinese?
     Is such insanity perhaps what Jesus was speaking of in
      Matthew 6:24?

   No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and
   love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the
   other. You cannot serve God and money.

   I realize I am just a preacher; my training is in theology
not economics; but I am glad I live where there is only sand
and no big rocks! Otherwise, I might want to go bang my
head on a boulder and get rid of some of these nose flies.




                                46
                TEARING DOWN THE SHACK

     Hebrews 5:11-14

     About this we have much to say and it is hard to explain,
     since you have become dull of hearing. [12] For though by
     this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to
     teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God.
     You need milk, not solid food, [13] for everyone who lives
     on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he
     is a child. [14] But solid food is for the mature, for those
     who have their powers of discernment trained by constant
     practice to distinguish good from evil.

     Two books are very popular now, especially with young
adults (although many others read these as well). One is a
novel called, The Shack. The other is a series of gothic
novels called The Twilight Series. I wish to raise some
serious questions about these books and similar kinds of
reading.

      For one, if you have not read The Shack, as one pastor
rightly says, DON’T. Any pastor who could recommend this
book and commend the author’s spiritual insight has lost his
theological mind (if such a pastor ever had one). There are
many pastors, musicians, and theologians who are making
such a recommendation. The Shack is a dangerous book --
well-written, but full of distortions and falsehoods. This is
one shack that really needs to be torn down.

      And I know how this will go. Many will say, “It is just
fiction.” Such a statement is very much like saying Playboy
is just artful photography. No serious literary critic would
ever deny that fiction conveys a view of life. That view may
be true or false, but a viewpoint is set forth, some form of
reality is communicated. It makes me want to pull my hair
out when people say “it is just fiction.” Some better
questions to ask might be –



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   “Is it good fiction?”
   “Is it worth my time to read this?”
   “Does this story cause me to think truthfully and more
    purely about God and life?”
   “What is this novel filling my mind with?”
   “What does this novel communicate about the nature of
    God, the nature of man, and the purpose of life?”
   “Can I justify spending hours reading novels and be
    spiritually content with a semi-daily Bible study of a few
    verses of Scripture along with a quarter page of
    spiritual pabulum?”

   We read these little tracts we call “devotionals” and
proclaim proudly, “I’ve done my devotion today!”(And it
took me only five minutes or less!) Hundreds of pages of
novels, a quarter page of Bible study – you do the math! I
wonder what God thinks about such mathematical ratios?
We feast on spiritual junk food and then expect to run the
marathon of faith. Is it any wonder our faith falters before
the finish?

      We read The Twilight Series which contains erotic tales
about blood-sucking vampires and then we are shocked by
the vast sexual violence of our day. Are we so dense that we
cannot see the connection? Blood, romance, eroticism – is
this literary combination wholesome? O yeah! I forgot – IT
IS JUST FICTION! Oops! There’s some of my hair piling up
beside my desk!

     Please help me -- at my age, I’m losing hair already, I
don’t have a whole lot of hair to pull out! I know I am
ranting and lapsing into sarcasm, but come on people --
THINK BIBLICALLY. Of course that is hard to do when a
quarter page devotion will do!

     The problem is we are at the twilight of our spiritual
sensibilities. We are called to love God with all our hearts,
our souls, our minds and with all our strength (Mark


                             48
12:30). God deserves a mental cathedral; we are content to
give Him a theological shack.




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                     VOTING AND PRAYING

1 Timothy 2:1-2 (ESV)

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and
thanksgivings be made for all people, [2] for kings and all who are in
high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and
dignified in every way.

      These verses from the Bible seldom guide us when we
go to the polls. We have grown accustomed to engaging
politically at more practical levels. We are encouraged to be
informed citizens, to consider certain candidates, and not to
forget certain issues. If prayer is ever mentioned at all, it is
usually that we should pray that someone win an election
(or lose!).

      The first century church was instructed much
differently. At a time when the government was anything
but favorable toward the church (read the history books
about first century Rome!), Paul instructs Timothy to pray
for those already in authority. In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, Paul uses
every word for prayer in his vocabulary. The results of such
praying would not necessarily be victory on Election Day, but
instead praying would change the one praying, resulting in a
life that would be peaceful, quiet, godly and dignified. How
sad that we are more interested today in election results
than we are in prayer results!

     This is the consistent message of scripture about a
Christian’s role regarding civil authority. In Romans, Paul
says –

Romans 13:1-2, 7 (ESV)

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is
no authority except from God, and those that exist have been
instituted by God. [2] Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists
what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. [7]
Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed,


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revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed,
honor to whom honor is owed.

Peter also urges us –

1 Peter 2:13-14, 17 (ESV)

Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it
be to the emperor as supreme, [14] or to governors as sent by him to
punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good [17] Honor
everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

     Engaging in the political process and voting are our
civic duty urged by Biblical directive, but God never
intended His church to be a political action committee. In
this election year, we have been told countless times to
“vote for change.” The timeless truth of Scripture is that
voting may change a few things, but prayer and spiritual
transformation change everything. Let us remember this on
Election Day as well as the days that follow.




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