Category Archives: bible

Inerrancy Still Matters

“Is the Bible inerrant?”, my professor wrote on the board, and a spirited discussion in my first Ph.D. seminar began. Some classmates said the Bible has errors, some said it doesn’t matter and I, and a few others, argued that the Bible is inerrant and it matters very much indeed. I am more convinced of the inerrancy of the Bible than ever and it has affected my personal life and ministry tasks greatly.

Every generation of theologians, pastors and Christians has to deal with this doctrine. Inerrancy, at it core, says “The Bible is without error or fault in all its teaching”. (Geisler) Is the Bible true or not? Is all of it true, or are only parts true? These questions must be grappled with in every age and by every serious Bible teacher.

Does inerrancy still matter and, if so, why does it matter? Here are three simple reasons why the doctrine of inerrancy still matters for this generation.

1. It describes the nature of the Bible. When we say the Bible is inerrant, we are recognizing that it comes from God and not just from man. While God used human authors, God himself is the ultimate author. Scripture is “God breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) and not just man conceived.

Inerrancy notes that the Bible is perfect and perfectly reliable and only perfect God can do that. God is able to use imperfect men to give us exactly what we need and to do this perfectly. God is by nature sovereign and perfect. He is able, therefore, to use imperfect people like Moses and Paul to accomplish his purposes and to give us his perfect word.

If the Bible is just the ideas of people, well the world is full of ideas from people. And social media often suggests that the ideas of people can be less than edifying- some of the things I see on social media seem downright crazy! But if the Bible is truly God’s word, then we can trust God to give us exactly what we need and to give us his perfect word. We have, in the Bible, the perfect thoughts of God and not the imperfect ideas of people.

2. It defines the importance of the Bible. If the Bible is just another imperfect book, we might be inspired from it, but we are unlikely to transformed by it. If it is just another imperfect book, we take the parts we like and leave the parts that we don’t much care for, like those old beets in the buffet line.

If, however, the Bible is inerrant, we see that it is the source of truth. It teaches us the truth that we need even if that truth may be unpopular or difficult.

Truth transcends culture. Popularity and public opinion is not what should guide or instruct us. Truth is what we need and God teaches us the truth by giving us the Bible so that we know how we ought to live and what we ought to do. The Bible becomes the arbiter or right and wrong, not elections, polls or pragmatism. We are reminded of how much we need to know God’s word and how valuable it is for us for life and eternity.

3. It delineates the arguments about the Bible. Arguing about the Bible, and pretty much everything else in life, seems to be a pastime for Christians these days. But what determines if our arguments are right or wrong? Is it determined by who talks the fastest or the loudest? Is is based on feelings or personal sensibilities? Is it determined by what is currently popular or acceptable?

Inerrancy suggests the argument is defined by what the Bible teaches, not what man says. We know whether the arguments made are accurate by how well they match the scripture and not by how winsome or influential the arguer may be. The world’s way of arguing is to shout louder. The Christian way should be to study scripture more deeply.

Inerrancy does not end the argument, but it does delineate how that argument should be made. Imperfect people can still disagree about what the perfect word of God says. But at least we begin to formulate the parameters for how we should seek to know the truth and to help others know the truth.

I’m glad I argued for the inerrancy of scripture all of those years ago. This doctrine has helped me to be more obedient to God’s word in my personal life and more faithful to God’s word in my ministry life. But every generation needs to reaffirm the importance of inerrancy because every generation has to grapple with what is good, right and true.

Inerrancy still matters.

Pursue Peace with Everyone

“Pursue peace with everyone.” Hebrews 12:14

God just wrecks our thinking sometimes! I was reading along in my devotional time, minding my own business, and these words came out of nowhere to knock me over. Pursue peace with everyone? Really?

This does not seem to be the way to do things. Everything in our culture seems to cry out for us to be at war with others. Battle them, conquer them, hammer them into submission! Isn’t that how it’s done? Has not social media taught us that this is the way? Do our cultural, political and media leaders not demonstrate this to us each day?

And yet, I read God’s word, doing what Christians are supposed to do, only to stumble onto this truth that seems so counter cultural. I am confronted again with the fact that God’s way is often different than our way. I’m reminded that God has some hard tasks and big expectations for those who would follow him.

Three things about this command call for our close attention.

1. Our goal is peace. We are tempted to think our goal towards others is conquest. We are tempted to think we are to defeat them, subdue them and crush them. But the goal God gives us in our relationships with others is peace. We are reminded that our enemy is not our brother or sister. Our adversary is not the lost and confused of this world. Our true opponent is not the one who mocks or even persecutes us, but the evil one who has enslaved him and his thinking.

We should never compromise truth for peace. Peace isn’t found in error. We should never mistake the approval of this fallen world for peace. Darkness never approves of light. We can’t ultimately even ensure peace as it involves someone more than just ourselves. But peace is the goal. Winning the argument, talking the loudest or being the angriest are poor substitutes for what God wants from us in our relationships with others. God calls us to peace.

2. We are to pursue this goal of peace. We like the idea of others pursuing peace with us more than of us pursuing peace with others. But there it is, right there in the text. That stubborn, difficult, challenging word- pursue. We are told to make the pursuit of peace with others.

Pursuit means taking the initiative and being proactive. It means the goal of peace isn’t just a wish, but a calling. It means we do something about peace, just as we might do something about war. Battles happen because we engage in them. Peace can happen when we engage in it, when we seek it, when we do something to bring it about. While we can’t change the hearts of others, we can do our part by making the pursuit.

3. We are to pursue this goal of peace with everyone. This might be the most challenging part of the entire command. We are told to pursue peace and we might be willing to do that- with some. But with everyone? With the guy who is wrong? With the fellow who is combative? With people who are hard to like?

Pursuing peace with everyone means we will have to think about others as the Lord thinks about them. We will have to see the value of others even when we don’t agree with their values. We will have to choose to love even those not so lovable. This part of the verse is what knocks us over and wrecks our thinking. Everyone is a big, big word.

This command from Hebrews is going to take some work, some prayer and some attitude adjustments. But it is right there in God’s word. So, let’s think about relationships more as the Lord does than as does the world. Let’s put this one into practice, difficult as it may be. This command is desperately needed in our lives, churches and world. This age needs this word and this spirit more than ever. Never have we had a greater opportunity to shine in our dark world than this verse provides the opportunity for us to do.

Pursue peace with everyone.

10 Suggestions for Young Preachers

Here are 10 suggestions I have for all young preachers. Some I learned from others (they are the good ones) and some I learned on my own or from the school of hard knocks.

1. Prioritize your devotional life. You ignore this one at your peril. You can get by for a while, I’m afraid, just on some ability and talent. But in the long run, preaching comes out of who you are and your own walk with Jesus. Read the Bible for yourself and not just for preaching. Spend time with Jesus in prayer, worship and his word. God wants you and not just your preaching.

2. Read the Bible through every year. Read for breadth and for depth. Get to know the Bible well. Study the details of a text for your sermon but don’t neglect to get to know the overall message of God’s word. Over time, reading the Bible annually allows you to see major themes, understand the relationship of the Old and New Testaments and know the Bible story in a way that nothing else can provide. It will provide clarity to your understanding, richness to your theological insights and familiarity with truth.

3. Watch some video of yourself preaching. It can be brutal to watch replays of your messages. We see quirky gestures, bobbled words and botched stories. But we must, if we are to improve, be honest about our sermons. Preaching is about communicating the truth. Are we failing to communicate well by distracting hand waves,  repeated usage of crutch words or never making eye contact with our audience? Learn to evaluate yourself rather than depending on spouse, friends or critics.

4. Preach out of love for God and people. Please remind yourself to preach for God’s pleasure rather than man’s. Remember to love those people in the congregation even though they are imperfect people just like the preacher. Beware angry preaching or reactionary preaching or depressed preaching. Be sure love is the motivation to do what you do. Love lost people, saved people, sweet people, sour people, people who love you back and those who don’t. Love God above all else.

5. Start your sermon preparation on Monday. Saturday night is a bad time to start the sermon and Sunday morning is even worse. Where possible, do at least a little sermon thinking on Monday and each day. Turning in my sermon notes by Thursday noon has been so good for me. Planning sermon texts and titles in advance is especially wise. (Though God can interrupt if he wants.)

6. Pray and get others to pray. Preaching matters so we should pray like it does. Ask God for direction in your planning. Ask him for clarity in your preparation. Ask for his power in your delivery. Prayer partners are wonderful. Ask some people to pray for you every day and especially before you preach.

7. Be the best version of you. Don’t be Billy Graham or any other preacher. Be you. Be the best version of you, but be you. God called you to preach your sermon. Learn from other preachers, of course, but be cautious about imitating them. Never plagiarize sermons. God wants this sermon to come out of your heart, mind and soul. God knows your weaknesses and abilities so be the best “you” you can be.

8. Learn to connect. Learn how to connect with people while preaching. Make eye contact rather than always looking down or over their heads. Tell some stories that grab their attention. Jesus told lots of stories. Connect with them before and after the message. Look them in the eye, shake their hand and laugh at their jokes. Listen to each but connect with as many as you can in those few moments before and after the sermon.

9. Preach with faith. God is big so preach like he is. He can do great things through you. That reality is more about God than about you. Believe he can use you. Believe he can use the sermon to changes lives. Trust him with everything and ask your hearers to trust him with everything.

10. Be passionate about preaching. Preaching is a God chosen method. Preaching isn’t your idea, but God’s. So bring some passion and some energy to this important task. Show some enthusiasm in your voice, mannerisms and words. Have more passion for preaching the eternal word of God than for hobbies, activities or politics. Preaching matters deeply so be passionate about doing it and, if God has called you to do it, pour yourself into it.

Preaching is a high and holy calling. Learn, study and improve. Preach with compassion, boldness and humility. But preach God’s word knowing that the One who called you did that for a reason. So preach it, preacher!

 

7 Reasons Our Church Does VBS

I love Vacation Bible School! I love the opportunity and joy and energy that comes with it. We have a large VBS at FBC O’Fallon, IL. (This was our second year in a row to exceed 1,400 children and workers enrolled.) It takes a lot of work and effort and commitment on our part. It is taxing on our building and our volunteers and our staff. But we believe it is worth it. Here are just a few of the benefits of VBS.

1. Children hear the gospel. I love that we can tell boys and girls the message of the gospel. Many come who have never heard a clear presentation of the truth that Jesus is the Son of God who lived a sinless life, died the death we deserve and rose from the grave to conquer sin, death and hell. 34 children professed faith in Jesus Christ in VBS this year. My wife led a little girl to the Lord who was as sincere and serious as any adult we have ever seen.

2. Children learn the bible. What a joy to teach, sing and memorize the bible! Children who know little of the bible can learn so much in a week of VBS. I loved hearing my own grandchildren quoting and singing bible verses. This will benefit them for the rest of their lives. And a shout out to Lifeway for some super work in providing curriculum that emphasizes the teaching of God’s word. Learning more about the bible is an integral part of the VBS experience. I love that Bible is the middle name of VBS. Continue reading

Why I Read Through the Bible Every Year

Few practices have blessed my life and ministry as greatly as my long time practice of reading the entire bible at least once each year. Of course, as a vocational pastor, I have some obvious advantages in doing so. If I am reading the bible at church, people say, “Don’t bother Pastor Doug!” If you are in bivocational ministry (God bless you and may your tribe increase!) or your ministry is not part of your vocation (How thankful I am for your willingness to serve faithfully as a volunteer!), you probably won’t have that advantage.

One other caveat. If you haven’t read through the New Testament (NT) fully, start there. Read it all the way through several times before going to the more daunting assignment of reading the entire Old Testament. I have sometimes used a reading plan to read the NT in one month (You can find 30 day plans online). After several times through the NT you are ready to read the entire 66 books of the bible.

Here are some reasons I read through the entire bible each year. Continue reading

Heroes Remembered: John Mason Peck

Harvard University does not single out many Baptist preachers for honorary degrees.  But in 1852, they did such for a Baptist preacher and missionary named John Mason Peck. Let me tell you a little of the story of this fascinating man in the hopes that his life will inspire you to leave a similar legacy and impact.

John Mason Peck (1789-1858) lived in Connecticut and New York state in his early years. He heard the message of the gospel and was saved while young. Personal study of the bible led him to leave the Congregationalist church over the issue of infant baptism and become a Baptist– despite the arguments of his pastor, Lyman Beecher.

Peck grew deeply in his faith and felt a call to preach. Time spent with Luther Rice led him to a deep interest in missionary work “out west”. So Peck loaded Continue reading

The Value of a Devotional Life

I’ve practiced daily devotions for many years now. I spend some time each day (mornings usually work best for me) reading my bible and praying. I read a certain number of chapters of the bible underlining as I go. I spend time praying by praising and thanking God, confessing sin, asking for my needs and praying for the needs of others.

I will tell you that sometimes I don’t feel much like doing that. But feelings are terribly fickle. I rarely feel like exercising or eating healthy or all kinds of things that need to be done. I like the phrase “spiritual disciplines”. I am to discipline myself in my devotional life.

But I will also tell you that feelings often follow discipline. I am glad I exercise and eat right when I do. And I feel especially glad that I regularly spend time in the word and in prayer. The longer I’ve practiced daily devotionals the more I’ve recognized their benefits.

Here are some reasons to value the practice of a devotional life. Continue reading

Did God Really Say?

A disappointing conversation reminded me that some problems never fully go away.

I recently spoke to an older pastor. Now I love older pastors. They have some experience and wisdom from which I can benefit. And, they can make me feel young– a sensation that doesn’t happen as often as it once did!

But this conversation was not so edifying. It served more as a warning. In the course of our conversation he said that not all of the bible is God’s word. Some of it is, but some of it isn’t. Some of it, he felt, was just some cultural baggage Continue reading

The Curious Case of Demas

“Demas has deserted me.” 2 Timothy 4:10.

I am curious about this biblical character, Demas. His name is only mentioned three times in the New Testament. But there is intrigue and mystery and disappointment surrounding him. What happened? Where did it go wrong?

Demas is mentioned in Philemon 24. Paul mentions him along with other, more prominent names like Mark and Luke. He is one of those Paul calls a “coworker.” It suggests Demas traveled with Paul, shared the gospel with Paul and planted churches with Paul. It leads us to believe that he started well in ministry and made a valuable contribution to the kingdom of God.

Colossians 4:14 says, “Luke, the dearly loved physician, and Demas send you greetings.” It seems just a bit odd Continue reading

Not Obscure to Him

I’m finishing preaching a series of messages through the book of Colossians. What a great book of the bible! The last chapter tells the names of many who are obscure to all but the most ardent of bible scholars. There are mentions of people like Tychicus and Aristarchus and even the only mention of a man named Jesus who is called Justus. (Talk about a tough name to live up to!)

These verses, and other places with similar lists, remind us that the bible is filled with the names of people who are not so well-known. You may know about Paul and David and Moses, but perhaps not about Benaiah or Epaphras or Ehud the left-handed Benjaminite. Those names Continue reading