Tag Archives: bible

The Church Still Matters

I’ve never seen the idea of the church so marginalized in all my lifetime. The secular world mocks the church and the Christian world devalues the church. The local church is seen, even by believers, as unnecessary and antiquated and optional.

You can kind of understand the issues perhaps. After all, churches are filled with imperfect people. Churches often have a well earned reputation for being argumentative. They frequently get side tracked by secondary issues. They sometimes lose sight of their purpose. Critics can accurately point out all the problems, failures and imperfections of the church.

But, with all of that said, the church still matters. There is great inherent value in the work of the local church. There is value and purpose and potential in this institution. Here are three reasons why the church still matters.

1. God made the church. If the church was man’s idea, we might rightfully ignore it. But it isn’t. God formed the church and he did it for his own reasons. He knew that the church would be made up of imperfect people. He knew every pastor and every small group leader would be “frail as dust and feeble as frail”. But he formed it anyway. We ought not easily turn our backs on something God created.

And, I note that God’s word admonishes us that we ought not be in the habit of “neglecting to gather together”. (See Hebrews 10:24-25) This isn’t the word of your pastor or your grandmother. God is the one who calls us to gather. God’s command is reason enough to connect with an imperfect church filled with imperfect people.

We might not understand why God formed the church, but we can’t escape the fact that he did. We may not see the value of the local church, but God apparently can. We need to remember this important truth: the church is a God idea.

2. We need each other. I don’t think every Christian believes that. I think many believe they can be just fine on their own- no need for fellowship or accountability or encouragement from other believers. But the longer I live, the more I see the importance of other believers in my life.

Don’t underestimate the enemy. He loves to divide and conquer. He wants you to be spiritually isolated. He knows the Bible says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another”. (Prov. 27:17) He tells you that you don’t need anyone else because he wants you to be vulnerable and ineffective.

But, the Spirit of the Living God reminds you of the value of other believers. We disciple others and are discipled by others. We benefit from the wisdom and zeal and encouragement that comes from worshiping and learning with others. Never have believers needed each other as we do now!

3. We are stronger together. I had a friend who lost his little finger in an accident. He told me how amazed he was at how much grip strength he lost just from that tiny digit.

The church is described as the body of Christ. We all have different gifts and backgrounds and personalities and perspectives. But, we function best when we work together. We are stronger in missions, evangelism, discipleship and worship when we are connected.

The church separated is weak and ineffective. The church connected is powerful beyond the sum of her parts. The church can prevail against the very gates of hell. You will benefit from others and others will benefit from you. You need the church and the church needs you.

Don’t underestimate the importance of a healthy connection to a local church. God will use this institution made up of imperfect sinners who have found the perfect Savior to impact you and your world. Find a church, plug in fully and participate actively.

The church still matters.

Holiness Still Matters

Every generation tends to fall off the horse on the opposite side. If the previous generation emphasized God’s holiness to the exclusion of God’s love, the next generation emphasizes God’s love to the exclusion of God’s holiness. Sitting straight in the saddle requires us to recognize both aspects of God’s nature.

Grace is an amazing gift from God. But it doesn’t negate God’s call to holiness. Freedom is a beautiful truth. But it doesn’t exempt us from the teaching of God’s word to live holy lives. Many Christians have acted as though holiness and obedience are out of date concepts and unnecessary encumbrances to the life of the believer. Holiness is mislabeled as legalism. Obedience is ignored as an unneeded vestige of the law. What a tragic misunderstanding of God’s word and way!

Holiness is spoken of often in scripture and not only in the Old Testament. Obedience is a common theme of God’s word for those who would follow Jesus. We ought not ignore this in a misguided attempt to improve God’s plan of grace or provision of freedom.

Let’s note three reasons why holiness still matters.

1. Holiness matters because sin harms us. Sin’s result is never to our benefit. It won’t give us more peace or joy or life. The goal of the enemy isn’t for our good or our gain. Ultimately, sin kills, steals and destroys. It is important for Christians to be aware of this truth.

While sin is packaged well, its substance is poison. God’s call to holiness is, therefore, to our benefit. It is in our best interest to obey the Lord and to our great detriment to disobey. The better you see God’s perspective instead of the world’s, the more you will see this truth that holiness keeps us from harm and blesses our lives. God calls you to obedience because it is in your best interest.

2. Holiness matters because discipleship demands it. Discipleship is all about following and obeying Jesus. It means we go where Jesus leads and do what Jesus wants. If we do what we want, we aren’t following Jesus. If we go the world’s way, we aren’t obeying Jesus. A way to think about the importance of holiness it to note this simple truth, “You can’t obey Jesus by disobeying Jesus”.

Jesus asked the question, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things I say?” (Luke 6:46) If we call him “Lord” we must obey him. If we don’t obey him, how can we call him “Lord”? At the heart of discipleship is our obedience to the Lord and there is no way around this simple truth. Obedience is the pathway to our spiritual growth and dynamic walk with God.

3. Holiness matters because love leads to it. There is a common view in our culture that says it is unloving to say anything is wrong or sinful. But is it unloving for a parent to keep their child from playing in the street? Is is unloving for someone to warn others of a defective bridge? Instead, aren’t these things a result of love itself?

The Bible tells us, “This is how we know that we love God’s children: when we love God and obey his commands. For this is what love for God is: to keep his commands.” (1 John 5:2-3) Love and obedience are deeply connected in scripture. God’s holiness and love cannot be separated. Love leads us to obedience and holiness, not to licentiousness and immorality. Living a holy life is the natural result of loving God.

Holiness should matter deeply to God’s followers because it matters deeply to God. Don’t miss this important truth and the blessings that come with it.

Holiness still matters.

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.

There is Hope

Hope is a powerful thing.

Without it, we sink into a chasm of despair and depression. But with it, we can overcome the most difficult and challenging circumstances of life.

And Christians have hope. Not wishful thinking hope. Not blind optimism hope. Not ignoring reality hope. Christians have genuine, God-given, obstacle-overcoming hope that comes from the throne room of heaven itself.

To the believers in Rome facing threats and problems, Paul spoke of hope. Though he himself dealt with persecution, trials and poverty, Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write words of hope.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Powerful words!

There is hope in this fallen world. There is hope for your life and future. There is hope for our churches in these uncertain times.

Here are three reasons 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

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

A Determined Heart

“Now Ezra had determined in his heart to study the law of the Lord, obey it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Ezra 7:10

This verse first jumped out at me while in college. I underlined it in my devotional reading (A habit I still employ) and used it to teach children’s church (I still apply my  sermons to children- and to immature adults). It has been meaningful to me and perhaps you will find it to be that for you.

Note that Ezra “determined in his heart” to do three things. That is, these are the commitments that Ezra made and actions he vowed to take. Perhaps you might make the same determination in  your heart.

First, Ezra determined Continue reading

5 reasons pastors should read the whole bible each year

I began reading through the bible at least once every year for more than 25 years now and it has been a great blessing to my life and ministry. Let me suggest 5 reasons why all pastors and bible teachers would benefit from this spiritual discipline.
1. It helps us see the whole story. How does the OT and NT fit together? After 7 or 8 times through the bible you will begin to see that better. I visited my grandmother while in seminary. She was a Sunday School teacher and so she peppered me with questions wanting to better teach her class. I knew some things she didn’t know- Greek and Hebrew and such. But I quickly realized that she knew the bible in a way I didn’t yet because she read it so much. I determined to know the bible like that.
2. It gives us a sense of context. Taking the bible Continue reading

Theology is Not the Goal

I’ve read a couple of books recently that taught me more about the life of J.P. Morgan, the famous banker. I didn’t know much about his life and work but he was among the most powerful men in the world for a time. He had great wealth, incredible influence and a massive art collection.
There was one thing that really surprised me about the man. He was Continue reading