Saturday, August 30, 2014

Quote of the Day

The truth is, even death is not the final season.  There's a spectacular new spring - more glorious than any we've experienced on earth - that awaits those who have heaven as their ultimate destiny.  - Richard Blackaby

Monday, August 25, 2014

Quote of the Day

If God is going to use you publicly, He has to tutor you privately.  - Roger Breland

Friday, August 22, 2014

I Lift Up My Hands

On more than one occasion I've been asked: "Sam, why do you lift your hands when you worship?" My answer is two-fold.
First, I raise my hands when I pray and praise because I have explicit biblical precedent for doing so. I don't know if I've found all biblical instances of it, but consider this smattering of texts. . . .
If someone should object and say that few of these texts speak of worship (see Pss. 63:4; 134:2), but only of prayer (as if a rigid distinction can even be made between the two; indeed, I can't recall ever worshiping God without praying to him!), my question is simply this: Why do you assume that the appropriate place for your hands is at your side and you need an explicit biblical warrant for raising them? Wouldn't it be just as reasonable to assume that the appropriate place for one's hands is raised toward heaven, calling for an explicit biblical warrant (other than gravity or physical exhaustion) to keep them low?

G Campbell Morgan on God's Sovereignty

“And the vessel that he made of the clay was marred in the hand of the potter, so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it” (Jeremiah 18:4). 

If there were nothing but the figure of the potter with its awe-inspiring revelation of sovereignty, I should be broken and crushed with hopelessness, but there is more. There is the declaration of the ultimate activity of sovereignty, “he made it again.” That was the great message of Jeremiah. Think of him as he watched the people he loved rushing to ruin, feeling all the time in his heart the very anguish of God in the presence of the disaster; and then uttering this high word which seemed as though it never could be fulfilled, “He made it again another vessel.  - G. Campbell Morgan

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Rest for the Soul

When it comes to taking a modern-day Sabbath, not all ways are created equal.

by David Valentine
For years, I mistook “checking out of reality” for “rest.” To relax, I would binge-watch Netflix or SportsCenter for an entire afternoon or play video games until that pesky homework from my philosophy class could no longer be avoided. Unfortunately, this never once made me feel rested. In my experience, checking out leads only to a numbing of pain and fatigue from the previous workweek, not true healing or a fuller, more meaningful life.
Resting literally means to be still, to cease from work, or to be held still in a single spot by another object. I find the last part of the definition to be the most fitting with regards to what it means for the Christian to rest. We are held still by something (or rather someone)—the God of the universe.
I knew there had to be a better way to find true rest, and I discovered it in the Christian discipline of biblical meditation. I’d always associated meditation with the Far East, but as the writer of Psalms 1 says, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (vv. 1-2).

Quote of the Day - Havner on Desperate Faith

Desperation is not enough; she had faith.  She believed that if she could just get through to Jesus and touch the hem of His garment she would be healed.  Many were thronging Him that day, but she touched Him.  Her touch was different.  It may have been an imperfect touch, an imperfect faith, but it is not the quality or quantity of faith that matters in the end.  It is the object of faith.  She pressed through the crowd and touched the hem of His garment.   - Vance Havner

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

G Cambell Morgan on Biblical Stewardship

G. Campbell Morgan (1863-1945), two-time pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, taught that Christians should view their money as belonging 100% to the Lord - all of our resources at His disposal.  He took issue with the teaching of tithing:

"I hear a great deal about the tithing of incomes. I have no sympathy with the movement at all. A tenth in the case of one man is meanness, and in the case of another man is dishonesty. I know men today who are Christian men in city churches and village chapels, who have no business to give a tenth of their income to the work of God. They cannot afford it. I know other men who are giving one-tenth, and the nine-tenths they keep is doing harm to their souls."

Discipleship Tuesday: Perspectives on Biblical Stewardship

On my shelf sit some books in a series called “Perspectives.”  Each book takes a topic in Christian theology and presents four different views on subjects like church government, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the end times, the Sabbath,  and the Lord’s Supper.  One of the things I learned through the years is the reality that sincere Christians who take the Bible seriously come to different conclusions about its teachings.  It’s amazing that you can take, say Adrian Rogers and John MacArthur, or Charles Swindoll and Jack Hayford, or John Piper and Johnny Hunt, men who spent decades studying the Bible, and they come to different conclusions about important topics.  I think that does magnify the grace of God and how he relates to us according to our measure of faith.

Like many doctrines where serious Christians disagree, I believe God has an amazing measure of grace and that he meets us right where we believe Him.  After decades of being serious Christians, carefully studying the Bible, pastoring churches,  and receiving international recognition, John Piper and Johnny Hunt would disagree over some important doctrines like the doctrine of election and the practice of baptism.  Such is the grace of God.
One area that evangelical Christians disagreed on is in what exactly the Bible teaches about biblical stewardship.  Some teach the idea of "storehouse tithing," primarily based on Malachi 3.  Others do not believe that “storehouse tithing”  is a biblical concept for New Testament Christians.  The biggest argument for the latter conviction, I believe, is the reality that storehouse tithing is never taught in the New Testament.  It is never mentioned in the main body of NT teaching on monetary stewardship, Paul's two chapters in the middle of 2 Corinthians. 
Several years ago, as I was re-studying biblical stewardship, I came across one of the “Perspectives” books on the subject called "Perspectives on Tithing: Four Views."  In it I was surprised to find that both John MacArthur and Charles Ryrie come to the same conclusions as do I on the subject.  The two study Bibles that I use regularly are the MacArthur Study Bible and the Ryrie Study Bible.  I have used the first for about twenty years and the second for ten. 
That revelation led me to digging deeply into John MacArthur’s teachings on stewardship.  MacArthur is one of the most respected pastor-theologians in the evangelical world today.  Known for taking the Bible very seriously, he works hard at trying to teach exactly what he believes the Scriptures say, and he has written many commentaries on books of the Bible.  His tag line on his website is "unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time."
His teaching on stewardship disagrees with “storehouse tithing” teaching which became popular in America in the late 1800’s due to the publication of two books about tithing in 1873 as well as the ministry of Thomas Kane, who popularized the concept of tithing in America.  Before then, according to David Croeteau, it was "virtually nonexistent in the American church." 

I believe that MacArthur hits the nail on the head and "rightly divides the Word of truth" with his interpretation of biblical stewardship.  He thoroughly  goes through the biblical accounts of stewardship, including OT passages regarding tithes and taxes and the paramount New Testament passage on monetary giving – 2 Corinthians 8 and 9.  With much detail he explores what is meant in the Old Testament by tithes and taxes versus the NT pattern of giving.  And he shows how it is incorrect to use the Malachi 3 passage as a clear exhortation for NT believers today.
The following quotations summarize MacArthur’s biblical interpretation on the issue . . .
God's pattern for giving is not tithing in the New Testament. It isn't even tithing in the Old Testament. It never has been tithing, it never will be tithing.
The right thing to do in the area of giving is to teach the truths of the Word of God and then leave it to the Spirit of God to generate the response along with all the rest of the fruits of spirituality. And so we teach the Word of God. We don't use gimmicks, we don't use programs, we just teach the Word of God assuming the Spirit of God will produce in the lives the kind of giving commensurate with the kind of life.
And you remember I told you that there is no prescription in the Bible for what percentage we are to give. There is no prescription in the Bible for what amount we are to give. We are to give proportionate to what we have, we are to give with a measure of sacrifice, and we are to give voluntarily. That's what we call free-will giving.
No Jew gave ten percent. He gave ten percent, ten percent, and ten percent every third year plus. So if you're talking about tithing, you're talking about that amount and you're talking about the funding for the national government. You're talking about supporting the theocracy, that was taxation.
Now let me say at this point just by way of a footnote. I know that this is new to some of you who perhaps were raised in a church or been in a church where they hammered on tithing and they said that the way Christians are to give is to give ten percent because that's the way the Jews give. I know that that is something that is taught commonly. That is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible does not teach the Jews gave ten percent. As I pointed out it teaches that they gave about 25 percent. It was not their giving to God, it was their payment to the theocracy, to the government. It had to be brought into the temple treasury and not to bring it was to rob God, according to Malachi 3:8, of His due tithes and offerings. That was taxation. I know that that is perhaps new to some of you but that is clearly what the Scripture teaches. It's what I've taught for many, many, many years, we just haven't been able to cover it recently. But it is clearly what the Scripture teaches as you saw last time.
So the amount is up to you. Whatever you purpose in your heart, whatever you desire to give, whatever you want to give voluntarily, generously, sacrificially, proportionately, that's the way you give. Now let's sum it up. The giving of the Macedonians was initiated by grace, transcended difficult circumstances, was with joy, not hindered by poverty, generous, proportionate, sacrificial and voluntary...that is the way we are to give.
All giving apart from that required to run the government was purely voluntary (cf. Exodus 25:2; 1 Chronicles 29:9). Each person gave whatever was in his heart to give; no percentage or amount was specified.
New Testament believers are never commanded to tithe. Matthew 22:15-22 and Romans 13:1-7 tell us about the only required giving in the church age, which is the paying of taxes to the government. Interestingly enough, we in America presently pay between 20 and 30 percent of our income to the government--a figure very similar to the requirement under the theocracy of Israel.
The guideline for our giving to God and His work is found in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7: "Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver."
Giving is to demonstrate love and not law.  2 Corinthians 8, I'm going to skip along a little bit here. Look at 2 Corinthians 8:8 and 9. Love, not law, not a system of law that you're under. "I speak not by commandments." Now did you get that? This is not a legal system. This is not a prescription for percentage. "I speak not by commandments, but by occasion of the earnestness of others and to prove the sincerity of your," what, "of your love.
I'm telling you all this information about giving which dominates this chapter, "not by way of a command, but simply as a test of your love." Oh that's good isn't it? Giving is a test of your love. "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though He was rich for your sakes He became poor that you through His poverty might be rich." You know the pattern. You know the example love gives everything.
I am not giving you a commandment. I am not degenerating this whole thing into legalism. I am telling you prove your love, demonstrate your love. Look at verse 12. "For if there be first a willing mind," Paul says, he's talking about giving. All God wants is a willing mind. Someone who wants to give. Verse 7 of Chapter 9, "Every man according as he purposes in his own heart so let him give."
It is to demonstrate love, not grudgingly, not necessity, not legalism, but love. And when you put a prescription on a giving, you give people a law to abide by rather than love and you've robbed them.

The above quotations came from several of Pastor John MacArthur's sermons on the subject of biblical stewardship, including the following:

The model for New Testament giving is not percentages.  The model, instead, calls for consistent, sacrificial giving, decided upon between the individual believer and the Lord.  We often call that "grace-giving" or "free-will giving."  That is monetary giving according to the New Testament.

Again, MacArthur sums it up by saying, "The right thing to do in the area of giving is to teach the truths of the Word of God and then leave it to the Spirit of God to generate the response along with all the rest of the fruits of spirituality. And so we teach the Word of God. We don't use gimmicks, we don't use programs, we just teach the Word of God assuming the Spirit of God will produce in the lives the kind of giving commensurate with the kind of life."

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Courier

The Baptist Courier, the newspaper of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, did a nice post about me in their  July edition.  View it here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Discipleship Tuesday: God Doesn’t Need You

God Doesn’t Need You

And that’s the best news you could ever hear.

by Fil Anderson

"Years ago, I spent several weeks traveling in Japan. I vividly recall the polluted, cloudlike darkness hanging over the larger cities, and the constant struggle to breathe. Glass-sided booths, available to pedestrians feeling desperate for fresh air, lined the streets. I remember coming out of one, hoping I’d make it to the next booth without choking.

The memory of my ducking into those human-size fishbowls to escape toxic air is a fitting metaphor for the restless world we live in. The weapons of mass distraction and self-destruction are everywhere. Our lives are constantly besieged by busyness, hurry, and noise. Living full throttle is expected, while running on empty is the norm—sadly, even among followers of Christ.

Had I died 25 years ago, “running on empty” is how I most likely would have been remembered. Although I had made a name for myself within the ministry I served, I was physically exhausted and spiritually demoralized. Late at night, while my wife and our children slept, I would lie awake fearing that I had come to the end of my rope. And the following morning, it was all I could do to drag myself out of bed."

Thursday, August 7, 2014

How to Handle Growing Pains in Your Church

Rick Warren shares good, practical insights about necessary habits of churches in order to foster growth:

A church that wants to grow without going through growing pains is like a woman who says, “I want to have a baby, but I don’t want to go through labor.”

Is the pain worth it? Yes, it’s worth it. People need the Lord, and as long as one person doesn’t know Christ, we have to keep reaching out.

As your church begins to grow, you’re going to face a lot of different criticisms. But there are three really common ones to prepare for:

Read the entire article here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Discipleship Tuesday: Sowing and Reaping

Al Ganksy has a good word this week about the law of sowing and reaping . . .

Back in my preaching days I was making a point with the congregation. We had been working our way through Galatians and came to the oft quoted passage about reaping what we sow (Galatians 6:7). To illustrate a point I wanted to make, I asked a series of questions and encouraged the congregation to respond (we were a casual group).

Me: “If we plant corn, what will we reap?”
Them: “Corn.”
Me: “If we plant wheat, what will we reap?”
Them: “Wheat.”
Me: “And if we plant nothing, what will we reap?”
The: “Nothing!”
Me: No, I’m afraid that’s wrong. If we plant nothing, then we will reap weeds.”

I went on to explain that I owned two-and-a-half acres of, well, dirt. I was living in the High Desert area of California and all the houses in my neighborhood were set on two-and-a-half acre parcels. Since this was in the desert, water was expensive. There were very few lawns. Despite that, I had to have my lot cleared every year because weeds would grow and if left unattended they could get as tall as a small child. I didn’t plant those weeds. I did not water those weeds. I never fertilized those weeds, yet they came up every year.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Time Well Spent

The following article by Charles Stanley explains how to maximize the use of our time in order to live productive, fruitful lives.

"I have friends who can get the work of three people done in a single day, but some folks I know, no matter how hard they try, never seem to cross a single item off their to-do lists. Now, the difference between these people is probably not a matter of ability. Some of us just have a better sense of time management than others. And this skill is essential because we are all responsible to God for how we use our time: If we’re going to accomplish all He’s planned, we must learn how to invest it for His purposes. That’s not to say every second of the day must be spent in certain ways. We simply need a balanced schedule.
The goal is to be proactive, not reactive.

Those who just react to the demands of the day are shortsighted in their approach. The Lord has a custom-designed purpose for every person, and He has perfectly placed each of us to accomplish His goals. Instead of coming to the end of our days and wondering what we’ve achieved, wouldn’t it be better to finish life like the apostle Paul, who was able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7)?

When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he gave some very helpful instructions regarding the use of time: “Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:15-17)."

Read the entire article here.

Fantastic Family Friday: Protect Your Marriage

Read my post Protecting Your Marriage from Sexual Fallout.