Substitution – the Great, the Good and the Ungodly – I Peter 2:21-25

  I read about the death of Michael Costello in a book of contemporary sermon illustrations. According to the Chicago Tribune, Michael was a parachute instructor. Although the article didn’t say, I’m going to assume he was the owner or manager of a company which taught recreational skydiving. On June 22, 1997, Michael took a novice skydiver – Gareth Griffith – up to an elevation of 22,000 feet. Then they both jumped. After soaring downward for a few moments, as instructed, Griffith pulled the rip cord, but nothing happened. Costello then pointed to the secondary chute, but again nothing happened when that cord was pulled. Plummeting toward the ground, it looked like certain death for the first-time parachutist. At that point there was no time for Costello do much to save both the student and himself. But then, according to the Tribune, the instructor did something astonishing. Just before hitting the ground, Michael pulled in front of his pupil and rolled over, cushioning Griffith for the moment of impact. The student survived, but the teacher did not – dying instantly. The editor of the book suggested that the sacrifice of that skydiving teacher is an illustration of salvation. And in several ways it might be. He substituted himself for his student. Just as Christ took the impact of God’s justice for our sins, dying on the cross. And because of His sacrifice and substitute, we can walk away without injury. While perhaps conveying a nice story, there are some flaws in the application of the lesson. For example, the failure of the parachutes was probably due to someone in...

September 23

Mrs. Sabrina Chivers Mercer died on this day in 1826. She was the faithful companion and help meet of the well-known Baptist, Jesse Mercer. They were married nearly forty years. She passed away while traveling home through South Carolina with her husband after attending the Triennial Convention of that year. Jesse Mercer – born just before the war in 1769 – was the son of Silas Mercer. Silas was from Georgia and an Episcopalian before the Lord saved and called him into the Baptist ministry. When his son Jesse was converted, it was his father who baptized him. Three years later, at the age of twenty, his father was involved in his ordination. When Silas passed away, Jesse was invited to become the principal of his father’s school, Salem Academy. He also accepted calls to become the pastor of his father’s three churches. In this position Jesse Mercer found himself at the center of Baptist life in the state of Georgia. In addition to his churches he carried out an itinerant preaching ministry, distributing tracts and books wherever possible. He was an ardent supporter of missions among both the black and white populations. He encouraged Sunday schools and was a champion of temperance. Also, Mercer was a trustee of Columbian College, Washington, and was the first president of the school which eventually bore his name. Jesse Mercer may not be as well-known a name as some, but in the State of Georgia it is highly...

The Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 14:15

  One of the problems with the proverbs in this book is the obvious simplicity of so many of them. You’d think that would not be a problem, but it is. Because, when we think we know a subject thoroughly, we don’t take the time to refresh ourselves in it. We have sipped so many thousand glasses of water that it doesn’t appeal to us any more. Now the water we drink must contain a lemon, or some bubbly carbon, something else. But the reality is, we need the water whether it has been flavored or not. And our digestive system probably ignores the flavor and feasts on the pure H2O. I can’t tell you anything about Proverbs 14:15 which most of you don’t already know. But that doesn’t mean either of us have stopped lately to sip slowly of the truth which is here. “The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.” How should we apply the two truths which are here? Here are a few suggestions. “The simple believeth every word.” Consider the word “simple.” and the simple truth it describes. The Hebrew word is used 19 times and we have it translated “simple” on 15 occasions. It is one of those morally neutral words – it doesn’t necessarily describe someone negatively. For example, David says, “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. “The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me,” indicating that he was simple. “The entrance of thy words giveth...

It was Just a Small Dinner Party – Matthew 26:26-29

  Why are there so many denominations trying to squeeze under the umbrella called “Christianity”? The short answer is that they all believe different things while still claiming to follow Christ Jesus. Lutherans believe different doctrines from the Mormons who believe differently from Roman Catholics. Even those who bear the same denominational name sometimes have serious differences of doctrine. And there is no reason to look beyond those who call themselves “Baptists.” Some Baptists glorify God in preaching His sovereignty over salvation, while most put salvation squarely on the sin-dead heart of the fallen sons of Adam. Some Baptists try to keep their distance from the methods and music of the world, while others embrace as much of the world as possible in order to draw the attention of the lost man. Some Baptists call themselves “Protestants,” while others, like ourselves, see our forefathers in history long before the Reformation, stretching back to the Apostles. I get perturbed by former Southern Baptist Churches and churches of the Baptist Bible Fellowship who drop the “Baptist” name, calling themselves just “Church of the New Life” or some such thing. But in reality, since they believe themselves to be Protestants, and they are denying the doctrines our ancient Baptistic predecessors died to maintain, dropping the “Baptist” name is not really a bad thing. Two particular points of disputed doctrine relates to the nature of Christ’s church and the Lord’s Supper. Many Baptists believe there are two kinds of churches – one local and the other universal – which supposedly incorporates everyone who believes on Christ as Saviour. Those who accept the universal...

September 19

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were among the first to explore the place we know as Idaho. From September 13 to 20, 1805 the group were basically lost, looking for the headwaters of the Missouri River. On this date their journal reveals that their hunting had failed them, and their food supply was exhausted. Then the Lord blessed; they found their footing and were able to continue on to the Pacific. I am going to use that as an introduction to something about Idaho. Twenty-five years after the Lewis and Clark expedition we have the first mention of Baptists in what became Idaho. George Ferris and his wife opened general stores at Old Arco and Houston, but there were no gospel churches in the area. The Ferris’s worried about the spiritual condition of their children, provoking Mrs. Ferris to plead with her husband about returning to civilization for the sake of their family. About that time Howard Bowler, a Baptist missionary serving at Bellevue, north of today’s Twin Falls, heard about the spiritual need in the Big Lost River Valley. He hitched a horse to his open buggy and began the 90 mile journey east and north through the lava desert toward the Lost River. After days without seeing any sign of life, he arrived at a lone cabin where the woman of the house, Mrs. Nelson, was a believer. Following some mutual, spiritual refreshing the missionary moved eighteen miles further on, arriving at the Ferris cabin. When Bro. Bowler told his new hosts that he wanted to start a mission, the couple went to work locating a meeting...

The Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 14:14

  As a young Christian, I heard the word “backslider” so often, I assumed it was found in every book of the Bible. It is not. The word “backslider” is found in this one verse only. I will admit however that the related word “backsliding” is a bit more common – It is used 16 times. But it is never used of the Christian who has slipped into sin. It is always in the Old Testament and almost always in connection with Israel. But here it is. Interestingly, this “backslider” is not related to the Hebrew word describing “backsliding Israel.” The original word is used 14 times and is translated “backslider” once, but “turned” 8 times and “go back,” or “turn back” 5 times. Despite the differences, we shouldn’t have any problem understanding the meaning. A “backslider” goes back or turns away – and apparently he turns away from the Lord. So were all those references early in my Christian life appropriate? I think that perhaps they were. Despite its rarity, and since it is a word common in some circles, I’ve decided to explore this verse just a bit. Let’s consider 2 men, 2 ends, and then 2 other ends. There are two kinds of people mentioned in this verse. And for the sake of a lesson lets just assume they are both Christians – but that isn not necessarily the case. We’ll start with that assumption this evening, because before someone can “backslide” he has to be at some elevated point. And before someone can turn his back on God, he has to facing the Lord in...

Incentive to Service – Ecclesiastes 11:1-6

  We’ve been looking at this book for several months now. I hope we’ve not been into it for so long you’ve forgotten how gloomy Solomon was at the beginning. At first everything he touched seemed to crumble to dust. “Laughter is vanity, work is vanity, rest is vanity – even faith is vanity.” Do you know how often he has said, “All is vanity?” Thus far it has been four times, and he is not finished. ” I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” But now listen to the man of God, the preacher, the prophet of the Lord. Now he is telling us to stick our necks out for God. He says that Jehovah is sovereign and every act of service shall be rewarded. “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” These aren’t the words of some young preacher who is just repeating what he has heard. Solomon has learned from first-hand experience about some of the disappointments of life. Yet, the moment he looked “unto the hills from whence cometh his help” his attitude changed. Think about what is suggested behind these confusing words. What is this bread that ought to be scattered? For a long time this verse made no sense to me whatsoever. Do you know what happens to thin sliced, white enriched bread when it is wet? Some of you don’t because its been years since you’ve seen white enriched store-bought bread. But have you ever fed the ducks at the park?...

The Word and His Way – John 1:1-14

  It might be fun during some evening of casual fellowship to play a little game which we might call “First Lines.” Mankind has been writing books for thousands of years now, and many of them have begun with interesting or powerful opening sentences. I know some Christians who say they never read secular or fictional literature, sticking only to Christian literature, Christian biography or theology. I pity those people, because they are keeping themselves of some of God’s great blessings. Do they also deprive themselves of the fragrances of the garden and the taste of fresh fruit? In the midst of disgusting and evil things, there are all kinds of secular blessings which God has given us to enjoy, and good literature is one of them. But getting back to that little game. I wonder how many can hear the opening line to some great book and identify the author or the title? For example, how many of you recognize these words? “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” (A Tale of Two Cities). “Call me Ishmael.” (Moby-Dick). “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” (Pride and Prejudice). “He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff...

September 9

A great many Baptists foolishly praise early Protestant leaders. They either consider themselves to be Protestants (and indeed many of them are), or they have never learned, or else they have forgotten, what those Protestants have done in an attempt to rid the world of our spiritual forefathers. In the early 1500s there were at least three Baptist churches around St. Gall, Switzerland– Teuffen, Herisau and Brunnen. They didn’t, or couldn’t use, church buildings so they held services under the open sky, baptizing their converts in nearby books and streams. A council was called by Huldrych Zwingli to meet at St. Gall with the purpose of ridding the country of the people they called “Dippers.” After the council, on this day (September 9) in 1527, the following edict was published. “In order that the dangerous, wicked, turbulent and seditious sect of the Baptists may be eradicated, we have thus decreed: If any one is suspected of rebaptism, he is to be warned by the magistracy to leave the territory under penalty of the designated punishment. Every person is obliged to report those favorable to rebaptism. Whoever shall not comply with this ordinance is liable to punishment according to the sentence of the magistracy. Teachers of rebaptism, baptizing preachers, and leaders of hedge meetings [outdoor services] are to be drowned. Those previously released from prison who have sworn to desist from such things, shall incur the same penalty. Foreign Baptists are to be driven out; if they return they shall be drowned. No one is allowed to secede from the [Protestant] church and to absent himself from the Holy Supper....

The Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 14:13

  For the last month there has been quite a bit of hubbub along Spokane’s Monroe Street bridge. It seems that particular the bridge is one of the favorite suicide sites in the city. But a woman, after hearing about a similar situation in England, began posting notes along the railings of the bridge, trying to discourage people from jumping. The messages have been declaring things like, “You are not alone,” “People care about you,” “Suicide is not the answer” and so on. However, someone has been ripping down those signs, while this woman stubbornly keeps putting them back up. Some people have accused her of littering, while others have praised her. Of course, not every discouraged or depressed person goes so far as to consider suicide. Multitudes just “grin and bear it” so to speak. But the fact is, there are great numbers of Americans who dislike their lives – even hate their lives. It is one of the reasons why this country is filled with bars and brothels, drug dens and rehab centers. Some of the denizens of these places, and millions of others, just keep smiling and laughing at the latest jokes, while their hearts are truly unhappy. Solomon describes much of our society when he says, “Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.” Not only is this true of the wicked sinful men, but it is also common among religious people and even Christians. WHY is that? Before I try to answer, please note some background material from here in this verse. In his usual poetic manner...