December 27

Benajah Harvey Carroll was born on this day (Dec. 27) in 1843. His father was a Baptist preacher and the rest of his family were devoted Christians. His brother, J.M. Carroll, authored the often-published booklet “Trail of Blood.” Despite being surrounded by the gospel, B.H. Carroll for years remained an unbeliever and avowed infidel. He later testified, “My infidelity related to the Bible and its manifest doctrines. I doubted that it was God’s book. I doubted miracles. I doubted the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth. But more than all, I doubted the vicarious expiation for the sins of men. (But) I never doubted that the Scriptures claimed inspiration, nor that they taught unequivocally the divinity and vicarious expiation of Jesus. If the Bible does not teach these, it teaches nothing.” As a thirteen year old boy, in a protracted “revival meeting” B.H. was coerced by well-meaning adults to join his father’s church. They repeatedly asked leading questions to which he was forced to gave affirmation simply to end the attack and embarrassment. He was baptized as a dry sinner and arose a wet sinner. At that point he vowed never to darken a church door again. However, some time later his mother convinced him to attend a brush arbor meeting where an evangelist challenged the unbelievers in the crowd to consider what they had without Christ. “Have you found anything worth having where you are? Is there anything else out there worthy trying that has any promise in it? Well then, admitting there’s nothing there, if there is a God, mustn’t there be something somewhere? If so, how do...

The Christian Wrestler – Ephesians 6:10-18

I’m going to piggy-back this devotional onto Brother Fulton’s lessons about running the Christian race. This scripture refers to wrestling. It doesn’t happen very often these days in the highly technical world of Olympic Sports, but it used to be that really good athletes competed in more than one sport – not just different events, but different sports. For example, a really good swimmer or runner today might enter several related races – 200 meters, 400 meters and a relay or two. But as far as I know no marathoner also entered the boxing or wrestling arena. However, when it comes to allegories of the Christian life, we get to do that. Bro. Austin’s lessons from Hebrews 12, about running with patience the race that is set before us, have been a great blessing. Was Austin using the words of Paul in the Book of Hebrews and that allegory about running? Were those Paul’s thoughts as directed by the Holy Spirit or did someone else write Hebrews? The Bible doesn’t tell us, and there are arguments both pro and con. But if we assume that Paul brought up the subject of running the race, and also about wrestling and even boxing, one might wonder if he was a nominal sports fan. Do you question my reference to boxing? Didn’t Austin refer once or twice to I Corinthians 9:24? “Know ye not that they which RUN in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to...

How to Celebrate the Birth of Christ – Luke 2:6-20

This has been one of the most unusual “Christmas” seasons in our life times. Many of the traditional social and family activities are being cancelled, curtailed or changed because of the virus hysteria. But life must go on, as they say. So our neighbors and some of our relatives are finding new ways to celebrate – creating new traditions. Fear not. I am not going to tell you how to celebrate “Christmas” in this confusing year, or in any other year for that matter. I am a preacher of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and “Christmas” is not a part of the gospel. As strange as it sounds – the modern celebration of “Christmas” has very little to do with the birth of Christ. For most people Christmas” is about gifts, parties, food and sentimental movies. I don’t know how many times I have heard in the past week that the primary focus of Christmas is on the family. For years experts have been scouring the writings of history, looking for references to “Christmas” or “December 25″ as the birthday of Jesus. According to one source, after a hundred years of research, the first known reference to December 25th was in the year 336. In an old list of Roman bishops these words appear – “25 Dec.: natus Christus in Betleem Judeae.” If that source is true, and it probably is, the first reference to the birth of Christ as taking place on December 25th was made more than 3 centuries after the event. That is 50% longer than the entire history of the United States. For...

December 20

John William Jones was married on this day (Dec. 20) in 1860. That fact has nothing to do with today’s vignette, it just gives us a reference to the calendar. John Jones was born in 1835, and he was born again while a teenager. He was preparing himself for missionary service when he married, but he and his wife never made it to the mission field due to the commencement of the Civil War. Jones enlisted in the Confederate army as a private, but was soon appointed as a chaplain serving as an evangelist. In 1887 Brother Jones wrote a book entitled “Christ in the Camp” in which he recounted the service of the many faithful chaplains in the Southern armies. He wrote, “any history of this army which omits an account of the wonderful influence of religion upon it – which fails to tell how the courage, discipline and morale was influenced by the humble piety and evangelical zeal of many of its officers and men – would be incomplete and unsatisfactory.” It is said that more than 100,000 Southern soldiers trusted Christ during that war. He wrote, “It is believed that no army in the world’s history ever had in it so much of genuine, devout piety, so much of active work for Christ, as the Army of Northern Virginia. None but the most severe revisionists in America would dare deny the fact that both General Robert E. Lee and General Stonewall Jackson were born-again believers.” When Chaplains Jones and B.T. Lacey visited General Lee one day, they mentioned that many people were in prayer for him,...

The Narrow Way – Matthew 7:13-20

I have shared this story with you several times, but never in its entirety. Let me correct that this morning. Years ago, I flew from Calgary, Alberta down to Lubbock, Texas to attend a Bible conference at the Tabernacle Baptist Church. Two of my closest friends in the ministry were there – E. L. Bynum, the host pastor, and Forrest Keener from Lawton, Oklahoma. Those two men were extremely close and probably considered themselves to be each others’ best friend. Both had a great sense of humor, and both poured that humor out on the other on many occasions. One evening during the conference, as Bro. Bynum rose to introduce his friend Forrest Keener as the next speaker, he went onto the pulpit with a handful of strips of paper. Earlier, he had taken twenty or thirty sheets of white paper and cut them lengthwise into strips 1″ by 11.” Then he introduced his friend, announcing he had special paper for those of us who liked to take notes. He said that Forrest Keener was one of the deepest, but narrowest, of all the preachers he knew, and that this kind of paper would be perfect for notes on his message. Of course, most of the congregation burst into laughter, I included. But then I looked over at Bro. Keener and noticed that he was not laughing, or even smiling. He was either already plotting some sort of friendly retaliation. Or perhaps he didn’t particularly like being described as “narrow.” I think I can safely say that most people do not like being described as “narrow.” Sometimes that implies...

December 13

Edward Pierce was born in Gates County, North Carolina, on this day (Dec. 13) in 1870. The Lord saved his soul when Edward was sixteen, and shortly after that he was called to preach the gospel. He graduated from Wake Forest College and then from Southern Baptist Seminary. Brother Pierce, despite being well-known for positively preaching Christ, was not one to back down from a fight against sin. He made many friends but also powerful enemies. In 1917 the 18th amendment to the Constitution was passed by Congress. It declared that the production, transportation and sale of liquor was illegal. Immediately, the criminals of the underworld stepped in to supply the demands of thirsty sinners. And in response to them, preachers across the country preached against the evils of the liquor trade. Edward Pierce was among them. For the rest of the story we turn to an article from the Cumberland County “Herald” – “On the fifth day of June, 1923, two Garrett brothers armed approached and invaded the Baptist parsonage at the Cumberland Court House, Cumberland County, Virginia, about eight o’clock in the morning. Mrs. Pierce, with a cooing baby girl in her arms, met the armed Garretts at the door and informed the men that her husband was in bed. When the two men insisted on seeing the preacher he was called and came to the door, from which he was dragged into the yard, his nose broken, his face beat up, one eye beaten to a poultice. The second brother allowed no one to render any assistance to the struggling minister, not even his frail wife...

Penniless Preachers – Nehemiah 13:10-13

The title of this lesson is “Penniless Preachers.” Twenty years ago I would have had a hard time preaching this message because of the connection it would have exposed between you and me. It might have appeared to be self-serving, worldly or even downright greedy on my part. Not only didn’t I have any money, but the church didn’t either, because none of you were particularly rich, and there weren’t very many of us. But today, things are much different. This is not about you, and it isn’t about me. It is about other churches across this country and around the world. It is always easier to preach about other people and their sins than it is about us and our sins. When Nehemiah originally left Persia, he told King Artaxerxes he would be gone only a certain length of time. After the completion of the wall and certain other things, he was obligated to return to Sushan the palace and to make a report to his boss. But obviously, by that time Nehemiah’s former position as cupbearer had been filled by another, so he wasn’t returning to his old job. Artaxerxes apparently didn’t have need of his services any longer. So permission was granted for him to return to Jerusalem as governor – perhaps as a permanent position. We aren’t told how long Nehemiah was away, but it was probably more than a year and perhaps longer. Upon his return, just as he had the first time, Nehemiah made an inspection of the city. But this time, he was not looking so much at the physical condition of...

The Dying Saint – Nehemiah 13:31

When we started this study last April, I said that Nehemiah could be used as an illustration of a New Testament Christian. Despite not knowing anything of Jesus Christ, this man’s trust was in Jehovah, and his service was for the glory of God. As we have seen over the last 8 months, he was not a typical Jew, worshiping God like some sort of robot. By the grace of God he was a child of the King of kings. From day #1 in human history, Ephesians 2:8 has been true, “by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” God’s gift of grace had been given to this man, and I have no doubt that he is with the Saviour today. Early on, I also said that Nehemiah was not a priest, a Levite, or a king, but an uncommonly common man. The Holy Spirit laid a need upon his heart, and he did was he could to meet that need, sacrificing a great deal in the process. Even though he knew nothing about the institution of the church of Christ, much of what Nehemiah did can be taught in the light of New Testament churches – their needs and their responsibilities. He built a wall around the congregation at Jerusalem, helping to identify it as God’s Holy City. And with that wall he protected its members from the unbelievers without, very much like publishing and teaching a church doctrinal statement. Then like a godly church deacon, he urged his fellow church members into a period of revival, highlighting...

December 6

According to David Benedict’s Baptist history, a church was formed in Salem, Massachusetts, in the year 1780. On this day (December 6), a year later, Samuel Fletcher was ordained as their pastor. He was 33 years old, had been saved about thirteen years, and had been preaching about three years. He not only pastored in Salem, but the Lord blessed his ministry in the surrounding region. This was during the period when there was little social or governmental toleration for religions other than the state-approved Congregational church. On one occasion several Baptist preachers were visiting Bro. Fletcher. They were enjoying one another’s fellowship and looking forward to a baptismal service the next day, when three officers of the law came into the house where the brethren were gathered, telling them to get out of town for their own safety. When one of the Baptists asked if their lives would be in danger if they did not depart, no answer was given. But the expressions on the faces of the intruders left the impression that there was the potential for serious trouble. The brethren disbursed, agreeing to meet further up river the next day. When they came together at the appointed hour, six converts were immersed, further strengthening the local assembly. Persecution eventually did fall on Brother Fletcher and the church, but the Lord’s grace was sufficient, and the Baptist’s testimony to the truth continued in the...

Statutes of Limitation – Nehemiah 13:1-31

I confess that from the moment we started this study of Nehemiah I have been dreading this chapter. I read this book several times before we started, and I knew it concluded with an unpopular and controversial subject. Now, here we are. But as is most often the case – the problems we imagine aren’t as awful as they really are. The more I studied this chapter and subject, and the more I prepared for this message, the more excited I became. Nehemiah tells us that he was pained and grieved by something he saw when he returned to Jerusalem. Well, I was at first pained and grieved by something I saw in this chapter. Nehemiah says in verse 7 – “And I came to Jerusalem, and understood of the evil that Eliashib did for Tobiah, in preparing him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. And it GRIEVED me sore…” That may have been painful to him, but to me verses 23 and 25 are far more painful – “In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab…” “And I CONTENDED with them, and CURSED them, and SMOTE certain of them, and PLUCKED off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves.” That may be the approach some men use in their ministries, but it is contrary to my nature. Separation from awful, ugly, deadly sin is one thing – and it may be easy –...