Believing the Unbelievable – II Timothy 4:1-4

While driving through West Texas, a New Yorker tourist stopped for gasoline at a run-down old station. From a corner of the building there hung a rope, with a sign above it, reading: “Weather rope.” The visitor asked the proprietor how a rope could help forecast the weather. “Well,” replied the old man, “If the rope swings back and forth, we know its windy. If it’s wet we know that its rainy. If it’s frozen stiff we know that its cold. And if its gone, then we know that there is a tornado.” That may be the West Texas method of weather forecasting, but there appear to be better ways. And the best way to learn about the current conditions of spiritual things, it is good to keep a copy of the Bible close at hand. There has never failed a single promise or prophecy of the Word of God – not one! And what it declares about our particular moment is just as accurate as fulfilled prophecy. In fact, it can tell us about things which we cannot see with the naked eye or naked intellect. It reveals what God sees in our hearts and souls. Some of those Biblical statements are rather general, but some are almost painfully explicit. Different prophecies and revelations are like different kinds of paintings: One artist paints a wonderful watercolor, and we know exactly what he is depicting. But the style reflects the subject in general, sometimes blurry way. Then another artist reproduces the same scene, using oils or pen and ink. It’s almost as if he painted or drew every pine-needle...

The Providence of God – Romans 2:4

After Paul’s capture and arrest in Jerusalem, he was called to stand before Felix the Roman governor of Judea. The Jews had hired a lawyer, named Tertullus, to lay their charges before the court. In his opening remarks – clearly designed to flatter Felix and bring him to their side he said, “Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence, We accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness.” Tertullus uttered a word which has been on my mind for two weeks – he spoke of Felix’s “providence.” This is a word used by preachers and theologians to express God’s care and direction of His people, but rarely do we hear the word outside of church. Actually, there are only two scriptures which use the term, and they have nothing to do with God. Tertullus applies it somewhat facetiously to the Roman governor. And in the other verse, where it is translated differently, it is speaking of the Christian. “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” Tertullus used the word “facetiously” because “providence” is more appropriate to Jehovah than to Felix. It refers to making provisions for future needs and problems and then providing for those events. Etymologically the word originates in “foreseeing.” “Providence” refers to seeing a future need and then taking steps to meet those needs. And who is better equipped to provide providentially than the omniscient, omnipotent God? As I meditated on providence, thinking about how...

A Priori – Revelation 1:12-20

Almost everyone who picks up the Bible to read, does so with an “a priori.” “A priori” is a Latin term that comes up from time to time in debates, university lecture halls and other places where someone is trying to impress other people with his superior knowledge. Of course, I’m not referring to myself, because I only desire to expand your vocabulary. “A priori” comes from two Latin words which mean: “from” and “former.” An “a priori” argument is one which comes out of an earlier thought or position. HOWEVER, that earlier idea may or may not be true; it may not be anything more than a theory. So many “a prioris” are not a firm foundation upon which to build the following point. As I say, almost everyone who talks about Jesus Christ, does so with a few predetermined ideas. Some think that He was a good, moral, religious teacher, like Confucius or Moses. Some believe that He is merely a fictional, imaginary literary character. Some say that Christ is dead, while others believe that He is alive. Some intellectually believe that He is divine; and others earnestly worship Him, because He is God. And some love Him with all their hearts, longing to see Him and to hear His voice. There are probably a couple dozen different “a prioris” with which people approach Christ and listen to this morning’s message. But if any of those “a prioris” are wrong, then how can we move that person to the truth? The only worthwhile tool that we have is the Word of God, empowered by its Author, the...

Harvest Heaps in the Day of Grief – Isaiah 17:10-11

This message came out of notes which I took listening to my pastor thirty-five or forty years ago. The title to Brother Johnson’s message was : “Harvest Heaps in the Day of Grief.” To understand this passage, it is important to know a bit about the history of Israel. In the days of Isaiah, Israel was divided into two governments – Israel proper and Judah. Whether talking about one, the other or both, as long as Israel loved and served God she prospered. “Trust in Lord and do good, so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.” “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. “For (Israel) shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.” But Israel was like the absent-minded professor, she was constantly forgetting the Lord and His promises. I have read that shortly after Albert Einstein moved to Princeton, the phone rang in his office. When Einstein’s secretary answered, the voice at the other end asked, “May I speak with the Dean?” The secretary replied that Dean Einstein was not in. The voice then asked, “Well then will please tell me the address of his home.” The secretary said she could not do this, because Dr. Einstein wished to have his privacy respected. Then the voice dropped to a whisper: “Please don’t tell anybody, but...

Wrestling – Ephesians 6:10-13

Some time ago, I was given an article written by the English preacher Peter Masters entitled, “The Holy War.” It was a thought-provoking, well-written application of Ephesians 6:12 to the world of today. This morning’s message comes out of my considerations of that article. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” It may have been ten or fifteen years, but long ago, I read several of the books of Frank Peretti. Peretti was born in Lethbridge, where I tried to pastor for a while. Then he moved to the State of Washington. Some of his stories sound like they come from our back yard, which makes them that much more real. In one I pictured Davenport or Reardon; in another it was somewhere on the Palouse. Those books were all about spirits, demons and anti-christs – the spirit world. Peretti has an Assembly of God background – he is a Pentecostal, so some of his theology is skewed. His understanding of salvation is faulty, so his evangelism is poor and misleading. But what about his presentation of demonism? Some of it sounds like hyperbole, but if we understand Ephesians 6:12, perhaps he was nearer the truth than most of the rest of Christian preachers. Satan exists – there is such a thing as the Devil. That there is a being whose sole purpose is evil, ungodly and anti-god, there should be no doubt. He is clearly exposed in the pages of God’s Word. There is a “wanted poster” contained...

A Foretaste of Jesus’ Coming – John 11

I have taught and preached from John 11 several times. Most of those messages have focused on the subject of either salvation by grace – or our resurrection. This morning I’m going to try to take it just a step beyond that. I want to allegorize the details and bring you a lesson on the soon-coming – the second-coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s begin with an introduction – LAZARUS. “Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)” I have no conclusive proof, but I think that Lazarus was a saint of God. I am going to make that assumption for the sake of our thoughts this morning, but it’s probably true anyway. I know there isn’t a clear declaration of his faith in Christ Jesus, but, for whatever it is worth, I feel that he was a Christian. And if he was a Christian, then he still is 2,000 years later. When the Lord gives a man eternal life, by definition, that man will live eternally under God’s blessings. When this chapter says that Lord Jesus “loved Lazarus” (v.3), it is obviously speaking of special love. It is more than the beautiful sentiments of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life...

The Publican and the Pharisee – Luke 18:9-14

It has been five years since I preached from this text of scripture. This is a different message, but the scripture is the same. Before that, according to my records, it had been fourteen years. I think that we can say that I have not over used these verses. Unlike my last message, I don’t plan to follow an outline of my own devising. What I hope to do today is use the verses to create the outline. And then, with the Lord’s help, I’ll try to let the words in each of those verses deliver the message. The more a preacher adds to the Word of God, the weaker the revelation becomes. Sometimes the soup demands more water, but at some point extra water dilutes the nutrition. Every preacher needs to return to Ezra every now and then to remind himself of the Biblical pattern. “So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” It is my prayer that we will all understand what Jesus Christ is telling us here. This is a parable about two different kinds of people, and one of them describes you. Which of these two you are will determine your eternal state. Verse 10 – “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.” To understand this aright, we must realize that there more similarities than differences between these men. For example, both these men are Jews, descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They are “Israelites; to whom pertaineth the...

The Salvation of Lydia – Zechariah 4:1-10 (Acts 16:9-15)

When Judah returned from her captivity in Babylon, it was not in power and great glory. She was but a remnant of her former self, almost slinking back home like the prodigal son. Despite the blessing of their foreign monarch, her people were an helpless, insignificant bunch, filled with weakness and fear. Zerubbabel was her governor, but despite being a good man, he struggled with his own weaknesses. The prophet Zechariah, however, was there to convey the encouragement of the Lord. We don’t have time to fully expound this interesting scripture, but let me point out just a couple of things: The “mountain” of verse 7 is referring to the trials and difficulties which faced those people. Figuratively speaking, Zerubbabel was going to cut out of that mountain the foundation stone for a new temple, and then he was going to reduce the rest of it to meadowland. But it was not going to be the strength of Judah’s human leader accomplishing this; Zerubbabel was not the Messiah. No, it would not be by human might, or human power, but by the spirit and power of the Lord of hosts. Judah was exhorted not to look down on the apparently insignificant beginning of this great work. “Who hath despised the day of small things?” Don’t you dare! Because the God who can use a slingshot to bring down a mighty giant, can do whatever He chooses. “With men this may be impossible, but with God all things are possible.” In the midst of all your problems and trials never forget that Jehovah is omnipotent. So determine to “cast all...

The Ark of the Covenant – a Picture of Christ – Exodus 25:9-22

When two young people marry, several major changes should revolutionize their lives. Particularly – if it hasn’t occurred already, their partner should become the center of his or her life. “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh.” Their friends, their parents, their hobbies, their problems should move off-center. Even the man’s job should become secondary. “When a man hath taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war, neither shall he be charged with any business: but he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken” – Deuteronomy 24:5 . On an earthly plain, when someone marries, his or her spouse must become the center of his life. But there is another plain of existence – there is the spiritual side of life. In the marriage relationship, we have a picture of Christian and the Lord Jesus Christ. We could spend a hours considering God’s love for His saint. In His infinite magnitude, every one of His elect becomes the focus of His love through Christ Jesus. And obviously, Jehovah in the Person of Christ should become the center of our lives. And in regard to this relationship we have a picture in the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant. I hope to show you that the Ark is a type or figure of Christ. A moment ago we read a few verses describing the construction of the Ark and a few related points. You might have been thinking that this was...

Setting the Stage – John 2:1-11

As a diamond is to a cubic zirconium, so is the Bible to all other books. While one is the genuine article, and the others may be helpful, they are not of the same value. A knowledge of the Bible means an acquaintance with the God of eternity. HOWEVER – a mere intellectual knowledge of God is not much better than a knowledge of math. An understanding of trigonometry or geometry doesn’t impress the God who established laws of math. And speaking about math, I read an article which talked about the importance of two numbers: The first was: 1out of 10 to the 123rd power. This is a tiny, tiny number; the sort of number only a mathematician can grasp. It is the number which Stephen Hawking describes as the chances of our universe being accidentally put together the way that it is today. But an even smaller number – 1 out of 10 to the 162nd power is what mathematician William Dembski says it would take a single cell organism to make a mere thousand positive mutations. Let’s say that the smartest man in the world can explain each of these numbers – that doesn’t make him a child of God. To help me with those two numbers, I may ask my computer for an explanation. Just because my computer may understand them, that knowledge doesn’t give it an eternal soul. “Though I gain the wisdom of a hundred universities and don’t know the love of God, I am but a fool.” The Bible is unique among all books, because it provides even a child with the...

Stephen’s Charges Against Israel (and Us) – Acts 6:8-15; 7:51-53

Stephen had been a relatively recent addition to the disciples of Christ and member at Jerusalem. By that I mean we don’t read of him in any of the Gospels, so he had not risen to prominence among the apostles while Jesus ministered among them. He was apparently not an ordained pastor/evangelist; but he was an ordained deacon of the church. He was a servant of the Lord and of His assembly in the capitol city of Judah. Oh, but what a man of God he was; what an example of what we all should be. Acts 6 describes him as a man “full of faith and power” – a man of Holy Spirit wisdom. When the wicked looked at him, it was as though they were looking into the face of one of God’s angels. Stephen may not have been a preacher of the church, but he wasn’t shy to defend the name of his Saviour. Whether by choice or by providence, it was the will of God that he became embroiled in a dispute with the leadership of the Libertine synagogue – and with Saul of Tarsus. He so thoroughly defeated the corrupted logic of the Pharisees that they had him brought before the Sanhedrin council. Then in chapter 7 he began the defense of his behavior, his doctrines and his faith. That apologetic, although not quite a sermon, took on a sermonic form, flowing along logically, explaining and expounding some of the familiar history of Israel. But with verse 51, Stephen changed his tactics and attitude. The difference between that verse and the preceding verses was...

New Year’s Attitudes – Acts 1:1-11

There are many similarities between the saints at the dawn of 2017 and saints at the dawn of Christianity. But I don’t know if the idea of the “New Year” is shared between them. Ancient cultures did celebrate various solar time-markers, but if they did, I am not sure January 1 was one of them. For administrative purposes, we have established an imaginary line which we call the “New Year.” For the most part, what is on the left side of the New Year is past. And the past is past; our infancy, our childhood, those days without Christ, and now, even year 2016. Admittedly there are remnants of our lives which never look at the calendar. Brother Bill’s broken leg remains broken, and his 2016 case of shingles is still with him. I still have the same old mortgage on my house, and I still have the same very adequate car. BUT – I am no longer a child, and I can’t remember when I could see without glasses. To the disciples it was much the same. Past were the days of the ceremonial law, and even the personal ministry of Christ Jesus. The past is past, and the future is future, and none of us knows for sure what lies ahead. There are right attitudes and wrong attitudes as one enters a New Year – or a new Era. I think we can see that in words of the angel – “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing into Heaven?” “What you should be doing is not longing for what you have lost, but facing the...

The Only One for the Job – Matthew 17:1-8

I think I’ve showed you this book before. It is entitled “Encyclopedia of God’s” with the subtitle: “Over 2,500 deities of the world.” Listen to the bios of some of these demonic deities: Chors, Chos-Skyon; Chu Jung. I mention this book, and its 2,500 false gods, to point out that our Saviour has some competition. Not only does He have competition, but I think that publications like this illustrate the fact that He is despised as well as rejected throughout most of the world. The names “Jehovah,” “Yhwh,” “El,” and “Elohim’ have short articles in here. But the names “Christ” and “Jesus” haven’t been deemed divine enough to be included. The three idols which I just gave you, should have had “Christ” between them, but He is not there. Some hideous demonic creations are mentioned in this book, but my blessed Saviour is not. In the New Age pantheon of gods, there isn’t room for Christ Jesus – “in whom is hid all the fullness of the Godhead.” But here we are, audaciously declaring to all – that the world “must honour the Son, even as they honour God the Father. And he that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.” Calvary Baptist Church is not ashamed to avow: “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of CHRIST, hath not GOD.” Here we are declaring, “He that beleiveth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not Son of God shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth upon him. “God hath given to us eternal life, and this...

Results of Redemption – Acts 16:30-31

My recreational reading lately has included material on the history of Baptists in Kentucky. Included in these books have been dozens of short biographies of the earliest missionaries to the area. Despite the fact that God used them for His glory, many were as different as apple trees and bull pines. For example, some of them were well-educated, while others were completely illiterate. From some, their sermons were logical and deliberate, while others were simple but emotional. Friday, I read the statement of a woman who was so impressed by the depth of a sermon she heard, she praised God for the Lord’s is ability to save even lawyers. I don’t know that I want the style of my preaching to be put into any kind of box. And I am not sure that preaching “the whole counsel of God” permits just one style of delivery. Personally, I prefer textual and expository preaching, exposing the meaning of a few verses at a time. But that is not the ONLY way to present God’s Word. I feel responsible to feed the older saints of God, but also to be simple enough for the child. This can’t usually be done in the same message, so again, variety in messages is required. The outline for this morning’s message has been laying in my notes for decades. Undoubtedly, I heard someone preach it, and I jotted it down. I’ve made it my own message, but perhaps you’ve heard someone else preach the same basic outline much better than you’ll hear today. That’s fine; it doesn’t embarrass me in the least. Many churches after...

Prepare to Meet Thy God – Amos 4:12-13

It is downtown Manhattan – the streets of New York City, or perhaps San Francisco, or Los Angeles. Here comes a man with an unkempt beard, long scraggly hair, army surplus boots & old ragged clothes. But there is a fire in his eyes which could be from passion – or bad wine or perhaps lack of sleep. Draped over his shoulders is a sandwich board with a poorly designed, hand-painted sign. On one side it reads, “The end is near, judgment is coming.” And on the back side there are the words, “Prepare to meet thy God.” Most Christians are ashamed to be associated with this kind of man. This is not our style of evangelism. This is not evangelism at all, and it is certainly not the “gospel” – “the good news.” This is bad news with no hint of any good – at least at this point. And as we look at the fella, we aren’t sure that he could ever offer us anything good. Atheists, agnostics, satirists and other fools have been making fun of this kind of man for centuries. And they will be laughing at him – and at us – until about the middle of Great Tribulation. We are in the last days, when the scoffers, walking after their foolish lusts, laughingly shout: “When is that old, moldy promise of the judgment of God going to be fulfilled? “You Christians have been preaching the coming of Christ for two centuries now. “Don’t you think that it’s time to throw this boogie-man away and move into the real world?” Personally, I don’t like...