Office of Deacon (#2 the Problem) – Acts 6:1-7

The early days of the church in Jerusalem were as unique as they were exciting. People were being converted in prodigious numbers – unparalleled at any point since. And after the ascension of Christ a pair of God’s angels offered wonderful encouragement to the eleven, which I’m sure they shared with the others – “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” Under the circumstances, and with the Messianic teaching those men had, don’t you think they expected the Lord’s return sometime during their lives – if not right away? They, and the church lived, served and worshiped under the expectation of the imminent coming of Christ. Acts 1 tells us that the disciples entered into an upper room in Jerusalem, and “these all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.” Acts 1:14 speaks about 14 tor 18 people – the disciples and a few ladies – before we come to verse 15. Acts 1:15 says, “And in those days (apparently a few days later) Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples… (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty)…” Apparently it took a few days for some of the brethren to return to Jerusalem from Galilee. Does that mean that the 500 brethren who were witnesses to the resurrected Christ were on their way? Maybe they were still scattered across Galilee but will later become a part of the church in Jerusalem....

The History of the Pretribulation Rapture – I Thessalonians 4:13-18

When the Lord saved me, more than 50 years ago, I joined a church which taught that the scriptures we just read should be understood simply and directly. I was told that all scripture should be interpreted literally, unless some passage was obviously meant to be understood as an allegory or an illustration. So in regard to I Thess. 4, Paul really meant that we need not be confused about certain future events. Ie., there is no need to worry about those saints who have died. They will not miss what is coming. Their souls are already with the Redeemer, and when He returns to earth they will return with Him. And we, who are alive, will join the resurrected bodies of those earlier saints, to meet Christ in the air. I was taught that the pronoun “we” in verse 17 first meant Paul and the saints in Thessalonica, but now it includes me – and you who are alive and well, trusting Christ as our Lord and Saviour. “Then WE which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall WE ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words,” and comfort myself is something which I have done. This catching up and meeting Christ, aren’t spiritual or virtual events, in the sense of mystical or impractical. This is talking about something literal and real, including physical bodies – as well as souls and spirits. And since Paul was expecting it in his day, but it didn’t come, we have...

Things Above – Colossians 3:1-2

  This afternoon, let’s think about the word “above” as we find it in verse 1. There are several Greek words translated “above.” “Huper” (hoop-ER) for example is found 11 times in the Bible – it is an adverb or a preposition. We find it in the statement: “The disciple is not ABOVE his master, nor the servant ABOVE his lord” – Matthew 10:24. And, “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted ABOVE that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” – I Cor. 10:13. And Philippians 2:9 – “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is ABOVE every name.” Another word translated “above” is “epi,” and this is rendered 5 times as either an adverb or preposition. This speaks about the direction that is over your head. “Para,” “peri,” and “pro” again usually supply us with the idea of direction – but also of importance. For example Paul commanded us “Above all things have charity.” The rest of the “aboves” are various forms of “ano,” and again some are adverbs. But it might be argued that some of them are talking about a PLACE more than a direction. Take for example John 8:23 – “Ye are from beneath; I am from ABOVE: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” Is this a...

More than Conquerors – Romans 8:33-39

When I was a boy, living in Omaha, Nebraska, I played with two brothers who lived up the street. After Craig LeMaster – my best friends were Mark and David Wormington. My mother enjoyed visiting with Mrs. Wormington, but she did not like her husband. The man owned a shady used-car dealership. He sold cars to poor people, taking as much down-payment as possible and financing the balance. Then when they missed a payment or two, he repossessed their cars and sold them again to others. He basically just re-circulated his stock, looking for new buyers all the time. But it wasn’t so much the man’s occupation which upset my Mom – she disliked a particular habit he had. The man like to argue. She said that whatever position she, or anyone else, held, he would take the opposite, just to irritate them. And he had a particular way with words – twisting and turning them in every direction. Plus, he loved to win – he would pull out all the stops to win every argument, even if it meant hurting and alienating people. Perhaps you know, or have known like this – they are miserable unless they in a fight and winning. They are “always” right – whether they are or not – and they make sure that you know it. I hope you are not like that. Generally speaking, Christians should be “blameless… of good behaviour, given to hospitality…not given to wine, no STRIKER, not greedy of filthy lucre… not a BRAWLER, not covetous.” “No striker… not a brawler, not covetous” – not even covetous for wins...

Baptist Distinctives – Jude 1-4

What I have for you this evening will not be much more than an outline – or maybe two or three outlines. There won’t be too much meat on these bare bones, but I have reasons for this. First – the points I’d like to make this evening should we well-known to most of you. In fact we are going over some of these in our morning Bible studies. So there is no reason to re-teach them tonight. Anyway, it could take more than one message to treat them adequately. And yet, at the very least, they need to be reiterated from time to time – “This is what we believe, and this is who we are.” My third purpose is to lay the groundwork for another message or two which I hope to share with you in the not too distant future. You could consider this to be the introduction to a future message or messages. Several weeks ago, I mentioned that I like to hear your questions – easy questions, complex, whatever. I want you to bring to me those things which perplex you or which are disturbing you. I said that sometimes I will have a quick and ready answer. On the other hand, in my diminishing brain-power, you might have to wait while I study the question. And sometimes I will be as perplexed as you, and we’ll have to leave the answers to Bro. Fulton. And then sometimes your questions will develop into a message to share with the entire church. In this case, after Ellie Kjeldgaard came forward for baptism a couple of...

Goliath’s Shield Man – I Samuel 17:1-11

I have read, studied and preached from this chapter many times. But it occurred to me the other day that there has been something I’ve skipped over – over and over again. As Goliath came out to challenge Israel, there was a man who came out ahead of him. Verse 7 – “And the staff of (Goliath’s) spear was like a weaver’s beam; and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him.” This evening, I’d like to revue the Battle of Shochoh, but this time considering also this shield bearer. I confess there are things about the early life of David, which I don’t understand. They are mysterious, just like that of David’s greatest heir – the Lord Jesus Christ. For me, there are problems rectifying David’s position in chapter 16 with what we find in I Samuel 17. It appears that David had already been a musician and an honorary armor-bearer in the court of King Saul. And yet, just before the battle with Goliath, “Saul said to him, Whose son art thou, thou young man? And David answered, I am the son of thy servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.” Why didn’t the king know this already? We could attribute that to the king’s growing insanity. But that still doesn’t explain the ignorance – or the duplicity – of his counselors. I Samuel 17:15 tells us that after some time with Saul, David returned home to his father and the family sheep. It sounds as though this decision to leave was David’s. He wasn’t fired or ordered to go home....

These Are Not Drunken – Acts 2:1-28

Our message this morning was from Acts 2:40 – “Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” We began reading from verse 29 – “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David.” While I was preparing for that message, I began looking over the entire chapter. Coming to verse 15, I was reminded of another scripture I had just seen in my sermon idea notebook. Peter said, “These are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.” The other scripture which popped into my mind was Ephesians 5:18 – “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” These two scriptures are double-linked – they both speak of the filling of the Holy Spirit, and they are linked by “drunk” and “drunken.” A question then struck me: “Why did some of the people at Pentecost say that God’s servants were drunk?” From that two more questions emerged: “Should Christians be offended if people think they are drunken?” And, “Should God’s people actually display characteristics of drunkenness?” Surely not. In trying to answer these questions, I think we might have a lesson or two. To get the background, let’s consider what took place on that very special Day of Pentecost. “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and...

The Brand of Christ – Galatians 6:14-18

As you can see these are the last words of Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. Having studied this book just a few years ago, I hope you remember Paul’s general purpose. The Book of Galatians is a defense of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. It carries warnings against a reversion to the corrupt Judaism which declared that obedience to the law was necessary for salvation. And since this was at the core of his gospel message, this letter also carries a vindication of Paul’s Apostleship. As to Paul’s authority – he reintroduces himself saying – “Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father…” “I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” He says, “When it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood,” after which he relates how the Lord taught him the truth. And as to his defense of the gospel he says, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have...

O Lord, Consider my Meditation – I Timothy 4:6-16

I have been in God’s service and ministry for over 50 years. I say that without the least bit of pride, because I know that I am here only by God’s grace. And I am constantly discovering my ministerial failures. I could give you a litany of those failures, but even in that there could be a hint of pride. So I’ll just point out one for this evening: according to my records I have never preached or taught about “meditation” – even though it is a fairly common Biblical subject. Since I started keeping records of my sermons, the last 40 years, I have preached more than 300 messages directly about Christ, and another 300 on sin, which undoubtedly came back to the Saviour. I have also catalogued 400 messages under the heading of “salvation.” That totals about a thousand separate sermons which were basically “gospel” messages. On the other hand, this is my 744th message which I’ve catalogued under the heading of “Christian Living.” And yet, I’ve never addressed “meditation” as far as my memory or computer records indicate. It may have come up as points within messages about other subjects, but I’ve never made that my primary theme, at least as far as I can remember. Let’s correct that this evening. Among the things about which Paul counseled Timothy, he said, “MEDITATE upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.” I Timothy 4 is only one of two times this word is found in the New Testament of our King James Bibles. In the first occurrence, Luke 21, the...

The Prayer of an Old Man – Psalm 119:81-88

While looking through one of my notebooks of sermon seed thoughts, I ran into the words “Seeing Clearly.” I immediately thought, “Ah ha,” here is something to which I can relate. I know what it is to see poorly, nearly not to see at all, and now to see clearly in some ways but not in others. Today, with my cataracts removed, the world is brighter, and colors are more brilliant than they were a two months ago. On that nearly empty page in my notebook, I started jotting down things which appear to me to weaken eyesight – both physically and spiritually. And then I thought about the verse which I had written just under those two words “Seeing Clearly.” Psalm 119:82 says – “Mine eyes fail for thy word, When wilt thou comfort me?” With that, more thoughts started popping into my head. And then I decided it would be good to look at the context. When I did that it seemed to me that all these verses link together into a somewhat wider message. It’s my prayer that these meditations might be a blessing to all of us. Let’s start where I first started – verse 82. “Mine eyes fail for thy word, When wilt thou comfort me?” Temporarily forgetting one of the cardinal rules about Bible study, I started thinking about the verse very narrowly. Other than a few Proverbs, no verse of scripture comes without a context. But I’m as guilty as anyone, starting and staring at verse 82 as if it was of a private interpretation. Like most scriptures it says one thing...

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 –...

Quality Christianity – II Corinthians 4:17-18

Let’s say that you’ve just been introduced to someone new, and the question of “Christianity” has come up. You want to know whether this person is a genuine child of God or just a name-only Christian. How should we test that person? – Or for that matter, how could that man test US? We should probably start by asking – in whom, or in what, has that man placed his faith for salvation? If he is trusting Mary or the saints to forgive him of his sins, then he isn’t a Biblical Christian. The mother of Jesus needed a Saviour as much as Saul of Tarsus, and neither can save a third person. Then if he is trusting in his church association or his labor for social justice, then he isn’t a true Christian. To be christened, or even immersed, doesn’t wash away sin and create a child of God. We could make a long list of good religious and moral acts which have nothing to do with delivering us from sin and bringing us into the presence of the holy God. Salvation is by the grace of God, evidence of which is repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In Christ alone, “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast.” The exhortation we share with the non-Christian is “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” Okay, we...

They Willingly Offered Themselves – Nehemiah 11:1-2

As Paul was beginning to bring his Epistle to the Romans to a close, he commented – “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning…” If we were to paraphrase Romans 15:4 we might say “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our INSTRUCTION,” and that certainly would not be incorrect. But the word Paul used was “didaskalia” (did-as-kal-ee’-ah), and it is most often translated “doctrine.” “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our DOCTRINE…” But the verse doesn’t end with that word; it goes on to say, “that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” Bible doctrine ought to provide us with a great many blessings, including patience, comfort and hope. It should also supply us with direction, inspiration and encouragement. We aren’t studying the Book of Nehemiah just to kill a little time as we wait for the return of our Redeemer. This study is not for our entertainment – or even to know the Bible a little bit better. We are studying this book “for our instruction” that we might be better equipped to serve our Saviour. You are right, we don’t need to know all the names and places in this chapter. But there are little things – small comments and even single words – which open pathways to instruction which can teach significant doctrine, if we are willing to pay attention and apply. The City of Jerusalem was beginning a new chapter in its life. God’s temple had been rebuilt a few years earlier, and now the city wall had been completed. Those...

We Will Not Forsake the House of our God – Nehemiah 10:39

Even though we have read only one verse this evening I’d like to consider 2 scriptures separated by 3 chapters. Near the conclusion of the “sure covenant” Israel was making with Jehovah, the people promised, “We will not forsake the house of our God.” I’d like you to recall our message from a couple weeks ago about making covenants with the Lord. Remember that I said, “It is very important that you KEEP the promises made to God.” The Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who maketh a covenant in vain – there will be judgment. I didn’t mention it in that message, but I have told you before, about an incident early in my Christian life. Several people from our church, including Judy and our pastor, attended a “Sword of the Lord” meeting in a large church in Denver. John R. Rice preached a powerful message on soul-winning, and at the conclusion he urged us to stand up and promise to God to witness to “x” number of people each week for the rest of our lives. Kids were popping up all over that large auditorium, and some in our group were ready to stand as well. But our wise pastor put out his arms and told us to remain in our seats, whispering that it was a mistake to make a promise to God which would undoubtedly be impossible to keep. I still thank God for that wise counsel. Israel said, “We will not forsake the house of our God” – “We will NEVER forsake the house of God.” But only a few months later in Nehemiah...

Witnessing Something Special – Matthew 3:13-17

  A few months ago, Sister Rosemary loaned me a book. It was work of fiction based upon the Bible. The author retold the story of the last days of Christ, weaving his imagination into what the Bible tells us. It was entertaining and enlightening. I’m going to try to do the same sort of thing this afternoon. I’m going to create a narrative based on the Bible, but I’m going to try to put you into that story. I want you to be a witness to some Biblical events – one in particular. And like many modern stories, I’m going to begin with today – before going back to fill in some of the background details. Chapter One: Introduction. The scene opens with you and three dozen others intently watching and listening to Jesus of Nazareth. Everyone these days is talking about Jesus, but by the grace of God He is more to you than a point of conversation. You have come to understand that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. You are a nominal disciple, your faith is in Him, and you are trying to practice what He has been teaching. Somehow there has grown up in your heart a love, a respect, an awe of this man. In fact, it might be said that you worship Him. As the current lesson and interaction are going on, two men come up from the southwest, pushing their way through the crowd until they are standing right in front of Jesus. Politely they announce that they are disciples of John the Baptist. And they say, “John wants...