“Clearly, the greatest triumph to emerge from the Protestant Reformation was the Bible being placed into the hands of the people, in their own language.”
Why was placing the Bible in the hands of the people so important? Because, in those days, unless you were wealthy or ranked highly within the clergy, you had no access to the written Word of God. The clergy could tell you the Bible said whatever they wanted it to say. (This is precisely why I exhort listeners to read and study the scriptures for themselves. Don’t take a preacher’s or a teacher’s word for it any more than the Bereans didn’t take Paul’s word for it.)
Michelle and I have stood inside the very room in Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, Germany, (see pic below) where the “outlaw”, Martin Luther, illegally translated Erasmus’ Greek New Testament into German, the language of the people. This is when the Five Solas became the war-cry of the reformers.
NOTE: I, in no way, mean to romanticize Luther. Although used mightily by God during his lifetime, Luther was, like all of us, merely human and, thus, deeply flawed. Nonetheless, his story is, both, engrossing and inspiring, challenging any and all to become a responsible student of the Bible.
The reformation is a fascinating period of church history when “all heaven broke loose.” As a result, Satan didn’t go quietly. Like the apostles of the New Testament, the men who championed putting scripture into the hands of all the people paid a high price, some being tortured and some executed.
At dinner one evening in the early 16th century, one Catholic scholar exclaimed that the word of the Pope superseded the Bible. In response, the reformer, William Tyndale, fired back,
“I defy the Pope and all his laws. . . . If God spare my life ere many years, I will cause a boy that driveth the plow, shall know more of the Scripture than thou dost.”
This cost Tyndale dearly. Soon after, he was strangled and burned at the stake. While dying, he cried out, “Lord, open the king of England’s eye.”
If interested, please permit me to recommend a few resources. It’s a story fraught with danger, risk and sacrifice.
I placed the biographies and references in the below photo on top of the Bible since, if Luther were in my office today, would be filled with fury should I not make it perfectly clear that God’s Word, and God’s Word alone, is our sole standard for truth. As the reformers exclaimed, “Sola Scriptura!”
In light of Sunday being Halloween, I strongly considered the church singing The Monster Mash and Thriller. But, I decided against it.
Oct. 31st, for the Christian, has tremendous significance. See below for why that day in history is important.
This Sunday’s service will be different than most. The service will include the Lord’s Supper as well as an Ingathering related to our Debt Retirement Campaign, For the Kingdom.
The question is not only, “Was there strong Bible teaching?”, but also, “Was there strong Bible learning?”This week’s tip: Listening
Everyone knows that person who, when you try to have a conversation with them, they never stop talking. You can’t say a word – because you never get a chance.
When talking to God, prayer is as much listening as it is talking. Likewise, small-group teaching is as much listening as it is teaching.
As teachers, we tend to get into the rut of believing our job is to talk when it would behoove us to set aside time each week to listen to our class members.
In a teacher’s defense, many times no one in the class is confident enough to share openly. But, I’ve learned over the years to let the silence to its work. It’s in the silence that God’s children can finally hear his still, small whisper. Many times, after about ten seconds of silence, I’ve seen people begin to open up. It’s powerful.
And that’s where focused listening comes in. I’m not talking about listening in a sense that we’re already formulating a response while they’re sharing. But, just listening, taking in not only the words of the person, but their spirit, their joy and/or their pain.
Listening is a rare discipline today.
While Jesus was praying, Luke records God speaking to Jesus’ disciples in a thunderous voice, saying:
Luther was merely one of the many courageous men who stood up to the manipulation, lies and half-truths of the church. Some were executed, while others, like Luther, became an outlaw, always avoiding imprisonment.
In honor of Reformation Day, allow me to link here one of my blogs related to Luther’s famous statement, “Be a sinner, and sin boldly.” You can read the blog here.
When I run across substantive articles in the news I like to pass them along to you.
Child sex trafficking is sick and demented. But, it’s huge business for those who are sick and demented.
This article I saw on KCBD offers some resources for help should you ever be confronted with this topic. Read the article here.
I shared this with my class on Daniel a couple of weeks ago for two reasons: (1) because the age of the wall dates back to 586 BC, which is the period of time in which Daniel is set, and (2) to remind them that, among the thousands of archaeological discoveries related to the Bible over the centuries, not a single one has contradicted Biblical history.
Everyone has a worldview whether they admit it or not.
A worldview is a moral filter/conviction through which we decide what is right and what is wrong; what is true and untrue. It informs and frames what we believe about ethics, religion, sexuality, the sanctity of life, politics and so on.
This is precisely why I often state I hold a “biblical worldview.”
“Humans are inherently religious beings, created to be in a relationship with God – and if they reject God, they don’t stop being religious; they simply find some other ultimate principle upon which to base their lives…Faith is a universal human function, and if it is not directed toward God it will be directed toward something else.”
LAUGHTER IS GOOD MEDICINE: Halloween Edition
First, we have a series of photos. A “Haunted House” set up a still-shot camera to catch the reaction of people as they happen upon something that scares them half to death. These are my favorites. I laughed out loud.
And, a bonus…
SOUL FOOD: Paranormal Activity: What the Bible says about Ghosts & things that go “bump in the night”
I wrote this blog years ago, but am always asked to re-post it this time of year. Read the blog here.
Sammy will be encouraging our church as we prepare for “in-gathering day” on the 31st.
The question is not only, “Was there strong Bible teaching?”, but also, “Was there strong Bible learning?”This week’s tip: Sharing the Gospel
While reading an article about the venerable Coach Vince Lombardi this past week, the author made this observation about the coach:
“He made things simple for his players, by taking nothing for granted, repeating the same lessons to them over and over, every day, every year.”
Before anything else in a Christian’s life, there must first come a profession of faith in Christ. As a godly shepherd, never assume (or, like Lombardi, “take for granted”) your sheep are (1) saved, and/or (2) know how to confidently share their faith.
So, every now and then:
Talk about it. Share stories of when you’ve shared your faith. Tell your story of how you came to faith in Christ. And then take a moment to look at stories in scripture when the prophets, Jesus, Paul and the apostles were sharing the good news.
Finally, give them tools to help them share their faith. Help them memorize the Roman Road as well as other scripture that will provide them with confidence to boldly and confidently share Christ’s love, truth and hope with others.
Sadly, the Gospel tends to be “the greatest story rarely told.” Let’s help change that.
Metaxas thought deeply about Time Magazine’s question and sought a reasonable, rational and intelligent answer. As he was investigating evidence for God being dead, he said he kept bumping into “outrageous evidence” for God being quite alive.
During his research, Metaxas, a brilliant man, observed that science, archaeology, and history all point to a divine Creator now more than ever. Here’s one thing he said regarding cosmology:
Another food-for-thought you can pass along to your class to equip them to have intelligent dialogue where the Christian faith is concerned…
I see headlines like this from time to time:
Whenever someone says, “I believe the universe was created by aliens,” I simply reply, “So, you believe there’s an intelligence behind creation?” (They usually don’t see that coming.) Then I attempt to visit about what intelligence makes the best sense of reality.
I saw this on Twitter and loved it. Salviander’s (an astrophysicist) observation is the antithesis of modernity’s back-breaking pace of life.
QUOTE(s) of the WEEK
“People don’t abandon faith because they have doubts. People abandon faith because they think they’re not allowed to have doubts.” – Austin Fischer
“The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven’t yet come to the end of themselves. We’re still trying to give orders, and interfering with God’s work within us.” – A.W. Tozer
And, a bonus…
LAUGHTER IS GOOD MEDICINE
And a bonus…
SOUL FOOD: What to do when you and your teen-aged child drift far apart
For obvious reasons, I’ve written a great deal about student ministry over the years. Perhaps you know someone that might need to read this week’s blog. You can read it here.
Sammy wraps up his series based on his vision for BHBC. This week’s focus is “Go.”
Between Services and After the 10:45 Service IN THE COMMONS
Information About BHBC Ministries & Mission Opportunities will be Displayed!
You can also pick up OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD BOXES
One table will represent our small group ministry (Sunday School & Wed. evenings).
Should you have anything specific you would like for me to include let me know.
The question is not only, “Was there strong Bible teaching?”, but also, “Was there strong Bible learning?”This week’s tip: Spiritual Growth Inventory
Notice I didn’t say Spiritual GIFT Inventory, but rather Spiritual GROWTH Inventory.
I mentioned in a long-past, previous email how important it is to have realistic, reachable, measurable goals. Most leaders find it easy to create realistic goals, but a solid “system of measure?” Not so much.
We’ve spent a good amount of time visiting in staff meetings about this very topic. I would like to share the System of Measure our University Pastor, Shawn Coleman, has used for several years.
First, and very importantly, an inventory of one’s spiritual growth should be between God and the individual, private and confidential. A Spiritual Growth Inventory is not designed to be shared or seen by any person other than the person who it concerns. Simply put, it’s between them/us and God.
Now, here’s Shawn’s System of Measure:
At the beginning of each semester, Shawn hands out a sheet of paper and an envelope to each student.
He asks the students to write down areas in their life in which they desire to see themselves grow in their Christian faith. Perhaps they see a need to begin a spiritual discipline, or remove an area that is impeding their spiritual growth.
He allows as much time as necessary for this, and encourages them to take it home and finish if necessary.
He asks the students to seal the envelope and hand them in to him. He simply keeps them in a safe place, unopened.
At the close of the semester he distributes the still-sealed envelopes to the students so they can read them privately and take inventory of where they are in light of their desires expressed a few months prior.
One caveat: Because of society’s ethos for “works-based approval” i.e. “If I perform well enough, I am love and have value,” any Spiritual Growth Inventory can potentially turn legalistic. Help your class understand the doctrine of grace without compromising devotion and spiritual discipline. God’s love for us is not based on what we do and don’t do – God’s love for us is fixed, inexorably, on Christ’s work on the Cross. But, God longs for us to “leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity.”This is a command, not a suggestion.
So, consider this System of Measure. And, if the Holy Spirits leads, implement it.
WE ALL HAVE THEM: Ministries we neither asked for nor wanted.
Is it really possible? Can God bring miraculous glory out of unspeakable pain?
You bet he can. If we’ll let him. (Everyone of the biblical prophets will testify to this being true.)
I have two quick, personal examples I am strongly convicted to share with you:
Dallas Baptist University: Jonathan Mansur is a youth pastor friend of mine (he’s now lead pastor at FBC, Willow Park, near Ft. Worth). Jonathan and I served at Super Summer (a huge youth camp) on the campus of HSU in Abilene together for several years. He is a cherished friend. This past Spring, he texted me with the link I’ve provided for you below. It’s the testimony of a young man named Carey Williams, a former student of Jonathan’s, during chapel at DBU. If you would listen to what Carey says beginning at the 22:40 mark and listening until the 28:30 mark (only 6 minutes), you will (1) hear Carey’s brutally honest story of holding a gun to his head, and (2) better understand how making the difficult choice to accept a “ministry we never wanted” can change the world. Listen to Carey’s story here.
Lubbock Christian University: I have enjoyed attending the Lanier Lectures at LCU. They continue to bring in renowned, engaging and relevant speakers. The first time I attended, I listened to Oxford’s Alister McGrath. And just yesterday evening, 10/12, I listened to professor/author/apologist, Dr. Paul Copan, who holds the Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy & Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University. I have four of Copan’s books so I was very interested in hearing him. The venue was full. And his lecture was outstanding. After his lecture I was headed back to my car, but the Holy Spirit kept telling me, “Go introduce yourself to Dr. Copan.” I did not want to. But, I did. He was so kind and personable. I very quickly shared how Jesus used Christian apologetics to help me find my way back “home” after my son took his life. He looked at me and said,
“I speak to so many people who have suffered so much pain in so many different ways. Could I have your contact information and use you as a resource? There are people I come in contact with that you will be able to help better than I can.”
I stood there in stunned disbelief. And then said yes. He graciously allowed me to get a photo with him. Have you suffered in life? (Of course, you have.) Stand back and watch God use it for the saving of many lives. Only God can give this kind of purpose to our pain.
Well, why not use a comment Dr. Copan stated during his lecture?
“Dennett asserts that anything that is not scientifically verifiable is not true. Of course, his assertion is self-defeating since it cannot be verified scientifically. To be clear, Dennett’s statement is not scientific, but philosophical.”
Science is necessarily agnostic. It offers no opinion as to whether or not God exists. What science does is provide information – evidence. And the evidence is overwhelming for the existence of God.
QUOTE(s) of the WEEK
This week’s first quote is short – yet profound. For all facing uncertain or unsettling seasons of life. From Lewis’ Chronicles…
Sammy unpacks the third of four pillars related to his vision for BHBC. This week’s topic is, in the word’s of the rock group, Queen: “a crazy little thing called love.”
I simply wanted to tell you how grateful I am for you, your devotion to Christ, your love for people, and for being a part of our Appreciation Banquet this past Sunday evening. Additionally, thank you for your continued notes and texts I continue to receive regarding the evening.
A huge thank you goes out to Cindy Andrews, the Men in Black, and the rest of her team who did everything I envisioned to help say “thank you” to all of you.
I have already invited a potential guest speaker for next year’s banquet. I have no idea if their schedule would even allow for them to come. All I can tell you is that I “reached for the stars” with this one.
Every time I bring a guest in for a ministry event I tell them the same thing: “I know God is use you to minister to us; but I am praying God uses us to minister to you, as well.” I want you to know Jim and Michelle Hardwicke were lifted up by your love and joy.
As I was reflecting what God had convicted Jim to present to us, the Holy Spirit brought to mind Jim’s thesis: “A call from God = a profound impression that God wants you to do something for Him.”
May we never fall into Satan’s trap of thinking “this is what God’s called me to do forever. I’m comfortable here.” A study of the scriptures reveals two clear principles regarding his activity in our life:
God calls us by assignment. Every person God used throughout scripture was “interrupted” from their otherwise normal life and given an assignment. Just look at Abraham, Moses, David, Gideon, the prophets, the apostles, the list goes on and on. David was a shepherd, a musician, a king, and a poet. Samuel served as a prophet, priest, judge and anything else God wanted him to do.
God is not concerned with how comfortable we are in life. In fact, scripture testifies that God quite likes making us uncomfortable. I often quote C.S. Lewis here: “If you’re looking for a religion that will make you feel comfortable, I would certainly not recommend Christianity.”
The question is not only, “Was there strong Bible teaching?”, but also, “Was there strong Bible learning?”This week’s tip: Is your class “closed” or “open?”
During a Staff Meeting today, I found out that in 2013, after our entire church completed a survey, the answers regarding Sunday School told a heart-breaking story: our Sunday School groups felt “closed” to guests. Ouch.
What is a “closed group” vs. an “open group?”
Some groups are designed to be closed. For instance, a women’s study is for women only. A military veterans’ group is for veterans only. You get the idea.
However, “closed groups” should never be a part of the DNA of our BHBC small group ministry. Closed groups have the feel of a “holy huddle” – a club, of sorts. A closed group places little to no emphasis on reaching new people for their class. “Why rock the boat with ‘new blood?'” They’re comfortable with who already attend. And, should a new person visit the class, the new person tends to feel like they’re “on the outside looking in,” like the proverbial “fifth wheel.” That new person will never be back. I can promise you that. Would you come back?
Just as I covered back in April when we addressed “The Art of Welcoming,” I honestly don’t think our leadership at BHBC would ever intentionally exclude new guests. Our leaders are wonderful. It’s easy to become comfortable with those who’ve been attending for a while. (Satan will make sure of it.) As in “The Art of Welcoming,” we simply have to make certain we are intentional in our efforts to help people feel welcome, being careful not to introduce ourselves and then immediately return to visiting and sitting with our long-time friends, leaving the guests out of the conversations.
When someone brand new walks into your class, how do you think they feel? Like your class is closed, or open? Our goal is to make them feel more loved than they’ve ever felt by a church, warmly welcomed, as we show them genuine interest and joy.
By the way, never – ever – forget the war that is playing out spiritually at the moment a guest (or someone who hasn’t been in a while) walks through your classroom door. It’s stressful enough just mustering the courage to visit (or return to) a church. Satan attaches himself to their anxiety and fear. All they need is one reason to turn around and go home. We just never want that reason to be us.
The exhibit will be in the Commons all morning.
One table will represent our small group ministry (Sunday School & Wed. evenings).
Should you have anything specific you would like for me to include let me know.
IS “ONCE SAVED, ALWAYS SAVED” BIBLICAL?
I post a lot of theology and food-for-thought on social media, and receive some great responses that have led to solid conversations (I’m involved in one now regarding this topic).
Every now and then, I am surprised by how much response a particular post receives. Printed for you here is one such post that I wrote just a couple of days ago. As of today it’s been shared 55 times. It’s a basic doctrine of scripture sometimes referred to as “the perseverance of the saints.” Hopefully, it is elementary theology to you. But, apparently, there are many out there who are very curious as to what the Bible has to say about whether or not we can lose our salvation. nw
Can a person who’s sincerely professed their faith in Christ lose their salvation?
First of all, what a miserable, not to mention terrifying, way to live – always wondering if you’ve been good enough to merit being saved. Always wondering if you’re headed for heaven or hell.
Second, over and over again, the Bible teaches that the possibility of losing one’s salvation is a lie from the father of lies to keep a person in bondage to “salvation by works” i.e. “If I work hard enough to be good… If I can check off all the boxes on my ‘good’ list, then God will love me.”
The problem with this is obvious. Do your best to keep checking off those boxes. Then, tomorrow – start all over again. Insanity. This is a weight no human being can carry, much less accomplish.
On the Cross, Jesus both bore that weight for us and accomplished what was necessary for our redemption. This is what he meant when, from the Cross, he said, “It is finished.”
Jesus always chose his words carefully. When he visited with Nicodemus about being saved, Jesus used the words “born again.” Why did he do this? To convey truth. You and I can call our parents awful names and say mean things to them. But, the truth remains: we’re still their child. We can’t be “un-born” from them.
The same applies, as Jesus told Nicodemus, to our being “born of the Spirit.” We can’t be “un-born again” spiritually any more than we can be “un-born” from our parents physically.
To put it another way, our fellowship may be broken. But the relationship never changes. (The younger son in Luke 15:11-24, although hatefully rebellious, never ceased to be his father’s son – the father representing God.)
Different faith-worldviews abound promoting a “work your way to heaven” theology. In other words, “if my good works outweigh my bad works when I die, I get into heaven.”
You won’t find that lie in the Bible. What you’ll find is just the opposite.
“Biographies written about subjects who lived in the recent past, relative to the time of writing (e.g. those by Tacitus and Suetonius), especially those penned in the early Roman Empire, were generally marked by a *greater* concern for factual accuracy. In such cases, biographers were expected to reject implausibilities and to seek to write what was *true*. The Gospels, penned within fifty or so years after Jesus’ ministry, fall into this category.”
“That the Gospel writers were determined to produce an accurate account of Jesus’ life is especially clear in the opening of one of them, the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:1-4). This prologue is very much in the mold of Thucydides, Polybius, and Josephus. Luke clearly claims to be writing history conforming to the highest standards of Greco-Roman historiography.”
Colin R. Nicholl; Ph. D., University of Cambridge
QUOTE of the WEEK
“When God delivers you from evil, don’t keep in touch.”
On Presidents: “I have performed for twelve presidents and entertained only six.”
On his six brothers: “That’s how I learned to dance. Waiting for the bathroom.”
On his family’s early poverty: “Four of us slept in the one bed. When it got cold, mother threw in another brother.”
SOUL FOOD: How I Forgave My Dad
I don’t know that I’ve ever posted my story for you. I tell people all the time, next to my profession of faith in Christ, no other decision has so changed my life than forgiving my dad. Church pews are packed with people who’ve been hurt deeply, yet have never been able to forgive the one(s) who’ve hurt them. Forgiveness and trust are two separate things. There is no pressure or expectation to trust again someone who’s hurt you. But, forgiving them will set you free. Maybe you know a person who’s never been able to forgive someone. Maybe you’ve never been able to forgive someone. Read my story here.