Monday, January 16, 2006

Elvis impersonators, preachers, and teachers of the Gospel
I have to admit, Elvis impersonators really get on my nerves. Admittedly, many of them do what they do to honor the king. After all, imitation is supposed to be the highest form of flattery isn't it? To me, most of them just come off as cheesy and clumsy imitations of the real thing. They lack authenticity. They lack substance.
Isn't it easy for preachers and teachers of the Gospel to fall into the same trap? Preaching and teaching that lacks heart and authenticity will never impress or impact a lost world. Our message has to grow out of a heart that is devoted to Christ. Personal disciplines such as prayer, bible study, and meditation are the catalysts for authentic teaching. As God changes our heart and transforms us more and more into the image of Christ, our message and ministry deepens and matures. In fact, the most powerful aspect of any sermon or teaching session isn't necessarily what is being said, but the holiness and devotion of the speaker.
I like what Paul writes in I Thessalonians 2:10, "Vs. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe."
Paul was a man of integrity. No Elvis impersonater preacher, he was real. Authentic. The genuine article. My prayer is that my ministry and the ministry of our Church would model Paul's ministry of simple devotion to Christ. I think the world will sit up and listen to the real thing.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Books for God Seekers

Sunday's sermon is on seeking after God. My prayer is that our congregation would hunger and thirst to know God. My desire as a husband, father and pastor is that first and foremost people know me as a God-seeker.

Over the years several books have been a great help to me in my pursuit of God.

The Spirit of the Disciplines, Dallas Willard
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald S. Whitney
Desiring God, John Piper (any book by Piper is a good book!)
The Wonderful Spirit-filled Life, Charles Stanley
Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan
The Holiness of God, RC Sproul
Why Revival Tarries, Leonard Ravenhill
Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire , Jim Cymbala
Prayer-Finding the heart's true home - Richard J. Foster

I hope that these books can be a blessing to you. They have been to me.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Romans 12:3

Here is today's question. This grows out of Sunday's Bible study lesson. "In Romans 12:3,"God hath dealt to every man a measure of faith". Does he give different measures of faith to different people and why? Does that measure change as we need it ? Does it grow as our faith and trust grow? "

First, we need to define what is meant by a measure of faith. Paul is not referring to saving faith. Believers have already exercised that faith by trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior. He could possibly be referring to faith in the sense of trust and reliance upon God. However, it seems clear that Paul is referring to spiritual gifts and their operation within the body of Christ. Every believer has been given a spiritual gift and is required to use that gift within the context of a local church. Each person's giftedness is unique. Our gift mix is like a spiritual fingerprint or DNA sample, No two are exactly alike. Paul's main application in this passage is to admonish us to be humble. There is no room for arrogance because of great gifts or discouragement because of more common ones. We are what we are by the grace of God. Each of us has a vital role to play in the advance of God's kingdom.

Do our gifts change? I think that as we grow and mature in our faith, our gifts become more evident. This was definitely true in my life. As a minister of music I did not utilize my gifts of teaching and preaching as I do now. But as I grew, it became apparent that my abilities and my passion were in the studying and preaching of God's Word. My gifts didn't really change, they just came to light with maturity.

This brings us to an important point. We must offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to him, before we can know and utilize our spiritual gifts. As we surrender ourselves to God it becomes more and more natural to serve Him in certain areas, and in certain ways. This is a pretty good way to find our giftedness. Be right with God and do what you love to do for His glory.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Quite a few people have come to me lately wanting the name of a good systematic theology text. They requested a book that was readable, affordable, and doctrinally sound. I do have a few suggestions.

J.I. Packer. God's Words. Studies in Key Bible Themes. Baker Book House, 1981.
God's Words is a study of 17 key bible themes. This books is written for the layperson. Packer is one of the pre-eminent theologians of our day. His works are always well-written and grounded in reformed theology. My favorite chapter is on the mortification of sin. I have never read anyone else write so well on this subject.

Charles C. Ryrie. Basic Theology. Moody Press, 1999.
Basic Theology is a good introduction to systematic theology that is both concise and affordable. Section I, Prolegomena is almost worth the price of the book. He is at times too dispensational for me, and I strongly disagree with his contention that repentance is not necessary for salvation. However, the book is a good overview of systematic theology.

Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology. Zondervan Publishing house, 1994.
This is my favorite. I use this book more in sermon preparation than any other systematic. Gurdem is conservative, reformed, and baptistic (all of which are close to my heart). His book is easy to read but still fairly comprehensive. The end of each chapter includes a bibliography, a list of other helpful works, scripture to memorize, and a hymn or praise song that emphasizes the doctrines covered in that chapter. This is a must have book.

Millard Erickson. Christian Theology. Baker Book House.
Christian theology is one of the best baptistic, and calvinistic theologies available today. Erickson presents several different sides to many theological issues, and then provides possible solutions. I also enjoy his sections on the implications of various doctrines. He is the most technical of all the suggested books, but well worth the time.