Book Review

January 28, 2017

Finding Forgiveness
©2016 by Stanley D. Gale
Reformation Heritage books
120 pages

Stanley Gale provides for the reader a very clear yet thorough explanation of how forgiveness is part and parcel of the Gospel. Forgiveness is a divine accomplishment. He states that Christian maturity is a matter of a growing realization of the wonder of God’s forgiveness in Christ. This forgiveness that we have experienced is the basis for our forgiving others. We forgive others by removing the wrong done to us from our sight (Psalm 103:12) and remembering not (Isaiah 43:25). Remember not does not imply that we can forget the wrong, but that we no longer bring it up to the offender or others.

Of particular benefit is his chapter on forgiving ourselves. He says that self-forgiveness is not a Biblical concept. Forgiveness is ours through Christ’s redeeming work. We must continually remind ourselves that we are forgiven. Justification is the gift that keeps on giving.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to better understand how the Gospel allows us to find forgiveness. This book freely provided for review and there was no expectation of a positive review.

Why you should go to church on Christmas

December 7, 2016

I know that Christmas provides a number of reasons to skip church. You could go to Christmas Eve service instead. Families like to gather Christmas morning to open presents. You may have places to go and people to see. You may have a big meal to prepare for. I’m sure you can add more reasons.

But you should come to church anyway. Why? Well, it’s Sunday. Christians go to church on the Lord’s Day. It’s what we do because that’s the day Jesus rose from the dead to give us victory over sin, death and the grave. Why would you skip church especially on the day Jesus was born? He was born to die you know.

Also, it’s Christmas. Christ-mas. It’s the day we celebrate the incarnation, the birth of the Messiah, and the entrance into the world of the second person of the Trinity. Don’t you want to celebrate that? Don’t you want to join your brothers and sisters in Christ to sing about that? Don’t you want to hear the Word preached on the day the Word became flesh?

Finally, your family is a gift, not a god. It’s great to wake up on Christmas morning and open presents, especially if there are children there. Christians love their families. But Christians are to love the Lord and Savior most of all. Jesus is the ultimate gift and gift giver. Your family is a gift but don’t ignore the giver.

December 25 is a Sunday before it is Christmas. I hope to see you in Church on Sunday. It will be an encouragement to the others who are there, guests and members alike.

A Woman President? Thank you Jesus

August 4, 2016

Last week, history was made when a major American political party nominated a woman as their candidate for President of the United States. If she wins the election, she will join a significant group of other women around the world who have risen to leadership in their countries, including but not limited to the Chancellor of Germany and the Prime minister of Britain.

What do all these nations have in common? They are so-called Christian nations. The history of Europe is the history of Christianity. The EU was born out of the Holy Roman Empire. Christianity played a pivotal role in the development of these nations.

On the other hand, women continue to suffer in Islamic nations. I first thought my title should be “A woman president, thank God.” By that, I meant thank God, not Allah. It is the God of the Bible who created Male and Female in His image. Who said to both of them that they together have stewardship over the earth.

What led to the difference between the treatment of women in Western nations and Islamic and other nations of various religions? Christian principles of the dignity of all people, of the worth of both men and women, equal rights, the sanctity of all life.

In Islamic countries, many women are property, often sold into slavery or forced into polygamous marriages, or victims of so-called honor killings. They can’t vote, can’t drive, must cover themselves from head to toe.

Who do we have to thank that we don’t live in a society like those? Jesus Christ.

My Philosophy of Pastoral Ministry

August 11, 2015

I have been in some type of pastoral ministry since the age of 21. At that time, I closely identified with Timothy of the New Testament. I made the Apostle Paul’s advice to him my own. “Let no one look down on your youthfulness…” (1 Timothy 4:12 NASB). Also, I took the rest of that passage (4:12-16) as my personal philosophy of ministry. Thirty-three years later they remain my overarching principles.

1 Timothy 4:12-16 requires me as a pastor to be worthy of respect in four areas. I strive to be worthy as a person, as a pastor, as to proficiency, and as to progress.

As a person (4:12) I am to give attention to my character. I am to be foremost Christ-like in my speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.

As a pastor (4:13) my primary attention is given to the Word. My text is the Bible, spiritual transformation is the goal and teaching is the process.

As to proficiency (4:14), I am constantly striving to develop my gifts, not content to rest on past performance.

As to progress (4:15-16), I want my growth to be evident. I’m not perfect and God has not brought me to perfection. I believe if the congregation sees in me humility and a desire to learn, they will do the same. We all will be the better for it.

The Supreme Court isn’t in Washington D.C.

July 6, 2015

I want to address the recent Supreme Court decision legalizing what is popularly referred to as “Gay Marriage.” By the reaction of the media and the President’s administration, you would ascertain that it was a unanimous decision. However, it was not 9-0 it was 5-4. This means that if just one other justice had changed his or her mind it would have been 5-4 the other way. Would the media and administration be declaring the issue resolved? That it’s the law of the land, so keep quite? Somehow I doubt it.

What I am about to say is not just an academic exercise for me. These comments were not created in a vacuum, but as some of you know, this is very personal to my family.

In many ways, this ruling doesn’t affect you & me at all. Nothing has changed in our day-to-day lives. Your marriage remains a sacred trust between you, your spouse, and God. As a church, we still have the freedom of speech. As a pastor, I am still free to decide which weddings I will perform or will not perform. My job this morning is the same as it was 2 weeks ago, “Preach the Word.” For now nothing has changed. For Now.

Just because the Supreme Court of the United States rules on something doesn’t make it true. In the Dredd Scott decision, the court ruled that African-Americans were not full persons. In Roe v Wade, they ruled that unborn babies aren’t persons at all. (BTW, just like the abortion ruling didn’t make the controversy over abortion go away, neither will this ruling make this controversy go away). This redefinition of marriage creates a slippery slope. We all know polygamy is next. Making something legal doesn’t make it God’s will.

It is clear that the court’s intention was not just equalization among people regarding marriage, but moral acceptance of it. This is why everything has changed. This institutionalization of what the Bible considers sin, puts people who believe the Bible on notice. Our views are not tolerated.

This decision is saying to Christians that our churches are next on the gay right’s movement’s list. The same force they pursued marriage, they are going to pursue our freedom. This isn’t a conspiracy theory, or the tea party talking. This was the opinion of the four dissenting Supreme Court Justices.

Within days there were calls for the end of church’s tax-exempt status, an end to college accreditation for Christian institutions (thus ending access to federally subsidized student loans), for the removal of military chaplains that won’t agree. All these things are coming, but we don’t panic. The Bible never promised tax exemptions. The Supreme Court of the United States can do a lot of things, but they can’t put Jesus back in the grave.

I don’t know what the future holds. I know who holds the future. God is in control. Our hope is in God. Our faith is in His Word. Our message is the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ. We must continue to love people no matter their sinfulness. But we must continue to love them enough to tell them the truth. God sent His Son to die for sinners, heterosexual and homosexual. We are all sinners. The difference is Christians weep over our sins, not celebrate them.

Giving up your children for the kingdom

May 14, 2015

I don’t know if with age automatically comes wisdom, but I do know it brings perspective. Having grandchildren gives me a much greater appreciation of the cost my parents paid for my being in full-time ministry. Allow me to explain…

In December of 1987, Sharon and I packed up our twin 18 month old daughters and moved from Milford OH to Ft. Pierce FL, so that I could become the new pastor of the Immanuel Baptist Church. I was 27 and felt called to preach the word to whoever would have me and wherever that took me. Even if it was 1,000 miles away from home. My love for the Word, the Lord, His church meant that my extended family would have to play second fiddle. If I had to leave behind Mother and Father, Sister and Brother it was a price I was willing to pay.

I did not realize at the time that I was not the only one paying the price.

When my daughters graduated from High School, we had an open house and for the only time my mom came to PA. We had videos playing on the living room TV of my daughters when they were young. No one was really paying attention except my mom. As I happened to walk through the room the video of the day that I packed up my wife and daughters & drove off for Florida was playing. To no one in particular I heard my mom say, “That was the saddest day of my life.”

What was to me a great day of excitement, the fulfillment of a dream, an embracing of a calling, was to my mom the saddest day of her life. I took away her grandchildren. My kids have not really known their grandparents.

Now I am a grandparent. My daughter and her husband are in the ministry in another state. His desire and obedience to God’s kingdom may eventually take him across the country or across the globe. And it will take my grandchildren with them.

My parents were excited when I felt the desire to go into the ministry. I am proud of my son-in-law’s desire to serve the Lord. Am I willing to pay the price? Am I willing to give up my children, my grandchildren for the kingdom’s sake? For the cause of Christ? Are you?

I went to church “online” this morning

December 28, 2014

I went to church “online” this morning

I was on vacation this Sunday Morning. I took this particular Sunday off because I was planning on being back in my hometown. The church where I grew up was celebrating the retirement of the man who was my youth pastor. Long after he left ministering primarily to young people (and their parents) he continued on at the church ministering to folks of all ages as well. After 40 years of faithful ministry to the same congregation, he is retiring. Today was his day. I had hoped to be there, but one of my two pregnant daughters has decided to have a baby tomorrow, so I chose not to go back “home” (of course it’s not home any more, mom and dad are in heaven). So, I had the very unique opportunity for me of experiencing church without being “up front”.

The church back home “live streams” the Sunday Morning service. Through the miracle of the Internet I got to sit in on the service. Although I have listened to or watched literally hundreds of recorded sermons, this is the first time I ever went to church online. Here are my reflections from my virtual visit.

First of all, thank God for technology. God the Creator made man to be creative, to be inventive. That common grace allowed me to experience a church service 500 miles away in real time. If I were ever hindered from attending in person the congregational worship service I would be blessed to have this available.

Secondly, I was edified by the message. I heard the Word preached. The audio was clear, the video as well. Again, if illness or injury ever prevented me from congregating with my brothers and sisters, I could still be fed.

Thirdly, it was not the same as being assembled together with other believers.
I didn’t greet anybody. I didn’t shake anybody’s hand. I didn’t ask how anybody was doing. I didn’t encourage anybody. I didn’t hug any older folks or give a fist bump to any kids. I didn’t call anybody by name or tell them I have been praying for them.

I didn’t sing. I love to hear other people sing, but worship singing is congregational. I am not the audience. God is the audience. I am the worshiper; I am a part of the choir in the pews who praise our Lord and Savior. Sitting at home, I didn’t sing, I listened. I didn’t worship, I observed.

I didn’t know what to do during the prayers. I didn’t pray along. It felt weird to close my eyes, so I watched someone pray, but I didn’t feel apart of it.

I didn’t participate in the offering. I didn’t check to see if the church has an online giving option. Maybe they do and I could have given. But I didn’t.

Sadly, there are many who physically attended church this morning who can say the same things. What a shame, I hope next Sunday this doesn’t describe you.

Book review of “Healed at Last”

August 4, 2014

Healed at Last
by Scott Blackwell
© Matthias Media 2014
199 pages

Once again Matthias Media has exported theological truth from Australia to the United States. Truth that many American Christians would do well to heed. Healed at Last is a much-needed corrective to the many errors of the so-called faith healing movement.

The author uses his experience to demonstrate the problem with using experience. Scott Blackwell was stricken with pneumococcal meningitis as a young boy. He has suffered with the effects of the disease his whole life. He has prayed for healing his whole life. And his prayers have been answered, just not in the way the faith healers promise. He has received spiritual healing while he waits for that final day when he will receive ultimate healing, that day when Christ makes all things new.

This is more than just a testimony, or a Biblical exposition on healing. Although it is both, this book is also a book on how to properly read and interpret Scripture. In fact I believe that is its strongest point. Blackwell stresses the difference between the descriptive and prescriptive elements of Scripture. If more Christians would understand this division much error in interpretation could be avoided.

I highly recommend this book. Matthias Media freely provided this book for review and there was no expectation of a positive review.

One of my all time favorite sermons (tongue in cheek)

July 8, 2014

Humor is always rooted in truth

Book Review of “Active Spirituality”

June 6, 2014

Active Spirituality: grace and effort in the Christian life
©2014 by Brian Hedges
Published by Shepherd Press
143 pages

“Acedia” n. spiritual or mental sloth; apathy. Thomas Aquinas wrote about it in the 13th century. Brian Hedges writes about it in the 21st century. Medieval monks worried about it in the midst of their solitude. We confront it in our media age. “I sometimes wonder if acedia now manifests itself in frittering time away on smartphones and the Internet, in channel surfing…” (pg. 25)

This book appears at an opportune time, as a debate is ongoing concerning the believer’s means of sanctification. Into the fray steps the author, who addresses the issue using an unusual format, a series of letters written to a young Christian. It is a follow up to his first book Christ Formed In You: The Power of the Gospel for Personal Change.

Brian Hedges believes that acedia is the enemy of progressive sanctification. “We are after all, commanded to grow. Contrary to what some people may think or desire, spiritual transformation doesn’t happen instantaneously or automatically. Rather, change is an intentional process. It requires planning” (pg. 101).

This book presents the balance between resting in Christ and walking with Christ in the Spirit. Although I confess the book started slow for me, and its style may not be for everyone, I recommend it.

This book freely provided for review by Shepherd Press and there was no expectation of a positive review.