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Five Common Myths about Christmas

Today we look at the remaining five books that made my list of the best in 2023. Again, they are cited in no particular order.

I want to thank all of you for your positive responses to the statement posted today by me and Michael Sullivant. But I do want to bring clarity to one matter.

We write to you today with sorrowful hearts. As many of you know, we both served on the senior leadership team at Metro Christian Fellowship (MCF) alongside Mike Bickle – Michael from 1987-2000 and Sam from 1993-2000. During those years, we were in (what we felt was) close fellowship with Mike and Diane - meeting as couples multiple times every month. This camaraderie continued until such time as Mike stepped down as lead pastor at MCF to form IHOPKC as an independent ministry.

It wasn’t an easy task, but this year I’ve limited myself to the best 10 books of 2023. There are certainly several more that could easily have made my list, but these are the ones that stand out for their excellence. In this article I list the first five. Tomorrow I will cite the other five that made my list. Here are the first five, in no particular order.

Much is being said and speculated about the so-called NAR, or New Apostolic Reformation. Does it exist? If so, what is it? Michael Brown does a good job of unpacking this for us.

Today I want to conclude a two-part meditation on God’s gift to us at Christmas. We are looking at how this is unpacked in Isaiah 9:6-7.

Christmas, for some, can be an especially discouraging time of year. One often hears of those suffering from “seasonal depression” or the “holiday blues” as they contemplate the loss of a loved one, a failed marriage, unemployment and the financial pressure of being unable to provide gifts for their family, or perhaps a child who simply won’t come home. But I have good news for you today! You have a reason to rejoice that far exceeds the combined effect of the difficulties and disappointments you face. The reason comes in the form of seven blessings from God, but not the sort that you find wrapped with ribbon and bow and placed under a tree. Rather, these blessings are embodied in one gift, one person: Jesus Christ.

Not many of you living in the U.S. will recognize the name of David Pytches. But those in the U.K. certainly will. David died on Tuesday last week, November 21. So, if he is relatively unknown here in the states, why am I acknowledging his passing?

In light of recent events in Israel, I was asked to address the question of the timing of the rapture. Let me say up front that I don’t believe there is any clear connection between what is happening in Israel and Gaza and the return of Christ. That said, here is a section from my book, Kingdom Come, that focuses on the primary text to which many appeal in defense of a pretribulation translation of all living saints.

I’ve grown accustomed to people charging me with exaggeration whenever I speak about Paul’s letter to the Romans. After you hear what I have to say, you may join the choir of those who insist I’ve gone too far. So here it is. Paul’s letter to the Romans, quite simply, is the single most important and influential piece of literature ever written.

If you were to sit down over coffee or lunch with an unbelieving friend or co-worker and they asked the question, “What is Christianity?” how would you answer? I hope you wouldn’t point to a building with a steeple, as if a physical structure defines what Christianity is all about. And I hope you wouldn’t point to any individual, even one as godly as the Apostle Paul or Billy Graham. My hope and prayer is that you would say, “Well, that’s easy. Christianity is Jesus Christ!” Here is how John Stott put it:

Rome. It is only one word, and yet it evokes an entire world of history, drama, and political intrigue. One cannot speak the word without thinking of the Coliseum and the Catacombs, not to mention the many Caesars: Julius, Octavian, Augustus, and Tiberias. The pomp and circumstance of Rome, its social influence, military might, as well as its moral decadence, have made it perhaps the most famous city in all of human history, second only to Jerusalem.

I still vividly remember the first time I shared the gospel with another person, face-to-face. I had spoken at a couple of evangelistic rallies and shared my testimony about becoming a Christian. But this was the first time I sat across a table from one person and talked about Jesus.

Last week we talked about the reality of shame when it comes to sharing the gospel with unbelievers. I related my own experience with a high school classmate who, by God’s grace, actually came to saving faith. But as I told you last week, I was afraid that he might ask me a question that I couldn’t answer. The fear of being challenged in a way that we feel inadequate to address often keeps Christians silent when they know they should speak.

Have you ever wondered why there are so many non-Christian religions in the world? Have you ever wondered where they came from? How and why did they develop? Are they all simply variations of the truth or perhaps imperfect pathways to the one true God? What relationship, if any, do they sustain to biblical Christianity? And is it arrogant and judgmental of us to suggest that they are all in error and that Christianity alone embodies the truth about God and eternal life?

I face an immediate and unavoidable challenge in talking about homosexuality. In Romans 12:9 Paul exhorts us to “let love be genuine.” And in Romans 12:10 he commands us to “love one another with brotherly affection.” Here is the challenge. He also says in our passage in Romans 1 that some expressions of human sexuality are impure, dishonorable, contrary to nature, shameless, and deserving of eternal judgment. So, how can one be loving and yet say such things about homosexual conduct?

Last week we examined what the Bible says about homosexuality, both in the OT and primarily in Romans 1 in the NT. Today we turn our attention to two topics. First, I want to say a few words about the so-called “transgender” movement. Second, I want us to think deeply about the practical implications of how to live consistently with what the Bible says on these two highly controversial subjects.

In his acceptance speech for the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion in 1983, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn addressed the reason for the Russian Revolution that resulted in the slaughter of 60 million people. After spending fifty years studying this question, Solzhenitsyn summarized his conclusion with this statement: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

To the extreme frustration of most preachers, sermons are frequently forgotten moments after they are delivered. I ought to know, I’ve preached my fair share of truly forgettable sermons!

There is no more important question for anyone to ask and answer than this: How might I be forgiven of my sins and reconciled to God, my Creator? I’m not suggesting that we don’t face other challenging issues in life. For some, it may be about which political party one should align with, or perhaps whether one should remain independent. I know many parents who feel the most pressing question right now concerns the education of their children: home school? private school? public school? Or perhaps some other option I haven’t considered.

I can’t begin to tell you how often people challenge me, either in the form of a question or a protest, that goes something like this: “How can God be just when so few people have access to the Bible? How can God possibly be good and fair if he condemns people for failing to believe something they never heard?” “I can understand why God would hold the Jewish people during the time of the OT accountable for their sins. They had the Law of Moses. They knew what God’s will was. They knew what he demanded and commanded, so their disobedience is certainly deserving of judgment. But what about the rest of the world that didn’t have the privilege of reading God’s law or the opportunity to obey it?” “How can God fairly judge all people when everyone has differing levels of access to God’s will and ways? Wouldn’t it be unfair for him to judge someone who grew up in remote regions of the Sudan by the same standard that he judges someone who grew up in OKC?”

I assume that most of you have heard of Ravi Zacharias, a world-famous and widely published Christian apologist. I heard him speak in person for the first time at a conference where I was also speaking in Orlando, Florida, back in the early 1990’s. I was astounded by his range of knowledge. He displayed what appeared to be a photographic memory as he cited at length, without notes, extensive quotations of famous individuals. He was articulate, energetic, passionate, and many, to this day, attribute their Christian faith to his influence. His books sold more than 2,000,000 copies.

By God’s grace, I’ve only been called to serve on a jury once. It was in Dallas in 1983. As it turned out, the accused had already pled guilty. Our task was to assess the appropriate punishment. In order to make our job possible, the assistant District Attorney of Dallas County rehearsed for us the evidence against the man and called several eyewitnesses to the stand to testify concerning the heinous and high-handed character of his crime. I’ve thought often since that day that we were, perhaps, too severe in the punishment meted out.

Most of you will not know the name of Dr. Marvin Knight, but he served for many years as the orthopedic surgeon for the Dallas Cowboys professional football team. Those of you who are old enough to remember, can probably envision in your mind a tall man wearing a huge cowboy hat lumbering out to the middle of the field to check up on a player who had just been injured during the game. That was Dr. Knight. I saw him dozens of times on TV treat injured Cowboy players before I ever met him in person.

If you were to ask me who, in my opinion, was the most frustrated and pathetic man ever to appear on TV, I would immediately point the finger at Hamilton Burger. Many of you are too young to know anything of Hamilton Burger, as he appeared regularly as the District Attorney on the TV show, Perry Mason, which ran from 1957 to 1966. I refer to Burger as frustrated and somewhat pathetic because he never won a single case against Mason, the defense attorney. He suffered one crushing defeat after another. It certainly wasn’t for lack of effort or skill. Burger would amass before the court what he believed was irrefutable and convincing evidence against Mason’s client, the accused.

Do you remember the famous story told by Hans Christian Anderson concerning the Emperor and his clothes? According to the tale, a group of very clever con men approached an Emperor offering to weave for him a rare and costly garment that would be unlike any other garment in the world. This garment would have the marvelous, indeed, the magical capacity of revealing to the Emperor all the fools and idiots in his kingdom. Because of the special quality of the threads, the garment could be seen only by the wise. It would be invisible to all fools and morons.

When I was in seminary a group of professors and students went into the streets of downtown Dallas to take a survey. They approached the people on the street with two questions:

Donald Grey Barnhouse was for many years the pastor of the Tenth Presbyterian Church in downtown Philadelphia. He died in 1960. During the time when he was actively in ministry, he was asked to address a combined meeting of several civic clubs in a certain city. After speaking on the gospel, a friend whispered in his ear: “Dr. Barnhouse, that man over there is a prominent businessman who always tries to trick our guest speakers. I just thought I’d warn you in advance.”

The founder and first President of Dallas Theological Seminary was Lewis Sperry Chafer. He died in 1952. When I was a student there we were required to read most of his 7-volume Systematic Theology. Virtually every theological issue was addressed in those seven volumes, some of which I disagree with.

I don’t know if you have picked up on this over the years that I’ve been senior pastor here at Bridgeway, but one of the primary things that I have tried to do is to prepare you for suffering. I know that sounds strange, but there is a reason for it. Suffering, more than anything else in life, poses the greatest threat to our belief in God’s goodness. When stuff happens, painful, distressing, discouraging stuff, our instinctive reaction is to blame God either for causing it or for not intervening to make it go away. When that happens, we take offense at God. We become bitter and resentful, and our faith starts to dwindle and weaken.

Have you ever read a passage of Scripture and immediately recognized yourself in the text? I do, every time I read Romans 5:6-11. You may wonder how that could be, given the fact that the personal name of “Sam Storms” does not appear in it. Oh, but I’m there. I’m there, writ large. I am the one who is “weak.” I am the one who is “ungodly.” I am the “sinner.” I am God’s “enemy.”

Romans is known for many things, one of which is that more than a few scholars consider it to be the most theologically complex and challenging book in the Bible. That being the case, it is worth asking: “What specific passages in Romans give it this reputation?” Some of you who are familiar with Romans might point to Romans 7. Others would argue that Romans 9 is the most challenging chapter. But I believe it has to be Romans 5:12-21.

Why did God become a man? Why did the transcendent, majestic Lord of the universe, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, condescend to become a human being in the person of Jesus Christ? Why did he suffer humiliation and rejection from his own creation, ultimately to die naked and beaten upon a Roman cross? Why did Jesus Christ come into this world?

There quite simply is no more pressing, practical issue for every one of us than how to gain victory over the temptation and sin that we encounter each day of our lives. Those temptations are many and varied, ranging from pornography to deceitfulness to selfishness to theft to lying to lust to irrational outbursts of anger to adultery, jealous, envy, and so on. I’m sure if I provided you with an even more extensive list of the challenges we face every day, most if not all of you would at some point raise your hand and say, “Yeah, that’s me. You nailed it. That’s my struggle. That’s my sin.”

I want to tell you a story about an exceedingly odd Christian man. He is known to history as St. Simeon the Stylite. Simeon was born in 390 a.d. and died in 459. At the age of 13 he heard a sermon on the Beatitudes of Jesus from Matthew 5. He immediately cast himself down at the door of a monastery, begging to be granted entry. He lay there several days and refused to eat or drink. He grew accustomed to eating only on Sundays.

I’ve been profoundly affected these past few weeks by something in Paul’s language here in Romans 7. I didn’t at first give it much attention, as I was focused on trying to make sense of what he says about the law and our relationship to it. But there it was, in Romans 7:4.

Can anyone who just heard the text we read from Romans 7 honestly say, “I can’t relate to that? I don’t recognize myself in what Paul says. I’ve never experienced this internal battle with indwelling sin. I don’t know what the apostle means when he describes himself as wanting to do one thing only to discover that he does its opposite. I can’t relate to his description of himself as doing the very things he hates while failing to do the things he loves.”

What are the two most glorious words that a sinful soul can hear? What are the two most encouraging and heartwarming words that I could speak to you today? What two words have more power to lift you out of depression than any others? What two words can put your fears to rest and deliver you from anxiety and doubt? What two words do each and every one of you here today need to hear from God? No condemnation!

When I was a sophomore at the University of Oklahoma, the Christian apologist Josh McDowell arrived on campus and spoke at the student union. If you’ve ever heard McDowell speak, you know that he is incredibly articulate and persuasive. He spoke that night on a wide range of topics, but focused primarily on the gospel of Jesus Christ. The many facets of that gospel which we have been examining thus far in Romans were addressed.

I’m often blessed by reflecting on the many ways in which the Bible portrays our relationship with God. There are all sorts of illustrations and metaphors and vivid word pictures that in one way or another describe who we are. For example, in the OT the people of God are an army, of which God is the commander-in-chief. Numerous times, in both the OT and NT, we are described as sheep, with God as our shepherd. We are also portrayed as a building or a temple, of which Jesus Christ is the cornerstone. On several occasions we are portrayed as a body, of which Jesus is the head.

In reading your Bible, have you ever felt as if a verse of Scripture suddenly seemed to leap off the page and smack you upside the head with a thud. And it hurts! When I say, it hurts, I mean that it is a sudden jolt to the system. It’s a bit scary. It’s unnerving. It may be downright painful to your soul. You read it and say to yourself, “I wish I hadn’t read that. My life and emotional stability in general would have been much better off had I never seen this statement.”

I hardly need to remind you of the devastating and destructive power of what we call nature or the material creation. In the past few months, we have witnessed Hurricane Ida, as well as ravaging fires throughout the western United States, accompanied by record-breaking high temperatures. As I recall, one day this summer it reached 130 degrees in Death Valley.

Yet another survey of professing Christians was recently conducted. And once again the results are terribly disappointing. The survey was conducted by the Cultural Research Center of Arizona Christian University in its recently released American Worldview Inventory, an annual survey that evaluates the worldview of the U.S. adult population. Conducted in February, the survey included a nationally representative sample of 2,000 adults. What did the survey reveal? Some 62% of self-identified born-again Christians contend that the Holy Spirit is not a real, living being but is merely a symbol of God’s power, presence or purity.

I don’t know if you have noticed this, but in the past few years I seem to have introduced quite a few of my sermons with a long list of all the tragedies, trials, and devastating events in our world. I’ve talked about earthquakes and tsunamis and hurricanes and pandemics and racial division and economic hardships and recurring diseases and raging wildfires and military conflicts and political upheaval, and countless other issues we face each day.

Churches and denominations throughout history have often argued and divided over a number of issues, such as: (1) the role of women in ministry leadership, (2) the timing of the rapture, be it before, during, or after the so-called tribulation, (3) water baptism: is it for infants of believing parents or only for those who have come to personal faith in Jesus Christ, and (4) the question of miraculous gifts of the Spirit: did they cease with the death of the apostles in the first century, or do they continue into the present day?

I have a guaranteed answer to one of the most pressing questions you will ever ask. I have a remedy for what may well be the greatest fear in your heart. The question and the fear are the same: Will God’s love for me one day dissipate and disappear? Is there a limit to his love? Is it even remotely possible that one day he will simply grow tired of me and give up? The answer is a resounding, No!

I sometimes wish the Bible were like Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary. Although it would lose its literary flare and beauty, at least we would have precise definitions for all the doctrines of the faith. We could look up under “T” the Trinity and find an inspired definition. Or we could turn to “S” and discover the definition of salvation.

Today, unlike most Sundays, I’m going to forego any form of introduction to the sermon. The depth and complexities and challenges of our passage today requires as much time as possible. So let’s jump into the deep end of the theological pool right from the start.

E. D. Hirsch, Jr., was professor of English at the University of Virginia for many years. As far as I know, he is still alive at the age of 93. His most famous book was titled, Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know. Hirsch is convinced that there are certain facts and information that are foundational to literacy. He has in mind dates, events, people, and ideas with which you should be conversant if you hope to function properly in American culture.

The issue of race and the potential it has to divide and disrupt the life of our culture at large and the church in particular has, perhaps, never been so much in evidence as it is today. On numerous occasions in the past, I’ve explained how the division and racial hostility between Jew and Gentile threatened the very existence of the early church. You may also recall the strategy that Jesus gave the disciples for how the gospel of the kingdom would be spread, and simultaneously provided them and us with a remedy for racism. He said in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Today we are going to dig deeply into the subject of prayer, or should I say the “mystery” of prayer. All of us, without exception, struggle to pray. Some attribute their failure to pray to the busyness of life: “I just don’t have time,” so they say. Others don’t pray because it so often seems rather one-sided, as if I’m doing all the talking and I struggle to believe that anyone is listening. Then there are those who have become disillusioned when requests they have brought to God for years remain unanswered to this very day.

I’m sure you have come to expect a special message on the Sunday before Christmas, and this year will be no exception. But that doesn’t mean we won’t be in Romans. After considerable thought and prayer, I honestly couldn’t think of a passage of Scripture more suited to Christmas than Romans 10:5-13. Think about it. Christmas is the glorious good news that God has sent his Son to save his people. This is what the angel said to Joseph when he discovered that Mary was pregnant:

I’ve got a story to tell you. It concerns a young lady by the name of Jackie. From the age of eight she repeatedly heard in her heart the simple exhortation, “Go.” Jackie lived in England, together with her identical twin sister and parents. She graduated from the Royal College of Music in London with a specialization in playing the oboe. At the age of 22 she still couldn’t shake the voice that had beckoned her for so many years. With what appeared to be such a vague sense of calling, no missionary organization would sponsor her. She finally decided to follow the advice of a pastor named Richard Thomson, who told her, in so many words, to take a slow boat to China and pray that God would tell her when to get off.

I want to ask all of you a question today, but I don’t expect you to shout out your answer. Here it is. What single event in the last 75 years has had the greatest impact on the Christian church? The impact doesn’t have to be a good one. It may be, but it might also be damaging.

Last week I shared with you my opinion that the single most influential event in the last 75 years, as far as its impact on the Christian church is concerned, was the formal establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948. There are many today who would share my opinion, but they do so for different reasons. Some believe that Israel’s emergence as an independent nation is important because it is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy, and may very well be a sign of the soon return of our Lord Jesus Christ.

If you were to conduct a wide-ranging survey that asked, “What’s wrong with the Church in America?” I am quite certain that a variety of answers would be given. I have no intention of listing them all. Instead, I have one answer of my own. It may strike you as odd when you first hear it, but bear with me. The greatest problem in the contemporary church is that people are bored with God. They aren’t so much offended with him or confused by him. They are simply bored.

I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that at no other time in the experience of the church in the 21st century has there been such an urgent, vital need for Christian holiness as there is right now. It grieves me to say this, but hardly a day passes that I don’t either hear or read of another scandal, some scurrilous bit of news, be it financial or sexual or in some way related to spiritual abuse or bullying. And I’m not talking about what goes on in Hollywood or Las Vegas or on Wall Street. I’m talking about the professing Christian church. The effect of it all is to cast an ever-lengthening shadow over the integrity and purity of the evangelical body of Christ.

One would be hard-pressed to identify a more controversial subject in Scripture than that of spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. So, today we will closely examine Paul’s list of gifts here in vv. 3-8 and spend most of our time on defining what prophecy is and how it operates in the local church.

On the eve of his crucifixion, sometime during the observance of that last Passover meal with his disciples, our Lord said something of profound significance, something the implications of which not even his disciples fully understood at the time. “By this,” Jesus said, “all people will know that you are my disciples, if . . .” (John 13:35).

If a person didn’t know anything about human nature, he might look at all of us today and conclude that we have very little in common. We don’t all look alike, dress alike, walk or talk alike. Well, maybe in Oklahoma we all talk alike, but you get my point. Each of us has his or her own distinctive personality, unique likes and dislikes, all of which might lead someone to think that we are fundamentally different from one another.

In October of 2021, a survey of some 500 registered voters in Oklahoma revealed that 64% favor the death penalty, with 41% strongly in support of it and 23% somewhat in favor of it. 23% of those polled oppose the death penalty. 13% said they were undecided. We may soon find out if these percentages are accurate, as Democratic State Representative Mauree Turner has filed legislation for the 2022 session that would create a state question to be voted on to determine if the death penalty should be retained. Twenty-three states have already abolished the death penalty.

It’s been many years since this incident occurred, but I can still remember the story of Joan Andrews, a small, soft-spoken Roman Catholic. On March 26, 1986, she entered an abortion clinic in Pensacola, Florida, and attempted to damage a suction machine used to perform abortions. She was arrested, charged, and convicted of criminal mischief, burglary, and resisting arrest without violence. The prosecution asked for a one-year sentence, but the Judge gave her five years. She was taken to the Broward Correctional Institute, a tough maximum security women’s prison where she was placed in solitary confinement. She served 2 ½ years of her sentence.

This is one of those special paragraphs in God’s Word that is so rich and thick and abundantly overflowing with truth that it will take all my time to unpack it for you. So, I’m going to forego any formal introduction and jump immediately into the deep end of the pool. There are three primary areas of focus for us today. First, I want to address an issue that comes up in the light of Paul’s exhortation not to “owe” anyone “anything” (v. 8a). Second, I want to explore what it means to love one’s neighbor as oneself and how doing so is a fulfillment of the law of God. Third, we will look at the urgent exhortation of Paul in vv. 11-14 that we “put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires” (v. 14).

One of the foundational pillars on which Bridgeway Church is built is the divine inspiration and absolute authority of Holy Scripture. To put it bluntly: when the Bible speaks, we listen. But what should the Christian do when the Bible does not speak? Every issue on which the Bible does speak, it speaks infallibly. But the Bible does not speak on every issue. It is not an encyclopedia of ethics. What, then, are we to do when issues arise on which the Bible remains silent? How is a Christian to act on matters not directly addressed in Scripture, especially when they cause conflict and division in the church? That is what Romans 14 is all about.

Virtually every moment of every day every Christian is forced to make decisions or choices between alternative courses of action. Often these decisions are of little if any moral consequence: decisions such as what to wear to work, where to eat lunch, which of many differing cars one should purchase, and so on. Other decisions, however, are of great moral consequence. They are decisions that affect not only ourselves but also the people around us. These are the decisions we do not take lightly. As Christians, our first course of action is to turn to the Bible, for we know that in his written Word God has provided us with inspired, infallible, authoritative guidance to help us make the right choice in any given situation.

Today, I want us to start at the end of our passage, rather than at its beginning. We read in v. 7, “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Here we are not only told what to do, but why. The end game, as it were, is made explicit. We are to strive in God’s grace to be a hospitable people, and the reason why is so that God may be glorified. Now, how did Paul get there? What led him to this conclusion, and how does it affect the way we approach life together here at Bridgeway Church?

There are numerous things that mattered greatly to Paul, a reflection of what matters greatly to God. It is God who placed these burdens on the apostle’s heart that he in turn might place them on ours. Now, what “burdens” do I have in mind? What one critically important “thing” weighs so heavily on Paul that he would repeatedly call on us to embrace?

Here in Romans 15:18-19 Paul mentions four important truths to account for the success of his evangelistic ministry. He refers to the primary instruments by which he successfully led pagan Gentiles to believe the gospel. First, Paul points to the “word” he proclaimed. He verbally declared the truth of who Jesus is and what he did. Second, his ministry was also characterized by “deeds.” This could conceivably include everything he did, be it acts of mercy or generosity or compassion or serving the poor. But the more likely reference is to the “signs and wonders” that he was enabled to perform, which is the third expression of his evangelistic ministry. Fourth, he accomplished all this, both word and deed, signs and wonders, “by the power of the Spirit of God.”

All of us will admit, I am sure, that Romans is the most complex biblical letter when it comes to deep theological truths. It stretches the mind and confronts and challenges our personal theological preferences more so than any other NT book.

I’ll be the first to admit that prayer is one of the more perplexing mysteries in the Christian life. Why does God repeatedly encourage us to pray? If God wants to accomplish some goal for his own glory, why doesn’t he just do it? Why does God tell us that if we hope to experience certain blessings, we must first ask for them? Does prayer really make a difference? Does prayer change things? Can we expect God to do for us apart from prayer what he tells us in Scripture he will do for us only through prayer? These are important and challenging questions, and there is hardly a more helpful and instructive passage in Scripture where answers can be found than right here in Romans 15:30-33.

Today, as we inch ever closer to the conclusion of our time in Romans, I want to address an issue that I’ve rarely mentioned on Sunday mornings. It seems only wise that before I step down as Lead Pastor that I articulate as best I can what we believe the Bible says about women in the life of the church, and more specifically, women in the life and ministry of Bridgeway. So, buckle your seat belts, and let’s see what Romans 16 and the rest of the NT have to say on this topic.

Whenever I come across a passage in the Bible like Romans 16, I can’t help but think about what Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. I’m sure you know that text quite well, but let me shine a light on it again today:

Perhaps never before, during the last 2,000 years, has there been such a vitriolic, venomous attack launched against the Christian church as we see today. I know this sounds a bit grandiose and maybe even a bit melodramatic, but consider a few undeniable facts.

My first sermon in Romans was early in October of 2020. Here we are, nearly two years later, concluding our study of the single most important letter in the single most important book in the world. It has taken us 65 weeks to get here, but I trust that you have found it to be a blessing and an encouragement in your Christian experience.

Last year, Ligonier Ministries in Florida conducted their annual theological survey among professing Christians. The results were shocking and disturbing.

If you don’t know this about me by now, you should be aware of the fact that I don’t do well in the presence of surgical procedures or detailed descriptions of bodily functions or our internal organs. As a result, I was not in the room for the birth of either of our daughters. I know that in today’s world it is expected that fathers be present when their wives give birth, but I come from a slightly older generation. After all, the doctor needed to focus on Ann and our newly-born babies and not on trying to revive me from having passed out on the floor!

There are so many things in this world of ours that I don’t understand that I often wonder if I understand anything at all. I don’t understand how an ugly, slimy little caterpillar can become a beautiful, graceful butterfly. I don’t understand how a rectangular box in my house can transform electrical impulses into a movie or sporting event of remarkable color and sound. I don’t understand how typing on the keyboard of my laptop produces letters and words and images on the screen in front of me. I don’t understand why all of us have an appendix. Do you understand where the end of the universe might be? Can you explain gravity? How does the human brain work? Why is there something rather than nothing? Since this is Mother’s Day, I suppose I should ask: How does a baby not drown or suffocate in its mother’s womb? And while we’re at it, who really shot President John F. Kennedy?

When you hear the word “glory”, what comes first to mind? Perhaps it is the pomp and festivities surrounding a royal wedding, such as that between Prince Harry and Megan Markle last year. Or maybe the first thing that comes to mind is the Presidential Inauguration here in the U.S. Or does “glory” evoke images of a world-class athlete standing on the podium at the Olympic Games as he/she receives a gold medal for having set a world record?

Humility is not easy to define. It’s even more difficult to experience in one’s life! The apostle Paul has perhaps given us the best working definition of humility in Romans 12:3, where he writes:

We all know that Jesus is the central figure in all of Scripture. In fact, he is the central figure in all of human history. We’ve already seen this in John 1. John the Apostle has made it clear that the Son of God is eternal. He never began to be but has always been and always will be. He is God. He is the Creator of all things. He is the source of understanding and intelligence. The only reason we know anything at all is because of the enlightening work of the Son of God, whom John calls the “Word” (John 1:1). He is the reason we have been born again and adopted into the family of God. And at a point in time, centuries ago, this Word literally became flesh in the person of Jesus, without at any time ceasing to be God (John 1:14).

It comes as no surprise to me that there is a wide variety of opinion among Christians concerning the nature and frequency of miracles. Let me explain what I mean.

[The place of the Temple cleansing/judgment in John’s gospel needs to be addressed. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all place the record of Jesus cleansing the Temple at the conclusion of their gospel accounts, during the final week of Jesus’ life, only days before his crucifixion. But John describes it as occurring at the very beginning of our Lord’s public ministry, some three years earlier than what we find in the synoptic gospels. One of two explanations is given for this. Some believe that John has moved the story to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry for literary and theological purposes. It isn’t uncommon for the gospel writers to rearrange the chronology of certain events in order to make a theological point. Perhaps that is what John has done. But it is unclear what that theological point would be. Most believe, on the other hand, that Jesus entered and cleansed the Temple twice, once at the beginning of his public ministry, which is the event that John describes here in chapter two of his gospel, and a second time, some three years later, at the close of his ministry, just prior to his crucifixion. Therefore, Matthew, Mark, and Luke describe the second of the two Temple cleansings. Although we can’t be absolutely certain, I think the weight of evidence points to two cleansings, not one.]

A major corporation in America recently re-structured its management team and embraced a new mission statement. This corporation then declared: “We are born again!” Because of urban renewal efforts, city leaders declared that the south side of Chicago has been “born again”! Civic leaders in Boston said much the same thing about its west end. In fact, you hear similar claims being made about virtually every movement, political party, educational institution, and most individuals when they make some life-altering decision. There is simply no escaping the fact that the world at large has co-opted the language of being “born again” from Christians and in doing so has thoroughly corrupted the true meaning of the term.

I found myself this past week asking a question as I prepared for today: “How does one preach on a biblical text already known by virtually everyone in the world? What can one say that hasn’t already been said? How do I prevent people from mentally checking out because of their frustration at having to listen to yet one more sermon on a passage they committed to memory decades ago?” Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t have a good answer. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to skip over John 3:16 and pretend that all of you know everything that can be known about what is probably the most famous verse in all the Bible.

Most of what we find in the Bible is designed to comfort and encourage us. But there are a few texts that are deliberately designed to frighten us. By “frighten” I mean they are there to wake us up and shake us up.

In his book, Rediscovering Holiness, J. I. Packer makes the point that being a Christian is largely concerned with living our lives as Jesus lived his. Therefore, says Packer, Christians are to:

Jesus is bushed. He’s tuckered out. He’s bone-tired from his journey. He’s hot, thirsty, and hungry. It’s high noon and the disciples have nothing to eat. So while they go shopping for lunch, Jesus sits down at a well to drink. It is here that he decides to enlist yet one more person into the ranks of those who will worship the Father. But it isn’t just any person. It isn’t a recent graduate of the local theological seminary. It isn’t a respectable businessman or a housewife with three kids, a cat and a dog. He chooses to speak with a person who, in the opinion of the ancient world, has already struck out. This person is a Samaritan. Strike One! This person is a woman. Strike Two! This woman is sexually immoral. Strike Three!

Last week we spent all our time unpacking the significance of what Jesus said in John 4:23. In his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, he told her that God is seeking people to worship him in spirit and in truth. That’s the sort of statement that will either offend you and make you angry and cause you to turn and run away from God, or it will fill you with joy and delight and excitement as you realize that in your worship of God you find your greatest heart happiness and soul satisfaction. But I don’t won’t to preach last week’s message again, so today we turn our attention to the story as a whole.

Does the subject of divine healing ever confuse you? I’m almost embarrassed to ask that question, because everyone answers in the same way: Yes! And I’m not sure I trust those who say No. I agonize over the question of why one person is healed and another is not, why some healings are instantaneous and total while others are gradual and partial. Does it strike you as odd, as it does me, that notwithstanding a multitude of prayers a Christian suffers and dies while a non-Christian recovers and lives without the aid of so much as one prayer? Do you find it baffling, as I do, that on occasion those who sin the most suffer the least, and those who sin the least seem to suffer the most?

Even though the Jehovah’s Witnesses have stopped ringing my doorbell, they will on occasion leave at my front door a copy of their magazine published by The Watchtower Society. It is very easy for undiscerning or uninformed people to think that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are a Christian group who confess Jesus as Lord. After all, the magazine several times will refer to the knowledge of Jehovah and everlasting life “through Jesus Christ.”

Last week we looked at the most amazing claim that any human being ever made concerning himself. We listened as Jesus of Nazareth, carpenter and itinerant preacher, claimed to be equal in power, dignity, deity, and glory with God the Father. It is one thing for a man in a mental institution to claim to be Napoleon or for a woman to insist she’s Amelia Earhart. But Jesus claimed to be God. He claimed to be the long-awaited Messiah, foretold and foreshadowed in the OT Scriptures.

I’ve told one particular story a number of times over the years, but for whatever reason it remains vividly impressed on my mind. It’s almost as if it were yesterday, even though it took place on January 5th, 1976. I can still recall everything I heard, where I was standing, the cold of that winter night, and what I was thinking as Ann and I stood outside in the parking lot as we watched the fire creep closer and closer to our apartment. I learned a lot about myself that night, and it wasn’t pretty.

I realize those words of the medieval mystic, Bernard of Clairvaux, sound a bit dated and more than a little cheesy to some of you, but stay with me as I use them to make a point. “Jesus, the very thought of Thee, with sweetness fills my breast.”

Churches often divide over certain theological issues, such as the role of women in ministry and leadership, charismatic gifts, water baptism (infant baptism vs. believer’s baptism), and matters related to eschatology or the end times (the timing of the rapture, the role of Israel, etc.)

I am constantly amazed by the lengths to which people will go, and the sacrifices they will make, in an effort to cleanse their consciences of the stain and guilt of sin. One example of this is the Ganges River and the pagan beliefs concerning its alleged cleansing and purifying powers.

I wonder if you’ve ever given much thought to how much of our lives is spent trying to avoid offending people. I thought about it this week, and I was amazed at the steps we take to be as inoffensive as possible. Most of it goes back to the way our parents raised us.

We are going to do something different today as we come to John 7. It is a long chapter of 52 verses. But I have decided that we will focus in on the most important section in the chapter and spend only this one week in our study of it. The reason for this will soon become evident.

I don’t often take time to address some of the more technical issues regarding the trustworthiness and integrity of the Bible, but our text today is unique and calls for some additional comment.

Jesus was never one for ambiguity. When something of eternal importance needed to be said, he said it in no uncertain terms. He pulled no punches. He cut no corners. He was rigidly opposed to compromise. And this is nowhere seen more clearly than when it came to his identity. If people left the presence of Jesus confused about who he was and what he claimed, it was their own hard-heartedness and spiritual blindness that must be blamed.

For the Christian, freedom may be experienced in any number of ways: freedom from the world and the pressure to conform to its ways; freedom from the fear of being rejected by those whose expectations we don’t meet; freedom from allegiance to anyone other than God; freedom from selfish preoccupation with what others think of us. Freedom! What a wonderful word.

I can’t think of a time in history when there was as much confusion about what it is to be a Christian as there is in our day.

At precisely this time of year, every year without fail, newspapers, magazines, and numerous TV documentary shows provide a list of the more notable figures, both male and female, who died in the past twelve months.

I’m asking you to do something today that may strike you as odd, but bear with me. I want all of you to close your eyes and not to open them until I tell you to do so. Now, try to envision in your mind what it’s like to be blind from birth. How would it feel never to have seen anything? Not the words on the pages of your Bible. Not the shoes on your feet. Not the smile on a friend’s face. Nary a star in the sky above. Nothing. Just darkness. It’s a terrifying thought, but try.

As far as the world was concerned, and based on its standards by which “success” is measured, “Steve” had every reason to be miserable. After all, he wasn’t particularly attractive physically speaking. He wasn’t gifted athletically. He was of average intelligence and held down a job that paid him just enough to get by.

As all of you know, there are theological differences among those who call themselves evangelicals. By “evangelical” I mean those who affirm the fundamental and foundational truths of Christianity, such as the inspiration and authority of the Bible, the deity, virgin birth, sinless life, and substitutionary death of Jesus, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the reality and necessity of being born again, salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and of course his second coming at the close of human history.

I’m happy to say today that Jesus and I share at least one thing in common: neither of us likes funerals. But, then again, I’ve never met anyone else who does enjoy funerals, with the exception of the mortician!

The portrait of Jesus that the four gospels have sketched for us is truly stunning. Jesus, described by his enemies as the friend of sinners, was uninhibited in the presence lepers and unafraid to confront demonic spirits. He was unembarrassed by prostitutes and unimpressed by religious leaders. He is unoffended by your weaknesses, undeterred by your sin, and unashamed to call you his own. How do you respond to someone like this? Matt Redman asked the question in the lyrics to one of his songs: “What can be said, what can be done, to so faithful a friend, to so loving a King?”

If you look up the word “paradox” in Webster’s dictionary you will find this definition: “a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense, and yet is perhaps true.”

I’ll be the first to admit that prayer can often be quite frustrating. Why is it that sometimes God says “Yes” and at other times “No” and in most cases, “Wait”? It can be frustrating and confusing to watch as one person receives an answer and another does not. There are numerous other unanswered questions about prayer that I could mention, but let me come to my primary point: There is one prayer to which God is always quick to say, “Yes!”

There was an old and godly man named Simeon who would often linger in the Temple in Jerusalem, because “it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:26). When Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the Temple, along with the appropriate sacrifice, Simeon took him into his arms and blessed God.

Picture yourself in the most painful situation imaginable. Your finances are in a shambles, your health is deteriorating daily, and you are all alone. No one seems to care how you feel. You have a splitting headache, the house is an unmitigated mess, and tomorrow has all the signs of being worse than today . . . and the telephone rings. Sure enough, it’s that one person in your life who never calls or seems to care until they need something from you. And today, of all days, you’re in no condition to give. How would you react?

Today is the second message in our new series in John 13-17 that we are calling, Last Words. That is to say, we are looking at what has also been called The Farewell Discourse of Jesus, the concluding words of instruction and encouragement that Jesus gave to his disciples on the night on which he was betrayed by Judas Iscariot. Some have referred to these five chapters as The Upper Room Discourse because that is where they gathered to celebrate the last supper.

If someone were to ask you what it is about Christianity that makes it unique among the many world religions, how would you answer them? What is it about the Christian faith that sets it apart and in doing so helps to confirm its truthfulness? What is it about Christianity that makes it so appealing?

This may sound a bit strange, but there are some things in the Bible that are not so much to be understood as they are to be trusted. Here’s what I mean. The Bible is meant for our instruction. God moved on the hearts and minds of its authors over a 1,500 year period to record his revelation of what is true and right and good. In doing so, we also have in the Bible a revelation of what is false and wrong and evil. The Bible is there for God’s people to lead us into what we should believe and how we should behave. And for that we should be eternally grateful.

You may not be familiar with the name Tertullian. I don’t of anyone who has named their child after him. Tertullian lived and ministered in the early years of the third century a.d. He was one of the greatest of the early church fathers and was actually the first man to use the word “Trinity” to describe the nature of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

I had originally planned on beginning today with a question, until I realized it was a silly question, the answer to which is always, “Yes.” But just because it is a silly question and everyone will always respond with the same answer, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be asked. So here goes: “Do you ever find yourself troubled in heart?”

Is it ok to pray for a miracle? To hope for a miracle? To seek God for a miracle? For many years I thought it was unspiritual to desire or seek for any spiritual gifts, especially those of a more overt miraculous nature. I had been taught it was an indication of immaturity to seek signs in any sense, that it was a weak faith, born of theological ignorance, that it was only the biblically illiterate and emotionally unstable people who prayed for healing or a demonstration of divine power. One author I read actually said that to desire miracles is sinful and unbelieving! But then I noticed Acts 4:29-31, which records this prayer of the church in Jerusalem:

What precisely is a miracle? What events in life would qualify as miracles? When you make a trip to Penn Square Mall on the day before Christmas and discover that the parking lot is not only completely full but has spilled out onto the grassy median and even across the street, do you pray for a miracle? And when you then make one more loop through the parking lot only to discover that a spot has suddenly opened up for you directly in front of the store where you planned on shopping, do you regard that as having happened by direct intervention from God? Was that a miracle?

There are numerous reasons why non-Christians struggle to believe the Christian faith. I won’t burden you by listing them. But when it comes to Christians themselves, believers in Jesus, there are typically only two. If you should ask a born-again-justified-by-faith-in-Jesus-man-or-woman what their greatest struggle is when it comes to Christianity, they will most likely point to one of two thi

"The Holy Spirit has long been the Cinderella of the Trinity. The other two sisters may have gone to the theological ball; the Holy Spirit got left behind every time. But not now. The rise of the charismatic movement within virtually every mainstream church has ensured that the Holy Spirit figures prominently on the theological agenda. A new experience of the reality and power of the Spirit has had a major impact upon the theological discussion of the person and work of the Holy Spirit" (Alister McGrath).

We live in a rather odd season in the history of the church of Jesus Christ. What isn’t odd or strange is the spread of new and unbiblical doctrines. That, sadly, is something of a commonplace in church history. There always have been and always will be people who profess to know Christ and claim to believe in the authority of the Bible who promote false teachings, some of which are undeniably heretical.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times during the course of a normal week that someone asks me, in an obviously distressed and confused tone of voice: “Sam, what’s wrong with our world? What is happening? Is there any hope at all?”

Last week I came across an article (, “Is Your Heart Good Soil?”) that instantly captured my attention. The author confessed both his “sadness and terror” as he thought about the departure from Christianity on the part of several of his close friends. “One moment they appeared to be joyfully walking with God,” he writes, “and then out of nowhere — to my shock and horror — they began trampling all over his Son . . . . I'm not talking about just a little backsliding or a bit of stumbling. These guys and gals flat out rejected Jesus. Today, they proudly admit that they couldn't care less about the biblical realities of sin, judgment, or God's gracious offer of redemption. They are utterly finished with Christianity.”

Blaise Pascal, a 17th century French philosopher and mathematician, once said, and I quote: “All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they may employ, happiness is their end. The reason why some go to war and others avoid it, is the desire for happiness. . . . This (happiness) is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves” (Pensees, no. 425).

There was a time when I thought the verb “enjoy” and the noun “God” should never be used in the same sentence. I could understand “fearing” God and “obeying” God, even “loving” God. But “enjoying” God struck me as inconsistent with the biblical mandate both to glorify God, on the one hand, and deny myself, on the other. How could I be committed above all else to seeking God’s glory if I were concerned about my own joy? My gladness and God’s glory seemed to cancel each other out. I had to choose between one or the other, but embracing them both struck me as out of the question. Worse still, enjoying God sounded a bit too lighthearted, almost casual, perhaps even flippant, and I knew that Christianity was serious business.

I’ve had the privilege in life to know a good many so-called “famous” people. I hesitate to say this because it may sound like name-dropping, something I deplore. The fact that God has providentially orchestrated my life so that I have had the opportunity to become friends with famous and quite successful Christians has nothing to do with me. It says nothing about me. So I mention this only to draw attention to the fact that no earthly acquaintance or friendship can come remotely close to the glory and honor and joy of being friends with Jesus. His is the only name worth dropping!

The author of the book of Hebrews said something in chapter five of his letter that is extraordinarily relevant to the lives of Christian men and women today. He said that “solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Heb. 5:14). By “solid food” he means the deep things that God has revealed to us. A lot of Christians would prefer never to be challenged or stretched when it comes to biblical truth. They much prefer to be constantly fed with a liquid diet of revealed truth. They don’t want the meat of the word. Sometimes it’s hard to chew, and at other times even harder to swallow.

Let me be clear right from the start. I stole the title for today’s message from the sub-title to J. D. Greear’s book, Jesus Continued: Why the Spirit Inside You is Better than Jesus Beside You. It’s an excellent book that I recommend you read. Even if you don’t get around to reading it, I suspect that the sub-title will surely capture your attention. Is it really true that having the Holy Spirit live inside us forever is actually better than walking and talking in the physical presence of Jesus at our side?

I despise the term, Indian-giver. If you look it up in Webster’s Dictionary it is defined as “a person who gives something to another and then takes it back.” I was happy to discover that the Concise Oxford English Dictionary doesn’t even include a listing for the term. I don’t know where it came from or when it was first coined, but it is derogatory of Native Americans and perhaps even racist. It suggests that an “Indian” is by nature the sort of individual who cannot be trusted when he gives you something because he is just as likely to take it away without cause or justification. So let’s dispense with the term altogether.

On a somewhat regular basis, young married couples will come to me and ask my advice about how they might learn to pray together. Often, it is either only the husband or the wife who comes and complains that his/her spouse remains silent when the other prays aloud. For any of you to whom this applies, please don’t take offense or feel any shame. Ann and I struggled with this for several years early on in our marriage. I couldn’t understand why Ann was so reluctant to pray in front of me, and it was only after quite a few years that I discovered the reason: she didn’t entirely trust me with her heart and her deepest desires and fears.

Last week I indicated to you that there are four glorious truths found in the opening five verses of John 17. We looked at the first two of them last Sunday. The first is found in v. 1 where Jesus affirmed the absolute sovereignty of God the Father over his life and the time of his death. This we see in his words, “Father, the hour has come.” The second truth is stated both in v. 1 and again in vv. 4-5. There we were given a glimpse into the love of God for his people. I won’t repeat myself again today, but let me simply sum up the second of these two glorious truths by saying this.

Is there a unifying theme to the extended prayer of Jesus in John 17? I mentioned to you in an earlier message that John 17 ought to be called “The Lord’s Prayer” insofar as it is a prayer that he himself actually prayed. What we typically call the Lord’s Prayer is found in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:9-15. But there is one thing in that prayer that Jesus never could and never would have prayed. Jesus instructs his disciples to pray: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:12). But Jesus had no sin, he had no debts, he committed no trespasses that needed to be forgiven. So the prayer in Matthew 6 is the “Lord’s Prayer” only in the sense that it contains his instruction on how you and I are supposed to pray.

Most people in this room was either not yet born or far too young to remember the momentous events of 1948. This was the year that witnessed the formation of what is known as The World Council of Churches. The driving force behind the establishment of this organization was a desire for Christian unity.

I know some of you don’t like your jobs. And I can understand why. You struggle to get up each day and return to a task that either bores you or wears you out or feels unproductive. But you do it anyway because you know that God honors hard work and you know you have an obligation to pay your bills and you know that others depend on you. I say this because I want to say Thank You to everyone at Bridgeway. Thank you for paying me to do something that I enjoy more than anything else in the world. I’m never bored with what I do. I never struggle to get up each day and resume my responsibilities as senior pastor of this church. I get worn out on a fairly regular basis, but that’s largely because I’m getting old. Sometimes I feel unproductive because I don’t see the fruit or results in some people’s lives that I had hoped to see. But aside from that, I can’t begin to imagine doing anything else than what I do. So, thank you!

Before we dive into the deep end of our Lord’s experience in the Garden of Gethsemane, you need to understand that he did it for you. You need to come to grips with the remarkable and mysterious truth that what motivated Jesus to persevere through the pain of Gethsemane was his love for you. Knowing what was in the heart of Jesus will make all the difference in the world when you turn to understand, make sense of, and appreciate what he did.

The anguish of Gethsemane is over. Jesus has pressed through, submitting his will to the will of his Father. He will drink the cup that is prepared for him, the cup of God’s righteous wrath and judgment against those for whom Jesus soon will give himself as a substitute on the cross.

There are a number of things in this world that make my blood boil. Like you, I become enraged when I hear of a child being abused, or perhaps of a wife being physically assaulted by her husband. My reaction when I hear of a vulnerable and elderly widow being scammed out of what little money she has provokes only a slightly less intense anger in my heart.

As I was studying and preparing this week to preach on this passage that concerns Jesus and Barabbas, it struck me that most non-Christians are likely to be perplexed as to why we would spend so much time and energy talking about something that happened 2,000 years ago. I suspect that even a few believers might wonder about that as well. After all, our country is in one of the worst financial crises in its history. Swept up in this Covid-19 pandemic, everything we’ve come to expect day in and day out has changed. Countless people have filed for bankruptcy and untold numbers of small businesses will likely never re-open.

Aside from a few notable biblical exceptions such as Enoch and Elijah, all people die. I suppose I should also include as exceptions to that otherwise unbreakable law the final generation of Christians who will be alive when Jesus returns. But, again, aside from these obvious and unusual exceptions, the law of life is that all people die.

As you know, there are significant differences between ancient forms of capital punishment and our modern approach to the issue. Today, every effort is made to sanitize the execution of a criminal. Elaborate steps are taken to ensure that his or her death be as painless and inoffensive as possible.

Wheaton College graduate and missionary Jim Elliot is most widely known for having lost his life trying to bring the gospel to the Auca Indians in the rainforest of Ecuador. If Elliot is known for anything else, it is the statement he made that largely accounts for why he was willing to sacrifice his own life for the sake of this Indian tribe. Said Elliot: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”

I have a confession to make. There have been times in my Christian life when I’ve felt intimidated by the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20). When I think about the command of Jesus that we are to “go”, I worry that I might not have the required courage to obey. When I hear him tell us to “make disciples of all nations” and to “baptize” them, I feel profoundly inadequate. And when he exhorts us to “teach” others to observe or obey everything he has commanded, I realize that such applies equally to me. I am responsible not simply to “teach” others to obey but also to do so myself.

Aside from Judas Iscariot, who betrayed our Lord into the hands of his enemies and later committed suicide, the apostle who has had to endure the greatest assault on his character is Thomas. What do we know about this man, and why should we care? Do his life and experience and relation to Jesus have anything of practical value for us today? The answer, I assure you, is Yes!

Some who study John’s gospel suggest that we should simply ignore this final chapter. It doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus. They insist that there is very little, if anything, of spiritual or practical value in these verses. I disagree. And I believe that once you look closely at them with me, you will also agree that there is much for us to learn here.

A while back I wrote an article on ten things you should know about the life and ministry of Martin Luther. This was followed by two posts on the life of John Calvin as well as his theology. So it only seems fitting that we should also devote an article to the theology of Martin Luther.

As someone once said of the doctrine of the Trinity: "Try to explain it, and you'll lose your mind. But try to deny it, and you'll lose your soul!" With this in mind, let’s examine 10 things we should all know about the Trinity.

This theory of the atonement will likely strike most Christians as bizarre, and rightly so!

Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent, so it only seems fitting that we should turn our attention to the glorious message of Christmas. We will do that by devoting today’s article to 10 things all of us should know about the virgin conception and birth of Jesus.

On Sunday, Christmas Day, 1904, Dr. G. Campbell Morgan, pastor of Westminster Chapel in downtown London, England, delivered a somewhat unusual sermon. Contrary to his normal practice of expounding a passage of Scripture, he proceeded to tell his people about the remarkable things that the Holy Spirit was doing at that very time in Wales.

In an earlier article we looked at 10 things we should know about the person of the Holy Spirit. In this article we turn our attention to the work of the Spirit.

Many would prefer that we only speak of God’s love and grace. But apart from the reality of divine wrath neither love nor grace makes much sense. We’ll see this as we explore ten things that every Christian should know about the wrath of God.

We Protestants often fail to take note of the unique and sometimes profitable contributions of Roman Catholic theologians of the past. So today we look at 10 things we should know about Thomas Aquinas.

Today we take up the issue of tithing, especially as it was mandated under the Law of Moses. Here are 10 things we should know.

With this article I’m launching a series that will appear every Monday for the foreseeable future. It will focus on 10 things that every Christian needs to understand about particular theological truths from Scripture. I start the series today with 10 things you and I should know about the doctrine of total depravity.

There is a reason I said God’s “Will(s)” (plural) instead of God’s “will” (singular). My focus in this installment of 10 things you should know is the question of whether or not there are two senses in which God may be said to “will” something.

There has been considerable controversy over the differences between Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and their respective descriptions of what happened on Easter Sunday morning. But the differences are not discrepancies. In other words, all four accounts, in my opinion, are complementary and perfectly compatible with one another. When we compare and align the four gospel accounts we derive the following ten truths.

In our continuing series on 10 things every Christian should know, we turn our attention to the Roman Catholic Church and its beliefs about the Virgin Mary.

Although some argue that there is no consistent pattern in the NT for local church government, I disagree. I believe the NT portrays for us a virtually air-tight case for governance by a plurality of Elders. However, it is important to realize that even if this is not the case we can still determine whether or not women should be appointed to positions of senior governmental authority.

Whereas the NT is quite clear that the office of Elder is restricted to qualified men, there is considerable and on-going dispute among evangelicals on the question of whether women can serve in the office of Deacon. Here are my reasons for saying Yes to this question.

That there is no salvation apart from a conscious faith in Jesus Christ is considered by many to be scandalous. Here are ten things to remember about this critically important issue.

There is in the New Testament a plethora of information and detail regarding the second coming of Christ. I couldn’t begin to cover it all in one short blog post. So, in this article I will only draw your attention to what we are told in Revelation 19:11-21, one of the more graphic portrayals of who Jesus is and what the second coming will mean for unbelievers in particular.

Few things are more controversial among Christians than the sovereignty of God. Is God truly sovereign over everything, including calamity, natural disasters, death, and demons, or is his sovereign control restricted to those things we typically regard as good, such as material blessing, family welfare, personal salvation, and good health? Today we turn our attention to ten things we should all know about God’s sovereignty.

As Paul delineates nine of the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, the last on his list is “the interpretation of tongues.” Later in that chapter he again refers to interpretation in his denial that any one gift is granted to all Christians (v. 30b). In his instruction on how believers are to arrive at any particular corporate assembly, he says that whereas one may come with a hymn, another with a word of instruction, another with a revelation from God, another with a tongue, one may also come with “an interpretation” (1 Cor. 14:26).

In two previous installments of “10 things you should know” we looked at ten reasons why preaching in general has fallen on hard times, as well as ten reasons why biblical preaching is critically important. Today we look at the nature of expositional preaching and why it is, in my opinion, the far superior approach to making known the written Word of God.

In last week’s installment of our ten-things-you-should-know series I focused on the causes for the demise of biblical preaching. Today I want to focus on why it is so critical that pastors be committed to the exposition of the Word.

Last week we looked at ten things all of us should know about the life of John Calvin. Today we turn our attention to ten things concerning his theology. Our primary, but not exclusive, source for these truths about Calvin’s theology come from the Institutes of the Christian Religion, the first edition of which in 1536 contained only 6 chapters. The final edition of 1550 had 80 chapters.

Of the many theories of Christ’s atoning sacrifice that emerged in church history, this is the one least known by contemporary Christians.

With the English Reformation we come to the fourth major tradition to emerge from the events of Oct. 31st, 1517 (Lutheran, Reformed [Calvinistic], and Anabaptist being the other three).

When I say the “relationship between Jesus and the Holy Spirit” I’m not talking about the internal dynamics that exist eternally among the three persons of the Trinity. What I have in mind is the relationship that Jesus sustained to the Holy Spirit during the time of his earthly ministry. Here are ten things to keep in mind as you reflect on this question.

What becomes of those who die in infancy, before reaching an age of intellectual and moral development that would make it possible for them to understand and respond to the revelation of God in the gospel and in creation? This question also applies to those who grow into adulthood suffering from such severe mental impairment that they are incapable of moral discernment, deliberation, or rational decision-making. If human nature is corrupt and guilty from conception, the consequence of Adam’s transgression (Ps. 51:5: Eph. 2:1ff.), are those who die in infancy lost? Here are ten things that will help us respond to this issue.

What is known as the satisfaction theory of the atonement is most closely associated with the name of St. Anselm. Here are ten things to know about how he conceived of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

The primary biblical text on the nature and meaning of the Lord’s Supper/Table, also known as Communion or the Eucharist (from the Greek word for the giving of thanks) is 1 Corinthians 11:23-34. Here are ten brief observations on what we see in this text.

Your first response to this title may well be: “What controversy?” One doesn’t often hear much any more about the so-called “Lordship Salvation” controversy, but it is most assuredly an issue that needs to be addressed.

Subjective theories of the atonement are those which envision the focus or aim of Christ’s sufferings to be the human soul rather than God himself. This model is referred to either as the moral influence theory or the example theory.

The most famous verse in the Bible, at least among Christians, is John 3:16. But do we really understand what it means. Here are ten things to keep in mind as you reflect on it.

There is a reason why I speak of the “necessity” of prayer and not simply ten things to know about prayer. I want us to consider the necessity of prayer in terms of what we stand to lose if we don’t pray. Sadly, prayer for many who profess faith in Christ has become a meaningless ritual. They have lost sight of the fact that God suspends great and glorious blessings on our asking for them. So let’s take a look at ten reasons why prayer is necessary. Or perhaps we could say, let’s consider what we otherwise stand to lose if we choose not to pray.

During Holy Week, on the night when Jesus gathered with his disciples in the upper room, he declared that through his shed blood there would come into existence a “New” covenant, a glorious reality described in some detail in Hebrews 8. Here are some ten things about the New Covenant that all Christians should know.

Where will believers in Jesus spend eternity? It won’t be on a cloud or a star in some distant galaxy. It will be on the sanctified and redeemed soil of the new earth. Here are ten things you should about what eternal life will be like in the new heaven and new earth.

Last week I wrote about the Montanists and probably caused many of you to scratch your heads wondering, “Who in the world are the Montanists?” Today we turn our attention to another odd group known as the Nicolaitans. There is at least one profound difference between the two: the Montanists were most likely genuine believers in Jesus; the Nicolaitans were most assuredly not.

Today we turn our attention to the person of the Holy Spirit. We’ll follow up next week by looking at the work of the Spirit.

Before I delineate the 10 things all of us should know, let’s look at a definition of postmillennialism by one of its advocates, Lorainne Boettner.

Today, October 31st, is the 499th anniversary of the launch of the Protestant Reformation. It was on this day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg as a protest against the abuse of the sale of indulgences. So today we look at ten things that everyone should know about the Protestant Reformation.

Despite Queen Elizabeth's efforts to unify the people of England (she ruled from 1558-1603), some did not think the spirit of the Reformation had gone far enough.

That title may have put you off, but if you are still reading, I trust you will recognize how critically important this issue of Kenosis is to our understanding of the person of Christ and the incarnation.

The Kingdom of God is a massively important topic and spoken of throughout the Word of God. So reducing its essence down to only ten things feels silly, if not impossible. But here goes anyway.

On several occasions in Scripture we come across reference to something called “the book of life” or “the Lamb’s book of life.” What is it and why is it important that we know?

In previous installments of our 10 things you should know series we’ve been looking at the more important figures in the Protestant Reformation. Thus far we’ve examined the life and theology of both Martin Luther and John Calvin. Many are unfamiliar with the name of Zwingli, and yet he was a primary contributor to the emergence of reform in Switzerland. So, here are ten things you should know about his life and theology.

Everyone everywhere is talking about Martin Luther in 2017. It is, as you know, the 500th anniversary of the “launch” of the Protestant Reformation. But we would do well to give equal consideration to John Calvin. So today we look at 10 things everyone should know about his life. I will later follow up on this with 10 things we should know about his theology.

Worship involves our bodies as well as our hearts and minds. Our posture tells a story. It makes a statement to God and to others about the state of our souls and the affections and passions of our heart.

Today we continue our weekly series on 10 things you should know. Our focus is on being filled with the Spirit as Paul describes it in Ephesians 5:18.

On May 30, 1735, Jonathan Edwards (1703-58) wrote a letter of eight pages to Dr. Benjamin Colman (1673-1747), pastor of Brattle Street Church in Boston, in which he described the nature of the revival he was seeing. Colman forwarded a substantial portion of the letter to a friend in London where news quickly spread about religious events in the Colonies.

In a previous article I spoke of the first wave of the First Great Awakening, a revival that fell upon New England in 1734-36. Today we turn our attention to the second wave of the Spirit’s work and the events that can generally be dated 1740-42.

As much as we hear about the gospel of Jesus Christ one would think that everyone is on the same page when it comes to defining this word. Sadly, that is not the case. So just what is the gospel? How might we define it? Here are ten things to keep in mind.

Yet again today we try to understand a little-known theory of the atonement that has actually re-emerged in our own day.

It is all too easy to become discouraged and disheartened by the rampant presence of evil and injustice in our world today. It leaves us wondering: Will anything ever be done to bring to justice those who have perpetrated such wickedness? Will anything ever be done to reward those who are righteous? The answer is Yes! We have this assurance because of what we read in Revelation 20:11-15 concerning the final judgment. Here are ten things to keep in mind.

Today we turn our attention to 10 features of the healing ministry of Jesus.

Right now, without ceasing, Jesus Christ is interceding for all those who know him. It is a wonderful truth indeed. Here are ten things to keep in mind when you think of Christ’s heavenly intercession.

History, according to one cynic, is nothing but “the succession of one d___ thing after another.” Unfortunately, many Christians would agree, although one hopes they wouldn't use precisely the same terminology! The fact is, people wonder why the history of Christian theology is worthy of our time and energy. Facts, dates, and dead people do not inspire much excitement, and many doubt the practical value of spending time on something that cannot be changed.

Many are under the false impression that the Holy Spirit is absent from the Old Testament. These ten things will serve to correct this misunderstanding.

The Imago Dei, Latin for “image of God”, is crucial for our understanding of who we are as the direct creation of God. Here are ten things to guide our thinking.

Some see the concept of immutability as a threat to the biblical portrait of God who appears in some sense to change. Others are equally concerned that a careless tampering with this attribute of God will reduce him to a fickle, unfaithful, and ultimately unworthy object of our affection and worship. It is imperative, therefore, that we proceed cautiously, and yet with conviction, in articulating these ten truths about divine immutability.

Most Christians love the Psalms, for in them we find heartfelt prayer, emotional vulnerability, and passionate praise of God.

We continue the series on 10 things all Christians should know about basic Christian doctrines. Today we look at the Incarnation of Christ.

I could have as easily entitled this post: ten things you should know about what happens when a Christian dies. So what happens when a Christian dies? The simple answer is that he/she enters immediately into what theologians call the intermediate state. It is called “intermediate” because it is what we experience in between the time of our earthly lives (now) and the time when we receive our glorified and resurrected bodies.

We don’t typically understand jealousy as a good thing. How, then, can I dare suggest that God is characterized by jealousy? To many, that sounds virtually blasphemous. So let’s take a close look at this oft-neglected attribute of God.

Is there any such thing as the “Jezebel spirit”? If so, what is it, or who is it? And what relationship does it sustain to the spiritual gift of prophecy? To answer this we must turn our attention to the letter of Jesus to the church in Thyatira.

The single most explicit biblical text on the judgment that awaits every Christian is found in 2 Corinthians 5:9-10. There Paul writes this: “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”

All of us have our favorite Bible verses. Some of us have our favorite Bible books. Mine is Second Corinthians. Perhaps that is due to the fact that it is so profoundly pastoral and describes in detail how Paul interacted with a church that treated him poorly. In any case, if you’ve never studied Second Corinthians I urge you to do so. Here are ten things about the letter that may help you get started.

Ours is a splintered, fractured world, that often in its differing political parties and conflicting ethical systems and its seemingly endless variety of opinions on virtually every imaginable subject holds out little hope for ultimate meaning. And yet in the midst of undeniable diversity and the differences that so often divide us, the Bible tells us that there is a single, overarching, unitary theme and purpose and goal to all of human history and experience.

Shame and guilt are often confused in people’s thinking. What are they, and how do they differ? More important still, how might we be set free from the debilitating effects of shame? Here are ten things to keep in mind.

We should acknowledge right from the start that the terminology of “slave” and “master” is highly offensive. And the reason is that our concept of “slavery” today is quite different from what existed, for example, in the time of Paul when he wrote Colossians 3:22-4:1. So let’s proceed carefully as we try to understand what the Bible actually says about this controversial topic. Needless to say, this is far from an exhaustive treatment. But I hope these ten observations will help.

The spiritual gift of speaking in tongues remains controversial in our day and is a subject deserving of our close attention. This short article is not designed to argue that tongues are still valid but simply attempts to describe the nature and function of tongues speech.

As glorious and wonderful as is the physical birth of a new-born baby, it pales in comparison with the spiritual re-birth of a person and the new life in Jesus Christ that they receive by God’s mercy and grace. I don’t mean to downplay the beauty of physical birth. It is truly a miracle and puts on display God’s creativity and power. But the second birth, being born again, as the NT describes it, is greater still. Physical birth only gives us physical life. Being born again gives us eternal life as the children of God. So let’s look at ten things we all should know about what it means to be an adopted child of God.

Suffering is an unpopular but essential topic for Christians to understand. And it is nowhere more clearly explained than in 1 Peter. So here are ten things we can learn about suffering from this letter.

Will the debate ever end about the identity of the 144,000 servants in Revelation 7? Perhaps not, but I hope these ten truths will contribute something to our understanding of who they are and what they do. We read that 12,000 are “sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel” (Rev. 7:4).

There is hardly a more controversial and confusing topic in the Bible than that of the Antichrist: who or what is this? Is it a person or a symbol of corporate opposition to Christ, or perhaps both? In this article we’ll look only in John’s first epistle for helpful answers to this question.

In this installment of 10 Things You should Know we’ll turn our attention to Romans 13:1-7 (and 1 Peter 2) and the Christian’s responsibility toward human government.

If the language of Christus Victor is foreign to you, it simply means Christ the Victor. The focus of this theory of the atonement suggests that the primary aim of Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection from the dead was the defeat of Satan and the powers of evil. In its earliest expression it took the form of the somewhat crude ransom to Satan theory. And it is there that we begin.

It’s both amazing and deeply distressing that I continue to hear of people who are supposedly “in love with Jesus” but not with the church. “We like you, Jesus, but we don’t care for your wife!” Really? The so-called “organized” church is for some reason offensive to them. Does the NT support such a notion? Is it possible for someone to be a Christian and remain opposed to his Bride, the church? I hope these ten truths about the church will forever put that misguided idea to rest.

The Convergence Conference: the Passionate Pursuit of Word and Spirit, is now only a few weeks away. I hope and pray you will give serious consideration to joining us here in Oklahoma City, October 5-7. Here are ten things you should know about the conference.

Not too long ago a book was published with the title: What was God doing on the Cross? It appears that there are two questions being asked, not one. First, “What was God doing on the cross?” Why was the God-man impaled on a Roman gibbet? It seems shocking that God should be crucified? Second, “What was God doing on the cross?” Once we've agreed that the God-man was on the cross, we wonder, “what was he doing there?” What was he accomplishing? To what end and for what purpose was Jesus, the God-man, suffering?

Biblical preaching has fallen on hard times in the western world. There’s certainly no lack of speaking and sharing and shouting. And dramatic presentations and video clips are prevalent in pulpits across America. But there is precious little biblical preaching. The Bible makes a token appearance here and there, but rarely to be explained and expounded and acknowledged as authoritative for how we think and live. There are several reasons for this dearth of biblical preaching, ten of which I’ll mention.

A view frequently advocated by cessationists is that the spiritual gift of prophecy in the NT is largely identical with preaching. This is the position advocated, for example, by John MacArthur (and to a certain extent by J. I. Packer). One wonders what the motivation is behind this argument. I suspect that it is due, at least in part, to the discomfort that many cessationists feel with the idea of spontaneous revelation from the Holy Spirit in the present day. In any case, this provides the cessationist with the ability to affirm that prophecy is still valid insofar as it does not entail any revelatory work of the Spirit but is essentially indistinguishable from preaching.

The best way to describe the dispensationalist’s view of the millennial kingdom is chronologically, i.e., by means of the temporal order in which the events actually occur. Although there are variations among those who call themselves dispensationalists, I will focus here only on the majority view known as dispensational, pretribulational, premillennialism.

Well, we have arrived. Tuesday is Election Day, an election day, dare I say, unlike any other in the history of the United States. Never before in the history of our country have two more reprehensible candidates stood before us asking for our support. Some may be offended by that statement. But since this election campaign is one in which giving offense has been elevated to an art form, I thought I’d join in. In any case, here are ten things you should know about the coming election.

It’s been a little more than a week since most Christians celebrated Easter, or Resurrection Day. But it would do us all well to continue to keep our focus on the reality of the empty tomb. Here are ten things that we need to know about efforts on the part of unbelievers to account for it.

Here are 10 things we should know about Satan.

All genuine, Christ-exalting, Christ-enjoying worship is in or through or by means of the Holy Spirit. This is what Paul meant when he said: “For we are the [true] circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3).

Last week I wrote an article that identified ten things we should all know about quenching the Spirit, or perhaps I should say ten ways to quench the Spirit that we must studiously avoid. Today I want to turn our attention to ten ways we tend to quench the Spirit in the act of preaching God’s Word.

Anyone who thinks that we’ve made substantial progress in resolving the problem of racial disharmony and animosity in our society is simply not paying attention. The violent events that have filled our streets in the past week together with the response from both the white and African-American communities clearly demonstrate that mistrust, suspicion, and even hatred across the racial divide are rampant in virtually every sector in our society.

We hear and say much about redemption justification and adoption and forgiveness of sins. But when was the last time you heard a sermon about the doctrine of reconciliation? What does it mean to say we are reconciled to God? What does it mean when we appeal to non-believers to be reconciled to God? In this post we’ll look at ten things we all should know about this glorious truth.

We must acknowledge the fact that the vast majority of human beings in history have died without ever hearing the name of Jesus.

Repentance is a massively important spiritual issue that calls for careful study and clear articulation. Here are ten things to remember about what it means to repent of our sin.

Revival, both personal and corporate, is something about which the Bible often speaks and something all of us should desire.

We all hear a great deal about Christian sanctification, but what precisely is it, and how does it work? Today we look at ten things about this crucial biblical truth.

Were it not for the fact that no less than the Apostle Paul himself commanded us not to quench the Spirit, who among us would ever have suggested that this is even within the realm of possibility?

I’m not anything remotely close to being an expert on the question of whether or not marijuana should be made legal and available for use in cases of extreme medical distress. But I will give you my opinion.

Much will be said and written about Martin Luther in 2017, inasmuch as this is the 500th anniversary of his posting of the 95 theses on the church door at Wittenberg, an event that many believe launched the Protestant Reformation. But here are ten things about Luther you may not know.

The word miracle is used somewhat promiscuously to describe everything from healing a paralytic to finding a parking space at the mall on the day before Christmas. So we begin our ten things we should all know about miracles with a definition.

About what? I suspect that many of you have never heard the name Montanism or the individual Montanus from whom the movement is named.

Mysticism is an approach to Christianity that focuses on preparation for, consciousness of, and reaction to what can be described as the immediate or direct presence of God.

In recent years there has appeared a radical departure from traditional theism that has come to be known as the Openness of God theory or Open Theism.

Original sin sounds so archaic, so pessimistic, so grimly medieval. For heaven’s sake, this is the era of the computer and the space shuttle. And haven’t the most learned psychologists and sociologists assured us that people are by nature good, having been turned to their evil ways not by some inner instinct but through the influence of a deviant culture and sub-standard education? These questions indicate how important it is for us to understand the biblical notion of original sin.

The title to this article may surprise you. What in the world is Paul’s letter to Laodicea? I thought Paul wrote only 13 of the NT epistles (14 if you include Hebrews, which he probably didn’t write). It’s an interesting question. Here are ten things we should know about this mysterious letter.

Two weeks ago we looked at ten things all of us should know about Augustine. His principal theological opponent was a man named Pelagius. Today we turn our attention to what little we know about the person of Pelagius and especially what we should know about his theology.

Today we focus on 10 things that every Christian should know about the penal substitutionary atoning sacrifice of Jesus.

Do we have reason to believe that subsequent to our born-again experience we may have life-changing, empowering, and transforming encounters with the Holy Spirit? Yes. Here are ten things that we should keep in mind.

I take no special delight in writing this material. But hell is real and people are going there. So let’s look closely at what the Bible has to say about it as well as the on-going debate over whether hell is eternal conscious punishment. I will summarize the issue in ten points.

What may we conclude, if anything at all, about the tragedy in Houston? What lessons does the Bible teach us as we try to make sense of this event? What is the relationship of God’s sovereignty to the devastation of this hurricane? Here are ten things to keep in mind.

Although largely unfamiliar to Protestants, the name of Ignatius Loyola is widely known among Roman Catholics. Here are ten things you should know about him and the Society of Jesus that he founded.

Today we look at 10 things we should know about how to interpret the Bible (or conversely, how not to interpret it).

Here we take up the concept of God’s saving grace as irresistible.

I recently participated with several other authors who contributed a volume to the Crossway series entitled, Theologians on the Christian Life. My book was devoted to J. I. Packer. Here are ten things you should know about him.

I read in the local newspaper today (5-18-18) that an annual Jehovah’s Witnesses convention is scheduled to convene here in OKC this weekend. It got me thinking once again about this unusual religious organization.

The first thing you should know (but not included among the ten) is that Jonathan Edwards’s most important sermon was not “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”

No one outside the biblical authors themselves has exerted the influence on me personally as has Jonathan Edwards. So here are ten things you should know about his life and ministry.

The words of the psalmist are forthright and unmistakable: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

The Bible never encourages Christians to be gullible or naïve. We are to exercise discernment.

The next installment of our “10 things you should know” series concerns justification.

In the on-going dialogue (debate!) between complementarians and egalitarians, there is considerable confusion about the meaning of male headship.

Today I continue the weekly series on 10 things we should know about specific Christian doctrines. Our focus today is divine election.

We’ve been looking closely at some important principles to understand when it comes to male headship and female submission.

If there is a single driving force in our society today it may well be what I call instant self-gratification.

Forgiving others is counter-intuitive to human nature. It rarely seems to make sense.

Because of our focus on the inspiration and inerrancy of God’s written revelation, the Bible (i.e., Special Revelation), we often tend to ignore the other ways in which God has made himself known more generally to all mankind.

A week or so ago I was alerted to a video ( that focused on the amazing creative power of God, both in terms of the massive size of the universe as well as the incredibly small world of molecules and atoms.

The psalmist declares that our Lord is great “and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit” (Psalm 147:5).

The word “omnipresence” refers to the truth that God is everywhere: from here in the room where I sit to beyond the galaxies that the Hubble telescope is able to probe.

The psalmist declares that our Lord is great “and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit” (Psalm 147:5).

On October 5-7, we hosted some 1,400 people in OKC at the Convergence Conference where we focused on the passionate pursuit of both Word and Spirit in the Christian life and in the local church.

We continue our series of articles on ten things you should know about certain biblical doctrines. Today, we look at the subject of grace.

Was Augustine (the emphasis is on the second syllable, hence aw-GUS-tin, not AW-gus-teen) the greatest theologian in the history of the Christian church?

Today we turn our attention to the issue of beauty. What is it? Can it be defined? What does it mean to have an aesthetic experience? Is God beautiful, and if so, how does it relate to his glory?

Here we take up the issue of the new birth, or what we often refer to as regeneration or being born again.

In an earlier installment of the “10 Things You Should Know” series, we looked at Ephesians 5:18 and what it says about being filled with the Spirit.

What do we mean when we affirm the inerrancy of the Bible? The importance of that question has not diminished in the least.

Worship is a subject on which everyone has a personal opinion.

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is mentioned in three of our four gospels. It is found in Matthew 12:22-32; Mark 3:22-30 and again in Luke 12:10.

Christian Hedonism often goes misunderstood and thus maligned. Let’s look closely at ten things that bring clarity to what is meant by the label.

The word “meditation” has developed something of a bad reputation in certain Christian circles. In this article, I want to reclaim it as one of the essential spiritual disciplines for all believers.

The fact that your immediate and instinctive response to this topic is probably somewhat (or considerably) negative reflects how far removed we are today from the spirit of the New Testament.

Membership in a local church is very much in the minds of Christians these days. Is it biblical? Is it necessary? Is it helpful? These and other questions lead to the following ten things you should know about what church membership means and entails.

We should acknowledge from the outset that the adjective “common” does not appear in the Bible as a modifier of the noun “grace.” But we are justified in making use of it in view of how God’s dealings with non-Christian people are portrayed for us in Scripture.

I’m a bit hesitant about posting this article, for the simple fact that there are differing versions of what is known as complementarianism. Although there are several foundational truths that all complementarians embrace, differences emerge when it comes to application in the local church and in para-church ministries. So be aware that not all complementarians will necessarily agree with the way I articulate the concept.

As we are in the process of building a diaconate at Bridgeway, I thought it would be helpful to mention a few important things to keep in mind.

Last week we looked at ten things we should know about angels. Our focus was on good and holy angels, those who persevered in their obedience to God.

News broke this past week that Hank Hannegraaf, of the Bible Answer Man radio program, was chrismated on Palm Sunday at Saint Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.

It actually sounds a bit silly, even irreverent, to speak of only ten things we should know about Jesus.

No one has spoken with greater clarity on the nature of both pride and humility than Jonathan Edwards.

The number of suicides among people we know, at least by name, has been increasing with disturbing regularity.

Holiness of life or sanctification entails substantial growth in Christ-likeness, but never reaches the point of absolute sinless perfection in this life.

Today we turn our attention to 10 things we should know about the most controversial passage in the Bible when it comes to the role/relationship between men and women.

Today we turn our attention to what giving or financial stewardship is like under the terms of the New Covenant.

I recently read of yet another claim that a statue of the Virgin Mary was weeping. But this time it was different.

So, as we continue our study of the Protestant Reformation, we now turn to the Anabaptists and what they believed.

Unbelievers scoff at the suggestion that angels are real. For them, angels are a holdover from the medieval mindset that debated endlessly about how many of them could dance on the head of a pin!

Today we turn our attention to James Arminius and a few brief observations about the theological system that bears his name.

In an earlier post we looked at 10 things all should know about male headship as it is found in Scripture. Today we look at female submission.

In last week’s article in the 10 things you should know series, we looked at what tithing was like under the terms of the Mosaic or Old Covenant. Today we turn our attention to what giving or financial stewardship is like under the terms of the New Covenant.