The Cost of Sacrifice

Posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 in Pastoral, Theology, Worship

But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.” (2 Samuel 24:24)

Sacrifice costs us something. Worship itself is an offering of sacrifice and praise to our great God. David refused to offer anything that did not “cost me something.” Otherwise, his offering would not have been accepted by God. And that didn’t work out so well for Cain (Gen. 4) or for Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1-2). God is a consuming fire (Deut. 4:24; Heb 12:29).This is both positive and negative, both blessing and warning. God consumed (accepted, “had regard for”) Abel’s firstborn flock sacrifice (Gen. 4:4) but rejected Cain’s (Gen. 4:5). He consumed Aaron’s properly prepared sacrifice (Lev. 9) but rejected Nadab’s and Abihu’s and rather than consuming their sacrifice, he consumed them! How dreadful it is to approach him haphazardly or flippantly!

By definition sacrifice costs us something. It cost the greatest and final sacrifice, Jesus Christ, his life as the only acceptable sacrifice worthy to reconcile man to God. He is the Lamb without spot or blemish (1 Pet. 1:19) who will present his Bride to himself without spot or wrinkle (Eph. 5:27). His sacrifice cost him, and with that price he purchased a people for himself (Ps. 74:2). His price was the Cross.

So to is ours – not his Cross, but ours. Jesus  said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Lk. 9:23). We must sacrifice daily, remembering that our sacrifice is the sacrifice of obedience, the giving our lives in surrender to him who desires obedience rather than sacrifice. It costs us our life – but it will be worth it when we are accepted as the Church with spot or wrinkle!

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Book Review: Portraits of Faith

Posted: Friday, May 6, 2016 in Book review, Pastoral

41yetpt-xjl-_ac_us160_Portraits of Faith by Joel Beeke is a series of expositions given at a pastors conference in Aberystwyth, Wales UK. It is an encouragement and exhortation in the different aspects of faith given through the narratives of biblical characters as follows:

  • Adam & Eve – simple or childlike faith (Genesis 3:20-21 and 4:1)
  • The Shunammite woman – submissive faith (2 Kings 4)
  • The Canaanite woman – growing or maturing faith (Matthew 15:21-28)
  • Caleb – persevering faith (Numbers 13:25-14:24)

Pastor Geoff Thomas offers the following in introducing the book:

Now that these addresses are in print, their usefuness is greatly increased. Ministers like myself will be glad to have such a pastoral tool. Christians young and old will be encouraged and strengthened by reading these delightful pages. And those with questions concerning the nature of saving faith will find helpful guidance in this book.

As a pastor, I heartily agree! If you have ever had the privilege of hearing Beeke preach, then you know how rich his expositions are, how easily they flow and draw you in – and keep you riveted. Each of these little vignettes will be a good resource for pastoral ministry and for personal maturity in the faith. If you have ever failed in your faith, if you have ever suffered in your faith, if you have ever felt rejected in your faith, if you have ever felt in the minority in your faith – read this book! You will be blessed.

I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.

41etkwzmopl-_ac_us160_Sam Allberry is associate pastor of St. Mary’s Church, Maidenhead, UK – an Anglican. So why does that matter? It doesn’t – but it could. It could if one approached the church of Jesus Christ from a strictly denominational perspective as if their own were the only true church. It could if one wrote for his own denomination  with no concern for others. Allberry does neither. His book Why bother with church? while brief answers the question biblically and biblically. Yes, that was intentional because contrary to much that has been written in recent years, God has much to say about His church and His people. Frankly, there is no way to interpret passages concerning the necessity of the church for us, and the necessity of us for the church, in a manner that allows anyone to conveniently stay away. No excuse or reason to refuse to be involved is allowed in Scripture – in fact, it is sin to do so and grieves both the God of the church and the church of God.

Allberry has given us a short, readable, and necessary book on church membership. He begins by defining the church (chapter 1) and follows by answering the question of the book’s title (chapter 2). Flowing from this he shows that he understands that there exists today many places that call themselves a church that really aren’t a church as defined by Scripture. So in chapter 3 he answers another question, “What makes a good church?” and couples that with biblical church leadership, structure and discipline in chapter 4. He then deals with the individual and their need to be one who serves the church rather than just looking to be served, or to use his language, attending church as a Christian or a consumer. He closes by giving biblical counsel as to what makes a good church member.

Allberry also anticipates some of the questions that even faithful church members have concerning the church. These are shaded in gray at the end of each chapter and will prove useful for leadership and congregation alike.

Why bother with church? is an enjoyable and practical read. We will begin distributing it to those who attend our prospective members class as a way to set forth our expectation of them as members, and what should be their expectation as members of our leadership – biblically and therefore reasonably. I think you will find a use for it with your members as well.

I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.

514bnkyb3ll-_aa160_Biblical Counseling and the Church will prove to be a helpful resource in churches of any size and/or any demographic; country church, suburban church, or urban church. Simply put, if your church has people this book will be an asset for you and your ministry. Yes-you. “But I am not a pastor,” you might reply. “But I am not trained in biblical counseling.” “I am not called to be a counselor.” Read the book!

The purpose of the book is given at the end of the Introduction: “It is out conviction that God calls all of us to be biblical counselors. He calls every believer to know how to relate His Word to one another’s lives so that every believer in the congregation grows more like Christ. It is our prayer that Biblical Counseling and the Church will spark a one-another revolution in your life and in your church.” [18] Each author (and there are many gifted contributors) focuses on this goal as drawn from Ephesians 4:11-16. In fact, you will see that every believer counseling is discipleship and spiritual growth comes when all believers are involved with one another.

The vision is cast in six parts. Part One is More Than Counseling: A Vision for the Entire Church. This section serves as the foundation for what follows by showing how pulpit ministry and pastoral care is for the purpose of building up spiritual counselors who “counsel” as they live their lives in Christ.

Part Two is Biblical Counseling and Small Group Ministry. This section provides ideas and methods to help in promoting and promulgating the every believer involvement in counseling in whatever setting you have for small groups. I found some very helpful ideas in this section, and some that would need some adaptation for our church, and others that we might not consider, at least for now.

Part Three is Biblical Counseling and Conflict Resolution. Here the contributors hone in on why we need biblical counseling in the first place – conflict! These two chapters are worth the price of the book, especially if your church does not have an action plan for biblical church discipline and conflict resolution.

Part Four, Equipping Biblical Counselors, provides a strategy for implementing and practicing every believer biblical counseling. Chapters are provided for every size church and demographic to help.

Part Five, Biblical Counseling and Outreach, shows how every member counsel when lived out reaches the lost at home and abroad. The final section provides a historical prospective on biblical counseling.

Biblical Counseling and the Church is a complete manual on envisioning, planning, implementing, and sustaining a healthy biblical counseling ministry in your church. I highly recommend it for the glory of Christ and His Church.

I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.

 

Book Review: Pitchin’ a Fit!

Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2016 in Book review

217397Pitchin’ a Fit! by husband and wife team Israel & Brook Wayne is not just another book on parenting. Though it contains much you might have read in the past, you will identify as a parent with their experiences. Some will make you laugh, some will make you cry, and others will have you think they must be in your household!

A word of caution should be noted from the outset: this book is mistitled, and therefore could be misleading (unless you read reviews like this! and other endorsements). You might think that the book is about children who throw uncontrollable tantrums and are seemingly out-of-control all the time. That would be an error in judging this book. While it is mistitled, it is subtitled correctly: Overcoming Angry and Stressed-Out Parenting. It is a book about our tantrums as parents and how we are seemingly out-of-control, not just to others who might catch us at one of these pristine moments, but to our children as well.

Even if you are not a parent, you will gain much from this honest approach to stress, its causes and its results if left unchecked. Anger, impatience, and outright hostility are born out of the pressure-cooker of stress that is not dealt with in a proper way. The things that lead to stress and the stress indicators are to be greatly considered from their biblical knowledge and experiences as parents.At the end of the day. do you as a parent feel like there is peace in the home, or is every day a war? Remember, you are the mature one! And this book will pinpoint some areas that all of us, no matter how experienced we are as parents, need to examine in our own parenting “skills.” (FYI – I am the father of two wonderful daughters, ages 25 and 24 and have been foster dad to numerous others – and I am thankful for this read)

For more on the Wayne’s and this book, listen to Shaun Tabatt’s podcast here.

I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.

Not Your Typical Orphan

Posted: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 in Culture, Orphan Care

I know. The title of the blog seems to be a bit odd. What is a “typical orphan” as opposed to an “atypical orphan”? Perhaps I can help by borrowing my friend’s definition of an orphan:

An orphan is a child left without  adequate familial provision and protection from evil. [Samuel J. McLure, The End of Orphan Care, p.20, not yet published]

I like the definition. It covers both the child who is neglected and/or impoverished and the child who is abused, whether it be physically and/or emotionally. It serves the classic definition that the courts consider when determining whether or not a child should be taken from the custody of parent(s) or family and placed into state care, temporarily or permanently. This is a “typical orphan.” While the determination of care is sometimes not as clear cut from case to case due to all sorts of different circumstances, the safety and well-being of a child is something that is the child’s constitutional right.

Why do I point this out – now. You don’t have to know me very long to know how passionate I am about orphan care. Our family has had a number of these orphans in our home, some for a day, others for a year or more. We, and many of our friends and church members, are involved in orphan care. Whenever I see a tragedy on the news or any sort of catastrophe where a parent of a child is lost, I immediately think of the child.

Such was the case a week ago when Muslim parents in San Bernardino, CA left their six-month old child with grandma and then committed the premeditated, senseless acts of terror. That child, who the government will not name for the purpose of safety and security, is now in state custody as an orphan. And if we take Sam’s definition above, certainly a typical orphan.

But where it gets a little dicey, “atypical,” is that now an aunt and uncle have stepped up and requested care of the child and will pursue adoption. That is not the “atypical” part. In fact, it is common for a family member to seek custody. What makes this different, potentially, is the outright clash of religious worldviews that the state will need to consider because of the backlash from Americans, while remaining constitutionally indifferent to those competing worldviews – in the face of the despicable acts of terror by the parents in the name of religion. The parents were radicalized terrorists – this we now know – with ties to radical Islamists for at least two years. But we don’t know that about the aunt or the uncle. It will be interesting to see how a judge rules in this matter – in upholding the rights of the aunt and uncle as U. S. citizens, again, in the face of what will certainly be an outcry against the family from many in the court of public opinion. We as a nation cherish “innocent until proven guilty.” Shouldn’t that be true for the aunt and uncle as well? If they clear the background checks that are deemed reasonable by the courts, shouldn’t they be granted custody? And if they don’t, then they should not have custody unless or until safety, security, and adequate provision can be established, if it is possible. Of course, those background checks will need to considered in light of this as well, just as there is now debate on the entire vetting procedure for passports and visas.

But more importantly, perhaps, are the rights of the six month-old child as a U. S. citizen. That child needs his/her family first. One of the first things we learn in foster care is that the children we take into care, if reunited with family which is the goal, will probably return to a home that is less than we would want for them. But we are not their family.

Does the radical Islamist worldview of the child’s parents make this a case that is a bit different, on many levels? I can think of no greater evil that exists today than the evil of radical Islam. And if that family is involved in such ideology, in its extreme form, then the child needs protection. I think you would agree, this is not your “typical orphan” situation.

J. A. “Brother” Bryan

Posted: Tuesday, December 1, 2015 in Missions, Preaching, Sermons
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Statue of Brother Bryan

One of the great joys I have in ministry is the opportunity to preach every Tuesday night at the Brother Bryan Mission in B’ham AL and seeing others in our church involved in the lives of the men to help fulfill the Missions’ purpose in “serving the the economically, emotionally, and spiritually impoverished men of the Birmingham area.”

The mission was birthed out of the heart of a local minister, the Reverend James Alexander Bryan, who came to Birmingham in 1889 to pastor the Third Avenue Presbyterian Church, where he remained as pastor until his death in 1941. Shortly before his death, “Brother” Bryan made a request to a few of his closest friends to establish a place that would take the poor and down-trodden men of Birmingham off the streets and give them food, shelter and care. An in-depth look at his life and remarkable ministry can be read in his biography, Religion in Shoes.

Recently I came across a little book of Brother Bryan’s sermons preached in 1927. His heart for kingdom ministry is seen in the foreword: “I prayerfully and gratefully submit these few sermons to the public, hoping that anyone who reads them may be helped in his Christian life. This is done, I know, for God’s glory.” The following is his sermon titled “The Fruits of the Resurrection of Christ.” I hope you are blessed, and that you are helped in your Christian life., to the glory of God.

The resurrection of Christ is the cornerstone of the Christian’s faith. It is one of the undeniable facts in the history of the world, because it is the best witnessed fact in all history, sacred or profane. That Christ was dead even scientists would not deny. After the thrust of a Gentile spear, blood and water came out of Christ’s heart. which, to sensible people, was the death certificate of a criminal. At the request of friends, His body was placed in Joseph’s new tomb, in Joseph’s garden. His resurrection was prophesied, even foretold by Christ Himself.

The resurrection of Christ is emphasized in the teachings of the New Testament in the startling fact that it is recorded over one hundred times. That Christ rose from the dead is borne by witnesses numbering over six hundred people. Unbiased, unbought, truthful witnesses. Heaven testified to His resurrection like it dis His birth, the angel stood at the empty tomb, and said to the women “Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified, He is not here, He is risen, come see the place where the Lord lay.” Heavenly witnesses, earthly witnesses.

We are to study this morning not only the facts of the resurrection, but the fruits of the resurrection of our Lord. One fruit of His resurrection is that it proved His Deity; anyone who could triumph over death, in His only power, over the tomb with its darkness, command angels to come from Heaven and move a grave stone, enormous in size and weight, was none less than the Son of God, truthfully, God Himself.

Secondly, another fruit of the resurrection of Christ is the change of the Sabbath from the seventh day to the first day of the week. The only day on which He rose was to those who loved Him a day of worship. That evening you find the apostles and disciples in the upper room; they were worshipping by prayer. In their worship Christ appears to them. Remember that this is the first day of the week and that they were worshipping the risen Christ, and that day has continued to be the Christian’s Sabbath. The next first day of the week you will find the Christian church worshipping the same risen Lord. Paul urges the Corinthian Christians in his inspired letter to them to lay aside on the first day of the week by a act of worship, gifts as God had prospered them, to be given in the name of the Lord, to the poor. This day continues in New Testament history. It is frequently called the first day of the week, and also the Lord’s Day.

When John was on the Island of Patamos (sic) he was in the spirit of the Lord’s Day, he was in the attitude of worship. The resurrection of Christ is the cause for this undeniable fact.

Third, another fruit of the resurrection of Christ is the final resurrection of the body of believers in Him. Paul in writing to us in his letter to the Thessalonians distinctly says: “I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them who are asleep, that ye sorrow not even as others that have no hope, for if we believe that Jesus dies and rose again from the dead, even so them also who sleep in Jesus, will God bring with Him.” This is the most comforting fruit of the resurrection of Christ because Christ rose, our loved ones will rise, our bodies will be like Christ’s  in Heaven. Spiritual, immortal, incorruptible, unchangeable, recognizable bodies.

We will be like Christ and with Him forever. Another fruit of the resurrection is the fact that Christ said: “If I got not away the Comforter will not come unto you.” He meant by the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has worked in all ages of the world, even in the creation, but not until after Christ rose from the dead, ascended unto God, is He sent unto us, without measure and in great power. Jesus Himself said, “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”

We read in the Book of Acts that the apostles gave witness of the great of the resurrection of Christ, our belief in that helps us to die for Christ, to be martyrs for His Kingdom.

If Christ be not risen our faith is in vain, our preaching is forceless, He could not forgive or sins. The three outstanding fundamental facts in world history, in the history of the church, in God are these: The virgin birth of Christ, His death on the cross for our sins, His resurrection from the tomb. All the blessings that we have, spiritual or material, are fruits of this great fact.