ABHOTF on Amazon

I’m happy to announce that my book “A Brief History of the Future” is now available on Amazon as a Kindle download.  That makes four of our books on Amazon.  And all for the low price of 2.99 each.

“A Brief History of the Future” is a primer in eschatology that serves as a defense for the premillennial, pretribulational view.  And you can download it to your Kindle via the following link —

ABHOTF at Amazon

And you can find all four of our books here —

Kindle books

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The Pre-wrath Rapture of the Church

Although I have occasionally been asked about my thoughts concerning the pre-wrath rapture of the church, I have never written or spoken on the topic at any length. Of all the eschatological positions, we share the most common ground with the adherents of the pre-wrath position. Still, since questions continue to come up, I have written an article that explains why I have yet to be convinced of the pre-wrath end-times scheme. For those unfamiliar with pre-wrath, this article will serve as a primer. For those familiar with it, this article will demonstrate some of its strengths and weaknesses. But, all in all, this article explains why I remain unconvinced.

Click the link below to read (or download) the pdf.

The Pre-Wrath Rapture Q&A

Plus, if you’re one of those people who has more time to listen than to read, we have posted an audio version of this article that includes additional information and evidence that is not included in the written version.  You can stream or download the audio version here —

The Pre-Wrath Rapture Audio Q&A

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July 2015 Conference Messages and Notes

July was a busy month.  It started in Mesquite and wound up in Chattanooga.  I promised to post my notes here on the blog.  So, below you’ll find both the audio and notes from each conference.

At the Sovereign Grace Bible Conference in Mesquite, TX. I spoke for three nights.  I called the series “Selections from the Gospel of John.”

Part 1 —

Part 2 —

Part 3 —

And here are my notes in PDF format — Mesquite 2015 Notes

 
At the Sovereign Grace Bible Conference in Chattanooga, TN. I preached a message called “Christ, Our Propitiation.”

And here are my notes for that message. Chattanooga 2015 Notes

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Reflecting on the Day’s Events

Hello Friends,

How is your day going? You okay?

Nothing that happened today is surprising. It was predictable and predicted. When sinful humans rule over other sinful humans they can only come to sinful conclusions. They have no other option.

It was interesting reading the four dissenting opinions. It’s a rare thing when every dissenting judge writes an opinion. But they did. We have an attorney in our congregation and he sent out the PDF of the decision the moment it came down the pike.

Anyway, what might be missed in all the hoopla about homosexual marriage is that this was essentially a State’s Rights issue. And the four dissenting judges accused the majority of massive judicial over-reach. That’s what’s really at stake. And it’s why states like Texas are already fighting back. Remember, our nation is made up of “united states.” When the federal government or courts remove an individual state’s ability to operate in accordance with its own state constitution, that’s a very real issue.

In other words, this is one shot across the bow of a much larger issue. And that’s what the other four judges are so concerned about.

Meanwhile, I’m a Bible guy. So, I view these things through a spiritual lens.

We’ve been studying the books of Judges, 1&2 Samuel, and 1&2 Kings on Wednesday nights at GCA. Israel’s history is instructive. You may recall that they were initially a theocracy, ruled by the Law of Moses that codified them as a nation of chosen people. But that wasn’t good enough for them. They wanted a king so they could be like their surrounding neighbors. God gave them Saul, a ruinous king who took all the best of their horses, food, gold, and women … you know, the way politicians always do.

Then God gave them David, a man after His own heart. During the time of Solomon, David’s son, the kingdom was taken away from his posterity and Israel was divided.

The succession of kings in the North went from bad to worse. The kings in the South weren’t much better, although they had occasional rays of light. Whenever their enemies advanced on them or they suffered from famine or other disasters, Israel cried to God. And He would deliver them. Then they became comfortable, safe, well-fed … and they’d forget God and go chase after their foreign gods and their fleshly desires. The pattern is consistent.

That’s how humans are, by nature. When they’re in trouble or pain, they cry to God. When they’re fat and sassy, they feel self-assured and they do their own thing – which is usually sinful, given our sinful nature and proclivities.

At the moment, America is (mostly) safe and well-fed. We’re clothed, air-conditioned, and entertained into a stupor. We’re obsessed with celebrities and we think we can solve our problems by banning flags. And America has forgotten (and is erasing) her history.

Manifest destiny. The faith of the founding fathers. The importance of our Christian heritage. The necessity of theology in the well-rounded education. It’s all being erased.

I am reminded of what God told Abraham. When Abraham asked how he could know that the land he was promised would be his and belong to his (as yet unborn) offspring, God told Abe that his descendants would go into a land where they were not known and serve there for four hundred years.

But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” (Gen. 15:16)

Think about that phrase. The Amorites were living in the land that God promised to the descendants of Abraham. God gave them 400 years to fill up their iniquity – their rebellion against Him. Meanwhile, God was growing the nation of Israel as slaves in Egypt. When they came out, they were more than a million strong. And they conquered the land, just as God said.

I am afraid that America is currently filling up her iniquity. Because there is no immediate price to pay, they think that God doesn’t care, or that judgment doesn’t exist. They think that power in numbers and political correctness trumps things like morality. So, killing babies? No big deal. Homosexual marriage? No sweat. Gender confusion? Only natural.

But, let a plane hit buildings in New York and suddenly the entire Senate is singing “God Bless America” on the Capitol steps.

Then the attacks stop. Now, where were we? Ah, yes … what are those pesky Kardashians up to?

Consider the warning of the iniquitous Amorites. Try to find an Amorite, a Jebusite, or a Hivite today. Tough job. They were enemies of God’s people and they’re all gone.

But, try to find a Jew. Ta-daa! Easy. Why? Because God’s faithful when He calls.

As I keep saying, the only thing we’ve learned from history is that we’ve learned nothing from history.

So, lift up your heads, Christians. God did not topple off the throne today. He’s not in terror of nine humans in black robes. I keep warning that it’s going to get worse before it gets better. This is just another step along the way.

And remember that God is faithful to His people. There are folk dancing in the streets today and celebrating because they think they’ve won something. That’s fine. Dance on. Death is imminent. And equal. Everyone gets one.

And then, the judgment. And that’s when this stuff will really matter.

Look, it’s simple. Either the Bible is true or it’s not. If it is (and I am convinced that it is because of the plethora of evidence), then we need to walk, talk, and live as though it’s true. And have confidence. This world is not our home.

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

And nothing the world can or will do can change that.

So, let the world celebrate the sinful fashion in which men rule men. It may not matter to them at this exact moment.

But, it will matter one day ….

and forever.

 

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America Adrift

I posted a short comment and a link on the GCA Facebook page and then mentioned those comments in our most recent Wednesday night message.  I forget that not everyone who listens to the Salvation by Grace messages is in our Facebook group.  I was asked if I would post that information on my blog so that non-FB listeners could see to what I was referring.  And I’m happy to oblige.

It went like this —
_________________________

While I would normally refrain from posting a “news article” in the GCA group, this one is the exception. It’s from Breitbart.com and it states some basic truths that I’ve been saying for a long time. To wit: the church in America has abandoned the distinctives that make it truly Christian.

After citing some facts and figures, Thomas D. Williams PhD. writes:

Though it is impossible to establish a strict causal relationship between the two phenomena of moral liberalism and declining religiosity, the correlation between them is still striking.

What may not seem immediately apparent is why as Americans become increasingly progressive, they are abandoning liberal religious denominations in favor of conservative ones.

One theory, advanced by Arthur E. Farnsley II, a professor of religious studies at Indiana University, is that the more churches resemble society at large in terms of their moral teachings and understanding of the meaning of human existence, the less relevant they are. Why continue to attend church services to hear the same message you get from reigning culture? Religion only makes a difference when it offers an alternative account of reality, distinguishable from secular culture.

It is, in fact, the countercultural religious groups that are holding on to their membership.

Farnsley suggests, therefore, that the more liberal religious groups will continue to lose members and influence “because they are already on the modernist side, meaning many of their core values are expressed in other institutions, including government.”

Much of the decline in membership for mainstream Christianity seems to be the result of a loss of recognizable Christian identity in those churches.
_______________

Bingo. You got it. The church that has lost its savor is good for nothing.

Later, Williams writes:

A final trend among mainstream Christian churches has been a progressive lowering of the moral bar, seemingly out of fear of appearing “judgmental” or “hypocritical.” Confusing judgmentalism with the ability to tell right from wrong, many Christians have moved in the direction of withdrawing disapproval from all but the most egregious sins. The lower the bar, the fewer fail to get over it: “I’m okay. You’re okay.” Similarly, some have confused hypocrisy with a simple failure to live up to one’s moral ideals, and have embraced the facile solution of chucking their ideals. Hypocrisy, in fact, becomes impossible when one no longer endorses any moral standards.

That is genuinely insightful. I have long argued that there is a difference between being “judgmental” and practicing proper discernment (what Jesus calls, “proper judgment”). I like William’s differentiation. People confuse judgmentalism with the ability to tell right from wrong. We, as Christians, are expected to know the difference. Too much of modern Christianity has fallen for the world’s very specious argument that practicing biblical discernment is tantamount to being judgmental.

If you’re interested in reading the whole article, here’s the link:

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/06/01/why-is-america-moving-left/

And if you’re interested in hearing the Wednesday night message from 2Kings that includes a reference to these comments, it’s here:

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Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say What Exactly?

Some verses from the Bible are so embedded in our collective conscience that they take on a meaning of their own — often quite different from the meaning the original author intended.  And sometimes the solution to properly understanding a text is as simple as looking closely at the context.

Such is the case with Psalm 107:2 –

“Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary”

This is a favorite verse of preachers who are looking to garner feedback from the congregation.  The assumption is that this verse is a complete thought that serves as a directive to the redeemed to say that they are indeed redeemed.  Are you redeemed?  Yes?  Well then, say so!

But the simple fact is that even the most basic exegesis and contextual interpretation leads to a completely different — and more important — conclusion.  Here’s what the text actually says —

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good,
            For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
            Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary

 And gathered from the lands,
            From the east and from the west,
            From the north and from the south.

  They wandered in the wilderness in a desert region;
            They did not find a way to an inhabited city.

     They were hungry and thirsty;
            Their soul fainted within them.

     Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble;
            He delivered them out of their distresses.

     He led them also by a straight way,
            To go to an inhabited city.

     Let them give thanks to the LORD for His lovingkindness,
            And for His wonders to the sons of men!  (Psalm 107:1-8)

So, based on the context, what exactly are the redeemed instructed to say?  That the Lord is good and that His lovingkindness is everlasting.

And what’s the evidence that this is true? He gathered His own — His redeemed — from from all corners of the world, delivering them from the hand of their enemy.

In the historic context, this has to do with God delivering Israel out of Egypt.  For 40 years they wandered in the wilderness, hungry and thirsty.  They cried to the Lord and He delivered them.  He led them to the Promised Land and ultimately to Jerusalem, the place where He placed His name.

So what is the proper reaction?  They should thank the Lord for His lovingkindness and for His wonders to the sons of men.  (That phrase is repeated in verses 15, 21, and 31.)

The Psalm concludes with these words —

Who is wise? Let him give heed to these things,
            And consider the lovingkindnesses of the LORD. (Psalm 107:43)

From start to finish, the theme of this Psalm is God’s goodness and  lovingkindness.  That’s what the redeemed of the Lord are supposed to announce.  This Psalm is not advancing a form of self-assurance or confident boasting in our redemption.  It is meant to be a reminder of the various ways that God delivered Israel.  He is to be glorified for His goodness and His merciful work.  The emphasis is on Him, not on the redeemed.  The redeemed’s only participation in this whole historical account of God’s redemptive work is to admit to His goodness.

And THAT’s what the redeemed are to “say so.”

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Pneumatology at the 2015 Embracing the Truth Conference

Each Spring I look forward to the annual Embracing the Truth Conference that convenes at Hamilton Chapel Church in Gladeville, TN.  I have attended a good many conferences through the years, but this one consistently distinguishes itself by acts of kindness, generosity of spirit, and the sort of grace you always hope to encounter when entering a room full of Christians.  Plus, I count every speaker, pastor, lecturer, and preacher who attended a friend.  Good camaraderie, good food, good fellowship, lots of joy and laughter … you can’t ask for more than that.

I “lectured on steroids” for three mornings on the topic of Pneumatology – The Holy Spirit.  Here are the recordings of those messages and a link to a PDF of my notes (for those who want to follow along, see I often I wandered off, or would like to use them for their own studies and teaching).

Lecture 1: Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Lecture 2: Thursday, March 12, 2015

Lecture 3: Friday, March 13, 2015

Notes for Pneumatology at ETT 2015 

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Embracing the Truth Conference 2015

ETT Banner

It’s hard to believe, but conference season is almost upon us again.  In early March I’ll be attending the Embracing the Truth Conference here in Middle Tennessee.  I like conferences where I get to sleep in my own bed.  Here’s the info and details.  This is one of my favorite conferences and I hope everyone in the vicinity (and out of the vicinity) will make plans to join us.

 ETT 2015 Schedule of Speakers

ETT 2015 Itinerary 

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Contextualizing the Gospel to the Trendy Un-Churched

I’m just not a trendy guy.  I don’t like fashion trends, musical trends, or the latest trends in political correctness.  I especially don’t like church trends.  You know the type: whatever it takes to entertain the audience and bring them back.  PT Barnum had nothing on the current crop of trendy preachers.

I listen to sermons on a regular basis.  A friend asked that I watch some videos from a local preacher and offer some feedback.  He’s a young preacher (chronologically and experientially) and he’s leading a young, vibrant church, I was told.  Given the explosion of growth he was experiencing, I was curious to hear the sort of message he was propounding.

“Trendy” doesn’t start to describe it.  Because the congregation was filled with upwardly-mobile 20-somethings, the message was purposefully and specifically designed to appeal to their hipster sensibilities.  For instance, the apostles were referred to as “12 dudes” and Jesus was portrayed as a sort of life coach rather than the Lord of glory.  It was painful to watch.

A number of years ago, in an effort to draw a younger demographic, churches began offering an alternative form of church service, known as “contemporary worship.”  They traded their organs for electric guitars, skipped the robes in favor of blue jeans, and middle aged preachers spiked their hair and grew “soul patches” below their lower lip to show how hip and relevant they were.

Relevant.  That became the buzzword.  The church needed to make Jesus more relevant.  And that meant jettisoning the traditions of the church and embracing every movement, trend, novelty and “purpose driven” book/DVD/study guide that came down the pike.  The church became a marketplace for comedians, performance art, pop stars, and purveyors of psycho-babble.  And along the way, the gospel — the plain and simple recitation of the elements of Biblical truth and doctrine — fell by the wayside.

Yet, there was no sense of worry.  No panic.  After all, the seats were being filled and the coffers were growing fat.  In a word, it was “working.”  And the new buzzword became “contextualizing.”  For instance, when Mark Driscoll grew Mars Hill Church to megachurch status wearing Mickey Mouse shirts and biker chains, he said that he was “contextualizing” the message to the audience he was addressing.  Because it “worked,” others followed the model.  And a trend was born.

Driscoll claimed that his young, Seattle urbanite congregation was mostly “un-churched.”  That’s why he had to make church “relevant” to them.  And that brings us to the local guy I mentioned earlier.

He also claimed that his congregation was “un-churched.”  Hence, the various amusements and entertainments that accompanied his message. That’s why his message was sprinkled with language and story-telling conventions that weren’t found in the text, but which made the Bible more “approachable,” said he.

As I listened to him talk, I couldn’t avoid the impression that he thought the Bible, as written, was insufficient.  It had to be made more relevant to the listening audience.  It had to be “contextualized.”  It had to be accompanied by entertainment.  In short, it had to be improved.

Why?  Because the people to whom he was speaking were “un-churched.”

I’m a Bible guy.  I actually believe that the Word of God is sufficient to accomplish whatever God intends for it to accomplish.

"So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;  It will not return to Me empty,  without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11)

It does not need to be watered down or made more relevant in order for the Almighty to do what He intends to do.  As Charles Spurgeon rather famously said, “The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.”

But here’s my point (and I do have one) — the Bible knows nothing of “un-churched” people.  I contend that the folk the trendy preachers are appealing to are not un-churched, they are un-saved.  And dumbing-down the Bible in order to make it relevant to the unsaved is utterly contrary to every Biblical example I can think of.  No prophet took that approach.  In fact, they so feared and revered God that they would always and only say whatever God instructed them to say.

But Balaam replied to Balak, “Did I not tell you, ‘Whatever the LORD speaks, that I must do’?” (Numbers 23:26)

Neither Jesus nor any of the apostles ever sugar-coated the message of judgment and salvation in order to appease the unbelievers. And, to my way of thinking, failing to preach the whole counsel of God, the way God Himself presented it, is a dereliction of duty.  It is a sure demonstration that the church has forgotten its purpose and calling.  The church exists for the proper care and feeding of the sheep, not for entertaining goats.

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)

One last thing: Paul repeatedly called for unity in the church.  Genuine Christian unity is the result of sound doctrine.  Teaching the Bible is the only way to create unity within a congregation. If everyone believes differently, unity is impossible.  When the preacher demonstrates a low view of Scripture, or when he teaches by example that the Bible is flexible or is merely an outline on which we can hang our own opinions, that attitude will be reflected by the congregation.  And confusion ensues. Sound doctrine leads to healthy, grown-up Christianity.

There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-5)

Altering the gospel in order to make it more appealing to the unsaved is a fool’s errand. This is serious work we’re engaged in, not to be taken lightly.  And a proper reverence for God’s word is critical to the task.

Then again, I’m a less-than-trendy Bible guy who pastors a local non-mega congregation.

But, I’m happy to be that way.

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