Saturday, December 22, 2007


One of our dogs did not make it home from their night-time hunt last Wednesday. No sign of him since; he is most likely dead--a victim of the coyotes who live across our creek, with whom our dogs were "singing" the night of his disappearance. Of all our "mutts" Wilbur was a favorite to both me and my wife. At the same time, I could not choose one of the remaining six to exchange for Wilbur's return.

Both of us are pretty sad about losing this charming, frisky little dog, but yesterday and today, God has spoken to me about the state of my heart in view of this situation. Events like this sometimes help us focus on just what is important in our lives. I am literally "mourning" the loss of a dog, even to the point of tears. OK, how does that fit in with the overall approach to life which I am demonstrating, day in and day out?

My Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is despised and rejected by most all the population of this country and the world. Am I mourning that state of affairs?

During the hour it has taken me to put this post together, over 6000 souls have gone out into eternity. Statistically, most of them were lost and are now in Hell. Every day, over 150,000 people die, going into eternity, mostly unprepared, lost forever. Am I mourning over those who will die tomorrow, and next week, and next year (56 million!)......most of them dying without Christ?

I am involved in ministry to men in prison. Their lives are shattered, families destroyed, children forever affected. Just as in the "free world" a remnant has been called out, been born again by the Spirit of God, and we try to teach these men and disciple them. In a unit with 300 inmates, we might see 20 or so in a worship service. Those other men, some might be saved, most probably not. How great is my burden for them?

With these questions on my heart, I say "Thanks, Wilbur! You were a good companion, and now when I remember you, I'll have some better perspective on my life"


Today I read ahead in Spurgeon's Daily Readings, including the one for Evening on Christmas Day:

"And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually." —Job 1:5

What the patriarch did early in the morning, after the family festivities, it will be well for the believer to do for himself ere he rests tonight. Amid the cheerfulness of household gatherings it is easy to slide into sinful levities, and to forget our avowed character as Christians. It ought not to be so, but so it is, that our days of feasting are very seldom days of sanctified enjoyment, but too frequently degenerate into unhallowed mirth. There is a way of joy as pure and sanctifying as though one bathed in the rivers of Eden: holy gratitude should be quite as purifying an element as grief. Alas! for our poor hearts, that facts prove that the house of mourning is better than the house of feasting. Come, believer, in what have you sinned to-day? Have you been forgetful of your high calling? Have you been even as others in idle words and loose speeches? Then confess the sin, and fly to the sacrifice. The sacrifice sanctifies. The precious blood of the Lamb slain removes the guilt, and purges away the defilement of our sins of ignorance and carelessness. This is the best ending of a Christmas-day—to wash anew in the cleansing fountain. Believer, come to this sacrifice continually; if it be so good to-night, it is good every night. To live at the altar is the privilege of the royal priesthood; to them sin, great as it is, is nevertheless no cause for despair, since they draw near yet again to the sin-atoning victim, and their conscience is purged from dead works.

Gladly I close this festive day,
Grasping the altar's hallow'd horn;
My slips and faults are washed away,
The Lamb has all my trespass borne.

Last night in one of our prison services I preached on Lev 16, the Day of Atonement, specifically about the High Priest removing his usual attire, the glorious robes of his office, and putting on the comparatively plain white linen of the other priests, prior to entering the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the sins of his people. How this pictures the Lord of Creation laying aside His eternal glory:

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
(Php 2:7)

Now, having made Atonement for the sins of His people, He has ascended on high--

But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God (Heb 10:12)

and now, this is our standing:

Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
(Heb 10:19-22)

To me, the essence of the Incarnation: He came to do the Work of the Great High Priest.

At the close of the service, Carolyn sang this song, which seemed perfect for the occasion:

Before The Throne Of God Above
(by Charitie Lees Bancroft, Vikki Cook)

Before the throne of God above,
I have a strong, a perfect plea,
A great High Priest whose name is "Love,"
Who ever lives and pleads for me.

Chorus 1:

My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart;
I know that while in heav'n He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

Verse 2:
When Satan tempts me to despair,
and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin.

Chorus 2:
Because the sinless Saviour died,
my sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the Just, is satisfied
to look on him and pardon me.
to look on him and pardon me.

Verse 3:
Behold him there! the risen Lamb,
my perfect, spotless Righteousness,
the great unchangeable I AM,
the King of glory and of grace!

Chorus 3:
One with Himself I cannot die,
My soul is purchased by His blood;
My life is hid with Christ on high,
with Christ, my Saviour and my God
with Christ, my Saviour and my God

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Timmy Brister has designed a reading program for next year, one which will take you through some of the great Puritan writers. Here's a link to his outline and reading list:

I'm going to give it a go, with some modification since I have recently read some of the John Owen and Richard Baxter.

Here's a quote from his blog indicating the first two of five reasons why we should read the writings of these men:

First, the Puritans had a relentless pursuit of God. In their writings you will find believers who knew their God deeply through a rich God-centeredness that affected every area of their lives. We are living in a day where it is hard to find folks who know their God well. Second, the Puritans were physicians of souls. These men studied themselves and had a real, experimental knowledge of Christianity. Nowhere will you find more “uses” and applications for your life than in their writings. Not only did they know God well, they knew the minds, hearts, and consciences of men well.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Beyond Amazing Grace

In his old age, when he could no longer see to read, John Newton heard someone repeat this text, "By the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor 15:10). He remained silent a short time and then, as if speaking to himself, he said, "I am not what I ought to be. Ah! How imperfect and deficient! I am not what I wish to be. I abhor that which is evil, and I would cleave to that which is good. I am not what I hope to be. Soon, soon I shall put off mortality and with mortality all sin and imperfection. Though I am not what I ought to be, what I wish to be, and what I hope to be, yet I can truly say, I am not what I once was, a slave to sin and Satan. I can heartily join with the apostle and acknowledge, 'By the grace of God, I am what I am'.

From THE GRACE OF CHRIST by William Plumer

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Calvinism vs Arminianism

First, a few random observations:

This battleground is noted more for emotion than intellect. Otherwise Godly people seem to think it's OK to ditch any pretense of Christian charity and brotherly love when engaging on this subject.

Some of the most outspoken critics of Arminianism 1.) do not have a clear idea of what Arminians really believe and, 2.) Cannot spell Arminian and do grave injustice to the people of Armenia. (It's really tough for me to take seriously someone who wants to discourse on a subject they can't even spell correctly)

Entirely too many "critics" of calvinist theology cannot, do not, and/or will not make any distinction between hyper-calvinism, classical calvinism, and what I call "Baptist calvinism"--rather, they lump them all together and push them off to perdition. Like many critics of Arminianism, lots of these folks don't have a clue what calvinists really believe--they just know it's bad because someone told them it was.

There are several "streams" of theology in the calvinist camp. Mike Hess blogged on these recently here

Though I have a foot in several of those streams, I guess I fit best into what Mike calls the Young Fundamentalist group....which is funny in that I am far from young! I felt particularly comfortable with his statement on dispensationalism:

"do not take the Scofield/Chafer route of dichotomizing the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven but would still see a distinction between the Church and Israel."

I am also comfortable with the Reformed stream and the Fundamentalist stream with regard to the Ten Commandments and Sabbatarianism, which is contrary to the position of John MacArthur and my own church (which is mostly in Group #6 with some #5 and #2) I don't think it's anything to have a stroke over. I just cannot swallow thinking that, in effect, says: God gave 10 Commandments. 9 of them are applicable today, are part of His Moral Law; but the Fourth Commandment is just "ceremonial law" and has no standing in the Age of Grace. How can anyone say that?

On the subject of Arminianism, my blogging friend and brother in Christ, Billy Birch has put together a treasure trove of studies on classical arminianism. You can find it here.

If one is going to be opposed to arminianism, he should study it and know what it is he's opposing! Brother Birch and I are poles apart theologically but get along nicely. These acid-tossing brawls on this topic are a disgrace to the cause of Christ; both sides need to demonstrate more civility and grace.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

HIS Wonderful Works......

Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
(Psa 107:8)

Just one more of His wonderful works to report and to praise Him for......
Remember the "sad story" of Brother G? (If not, scroll down to the two-part story from October)

Monday night was a hectic one at a prison service. The scheduled preacher was not there when we arrived so I went into the main unit to fill in there and preach, leaving my co-workers to go into the Annex and conduct the Bible Study. Five minutes before I would have stepped into the pulpit, the scheduled speaker showed up, so I left him to preach to that group and walked back down the road to the Annex, where I stood out in the chilly wind for too long until someone finally came to the gate and let me in.

The Bible study was under way and I tried to quietly take a seat with a nod of apology for the interruption to the man teaching. Just as I lowered myself into a chair, I looked right into the eyes of the inmate sitting next to the teacher: BROTHER G!!! Needless to say, that brought more interruption as I had to get around to him for a heartfelt hug. Seldom am I speechless, but this was one time for sure. Praise the LORD!

After the class, we had a few minutes to talk and he told me he had just arrived at that prison, having been transferred on the previous Wednesday from the place where he had "disappeared" . Not only that, he is thrilled to be in this new unit where he has already made friends with the leaders of the Christian community there, who are Godly brothers. He seemed much like his "old self" before whatever problems he had came upon him, praising the Lord and sitting on the edge of his seat listening and discussing the Word all through the class.

We are praying that this is God's hand moving him out of a situation where his walk was disrupted and putting him in a place where he can grow and serve the Lord. We are also praying that he will attend the preaching services we have there twice monthly and be exposed more and more to the Word. Please continue to pray for him.....

"BUILDING BRIDGES"--Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention

Our pastor spoke today in the Lifeway conference called "Building Bridges" intended to smooth over some of the conflicts between calvinists and non-calvinists in the Southern Baptist Convention. Sunday I got the idea he was a bit apprehensive about it--for one, he thought he might be in "over his head" among all the big shots like Al Mohler, Tom Nettles, and assorted Doctors and Professors. Also, he had well-founded misgivings about just where we were building bridges to, and whether we really wanted to bridge some gaps.

I just listened to the message he delivered there and think he did a great job, to the Glory of God! He dealt with the dichotomy between the inerrancy of scripture and the sufficiency of scripture in modern church practice, and spoke plainly about the "straw-man" arguments that calvinism is anti-missions, anti-evangelism, etc.

Here's a link to that sermon:

Here's a link to other messages (from both sides) from the conference. I haven't listened to any others but did read the text file of the fellow who presented the "other side" versus Pastor Noblit, Dr Yarnell.

Speaking of Timmy Brister, he has on the same blog as those links, a great video by Paul Washer on "Cowardly Calvinists" I say "great" by inference since I can't view video on my slow internet connection, but have read all the commentary about it, including the snide attack by iMonk.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving--NOT a sad story

I've spent some time and space here relating "Sad Stories".....It's time to remind myself and my readers that not all stories are sad, that the Ultimate Story is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that is Good News!

This past Sunday, the Lord gave us a day in which He emphasized what a blessing are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our older son and his wife have been looking for a new church home, one where the Word is the focus and where Christ is exalted. Our church qualifies, I think, but the 150 mile round trip for them is too much, especially in these days of $3.00+ gasoline. Providence led me to the Shepherd's Fellowship and thence to the members list where I found 3 men who belonged to a church in the same county where they live, albeit a 45 minute drive. After reading their doctrinal statement and looking at their website, we decided to organize a visit for this past Sunday morning.

At the same time I was discussing this with our son, I was carrying on a "discussion" via internet with another member of the Shepherd's Fellowship who lives in the same county and was greatly discouraged by his "purpose-driven" church. He decided that he should check out this church possibility as well and we planned a meeting with him for the same Sunday morning.

The whole group arrived at church in time for Sunday School, had a few minutes for introductions among ourselves and met a few folks from the congregation before going into the Fellowship Hall for the adult s.s. class. What a blessing! A well-prepared, expository lesson through the 96th Psalm. What a radical change from what we have experienced in the past and from what the young folks have been experiencing in the churches where they've been until now.

The pastor of the congregation has been on sabbatical and the pulpit was filled by one of the teaching elders who did an exposition of Genesis 2, centered on the Truth of God's Word and focused on the Glory of God.

We were so encouraged to find this congregation, isolated in the sea of "seeker-sensitive" entertainment-focused churches, standing on the Word, dedicated to the Glory of God, with leadership determined to keep them faithful to the One Who gave Himself for the Church. We were encouraged to find a brother like our internet acquaintance who is convinced that he needs to be in a Christ-honoring church and willing to pay the cost to find such a place for himself and his family. It's especially encouraging to see our son following the leadership of the Spirit of God, seeking a Biblical church for himself and his wife.

After church, we went into a local restaurant for lunch and were blessed once again by running into a man who had been an inmate in one of the prisons where we hold services every week. While he was there, he was a leader among the brothers, faithful to attend services, with a strong testimony to the life-changing work of Christ in his life. I had heard from his pastor that he and his wife were constant in their church attendance and were striving to serve the Lord in their lives.....and here he was, with his wife, having just come from church. What a great reunion we had! It was a joy to see them, to meet his wife, to introduce them to our son and daughter-in-law, to have a few moments of renewed fellowship.

High on our list of "Things To Be Thankful For" should be our brethren in the Lord. I am grateful to God for all my brethren I've mentioned here, what an encouragement they are when we see the Lord at work in transformed lives.

But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(2Th 2:13-14)

And I want to join Paul in the following exhortation to those brethren and all my other brothers, that you stand fast; and in his prayer that God comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work:

Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
(2Th 2:15-17)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Dispensationalism's Loosening Grip.....

When God saved me in 1976, I immediately began attending church with the men who had been faithfully witnessing Christ to me for the preceding year or so. It was not only a "King James Only" church but one where many of the members carried and read the same edition of an Oxford Press Scofield Reference Bible.....the so-called "old Scofield" to distinguish it from the 1960-ish "New Scofield" which had updated some of the archaic language in the King James (a real no-no in the KJO world). This Bible was so popularly used that the preacher could say "Turn to page 1114" and we'd all be looking at John 1.

My point is that I was "raised" a Scofield-type dispensationalist. I left Scofield behind some time ago but have continued to consider myself a dispy, especially in the negative sense--that is to say: I am NOT a follower of "covenant theology" Though I long ago abandoned ideas like "God saved men in different ways in different dispensations" I have continued, rather thoughtlessly I'm afraid, to follow dispensationalism in general. As I examine my somewhat unquestioning allegiance to this position, it seems that much of the motivation is my continued rejection of the alternative (or what I view as the alternative): Covenant Theology.

I admit up front, because it will be obvious soon enough, that I am no authority on Covenant Theology. I am just beginning to study it carefully. The initial stumbling block to me is infant baptism. My understanding is that covenant theology teaches that infant baptism is the New Testament (or Church Age) equivalent to circumcision. Sorry folks, there is NO scripture to back that up--not in my Bible anyway. Baptism is for believers...period.

Further, I am under the impression, subject to correction, that covenant theology leads to Amillennialism. That view of eschatology requires one to spiritualize much of OT prophecy. Can't do it......the Word of God stipulates a 1000-year reign of Christ on this Earth and I'm lookin' for it! Tied in with that is a denial of the literal restoration of Israel, the idea that the Church is Israel and all the promises, spiritual and earthly, given to Israel may be claimed by the Church. All this requires suspension of belief in the literal truth of the Word and the substitution of man's spiritualized interpretation.

So, when I look at the leading proponents of Dispensationalism, like Scofield and Ryrie, and see their errors--like the "different means for different dispensations" of Scofield and the idea of the Cross being "Plan B" I don't want to be too strongly identified as a Dispy, any more than I want to be identified with a bunch of baby sprinklers. This Scofield idea of the Church Age being a "parenthesis" in the plan of God is becoming repugnant to me. I've not read Ryrie thoroughly but will take a chance and relate what Dr Alan Cairns states as Ryrie's position (knowing that Cairns is strongly anti-dispensational and might have exaggerated this): Ryrie has carried the "parenthesis" idea even further. In a sentence, parenthetical remarks have relationship to the words before and after the parentheses. Ryrie says that the Cross and the ensuing Church Age are not parenthetical, but that they are an intercalation --that means the parenthetical words have no relationship whatsoever to the other words in the sentence, either before or after the parentheses. Ryrie is saying that the Cross and the Church have no relationship to the Old Testament economy, nor to the future Kingdom....that it is a totally separate and stand-alone event or phenomenon. All I can do is hope I've misunderstood that......if that's true, what is the Book of Hebrews doing in the Bible?

more later..........I welcome your views and am open to correction--just provide the Scripture with your thoughts.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Sad Stories--afterthoughts

What a tragedy is life without Christ! No matter how the lost console themselves with the "pleasures" of this world, its misery, hopelessness, and despair always rises to the surface and dominates lives.

And, what a joy is life in Him! No matter the circumstances of life in the world, the joy of Christ is supreme and over-riding. We are, indeed, more than conquerors through Him who loved us. In recent weeks, I've been studying and preaching on 2 Cor 4, particularly verses 6 & 7, but when one studies that, he has to go on to Paul's great proclamation of victory over the forces of this world, the opposition to the Gospel:

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.
(2Cor 4:8-11)

Just last week, we held our first meeting in a prison which had had a tightly shut door for a long time. God opens those doors when He is ready for them to be opened, regardless of the opposition. Seventeen men came to the first service and we were greatly blessed by their hunger for the Word and by their genuine thankfulness to Him for opening that door.

As is our practice, we passed around a yellow legal tablet on which the men could write out any prayer requests they wanted to share with us. I like to do that for a couple of reasons: it's nice to pray for them by name; and, it helps me learn the names of the men more quickly. From those 17 men that night, the sheets bore 16 prayer requests. I want to give you an idea what type things are on the hearts of these men.

Please pray for my mother's healing. I need to be home with my Mother in her last days

Please pray for my brother who is in prison in Mississippi....

Please pray for my girlfriend, that the Lord keep her from her addictions and break her heart.....

I want to thank God for allowing me to overcome being shot in the head. Pray for my walk with God.....

Pray that God strengthen me where I am weak in His Word......

Please remember me as I go out into the free world Friday, that my fiancee and my children and I can be a real family, get into a good church and live for the Lord.....

Please pray for me as I am dealing with anger against a fellow Christian.....

Please pray for my sons and their children to grow in the Word and the power of it......

These are my brothers; they are your brothers. They're incarcerated, that's the only difference between them and me. We're a bunch of sinners living in the free world; they're a bunch of sinners living in confinement. I hope God breaks your heart over these men as He has mine.

We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.
(1Jn 3:14)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Sad Stories...part 2

That day he told me about the so-called "preacher of the gospel" who held him up to scorn because of his "improper baptism" I got some insight into Brother G's heart. When he told me his story, I was furious! That some perverter of Truth would deliberately ridicule a young believer like that is just unthinkable. As I counseled with him in that office, my own emotions overcame me and I choked up in my efforts to comfort and reassure him. I stopped talking and rested my arms on the desk, taking a moment to regain my composure. Brother G reached over and patted me on the arm, the patient comforting the doctor! That would have been quite a sight to an outsider....seeing this former gangsta affectionately responding to his brother in Christ.

But our contacts continued to decrease. I would ask about him every week and the inmate leader of our group would report that Brother G was around but not fellowshipping with them. At one point, I heard that he was being sought out by members of his former gang and that he was perhaps associating with them again. Another time, or more than once, I heard that he was fellowshipping with some of the Muslim inmates. Following that story, I heard that he had denounced the Bible as "only partly true" and one man reported that Brother G had told him: "God told me to not believe all the Bible, just certain parts"

Now prisons are great breeding grounds for rumors, just as in the military you never believe more than 10% of what you hear. After the rumors of his apostasy reached me, I searched him out again and tried to pin him down. In response to my direct questions about his faith, his behavior and his attitudes, he assured me he was "good" and continuing his own study of the Word, sticking to himself as had been his pattern for several months.

Then, a couple weeks ago, we learned that he had been moved to another part of the prison. The unit he was in, where we have weekly services, is a minimum security section where only the "best behaved" inmates live. They must maintain certain stardards of behavior or they will be moved to higher security areas where they will enjoy less freedom and fewer privileges. Brother G had been moved back to the main compound, a medium security unit. It took me another week to find out why that had happened. One of the officers with whom we have dealt for over two years and who has been very helpful in many ways told me that Brother G was a "check in" (Prison life has its own language......I didn't know that phrase when I first heard it) That means he had deliberately done something to get himself moved out of the unit. Men get in trouble with the gangs, get in debt, get into some conflict where they are (or think they are) in danger, so they do enough trouble-making to get enough write-ups so that they get moved. These cases are obvious to the officials: an inmate (like Bro G) who never is any problem suddenly starts trouble, seeking write-ups. It doesn't take much, not what we would think of as "serious trouble"....carrying food out of the chow hall, sassing an officer, violation of any of the myriad rules.......and pretty quickly, you're gone.

So, maybe there was some basis for the rumors of his dealing with his old gang; maybe he got in debt to them and couldn't pay; maybe this, maybe that. And then, the optimist in me thinks: Maybe he realized that he was in danger of straying from his faith, that he was being tempted by the Muslim influence or the gang influence, or some other influence that I have no idea about, and he acted in the only way he could find to remove himself from that which was causing him to sin. It is just not possible for me to view Brother G as apostate, despite the rumors. Part of this, I admit, is the difficulty I would have in admitting that I was so wrong in being so convinced of the genuineness of his conversion. My co-workers and I often cited him as an example of the "real thing". But the Biblical evidences of the New Birth are stated and he demonstrated so much evidence that lined up with Scripture that I am still convinced that he is a child of God. I'm hoping to see him soon. We are starting a monthly service in that main compound in November and I plan to write to him and invite him to come to the meeting. In the interim, I am praying that God will continue to deal with Brother G, convicting him of sin and guiding him in his study of the Word. I hope readers of this blog will pray for him as well.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sad Stories--part 1

Prison ministry is no mean source of sad stories. Young men with lives shattered by sin--drugs, alcohol, lying, stealing, sexual perversions, etc. Old men with lives shattered by sin, thirty, forty years later, still paying the terrible cost extracted by the sins of their youth.....

It's also a place filled with great stories of God's redeeming love, of His power to change lives and to make new creations of fallen men. What a blessing it is to fellowship with our brothers who have been snatched as brands from the burning and washed in the Blood of the Lamb of God!

Last summer, I thought I had come across an inspiring example of this New Life in Christ in an inmate I'll call Brother G. In the middle of the week, I had gone into a minimum security unit where we hold weekly services (starting our 3rd year next month) and some of our "congregation" came up with an air of excitement to introduce a new resident in their unit: Brother G, a 40-ish black man with gang tattoos creeping out from under his t-shirt, up onto his neck, cheeks, even his forehead.

He proved to be a soft-spoken, humble fellow, with a mild speech impediment and an apparent love for Christ and His Word. He told me that he had seen me with the chaplain in the high security unit just the day before and could not wait to get involved in worship services in his new unit. And so he did, attending regularly our services and some of the others during the week, actively participating in testimony times and singing hymns of praise.

All his conversation was about our Lord; his Bible was nearly worn out and almost every verse was underlined or highlighted. He was always full of questions and seeking deeper understanding of God's Word. He'd not been raised in church and had no background at all regarding Christianity. All he knew was what he read in his Bible. He told me he'd been saved in July 2006, so he was a very young believer.

One story will illustrate his level of understanding scripture. We're usually seated just inside the door of the chapel as the men come in for our services. Most of them shake hands with us as they walk by. Brother G would come in, shake hands with the men who were seated ahead of me, shake my hand, then go to his pew, bypassing my wife. One night he asked her if he was doing the right thing, not shaking her hand. It didn't seem right to him but, he said, his Bible said that he should not touch a woman. So, we had a talk about that and he was much relieved to find that it was permissible for him to shake hands with a woman!

We were able to give him a good study Bible (MacArthur) and he reported that he was spending hours in it each day. He was a slow reader, a struggling reader, but he worked hard. Despite his hesitation because of the speech impediment, he would participate in the scripture readings and public prayer during the services.

In the Spring of this year, he began missing some of our services. I knew that he had had some conflicts with some other professing Christians as he was wont to confront them about inconsistencies in their lifestyle, pointing out that their behavior was not in line with the Word. Prisons are, just like the "free world," a place of "haves" and "have nots"--some inmates have money and some are penniless. Some have jobs (scarce in some prisons) and get $35-75/monthly; some have families which send them money; and some, like Brother G, have nothing. The state supplies essentials like toothpaste but the "wealthy" inmates have bi-monthly commissary purchases laden with canned drinks, tuna fish, Ramen noodles, and other delicacies.

Brother G, as I've said, knew only what the Bible says about the Church. He made the mistake of reading Acts 2 and taking it literally. He had the idea that the brethren who had should share with those who had not, liberally and joyfully. So, there were conflicts there, and disappointments.

When I saw him and asked about his absences and asked if he was going to other services, his usual reply was that he just holed up in his cell and read the Bible, staying away from other inmates as much as possible. I encouraged him to not forsake the assembling together with other believers and showed him the scriptural teachings on fellowship in the Church. He was also discouraged by having attended several times the services of one of the "baptismal regeneration" bunch, where the preacher openly scoffed at his testimony and mocked him because he had not been "properly baptized". be continued

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Powerful Preaching

For years, my wife and I, along with most church-goers, endured preaching which was at best mediocre. As our hunger for the Word increased, we sought out men who were preaching with power and listened to them expound God's Word via recordings, radio broadcasts, etc. During the past year, God lead us to our new church home where we are blessed with this kind of powerful preaching "first hand." Not only is our senior pastor endued with power but, to use one of my sports metaphors, the church has a deep bench. We've heard 3 or 4 other men preach from that pulpit and are grateful to God that they too demonstrate great depth and boldness in their preaching. These are not "guest speakers" but other members of the staff/congregation of this church.

During the lean years, when we had to travel far or use recordings to satisfy our thirst for the Word, God brought us into contact with some of His mighty men of today and the recent past. One of these men is Dr Alan Cairns, until recently Pastor of Faith Free Presbyterian Church in Greenville SC. A native of Northern Ireland, Dr Cairns was in Greenville for about 25 years until his recent retirement. Over 2000 of his sermons are available free on We have downloaded 400 of them and have listened to about 200 of those. Just recently, we listened to two messages which might make the "all time best" list for us and I'm going to put the links here so that you can listen to them if you like.

First, a message entitled The Law of God from a text in Exodus 20 which is about the relationship of God's Law and God's Grace:

Then, this message entitled The Love of Christ, based on Ephesians 3. A far cry from the syrupy, sentimental "love" we hear from so many pulpits....powerful!

And, here's a link to our church's website where you will find past services archived (audio and video):

Saturday, October 13, 2007

About this blog......

As will soon become apparent, I'm new to this blog world. Let me begin with a few comments about the name I chose for this blog. Perhaps you know the scripture from which it's taken:

Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things. Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel: Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.
(2Ti 2:7-9)

I could not begin to count the number of times I've read that passage over the past 30 years, but it struck me particularly and personally most recently and I've had it on my heart and mind. This week, as I started doodling around setting up this blog, that phrase seemed to "fill the bill" for the name.

Thank God that His Word is not bound! Paul bound in chains in that Roman prison knew that his sovereign God was not thwarted by man's efforts to disrupt the spread of the Gospel. In fact, God used persecution of the Church as a means to expand its influence.

Thank God that His Word is not bound by the limitations of the men who preach it! I am an "uneducated country preacher" but am able to trust God to use my flawed efforts to bring glory to His name. As concerned and conscientious as I am about preaching pure doctrine, rightly dividing the Word, I am all too aware of my propensity for error. How encouraging are His promises!

So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
(Isa 55:11)

The great evangelist John Wesley held some confused positions regarding justification and sanctification but God used him in a wonderful way and thousands upon thousands of souls were saved under his ministry. Our sovereign God is not dependent upon the intellect and education of preachers.

Thank God that His Word is not bound by the limitations of the men who hear it! There are those, even in the Church, who think certain classes of men are beyond redemption. Since I work in prison ministry, I hear that kind of stuff frequently....."Why do you go out there?....with those people?" There are some "hard cases" in our prisons, but my God is able!

Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
(Heb 7:25)

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
(Heb 4:12)

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
(Eph 2:8)

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
(Rom 10:17)

Thank God, His Word is not bound!