Friday, November 15, 2013


Peter was an ordinary man.  When he first met Jesus, Jesus changed his name to Peter (i.e. ‘rock’).  On a subsequent meeting, Jesus changed his occupation.  A lot of other changes would come about as a result of his relationship with Jesus.
No Fish or too many?  Peter was a fisherman.  His life was filled with the daily routine of caring for his boats and gear and putting out his nets.  That’s what he was doing when Jesus called him.  He fished hard all night without success, but then Jesus came and caused a miraculous catch.  “Depart from me, Lord,” said Peter.  “Follow me,” Jesus replied.

On water or under it?  On a storm tossed sea the disciples were frightened by what they thought to be a ghost, but it was Jesus walking on the water.  “Bid me come,” Peter said.  “Come,” Jesus replied.  And with eyes fixed on Jesus Peter walked on water.  But not for long.  He looked away, saw the wind, and began to sink.
Blessed or cursed?  “But who do you say that I am,” Jesus asked?  Peter was commended when he acknowledged Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  “Blessed are you,” Jesus declared!  But Jesus then warned of His pending sufferings and death.  Peter rebuked Him for it and Peter heard a different word: “Get behind Me, Satan!”

Wash or don’t wash?  The Master laid aside His garments and prepared to wash the feet of His disciples.  Peter protested, “Never shall you wash my feet!”  But then Jesus, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”  Peter changed his mind and asked for cleansing of his head, his hands, and his feet. 
Confident assertion vs. unequivocal denial.  With the cross at hand Jesus warned His disciples of their pending desertion.  Peter confidently disagreed: “Even though all may fall away because of you, I will never fall away.”  Hours later Peter emphatically and repeatedly denied even knowing Jesus.  Jesus looked at Peter.  Peter remembered what Jesus had said and “went out and wept bitterly.”

In the topsy-turvy nature of his discipleship it was his most significant failure.  Jesus had given him a new name, Peter (‘Rock’), but he wasn’t living up to it.  He vacillated between acts of great faith and wisdom and lacks of faith and spiritual foolishness.  In other words—he was just like us.  After denying Christ, Peter went back to fishing.  Jesus found him there and patiently and lovingly restored him to ministry.
It is an altogether different Peter that we read about in the book of Acts.  Previously, Jesus’ repeated predictions of His pending death made absolutely no sense to Peter, but after Pentecost he boldly proclaimed the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Previously, Peter shrunk back in fear when a slave girl asked him about his relationship with Jesus, but after Pentecost, before the Sanhedrin—who had the power to do him much harm—he boldly proclaimed Jesus to be the Christ and the sole means of salvation.

The post-Pentecost Peter is an altogether different Peter, a “like-a-rock” Apostle who stood firm and contended for the gospel in the face of unabated threats and persecution.  The fishermen was perfected the art of fishing for men.  How can we account for the difference?  What worked to bring about such a transformation? 
Prior to His arrest Jesus spoke to His disciples of the forthcoming ministry of the Holy Spirit.  He said that it was to their advantage that He (Jesus) go away, because in going He would send the “Helper.”  He was referring to the person of the Holy Spirit.  The Helper (Greek “parakletos” = “one called alongside to help”) would bear witness of Jesus, give understanding of truth, and indwell the disciples (John 14:17).  Later, Jesus spoke of the power the disciples would receive by the Spirit (Acts 1:8).  It is the Spirit of God who made all the difference in Peter’s life.  By the Spirit he was able to do things he could never have possibly done in his own strength.

And so it is for any of us.  Apart from the Spirit’s inner-working we are both unwise and impotent when it comes to spiritual matters.  As Jesus said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits not nothing” (John 6:63).  The believer is called to a walk by the Spirit.  Apart from Jesus we can’t lift a spiritual finger, but by the Spirit who works within us God is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think (John 15:5; Phil. 4:13).

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Some time ago I read a biography of Isobel Kuhn entitled “By Searching.”  Isobel (1901-1957) was a missionary to the Lisu people of Yunnan Province, China, and northern Thailand. She served with the China Inland Mission, along with her husband, John.  The following excerpt from her book tells of her experience of being interviewed as a prospective missionary by the council of China Inland Mission.  She was taken aback by the response of one of the council members, and was, at first, quite defensive.  But the council of a fellow believer led her to reconsider, and even though wrongly accused, God led her to respond in a more positive way which ultimately contributed to her preparation for ministry.  Her experience speaks to the truth of 1 Peter 2:18-20, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.  For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up sorrows when suffering unjustly.  For what credit is there if, when you sin and harshly treated, you endure it with patience?  But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.”
“I was in Toronto some three or four weeks before being called to meet the Council. That is a formidable occasion and I was nervous, as I am not quick at thinking on my feet. I always do better with preparation and time to consider the best answer. The meeting came and went, however, and that evening after supper I was called into the sitting-room by Mr. Brownlee to hear the verdict. He said something like this: "The Council was quite satisfied with your answers today, and we in the Home have enjoyed your presence. But the Council has asked me to speak to you upon a very serious matter. Among your referees there was one who did not recommend you. The reason given was that you are proud, disobedient, and likely to be a troublemaker. This person has known you for some years, and the Council felt they could not ignore the criticism."
"Who was it?" I asked quickly, simply dumbfounded.
"The C.I.M. does not betray the confidence of referees. We write to those who have had business associations with you as well as the referees you yourself give—and we promise to keep all reports in confidence. I cannot tell you the name, but I would like to discuss with you what havoc such characteristics can cause on the field."
He then proceeded to do so. At the end of an hour of earnest exhortation, he pronounced the verdict: "The Council decided to accept you conditionally. There is an anti-foreign uprising in China just now which is very serious and we dare not send out any new candidates. That will be our public statement on this matter. For yourself alone, and we hope you will not spread it around, during your waiting period the Vancouver Council will be watching to see if any of these characteristics show themselves. If you prove that you have conquered them, you will then meet with the Western Council and be accepted fully, and sent out with the first party that goes. As we anticipate your victory in these matters, it was voted to pay your train fare to Vancouver, as en route for China. I can assure you I have not found it easy to say these things." And indeed his face was sad and tired. I felt sorry for him, even with the misery that was numbing my own heart.
"Good night." And I went up to bed, but, as you can readily believe, not to sleep. Who could be the unknown referee?
Proud. Disobedient. A troublemaker. This was the third time the adjective proud had been attached to me. The first time was by Daddy Page himself months before. He had read me an anxious lecture on the subject, to my extreme surprise, for pride was one of the human frailties of which I felt I was not guilty. I would have taken Daddy Page's lecture to heart if he had not ended it by holding up to me, as one example to emulate, a certain fellow-student. That particular student stood high in the regard of the staff, but I happened to room near her and I knew that secretly she broke many Institute rules, also she lied about her age to her boyfriends, and so on. I was sure if Dr. Page knew what I knew, he would never have held her up as a pattern of conduct. So I concluded he did not know either of us and brushed the accusation aside. China was later to be a painful revelation to me of my own heart and frailty. From this distance I now know that Dr. Page had indeed sensed a real flaw in my life but had hold of the wrong label, that was all.
I was selfish. I had whimsically divided the world into two classes—people who interested me and people who did not. I felt I was not proud, because the people who interested me were often among the poor or the uneducated, but when it was so, my friendship for them was still as warm as for those who had social or educational advantages.
Toward people who did not interest me I must have appeared proud. I cold-shouldered them and brushed them off me as time-wasters. This was of course a serious flaw for a missionary, but I fancy its basis was selfishness rather than pride.
The next point was—disobedience. How I did get indignant! There were many rules at Moody Bible Institute which were difficult to keep. The rules have been revised since, and it is no longer so, but I had been meticulous in obeying simply because I had signed a promise to do so. I felt honor-bound to keep that promise. The little matter of laundry, for instance: we had washbowls in our rooms, but their use for laundry was forbidden. To rinse one pair of stockings a day was allowed, no more. There was no laundry in Ransom Hall, so I had to waste many weary steps going to another dormitory to do my laundry and waste more precious minutes because it was required that each time I get permission from the Matron to do so. And I could not always find the Matron. This was my most galling trial. The girl who had been held up to me as an example washed all her lingerie and sometimes even nightclothes right in her bedroom at hours when she knew the inspectors would be busy elsewhere, and dried them on her radiator! "The rule is unreasonable" was her only answer when I remarked on it. But I had promised to obey, so I dragged my weary self over to the other building every week. And now the C.I.M. had been told I was disobedient!
I had been told not to spread around this second condition of my acceptance by the Mission, but I did write a few friends. They wrote back quickly, indignant and sympathetic, and I was somewhat mollified. All except one, Roy Bancroft, a music student with a beautiful baritone voice and a consecrated heart. We had invited Roy out to St. Charles Reformatory to sing to the boys and help deal with them. I happened to be writing to him those days and impulsively told him. A letter came back quickly and I opened it with a smile of anticipation, thinking that Roy too would be indignant on my behalf.
But I got a shock.
"Isobel," he wrote, "what surprised me most of all was your attitude in this matter. You sound bitter and resentful. Why, if anyone had said to me, 'Roy B., you are proud, disobedient, and a troublemaker,' I would answer: 'Amen, brother! And even then you haven't said the half of it!' What good thing is there in any of us, anyway? We have victory over these things only as we bring them one by one to the Cross and ask our Lord to crucify it for us."
These words "stabbed my spirit broad awake." Faithful friend he was, not afraid to season his words with salt even as he did not forget to speak with grace also. I was on my knees in no time asking the Lord to forgive me.
I arose from my knees with a different attitude. Instead of resentment there was alertness to watch and see if these three horrid "Diabolutians"—pride, disobedience, rebellion—were really lurking in my camp. The town of Mansoul should not protect them, if detected. This brought me into peace, even though I always shrank from the memory that I was to be watched for their appearance in my life.
Subsequently it so happened that in a most unexpected way I learned of my detractor's identity and then I knew the reason for her hostility. It will suffice here to say that she was a teacher in a school which I had attended. She wished me to assist her in spying on my fellow-pupils. I felt that was unworthy and so had incurred her displeasure by refusing. When I learned this I was tempted to clear myself with Mr. Brownlee and the Western Council. But should I? I seemed to hear a voice say, "If that had been said of me, I'd have answered 'Amen, Brother! And then you haven't told the half of it!'" Dear old Roy—he was right. Why try to make the Mission think I was lily-white? They'd have personal experience before long as to just how earthly a person I was!”

Friday, August 30, 2013


We’ve got two dogs—Bean and Rory.  Bean is a black and white half-Lab/half-Dalmatian.  Rory is a 3 year old Golden Retriever.  They’re friends and most of the time they get along pretty well—sometimes Bean will even lick and clean Rory’s ears for her.  But Rory is kind of spoiled and tends to get a little more attention.  Bean’s response?—he sneaks in behind her, chomps on her leg, and pulls.  Kind one minute, chomping on her the next.  Dogs can be unpredictable in their behavior—just like humans.

For the last year or two--I’ve lost track of when we started--our Men’s Bible study has been doing a study through a book written by Alexander Strauch entitled “If You Bite and Devour One Another: Biblical Principles for Handling Conflict.”  The title for the book comes from Galatians 5:15, “But if you bite and devour one another, take care lest you consume one another.”  It has been a wonderful study for our group.  I highly recommend it.

The title and verse speak to a very real problem—it is possible for Christians to engage in “Christian cannibalism.”  I’m not speaking, of course, of the physical kind, but Paul used such language to graphically depict what happens when Christians fail to act by the Spirit in love in their relationships to one another.  The sad reality is that you don’t have to be a Christian very long until you’ve been “chomped on” by a fellow brother or sister in Christ.

That we would engage is such behavior is testimony to the reality and tenacity of sin, though forgiven the believer is nonetheless still capable, in the flesh, of engaging in gross acts of unloving behavior.  You’ve probably got a few pieces of missing flesh or at least some tooth marks.  And you’ve likely, on more than one occasion, taken a bite out of a fellow saint.  Not very tasty!

A variety of fleshly responses can be applied to difficult situations.  Sometimes we flee the situation (how many Christians leave a church because of their unwillingness to lovingly confront a matter?).  We can fight—“enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions” are listed amongst the various deeds of the flesh (Gal. 5:20).  These kind of responses require no effort on our part.  We tend to gravitate towards them.  Like weeds in a garden their propensity to dictate our response is an ever present reality.  Even if not visibly present, they are there, lying just below the surface.

The remedy for our tendency to respond in fleshly ways is to “walk by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16).  We lack the wisdom, power, or compassion to respond on our own, to difficult situations in a God-honoring way.  It is by the Spirit that Divine resources and Christ-like virtues are borne in us and brought to bear upon a conflict.  The person of the Spirit (the one called alongside to Help) uses the Word of God to help us.  It is as the “Word of Christ richly dwells within us” that we are led to relate to one another properly (Cf. Eph. 5:18f; Col. 3:16f).

The context of Gal. 5:15-16 instructs us in the universally correct response to one another: “Through love serve one another.  For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love must always govern our relationships within the body of Christ and our response to difficult situations.  There is never an “opt-out” when it comes to the command for us to love one another (Cf. John 13:34-35).  In our day one cannot mention the command to love without qualifying it according to its Biblical definition.  Love does not equate to tolerance, love is something far greater than that.  It has demonstrated to us and defined for us in the loving sacrifice of the Lord Jesus (1 John 3:16).  In the context of what is taught elsewhere in Scripture, a good definition of Christ-like love would be: that which actively, purposefully, and sacrificially pursues that which is best for its object.  Love coexists with truth and can only be understood in the sense of desiring “Christ’s best” for those whom we care about.  The exercise of Christ-like love depends on knowledge of the truth and discernment (Cf. Phil. 1:6).  This is the kind of love that we are to show to others, even when they don’t respond in kind.

In our study of Stauch’s book one theme has repeatedly drawn our attention—the example of Christ.  In every good way He is the perfect example for us.  He faced more and greater difficult situations than any of us will ever face, yet He never sinned in His response (Cf. Heb. 4:15).  Without condoning or tolerating sin, He was able to “speak the truth in love” in a remarkable manner (Cf. John 3:1-9; 4:11-8; 8:1-11).  He has set the standard for us in how we are to love (Cf. John 13:34-35; Eph. 4:32-5:2; 1 John 3:16).  To love like Jesus is to love in terms of 1 Cor. 13:4-7.  In consideration of His example it is readily apparent that we all have room to grow.

That reality helps us when it comes to dealing with difficult situations. Christ has for us to grow.  There is no way to avoid difficult situations.  We are all going to be “chomped on” sometime—that’s something we can’t control.  But here’s something we can control—our response.  We can respond, by the Spirit in love, in a way that honors God, contributes to healthy relationships, and adorns our testimony before the lost.  We can respond in a way that will contribute to our growing in Christ—a matter of utmost and mutual importance.

Bean doesn’t know any better, he’s just a dog.  But thank God that, in Christ, He is able to change us and grant us victory over our tendency to cannibalize ourselves.  It is in the nature of man in this dog-eat-dog world to chomp on each other, it is the nature and work of the Spirit to lead us to a higher plane of living.

Pastor Jerry

Sunday, July 7, 2013


1.      Check your motivation.  There are right and wrong reasons for going to church.  Guard against the spirit that would view church attendance with a sense of mere obligation or duty.  You were Spirit-led with love for Jesus to first enjoin yourself to the fellowship of believers.  Be motivated in attending church by that same Spirit-empowered love for Jesus, His truth, and His people (Cf. John 14:23; Psalm 119:140; John 13:34-35; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Revelation 2:4-5).

2.      Set apart Sunday as “The Lord’s Day” (Cf. Revelation 1:10).  According to statistics church attendance is declining to an all-time low in our country.  It is the “habit of some” to forsake assembling together with other believers (Hebrews 10:25).  They and the church both suffer harm as a result and the testimony and ministry of the church is diminished.  Christ loves His church and He bids us to do the same (Cf. Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:25).

3.      Anticipate Sunday worship with the saints and encourage others to do the same (Cf. Psalm 122:1).  We anticipate the prospect of attending various kinds of special events (sporting events, concert, etc.)—in our excitement we might even count down the preceding days and tell and invite our friends—let’s anticipate church with an even greater degree of anticipation.

4.      Be mindful of Satan’s attempts to distract or detour you from Sunday worship (Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:3).  The endeavor to do God’s will and work in our lives is always met with spiritual opposition.  That’s true whether we determine to pray, study to obey God’s Word, or go to church.  It’s easy to generate countless reasons and excuses for dismissing these spiritual disciplines.  See church not as an obligation to fulfill but a privilege to delight in and be excited about.

5.      Pray for the Sunday gathering of the saints (Cf. Ephesians 6:18-19).  The Spirit of God must be the “worship leader” if our worship is to be pleasing to God (Cf. Philippians 3:3).  Pray for yourself and others—that we might be Spirit-led to behold the glory of Christ and hear and respond to His truth (Cf. John 16:14).

6.      Get a good night’s sleep the night before.  We instinctively know that to be at our best we must get adequate rest.  A last Saturday night will likely translate into a drowsy and inattentive Sunday. 

7.      Arrive at church early.  Most wouldn’t think of showing up late for work, yet church frequently doesn’t rate the same degree of punctuality.  An attitude of anticipation will work to overcome reasons for delay.

8.      Go to church, not with the intent to be served, but to worship God and serve others (Cf. Philippians 2:3-4, 21).  In our self-worshipping culture it is easy to think of church in a similar way—to go to church to be served by others.  But Christ has called us a different and better way of life.  He is our example.  To have the mind of Christ is to put the needs of others ahead of one’s own.  “He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35).”

9.      Don’t let minor offenses, etc. get in the way (Cf. Ephesians 4:32; 4:27).  You’ve no doubt heard that little ditty, “To dwell above with saints we love, Oh that will be glory; to dwell below with saints we know, well that’s another story.”  The fact is that the Spirit has put us into the body with other blood-bought (1 Corinthians 8:11b), Spirit-indwelt brothers and sisters.  Learning how to forgive others is an important aspect of growing in Christ.  Sometimes people avoid fellowship because they have refused to forgive.  Don’t let the Devil use your own bitterness to lead you away from fellowship.  You are going to be with the saints above for a long time—it’s best to learn to love them here below.

10.  Actively look for ways to encourage and serve others (Cf. Hebrews 10:24-25).  “Out in the highways and byways of life many are weary and sad.”  That’s true not only outside but in the pews.  How precious is a word of encouragement or demonstration of concern to someone who is struggling!  Proverbs 15:23, “How delightful is a timely word!”  Pray for and look for ways to encourage. 

11.  Make it a point to greet/welcome visitors and new attenders.  I remember visiting a church, years ago, where I was never greeted—indeed my presence amongst them was never even acknowledged.  By way of contrast I once attended a church in Uganda where seemingly every member greeted and hugged me and my fellow visitors.  Determine to “pay special attention” to every visitor no matter their status or attire (Cf. James 2:2-3).

12.  Engage yourself in the corporate prayers (Cf. Acts 4:24).  Don’t go to church as a spectator, but as a participant.  The early church “lifted their voices to God with one accord” in prayer when confronted with an urgent need.  Enjoin yourself “in the Spirit” in times of corporate prayer (Ephesians 6:18).

13.  Engage your mind, will, and emotions in the singing.  Sing with enthusiasm (Cf. Colossians 3:16).  In our entertainment crazed culture it is not surprising that some think that the purpose of music in the church is to entertain.  But music in the church is for worship.  To be pleasing to God it must be “in Spirit and truth” (John 4:24).  Worship in singing is the result when we are Spirit-filled and richly indwelt by God’s truth (Cf. Ephesians 5:18-19; Colossians 3:16).  The most enthusiastic singing I’ve experienced has been in settings where there were no song books, no sound systems, and only a drum for accompaniment.   Sing songs of praise to Jesus as if you mean it.  God is far more concerned with what comes flows from our hearts though our lips than what comes out of the sound system.

14.  Listen to the sermon with the intent to obey (Cf. James 1:22; Revelation 1:3; Psalm 1).  God’s word repeatedly promises to bless those who listen to it and then obey what it teaches.  It is not enough to merely hear it taught (Cf. Matthew 7:24-27).  J. I. Packer, “Congregations never honor God more than by reverently listening to His Word with a full purpose of praising and obeying Him once they see what He has done and is doing, and what they are called to do.” 

15.  Examine everything carefully, but not with a critical spirit (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:21; Acts 17:11; James 2:13).  Any good Bible teacher deems it a good thing when his teaching is met with Spirit-led discernment.  Subservient to the authority of the Word his goal is not adherence of his audience to him, but to the Word.  Take care to listen measuring what you hear against the standard of God’s inspired Word (Cf. 2 Timothy 3:16).  Our guide must always be “What does the Word of God say” when it comes to matters of faith and practice.  That being said, be careful to guard against a “critical spirit” which would call into question the motivation and every detail of those who serve in the body of Christ. 

16.  Consider taking notes (Cf. Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 2:15).  It is good practice to listen to a sermon with a Bible open and a notepad in hand.  Look up referenced verses so that you gain familiarity with your Bible.  Write down important points or verse references that you want to refer to later.  We once had visitors from California who attended our church.  They had taught their two children (ages 10-12) to listen carefully to the sermon and take notes.  At the end of the service they showed me what they had written.  They both had drawn pictures which illustrated the main point of the sermon along with relevant verses that spoke to their hearts.  It can help in listening to write things down.

17.  Endeavor to take home at least one truth from Scripture that God can use to change you (Cf. Psalm 119:18; 139:23-24; Hebrews 4:12).  God’s Word is living and active and able to penetrate deep into our hearts.  The Spirit of God applies the Word of God to our hearts that He might transform us into the very image of Christ.  The process is step-by-step and the Spirit is well equipped to speak to us in our particular point of need.  Be responsive to the truth in a spirit of humility (Cf. Isaiah 66:2b).

18.   Find ways to teach and admonish others in the truths that you learn.  Truth is imparted to be passed on (Ezra 7:10; 2 Timothy 2:2).  Growth to maturity in Christ is a corporate affair.  It is as we are “speaking the truth in love” that we “grow up in all aspects into Him” (Ephesians 4:15).  Being richly indwelt with the Word we are to “with all wisdom (be) teaching and admonishing one another” (Colossians 3:16).  The gathers for edification and scatters for evangelism.  We gather that we might be prepared to scatter, taking the truth with us.  Throughout the week we will likely have countless opportunities to “speak the truth in love” (and especially the gospel) with others.  View Sunday as the opportunity to be instructed and encouraged that you might prove yourself to be a blessing to someone else in your coming week.

Friday, July 5, 2013


John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Independence Day reminds us of the beginnings of our great country and the high price that was paid to win our freedom.  Divine providence led a group of men to deliberate and declare their freedom.  They signed their names to a document knowing full well the cost that would be borne.  Freedom was costly then and remains so in our day.  Ronald Reagan once said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”  Sadly, in our day, the freedom envisioned by our founders and won by the blood of patriots is waning.  The great light of freedom that has been a beacon to the world does not burn so brightly anymore.

Nations come and go.  Political freedom is relative.  Many in the world today have no freedom to worship as they please or express their own ideas.  What we take for granted, others only dream of.  But political freedom is earth bound and transitory.  It prospers or vanishes at the hands of those who wield power and yearn for more.

Jesus spoke of a greater freedom that He alone can provide—freedom from the penalty and power of sin.  That freedom was won for believers at a higher cost—the precious blood of the only begotten.  The true Independence Day took place two millennia ago on a hill and a cross.  Jesus uttered his own Declaration of Independence on that day when He cried “It is finished!”  In dying once-for-all for sin Jesus has done all that is necessary so that a sinner can be set free from sin.  He alone has the power to transform a rebel sinner into a worshipper of God.

True freedom is not the freedom to do whatever we want, but the freedom to do what we ought to do—what we were created to do.  It is for this freedom that Jesus came and died.  It is to this freedom that He saves.  To be free indeed is to be unleashed from the dominion of sin and set free to worship Him who alone is worthy of all praise and adoration. 

Thank God for those who sacrificed their lives for the cause of freedom, but ever more so should eternal thanksgivings be made for the Lord Jesus and His willing sacrifice on the cross.  His cause of independence will never wane or falter and cannot be thwarted by earthly powers or the spiritual forces of darkness.

Pastor Jerry

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Acts 4:23-24, “And when they had been released, they went to their own companions, and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them.  And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to heaven with one accord…”
Confronted by opposition and threats Peter and John returned to their companions, their fellow believers, and they all joined together in prayer.  With one accord they acknowledged God to be the creator of all things (Acts 4:24) and sovereign ruler over all (4:25-28).  They prayed that God would grant them confidence in their great commission ministry (4:29-30).  God answered by shaking the ground beneath their feet and by granting them strength to speak the word of God with boldness (4:31).
If there were ever a time in the history of America for believers in Christ to devote themselves to prayer it is now.  The church in America is entering into a period of unprecedented opposition.  The Bible is pervasively disdained in public discourse.  Those who hold to its truths are mocked.  New laws and policies are adopted to eradicate the mention of God (the God of the Bible) from public settings and institutions. 
The church has been given a task that rises above all others in importance–to preach Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23).  But the task and the message are too often set aside in the pursuit of lesser concerns.  The gospel itself is frequently misrepresented.  Many shrink back from declaring its essential elements amidst the concern for ‘political correctness.’  The church has long held to a Laodecean approach to ministry that overvalues its own ability and assets.  Too often neglected is the warning of our Lord Jesus: “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Peter and John and the members of the early church were Spirit-led to a correct response to the challenges of their day.  They prayed.  They asked God to do that which they couldn’t do for themselves.  They needed boldness and confidence in proclaiming the gospel--a Spirit-borne confidence that God alone could provide (Acts 1:8).  They asked God for it.  He readily provided it for them.
Prayer isthe activity of worship and it has various aspects (the ACTS model for example speaks of adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and prayer).  But boiled down to its essence prayer is talking to God about our needs and praising and thanking Him in His response.  As believers we are exhorted to come before the throne of grace (bringing our needs before Him), “that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).  If our eyes were opened to see who is coming before the throne of grace what might we see?  Would we see the throne devoid of petitioners?  Would we see the larger proportion of our brethren coming from places that are more sensitive to their ongoing dependence upon God?  The persecuted believers from around the world.  Those living in great poverty.
Is it possible that our prosperity (as American Christians) have blinded us to our need?  The rising opposition to the truths we hold dear is a cause of concern to us, but what is our response?  To think that we can respond to these matters in a God-honoring way according to our own strength and wisdom is a tragic mistake.  What is needed is a Spirit-borne compassion for souls, A Spirit-enabled understanding of truth, and a Spirit-empowered boldness is proclaiming the gospel.  No amount of human wisdom or ability can substitute for that which the Spirit of God can provide.  He is able to empower us to do things that we could never do on our own.  The Apostle Paul himself recognized his need and asked for prayer on his behalf (Ephesians 6:19).
Given these realities—the urgent need of our day and the present anemic condition of the church—you would think that God’s people would humble themselves before God and cry out to Him for help, but that is not the spirit of our day.  Prayer meetings have long since been abandoned or are left unattended.  Those left praying are oftentimes more concerned with Aunt Bertha’s big toe than the need for boldness in fulfilling the gospel mandate (Lest I’m misunderstood I’ve got nothing against Aunt Bertha and I think it is perfectly acceptable to pray for her sore toe, it’s just that far too often our prayers are earth-bound when they need to ascend to a higher plane of concern; Cf. James 4:2-3).
Years ago Leonard Ravenhill wrote of the need for God’s people to pray: “The Cinderella of the church today is the prayer meeting.  This handmaid of the Lord is unloved and un-wooed because she is not dripping with the pearls of intellectualism, nor glamorous with the silks of philosophy; neither is she enchanting with the tiara of psychology.  She wears the homespuns of sincerity and humility and so is not afraid to kneel….Poverty stricken as the Church is today in many things, she is most stricken here, in the place of prayer.  We have many organizers, but few agonizers; many players and payers; few pray-ers; may singers, few clingers; lots of pastors, few wrestlers; many fears, few tears; much fashion, little passion; many interferers, few intercessors; many writers, but few fighters.  Failing here, we fail everywhere.”  One wonders what he would think of the current state of affairs.
Our own church has had its challenges in this regard.  We have regular times of prayer and have a prayer list that transcends mere earthly concerns, but to get to the point of the Acts 4 example of one accord praying for boldness in fulfilling the gospel mandate—we’ve got plenty of room to grown.  I’m encouraged though by some recent developments.  Years ago when I first came as pastor our Bible Study/Prayer meeting generally consisted of the two elders and their wives and my wife and myself.  Week after week went by when that was all who were in attendance.  We would pray for the various needs put before us—and that was that.  Over time the Bible study/Prayer meeting would vacillate in its emphasis in either Bible study or prayer, but was never particularly well attended.  It’s grown, however, in recent weeks and my repeated assertion that--“If there was ever a time for Christians in America to pray it is now”—required that we work to facilitate that.
After my return from my recent trip to Uganda I spent a couple of weeks in our Bible study focusing on the need for us to pray.  On one such occasion the Bible study took up so much of our time that it left little time to do so.  We have a dear 94 year old brother who attends.  He challenged me that we were not devoting sufficient time to pray.  “You call that a prayer meeting” he said, and gave some examples by way of his own experience of how it was in days gone by when God’s people were more attentive to such things.  He later asked for my forgiveness for confronting me in the matter, but I was glad that he did.  We changed the way that we do things.  Prayer comes first now in our Bible study.  We have 15-20.  We have a prayer list but are not bound by it.  We pray for the health of the church, for boldness in our witness, for the leaders of our country, for the health of our marriages and families, for our children and teens—and yes, for our physical needs also.  It brings joy to my heart as I witness God’s people making their way to the throne of grace with their requests. 

Given the current spiritual decline of our country, the growing opposition to the cause of Christ, and the anemic state of the church--it is high time for the church to humble itself before God in prayer.  Casting aside all ill-conceived notions of self-sufficiency, in confession of sin, and with Spirit-borne faith in God, let us gather ourselves before the throne of grace.  Like our early church brethren let us cry out to our Sovereign that He might strengthen us with heavenly resolve and power that opposition to the cross might be met with divinely powerful resources.  The God who shook the earth and emboldened our brothers is able to do the same in this needy day.  Now more than ever it is a time for the church to pray.
Pastor Jerry

Friday, March 29, 2013


Early Christian artists refrained from drawing scenes of Christ’s crucifixion until the early sixth centuries AD (about 200 years after crucifixion was legally abolished by the emperor Constantine). And while the literary sources indicate that tens of thousands of people were crucified in the Roman Empire, it was not until 1968 that a single victim of this horrifying method of execution had been discovered archaeologically. This discovery in some Jewish tombs in Jerusalem has significantly advanced our understanding of crucifixion and gives us a fuller appreciation of the suffering of our Lord.


Many people assume that crucifixion was a Roman invention. In fact, the Assyrians, Phoenicians and Persians all practiced crucifixion during the first millennium BC.

Crucifixion later became popular among the Greeks. After Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, crucifixion was employed by the Seleucids (who governed Syria) and the Ptolemies (who governed Egypt).

The traditional method of execution among Jews was stoning (cf. Deut. 21:22-23). Yet certain Jewish tyrants occasionally used crucifixion during the Hasmonean period. According to Josephus, Alexander Jannaeus crucified 800 Jews on a single day.

The Romans adopted crucifixion as the official punishment for non-Romans. Initially, it was a method of punishing slaves. Since its main purpose was to punish, humiliate and frighten disobedient slaves, the victims were usually removed from the cross before death occurred.

Later crucifixion was used by the Romans to execute rebels. During the revolt of Spartacus in 71 BC. the Roman army lined the road from Capua to Rome with 6,000 crucified rebels on 6,000 crosses. During Titus’s siege of Jerusalem in AD 70, Roman troops crucified as many as 500 Jews a day for several months.


Outside of Italy, only the Roman procurators possessed the authority to impose the death penalty. Thus when a local provincial court prescribed the death penalty, the sentence of the Roman procurator had to be obtained in order to carry out the sentence.


During peacetime, crucifixions were carried out according to certain rules by special persons authorized by the Roman courts. They were to take place at specific locations, usually outside the city walls (i.e. Golgotha).

Once a defendant was found guilty and condemned to be crucified, the execution was supervised by a Roman official known as the Carnifix Serarum.

1.      Taken from the tribunal hall, the victim was taken outside, stripped, bound to a column and scourged. The scourging was done with either a stick or a flagellum, a Roman instrument with a short handle to which several thick thongs were attached. On the ends of the leather thongs were lead or bone tips. The number of strokes imposed was not fixed, but care was taken not to kill the victim.

2.      Following the beating, the horizontal crossbeam of the cross was placed upon the condemned man’s shoulders. This he carried to the execution site, usually outside the city walls.

3.      A soldier at the head of the procession carried the titulus, an inscription written on wood, which stated the defendant’s name and the crime for which he had been condemned. Later this titulus was attached to the victim’s cross.

4.      When the procession arrived at the execution site, a vertical stake was fixed into the ground. The victim was then placed on the cross either by ropes or with nails.

5.      If ropes were used, the victim, who was already bound to the crossbeam, would simply be hoisted to the vertical beam and his feet would be bound with a few lashes of rope. If nails were used, the victim would be laid on the ground with his shoulders on the crossbeam. His arms were held out nailed to the cross. The victim’s feet were then nailed down against the vertical stake.


Without any body support, the victim would die from muscular spasms and asphyxiation in a period of two to three hours. In order to prolong the agony, the Romans devised two instruments which would extend the ordeal of the victim.

1.      A small seat (sedile) was attached to the front of the cross. This device provided support for the victim’s body and explains the phrase used by the Romans, “to sit on the cross.” To increase the victim’s suffering, the seat was pointed, thus inflicting great pain as body weight rested upon it.

2.      A second device was a foot support (suppedaneum). With the use of this support, victims could be kept alive on the cross for several days. Josephus refers to three crucified Jews who survived on crosses for three days.

3.      Normally the Romans left the crucified person undisturbed to die slowly of physical exhaustion, thirst, and asphyxiation. However, Jewish law required burial on the day of execution (Deut. 21:22-23). Therefore, in Palestine the executioner would break the legs of the crucified person in order to hasten his death and thus permit burial before nightfall. This practiced is mentioned in the Gospels (John 19:33).


1.   Edwards, William D., etc., “On the Physical Death of Jesus,” Journal of the American Medical Association (March 21, 1986): 1455-1463.
2.   Fitzmyer, Joseph A. “Crucifixion in Ancient Palestine, Qumran Literature, and the New Testament” in To Advance the Gospel (New York: Crossroad, 1981): 125-146.
3.  Vassilios Tzaferis, “Crucifixion: The Archaeological Evidence,” Biblical Archaeoloqy Review (January-February, 1095): 44-53.
GALATIANS 3:13, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us--for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree."

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Proverbs 16:25, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

Matthew 7:13, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it.  For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.”

You can believe what you want and behave as you like on the broad way, the problem lies with its destination.  It is a well-traveled path.  The sons and daughters of Adam have a natural affinity for it (Romans 5:12; Colossians 1:21).  They are drawn to it.  That path is well-worn—the footsteps of countless generations have left their mark and the path is easy to follow.

The world, the flesh, and the Devil are glad to direct souls along that way (Ephesians 2:1-3).  Imagine it to be as a great multi-land freeway crammed with travelers.  Rush hour traffic is the rule.  People speed along the path, passing others at every opportunity, rushing “helter-skelter to destruction with their fingers in their ears.”  The Devil, the great deceiver, serves as tour guide, and keeps broad way travelers blinded to the truth (2 Corinthians 4:4).  The world, in its anti-God sentiment, entices weary travelers and keeps them hemmed in (1 John 2:15-16).  Most heroes and public figures (entertainers, politicians, many educators) of our day are proponents of the broad way--they tout its benefits as to fortune, fame, and fun.  All beliefs and behaviors are accepted on the broad path—anything and everything is tolerated except serious talk of Jesus and His cross.   People encourage each other along the way.  No one stops to ask where the path is headed.  It seems “right to a man” and that enough for them (Proverbs 16:25).

It is a hopeless and unhappy pathway (Ephesians 2:12), but no one seems to notice or care.  Broad way travelers are given to humanistic pride, selfishness, violence, greed and all kinds of sinful maladies (Romans 1:28-31; 2 Timothy 3:2-5).  Though enslaved in sin (John 8:34), they trumpet their supposed freedom to do as they please.  The strong bonds of sin’s enslavement constrain them to the path.  Everyone does what is right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25). 

Billboards line the path with messages like: “There is no god (Psalm 14:1),” “What is truth (John 18:38)?”; and “If it feels good, do it.”  The unhappy travelers along the way give “hearty approval” to those who practice broad way living (Romans 1:32).  “Fools who march to win the right to justify their sin” defy their creator (Romans 1:18-27).  And everyone agrees that with so many following the path it surely must be the right way to go.

That destruction lies at the end of the path is without question. One by one broad way travelers fall untethered into an unfathomable abyss.  Their pain of their sin-burdened, short-lived lives pales in comparison to the agony of the Christ-less eternity that awaits each and every one (2 Thessalonians 1:9; Luke 16:24).  Though millions have gone that way, still “death and destruction are never satisfied” (Proverbs 27:20).

Most travel that path.  But there is another.  The path less-traveled knows of its own challenges and obstacles.  It is the path that Jesus, “the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2), first traveled.  It took Him to the cross.  He died there for broad way travelers, to rescue them from that evil way (Luke 19:10; 1 Timothy 1:15).  He rose from the dead victorious over sin, and death, and the devil himself (Hebrews 2:14-15; Colossians 2:14).

The entrance to the narrow way is through a narrow gate.  Despite the deceiver’s claim, there is but One Way of salvation—by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:8-9).  He is well-pleased to rescue lost sinners and put them on the better path (1 Timothy 2:4).  The narrow way leads to life—eternal and abundant (John 3:36; 10:10). 

Life on the narrow way is characterized by adherence to the truth.  Love for Jesus, love for others, and obedience marks the lives of the narrow way travelers (1 John 3:10; John 14:15).  Though they be mocked and threatened (2 Timothy 3:12), their provision and protection along the way is assured (Romans 8:32, 37).  God Himself will bring all narrow way travelers “safely home to His heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:8).  They will “marvel at” Him (2 Thessalonians 1:10).

The prodigal son was a broad way traveler, but then he came to his senses (Luke 15:17).  The thief on the cross was too, ‘til his eyes were opened to the truth (Luke 23:42).  Saul of Tarsus was on the broad way (there are plenty of religious folks on that way), until Jesus met him and changed his life (Acts 9:1-19; 1 Timothy 1:12-17).  What about you?  Do you know the destination of the path you are now traveling?  Jesus holds forth this invitation to all broad way people: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My load is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).  Jesus can put you on the better path.

Pastor Jerry