The Tabernacle, Temple, and Church

There are several points of comparison to be made between the tabernacle and temple of old and the church.  Let’s notice…

The Expense

The expense that went into constructing the tabernacle and temple of old was very great.  The lampstand was crafted from a talent of pure gold (Exodus 25:37-39), modern price was approximately $1.2 million (figure based on $1,000 an ounce).  David gathered approximately $120 billion of gold and $18 billion of silver to go into the temple [1 Chronicles 22:14 (figure based on $1000 an ounce for gold and $15 an ounce for silver)].  A total workforce of 183,000 worked seven years on the first temple (1 Kings 5:13-16; 6:38).  It must have been an awesome structure.

The church is described as the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16, 17); Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:5).  It did not come about without great cost.  The cost was the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28 cf. 1 Peter 1:18-19).

The Pattern

The structure of old (tabernacle, temple) were built according to a God-given pattern.  The tabernacle was to be built according to a pattern (Exodus 25:9, 40).  This pattern was followed (e.g., Exodus 25:10-ff cf. 37:1-ff; 25:21 cf. 40:20).  Moses did as the Lord commanded (Exodus 40:16, 19, 21, 23, 25, 29, 32).  Solomon likewise was provided a pattern or “blueprint” for construction of the temple (1 Chronicles 28:11-19).

The church is likened to the temple of old (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:5).  Question: If the temple of old was to be built according to a pattern, could it be that the church, likewise is to be built according to a divine pattern?  God has specified such things as the entrance into the church; the organization of the church; the work of the church; the worship of the church; and the fellowship of the church.  Yes, there is a pattern.

The Furnishings

1.  The golden lampstand (Exodus 25:31-40; 2 Chronicles 4:7) was within the tabernacle and temple.  It was to continuously burn through the darkness (Leviticus 24:1-4; Exodus 27:20).

We are to be a light in this dark world (Matthew 5:16; Philippians 2:14-16).  The world needs to see the Gospel both preached and practiced.

2.  Opposite the lampstand stood the table of showbread (lit. “bread of presence”) within the tabernacle and temple (Exodus 25:23-30; 2 Chronicles 4:19).  This bread was to be consumed by the priests only, and such was to be done each Sabbath day (Leviticus 24:5-9), as a memorial to god (Leviticus 24:9).

We too are to partake of bread on a certain day of the week, the first day (Acts 20:7).  It is to be done in remembrance of the death of Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:24-26).  It is for the disciples alone (Acts 20:7 aka priests cf. 1 Peter 2:5, 9).  When we partake, Christ is present (Matthew 26:29).

3.  The next piece of furniture is the altar of incense (Exodus 30:1-10; 40:5; 2 Chronicles 4:19).  The Jews considered the incense as symbolically transporting their prayers into heaven (Psalm 141; 2; Luke 1:9-10).  Note: Not all incense was acceptable (Exodus 30:9).

Even so, today our prayers are pictured as incense coming up before the Lord (Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4).  Note: not all prayers are acceptable to God (James 4:2-3; 1 John 5:14).

4.  The mercy-seat was also a part of the tabernacle and temple (Exodus 25:10-22; 2 Chronicles 5:2-9).  Mercy, atonement was connected with the tabernacle and temple of old (Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 16:11-ff).

Mercy is available today as well.  It is connected with the church (Ephesians 5:23 cf. 1:21-23).


Prior to entry into the tabernacle of old, there was a washing (Exodus 29:4-5; 30:17-21; 40:12).  It was at this point, and not before, the priestly garments were donned (Exodus 29:5; 40:13).  The priests were to remain holy (Leviticus 21:6), without physical blemish (Leviticus 21:16-23), and clean (Leviticus 22:5-6).

Think about us.  We are to be washed (Acts 22:16; Ephesians 5:26; Revelation 1:5; 7:13-14).  We are to remain holy (1 Peter 1:16) and faithful (Revelation 2:10).

May we be holy priests, serving in the church, offering up spiritual sacrifices to God by Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Peter 2:5).

Meditating on the imagery ought to cause us to think very deeply about our duty.  We are both His tabernacle/temple today, and His priests in service to Him.

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“The Ark Of The Covenant”

What happened to the Ark?  Zondervan’s Pictorial Dictionary says, “After the destruction of the first temple (Solomon’s temple- B.H.), there is no evidence as to what happened to the ark, but only highly speculative tradition and conjecture” (p. 71).

Jewish tradition is that it was hid in a cave on Mt. Pisgah before Jerusalem fell to Babylon in 586 B.C. (2 Macc. 2:4-8).  Some have a theory that it is in Ethiopia.  Still others claim the Vatican or the Freemasons possess it.

However, I want to tell you about the true Ark, not the shadow but the substance, not the type but the antetype.

Information About the Ark

The word “ark” refers to a container.  Its dimensions: 45″ long x 27″ wide x 27″ high (Exodus 25:10-11).  The ark was constructed at God’s instructions (Exodus 25:8-ff) by Bezaleel (Exodus 37:1) while the children of Israel were encamped at Sinai.

It is referred to as: (1) “the ark of the covenant” (Numbers 10:33, etc.) it contains the Ten Commandments representing God’s covenant with Israel.  (2) “the ark of the testimony” (Exodus 30:6, etc.).  It contained the testimony, or words of God (Exodus 16: 34; 25:16; 31:18).  It testified against and condemned sinful men (Deuteronomy 31:26-27).  (3) “ark of the LORD/Jehovah” (Joshua 4:11, etc.) and the “ark of God” (1 Samuel 3:3, etc.).  It represented God’s presence.  [Study the following passages: Numbers 10:33, 35-36; Joshua 6:6-8; 7:6-7; 1 Samuel 4:3, 7, 6:19-20; 1 Chronicles 16:4, 37].  (4) “The ark of Your strength” (Psalm 132:8).  It represented the power or might of God.

The perimeter of the top of the ark was crowned with gold.  This crown helps keep the lid of the ark, the mercy-seat, in place (Exodus 25:10-11).  The original word  for “mercy-seat” refers to a covering, a propitiation.  Sacrificed blood on the Day of Atonement was sprinkled by the High Priest on the mercy-seat thereby making atonement (Leviticus 16:14).

I do not know where this ark is, or if it exists.  It does not matter.  We’re told that upon Israel’s return from captivity the ark would not be important, nor would they have it (Jeremiah 3:13-14, 16-17a).

True Ark

Jesus is the “propitiation” for our sins (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10).  This same word is rendered “mercy-seat” (Hebrews 9:5).  Jesus is pictured as the sacrifice (Hebrews 7:27), the High Priest (Hebrews 7:27; 9:24-ff) and the mercy-seat (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10).

  1. The ark of the Old Testament contained the Ten Commandments (Exodus 25:16, 21; Deuteronomy 10:4-5; Hebrews 9:4).  Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1, 14).  Jesus is the incarnate word.  He not only told us how to live, He showed us.  Moreover, it is by His words we’ll be judged (John 12:48).
  2. The ark of the Old Testament contained a pot of manna (Exodus 16:32-34; Hebrews 9:4).  Manna was sent down from above to meet the temporary physical needs of the children of Israel in the wilderness.  Jesus came down from above to provide eternal sustenance (John 6:48-51, 58, 63).  We need to consume this word (Job 23:12; Psalm 19:10-11; Matthew 4:4; John 6:27 cf. 63, 68).
  3. The ark of the Old Testament contained Aaron’s rod that budded (Numbers 17:10; Hebrews 9:4).  God took a dead rod and returned it to life to testify of Aaron’s priesthood.  Even so, God’s ultimate verification of Jesus was the resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4).
  4. The ark of the Old Testament opened up the promised land to the children of Israel (Joshua 3:9-ff; 4:10, 17-18).  Jesus opened up the access to the true promised land (John 14:1-6).
  5. The ark of the Old Testament helped them conquer Jericho (Joshua 6:6-8, 11).  Even so, we today can do “all things through Christ” (Philippians 4:13).  God has not given us a task too hard to accomplish through Jesus.
  6. The ark of the Old Testament was at times treated as a magic box (1 Samuel 3:11-13 – cf. 4:1ff).  They lived sinfully and expected the ark to deliver them.  Man today, think they can live like the devil and still be blessed and delivered from destruction.  It won’t work.
  7. The ark of the Old Testament had the false god “Dagon” fall before it (1 Samuel 5:1-ff).  One day all will bow before Him (Romans 14:11-12).  False religion will be destroyed (2 Thessalonians 2:8).
  8. The ark of the Old Testament was not to be taken lightly (1 Samuel 6:19-20; 2 Samuel 6:7).  Jesus is not to be taken lightly.  Things are to be done in an unauthorized way (Colossians 3:17).
  9. The ark of the Old Testament had a crown and a mercy-seat (Exodus 25:10-11; 17).  Jesus is king (1 Timothy 6:15).  He has all authority (Matthew 28:18-20; John 12:48).  Yet, through Him is an opportunity for mercy (Acts 2:36-38, Acts 8:13; cf. 18-22).  Won’t you accept His terms for mercy today!









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What Did You Say? C’mon Man! (Edited)

“C’mon man” (come on man) is a phrase used on Monday Night Football to describe shockingly stupid decisions, or decisions completely inappropriate, or bloopers in execution.

I have heard, through the years, brethren say things which completely shock me.  These things make me want to say, “C’mon man!” or “C’mon brother!”  Let me provide a few examples.

1.  “I’ve never been to his house.  Can you show me where he lives?”

The man who said this was an elder.  The man’s house under consideration was a member’s house. He had just died.  The wife needed a visit.  However, this is not the worst of it.  The man’s house was next to his son-in-law’s house.  The son-in-law was also a member.  In fact, the son-in-law had until recently served as an elder.  The man who said this shocking statement had also never been to the house of the son-in-law, with whom he had served in the eldership several years.   “C’mon brother!”

Consider the following passages: “Now all who believed were together… breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart” (Acts 2:44-46).  “And in every house they did not cease teaching and preaching” (Acts 5:42).  “I… taught you publicly and from house to house” (Acts 20:20).  “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you” (1 Peter 5:2; Acts 20:28).  “Visit orphans and widows in their trouble” (James 1:27 cf. Matthew 25:34-46).  “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love… distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality” (Romans 12:10-13).  “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9).  “Exhort one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13).  “Warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).  We are to be involved in one another’s lives, and not just upon the first day of the week.  The world should see our closeness.  Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). One man suggested to me that elders should be in members’ homes, at birthday parties and family events, at school activities of members’ children, etc. (when possible). I believe that his advice to be good advice. Some might think he has unrealistic expectations. However, clearly, shepherds need to spend time with the sheep.

2.  “How many people does it take to baptize someone?”

I had concluded a Bible study.  A husband and wife had expressed their desire to be baptized into Christ.  I called various members to come witness their confessions and baptisms.  There was one man who grumbled these words.  I believe that he was envious.  He was a very zealous soul-winner who doted over those he converted, but seemed to have no time for those converted by others.  “C’mon brother!”

Consider the following passages: “Neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:7).  “Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some from goodwill… what then?  Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice” (Philippians 1:15-18).  “Are you zealous for my sake?  Oh, that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put His spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:29).  “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).  “For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not carnal?” (1 Corinthians 3:4).  We need to be on the same team, working for the same cause, and rejoicing together, welcoming new brethren to the family.

3.  “There is a black church nearby, they like attending with their own.”

Several black youth had been taught and converted.  One lady did not like their presence, and thus said this.  She was recommending that these young men attend a Pentecostal church, instead of with us!  Her bigotry was evident.  “C’mon sister!”

Consider the following passages, “There is neither Jew nor Greek… for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).  “There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian… Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:11).  “Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh…” (2 Corinthians 5:16).  “He Himself is our peace… so  as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace… that He might reconcile both the God in one body through the cross…” (Ephesians 2:14-16).  The body is the church (Ephesians 1:22-23).  Race should not divide us.  The cross should unite us.

4.  “Can’t her grandchildren chip the ice?”

It was an icy Sunday morning.  A woman, a non-member, who had just lost her husband, showed up in a wheelchair.  Her son, who was on crutches, and her grandchildren had brought her.  The deacon in charge of such things had not removed the ice from the wheelchair ramp. The ice was so thick that the door at the end of the wheel chair ramp would not fully open.  One of the members went to work chipping the ice.  Later, I expressed my embarrassment over the situation to an elder, and stated that this should not have happened and should never happen again.  His response was, “Can’t her grandchildren chip the ice?”  “C’mon brother!”

Consider these passages: “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me” (Matthew 25:45).  “I was eyes to the blind, and I was feet to the lame.  I was a father to the poor, and I searched out the case I did not know” (Job 29:16).  “Love… is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4).  Shouldn’t we be servants one to another? (John 13:14).

5.  “Can the church reimburse me?”

The greeters in a local church were asked to make sure that each visitor got invited to lunch by one of the members.  It did not have to be by the greeters themselves.  One greeter asked, “If I invite them to lunch, will the church reimburse me?”  “C’mon sister!” Moreover, I have heard of others who want to be reimbursed for picking up visitors.  I have heard of those who want reimbursed for the refreshments which they served at their house when they had the youth over.  “C’mon brethren!”

Consider the following passages: “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9).  “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love… distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality” (Romans 12:10-13).  They “sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need” (Acts 2:45).  The Good Samaritan to the inn keeper – “Take care of him; and whatever you spend, when I come I will repay you” (Luke 10:35).  Do we not have a personal responsibility to be hospitable?  Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).  Notice, it does not say, “Where your heart is, there your treasure will be.”  It says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  How much are we personally investing in the cause of Christ?  Too many want to invest nothing.  They want someone else to bear the cost; many times this is the church. The result may be a lack of commitment in the heart to the work.

6. One member told me about a “c’mon brother” moment. A church member on a bicycle was hit by a car. The preacher passed by in his car, without stopping. He did not want to be inconvenienced. He was on his way to dinner. “C’mon brother!”

Consider these passages: ” ‘So which of these three do you think was a neighbor to him who fell among thieves?’ And he said ‘ He who showed mercy on him.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise'” (Luke 10:36-37). “Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out…?” (Luke 14:5).

7.  “I would take it and throw it away and get a real Bible.”

A young man who has recently started to attend with us shows up with a new Bible under his arm. He shows me and an elder what he has purchased. The elder coldly made the above statement with no explanation, upon seeing that it was an NIV. This may have been the first words that the elder had ever uttered to this young man. The young man was crushed. “C’mon brother!” While I do not recommend the NIV, this was not the way to approach the issue. The young man did not know this was not the best version of the Bible. He had not studied the versions. Moreover, the elder seemed to want him to do what he said without an explanation.  A much better approach would have been “I am pleased that you value God’s word enough to purchase a version of the Bible. Why did you select this version? Most of the members here do not use the NIV. Bryan does not preach from the NIV.  I am sure that you want an accurate version.  Not all versions are equal. Can we study some of the reasons we do not recommend the NIV?”

Consider these passages: Let us “speaking the truth in love”(Ephesians 4:15).  “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). We should not expect anyone to accept what we say without information which allows them to test the matter.

8. “It means different things to different people.”

I was sitting in a teen Bible class. The teacher was asked this question by a student, “I know B.C. means ‘before Christ’ and A.D. means ‘after death,’ so what do we call the period of time when Jesus was on earth?” The teacher said, “I am not sure. But, you are correct about the meaning of B.C. and A.D.” I spoke up and explained that A.D. was actually from the Latin “Anno Domini” meaning “year of our Lord.” The teacher decided to try to save face before the students by saying “It means different things to different people.” I could not believe my ears. “C’mon brother!” A Bible class teacher should admit his mistake when a mistake has been made. If he does not know the answer to something, he should say “I am not sure about this. However, I will research this and I will try to find the answer by our next class.” Never bluff it. We should be seeking the truth, and not seeking to save face.

Consider this passage: Teachers should use “sound speech that cannot be condemned” (Titus 2:8). Let us always remember the seriousness of teaching “we shall receive a stricter judgment” (James 3:1).

We all have made mistakes and have said and done things we shouldn’t.  May God forgive us. May we seek to be better.  “C’mon brethren,” let us take our Christian duties seriously, and give our best.

Do you have any “C’mon brother” moments that you wish to share? No real names or places please.

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Attracting A Crowd

A couple of writings have caught my attention recently. Both concerned preachers and gathering a crowd. The Bible says, “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). These words well describe what I read in these two writings.

Wow and Entertain Us

In the religion section of the Marshall News Messenger, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2005 – there appeared a story entitled, “Falling by the Wayside?” It was written by AP religion writer Rachel Zoll. This story was about how increasingly difficult it has become to draw a crowd to a religious event in this day and age. Traditional approaches do no longer seem to be working.

However, the story went on to spotlight some things which appeared to be working. It mentioned a Luis Palau of Portland, Oregon. He has seen an increase in attendance at his festivals.  What has he done? He’s “brought in Christian rock bands and extreme sports like skateboarding and BMX riding, and put up a food court in the middle of all the activity.”   T.D. Jakes, the head of the Potter’s House, a 30,000 member church in Dallas, Texas was also spotlighted. The story said, “Each year, Jakes holds Megafest, a four-day gathering that regularly draws more than 100,000 people, that has included a comedy jam, a fashion show, exercise and sports programs and other family entertainment.”

What these men are wittingly or unwittingly saying is that the Gospel is not enough. We should lure people to us with a carnival, X-games, or State Fair-type atmosphere and then preach to them a little.

Question: When did Jesus or the Apostles ever use such bait and switch tactics? Did Jesus ever draw the people by holding a boat-rowing contest on Galilee, or a fishing seminar by Peter, James, John and Andrew?

There is no authority for such tactics. Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Paul told Timothy, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2).   Paul himself said, “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). We are to sow the seed. When the pure seed falls on a good and honest heart, it will produce a Christian. This is where the power is and there is no authority to attract anyone by any other means.

Make Us Feel Good

In the August, 2005 issue of Texas Monthly, William Martin had a feature on Joel Osteen, in fact it was the cover story. The story was entitled “And on the Eighth Day God Created Joel Osteen” or “Prime Minister.” Osteen preaches in Houston at the Lakewood Church, a church of 30,000 members and a 60 million dollar contribution per year.

What is his appeal? Why can he attract so many to church services? He makes people feel good about themselves.

(1) They tell folks that God wants to enrich them. Joel’s wife, Victoria, said in the interview, “If you look through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, every person who served Him faithfully, God blessed financially.” The writer goes on to say, “When I asked her about… Jeremiah who spent his time at the bottom of a well and died in captivity and Stephen who was martyred and Paul who made tents to support his missionary activities, she backed up a bit, noting that she had been thinking mainly about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

Folks, if the Gospel of health and wealth is true – then, why does one read of the poor widow casting in all the had? – And, shouldn’t Jesus and the Apostles have been extremely wealthy men, the wealthiest the world has ever known?

(2) He preaches a message which does not produce guilty feelings. Joel says, “When I talk about sin, I may call it ‘making bad choices.’ People get so used to being beat over the head. I don’t come from that side. I come from the encouraging side.”

Consider how Peter preached: “God hath made this same Jesus whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). It is at this point they cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). In his next recorded sermon he told the audience, “Ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of Life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses” (Acts 3:14-15).

Jesus and John preached the same: John said, “the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Matthew 3:10). He told them, “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance” (Matthew 3:8). Jesus said, “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites” (Matthew 23).

We are to proclaim both the goodness and severity of God (Romans 11:22). One wonders how many people attend church services but, never realize that they are in a lost condition or, what to do about this fact – due to preachers who don’t want to offend. They are sending them to hell blissfully ignorant of their true state before God!

(3) He is extremely non-judgmental. When he appeared on Larry King Live in late June, King asked him about the fate of Jews and Muslims, who “don’t accept Christ at all.” Joel replied, “I’m very careful about saying who would and wouldn’t go to heaven. I don’t know… I just think only God will judge a person’s heart. I spent a lot of time in India with my father. I don’t know all their religion. But I know they love God… I’ve seen their sincerity. So I don’t know.” (Note: He’s since back-tracked to say, “Jesus is the only way to Heaven.” They posted this on their website after numerous complaints came into their office. Okay Joel, but does this mean that those who do not accept Jesus to be the Christ, confessing this fact and obeying Him, are lost?)

(4) He takes no position on controversial ethical subjects (such as abortion and homosexuality). He says, “I don’t know the answers, even on abortion. Somebody asked me what I think of stem-cell research. I had to say, “I don’t know.” I’ve heard people talk about it both ways. I don’t think a homosexual lifestyle is God’s best way, but I’m not going to tell [homosexuals] they can’t come to our church. I’m going to be wide open for them.”

Joel, I too welcome the homosexual to attend with us, but, I will teach him the truth about his lifestyle, will you? I’ll do it in love, but I’ll do it. I will not play the role of a politician avoiding taking a controversial position, I’ll keep back nothing profitable (Acts 20:20, 27). By the way, homosexuality isn’t God’s way at all.

Easy on the Scriptures please, Something New

The same writer, William Martin, had much to say about the content of Osteen’s sermons.

(1) His sermons are more positive thinking than an actual study of a Bible text or a Bible look at a given subject. Several times the writer pointed out how little scripture was used. For instance, “Joel readily acknowledges that he is not an exegetical preacher who begins with a passage of Scripture and expounds upon its meaning for his congregation.”  He mentions a 1999 Easter sermon where Joel “told a series of amusing stories about his family, even admitting that they had little to do with the drama of resurrection.” The writer says Joel’s sermon titles are, “Tony Robbins-style titles such as ‘Developing Your Potential,’ ‘Persistence and Determination,’ ‘Your Life Follows Your Thoughts,’ and ‘Enlarge Your Vision.” Then consider these words, “When Joel occasionally quotes a Bible verse during a sermon, a banner at the bottom of the television screen identifies it and displays the critical part of the text. Much more frequently, that space advertises future tour stops or reminds people that Your Best Life Now and its companion text, Your Best Life Now Journal, are now on sale.” Moreover, the writer seemed to see the context being abused when he wrote, “Joel illustrated his points with simple stories of people he had known or read about, and occasionally he cited a scripture whose words seem to fit whether or not the author had that application in mind.”

Folks, why is it that so many are bored with the plain message of the Gospel? They want to hear interesting stories. I had one man tell me my sermons were too filled with Bible, and not enough me! I heard a story of a man who watched folks nearly go to sleep as he preached from the scriptures. But, when he told a story about his dog – everyone took interest.

A Gospel preacher’s responsibility is not to be an entertainer, but to preach the Word.   His duty is to explain what the original intent of the passage meant for those to whom it was written, and then to show how to apply the teaching to our lives today. His job is to tell man what they need to hear to be saved and grow in the Christian walk.

(2) Joel de-emphasizes doctrine. He said, “I know doctrine is good. We need doctrine, but I think the average person is not looking for doctrine.”

Good people, to preach doctrine is the same as preaching the word (2 Timothy 4:2-3). Jesus taught doctrine (Matthew 7:28; Matthew 22:33). Jesus warned about false doctrine (Matt. 15:9; Matt. 16:12). Paul told Titus, “Speak thou the things which becometh sound doctrine (Titus 2:1).

(3) Joel justifies his scant use of scripture by appealing to how Jesus taught in parables. Jesus, in the parables, made moral points without referring to scripture thus, he can do the same.

We should understand, first, that the typical New Testament sermon was saturated with references to scripture. Read Acts 2, 7 or 13 and take note how many Old Testament quotations and references there are. Read the books of Romans, Hebrews, or Revelation and notice how filled full they are with Old Testament references and quotations.

But, what about Jesus? Jesus continually made reference to scripture saying “it is written” (Matthew 4:4,7,10; 11:10; 21:13; 26:24,31), “have ye not read” (Matthew 13:3,5; 19:4; 22:31), “ye do err not knowing the scriptures” (Matthew 22:29). It has been calculated that nearly 10% of His words recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are references or quotations of scripture. What about the parables? It should be understood that Jesus was speaking scripture. He was inspired (the same would hold true of Paul on Mars Hill, etc). All that He said in His teachings was from God (John 7:16; 14:10,24. Such is not the case with preachers today. So, while we may expound and illustrate to clarify, our teachings must come from the written word. It is to be grounded there. Paul said, “Preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2).

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The Five Rs Of Repentance

God demands that sinful man repent. John preached repentance (Luke 3:7-ff). Jesus preached repentance (Matthew 4:17; Luke 13:3). The apostles preached repentance under The Limited Commission (Mark 6:12). Jesus told the apostles that repentance was to be preached to all nation under The Great Commission (Luke 24:46-53). Repentance was commanded to all men everywhere (Acts 17:30-31).  Clearly, repentance is needed for salvation (Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19; Acts 8:22; Acts 11:18). But what is it?

Perhaps it is the most difficult step in the Gospel plan of salvation. Brother J.W. McGarvey once wrote: “The greatest obstacle to the salvation of men is the salvation is the obstinacy of the human will. It is not very difficult… to induce men to believe the Gospel… Neither is it very difficult to persuade men to be baptized, when they become penitent believers. I have never yet met with a person, who was a genuine believer and sincerely penitent, that raised any question about being baptized. They are ready to go where they are led. The difficulty is to induce them to repent. I have often, in my preaching experienced, studied and prayed and reflected and read, to find some way by which I could have more power in inducing people to repent. I would rather have that power than all the other powers and gifts that could be bestowed upon men as a preacher. But we modern preachers need not be discouraged, I think, on account of our weakness here, because we find, on reading the Gospels, that our Savior experienced the same difficulty” (McGarvey`s Sermons). He felt that the difficulty was not in getting them to believe, or to accept baptism, rather “the difficulty is to induce them to repent.” Some have called repentance “God’s hardest command.” Repentance defined: Vine’s – “Signifies to change one’s mind or purpose.” Gospel preacher T.W. Brents has written, “When used in the New Testament as a command to the alien in order to the remission of sins, it always indicates such a change of mind as produces a change or reformation of life under circumstances warranting the conclusion that sorrow for the past would or had preceded it. When so used it is invariably a translation of the Greek word metanoio; and when used to indicate sorrow or regret it is always from metamelomai – a different word, though improperly rendered the same in English” (The Gospel Plan Of Salvation, 188-189).

Repentance Involves…

(1) Biblical repentance always involves a recognition of sin. Read Acts 2:36-38 and Acts 3:14-15, 19. Prior to Biblical repentance, the people had pointed out to them their guilt of sin. A person will not seek salvation, if he does not know that he is in need of salvation. A person cannot Biblically repent, if he does not understand what he has done wrong. Recognition of sin is not repentance itself. However, one cannot repent without recognizing his sin. Good preaching helps men see their sinfulness, their need for salvation, and the response needed for salvation.

(2) Biblical repentance always involves a deep sense of regret or remorse. “They were cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37-38), when their sin was pointed out to them. They understood their guilt, and it pained them. Paul said, “godly sorrow produces repentance” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Sorrow itself is not Biblical repentance (One could have sorrow over sinful behavior but have no real will or determination to change. Such is not Biblical repentance.  Example – One could sorrowfully regret that he made a certain sinful choice in life –  but lack the will to change). Though, sorrow does accompany, and motivate Biblical repentance. Regret or remorse is not Biblical repentance itself (One could regret being caught in a sin, simply because he was caught. Example – One caught cheating on his wife may experience the sorrow of the world and say, “honey, I am so sorry!” when what the sorrow is over is being caught. Such is not Biblical repentance). However, regret or remorse does accompany Biblical repentance.

(3) Biblical repentance always involve a resolve to change. Examples of such resolve: Luke 15:18; Jonah 3:5-9; cf. Matthew 12:41. The literal definition of the original term translated repentance is “change mind.” However, Biblical repentance is not just any changing of the mind about a behavior (People can change their mind about a behavior for many reasons. Example – A bank robber might stop robbing banks, because the police are getting too close to catching him, or because he has taken more than enough money for his needs and wants, or for other reasons unrelated to his relationship with God. Such is not Biblical repentance). Biblical repentance always involves the sinner being convicted of sin, resulting in a broken and contrite spirit, and leading to a change in behavior. It is a change of mind and behavior due to submission to God.

(4) Ultimately, Biblical repentance involves a reformation of behavior. Jonah 3:10 says, “God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way…”  Matthew 12:41 calls such repentance.  True repentance does not stop with just sorrowing. John demanded “bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Luke 3:7-9). True repentance changes one’s behavior. It amends where needed. However, it is not just a change of behavior (Example and true story – I and two elders once confronted two church members living together without marriage. They were unwilling to change their behavior. The elders informed them that they would be forced to withdraw fellowship. They said that they understood. They were waiting for some legal matters to be settled in the near future. Then, once such occurred they said that they would repent and marry. They may have confused confession of public sins and repentance. One cannot schedule repentance) It is  change of  behavior which starts with a change of mind (how do you pre-plan  such?). Johnny Ramsey used to say that in his opinion the single greatest passage on repentance was Matthew 21:28-29 – “A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it (repented KJV) and went.” While the original word here is best translated “regretted” and not “repented,” the ideal of Biblical repentance is expressed in these words.

(5) It involves restitution when possible. The Old Testament demanded such (Exodus 22:1,4,5,6,7-9,10-12; Leviticus 6:1-5; 2 Samuel 12:6; Proverbs 6:30-31).  Zacchaeus understood this (Luke 19:8-9). Does not “The Golden Rule” demands it (Matthew 7:12)?  (Example – If I took your watch, and you saw me and confronted me about it, and I said, “I’m sorry, I’ll never do it again,” but decided to keep your watch, have I really repented? Do you think that I would be following “the Golden Rule?” Surely not!) A truly changed heart will want to try to make things right , so far as he possibly can.

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Lessons From Four Animals

I don’t know about you, but I have always been fascinated with animals.  As a child, I watched Marlin Perkins and Jacques Cousteau.  Later, I enjoy watching Jack Hannah, Steve Irwin (the crocodile hunter), and Jeff Corwin – though it is frustrating to hear their spouting of the evolutionary theory. Kevin Hodge has been on some very interesting  TV programs [Animal Planet (Animal Cops Houston), Nat. Geo. Wild (I, Predator), Houston`s Zooper Stars, etc].

God created the animals (Genesis 1, 2; Exodus 20:11).  He created the animals with certain characteristics.  At times, He uses these characteristics to teach man lessons (Job 38-41; Psalms 23; 42:1-2; Proverbs 6:6-11; Ezekiel 34; Matthew 6:26; etc.).

This is certainly true in Proverbs 30:24-28.  “There are four things which are little on the earth, but they are exceedingly wise” (Proverbs 30:24).  Let us notice…


“The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their food in the summer” (Proverbs 30:25).

Ants are seemingly always at work.  They’re not sluggards (Proverbs 6:6).  I’ve never seen a lazy ant, have you?  In the tropics army ants can destroy a cedar pole overnight, and leaf cutter ants can strip a plant of its leaves in no time.

Moreover, they are not only busy and active workers, they are opportunistic.  They work while they have opportunity.  Some ants, in mid-latitude and sub-arctic/sub-antarctic zones, hibernate in the winter.  They thus “fatten” themselves up in the good months to survive the winter. Some ants store food for the winter.  They prepare for the future. Remember Aesop`s fable ” The grasshopper and the ant.”

Lessons: (1) we should “work, the works of Him… while it is day; the night is coming, when no man can work” (John 9:4).  We should use every opportunity (Galatians 6:10).  (2) We should prepare for the future judgment is coming (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Rock Badgers

“The rock badgers (conies KJV) are a feeble folk, yet they make their homes in the crags (rocks KJV)” (Proverbs 30:26).

 This should not be confused with the North American badger.  The animal mentioned here is about the size of a rabbit, and known for its timidity.  Its basic defense is where it dwells.  “The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats;  the cliffs are a refuge for the rock badgers” (Psalm 104: 18).

Lesson: We need to know where to dwell for safety.  The Psalmist said, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer” (Psalm 18:2).  Again, “The LORD has been my defense, and my God the rock of my refuge” (Psalm 94:22).


“The locusts have no king, yet they all advance in ranks (go they forth all of them by bands KJV)” (Proverbs 30:27).

Wolves have an alpha male to lead them; armies have generals to lean them; kingdoms have kings to lead them; but, locust have no leader.  Yet, the go forth, conquer, and devour nonetheless.  [Exodus 10:1-19 (cf. Psalm 78:46; 105:34-35).  Deuteronomy 28:38; Joel 1:4; 2:1-ff; Revelation 9:3; 7].

Lesson: Some folks have no initiative or gumption of their own.  They wait around idly, waiting to be led, waiting to be told what to do.  Some, if they came the wounded man in Luke 10:30-ff, might think they needed a benevolent committee meeting before acting!  We shouldn’t be like this.  We should be people of action.  We can visit the sick, send letters and cards, make phone calls and do many other things without being told to do so by the eldership.


“The spider skillfully grasps with its hands, and is in king’s palaces” (Proverbs 30:28).

The NASB and the ESV reads “lizard” instead of “spider.”  There is some uncertainty as to the original word’s meaning.

However, whatever the reference, to the spider or a lizard, the meaning is the same.  Even in the most closely guarded houses little creatures enter.  Thomas Seals writes, “By determination and continued efforts, this agile and clever little animal finds his way into the palaces of eastern monarchs” (Proverbs: Wisdom For All Ages, p. 133).

Lesson: If we are going to make it into the King’s palace in the end we must be determined, and make persistent effort, “let us not be weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9).

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Little Details

An ancient poem reads:

                                    “For want of a nail, a shoe was lost -

                                    For want of a shoe, a horse was lost -

                                    For want of a horse, a battle was lost -

                                    For want of a battle, a kingdom was lost -

                                    And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.”

This poem is about the demise of England’s King Richard III in the battle of Bosworth in 1485. The King wanted to go with his troops into battle. His horse was hurried to a blacksmith to be shod. The smith ran out of nails on the last shoe. He explained to the King’s representative that he’d have to hammer out another nail. The king’s man said that there was not time to wait. He wanted to know if the shoe would hold. The smith said, “it should, but I can’t be certain.” That was good enough for the King’s man and he took the horse, one nail short on the last shoe. In the battle the shoe did come off. The horse stumbled and fell. The King was thrown to the ground. The horse got up and galloped away before the King could remount. The rebel forces soon moved in upon the King.  The King cried out, “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” However, there was no help to come. His end had come. The battle was lost.

This story shows us that sometimes seemingly little things matter immensely. Let’s consider some applications.

One – some church members neglect to regularly read their Bibles and pray. Such may seem like a little thing but the wise do not cease to meditate upon God’s word (Psalm 1:2; Philippians 4:8) nor do they cease to pray (Luke 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). We need such to overcome temptations. We need such to stay focused. Many a Christian fail because they start neglecting such details.

Two – Some parents get so busy working and providing for their children that they have little time or energy to have family devotionals, or to impart spiritual understanding to their children. Often spiritual matters get neglected.  Some deceive themselves that such neglect is okay since “they do go to Bible class each week.” Psalm 127:1 warns, “Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it.” Parents have a tremendous responsibility (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). Fathers are instructed to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Don’t let such be a small thing with you. Time is passing. They are growing up and soon will be out on their own. Your greatest opportunity to steer them in the proper direction is right now. Remember your influence might even influence the upbringing of your grandchildren and beyond (cf. Genesis 18:19).

Three – Don’t neglect the “little issues” between you and your friends, and family. I’ve seen some people allow a “little problem” to fester into a huge issue that destroys a friendship. They simply don’t deal with the perceived wrong. Friendships require maintenance. Relationships in general do (husband-wife, friend – friend, church member – church member). Read Matthew 5:22-24; Matthew 18:15-17; Matthew 18:21-22; and Luke 17:3-4. Failure to do proper maintenance will bring down a relationship just like a shoe off a horse.

Four – Watch your attitude. It is not just truth that matters. It is also our attitude toward truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12; 2 Corinthians 9:7; Colossians 3:16; Philippians 2:14; 1 Peter 4:9). Johnny Ramsey once told me that the longer he lived the more he understood just how important one’s attitude is when it comes to the Christian life and the work of the church.

Watch the details. Many things may well seem to be small details but these small details, if overlooked, can bring the big horse down and cause ruin.

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