Time for a Great Quote: A.W. Tozer on Bible Reading and Study

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Posted by on October 10, 2017 in Bible reading, Bible study


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STUCK! Ten Areas That Will Bury You as a Believer and How to Dig Your Way Out! (Area #10- SINNERS!)

If you have stayed with me through this series of posts, THANK YOU!   We’ve been thinking about areas in which the Jesus-follower gets STUCK!  Most of these messages were (or will be) delivered at Crossroads Fellowship Church in Augusta (website:

The last area we want to consider is SINNERS!  We get STUCK on the issue of SINNERS!  What are we to do with “them”?  Are we to hang around them?  Avoid them?  Become like them?

This topic of our relationship to SINNERS has become a passion for me.  I’m a SINNER.  How about you?  Someone reached out to me with the gospel.  How dare I spend all my time with fellow-believers, eating only Christian cookies, listening only to Christian music, and going only to Christian meetings?  How dare I?

Our text for this topic is Matthew 11 where we read:

16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:

17 “‘We played the pipe for you,
    and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
    and you did not mourn.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

There is so much in this passage that we are going to take several posts to ponder it.  Please notice that Jesus is rendering a judgment on His generation.  He compares them to children singing mocking songs in the marketplace about Himself and John the Baptist.  “You’re like a bunch of kids pouting because we aren’t behaving the way you want us too!”, Jesus seems to be saying.  These “children” are inviting other like-minded kids to join them in their mockery and derision. What are they so hyped about?

The answer is that they didn’t care for the way either John the Baptist or Jesus lived among them.  And their only response is ridicule and mockery.  John the Baptist and Jesus didn’t dance to their tunes or mourn with their dirges.  And that ticked them off!  (to be continued) 


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Posted by on October 9, 2017 in christian growth


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Is Stephen Paddock in Hell?

“In reality, along with the power to forgive, we have lost the power to condemn.” (C.S. Lewis)

Stephen Paddock, the maniac who slaughtered 58 people and wounded over 500 more in Las Vegas on October 1, ended his own life before he could be arrested by authorities. He, thereby, successfully escaped human judgment.

But is there no divine judgment? Perhaps he thought that suicide would end his pain or exorcise whatever demons were inspiring his hateful rampage. It may be that he had given up on any view of an afterlife or judgment before God. However, his beliefs do not equal reality.

We wish no one to be in hell. However, our wishes also do not make reality. Whether one is a universalist (who says God will save every person, perhaps even the devil) or an annihilationist (who says God will put out of existence those who die in their sins) or a post-mortem conversionist (one who says numerous opportunities will be given in the after-death state for people to believe in Jesus),[1] the rock-bottom fact for Evangelicals is — What saith the Word of God?

We long for justice. And Paddock’s ending his own life, without trial, does not strike us as justice. That’s why the Psalmist takes the long view when he thinks about the prosperity of the wicked. They live long lives, without care, and die in comfortable beds. But there is the judgment of God awaiting them (Ps. 37).

One need only read through the gospel of Matthew to see that Jesus Christ clearly taught the doctrine of eternal lostness. We learn the following from that first gospel: Jesus speaks of “the fire of hell” (5:22) and says that ripping out one’s eye or hacking off one’s hand is better than being “thrown into hell” (5:29-30; 18:8-9).

Jesus speaks of a wide gate and a broad road that lead to “destruction” (7:13-14). Despite some claiming to do works in Jesus’ name, He will say to some at the end of history, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (7:23).

Hell is a real place (not just a state), for Jesus says, “the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (8:12; 22:13). The demons recognize that they will be “tortured” at the end of time (8:29) and thought Jesus had jumped the eschatological gun.

Apparently there will be levels of judgment in hell, for Jesus says of certain unbelieving cities: “It will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for [you].” (10:15; 11:21-24). The Lord warns us not to be “afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (10:28). He is not referring to Satan as some kind of king in hell, but to God.

Jesus speaks of blasphemy against the Spirit as a sin which will never be forgiven (12:32). He says that acquittal or condemnation are the only two options “on the day of judgment.” (12:36-37).

The angels (sent by the Son of Man) will weed out of His kingdom everything causing sin and all who do evil. “They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (13:42, 49-50). We read in Matthew 16:26 that the soul is of infinite value — “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” The Mount of Transfiguration event in Matthew 17 certainly shows that there is life after death.

Jesus accuses the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, in their winning of converts, of making them “twice as much a child of hell as you are.” (23:15). In Matthew 24, we read that the evil servant will be cut to pieces and assigned “a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (vv. 50-51). In the parable of the bags of gold, we read of the worthless servant who will be “cast outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” (vv. 28-30).

Finally, in the parable of the sheep and the goats (Mt. 25), we read that the sheep are invited to receive their inheritance, the kingdom prepared for [them] since the creation of the world (v. 34). The goats, however, are told, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (v. 42). Then, in summary, we read, “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (v. 46).

Is Stephen Paddock in hell? Unless one wishes to ignore the biblical teaching on eternal lostness, there can be only one answer. If he died without Jesus Christ as his Savior, that is precisely where he is. Apart from the saving work of Christ, that’s where I should be as well.

[1] See my The Other Side of the Good News: Confronting the Contemporary Challenges to Jesus’ Teaching on Hell (Christian Focus, 2003).

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Posted by on October 8, 2017 in hell


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STUCK! Ten Areas That Will Bury You as a Believer and How to Dig Your Way Out! (Area #9- SOLITUDE) (con’t)

In this ninth area of STUCKNESS, we are thinking about our need for the spiritual disciplines which will help us grow.  For some of us, we give precious little time to the area of SOLITUDE.  Alone time with the Lord is really important.  He can speak to us when we are quiet and just with Him.

I’ll admit — as an introvert I really like the idea of SOLITUDE.  Just give me my dog, my laptop, and a good cup of Starbucks (and occasional visits from my wife Linda), and I’m pretty happy.

But SOLITUDE is only one of the dozen spiritual disciplines that I need in my life.  We mentioned the others in our last post (the inward disciplines are: meditation, prayer, fasting, and study. The outward disciplines are: simplicity, solitude, submission, and service. The corporate disciplines are: confession, worship, guidance, and celebration). Which of those practices do you find easier to incorporate into your busy life?  Which seem impossible?

Our text for this area of STUCKNESS is Mark 6:30-34 where we read,

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” 32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

Doing and saying are important in the Christian life, but so are resting and eating!  Jesus invited His disciples to “come with me.”  They didn’t need to escape Him, but the crowds.  “Come with me by yourselves” — This was not an evangelistic invitation to bring others along. This invitation was strictly for Jesus’ disciples.  “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place.”  We underestimate how much our souls need quiet, don’t we?  “… and get some rest.”  Soul-rest is hard to see but spiritually lethal when it is missing.  This reminds me of Jesus’ promise in Matthew 11:  28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  How’s your rest going?


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Posted by on October 7, 2017 in christian growth


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STUCK! Ten Areas That Will Bury You as a Believer and How to Dig Your Way Out! (Area #9- SOLITUDE)

My daughter Amy and I are introverts.  We don’t care for crowds; we like our SOLITUDE.  In fact, she says she going to get me a t-shirt that says, “Introverts Unite!  By yourselves!  Alone!  At home!”  (I’d wear that t-shirt!).

In an extroverted world, we introverts are often thought anti-social (and we pretty much are).  How do Christians get STUCK in SOLITUDE?

What we are thinking of are the Christian disciplines that ought to mark healthy, Jesus-following lives.  SOLITUDE is one of those practices that can draw us closer to Jesus.

The classic treatment of the spiritual disciplines is the work done by Richard Foster in his Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth (Harper, 1998).  He divides the disciplines into three categories.  The inward disciplines are:  meditation, prayer, fasting, and study.  The outward disciplines are: simplicity, solitude, submission, and service.  The corporate disciplines are:  confession, worship, guidance, and celebration.  You won’t agree with all that Foster says about these practices, but each has biblical support and is valuable for the believer who doesn’t want to get STUCK!

Our text for this area of STUCKNESS is Mark 6:30-34 where we read,

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” 32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

Let’s think about this passage for a moment.  Note that the apostles had been quite busy doing what Jesus had commanded and teaching others. They were so busy in fact that they did not have time to eat.  Jesus invites His disciples to “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (v. 31).  They needed SOLITUDE.  They needed rest.  They needed to be away from the crowds.  Jesus’ invitation to His followers is refreshing.  He knows our frame, our weaknesses, our need for quiet and rest.  Just being alone — with Him.  Have you tried that lately?  (to be continued)

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Posted by on October 6, 2017 in christian growth


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The Insane Logic of Mass Shootings (Dr. Larry Dixon)

Our hearts are broken by the recent tragedy in Las Vegas.   There are no words to describe the horror, the inhumanity, of Stephen Paddock’s actions on Sunday, October 1st. We grieve for the almost 600 families who either lost a loved one or will live the rest of their days with members injured by this man’s maniac action.

But I would like to raise one question in this post which should be deeply disturbing to any thinking person. Imagine that Paddock left a note explaining his intentions. Again, we are simply imagining the possibility that he had thought out what he was going to do.

“To Whom It May Concern:
Life has no meaning. There is no God. Of any sort. There is no afterlife. There will be no judgment for either my ‘good’ actions or my upcoming ‘evil’ actions. ‘Evil’ and ‘good’ are socially constructed categories, able to change as society evolves. But — I will be remembered.”

Admittedly, I have no idea what worldview or philosophy (if any) was held by this crazy person. If an investigation shows that he was a member in good standing with, say, a Christian Science community or a Jehovah’s Witness congregation or a Baptist church, would that connection then condemn that group or religion? Of course not.

But philosophically, what motivated his murderous rampage? He was obviously not someone who gave no thought to what he was about to do. He meticulously planned his action, selecting (and modifying) his weapons, choosing his vantage point to reign down as much lethal damage as he possibly could. As one news report said, “The shooter had checked into a hotel room overlooking the music festival, stocked a cache of weapons there and set up cameras inside his hotel suite and hallway.”

Apparently he thought enough of his live-in girlfriend to have her leave the country before his atrocious act.

A multi-millionaire, Paddock enjoyed gambling for a few days before the country music concert on Sunday. But he did not gamble with those 58 innocent lives he took. He simply took them. And the 500 his weapons brutally maimed? They never had a chance to choose their fate.   He imposed his will on those strangers like a demigod who haphazardly and whimsically metes out punishment.

No fear of God served as a deterrent to his actions. No fear of man gave him pause. He did not anticipate a trial or imprisonment for what he was about to do. It is a reasonable conclusion that he had already decided to take his own life after he had robbed so many of theirs.

Ideas have consequences and, though we may never know Paddock’s worldview, he obviously did not value his life or the lives of others. He gave no thought to the unrelenting misery his actions would scar over half a thousand people.

The question is not, it seems to me, why do such mass shootings happen? But why don’t they happen more frequently? In his October 2nd article in Patheos entitled “Answers to 4 Questions About Violence in Vegas”,[1] Pastor Mark Driscoll makes the excellent point that “Once we realize that at the root human beings are the problem, it is easy to see that we cannot also be the solution.”

In a culture that mostly refers to God only as an expletive of surprise (“Oh, My God!”), why are we shocked that godless actions would result?

One news source said, “The mass shooting has raised questions about the gunman, his intentions and his access to weapons.” But why has his act not raised questions about his worldview? What did Paddock believe? Beliefs lead to actions.

We find solace in the stories of heroic efforts made by first responders and average citizens to help others. Sacrificing one’s own safety for the sake of someone else is not a value logically derived from a Darwinian point of view.[2] Tim Keller makes the point that “If there is no transcendent reality beyond this life, then there is no value or meaning for anything.”[3] Fyodor Dostoyevsky said, “Without God and the future life . . . everything is permitted, one can do anything.”[4]

But there is built within each of us a God-consciousness which includes a deep-seated grasp of the truth that all people are made in the image and likeness of their Creator. Alas, that consciousness can be suppressed and, as Romans 1 says, the natural man “neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.”

As a result of rejecting God’s revelation of Himself, God has given the natural man over to “the sinful desires of their hearts” (v. 24), “to shameful lusts” (v. 26), and “to a depraved mind” (v. 28). As a result “they do what ought not to be done” (v. 28). They “are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

We who are Evangelicals need to embrace and teach the biblical worldview.   The famous unbelieving historian and philosopher Will Durant wrote: “I survive morally because I retain the moral code that was taught me along with the religion, while I discarded the religion…. You and I are living on a shadow…. But what will happen to our children…? They are living on the shadow of a shadow.”[5]



[2] In his book Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical, Tim Keller makes the point that “humanistic moral standards . . . don’t follow logically from a materialistic view of the world.” (p. 41). Later he points out that “Modern secularism has largely kept these moral ideals of biblical faith while rejecting the view of the personal universe in which those ideals made sense and from which they flowed as natural implications.” (p. 47).

[3] Ibid., p. 49.

[4] Quoted in Keller, p. 177.

[5] Chicago Sun-Times 8/24/75 1B


Posted by on October 5, 2017 in Las Vegas shooting


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Time for a Great Video: All God’s Leaders Are Flawed!

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Posted by on October 4, 2017 in flaws, leadership


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