I have spent the last 2 1/2 years as the interim pastor of Manistique Bible Church. During that time the church went through a series of major changes in their church practices, put in place a new church constitution and recommitted the membership. The church still upholds the same doctrines, same purpose and same ministry philosophy, but this time has been a time of refocusing on the church’s priorities and recommitting the members of the church to building up one another to do the work of the ministry. The process was long and filled with many challenges, some expected, some not. In many respects the church is stonger now than it was when we started. We are now catching our breath and giving time for things to settle down. As we move into the winter, we are seeking to build on the newly strengthened foundation and praying that new members will be added by the salvation of folks in our community.
When I introduced to the church this process and presented myself as willing to serve as an interim pastor, it was my intention to lead the church in a search for a permanent pastor as soon as the members reaffirmed their membership. However, as we have reached this point, it seems that a pastor search would destabilize the church to an unnecessarily risky degree. In an effort to give a season of stability and to give the church time to rebuild, I have recommended the church to delay for a time it’s search for a new pastor. The church has agreed with that recommendation, so I will be remaining as the interim pastor of Manistique Bible Church until they reach the point where they are able to bring in a new pastor without too much difficulty.
Over the last two years of intense work with Manistique Bible Church, the blog and ministry updates have suffered. I will now be resuming a more regular schedule of ministry updates and blogging. Pastoral ministry is always intense, and I cannot divert a large amount of time from the work at Manistique Bible Church to generate new content for this blog. As a result, there will be some changes in the blog part of this website. Many of the articles I write will flow out of the weekly church services. I will be endeavoring to begin each week with a brief summary of the morning message from the day before. This week I will be starting at the church an program for people submit questions about Scriptures or church ministry that I will then answer during the services on Sunday. I will periodically post some of those questions and answers to the blog as an accompaniment. If you have questions you would like to submit, you can email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
God has been gracious to us throughout this process with Manistique Bible Church. There is still much work to be done in the churc, and much ministry for the church to do. Please continue to pray for Body Builders Ministry and Manistique Bible Church.
In 1981 Joe Aldrich wrote a book that has wielded significant influence throughout evangelical Christendom. His work, Lifestyle Evangelism, postulated that we best reach the lost with the gospel by living a Godly life in front of them. According to this philosophy, the good behavior of the believer will create opportunities to share the gospel with those who are made curious by the Christian’s good works. The basic tenets of lifestyle evangelism continue to define the evangelistic efforts of many Christians today.
In the first decade of the 20th century, a new theology began to sweep across America. This new theology insisted the gospel was not just a message of salvation from sin, but was also found in Jesus efforts to heal the sick, comfort the afflicted and feed the poor. Today the gospel must include the Christian’s efforts to eliminate social ills. Thus, according to this theology, the gospel without efforts at societal reform is not the Biblical gospel. The Social Gospel still reigns supreme in liberal protestantism and reaches across the lines to influence ministry within moderate and conservative evangelicialism.
Both these movements have been able to gain influence within Christianity. They are able to support their claims by bringing to bear such Biblical truths as Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Adding weight to their arguments are the countless miracles of healing and mercy done by Jesus and His apostles. The question asked is why Jesus and His disciples healed so many thousands and delivered so many from bondage to demons if mercy ministry is not to be a major part of the Christian mission today? As a result many Christian ministries and missionaries today have made mercy ministry a major, or primary, part of their work. One does not have to look far, even in the most gospel centered mission agencies, to find missionaries whose overseas mission is to administrate an orphanage or to dig wells in isolated areas. Though all Christians would acknowledge the benefit and beneficence of mercy ministries and community help programs, some, like myself, have grave concerns about how we prioritize such service in relation to the verbal proclamation of the gospel.
The Bible defines a close and undeniable relationship between the gospel and good works. In the New Testament, the relationship of good works to the gospel is not a relationship of good works opening doors for the gospel, but of good works showing proof of the truths of the gospel. The gospel is the truth declared. Good works are circumstantial evidences testifying to the legitimacy of the gospel’s claims. The miracles worked by Jesus and His disciples were not the message of the gospel. Remember those times early in His ministry when Jesus forbid certain ones from telling others of the healing He gave? He forbade the healed to tell of the miracle so that the news of the miraculous would not outpace the message of Jesus as Messiah and God. The marvelous healings of the Gospels and Acts were not primarily for the purpose of helping those in need. The New Testament declares the purpose that miracles served. The miracles were proofs of Jesus’ claim to be God and Messiah. In Matthew 11 imprisoned John the Baptist heard of the works that Jesus was doing. John sent his disciples to Jesus to inquire if He was really the Messiah. Jesus’ answer speaks volumes regarding the purpose of His miracles. Jesus told John’s disciples to go back and tell John of Jesus’ miracles. The miracles were evidence of the truth of Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah. Jesus states this outright in John 5:36, “The works that I do, bear witness of Me that the Father hath sent.” On the day of Pentecost the apostles understood and declared the purpose of Jesus’ miracles, “Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you.” Jesus miracles were not just for the sake of doing good to the poor and needy. Jesus’ mighty works were to authenticate His claims to be the Messiah, God the Son. Similarly, the miracles done by the apostles were proofs they were genuine messengers of Jesus the Messiah. Paul declares this is in 1 Corinthians 14:14, “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.” The good results brought upon the poor, demon possessed and diseased were secondary blessings flowing from the primary purpose of proving Divine power and authority.
Though there is more to be said on this topic, suffice it to say for now that good works are evidentiary in nature, but not the gospel. We have not been ordained by God to good works for the purpose of initiating gospel conversations, replacing the message of the gospel or fulfilling the great commission.
Giving the gospel message to the unsaved is a mission of seemingly impossible proportions. Besides the obstacles inherent within each of us, a selfish flesh and a pride filled fear of men, and besides the aggressive efforts of Satan and his minions to keep the lost blinded in darkness, we face the challenge of a culture that actively opposes the preaching of the gospel message. We are daily confronted by a way of thinking that insists all beliefs are equally true and only the individual can measure the validity of a belief for himself. One can only say what is right and true for himself, but never insist on it’s necessary truthfulness for another. To make matters worse, the church, which is to be the pillar and ground of the truth, has abdicated its responsibility and allowed the culture to determine what truth is and how it is to be communicated. These forces combine to fill the heart of faithful Christians with fear and trepidation at the thought of telling others the gospel. Wise Christians will reflect on how the gospel should be given in the face of such implacable foes.
To answer that question, we can turn to the God inspired words penned by a man who preached the gospel in the face of vicious enemies, whose preaching was frequently rejected and whose message was overwhelmingly victorious. In Romans 1:16 Paul sums up his conviction about preaching the gospel to a world that trips over the supposed foolishness of the gospel. Paul says “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” Despite all the opposition, the host of rejections, the persecution, the disappointments, the false professors and the false teachers, Paul looks at the gospel and declares, “I am not ashamed of the gospel.” How should Christians give the gospel in our world today? In the same way Paul did, without shame. Though the world demands a softer, more user friendly gospel, we must give the Biblical gospel without shame. Though many in the church offer a gospel of personal ease, prosperity and comfort, we must give the Biblical gospel without shame.
Why is Paul not ashamed of the gospel? “for it is the power of God unto salvation.” Paul tells us several great things about the gospel that encourage us to give the gospel without shame or fear. The gospel message is the gospel of Christ. It is not about you. It is not about the lost person, their feelings or their desires. The gospel is about the work that Jesus has done to bring salvation. The gospel is a message given to you, to which you must respond, but the gospel is not about you. The gospel is a message given to each person, to which each one must respond, but it is not about him. The gospel is about Jesus.
The gospel is the power of God. One of the most horrible things to happen in American Christianity has been the acceptance of teaching that people will be not be saved unless the preacher captivate and entertains them. For nearly 200 years now, we have suffered under a steady string of celebrity preachers and performing evangelists who have redefined the preaching of the gospel in a way that bears only superficial similarity with what is found in the Bible. We do not need modern means and methods to make the gospel work. The gospel is the power of God! Insisting that the gospel preacher needs to captivate the audience and appeal to the desires of the seeker for the gospel to be effective is like giving someone a lit stick of dynamite and telling him that for it to work right he has to say “boom”. We don’t need to add our own special effects to the gospel. The gospel is the power of God! Nothing man does adds anything to His power. None can add anything to the gospel to make it work or to make it work better. The gospel works, just give it. The gospel does not need man’s wisdom to make it powerful. The gospel is the power of God. Unleash the gospel and it will transform hearts.
This is true because the gospel is the power of God! The gospel is not a message of human invention. The gospel is not a carefully crafted message of man’s wisdom dependent on the personality, charm, wit or intellect of the person giving the gospel. The gospel is God’s message about God’s Son filled with God’s power. You just need to give the truths. Our world demands a carefully choreographed multi-million dollar performance, but nothing that can be devised in Hollywood and performed by the greatest actors of all time can match the power of God. No special effects, CGI, moving dialogue, stirring orchestrals or heart rending scenes of tragedy and hope will ever come close to matching the power of God to convict of sin and draw the lost to Himself. Only God can change the heart and soul. Only God gives sight to the blind sight and life to the dead.
The gospel is God’s power to salvation. The power of God at work in the gospel is the power that saves men. Nothing else in this universe is promised to have the power to salvation. Creation speaks of God, but it is not the power of God to salvation. Apologetics can help remove some objections to the gospel, but it is not the power of God to salvation. Philosophy may help one think more clearly about truth, but it is not the power of God to salvation. Promises of the joy and comfort found in God may help prepare one to hear the gospel, but they are not the power of God to salvation. Nothing but the gospel is the power of God to salvation. Only the Gospel pierces to the depths of the human spirit. Only the gospel unveils the motives and desires of the heart. Only the gospel pulls back the masks and defenses all men construct. Only the gospel brings men to the throne of grace and gives grace and mercy to all who trust the Great High Priest.
How does the faithful Christian give the gospel in the face of intense opposition? Without shame or fear, for the gospel is not of his own devising and is not reliant on his own power. The gospel is not weak and helpless in the face of a world of rebels. The gospel is God’s power to salvation to all who believe.
Today is an age of tolerant intolerance to truth. Everyone’s truth is perfectly acceptable to who ever wants to accept it. Your truth is fine for you, my truth is fine for me and his truth is fine with him. Each one follows his own inner promptings to determine what is true for himself. The spirit of this age declares, “If your belief makes you feel spiritual, satisfies your longings or heals your hurts, then I am happy for you. Only, do not tell me that my beliefs are wrong” In this age of tolerance, all beliefs are acceptable, as long as one belief does not insist that another belief is wrong. Everything will be tolerated except intolerance.
Today is an age of religion as a buffet of pseudo-spiritual emotional and personal therapy. Religion is not a means of coming into the presence of the divine or of seeking divine blessing on one’s life. Religion today is a means of learning to feel better about one’s self, of receiving affirmation in one’s life choices, of having an all powerful back up when things go wrong and of acquiring the things one dreams to possess.
To make this problem worse, modern American Christianity has redesigned itself to appeal to precisely these mistaken notions of God. Modern Christianity has grabbed the world’s expectations and instead of confronting its error has latched onto the error to make it the main selling feature of the mega-brands of Christianity. Most of the largest churches in America have grown by finding out what appeals to the crowds and then providing it. The direct result is a Christianity that offers a Jesus who looks more like the world’s greatest girlfriend than the God of the universe. Jesus, in the mind of many Americans, is someone who will do anything you ask, whatever it takes to make you feel better and demands nothing of you. Christianity has become one very popular form of life coaching and emotional therapy.
In the midst of these pervasive errors, faithful Christians are called to give the gospel. How do we give the gospel in the face of these daunting obstacles? How do we teach of God, of sin of the Bible, of Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection and exaltation to a culture that only wants a Jesus who will take the wheel when things are difficult but will otherwise sit contentedly in the back seat? To answer that question, we must remember these kinds of idolatrous views of God are not new. We have put our own modern spin on unbelief, but at its basic levels, today’s idolatry is not much different from the idolatry faced by the disciples in the New Testament. How then does the Bible teach us to give the gospel?
One of Paul’s most impressive evangelistic defeats occurred in Athens when he preached Jesus from Mars Hill. Acts 17 tells us of this sad rejection of the gospel and Acts 18 tells that Paul left Athens to go to Corinth. In Corinth Paul connected with Aquila and Priscilla and continued the work of the ministry. In Acts 18:4-5 we learn what that ministry looked like, “And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ.” Paul went to Corinth and began teaching in the synagogues just as he had done throughout his missionary travels. Paul went to Corinth and preached Jesus. What do we do when the culture of the day finds the gospel foolish and offensive? We do what Paul did, we keep giving the gospel just as it is recorded in the Bible. In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul reminds them of his arrival in their city and the message he preached. Fresh off the disappointing response in Athens, Paul committed himself to stay on message.
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)
We can do no less than Paul did, that men might be saved by the power of God.
“The importance of forgiveness is a constant theme of Scripture. There are no less than seventy-five different word pictures about forgiveness in the Bible. They help us grasp the importance, the nature and the effects of forgiveness.
- To forgive is to turn the key, open the cell door and let the prisoner walk free.
- To forgive is to write in large letters across a debt, ‘Nothing owed’.
- To forgive is to pound the gavel in a courtroom and declare, ‘Not guilty!’
- To forgive is to shoot an arrow so high and so far that it can never be found again.
- To forgive is to bundle up all the garbage and trash and dispose of it, leaving the house clean and fresh.
- To forgive is to loose the moorings of a ship and release it to the open sea.
- To forgive is to grant a full pardon to a condemned criminal.
- To forgive is to relax a stranglehold on wrestling opponent.
- To forgive is to sandblast a wall of graffiti, leaving it looking like now.
- To forgive is to smash a clay pot into a thousand pieces so it can never be pieced together again.”
John Nieder and Thomas Thompson, Forgive and Love Again
“Change is dreaded by the one in sin. They are content to remain as they are. In certain stages of a sinner’s life he feels as if he does not want to be anything but just what he is. He has succeeded in business, he is merry of heart, he is enjoying himself. No doubt there is a worm at the root of all his self-satisfaction, but he does not want to think about that worm. The tree looks all right—why do you want to interfere with it? The apple is beautiful, look at its fair rosy cheeks—suppose there is a maggot in the very core that will destroy it—why do you not let us look at the apple as long as we can be pleased with it? People who talk like that have built a very pretty house, but it is all cardboard—nothing more! But then, see how nicely it is painted and how very beautiful it looks! It is true that the first storm that arises will destroy it, but, possibly, there will not come a storm just yet, so why not let us be easy while we can? There are, alas, many of those easy-going souls. I pity the man who never has any troubles.
I believe that there are some people who never will have the heartache till they have known what it is to be hungry almost to starvation. It was so with that poor prodigal—he never thought of going back to his father till, “he would gladly have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: but no man gave any unto him.” Poverty, sickness, bereavement and sorrow of heart are often God’s angels that come to smite men on the side and wake them up, as the angel awoke sleeping Peter and delivered him from prison, where he was to have been led forth to die on the morrow! Some of you ought to thank God that He does not let you have a very easy or merry time. He does not let you settle on your lees, but keeps on emptying you from vessel to vessel. The reason for this is that He has designs of love for you and He means that you never should rest till you rest in Him! But it is often because of the pride which comes of fullness of bread and the fatness of heart which grows out of worldly prosperity that many a man says to the Lord Jesus Christ, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, You Son of the Most High God?”
And then, if you try to probe such people a little deeper and begin to talk to them about death and judgment, they probably turn upon you with great indignation, for they claim the right to be left alone. “Surely,” they say, “this is a free country, so we ought to be left alone and not to interfered with.” You will hear them say concerning a certain preacher, “Why does not that man preach his own religion and leave other people alone?” Perhaps one of them says, “I liked that sermon very well, on the whole, but I did not like that part of it in which the minister attacked such-and-such an error, as he called it. Why cannot he leave other people alone?” Yes, that is the old cry, “Leave us alone! Leave us alone!” If you will only let the devil alone, the devil will let you alone—but if you once attack him, he will be certain to attack you! But just think for a moment what this foolish sinner claims—he claims the right to live in blindness! You who can see must not tell him that he is blind! If you do so, he says you are infringing his rights. He says that he has a right to lie in prison if he chooses to do so! And if you come and hammer at the door, or shout to him through the iron bars that there has come One who can let loose the captives, he complains that you are disturbing him! Here is a man on the verge of destruction, asleep on the edge of a precipice! If you wake him, he tells you that he has a right to sleep there if he likes and that he does not want you to awaken him in that rough way and talk to him about his imminent danger! Here is another man lying down on the railway track and the engine and train are coming along that line. If you try to move him, he says that he has a right to lie there if he likes. What is it to you if the engine goes right over his body and cuts him in pieces? You cry to him, “Madman, escape for your life! The engine will be on you directly.” If he does get up, he abuses you and says, “Mind your own business! You go your way and leave me alone.” That is the style in which sinners talk when they claim the right to be left alone.
But everybody who has any sense knows that such talk is the language of a fool, for a man has not the right to be damned! He has not the right to destroy himself eternally. Our law very properly withholds from a man the right to commit suicide—if he is caught in the act of attempting to take his own life, he is punishable as a criminal. The act of suicide is a grave offense against the Laws of God and man, and no man has the right to damn his own soul and so to commit spiritual suicide. So we mean to interfere, by God’s help, with such a foolish and wicked man—and cry to him to escape from the wrath to come and, in doing so, we are only obeying the highest instinct of Nature—and the Law of Love, which is the Law of God.”
- CH Spurgeon
Here’s an excerpt from John Gill’s “Body of Practical Divinity” to help as you prepare your mind and heart for prayer meeting.
The parts of prayer, of which it consists; the apostle, in Philippians 4:6 uses four words
to express it by; and which are commonly thought to design distinct species or parts of
prayer; which are comprehended under the general name of “requests,” or petitions, as
“prayer and supplication with thanksgiving”: and he also uses four words for it,199 with
some little difference, in 1 Timothy 2:1 “Supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of
thanks;” by which one and the same thing may be signified in different words, according to
the different respects which it has; but if these have different senses, and are different
species or parts of prayer, Origen’s account of them seems as good as any; that “supplication”
is for some good that we stand in need of; “prayer” for greater things, when in great
danger, that is, deliverance from it; “intercession” is expressed with more freedom, familiarity,
and faith, with greater confidence of having what is asked of God; and “thanksgiving” is an
acknowledgment of good things obtained of God by prayer. But to proceed, and more particularly
consider the parts of prayer, of what it consists; and I mean not to prescribe any
form of prayer, but to direct to the matter and method. And,
a. In prayer there should be a celebration of the divine perfections; and it is proper to
begin with this; we should declare the name of the Lord to whom we pray, and ascribe
greatness to our God; we should begin with some one or other of his names and titles, expressive
of his nature, and of the relation he stands in to us as creatures, and new creatures;
and make mention of some one or more of his perfections, which may serve to command
an awe and reverence of him; to engage our affections to him; to strengthen our faith and
confidence in him, and raise our expectations of being heard and answered by him, as before
observed; as of his purity, holiness, and righteousness; of his omniscience, omnipotence,
and omnipresence; and of his immutability and faithfulness, love, grace, and mercy.
b. There should be an acknowledgment of our vileness and sinfulness, of our meanness
and unworthiness in ourselves; we should come before a pure and holy God under a sense
of the depravity and pollution of our nature, and of our unworthiness to be admitted into
his presence, and to worship at his footstool; when we take upon us to speak unto the Lord,
we should own, with Abraham, that we are but “dust and ashes;” not only frail and mortal
creatures, but sinful and impure; and with Jacob, that we are not “worthy of the least of all
the mercies” showed us, nor of receiving any favour from God; and therefore do not present
our supplications to him “for our righteousnesses, but for his great mercies”.
c. There should be a confession of sin; of the sin of our nature, of original sin, of indwelling
sin; of the sins of our lives and actions; of our daily transgressions of the law of
They seem to answer to four words used by the Jews, of prayer, ברכה בקשה תפלה תחנה
God in thought, word, and deed: this has been the practice of saints in all ages; of David,
Daniel, and others (Ps. 32:5, 51:3-5) and which is encouraged (1 John 1:9).
d. There should be a deprecation of all evil things, which our sins deserve; so our Lord
taught his disciples to pray; “Deliver us from all evil;” and this seems to be the meaning of
the saints oftentimes when they pray for the forgiveness of their own sins and those of others,
that God would deliver them out of present distress, of what kind soever, remove his
afflicting hand, which lies heavy upon them, and avert those evils which seem to threaten
them, and prevent their coming upon them; in which sense we are to understand many of
the petitions of Moses, Job, Solomon, and others (Ex. 32:32; Num. 14:19, 20; Job 7:21; 1
King 8:30, 34, 36, 39, 50).
e. Another part or branch of prayer is, a petition for good things, which are needed;
for temporal mercies, such as regard the sustenance of our bodies, the comfort, support,
and preservation of life; so our Lord has taught us to pray; “Give us this day our daily bread;”
which includes all the necessaries of life. Agur’s prayer with respect to this is a very wise
one, and to be copied after (Prov. 30:7-9). Spiritual blessings are to be prayed for; which,
though laid up in covenant, and are sure to all the covenant ones, what God has promised,
and will be performed; and we may have this confidence in him, that whatsoever we ask,
according to his will, we shall have; but then they must be asked for; seeing, for what he has
promised, and will do, he will “yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for
them” (Ezek. 36:37).
f. Prayer should always be accompanied with thanksgiving; this should always be a
part of it; since, as we have always mercies to pray for, we have always mercies to be thankful
for (Eph. 6:18; Phil. 4:6).
g. At the close of this work it is proper to make use of doxologies, or ascriptions of
glory to God; of which we have many instances, either of which may be made use of (Matthew
6:13; Eph. 3:21; 1 Tim. 1:17; Jude 1:24, 25; Rev. 1:5, 6), which serve to show forth the praises
of God, to express our gratitude to him, and our dependence on him, and expectation of
receiving from him what we have been praying for; and the whole may be concluded with
the word “Amen,” as expressing our assent to what has been prayed for, our wishes and
desires for the accomplishment of it, and our full and firm persuasion and belief of our
having what we have been asking for, according to the will of God.