Monday, March 16, 2020

7 Resources while at home during COVID-19

Here are 7 resources to redeem the time while at home during COVID-19. 6 of them are free and 1 is deeply discounted:

FREE – 15 devotions from Ed Welch’s book A Small Book for the Anxious Heart – click here

Reduced price Catechism books for kids all ages (3 books for $12) – click here

FREE – Audio Sermon on Fear, Anxiety, and Worry (Brian Borgman) – click here

FREE – Video Sermon: Providence Defined, Alistair Begg – click here

FREE – 24 sermons on Revival by Martyn Lloyd Jones – click here

FREE Ebooks – The Doctrine of Repentancy by Thomas Watson (here) or The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes (here)

FREE – Blog Post – A Life of Fear and Trembling (here

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

More Reviews of From Death to Life - (and a SALE!)

Today's post features two more reviews of From Death to Life!: How Salvation Works. The first is from Pastor Wade Lentz of Beryl Baptist Church in Vilonia, AR. I asked if he wouldn't mind writing a short review of the book and also the Small Group Curriculum that is free on .pdf. His church has been going through the study on Sunday evenings.

The second review is from Twitter friend Christian Cotton. I am grateful for his kind words.

Today, October 31, 2018, you can get a copy of the book for just $7.50 or two for $12! This price includes shipping. If you're interested in that you can contact me here (scroll to bottom of the page) or you may message me on Twitter or Facebook. If you're interested in more reviews see:

hereherehereherehere, here, here, and here. 

If you're reading this after October 31, you can grab a copy on Amazon or for multi-order discounts check out the ThingsAbove order page here.

Now for today's reviews:

Wade Lentz

As a pastor, I genuinely desire the members of our church to grow “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” And if that is to be the case, then I know our church must be fed a steady diet of God’s Word through pastoral preaching. But this also means that I must set aside time each week for the teaching of God’s Word that aims solely on grounding our church in the essential doctrines of the faith.

One great tool that the Lord has greatly used to help teach and edify His people within our church is the book written by Pastor Allen Nelson IV entitled From Death to Life: How Salvation Works. This is a wonderful book on the most important doctrine of the church, the doctrine of salvation. If the church gets this doctrine wrong then it really doesn’t matter what other doctrines we get right.
Allen’s book focuses on this question; how does one genuinely move from being spiritually dead to being spiritually alive in Jesus Christ?

Allen’s answer to this most important subject is concise, but it is also constructive as it has served the purpose of “building up our local church in our most holy faith”.

Allen has created a study guide for a small group type atmosphere. Please understand that the book is only a tool that is used to help extract and apply what the scriptures already teach about the doctrine of salvation. Allen’s main focus in this study is to show the student just what does the Bible have to say about this all-important subject.

I cannot tell you how encouraged I have been as a pastor watching our people learn and grow in their understanding of how a person passes from death to life. I highly recommend this book and the small group participation study guide to be used as a tool for the edification of your church.    

Christian Cotton 

From Death to Life is an immensely helpful and timely book for our day. While many churches in America are eager to offer the assurance of salvation with the recital of a one-time prayer, Allen Nelson offers a biblical look of the true process God undertakes in bringing sinners from death to life. 

Nelson grounds the book in the sobering reminder of the eternal stakes at play in the church’s idea of salvation. While acknowledging that a church’s desire to see many come to Christ should be applauded, Allen makes clear that offering and affirming it in non-biblical ways is, in fact, the antithesis of love. Nelson’s address to this end is straight-forward, truthful, and gracious. While he submits that few if any, ministers or parents seek to intentionally mislead children or unbelievers, an un-biblical approach achieves the same end. Without casting stones, and freely admitting he too has taken part in the same practices in the past, he calls on the church and its shepherds to repent and seek fidelity to the biblical definition of salvation.

With the gravity of the situation defined, Nelson systematically lays out the process of true conversion with a wealth of biblical support. At each point he states clearly and scripturally the process of salvation, using a wealth of Bible verses to fortify each point. While I believe any theologian can likewise benefit immensely from the book, Nelson’s language and careful definition for every part of the process lends itself well to those who might otherwise be intimidated to read such a book. Similarly, Nelson also buttresses his definitions of each step of the process with analogies and life situations that helpfully convey the idea. 

One of the strengths of the book was Nelson’s defining the relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility in salvation. He makes much of God and clearly affirms that God alone is the author, giver, and sustainer of our salvation without discounting our responsibility in responding to the gospel in faith and repentance. Nelson helpfully follows by examining the signs of genuine conversion in a believer – examining fruit, ongoing repentance, and sanctification.

I would gladly commend this book to any Christian - particularly ministers, parents of younger children, and those wrestling with the assurance of salvation. By writing a book that is theologically rich and yet imminently readable, Nelson has given the church a true gift.

The church has no higher responsibility than clearly articulating and defining the gospel and how one comes to salvation. While much of the church drifts further from the foundational truths of salvation, From Death to Life offers a useful guide on how to right the ship and truly love people well in our message of God’s saving work.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Gospel at Home Conference 2018

The Conway/Perry Baptist Association* is excited to announce our 2018 Association Conference on the Gospel at Home on August 25, 2018! The conference is hosted this year at the First Baptist Church of Oppelo.


The theme of this year's conference deals with marriages, families, discipleship, children, teenagers, grandparenting, etc. This conference is for everyone! That includes pastors, deacons, laypersons, teenagers, children, etc. (We will provide childcare for younger children).

The format of the day will follow a similar pattern to last year. It will go something like this:

8:45am - Coffee and Donuts
9:45am – Preconference music
10:00am – Session 1
11:00am – 11:20am – Break
11:20am – 12:20pm – Session 2
12:20pm – 1:50pm – Lunch (served on site)
2:00pm – 3:00pm – Breakouts
3:00pm – 3:15pm – Break
3:15pm – 4:15pm – Session 3 and dismiss

We have always been blessed with high quality, godly speakers at these conferences and this year is no exception!

SCHEDULE UPDATE: Grace Bible Institue is hosting an informational breakfast on site at FBC Oppelo starting at 8:45am! They will be providing free Chick-Fil-A breakfast. You must be registered for the breakfast. Register for the GBI Info Breakfast by clicking here.

Our plenary speakers are:

Don Whitney: has been Professor of Biblical Spirituality and Associate Dean at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY since 2005. Before that, he held a similar position (the first such position in the six Southern Baptist seminaries) at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO, for ten years. He is the founder and president of The Center for Biblical Spirituality. (Read more here)

Jared Wilson: is the Director of Content Strategy for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Managing Editor of For The Church (and host of the FTC Podcast), and Director of The Pastoral Training Center at Liberty Baptist Church in Kansas City, MO. (Read more here)

Ben Phillips: began serving as the Pastor of First Baptist Church of Murphy, TX on April 1, 2018. Prior to that, he served with the Arkansas Baptist State convention for over 20 years, most recently serving on the church health team. (Read more here)

Our breakout speakers:

Our plenary speakers will also be leading breakout sessions. In addition to these men, we will also have these breakout speakers:

Jim Elliff: is founder and president of Christian Communicators Worldwide (CCW). For nearly twenty years prior to the beginning of CCW, he served as teaching pastor or on the pastoral staff of churches in Florida, Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma. (Read more here)

Kole Farney: is a writer, speaker and assistant to Jim Elliff at Christian Communicators Worldwide. He is one of six pastors of Christ Fellowship of Kansas City, a network of congregations that meet primarily in homes in the Kansas City metro. Kole is passionate about encouraging pastors, helping churches, orphan care, and teaching people how to study the Bible for themselves. He is husband to Rachel and dad to Karter and Russell. Kole attended Kansas State University (BA) and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div).

Jim and Mary Larmoyeux: are members of Perryville Second Baptist Church in Perryville, AR. They will be leading a workshop at the conference on leaving a grandparent legacy. This is a demographic that sometimes goes unnoticed in local churches, but the influence grandparents can have on subsequent generations is immense!

Sunday Morning (8/26):

Jim Elliff, Kole Farney, Don Whitney, and Jared Wilson will all be speaking in area churches on Sunday morning, August 26. Kole and Jim will also be speaking in area churches on Sunday night as well. So, it's definitely worth your time if you'd like to drive in and stay the night! We will give an update on what churches these brothers are speaking at a few weeks before the conference. 


FBC Oppelo is only about 10 minutes south of Morrilton, AR, 35 minutes east of Russellville, AR, and 30 minutes west of Conway, AR. Each of these locations offers affordable places for lodging. If you need assistance in finding a place to stay, please contact me (see form on bottom of the contact page). 

Cost and Registration:

Although only officially Sponsored by the Conway/Perry Association for 2 years, this is actually the 5th annual bible conference we have organized! It is our vision to keep this conference free and to not require registration in order to attend. We want people who decide to come at the last minute, to still be able to join us for a great day in the Lord. However, please note: Registration is extremely helpful to us so that we can be prepared to serve you! So, registration is not required, but is greatly encouraged! The sooner you register, the better. We will try to have some giveaways for those who register early. You may register here.

We will also accept donations toward the cost of this conference if a church or individual is willing to give. Please note that this is not a requirement! But if you want to donate, this will help us offset costs. You can contact me if you have more questions about this (see form on bottom of the contact page). 

Additional Info:

In addition to our great conference line up, we will also have a bookstore and several booths set up that have information about important ministries around the state of Arkansas and beyond. Also, there is always a great time for connecting with likeminded brothers and sisters over lunch and during our breaks. We recommend bringing a group from your church, spreading out during the breakouts, and using the conference to grow in your understanding and conviction on bringing the gospel regularly, habitually, and frequently into your home. We hope to see you August 25, 2018 at FBC Oppelo! 

You can listen to some of the messages and breakouts from last year's conference here.

In case you missed it above, Grace Bible Institue is hosting an informational breakfast on site at FBC Oppelo! They will be providing free Chick-Fil-A breakfast. You must be registered for the breakfast. Register for the GBI Info Breakfast by clicking here

*The Conway/Perry Baptist Association is a Southern Baptist association of like-minded churches in Conway County and Perry County, Arkansas who are affiliated with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

A Letter to Naomi

My dear sister Naomi,

It’s been much too long since I’ve seen your face and I miss you fiercely. My heart yearns for you. I will dispense with the pleasantries of asking if you are well because I know the last decade has been a difficult one. Even the word 'difficulty' pales in comparison to the great heartache you have faced. The loss of your husband, and most recently your two boys is a suffering that I cannot feel as fully and deeply as you do but please know my heart grieves with you.

The 'what might have beens' can make us go crazy, but there is nothing that you or I can do about what lies now in the past. There is no benefit in trying to relive what got you to where you are now as there’s no way to fix what has now been permanently broken in the loss of your family. I know that if you were given the opportunity you’d choose differently but at the same time I firmly believe that even in these most difficult of moments Yahweh has a plan for His people. Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery, but even then the Lord was using it to save His people. Oh, how His steadfast love endures forever! He is a gracious God, full of compassion, and willingness to forgive.

Therefore, my beloved Naomi, I am writing to you with an appeal to action. The Lord has once again visited His people here in Bethlehem! He has given us bread. The wickedness of our culture pains me but in the midst of these turbulent times, God has not forgotten His promises. Leave Moab, my sister. Turn your back on it! Turn to Bethlehem and trust the God of our fathers. Don’t pretend you love Him while living your own way and doing your own thing. Come to Him. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings, you will find refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

Oh, Naomi! I know your pain seems unbearable but I write to remind you that my God is king! Don’t dwell in Moab any longer. There is no hope there. How often the grass seems greener the in the fields of sin, but we learn that it only leaves us hollow. I don't mean to pile on your grief, so hear me in live, but did you find what you were looking for in Moab? Of course not! The famine you found in Moab is far worse than the physical famine we briefly experienced here in the Promised Land. But I hold forth hope to you. Our hope is Yahweh Himself! He remembered Noah, sought out Abraham, never abandoned Joseph, revealed Himself to Moses from the burning bush, and strengthened Joshua. And despite the wickedness of our leaders and our people, I know that He will send us a Deliverer! I wait for Him to free us from our wretched condition and to fulfill all the promises that God has given. What we are experiencing now in this city is a foretaste of what is to come. Come to us, dear sister. Come and see what the Lord has done.

Yahweh has visited His people Naomi! He has given us bread to eat! What will you do? Out of your sorrow, bondage, and night come to Bethlehem. Out of your shameful failure and loss, come to Bethlehem. Let not pride, stubbornness, or any other sin stand in the way. Leave Moab now. Turn away from there and come and see God’s work here. Come rest in Him. He is still a gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Come and see for yourself!

I don’t know God’s specific purposes for you but I know this: while you breathe there is hope for you. What glorious purposes God might still have for Naomi! I know it seems like all is lost, but what might Yahweh do with you if you humbled yourself and sought Him? And even if your life did not end like Job's, would it not be worth it simply to find delight in the Lord Himself? Isn't He that worthy? Isn't our praise due Him? But please do not delay. I cannot bear to hear of another one whom I love so dearly being buried in Moab. In the Bread Yahweh has given us, there is life. Come and dine.

May God answer my prayer for you,



You can read Ruth 1:1-7 to help set the background to this imaginative letter. You can listen to our current sermon series through the book of Ruth here. Eliana means 'My God Answers'.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

How to Obey God

True believers are actually being made holy by the power of God. The work of Christ didn’t just purchase a legal declaration but also a practical application of holiness. This is another blessing the Believer possesses in Christ. J.C. Ryle elaborates:
“The Lord Jesus has undertaken everything that His people’s souls require: not only to deliver them from the guilt of their sins by His atoning death, but from the dominion of their sins, by placing in their hearts the Holy Spirit; not only to justify them, but also to sanctify them.”[1]
Christ’s work on the cross actually sets captives free so that we can die to sin and live to
righteousness.[2] Grace doesn’t cause us to desire to continue in sin, but to live our lives for the glory of God.[3] His sheep hear His voice and follow Him.[4] Choosing righteousness as a Christian isn’t being a Pharisee. It is being a Christian.[5] This reminds me of the Geico© commercials currently airing: “If you’re a cat, you ignore people. It’s what you do.”[6] Well, if you’re a Christian, you love to follow Jesus, it’s what you do. The Bible knows of no Christianity that says “Oh, how I love Jesus” while simultaneously refusing to do what He says for us to do. The awesome reality of justification doesn’t create Believers who care nothing about holiness. Instead, it produces Christians who strive after it.[7] (All the above is an excerpt from my new book From Death to Life: How Salvation Works).

But how do we actually obey God? I've been reading Lou Priolo's books The Complete Husband recently and he gives some great encouragement. He writes: "God never asks a Christian to obey Him without providing three powerful resources" 
  1. God promises to give you the wisdom to obey Him (James 1:15)
  2. God promises to give you the ability to change (Philippians 2:13)
  3. God promises to give you the desire to change (Philippians 2:13)
"All three of these promises are made only to Christians, who in dependence on His Spirit and in conjunction with HIs Word, receive and implement them (page 27)." 

So, if you are a Believer, you desire to obey God. It's what you do. You can act on those desires by trusting God's supply of grace in granting to us wisdom to obey, ability to change, and desire to change. Understanding the mechanism for how this works isn't all that difficult. It's the carrying it out that is the challenge. But know this: If you are a Christian you have a God who is for you in Christ. He is not scowling at you waiting for your next failure. Trust Jesus, look to Him, and obey. Be in the word regularly, seeking God to show you areas where you need to grow in obedience. Ask God to give you the power to change (which He has promised) and the ability to change (which He has also promised), and then carry out His working in you. 

Will you stumble sometimes? Yup. And maybe even often at times, like a young child learning to walk. But God is for you in Christ. And He will finish in you what He began (Philippians 1:6). His grace is sufficient for sanctification too, so keep it holy. 

[1] Ryle, J.C. Holiness (Faverdale, England 1979), 16.
[2] 1 Peter 2:24
[3] Romans 6:1-2
[4] John 10:27
[5] 1 John 3:10
[7] Hebrews 12:14

Monday, January 22, 2018

Full Stomachs, Empty Hearts

Close-up of cracks in dry dirt

This week, we continue our study in the book of Ruth by focusing on Elimelech’s decision to move his family to Moab. You can listen to the sermon here.

In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. (Ruth 1:1-2)

In moving to Moab, Elimelech failed to:

1. Discern the Purposes of God 

The author doesn’t tell us why this famine took place, but just that it did take place. Most readers have never experienced a famine, but put yourself back 3,000 years ago and a famine was a big deal. Because of the context, we know that the famine was localized. Moab isn’t that far from Bethlehem, but they had food and Bethlehem didn’t.

We also know that the famine occurred during a great time of disobedience because it was ‘in the days of the Judges.’ Read Leviticus 26:3-20 if you want to know the relationship between disobedience and famine.

My point here is Elimelech failed to discern God’s purposes. He didn’t understand that this famine was likely in connection with God’s warnings about His people’s disobedience. And what you do when you discern that you’ve been disobedient to God is not run off to Moab. It is to repent. But often our pride or our foolishness keeps us from doing so.

Sin blinds. Sin hardens. Sin is the ultimate irrationality.

2ndly, Elimelech failed to:

2. Delight in the Precepts of God 
Elimelech has a beautiful name. It means ‘My God is King.’ Who wouldn’t want to name their child that? ‘El’ is the Hebrew word for God and carries the connotation of mighty one. Several important men of the Old Testament had ‘El’ their name. Take for example ‘Elijah’, meaning ‘My God is YHWH.’ So, Elimelech had a great name. Perhaps his parents were true Old Testament Believers and named their son this name in hopes that he too would follow God as king.

But it appears that Elimelech completely forsook his name. He did not delight in God’s rules or God’s kingship but instead ‘did what was right in his own eyes’ (See Judges 21:25).

His name means ‘My God is king’ but he lived as though he were king. He failed to discern the purposes of God in the famine and instead of repenting and encouraging his community to repent, he makes the choice to leave Bethlehem and go to Moab.

Why is this significant? Bethlehem is in the Promised Land. To leave the Promised Land and go settle somewhere else is a major step in the wrong direction. The grass looked greener in Moab, so Elimelech is out.

Hey, at least his name is still ‘My God is King’ though, right? Actually, it’s meaningless isn’t it?
It is flat out denial of God’s kingship to live in disobedience to His revealed will.

God was King in Elimelech life in name only, but it had no real benefit on daily decision making it seems. We might draw a parallel here… When we do what seems right in our own eyes even though it is against God’s revealed will in the Scriptures, we are denying Christ’s kingship in our lives. We may call ourselves Christians, but practically, it is in that moment only a name. It doesn’t have practical bearing in the way we live.

Elimelech should not have gone to Moab, no matter what his rationale was because he was in the land of promise. So too, Believers have no business to use sin as an answer to any situation. Whether you want to sin to avoid a situation, or you want to sin to experience some new situation, that’s not who we are.

If Christ is truly our King, then we must follow Him. No matter what. Obedience to Christ is always the right choice, no matter who else is doing it. Obedience to Christ is always the right choice no matter the earthly consequences. Spurgeon said “Better poverty with the ppl of God than plenty outside the covenanted land.”

Elimelech failed to discern the purposes of God, delight in the precepts of God, thirdly he failed to:

3. Dwell in the Presence of God 

The text makes something plain to us 2x in these verses: They went into the country of Moab. So, not only is this a disregard for God’s precepts, but it’s also a failure to dwell in God’s presence. Yes, God is omnipresent – He is everywhere. The Universe cannot contain Him. But, He manifests His presence in special ways in special places.

Elimelech decided he’d take his chances with his family in a place that God had not promised His presences or His blessings. You can’t expect God to bless when you live against his revealed will.

The point being, God has promised what we call means of grace, like preaching, Bible intake, prayer, the Lord’s Supper, to manifest His presence with His people in a special way. God had promised His people in the OT that He would dwell with them in the Promised Land and be their God. Elimelech chose to forsake that.

Please don’t go his way. Moab is not the answer. Dwell in God’s presence.

4. Depend on the Promises of God 

So, perhaps you’re feeling a little bad for Elimelech. I feel that too. There is a famine in the land and you look at your starving wife and children and you decide, I’m going to fix this. I can’t stand it any longer.

I get that. And I think we would be heartless not to empathize there. Perhaps you look around at your own situation and you think “I just cannot take it anymore” and you’re tempted to find a supposed solution in your own power and strength.

And you hear me saying in this sermon “don’t go to Moab!” And you say, “Fine. But what then am I supposed to do with my pain? What am I supposed to do with this problem? How can I fix this current situation?”

I don’t have neat and tidy answers for you, but I can exhort you to this: Depend on God’s promises! (Proverbs 3:5)

Lean hard upon Jesus. And it’s ok to say to Him: “I don’t know what to do, or where to go, or how to move on, help me trust You!” He is a good and faithful Shepherd. The answer is not to run away from Him, but to run to Him. He has promised never to leave us or forsake us. He is the unchanging One.

Elimelech was a man of Bethlehem. That was his town. He knew the people of the town. He knew the backroads. He knew the inside jokes. And he knew what the name of the town meant too. In Hebrew, Bethlehem means ‘House of Bread.’ The very name of the town reminds us of some of God’s glorious promises.

On Israel’s journey from Egypt God had provided them with bread from heaven. God had continually shown His people that He was their provider. That He promised to be their God, to show them, steadfast love, to dwell with them. But during the time of the Judges God’s people rejected Him.

The name of Elimelech’s town served as a reminder that God is a faithful God and the famine served as a reminder that God doesn’t shirk His warnings either. That all of God’s promises can be trusted. He is trustworthy. But Elimelech didn’t depend on God’s promises. He took matters into his own hands and sought first his own kingdom.

I don’t mean to suggest that waiting on God is easy. I don’t mean to suggest that we aren’t tempted to get results now. But I do mean to point out that waiting on God, and trusting God, and resting in God’s promises are always what God calls us to do, even if it’s difficult. In fact, sometimes difficult matters arise because God is teaching us to depend on Him all the more. And it is His love & grace toward us that cause Him to do that.

And what I want us to see on this side of the New Testament is that Bethlehem carries even more significance for us doesn’t it? The House of Bread is the very place the Bread of Life was housed at His birth.

God, robed in human flesh, came to give us life. To redeem us from our lawlessness and to clothe us in His righteous robes. To show us that all that we are looking for isn’t found in Moab. It’s in Him. The Bread of Life is the only thing that can end our hunger forever.

I don’t know your situation. And I don’t know all that God has for you in it. But I do know this: God calls us to seek Him. To trust His promises. To rest in Christ. Stake your life upon the promises of God which all find their yes in Christ Jesus.

Don’t go looking for bread in Moab. It may fill your stomach, but it will empty your heart.

Elimelech failed to discern the purposes of God, delight in the precepts of God, dwell in the presence of God, depend on the promises of God and:

5. Discover the Pleasures of God

When we disregard the precepts of God, and dwell outside the presence of God, and fail to depend on the promises of God, we will never discover the pleasures of God.

Elimelech, like all mankind, was made to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Did you catch that? Enjoy Him forever. But you can’t enjoy God if you’re living in Moab. If you’re dwelling outside of where God would have you to be.

Many people sort of think they give God a trial run where they go through the motions of Christianity for a while but never really find rest for their souls, and then they move on. Or other people try to make up the joy of the Lord and they think it’s found in a certain music style of worship or whatever. Still, others think they are delighting in God but really it’s only themselves.

But here’s what David says in Psalm 16:11

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
God made us to enjoy Him. When we disregard the precepts of God, and dwell outside the presence of God, and fail to depend on the promises of God, we will never discover the pleasures of God we were made for.

You won’t find fullness in you. And you won’t find fullness in your well-laid plans. You won’t find fullness in God and something: A full stomach, a content baby, a clean house, a well-paying job, a Moabite Mansion, etc.

If you are outside of where God wants you to be, you won’t find the contentment promised in Christ. I’m not saying contentment is easy. It’s cultivated. Oh but the rivers of grace are flowing today from Christ’s throne! Come and drink!

If you are a Christian but outside of where God wants you to be today, if you’ve forsaken holiness for a full belly, I implore you to repent. Repent and turn back to Christ. Moab only leads to death (Ruth 1:3-5).

Look to Jesus! Fix your thoughts and eyes on Him and His work. A deep grasp of the gospel is important for Believers of all ages because we can continually dwell upon it and its benefits for us - Christ's curse bearing, no more condemnation, the riches of our inheritance, God's favor upon us, the blessings of adoption, justification, sanctification, etc.

Spend regular time in God's Word. Christ's face is all over Scripture. And so we should drink regularly and plentifully from its grace abounding streams.

Look to Christ and turn away from Moab.

If you’ve never truly trusted Christ, come to Him. You’re a Moabite dwelling under wrath. But guess what? The book of Ruth shows us God saves Moabites. Do not refuse Him. I plead with you to repent and believe the gospel of Christ. Trust His work. At His right hand are pleasures forevermore. Forsake all else and trust Him.

(If you want to listen to this sermon in its entirety, click here)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Days of the Judges

Our current sermon series is through the book of Ruth. Here is a post form our introductory message. You can keep up with the sermons here.

The Book of Ruth is a beautiful story – in fact, I put it up against any Nicholas Spark’s book or Lifetime move – but, it’s much more than that. It’s a true story. But really, it’s even more than that. The Book of Ruth is Scripture. It’s a historical account of something that happened that God wants us to know about. It’s living and active and purposeful and beneficial for us.

Before one can fully grasp how beautiful this book is, we need to set it in its historical context. After all, it’s God who tells us through the human author that this happened in the days of the Judges

In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. (Ruth 1:1)
The days of the judges was a period from 1375 – 1055 BC of generally great apostasy, idolatry, and sin with few bright spots sprinkled over the centuries. In Genesis 12 God called Abraham and promised Him a blessing which included his descendants inheriting the land. Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, had 12 sons who wound up in Egypt. They multiplied there and eventually became enslaved to Pharaoh. God called Moses to lead His people out of Egypt and to the land promised to Abraham centuries before.

Moses gets them to the precipice of the land and God’s people grumble and want to head back. They are then punished by having to wander 40 years in the wilderness. When that 40 years is up, Moses dies having handed the reigns of leadership to Joshua. The people of Israel have been divided into 12 tribes according to their lineage to the 12 sons of Jacob. As they begin to conquer the land things go wrong. Then Joshua dies.

To really sum up Judges all we have to do is read its very last verse: (21:25)

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

So, this post is written as a summary of the book of Judges as we prepare to think about what God is doing in the book of Ruth. So, what's going on during the days of the Judges?

(Note: The bible verses are linked so all you have to do is click on them to see the reference)

1. A Compromise with the CanaanitesJudges 1:28

God made it clear through Moses that Israel was to devote the people to destruction and drive them out of the land completely. But what we see in the book of Judges is compromise after compromise. When the people of God attempt compromise with the world, the result is always catastrophic to God’s people and a tarnishing of God’s Name.

2. A Complacency in CatechismJudges 2:10

How could it be that one generation who knew God reared a generation that didn’t know God?

They were complacent in passing on any sort of faith legacy.

Catechism just means asking our children questions about the faith. It’s what we do on Sunday mornings with our kiddos to try and instill the building blocks of truth in their minds so that one day they will repent about believe the gospel.

You see, our children won’t own faith through osmosis. They must be taught.
God has entrusted parents with teaching their children the faith: 

4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:-7)
The Israelites would have heard this right before entering the Promised Land but what happened? They grew complacent. They didn’t teach their children.

Let’s make two quick applications for us:

a.) Parents, have your children in church.

"But I don’t want to force them to go to church or anything." You don’t use that argument with school do you? Bring them to church. Even if they don’t want to come.

b.) Train them at home. Between Sunday and Wednesday teach them. Ask them questions. Read the Bible with them. Pray.
3. A Corruption of CultureJudges 2:11

When the people of God compromise with the world and when they fail to train their children in the faith, what can we expect? 

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. -Judges 17:6

When you take God out of morality you are left with only wickedness. When culture begins to define what’s right apart from God’s truth, what do you get? A mess. A sinful and wicked mess.

We see murder, sexual immorality, homosexuality, corrupt leaders, idol worship, and a plethora of other sins in the book of Judges. It’s a complete societal and cultural breakdown and if not for grace, they would have ceased to exist at all.

4. A Capitulation to Worldly CravingsJudges 2:12-13

The Israelites completely surrendered to the lusts of the world. God’s people rejected Him. 

God is faithful. Patient. Longsuffering. And God is good. Paul says in Romans that His kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. But what does man do? Tramples on God’s goodness - Rejects His promises for the allurements of the world.

They rejected God covenant. Sure, in the LORD’s presence is fullness of joy. But what do I want? I want joy somewhere else. I want pleasure in earthly things. In Scripture is wisdom. But I want wisdom from Facebook.

5. A Consistency in Crying Judges 3:7-9, 12-15

There is a consistent pattern of Israel sinning against God, being punished, crying out to God, God rescuing them, and then the pattern repeating. J. Sidlow Baxter articulates the pattern like this: Sin, suffering, supplication, salvation.

So, Israel would break God’s Law, then God would punish them, then they would cry out to God, then he would bring salvation in the form of a judge We see this pattern continually repeating itself during this time period. It is a consistent downward spiral away from God and His goodness.

6. A Continual Forsaking of God’s CompanyJudges 8:34
They didn’t merely reject God’s promises, but also His person. They did not remember the LORD who had saved them.

You see, we often try to find a way to receive God’s promises, like heaven, without having to deal with God’s person.So basically, give me heaven, but stay out of my life. But the truth is, you will find that it’s a dual package. If you reject one, you reject the other.

The people of Israel broke the covenant of God and rejected the God of the covenant. If you want the promises, you must seek the person.

7. A Confusion about the Lord’s CustomsJudges 13:22-23

The people rejected God’s covenant, and God Himself, so its not surprising that they really didn’t understand God’s ways.When He appeared to them they weren’t sure who He was or how they should really think about it.

Compromise, complacency, corruption, and then the people don’t even realize what revival looks like.The people had invented, and borrowed, and compromised with so many wrong ways of worship that God’s ways were foreign to them.

Do we not see a parallel in our day?

8. A Conjecturing about God’s CommitmentsJudges 16:20

Samson gives us a picture of the nation as a whole. He thought he could live like he wanted and compromise like he wanted and that God would still be committed to him.

But here’s the truth: God is most committed to God. God will never compromise His holiness, His Godness, or His righteous character. The people of God thought they “Hey, God has to be with us no matter what.”

I think churches think that sometimes.

  • “Hey, we have church in our name so God must be for us”
  • “Hey, we are here on Sunday right? So God is obligated to show up.”

But the book of Judges shows us that God will not dwell with a stiff-necked and rebellious people.

God is holy, holy, holy. If he were to compromise His holiness, He would cease to be God. God will not give sin a pass. Don’t conjecture that God is for you, if you consistently desire and choose to reject Him and to do things your way.

9. A Cluelessness of ConsequencesJudges 20:34

Again, we have the tribe of Benjamin serve as a type of the Israelites as a whole. The Benjamites had done a wicked deed but had no concern for the consequences. (Maybe Judges 19 is not the best place for you to begin reading in your first attempt at family worship!) The Benjaminites were clueless as to what was about to happen. They did not know disaster was close upon them. How terrifying! How sobering.

Sin has consequences. - You will not live a life of rejecting God and not answer for it. Even Christians cannot choose to sin without facing consequences.Reject the church, reject Scripture, reject prayer – you’ll see consequences in your life. Not that God is making you face His wrath. That’s taken care of on the cross! But He disciplines His children for our good.

So, these 9 things are what’s happening during the book of Ruth. We don’t exactly know under which Judge this book takes place but we do know it’s in the time period of the Judges.

Right in the middle of Compromising with the Canaanites, complacency with children, corruption of the culture, capitulating to worldly cravings, a consistent crying, a continual forsaking of God’s company, a confusion about the LORD’s customs, conjecturing about God’s commitments, and a cluelessness of consequences, you have the story of Ruth.

And it is in the beautiful story of Ruth that we will see God’s real solution to all the problems of His people and that is, He is going continue the gospel plan. He is going to continue to line of the promised seed.

But more on that later. For today, I want to walk away with 7 quick takeaways in all of this.

Why does the historical context of the book of Judges matter? Why spend a whole sermon making sure we understand the time period in which Ruth takes place? I’m glad you asked! Here are 7 things:

1. Doing what is right in our own eyes is dumb

If you know yourself at all, you know you’re imperfect. You know you’re sinful. You know that you make bad decisions sometimes.What would we expect by creating a culture of just doing what we think is right, or what feels best?

Just follow your heart is terrible advice. We are sinful and broken people. Our hearts are deceitful. Why would we think doing right in our own eyes would work? Stop treating Christianity like a mystic religion. It’s not. It’s based on revealed truth.

Oprah Winfrey said on Sunday (1/7/18): “What I know for sure is speaking ‘your truth’ is the most powerful tool we have.”

No its not. Because there is no such thing as ‘your truth.’ There is truth, period. And that’s what we should seek. And that’s what we should do. Not what’s right in our own eyes.

2. We are wicked and foolish if we abandon Scripture –

It grows old to hear prominent church leaders say things like ‘God told me to say…’ Particularly it seems an alarming trend with women’s ministry leaders. Here’s the deal: God speaks to us in Scripture. We must be people of the Book. 

The Israelites abandoned the teachings of Moses during the time period of the Judges and what happened? Complete chaos and moral degradation. Why would we expect a different result in our lives and churches if we abandon Scripture?

3. Leadership matters
In our churches, in our nation, in our homes: Godly leadership matters. It’s not about being successful in the world’s eyes. We need men to lead our homes, nation, and churches that are seeking God and pursuing holiness.

4. Compromise always breeds worse compromise

When we compromise a little, we always increase that compromise over time, just like Israel spiraled down during the history of the judges. We want to push all the way to the line and then tiptoe over it thinking all will be well. Before we know it, we've fallen headlong into sin and we are stuck.

Don’t play with sin. Don’t entertain sin. Don’t capitulate. Don’t compromise the truth in the least. Stand firm.

5. Repentance is always in season

In the book of Judges, every time the people of God repented, there was an amazing reality they noticed: God was gracious!

So, this doesn’t mean presume on God’s kindness, but does mean repent today. Psalm 9:10 says you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you. Seek Him! Repent and go to Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Change your ways. Cleanse your hands. Real forgiveness, real change, real hope is available in Jesus.

6. God is gloriously patient and holy

You are reading this because God is patient. I’m so glad He is aren’t you? God was patient with the Israelites and was committed to continuing the line of Christ. That’s why we have the book of Ruth! And He is Holy. Don’t presume upon His patience if you are outside of Christ. Judgment is coming. Come to Him today.

7. Jesus is our only hope –

The book of Judges shows us that we have no hope in and of ourselves. It also shows us that left to ourselves society will only spiral downward. But the book of Ruth shows us that God’s big plan for the salvation of the nations is continuing right on through the line of Abraham, Judah, and David.

God is doing a work that is unfathomable to the human brain. God has made a way to uphold His holiness and extend mercy. But this is only in Christ. It’s not what’s right in our own eyes. It’s not in conservative values. It’s not found anywhere or in anyone else except Christ alone.

Jesus is the bread we need to rescue us from our famine. Jesus is the greater Boaz. Jesus leaps off the pages of the story of Ruth.

God punished Jesus in the place of sinners and raised Him the 3rd day in accordance with Scripture so that all who place their faith in Him may be justified – meaning, forgiven of all sins and declared righteous. That’s the biggest message of Ruth: Jesus is our only suitable and all-sufficient Savior. All this over 1,000 years before He even walked the earth as a man. 

The Bible is wonderful.

You can listen to this sermon in its entirety here