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Perfection Not Required

Jesus Said…

“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.”

“And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.” – Luke 18:11, 13

The Perfect Candidate

Imagine that instead of the temple, a Pharisee and a publican walked into a pastoral search committee meeting.  They walk in, introduce themselves, and compare resumes.

pharisee and publicanWhich one do you think would be offered the position? I believe it would be the one who meets the average preconception of what every Christian fit for service should be. I believe the Pharisee, the one with the perfect resume and appearance, would be the first considered.

But God doesn’t use perfect people; He uses REAL people. Unfortunately, there are many men and women in the church who feel inferior and useless because of their sinful and broken pasts. They are the people who sit on the pews, week after week, doing all they can to be faithful in life, but are forbidden to hold positions in the church.  They are much like the Publican, men and women who know they have failed in the past, but want to be forgiven and start new.  

Genesis of Dysfunction

A while back I read through the book of Genesis in a couple of sittings.  Reading a book of the Bible that way, especially in a different translation, can help you see the story from a new perspective.  This time I was just astounded at how messed up these people really were!  There was so much “stuff” going on that if it were today, it would make an episode of Jerry Springer look tame!

Consider, if nothing else, the sad story of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel. This was a seriously messed up family with real marital problems.  At one point, Leah and Rachel get into a jealous argument over a son’s mandrakes.  Just imagine you were a marriage counselor and listened in to the following story…

Reuben went out during the wheat harvest and found some mandrakes in the field.  When he brought them to his mother, Leah, Rachel asked, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”  But Leah replied to her, “Isn’t it enough that you have taken my husband?  Now you also want my son’s mandrakes?

Well,” Rachel said, “you can sleep with him tonight in exchange for your son’s mandrakes.”  When Jacob came in from the field that evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come with me, for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.”  So Jacob slept with her that night. – Geneses 30:14:16 HCSB

Check this out…

  • Twice Abraham told other people that his wife, Sarah, was his sister so that he would not be harmed.
  • Joseph’s brothers hated him and sold him to traveling salesmen.
  • Jacob and Esau were seriously at odds.
  • Leah, poor thing, kept trying to have children so that her husband, Jacob would love her.

And there’s more!

  • Jacob’s father-in-law, Laban, got him drunk on his wedding night and gave him the wrong wife – on purpose.
  • The son’s of Jacob (founders of ten of the tribes of Israel) lied to a bunch of men about making a covenant, then proceeded to slaughter all of them after they had convinced them to be circumcised.

It just goes on and on.  Messed up, I am telling you! MESSED UP!

Nevertheless,

God told Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3: “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”  How is this even possible?  

If God can use Abraham and his family – with all their problems – to bless the nations, then He can use ANYBODY!


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Heaven is a Personal, Permanent Place!

I preached on Heaven this morning. Want to watch the sermon (and me singing a song beforehand)? Well, to borrow from a funny guy, here’s your video.

(Oh, btw, please pardon the choppy internet service)

Click on the picture to watch the video. Thanks!

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What Is Salvation, Exactly?

Sunday Sermon

This past Sunday I preached a sermon on salvation. It wasn’t a sermon calling people to salvation, although that was certainly a part of it; it was a sermon explaining what salvation actually is.

To help the congregation, I provided my notes with the intent to keep things moving along and to give everyone something to take with them. That’s what I’m providing for you in this post.

More than 5

As I told my congregation, there’s a lot more to what salvation is than what I could cover in only five points. However, the five points I do share in this outline are pretty important and worth noting.

When you get to the comment section, feel free to add more things that salvation is. As we who are saved know, the depths are limitless.


Opening Text: Acts 16:30 – . . . and brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

(Speak to the context of the Philippian jailor’s question)

But there are other questions people ask, like:

  • Does God still love me after what I did?
  • If I was really a Christian, why did I do what I did?
  • If I am a Christian, why can’t I stop sinning?
  • Can I still go to heaven?

First, Let Us Ask: What Is Salvation?

1. It’s a Legal Transaction

We must understand that a crime was committed, and a verdict has been issued: Sin is breaking of God’s Law, and judgment for that is the DEATH PENALTY.

  • Romans 5:12 – Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
  • Romans 3:23 – For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
  • Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin [is] death; but the gift of God [is] eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

BUT! Romans 5:6 – For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

2. It’s an Appeasement of God’s Wrath: Propitiation

1 John 4:10Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins.

Before we go any further, we need to understand something else: God is Love, but He’s also a God of wrath.

  • John 3:36 – He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
  • Romans 1:18 – For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

Of course, his anger is not an irrational lack of self-control as it so often is with humans. His anger [His wrath] is the … opposition of his holy nature to everything that is evil.[1] To turn away the wrath, the anger of God, will take more than a wave of the hand or any amount of apologizing on our part. On the contrary, Hebrews 9:22 – And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

(Propitiation: Turning away of anger by the offering of a gift.)

1 John 4:10… [He] loved us, and sent his Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins.

3. It Is Redemption

  • 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
  • Galatians 3:13 – Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed [is] every one that hangeth on a tree:
  • Hebrews 9:12 – Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption [for us].
  • 1 Peter 1:18-19 – Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, [as] silver and gold, from your vain conversation [received] by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

4. It Is a New Birth

  • John 3:3, 7 – Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. … Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
  • 1 Peter 1:23 – Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

5. It is a Limited Time Offer

  • Genesis 6:3 – And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man
  • 2 Corinthians 6:2 – . . . behold, now [is] the accepted time; behold, now [is] the day of salvation.)

So then, what is the answer to the original question?
What must I do to be saved
?

Is it simply believing there is a God? Answer: No.

James 2:19 tells us: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

Is it doing good, or at least more good than bad? Answer: No.

Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV – For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; – Titus 3:5 KJV

All one needs to do is …

Acts 16:31 “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved …”

Romans 10:9, 13 – That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. … For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

John 10:28-30 – And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any [man] pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave [them] me, is greater than all; and no [man] is able to pluck [them] out of my Father’s hand. I and [my] Father are one.


[1] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Propitiation,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1784.

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It’s Hard to Write when Your Friend Dies

It’s nearly 10pm on a Saturday night, and I’m a pastor who has no energy for anything right now, especially to write. But this afternoon a friend died, and I have to write something.

Dr. David Self, the Associational Missionary for the Washington Baptist Association (Georgia), knows now what his faith was for – he sees what has been made sight.

Honestly, I have known others who’ve died after contracting COVID, but David was the first one who was a personal friend. I’m having a difficult time with it.

Oh, there are so, so many more people in this part of Georgia that are far more devastated by this loss than me. My loss is nothing like that of his wife, Kathy, or the rest of his family. It sure shook my world when my own father died, and I saw how it affected my mother and sister. So, I know this is harder for them than for me.

But if one thing remains, it’s my faith. The same faith the David Self had. The same that his family has, as evidenced by the Facebook post from his daughter, Kelly Self Carter.

My favorite hymn is “The Solid Rock.” To paraphrase the lyrics, my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness, not the recovery of health to those for which we desperately pray.

Before I learned of David’s passing, I had called for a gathering of folk to pray for him in the parking lot of our Associational Office. But before 10 minutes had passed after putting out the call on Facebook and over texts, I was told he died. He may have already been gone when I sent out the first message. But I went, anyway.

As I told another pastor, “Even if God didn’t heal David, He’s still worthy to be praised!” If it were not for the Lord, prayer would be useless and death would be inevitable. But it’s not! There is hope, and not only in this life, but when this life is over – because it will be, one day, COVID or not.

Consider the words of Job after he had lost everything but his life and his grieving wife…

Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.

Job 1:21

Would David had died anyway, despite our prayers? That’s not for me to say, but it was always right to pray. Just read what King David said after losing the first child he had with Bathsheba…

He answered, “While the baby was alive, I fasted and wept because I thought, ‘Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let him live.'”

2 Samuel 12:22 CSB

We don’t know what God is doing, for His ways are higher than ours, and so are His thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). Therefore, being commanded to pray for each other, we pray – and we trust the One to whom we pray.

And what perfect timing! As if God wanted me to affirm the truthfulness of the previous sentence, I just got THIS from a friend on Facebook Messenger…

Please take a moment to thank your sweet church folks for all the prayers for my Cody when he was so sick from covid. He was able to come by our house for a little bit today and I was FINALLY able to hug my son!!! I thought I was possibly going to lose my boy… but sweet Christian people, who don’t even know us, prayed for God to intervene and heal him. Today I received the hug I wasn’t sure I ever would have again. ❤️

Rhonda Altum Barnette

We are all going to miss Dr. David Self. However, “we do not sorrow as those who have no hope,” for the hope that David had is the same that we have – that I have – and that’s in Jesus Christ. Our day will come, COVID or not, and on that day our faith will be made sight, as David Self is experiencing this moment.

Please go to church somewhere in the morning.

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Sunday’s Sermons from the Back Porch

Good Monday morning! I pray you are doing well and are excited for what God has in store for us, today!

I know, it’s a Monday.

I know, there are a lot of sad things going on in the world.

But, you know what? We can still find encouragement in God’s Word! That is why I want to share with you the Facebook videos from yesterdays messages I preached from my back porch.

Why the back porch? Because we had cancelled in-person services last week because of COVID-19 cases. Hopefully we will be back together as a congregation this Sunday.

In the morning sermon I preached from Ephesians 1:3-7 and outlined 5 benefits that come with being “in Christ.”

In the evening video I continued our study into the the book of Romans. Good stuff. Really good stuff 😉

Please pray for those who are sick.

Please pray for the poor souls in Afghanistan.

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Go If You Can – You Don’t Want to Miss the Bread!

If you read my last post you are now aware that my wife has COVID-19. I may or may not have it, but I’m not showing any symptoms so far.

But what I want to ask of you is something simple, something anybody can do, just as long as they don’t have COVID.

Would you go to church tomorrow?

This is where I pastor, Bethlehem Baptist Church in Warthen, GA. 2 years and counting!

I know, it’s a lot to ask for some of you. It’s almost an impossibility for others. And, like a few who leave friendly comments on this blog, it’s a request that falls on deaf ears and hard hearts.

However, from my perspective, I’m wishing I could leave the house. I would LOVE to go fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ in person, not over Facebook Live. There is such a difference.

You may be thinking, “Why go to church when you can get all the teaching you need online?”

Well, let me illustrate it with a story…

Do you remember the stories in the Bible where Jesus fed thousands and thousands of people with just a few fish and a few loaves of bread? Oh, what an awesome story of God’s provision! What a miracle! Every time I hear it I get goosebumps, particularly when I consider the expressions on the disciples’ faces as Jesus kept breaking the bread and giving it out!

And when you read it or hear the story told from the Bible, the inspired Word of God, is it not sufficient to speak to your soul and minister to your spirit? Of course it is!

The same truths that Jesus taught the disciples and all those he fed (although the crowd didn’t understand), are the same exact truths anyone of us can learn through a studious reading of the biblical text. The same Holy Spirit who was there on the hillside is the same Spirit of God who will illuminate the passages we read and strengthen our faith.

But there’s at least one thing – one HUGE thing – that we will NEVER understand from the Scripture and the preaching of the truths found therein.

Do you know what it is?

We will never know what the bread and the fish tasted like! On top of that, we will never know what it feels like to go from being hungry to being stuffed with bread and fish that miraculously fell from the hands of Jesus Christ!

For THOSE experiences one had TO BE THERE.

And that’s the difference between online church services and actually being in the same room where the Word of God is blessed, broken, and distributed to the hungry of heart.

That’s why I say to go if you can.

You don’t want to miss the bread!

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A Mini Commentary, Pt. 15 (Ephesians 4:15)

Well, we are getting down to the end of this mini commentary. I do hope that it has been not only beneficial, but also a blessing in some way.

I will be posting today and tomorrow, but that will be all in the commentary on Ephesians. Next week I may take a few days to share another commentary I did, that being on Romans chapter 1. Considering I just started a new series through the book of Romans on Sunday nights, that might not be a bad idea 😉

Should you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you.


4:15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

But speaking the truth in love,

            Here is where so many go astray: they speak truth, but not in love. We can only wonder how many good Christians have been wounded, crushed, or shipwrecked by loveless truth, that being judgmental, self-righteous legalism. Correction without love is no better than vengeance or sadism. Advice and instruction without love is more likely to imbed bitterness than wisdom.

            But let us notice the progression of the Apostle Paul’s thought, beginning from verse 11 until now.

He (Jesus) gave [gifts] (v. 11) … for the perfecting of the saints (v. 12) … for the work of the ministry (v. 12) … for the edifying of the Body of Christ (v. 12) … till we (both individually and corporately) attain maturity and stature, Christ being the Standard measurement (v. 13) … that we be no longer children (v. 14) … but may grow up [to be like Christ in all things] (v. 15).

            Notice that it is only after all that precedes in verses eleven through fourteen that we can come to the place where we know what and whom Truth even is, much less be able to speak it in love. We speak the truth in love when we are taught the truth about who we are and what it took for Jesus to spare us from the wrath of God. We speak the truth in love when we know who Love is and have a relationship with Him! We speak the truth in love after having been around the One who loved us when we were unlovable. We speak the truth in love because our hearts have been softened and conformed to the heart of Christ. We speak the truth in love as parents or guardians would warn their little ones of strangers.

Those who don’t speak the truth in love haven’t spent time with the Lover of their souls.

may grow up into him in all things,

            Here the sense is that of gradually growing stronger, gradually growing in size, or gradually increasing in likeness. In another sense it could be said that we are meant to grow into, by gradually adding and reproducing, the frame of the body pre-ordained by the Spirit-imparted blueprint found in the DNA of Christ’s blood!  

which is the head, [even] Christ:

            In both a metaphorical sense and a literal sense, the Church is the body of Christ. But make no mistake, as with us, the body is not the person. The Church is the Body of Christ; His hands and feet in this world. Yet, the body is only the tool of the brain, and that brain is in the head. Take away the head, and the body, mature or not, will die and rot.  In the same way, without our Head, the Church at most is a dead body flopping around as the nerves sense the last electrical impulses of life.

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A Mini Commentary, Pt 14 (Ephesians 4:14)

4:14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

That we [henceforth]

            Henceforth is not a word we use very often these days, and it was not a word used by the Apostle Paul; it was added by the translators for clarification. But the truth expressed in the above three words is that staying the same in the Christian walk is not an option. And, glory be to God, Jesus is the One who can change even the vilest sinner into a saint! God gives us those who can preach and teach His Word so that we can grow spiritually, mature in the Faith, and effective parts of the Body (v. 16). It doesn’t matter from where we come; Jesus can change us!

be no more children,

            To the child, being childish is natural. To the adult, being childish is the sign of immaturity. There is nothing wrong or unnatural for a baby to want milk, but it is entirely unnatural and a sign of severe growth problems for one who is physically or apparently an adult to shun meat and vegetables. Unfortunately, many believers have never even felt the sensation of chewing!

tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine,

            The metaphor is that of a ship on the sea, taken up by one wave and crashed down by another, driven by the shifts of the wind rather than a solid rudder.  Without sound instruction, immature children (babes) in the Faith will be like little sail boats on the sea without any tools with which to navigate. They will bounce from theology to theology, doctrine to doctrine, movement to movement, without every really knowing where they are supposed to go.

            If all one cares to do is float about aimlessly for his entire life, then a rudderless boat will do just that. However, if a watercraft was built for a purpose, owned by One who sends ships across the treacherous seas rather than set them assail to drift, then a rudder, a guide, a means to navigate is critical! There must be rations, supplies, tools to mend torn sails, fuel for the engines (if applicable to this metaphor), and a weighty Anchor when we are told to “be still and know that I am God.”  Thank God for the gifts He has given to equip us! Thank God for the “fulness” of Jesus Christ!

            But this metaphor also applies to those who might be agitated, distraught, confused, torn, and about to sink. Many a soul is troubled from false teaching, bruised from the tossing back and forth, even the tossing through the night as worry and doubt deprive the poor one from sleep. Why would anyone shun the gifts to the Church? Why would anyone choose to be rudderless and without conviction on the tumultuous sea of relativism?

by the sleight of men, [and] cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

            We have the “gifts” (v. 11) for our “perfecting” (v. 12), till we all come into the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God (v. 13). We have them because we do not want to be tossed about and carried away with every knew (or old) wind that comes out of the mouths of deceivers. The waves and the winds are the metaphor, but what are the realities?

  • Sleight of men

            It might be difficult to deduce it from the King James rendering of the original Greek, but the Greek word translated “sleight” is the word κυβεία (kybeia G2940), pronounced koo-bi’-ah. Its meaning has to do with dice (cube) playing, rolling the dice, playing with “loaded dice” to cheat. It means craftiness and/or trickery, and implies anything that is meant to take advantage of another.

  • Cunning craftiness

            Craftiness, cunning, but also a specious wisdom (superficially plausible, but actually wrong; misleadingly attractive in appearance).[1] It cannot be said enough that what may sound good to itching ears may actually be a lie.

  • Lying in wait

            The rendering here is totally adequate to describe the above who both knowingly and without concern preach or teach false doctrine. Like predators; like snakes in the tall grass; like sharks just under the surface; like spiders in their webs; these thieves, abusers, and murderers of hope, peace, joy, and truth wait for those who are weak, unsuspecting, and most of all, unlearned and naïve. Satan, the father of lies, has bred and trained them to take down even the strongest prey, but how much more those who disregard or malign the gifts of God through Jesus by the Holy Spirit to the Church!


[1] Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, eds., Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

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A Mini Commentary, Pt. 12 (Ephesians 4:13)

I’ve been slightly busy and distracted, so I apologize for just now getting back to the commentary on Ephesians 4:1-16.


4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

            It is important to note how one thought builds upon another. Therefore, before we unpack Ephesians 4:13, let us take a moment to refresh our understanding of the Apostle Paul’s train of thought with an outline. Although each verse in this study could stand alone on its own truth, all are connected and work together like a healthy body.

Outline of Ephesians 4:1-12

  • “Walk worthy” (4:1-2)
  • With humility and patience (v. 2)
  • “Endeavoring to keep the unity…” (v. 3)
  • There is only one body, Spirit, Lord, faith, baptism, and one God and Father (vs. 4-6)
  • But (v. 7)
    • Every individual believer is given grace
      • According to the measure of the gift of Christ
        • That is why David said:
          • “When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men” (v. 8)
            • Parenthetical if/then statement inserted by Paul (vs. 9-10):
              • If Jesus ascended, then He must have first descended
              • Jesus descended, and it is He who ascended to “fill all things”
    • Grace gifts (vs. 11-12)
      • Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastor/Teachers
        • For the perfecting of the saints
          • For the work of the ministry
            • For the edifying of the Church

How, then, does this verse (v. 13) follow along in the outline? The first word “Till” picks up right after the prepositional phrase “for the edifying of the Church.” Although the three “for” statements (describing the reason for the gifts of the Apostles, prophets, etc.) fall under the subpoint of “Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastor/Teachers,” notice that each one is a subpoint of the other. Why? Because each one follows the previous and is dependent upon it. Therefore, verse thirteen must follow “for the edifying of the body of Christ.” The outline might continue like this:

  • For the edifying of the Church
    • Till
      • We all [arrive at; reach; attain] the unity of the faith
      • [We all arrive at; reach; attain] the knowledge of the Son of God
        • Unto a perfect man
        • Unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ

Tune in next time for more on Ephesians 4:13.

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Are You Glad?

Let’s go!

church glad to go

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