Tag Archives: Religion

Legalism Isn’t Just a Religious Term

Are You a Lawyer?

Two weeks ago at our local farmer’s market, a lady was interested in my art. After talking for a moment, she asked if I had a business card I could give her. Of course!

Now, this week I am set to receive my new business cards for Wall Hole Coverings, but all I had at that time showed information about me as a pastor. But even though they are my church cards, they do have under my phone number the web address for this blog.

When the lady read “The Recovering Legalist,” as often is the case, she asked, “Are you a lawyer?” To which I replied, “No, I’m a pastor, but that’s my personal blog.”

Then, with a sort of a belittling tone, she said, “Oh, so it’s religious, then.” To which I replied, “No, not entirely.”

More than Religious

You see, the context of this blog and much of my writing is, most certainly, weighted toward the spiritual. Yet, when I talk about “legalism,” I’m also referring to a dangerous kind of behavior that affects nearly every walk of life.

From a religious perspective, legalism, simply put, is the practice of gauging one’s spirituality by man-made standards, particularly the checking off of a list of do’s-and-don’ts.

On the other hand, there are plenty of other ways people can become legalistic in their treatment of others and the jobs they perform. And, quite frankly, many people run the risk of great harm because of legalism in the workplace.

How is that possible?

I’ll give you some examples tomorrow.

Until then, can you think of some examples of potentially harmful legalism on the job?

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A Mini Commentary, Pt. 9 (Ephesians 4:8-10) Did Jesus Preach in Hell?

This was a more complicated section on which to comment. Frankly, this could have been much longer if I had focused more on the questionable doctrine called the “Harrowing of Hades.” Nevertheless, I hope what I have written will be of some help or encouragement.


See the source image

4:8-10 8Wherefore he saith, “When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” 9(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

v. 8: Wherefore he saith, “When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.”

Point One:     

Who is the one that “saith” in verse 8? For the answer we must go to Psalm 68:18; there we find the words of David describing God as a conquering King who spoils His enemies on the mountain and then distributes the spoils as gifts to the people, including to those who are rebellious.

However, one important question that could be asked is: to what extent do we take this comparison? In other words, how specifically analogous is the story of the conquering King to the argument that Paul is making regarding the gifts and the purposes of giving them by Jesus to the Church?

Some have suggested that what is being spoken of is Christ’s ascension to the cross, while others have suggested that after descending to the “lower parts of the earth” Christ rescued those held captive in Paradise and took them “captive” to heaven.

[Note: This teaching is also called “The Harrowing of Hades” and finds support in the Apostles’ Creed: “He descended into Hades.”]

Nevertheless, it would seem the best course of action to simply keep a consistent contextual reading in mind: one that of unity within the Church and individual gifts of grace which Jesus imparts, both to His friends and those who are rebellious, to exemplify His glory and wisdom.

Point Two:     

Beginning with verse seven, the context of Paul’s argument is the supplying each individual the things it needs to function properly in the Body of Christ, the Church. Are there deeper truths to be uncovered? Most certainly? However, we must not carry the analogy too far.

For as long as the author can remember, nearly every time the resurrection of Christ has been preached, the subject of Jesus descending to Paradise and taking the Old Testament saints out of there and up to heaven. The only problem is that there is nothing in the context of Ephesians 4:1-16 that addresses Paradise, hell, heaven, or even death! All that Paul addresses in these sixteen verses is the subject of unity.

Another passage that is linked to this verse is 1 Peter 3:19: “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison.” But what is often never included with verse 19 is verse 20, which reads [emphasis added]: “Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water (1 Peter 3:20 KJV).

It is quite puzzling why 1 Peter 3:19 would be used as a supporting text (along with Luke 23:43, Psalm 68:18, and Ephesians 4:8-10) for a teaching claiming Jesus went to deliver the saints, when those to whom Jesus preached were the “disobedient.”  It is therefore illogical to deduce from this passage in Ephesians that Paul was speaking of anything other than the unity of the Body of Christ, the power of God, the Kingship of Jesus the Conquering King, and Christ’s generosity.

v. 10b: …that he might fill all things.

            Building on the image of the king that ascended to conquer his enemies, Paul speaks of Jesus’ all-encompassing Lordship with a parenthetical explanation of the logical comparison being made (beginning in verse 9). This imagery of Jesus’ omnipresent authority and power in this passage can be compared to other verses, such as: Eph 1:20-21(in the heavenly places, far above all principalities); Heb 4:14 (we have a great high priest that is passed into the heavens); Heb 7:26 (a high priest became us and made higher than the heavens).

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Filed under Bible Study, Christian Unity, Christianity, Theology

If You Have Honest Questions, Why Not Ask?

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Filed under Apologetics, Bible Study, Christianity, Faith

Only a Few

I was thinking of something new to write for tomorrow, specifically in memory of D-Day. The only thing that keeps coming to mind is “only a few.”

Now, the first thing that sounds like is “The Few, the Proud, the Marines.” Maybe that’s why I hearing those words in my head, you think?

On the other hand, it could come from the idea that all it takes is “only a few.” You know, like those Marines, or a few initial protestors, or even the miniscule 200 in the upper room that became the Christian Church.

Sometimes all it takes is a few people to make a difference, even to change the world.

By the Numbers

But when I look back at June 6th, 1944, there were far more than “only a few” who stormed those beaches. Far more.

  • 156,000 troops or paratroopers came ashore that day alone.
  • 195,700 naval personnel were used.
  • By the end of June 11th (D+5), 326,527 military personnel had come ashore.

From Yahoo News: “The First U.S. Army, accounting for the first twenty-four hours in Normandy, tabulated 1,465 killed, 1,928 missing, and 6,603 wounded. The after-action report of U.S. VII Corps (ending 1 July) showed 22,119 casualties including 2,811 killed, 5,665 missing, 79 prisoners, and 13,564 wounded, including paratroopers.”

Also from Yahoo News: “German sources vary between four thousand and nine thousand D-Day casualties on 6 June—a range of 125 percent. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s report for all of June cited killed, wounded, and missing of some 250,000 men, including twenty-eight generals.

What’s the point?

Sometimes all we need are “a few good men.”

On the other hand, there are times when “only a few” good men (and/or women) just isn’t enough.

Today, June 5th, we live in a world with battles raging. Yes, there are physical conflicts in play in various places, but there are other battlegrounds, too.

  • The fight for religious liberty and freedom of speech
  • The fight over personal liberty without constant government overreach
  • The fight over personal conscience with regard to changing social norms
  • The fight for the right to defend oneself
  • The fight for our nation’s moral conscience, dignity, and very sovereignty

There is even the battle for the survival of the local rural church congregation due to COVID-induced “couch worship.”

People, we need more than “only a few,” we need all hands on deck.

When you storm beaches, numbers matter.

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Filed under America, Christianity, Culture Wars

You Might Be a Fool If…

April 1st

Happy April Fools Day!…or, happy Atheists Day!…whichever you prefer.

You know, even though atheists think we are being smug and “snarky” by quoting Psalm 14:1, I believe the one who insists there is no God really is a fool.

But what I think matters little in the scheme of things. What matters is what God thinks.

That is why I came up with this list.

Defining a Fool

What is a fool?  Believe it or not, Scripture lists several characteristics of a foolish person. The following is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start.

So, why not do this Jeff Foxworthy-style?  

You might be a fool if…

  1. You are always right in your own eyes (Proverbs 12:15).
  2. You despise instruction (Proverbs 1:7; 15:5).
  3. You are unteachable (Proverbs 17:10; 23:9; 26:11)
  4. You’re always running your mouth, getting into trouble (Proverbs 18:6-7; 29:11).
  5. You are always trying to find yourself (Proverbs 18:2).
  6. You make fun of sin (Proverbs 14:9).
  7. You’re always meddling in other people’s business (Proverbs 20:3).
  8. You are a shame and a burden to your parents (Proverbs 17:25).
  9. You deny the obvious because the truth is inconvenient (Romans 1:18-22).
  10. You deny Jesus because you think the cross is foolish (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Don’t be a fool.

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Filed under Christian Maturity, General Observations, Life Lessons, Preaching

What is “Good Preaching”?

Today is Sunday, and many of you will be going to church somewhere (or watching online). So here is a question:

Does the “preaching” part of the service have anything to do with your decision?

There are many opinions as to what constitutes “good” preaching. Some prefer a preacher who spits and hollers, bangs the pulpit, and makes that little “huh” sound between every amplified phrase. Others prefer the professor/preacher who reads from a manuscript in a mono-tone, non-offensive, Winnie the Pooh-like voice.

Either way, what we are talking about is delivery, not substance.

Does delivery matter?

When Paul told Timothy to pay close attention to his doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16) and to “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2), content was the issue. However, if a sermon is poorly delivered, the efforts of the preacher could be nullified. If the hearer is distracted, bored, offended, lulled to sleep, or has his ear drums wounded, what is the point?

In my opinion, good preaching is preaching that contains solid, biblical content, but also keeps the audience engaged. One should never discount the importance of the power of the Spirit working through the weakness of men (1 Cor. 2:4; 2 Cor. 12:9). But, as ambassadors of the King (2 Cor. 5:20) who have been charged by our Sovereign to “compel” (persuade)  hungry souls to come to His table (Luke 14:23), shouldn’t how we say what we say be important?

It is reported that Abraham Lincoln preferred listening to preachers who looked like they were swatting at a swarm of bees. In a similar vein, I think it was Charles Wesley who said that a preacher should “put some fire in his sermon, or put his sermon in the fire.”

On the other hand, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) is said to have read his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” with a steady, monotone voice, as the audience screamed in terror at the thought of falling into hell. So, delivery shouldn’t matter?

It would make sense that those entrusted with delivering sermons should do so in a manner befitting the “greatest story ever told,” but does delivery make a difference? After all, some of the greatest public speakers of all time were tyrants (Adolph Hitler).

Should delivery be an issue? Should we simply focus on truth?

What about you?

  • What type of preaching style do you prefer?
  • Has a particular style of sermon delivery ever caused you to tune out to what was being said?
  • What suggestions would you like to offer to one just beginning public ministry?

Now, to be fair, below is a link to our church Facebook page and one of the last sermons I preached. It was Sunday morning, last week, on Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.

The preaching starts at around the 11-minute mark.

In your objective opinion, how would you describe my style in this sermon? Did my delivery enhance or distract from the subject of the sermon?

Ultimately, no sermon, no matter how well it’s delivered, can change hearts and minds and lives without the power of the Holy Spirit. Even the worst preacher, filled with God’s power, can be the most effective. In reality, one’s supreme goal should be for God to be heard and the preacher to be forgotten.

Yet, we are human, aren’t we? We should always want to strive to do better. Even Elijah presided over a “prophet’s school” (1 Samuel 19:18-24).*

 Click on the picture for link to sermon on Facebook.

*Just be careful when you talk about my bald head 😉

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Filed under Abortion, Preaching

Christmas IS the Gospel

This month will see a lot of Christmas sermons preached, and if you actually go to church somewhere, you might actually get to hear some 😉

But if you aren’t planning on attending any church services this December, or if you just can’t get enough of sermons on the subject of Christmas, I would encourage you to listen to the one I’m attaching below.

Several years ago (2012) while pastoring at another church, I delivered a sermon entitled “Christmas Is the Gospel.” It was recorded on my iPhone that was sitting on the pulpit, so don’t expect too high a quality of production.

Why did the angels tell the shepherds what they are about to hear was “good tidings”? Pick up a Bible and turn to the book of Luke, chapter two, and follow along.

Listen: Christmas IS the Gospel

And remember, “sharing” is caring 🙂

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Filed under Christmas, God, Preaching, salvation

“In Such a Time as This…”

Let’s Begin With a Comment

A reader named Stephen decided to throw in his two cents in response to a recent post called “He Will Be My President.” Before we go any further, I’d like to share it with you.

Talk is cheap and you got a website dedicated to it.
I get the feeling it won’t take long for the hypocrite in you to come out, but you’ll justify yourself in your hypocrisy. It’s what religious people do.
Reeds in the wind, flailing about trying hard to show the world just how saved you are.
Keep working at it, your salvation is near.

If you would like to read my follow-up to Mr. Stephen’s comment, you can go to the comment section of that post. For now, I want to direct you to the video below.

A 3-Pointer

It’s not that often I preach a classic three-point sermon, but this is one I would ask you watch. The subject of the sermon this past Sunday morning was how to move forward in “such a time as this.”

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments, even if they are like the one above.

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Filed under America, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Christian Living, Christian Unity, Christianity, current events, voting

The Ministry In Thessalonica

Tonight I went into full teaching mode with attitude!

Wow! I just LOVE Acts, and chapter 17 is one of my favorites.

Get a glimpse inside my Sunday nights as you watch this Facebook live edition of me preaching/teaching through Acts 17:1-9.

www.facebook.com/bethlehembaptistwarthen/videos/2893988174156335/

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Filed under baptist, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Bible Study, Church, Jesus, ministry, Preaching, Uncategorized

Does Jesus Care?

Watch the sermon from last Sunday and find out 🙂

But here’s a hint…. YES!

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Filed under Bethlehem Baptist Church, Bible, Christianity, Love of God, Preaching, Struggles and Trials