Hope Springs Eternal

Hope Springs Eternal

Hope Springs EternalToday is the first day of summer. For me, this evokes memories of baseball. Growing up as I did in the 1950s I remember watching the Game of the Week featuring commentators Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese on lazy summer Saturdays. I would spread out the baseball cards for the participating players as I followed the action on TV.

As a boy, I loved attending games at iconic Engel Stadium in Chattanooga, the home of the Chattanooga Lookouts. The Lookouts were the minor league affiliate of the Washington Senators before that team became the Minnesota Twins in 1961. I got to see some pretty famous players before they became famous: future major league stars like Bob Allison, Jim Kaat and one of the greatest home run hitters of all time, Harmon Killebrew.

At that time the Lookouts played in the AA Southern Association with the New Orleans Pelicans, Atlanta Crackers, Birmingham Barons, Little Rock Travelers, Mobile Bears, Nashville Vols, and Memphis Chicks. Most of the teams traveled by train or bus in those years and life in the minors was not easy.

Players were willing to put up with cheap hotels, brown bag lunches and long bus rides in the hope of being sent “up” to the major leagues. Once in a while, a player would show up in a Lookouts uniform after being sent “down” from the parent club. I remember getting one of them, Ernie Oravetz, to autograph a baseball card which pictured him in the uniform of the Senators.

I still love going to the ballpark. OKC’s  Bricktown Ballpark is a field of dreams. It’s fun seeing our Oklahoma City Dodgers going all out to prove themselves worthy of a call up to the big leagues. One of our players, Will Smith, spent time with the LA Dodgers earlier this season. He is certain to be called back up if he keeps hitting home runs at his current pace.

I like to follow the fortunes of former Oklahoma City stars who are now doing well in the majors. Cody Bellinger is near the top of the major leagues in batting average and home runs. Corey Seager is a candidate for the National League all-star team at shortstop. Alex Vertugo is a fixture in right field for the Dodgers. I enjoyed watching all of them here in OKC.

Some of the players are getting older, in baseball years. Even though they are in their late twenties and thirties, they haven’t given up hope of being promoted to the majors. To borrow words from the beloved baseball poem by Ernest L. Thayer, Casey at the Bat, “The rest clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast.”

This reminds me of biblical truth. I don’t want to trivialize it by comparing it to baseball, but if there’s anything the Lord Jesus offers us, it is hope. The hope of a better future, both now and in eternity, the gift of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Every earthly hope is a faint reminder of the ultimate “hope of eternal life” (Titus 1:2) when we are “sent up” to be with the Lord. And we don’t have to earn it with a good performance. This eternal and good hope is a gift of God’s free grace.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner

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Make Room for Doubters

Make Room for Doubters

Graham Johnston wrote about a conversation he had with a man in his thirties living in his hometown of Perth, Australia. He asked him, “Do you ever attend church?”

He replied, “Not really.”

“Do you ever wonder about spiritual matters?”

“Well, yes, who doesn’t?”

Johnston then asked, “If you have questions about spiritual matters, don’t you feel that the church could address some of those issues?”

His response was interesting: “The church is for those who already believe, not for people like me.”

Is it really? is the church only for naive adherents whose gullibility and enthusiasm keep them from thinking deeply? The Bible gives us a different picture.

The Gospel of Matthew closes with Jesus appearing to his disciples in Galilee after his resurrection. Matthew says in 28:17,  “When they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted.” These were, apparently, disciples of Jesus who had not yet seen him in person. Were they among the five hundred Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 15:6?

In any case, Matthew includes them among the disciples. They just couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Matthew writes with sympathy toward these hesitant ones. D. A. Carson commented: “Jesus’ resurrection did not instantly transform men of little faith and faltering understanding into spiritual giants.”

Perhaps Matthew had in mind his own skepticism and that of the other disciples about the first reports of Jesus’ resurrection. Or he may have been thinking about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus who at first did not recognize the Lord when he appeared to them on the day of his resurrection. Or Thomas, who needed extra confirmation before his incredulity could be dispelled.

“But some doubted.” Surely this tells us that there is room in the church for those with honest doubts. Jesus’ patience with “doubting Thomas” is proof of that. Thomas needed evidence for the resurrection and Jesus gave it to him. What was it that quieted the doubts of these Galilean disciples?

The authority of Jesus’ presence and his words (Matthew 28: 18-20) must have turned some of them from doubt to certainty. Perhaps they prayed, as you and I sometimes pray, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). This is the kind of honest praying that pleases the Lord.

Martin Luther put it this way: “Dear Lord, although I am sure of my position, I am unable to sustain it without Thee. Help Thou me or I am lost.”

One other thing that strengthened the faith of these early disciples, was the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, a few weeks later. This was a  supernatural confirmation because it was a supernatural transformation. Believers today are given the same Holy Spirit who confirms the words of Jesus to us: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

This leads me to the following conclusions.

  • We should talk openly to Jesus about our own doubts. Philip Yancey wrote, “But in honesty, I must admit that even now, after two decades of rich and rewarding faith, I am vulnerable to…doubt.” Jesus shows immense sympathy for our weakness, as he did with his first disciples.
  • Let’s be patient and gracious to others who express doubts. There is a role for the church to play in their spiritual experience. Often it has been the faith and unconditional love of church members that have helped bring skeptics to faith in Jesus.
  • Encourage the doubter to trust the authoritative word of Christ who said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live” (John 11:25). It all comes down to faith in his promise. “Faith comes by hearing the message (in church?), and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17).

“The church is for those who already believe, not for people like me.” Well, it is true that the church is an assembly of believers. But there is also a loving welcome for the doubter who comes with an open mind to hear the word of Christ. Those with doubts “must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 24-25).

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner

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What Do Pastors Do All Week?

What Do Pastors Do All Week?

Eugene Peterson, in his delightful memoir The Pastor, wrote that when he started out in local church ministry he wasn’t entirely sure what it was a pastor was supposed to do. He said it was not obvious to the people of his congregation or community, either.

He went to a seminar led by a nationally-recognized authority on pastoral theology. The young Peterson was impressed by the brilliant man’s erudition and theological vocabulary. “For an hour or so I was under his spell. And then I began feeling that something was not quite right. What I was doing, working in a congregation characterized by interruptions, false starts, and unfinished work, seemed like a far cry from anything he was presenting.”

He pressed the man with questions about his experience in pastoral work. He was evasive. It turned out that he had been an associate pastor for only one year in a small town! Peterson checked the indices in the books the man had written. There was not a single reference to prayer in any of them. There were few if any, references to congregation, worship, preaching, and scripture.

“I still had a great deal to learn about the vocation of pastor, but I knew one thing for sure: the work of prayer was at the heart of everything. Personal conversation with God had to intersect with everything I thought or said, whether in the sanctuary or on the street corner.” He went on to say that “the vocation of pastor had to be understood entirely under the shaping influence of the biblical text.”

Hmmm. Prayer and the biblical text. Not exactly innovations or contemporary novelties. Prayer and the biblical text. Remind you of anything? Do you remember the priorities of the first church leaders who said, “We… will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4)?

I am reminded of the provocative words of Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse who said, “If I had only three years to serve the Lord, I would spend two of them studying and preparing.”

The famous evangelist Billy Graham was speaking to a large gathering of London clergymen. He said if he could repeat his ministry, he would make two changes. The people looked startled. What could he mean?

First, he continued, he would study three times as much as he had done. “I’ve preached too much and studied too little,” he said. The second change was that he would give more time to prayer. Surely this thinking was shaped by the priorities in the biblical text!

Every conscientious pastor gives a certain amount of time each week to pastoral care and counseling, to visitation, to evangelism and discipleship. Administrative work takes time: planning, decision-making, committee meetings, staff meetings. Important work to be sure.

But nothing, absolutely nothing, should take the place of prayer and Bible study. This is what produces, in the life of a pastor, clarity of vocation, depth of conviction, maturity of judgment, integrity of character, and sanctity of ministry — on Sunday, and throughout the week.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

A Strategy of Subversion

A Strategy of Subversion

The sermon on the mount was subversive. Our Lord Jesus subverted and re-framed time-honored religious precedents: alms-giving, fasting, public rituals, interpersonal relations, and prayer. The climax of the sermon is the Lord’s Prayer. It is an expression of the desire that God’s kingdom will up-end and replace all earthly authorities, powers, and customs. “Your will be done on earth” (Matthew 6:10).

This is the main idea of Albert Mohler’s book, The Prayer that Turns the World Upside Down: The Lord’s Prayer as a Manifesto (Thomas Nelson, 2018, 175 pp). I read the book on a recent trip. It refreshed and renewed my understanding of the Prayer, in its simplicity and power.

In the introduction, he writes: “Looking across the landscape, it becomes clear that very few revolutions produce what they promise. Arguably most revolutions lead to a worse set of conditions than they replaced. 

And yet, we still yearn for radical change, for things to be made right. We rightly long to see righteousness and truth and justice prevail. We are actually desperate for what no earthly revolution can produce. We long for the kingdom of God and for Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords. We are looking for a kingdom that will never end and for a King whose rule is perfect.

This is why Christians pray the Lord’s prayer.”

Mohler writes with the conviction that this short prayer is a call to spiritual revolution. The kingdoms of this world will indeed pass and give way to the kingdom of Christ, in which God’s will will indeed be done on earth. The Lord’s prayer asks that the rule of God be made visible. That is the kind of authority in praying that seems to be lacking in many sectors of Christendom. That is why this book is valuable and deserves a wide readership.

The author confesses his own human weakness in a story he told about going about the business of prayer as one robotically performing a familiar task. He gives other examples of the tendency to pray badly, for which the Lord’s prayer is a corrective.

Analyzing various religious traditions, he asks us to consider what we really believe about God and about prayer. The fact that human beings are created in God’s image means that we are given the privilege of communication with our communicating creator who wants us to think of him as “our Father.”

Faithful to the gospel, Dr. Mohler sets forth the necessity of redemption through faith in Jesus Christ. The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer for disciples of Jesus to pray. We can only relate to God as Father if we have become his sons and daughters through faith in Christ.

The fact that we are social creatures means that we are not to live or to worship in isolation, and the Prayer challenges our individualism. “Jesus is reminding us that when we enter into a relationship with God, we enter into a relationship with his people.” Mohler rightly emphasizes the fact that there is no first personal pronoun in the entire prayer. The plural pronouns mean we pray this in solidarity with other believers.

Point by important point the author applies the wisdom and beauty of the Lord’s Prayer in helpful lessons for all Christians. Dr. Mohler is a theologian who writes with the clarity of a journalist and with the empathy of a pastor. This is the kind of book I intend to give as gifts to people I care about and recommend to people who read this blog.

Romans 8:26 says “We do not know what we ought to pray for.” That has often been true in my experience. I am thankful for the promise that the Holy Spirit “helps us in our weakness.” One of the ways the Spirit helps me is the example of the prayers of the apostle Paul. Another is to pray the psalms, which are a guide to praise and worship. Another is the Lord’s Prayer. It is a model, or template, for praying in accordance with the will of God.

C.S. Lewis, in his Letters to Malcomb, Chiefly on Prayer, wrote about how he added to the Lord’s Prayer is own private overtones, or “festoons,” which were his way of using the Prayer as architecture for his personal praying. The categories and structure of the Lord’s Prayer, he said, allowed for freedom of personal application and expression of his worship, intercessions, and confessions.

Dr. Mohler would agree, I think. Reading his book has strengthened my praying. It has reminded me that Jesus has this world situation well in hand, and somehow our praying this way is a part of achieving his victory over the powers of darkness. Think about that when you are praying the Lord’s Prayer this coming Sunday in church.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner

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Hide it in Your Heart

Why Memorize Scripture?

Christians who wish to be strong in faith should memorize scripture. Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Jerry Bridges wrote that “The Word, stored in the heart, provides a mental depository for the Holy Spirit to use to mediate His grace to us, whatever our need for grace might be.”

When I was a young boy, my dear mother encouraged me to memorize Bible verses. These helped me grow in my early understanding of God and his gift of salvation. Not only that, she set a good example herself, systematically using a plan of scripture memory. I remember seeing her Bible verse cards on the window sill above the kitchen sink in our little house on Duncan Avenue in Chattanooga. She reviewed her verses as she went about her household chores. She often quoted verses as she tucked me into bed at night.

I am sure she and my dad took to heart Moses’ words to the nation Israel, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children…” (Deuteronomy 6:6).

In my ministry of personal discipleship through the years, I have emphasized the importance of scripture memory. I have noticed that this has been one of the most important ways men have grown stronger in faith and service. Here are a few reasons why I think this practice is important for the spiritual growth of any Christian.

Assurance of salvation

When a person trusts Christ as savior, salvation is promised as a free gift. That gift is received by faith alone. It is faith in the promises of God that will continue to assure our hearts that our sins are forgiven and we are secure in Christ. is necessary to know those promises, and to rest on them. I recommend memorizing 1 John 5:11-12 for assurance.

Resistance to temptation and sin

When doubts afflict us, or when Satan tempts us, the word of God is “the sword of the Spirit” by which we defeat them. Our Lord Jesus was tempted by the devil and he defeated him by quoting scripture. John Piper wrote, “As sin lures the body into sinful action, we call to mind a Christ-revealing word of scripture and slay the temptation with the superior worth and beauty of Christ…” 1 Corinthians 10:13 is a rather long verse but it is a powerful promise for Christians to claim in the battle against sin.

Guidance 

Decision-making in the ordinary course of life often presents us with important choices. We need the wisdom of God. It is helpful to memorize and rely on the promises of guidance we find in scriptures such as James 1:5 or Proverbs 3:5-6. This is not magical thinking, but an intensely practical reality. God has promised that his inspired word would be a lamp for our feet and a light for our path (Psalm 119:105).

Comfort in times of trouble

The Bible is full of promises that bring hope and consolation. There are hundreds of verses that Christians have relied upon in times of trouble. Philippians 4:6-7, for example, promise to exchange our anxiety for God’s peace. Lately, I have been memorizing Lamentations 3:22-23.

Authority in our witness

We have good news to share and we are just the ones to share it. Any Christian can do this by memorizing a few key verses on the gospel. The gospel itself is the “power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).  It is possible to share the offer of salvation with a friend by quoting verses such as Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9, and John 5:24. The authority is in the word of God, not in our persuasiveness or salesmanship.

For these reasons and others, Christians of all ages should hide God’s word in their hearts. I think it is time for Sunday school teachers, Christian school teachers, church student ministry leaders, Christian camp counselors, support group ministries, faith-based drug and alcohol treatment programs, discipleship leaders and others, to place a renewed emphasis on helping people memorize God’s word.

We forget much of what we hear, we retain more of what we read, but we remember 100% of what we memorize.

My good friend Dr. Bob Kanary,  an Oklahoma City pastor, has written the attached article on the value of scripture memorization. I hope you will take it to heart.          Why Memorize Scripture?

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner

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Did the Apostle John Believe in the Trinity?

Did the Apostle John Believe in the Trinity?

The secretary told me the caller wished to speak with a pastor. He had told her he had some questions about the Bible. I took the call hoping I could be helpful. Right away I could tell that the man was argumentative. His purpose in calling was to try to draw me into a dispute about the doctrine of the Trinity.

Belief in the tri-unity of God is not something that would be invented by humans. It is beyond reason. It is the teaching, based on many biblical texts, that God is one, eternally revealed in three co-equal persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This teaching, as mysterious as it is, is an essential Christian doctrine.

When it became clear that nothing I could say would influence my caller’s thinking, I ended the conversation kindly, but firmly. 1 Timothy 6:3-4 warns us about people who do not “agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching…. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels….”

If he had been willing to have a calm discussion of some of the great New Testament passages on the deity of Christ, we might have read Colossians 1:15-20, and corresponding verses in Philippians 2, Hebrews 1, Revelation 1, and John 1. I might have taken him to the famous benediction at the end of 2 Corinthians, or the prayer of Paul in Ephesians 3:14-19, or the baptismal formula in Matthew 28:19.

There are also intimations of the Trinity in 1 John. But not where you might think.

For more than three centuries readers of the venerable Authorized Version (dedicated to King James of England in 1611) read 1 John 5:7 as irrefutable proof of the Trinity. “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.”

Some readers are surprised to discover that these words are omitted from virtually all contemporary translations of 1 John. This is not because of anti-Trinitarian bias or theological liberalism. It is because the words are not found in any Greek manuscript of 1 John dating before the fourteenth century. None of the early church fathers quote these words (which they certainly would have done in their debates with heretics, if they had had them).

The translators of the King James Bible did not have available to them the trove of Greek manuscripts that have been discovered since they did their work. Some of these New Testament manuscripts date back to the second and third centuries. They do not contain the reading of 1 John 5:7 cited above.

It is important to note, as many Bible scholars remind us, that no Christian doctrine rises or falls with any minor textual variation, such as the one cited above. The Trinity is not called into question because some zealous scribe inserted the words into an early Latin version that was later translated into Greek which formed the basis for the early English translations of 1 John 5:7.

Well then, did John believe in the Trinity? Here are two strong intimations of the Holy Trinity from 1 John. They point to the divine nature of the Spirit of God, as well as the Son of God, along with our Father, God.

John wrote in 1 John 2:27, “The Anointing is real… remain in him.” Who or what is the “Anointing?” He is the Holy Spirit who “teaches you about all things.” This is important in light of what John had written a few lines before. “You also will remain in the Son and in the Father” (2:24). Just as Christians are to remain in close fellowship with God the Father and God the Son, they are to remain in close fellowship with God the Holy Spirit. Compare 1 John 4:13, “We know that we live in him and he in us: he has given us of his Spirit.”

A second evidence that Trinitarian theology permeated the writings of the apostle John is found in 1 John 5:6, “The Spirit is the truth.” Then John says in 5:20, “The son of God has come…so that we may know him who is true,” an obvious reference to God the Father. Then he refers to the Son as the one who is true: “We are in him who is true — even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”

So what? Are we playing word games just to win theological debates? Why is this important? Consider this: “The Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14). This is the good news of the gospel. Furthermore, “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts” (Galatians 4:6). This is the good news of the comforting, guiding, assuring ministry of the Spirit of God in the hearts of those who believe. God sent his Son. God sent his Spirit. This is the good news of the Trinity.

Yes, John believed in the Holy Trinity and so do I.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner

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The Power of a Good Example

The Power of a Good Example

He took the guitar from my brother’s hand, strummed it, and began to wail in a cowboy twang, “There was blood on the saddle, there was blood on the ground, and a great big puddle of blood on the ground; a cowboy lay in it all covered with gore and he never will ride any broncos no more.”

My brothers and I dissolved into gales of laughter as Warren Wiersbe continued to sing, “Oh pity the cowboy all bloody and red, for the bronco fell on him and bashed in his head.” Here was a preacher who liked teenage boys and knew how to get through to them.

The Power of a Good Example
Dr. Warren Wiersbe. May 16, 1929 – May 2, 2019

Our parents had invited Pastor Wiersbe to our home for a meal after he had ministered as a guest speaker in our church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. To us lads, he was gentle, approachable, and really funny. We knew he took God seriously, but we could see that didn’t keep him from enjoying life.

Little did I know at that time that my future life would intersect with his in ways important to me. He was a regular speaker for Bible conferences at the college and seminary I attended. He was always a favorite of the students. I was in awe of the clarity and wisdom of his Bible teaching.

Later, I studied preaching in a course he co-taught with Lloyd M. Perry at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School near Chicago. When I was called to serve as associate pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Covington, Kentucky, I served under Galen C. Call, who had succeeded Wiersbe as pastor of that eminent congregation. Galen told me more than once that his service as Pastor Wiersbe’s associate, was equivalent to a seminary degree.

Pastor Wiersbe came back to Calvary several times as a guest speaker during my years as associate and senior pastor. He made himself available to us younger ministers to discuss ministry problems, theological questions, and of course, books. “What are you reading?” he would ask.

If I called him he never gave the impression that I was interrupting something more important. He usually answered the phone with a cheerful “Wiersbes!” Then he would listen patiently to whatever question or problem I wanted to share. His answers were based on scriptural principles and sanctified common sense.

I will always be grateful for the wisdom of his example. Here are some of the lessons he taught me.

Teach the Word — what it says, what it means, emphasizing the points where the Bible touches life.

Always preach the gospel. He would say that he was not an evangelist. But I served in a church where there were many people who said they trusted Christ as savior as a result of Pastor Warren Wiersbe’s preaching and personal witness.

Give the best part of your day to study. I tried to devote the morning hours to the study of God’s Word, while my mind was fresh and uncluttered by the accumulated concerns of the day.

Do not neglect pastoral care. Know the people and love the people. When Pastor Wiersbe would come to our church to minister, before every service he would circulate among the people in the pews, greeting them with friendly words of encouragement and good humor.

One bit of advice he gave me has been a source of untold blessing. He suggested to me that I form a prayer group of local pastors who would meet to pray for each other, for each others’ churches, and for the city. It has been a joy to meet with pastors of different denominations. We have been praying together every month for over twenty years.

I know that hundreds of other ministry leaders have enjoyed even closer fellowship with Pastor Wiersbe than I have. Some have written eloquent online tributes upon learning of his death. I feel the need to add my own words out of deep respect and gratitude to God for his influence. No one except my father has influenced me more.

It has been said that a good example is the only Bible some people will read. That may be true. But I am convinced that Warren Wiersbe would want more than anything for his example to lead people into the Bible and to a knowledge of the God of the Bible.

Oh and yes, I am pretty sure there is laughter in heaven today.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner

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Read it! Over and Over Again

Read it! Over and Over Again

There is more than one way to profitably read the Bible. A friend of mine recently set out to read the Bible through in one month. He committed himself to a schedule of reading 54 pages a day.

Several years ago my wife enjoyed reading through the Bible in three months with a group of friends. They met weekly to discuss what they were learning and to encourage each other to finish well.

Many Christians make it their goal to read through the Bible in a year. The benefits of such comprehensive reading plans are significant: grasping the storyline of redemption history, prophecy and fulfillment, the centrality of Jesus and the cross, foundations of Christian theology, and developing a God-centered worldview. There are many additional benefits.

Some prefer to read the Bible more slowly, allowing time for meditation and application. This is good too. Another friend, Keith Roberson, has devoted himself to a mastery of the psalms. He has enriched his spiritual life by exploring the theology of the psalmists, gaining a deeper understanding of worship, and recognizing the psalms as responses to life’s circumstances.

In recent months I have been reading some of the shorter books of the New Testament all the way through in my daily quiet time. As I read I write down impressions that I can carry with me through the day or thoughts I can share with others to encourage them. Here are a few reasons to spend time in one book of the Bible and to read it over and over.

  • To notice repeated words and themes the writer emphasizes (such as “suffering” in 1 Peter)
  • To memorize key verses in the book (to help a suffering friend you might want to memorize 1 Peter 4:12-13 or 19)
  • To hear a fresh word from God from familiar words you have read many times before (Here’s an example: Suffering may cause some to doubt God’s goodness. No. “The Lord is good.” 1 Peter 2:3)
  • To know God as the book describes him (I recently counted 13 attributes of God in 1 Peter alone; a rich meditation)
  • To think more deeply about difficult passages and to be motivated to study them thoroughly (1 Peter 3:19 has that mysterious phrase about Christ preaching to the spirits in prison. How long has it been since your pastor preached on that text? Maybe you should study it for yourself!)

It is said that the famous expositor G. Campbell Morgan decided one day to spend less time reading books about the Bible and to invest more time reading the Bible itself. He determined that he would not preach through a book of the Bible until he had read it through consecutively forty or fifty times.

Marinating our minds with a single book of scripture, as my friend Keith has done with the psalms, is not so we can boast of acquired knowledge, but so we may love the Lord who is revealed in his Word and be better equipped to bless others by sharing it (1 Peter 3:15).

Blessed Lord, you have caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning. Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen. (from The Book of Common Prayer)

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner

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Life Is Hard, But God Is…

Life Is Hard, But God Is…

Life Is Hard, But God Is…

How we complete that sentence reveals a lot about our faith. “God is good – all the time” is more than a religious platitude. It is the testimony of Bible people from Job to Elijah; from Jeremiah to Stephen. Their uniform witness is that sometimes God’s people suffer – unjustly and unfairly, it appears.

As we read their stories we learn that in spite of persistent trials, disappointments, and pain, they experienced God’s faithfulness and mercy. One of the truths we learn is that God’s people worship Him not because life is easy, or because God always relieves their pain, or always gives them what they want, but because He is God, and because His purposes are good.

Recently I read an article by a well-known Christian writer who told about being abused as a young girl, and about the confusion, conflict, and depression that followed. Her marriage to a prominent leader was not the storybook marriage people thought it was. It was filled with “conflict, disappointment, dysfunction, and resentment.”

Not only that, her mentally ill son committed suicide. Not surprisingly, this was devastating to this Christian couple who loved Jesus and sought to find His purpose and comfort in the suffering. Did they?

She wrote, “Through God’s work in our lives, we’ve beaten the odds that divorce would be the outcome.” This was because of their view of God. “God has worked in our life together – and He’s used our marriage struggles to draw us closer to Him and to each other.”

As I read this, I thought of how she is modeling healthy responses to life’s troubles: choosing to worship and glorify God; seeking and granting forgiveness for offenses; bringing failure and suffering into the light, and dealing with them openly – not hiding behind a curtain of shame and secrecy. This enables her to help and guide others who go through the same things.

In Romans 8:24-27 the Apostle Paul bluntly states that we Christians groan inwardly in our weakness. But we are not alone. God has given us His Holy Spirit. And the Spirit gives us hope. Hope is not wishful thinking. It is a certainty that God’s good purposes will be worked out in us, too.

Believing that God is good activates our faith. It brings it to life in our experience.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

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Not a Made-up Story

Not a Made-up Story

To some, the biblical testimony about the resurrection of Jesus is a made-up story. They see it as pious fiction invented by early Christian believers who borrowed the idea of a risen Christ from pagan sources and nature religions.

However appealing that idea may be to those who look for reasons not to believe, I respectfully offer the following plausibilities to think about on this Easter Sunday.

First, if the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a made-up story, it is surely not written in a way that would impress a skeptic. The disciples of Jesus found it hard to accept. Their unbelief doesn’t reflect well on them. These heroes of the first-century church don’t look very heroic on that first Easter morning.

Furthermore, the first witnesses to the resurrection were humble women who were not considered to be the most credible witnesses in a first-century Jewish setting. There were no dazzling public appearances of the risen Lord to the Jews or to the Romans which would silence, once and for all, their opposition to him. If you or I were inventing a resurrection story we’d probably have written it differently.

Another thing, the existence, and growth of the early Christian movement can only be explained by something supernatural. The dispirited, discouraged and doubting disciples were in hiding, afraid for their lives. Their leader had been executed like a common criminal, and their hope was gone. Something happened to suddenly change their outlook.

The New Testament tells what it was: it was the unexpected and repeated appearances of Jesus. He was without a doubt the same Jesus who had been pronounced dead by executioners who were experts at their job. He was now, obviously, very much alive. Hundreds of his followers could see him, hear him, and touch him.

Then there is the empty tomb. If Jesus’ enemies had been able to produce his corpse, they could have silenced the preposterous (to them) claim that he had come back to life. This would have forever discredited the disciples’ made-up story. They couldn’t do that so they bribed the guards at the tomb to spread the lie that Jesus’ body had been stolen by his disciples.

The fact is, the disciples were psychologically and physically incapable of such an act. Their reluctance to believe the message when they first heard it shows they could not have conspired to steal and hide the body, invent the resurrection story and spread it as a Christian myth. They would never have given their lives in martyrdom for a story they knew to be false.

These facts, the artless and straightforward telling of the message as we read it in the four gospels, the dramatic change in the outlook of the disciples, the explosive growth of the early Christian church, and the empty tomb, testify to the fact of the great miracle which is the foundation of the Christian faith.

“If you declare with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner

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