Happy Reformation Day!

As many of you might already know October 31st (today) has become known as Reformation Day. It was on this day in 1517 that an Augustinian Monk named Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg. A closer look at Luther’s theology may leave some question in your mind, however his leadership in the break from Rome proved to be invaluable. Luther stood on the shoulders of the “pre-reformers,” like Hus and Wycliffe, and recaptured a love for God’s word.It was in the spring of 1521 that Luther appeared at the diet of Worms to answer for his teaching. With his life hanging in the balance Luther knew the damage that a retraction on his part would cause. Would he be willing to sacrifice his own life for a re-capturing of the bible? The answer is yes. History is somewhat vague on Luther’s exact reply when asked to recant, but it went something like this:

“Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, God help me. Amen.”

Luther stood on God’s Word and persevered in the faith. Today I stand on the shoulders of Luther, and the great reformers. Thanks to Luther I am not enslaved by “the authority of the popes and councils.” Thanks to the faithful preaching of John Calvin I have commentaries on almost the entire bible to learn from. Thanks to William Tyndale, who gave his life for Christ, I have God’s Word in English. There are so many men who sacrificed, fought, labored, and even died so that I might stand on their shoulders. It is my intention, God willing, to honor these men by honoring God. By holding firm the doctrines of Grace, and loving the bible. Let us never forget the cries of the reformation:

sola fide: faith alone

sola scriptura: Scripture alone

solus Christus: Christ alone

sola gratia: Grace alone

soli deo Gloria: To the Glory of God alone

Let me try my own rendition of Luther’s proclamation at Worms:

“Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason I will continue to fight for the biblical doctrines re-discovered in the Reformation – I will not forget what these giants in the faith did for the Church, and the opportunity they gave me to study God’s Word – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not forget the Reformation for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand on the shoulders of the Reformers, God help me. Amen.”

*Thank You Mr. Carver for always instilling in me an appreciation for these reformers; your thoughts can be found all throughout this post.*


James 2:5-6

God has Called the Poor, but You Dishonor the Poor.God has chosen the poor to be rich in faith, and heirs to his promised kingdom.

The early church was not made up of the wealthy ruling class; it was largely made up of the poor people. God did not choose only the poor, but James point here is clear, God does not discriminate against the poor. Again James’ teaching is closely paralleled with the teaching of Christ. In Matthew 11:5 Christ echoes this same idea. Based on the words of Christ I think that we can push the principle of James’ teaching beyond just the poor. Those whom the world designated as second class citizens God chose to be heirs to the eternal kingdom. In 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 Paul teaches this same thing. God has chosen the things of this world that are perceived to be weak so that no one may boast. God blesses those who willingly recognize their spiritual bankruptcy, and those who are willing to humble themselves before Christ. The early church was made up primarily of the poor not because God chooses people just because they are poor, rather often times it is easier for the poor to humble themselves before Christ.
Because of this humility the poor really aren’t the poor. Through Christ the poor have become rich in faith and heirs to the kingdom. Their riches are found in a different realm. The world may only see the poverty of the poor, but God sees their exalted state that comes from his election of them to eternal glory in Christ. We could say that they are outwardly poor, but inwardly rich. If you have accepted Christ, no matter how poor you may be you now possess spiritual wealth, and you can anticipate an even greater blessing in the future. God has promised an eternal kingdom to those who love Him. This can be seen earlier in the book of James in 1:12. To those who endure, to those who have been humbled before the cross, to those who love him there is a kingdom coming.
In this kingdom there will not be any second class citizens. There will be no poor in heaven. If we are going to be a part of this kingdom, if we love God, then we must reflect God’s character. We must show His great love and care for those in need by our actions. In short, those who love him will show their love biblically through action; the kind of action that is inconsistent with favoritism.
You dishonor the poor.

It is clear that James’ readers were showing favoritism. In verse 6 James says that they “dishonored the poor man.” Maybe today we might say that they “discriminated against the poor man.” The point is that God chose the poor, and the recipients of James’ letter insulted the poor. Their treatment of the poor was very different from God’s treatment. It is becoming easy to see how inconsistent their conduct was with God’s character. God’s choice of the poor people to inherit His kingdom is evidence of his great love for them, and shows how wrong Christians are to discriminate against these poor people. It is unbecoming and disgraceful for a child of God to look down upon those whom God exalts. Clearly their inconsistent actions did not reflect the character of God.
These kinds of actions are not only inconsistent with the character of God, but they also show disregard for God himself. Proverbs 17:5 tells us that when “we mock the poor we taunt God.” This is a very serious offense of which we have all been guilty of at some point. Do you realize that when you mistreat someone because of how the world sees them you are taunting God? If we disdain the poor and fail to help meet the needs of the helpless we disdain God. Look at what Christ says in Matthew 25:45-46. How we treat others reflects how we think about God. We must work to fulfill Peter’s command in 1 Peter 2:17: “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the King.”

You honor the rich who oppress, sue, and blaspheme.

Not only does favoritism reflect an inconsistency with the character of God but it also reflects an inconsistency with the actions of the rich. The rich were oppressing the believers; they were taking the believers to court; and they blasphemed the name of their Savior. This of course does not represent every rich person. James is speaking of the rich class in general, and he does so in this manner to discredit the idea that someone should be put on a pedestal just because they are rich. We need to understand that James is not denouncing wealth, and advocating a reverse discrimination whereby the rich are hated and the poor favored. James is simply pointing out how strange it was for his readers to show favoritism to the rich in light of the treatment they had received from their wealthy neighbors. As a class of people the rich had been the most powerful opponents of the Gospel. These people in particular were run out of Palestine by the powerful Christ-rejecting Jews. In Acts 4:1 we see the rich Sadducees were instrumental in the persecution of believers; and in Acts 13:50 we see that it was rich ruling class that played a key role in the persecution of Paul and Barnabas.
We see here that not only did James’ readers discriminate against the poor, but they did so in favor of the rich. They sided with the very people who persecuted them. Based on what James says here their sole reason for favoring the rich was their money. They made themselves a tool for persecution siding with the blasphemers of Christ against Christians. Their actions were contrary to the character of God, and they fawned over those who blasphemed the name of God. What is so strange is that most, if not all, of those whom James was writing to were poor. It makes no sense for them to fawn over the rich; perhaps they were trying to avoid further persecution, but that was not working very well. James further describes this rich class in 4:5-6.
James saves his most serious charge against the rich (wealthy class) for last. They blasphemed the “fair name by which you have been called.” This phrase that James uses here is very similar to the phrase that Amos uses in Amos 9:12. This is a phrase that was used in the OT for Israel as the people of Jehovah; or a wife taking husbands name; and children named after their father. This may very well be a reference to the title of “Christian” by which we are now known. This was a title that began as a derogatory title in Antioch, and it appears twice in the NT (Acts 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). We are not sure if this is what James was talking about, but it is clear that the rich were slandering the name of Christ.
These were the people that James readers were showing favoritism towards. It was very foolish to repay the acts of the rich with kindness (Not to say that we shouldn’t turn the other cheek and love one another, but it is unwise to show an undue preference to the rich at the expense of the poor). James’ readers belonged to Christ and were not at liberty to practice partiality and dishonor the Glorious name of Christ.

Do you realize that it is not just the rich that you can show favoritism towards, or the poor that you can discriminate against? If you want to put this into youth group terms you could say “upperclassman vs. Jr High kid,” “well-dressed vs. 1995 dressed,” “cool kids vs. dorks,” “funny vs. slow witted.” Do you realize how petty all of these things are? You could miss out on a great opportunity for Christian fellowship if you judge people by these standards. If you want to take advantage of opportunities to minister to people, and be ministered to then you must see people the way God sees them: justly in love with grace.

*Posting for the remainder of the week will be limited. This week our Church is host to the 1st ever “Brandon Biblical Theological Conference.”*

Ten things every Youth Pastor Needs

(From the perspective of a youth Pastor)*These are in no particular order, and do not reflect the “Top Ten”
things every youth pastor needs. There are many things that could have been on the list, and probably should be on the list, but for now this is the list.*

1. A Great Wife
Can I say anything that would add to this…

2. A sense of Humor
If you can’t laugh at teenagers then you are missing out on half the fun of being a youth pastor.
3. Bluntness (kids don’t get subtlety)
Maybe this is the hardest part. Part of it is that kids don’t get subtlety, but I think that most of it is that they want you to be straight forward with them. “Don’t beat around the bush, just tell me what you think.”

4. A love for the students
If you don’t love ‘em; worry about ‘em; pray for ‘em; and long to see ‘em grow
I don’t know how you can make a difference in their lives.

5. Discernment (with something off just enough in the discernment category to allow you to do crazy things)
Students always want to do crazy things. You have to decide very quickly what is just good fun, and what is inappropriate.

6. A tight budget at home
Money is usually short, but you shouldn’t care (sometimes that is hard).

7. Leadership help
You need help. You can’t be totally involved in every kid’s life, this is where your leaders come in (see also #1 for the best leadership help available).

8. Supportive and involved Church leadership
Youth ministry is just another part of the Church ministry as a whole. You have to have the support of the Elders (or insert your church polity here). Your elders must be involved and know what you are doing. It is their job to lead you, and it is your job to let them.

9. Fellowship
You can’t do it alone. You are going to loose a lot of fellowship opportunities ministering to the youth. You have to seek it out (see #1 for best fellowship available).

10. A love for God’s word, and a willingness to sacrifice “game time” for teaching time
If the Bible is not the center of your ministry I am not sure what kind of impact you can make.

James 2:2-4: “Don’t Play Favorites” Pt. II

James 2:1-4My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes,

So that his readers would know what he is talking about James gives and example of favoritism. We see that two men arrive for a meeting. James does not tell us exactly what this assembly is. It could be a type of formal hearing of church discipline; it could be the Christian Jews gathered in the synagogue; or most likely it was a Lord’s Day church service. James vagueness with the specifics of this gathering is not a problem, for his command not to show favoritism applies to all situations. This first man to arrive is dressed in fine clothes and even has at least one gold ring on (the word could be translated gold fingered, which might mean he had many rings on). This man was obviously wealthy, and based on his description could have even been a politician or official. The second man to arrive is described in opposite terms to the first man. This man was poor, and dressed in dirty (or shabby) clothes. Based on this man’s description he may very well have been a beggar. In each case the men were unknown. The Christians gathered together had no idea who they were, or what their character was like. They may have been interested visitors, or they may have been new converts (the later is the more favorable because it is unlikely that an unknown unbeliever would have gained such a trusted position in a community that had been so persecuted). It is most likely it was their first time at such a meeting because that had to bee shown where to sit.

and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,”

Here is where we will begin to see the favoritism (or discrimination depending on what your perspective is). The person greeting and seating these men fawned over the rich man (Do see how the glory of Christ is de-emphasized when we show favoritism?), and the poor man is treated with distain. This rich man was ushered right to the front where he was able to gain a seat in an honorable position. The poor man was literally left in the dust. He was told: “you can either stand over there, or you can sit by my footstool.” Literally what the poor man was told was that “you can sit under my under-feet.” Can you imagine this? Not only was this greeter not willing to give up his own seat for the poor man to sit down, but he would not even give up his foot rest for the man. “I have a seat with a footstool, but I am not going to give you either.”
Maybe this example does not quite hit home with you. Let me give you an example of a similar situation that my parents witnessed. My parents had just moved and were visiting churches trying to find a new church home. On one particular Sunday the church they were visiting concluded with an alter call. During this alter call a black man came down the aisle. The church leader quickly informed this gentleman that he would have to wait in the back of the church until all the other people (white people) had been taken care of. Can you imagine this? You may be thinking well it was a different time back then, but this was in the early ‘80s. Just twenty years ago. These types of attitudes are not exclusive to race, and economic status. Churches have the in crowd, and the onlookers. Youth groups everywhere have the popular kids and the outsiders. This is the trap that James is warning against.

have you not made distinctions among yourselves,
In verse 4 we see the result of these attitudes. James asks a rhetorical question to which the obvious answer is yes. They did not want God to judge them based on anything except Christ, but they did not afford this same privilege to those around them. There are two ways that this verse can be interpreted: 1) James is restating their inappropriate behavior; 2) James is tracking the sinful behavior back to its source, a double-mind. The word that is translated here as distinction is a form of the same word that is translated as doubting in 1:6. Also this theme of double-mindedness is not uncommon in the book of James. In chapter 4 verse 8 James says: “[d]raw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
An improper division made between the rich and the poor reflects an improper division in the mind. These people are not acting consistently Christian. To display such favoritism (partiality; or discrimination) reflects a doubt in the truth expressed in 1:9-11, and later in 2:5. If they truly believed that the riches of this earth are going to pass away why did they fawn over the rich? Because their minds were divided, they were double-minded. On the one hand they saw the truth of what James taught, but they were also enticed by the riches of the world. They did not have a consistently Christian mindset; instead they were influenced by worldly considerations. We must be careful to guard ourselves against these dangers. We must constantly evaluate our actions to make sure that they are consistent with scriptural doctrine in order to avoid having a division between our faith and practice.and become judges with evil motives?

James readers were struggling with this sin because their thinking had been defiled by the world’s thinking (1:27). To the world riches and power are of the utmost importance, but to the Christian they should be of little importance. They acted according to worldly considerations which made them show partiality towards the rich, and slight the poor. To show this kind of partiality is particularly unsettling because it is contrary to God’s character. In showing favoritism they were making themselves out to be judges, and they judged with evil motives. Think about what their motives must have been. They were treating the rich better than the poor. They must have hoped that they would receive something in return for their actions. This is so contrary to the true religion that is described by James in 1:27. They were showing favoritism to the rich, instead of the orphans and widows who could not return their favor.
They took upon themselves the rights of judge, which only God can truly exercise, and they judged based on the wrong things. Even though they professed faith in the Just God of the Universe, they made themselves unjust judges of men.

When we show favoritism, partiality, or unjust discrimination we are making ourselves out to be judges. If a judge in a court of law were to let his decisions be swayed by superficial matter rather than by the essential facts of the case, it would be a gross miscarriage of justice. It is no less wrong for Christians to base their treatment of others on such superficial matters as economic, social, or racial differences.

The Final

This will be our final class from C.H. Spurgeon’s book “Lectures to my Students.”

Here are a few nuggets from Spurgeon:

*What follows are my notes exactly how they appear (spelling mistakes, chopped up sentences, etc.) in my notebook.*

XXIII On Conversion as our Aim

pg 336 On Conversion as our aim: The grand object of the Christian ministry is the glory of God. Whether souls are converted or not, if Jesus be faithfully preached, the minister has not laboured in vain…

-In too many cases the sublime truths are held in abeyance under the pretence that they are not practical; whereas the very fact that they are revealed proves the Lord thinks them to be of value, and woe unto us if we pretend to be wiser than He.

pg 332 We must see souls born unto God. If we do not, our cry should be that of Rachel “Give me children, or I die.”

-The ambassadors of peace should not cease to weep bitterly until sinners weep for their sins.

-Since cinversion is a divine work, we must depend entirely upon the Spirit of God, and look to Him for power over man’s mind.

-Where Christ is exalted souls are attracted.

pg 339 … we must preach real bona fide substitutionary sacrifice, and proclaim pardon as its result.

pg 340 Preach earnestly the love of God in Christ Jesus, and magnify the abounding mercy of the Lord; but always preach it in connection with justice.

pg 341 Cold logic has its force, but when made red hot with affection the power of tender argument is inconceivable.

pg 345 Do not permit sinners to hear sermons as a matter of course, or allow them to play with the edged tools of Scripture as if they were mere toys; but again and again remind them that every true sermon leaves them worse if it does not make them better.

-There is something in the very tone of the man who has been with Jesus which has more power to touch the heart than the most perfect oratory…

-Fresh voices penetrate where the accustomed sound has lost effect…

XXIV Illusrations in Preaching

pg 349 The cheif reason for building windows in a house is… to let light in. Parables, similes, and metaphors have that effect…

pg 350 Let us not deny them the salt of parables with the meat of doctrine.

-Plesantly profitable let our sermons be.

pg 352 …have pity upon these hangering ones immediately around you who must find life through your sermon or they will never find it at all.

-very beautiful sermons are generally very useless ones.

pg 353 Our house should be built up with the substantial masonry of doctrine, upon the deep foundation of inspiration; its pillar should be of solid Scriptural argument, and every stone of truth should be carefully laid into place; and then the windows should be ranged in due order…

pg 356 Our Father feeds his children alike; and the garments that they wear are cut from a royal fabric, even His righteousness.


Now that we have finished our class I think that in light of our professor there is only one appropriate celebration:

Here are some Spurgeon links that will be more than helpful:

Pyromaniac’s recent post about SpurgeonSpurgeon Archive

Spurgeon U.S.The Letters of Spurgeon

Spurgeon’s Library

Tuesday Sports Short: “You’re getting warm, but it is not here.”

Since baseball was invented pitchers have been working on new ways to get batters out; many times going beyond what the rule book allows. Pitchers have discovered numerous ways to doctor the ball to make it move unusually when they throw the pitch. All kinds of foreign substances have been illegally put on the ball in the attempt to gain an edge over the batter. The list of pitchers and tricks is a mile long. For instance, Roger Clemens is notorious for putting pine-tar on his glove to help him grip the baseball in cold or wet weather.

One of the most notorious “doctorers of baseballs” ever was Don Sutton. Umpires league wide were certain that Sutton was doctoring up the ball. On one particular night in 1978, umpire Doug Harvey found a foreign substance on the ball during an at bat. Harvey immediately tossed Sutton out of the game. Sutton was livid! He refuted Harvey’s claim, and even threatened to sue Harvey and the other umpires if they ejected him from the game. The truth of the matter is that Sutton had a case. Harvey removed Sutton from the game for “throwing” a doctored ball, but could not definitively say that Sutton had doctored the ball. This was the closest any umpire ever got to catching Sutton doing anything illegal with the ball.

Because umpires had never been successful actually catching Sutton in the act, they were always hesitant to waste time looking for something illegal. When one umpiring crew went to the mound to search Sutton’s glove for a foreign substance, they instead found a note from Sutton. It read: “You’re getting warm, but it is not here.”

Playoff update:
So far every team that I have been pulling for has dropped out of the picture. Although, last night Pujols kept the Cards alive with a lunar blast (excuse the Houston/NASA pun).

James 2:1: “Don’t Play Favorites”

James 2:1

“My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.”
Obviously the recipients of this letter were guilty of showing favoritism (vs6).

James 2:6: “But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?”

This kind of discrimination is inconsistent with true faith in Christ Jesus. This type of discriminating favoritism makes biased judgments based on external appearances such as rank, wealth, or race. This attitude is completely inconsistent with the faith that we have been called to in God’s Word (Eph 4:1-3).

Ephesians 4:1-3: “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

In fact, the only other times that this word, translated as favoritism, occurs are all references to God’s impartiality (Rom 2:11; Eph 6:9; Col 3:25).

Romans 2:11: “For there is no partiality with God.”Ephesians 6:9: “And, masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.”

Colossians 3:25: “For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.”

God’s impartiality is seen particularly in the line of Christ (Matt 1:5).

Matthew 1:5: “and to Salmon was born Boaz by Rahab; and to Boaz was born Obed by Ruth; and to Obed, Jesse”

God allowed Ruth, the Moabitess, to be a part of the line of Christ. God did not judge her based on her race; God was concerned with her heart.
What James is saying is that when we accept the outside surface for the inner reality we are doing the opposite of what God would do. A just judge, such as God, must not be influenced by personal prejudices, hopes, or fears, but by the single motivation of justice. When we judge based on what a person looks like, how much money they have, or their race we are disobeying what God’s word commands us here in these verses.

When we show favoritism we are not reflecting the character of God, and we are putting something above our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. Our faith is centered around the Lord Jesus Christ. During his incarnation Christ was the glory and the image of God in human form (2 Cor 3:18, 9:4; Phil 2:6). John, in John 1:14, tells us that in Christ we see “the glory of the Father full of Grace and truth.”

John 1:14: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Christ is our glorious savior and to show favoritism to men based on their appearance or standing would be to take our focus off of our glorious savior. When the pageantry of this world becomes the churches focus it hides who Christ is, and makes it evident that our faith is weak.