John Bunyan’s famous allegory Pilgrim’s Progress is filled with men and women who happened along the path of Christian as he has started his journey toward the Celestial City. We have spent a little time with Ignorance who wanted to talk Christian into trying to make the journey on his own works. Evangelist is another character who was very instrumental in the conversion and later the discipleship of Christian. He is representative of a faithful godly pastor who spends time and effort working with the travelers as they labor through the journey. We now come to another impediment, another character, who will serve as an agent of Satan to hinder the pilgrim’s progress. Mr. Worldly Wiseman is a convoluted but very brilliant soul. His brilliance rivals that of Ignorance who was just as polished and shameful except Mr. Worldly Wiseman is an older gentleman who has been around the world for a while and knows the general thoughts and doubts of the travelers.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Friday, March 17, 2017
Returning to John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, I want to look at another one of his characters. This book over the years has been one I return to regularly and read various scenes from because even though it was written in 1678 still has a profound grip on presenting human behavior in an incredible way. It was recommended to me by Brother Harrell in Bridge City a number of years ago. It is rare to dig into this allegory about a man on a path toward the Celestial City and not come away with some spiritual benefit.
The next character to assess is a man named Evangelist. This character shows us the impact that a godly pastor/preacher/teacher can have on one traveling the Christian path. It is compelling how that Bunyan begins the book by telling us that it is a story of a man who is walking through the wilderness of this world. If ever there were a phrase that could sum up what we are doing as we walk out the Christian life, it would certainly have to be admitted that we are in the wilderness—morally, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. While there are some who looking for all manner of solutions to save the world, the society, the environment from whatever deadly challenge it is facing, there is only one solution—to be born again.
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
It has been a long while since I have written anything about John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. I can still remember 15 years ago, or more that Brother John Harrell, long-time pastor of Bridge City UPC, recommended that I read dig into that allegory. He told me that it was loaded with sermon thoughts and illustrations and profitable spiritual motivation. I have written in the past about Brother Harrell and the uniqueness by which he would weave the Pilgrim’s Progress into his sermons. As I started reading Bunyan, it led me to another allegory he wrote, The Holy War, which had some excellent contributions to make as well about convictional preaching. I have explored some themes from that book as well in the past on this blog (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part4, Part 5).
I would be remiss a well if I didn’t mention Paula Thompson, aka The Tape Lady, who worked for years as the one who put together the cassette tapes and later the CD’s of Brother Harrell’s preaching to be mailed all over the US. So many preachers and saints benefited from the preaching that came out of Bridge City during that time and while she has passed on from this life, I truly believe her reward of service in this way is very great. But as I thought on the Pilgrim’s Progress, I began to mull over some of the characters that Christian ran into along his way to the Celestial City. These characters are multi-faceted and are pulled from sidewalks and alleys of every single person’s life who has ever walked this Christian path.
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
November 13, 2015 around dusk here in Dothan, I had just gotten in my car around 6 PM for a drive of a little over an hour to a sectional rally when the top of the hour newscast began describing the terrorist attacks in Paris. These attacks fell into a different category because they had been coordinated to hit several different places in Paris at the same time. Only 10 months earlier in January, terrorists had attacked Charlie Hebdo and two days later a Jewish grocery store had been attacked as well all leaving a small number of casualties but not a large amount of injuries. On the way home from the sectional rally, the talk radio outlets, which I hadn’t listened to for several years lured me back in, because they were blazing with opinions and reports. I cannot remember where or how I ran across a New York Times journalist but Rukmini Callimachi entered my world that evening
Friday, January 06, 2017
Top Ten Books of 2016 -- #9 From Here to Maturity--Overcoming the Juvenilization of American Christianity--Thomas E. Bergler
TheJuvenilization of American Christianity. This book, From Here to Maturity--Overcoming the Juvenilization of American Christianity, was written in 2014 after the initial volume was written in 2012 dealing with the immaturity of American churches. Bergler noted that he wrote the second book as a response to the heavy load of correspondence that he received from his readers. They understood what he was stating but they wanted to know what the remedy was to move Christians toward a higher level of spiritual maturity. Chapter 1 is sort of rehash of the first book so that if you have not read the first one, Bergler does his best to give you the first book in a capsule form in 25 pages. While this book is not written to apostolic Pentecostals, I do very strongly feel that there are some components that need to be taken with the seriousness of which Bergler writes. One thing that struck me was that spiritual adolescents are drawn to religious experiences that produce emotional highs and sometimes assume that experiencing strong feelings is the same thing as spiritual authenticity. While emotion is a part of Pentecostal worship, we dare not reduce it simply to that! We are called to self-denial and to bearing crosses in this life!
Wednesday, January 04, 2017
Reading has long been a vice of mine although it is one of those necessary vices that is important. I looked at the books that I read this past year and found that my reading preferences have changed significantly in the last several years and that will be reflected in the books that I will countdown this month. The book slotting in at number ten is by Thomas E. Bergler. He is an associate professor of ministry and missions at a university in Indiana. I heard the title of this book mentioned by a preacher whose podcast I frequently listen to and purchased it.
This book, The Juvenilizationof American Christianity, is not just a book that deals with religious issues and practice but it deals with sociological issues that are facing the church as well. He also deals with the history of youth movements both political and religious in a way that teaches through an observation of history. While Bergler is not Pentecostal in his moorings, he makes some observations that fits the variety of every church in America, some of which I see invading Pentecostal churches as well.
Monday, December 12, 2016
Several months ago, I reviewed some study Bibles (Holman, NIV, ESV, Dugan, Hebrew-Greek Keyword) that I found to be helpful for expositors. The Bibles that I reviewed were primarily those that fell into a category of general readership and those that were commonly found at large in big box Christian bookstores. There are several Bibles that I am going to write reviews of in the next few days that fall into a variety of subsets of Christian doctrines and views. While some of these Bibles can be purchased in big box stores, there are a few that you may have to track down through on-line sources.
Friday, December 09, 2016
It is obvious from the flurry of writing that I am doing on the Barnabas Blog that you can tell it is the end of the year. I generally try to put out a “Top Ten” list of books that I have read the previous year. This year is a little different because I have read so many good books, helpful books, and changing-my-thinking books that it is hard to say which one was the best one. I probably read too many books about preaching during the year but since it is what I do, I read in an effort to sharpen both mind and efforts in that category. I mentioned to the church recently that when they get to heaven one of the jewels they will get in their crown will be from having to endure my preaching. I hope it is not an endurance factor for them but one that encourages their spiritual growth.
This book, Engaging Exposition, by Daniel Akin, Bill Curtis, and Stephen Rummage will be very difficult to unseat as one of the best I have read and interacted with this year. It was given to me by one of our lay ministers, Charlie Joyner, a couple of months ago. It has an incredible range about it. It speaks to the rigorous academic side that preaching should be subjected to—areas like hermeneutics, the inspiration of Scripture, the different genres of Scripture, and how to identify the main idea of a passage of Scripture. It also has a section that deals with the nuts and bolts of building a sermon. Even though I have been preaching for almost 25 years, this kind of practical advice is always good for me. The last section of the book speaks to the actual delivery of the sermon itself.
Thursday, December 08, 2016
One of the genres of books that I enjoy as a preacher is the group that deals with act and art of preaching itself. If you have read this blog for any length of time, you have discovered that I have recommended a lion’s share of books about preaching—most have been to do with expository preaching. It is good for preachers to continue to read books that will sharpen their skills as a preacher. Because I believe that preaching—both the delivery by the preacher and the listening by the hearer—is an act of worship, I believe a preacher should do everything within his power to get better at preaching. One of the ways that we can get better is to read books about preaching.
Last week, a friend of mine, Wayne Naylor, sent me a book, A Guide to Expository Ministry which has been edited by Dan Dumas. It is a little over a hundred pages in length and it is packed with very good advice. However, the advice in this book comes from a bit of a different angle in that it addresses the expositor in the first half and the listener in the second half. I believe that churches that trend toward expository, verse-by-verse preaching goes a long way to creating something that takes place in the pews. What takes place in the pews is a heightened awareness of the power of Scripture. So Dumas and his covey of writers are working the angles of both the preacher’s responsibility and the saint’s duty as well.
Wednesday, November 09, 2016
There is something that takes place when you began to move beyond that middle point of life. You tend to look back in retrospect at time and opportunity that was squandered. You look forward with much more concern about the great values and virtues of a spiritual life than what was in those early years of youthful inexperience. Age uniquely brings a sobriety, a seriousness, a focus, and at times even a sense of grimness to the mind. This is especially true for a Christian pastor, or in my thoughts, it should be. One of those areas of my own personal calling and ministry that I am looking back to are the countless times that I said, “I am an assistant pastor, preacher, minister not a theologian.” Increasingly as my preaching style has drastically changed from my earlier years from topical preaching to much more expository preaching, I have been greatly convicted by the Spirit of God and my interaction with the Word of God that pastors need to be
Monday, October 31, 2016
There is a quiet buzzing that is beginning to rise from the grassroots among Pentecostal preachers. Increasingly I am hearing a faint drum beating that is somewhat like music to my ears. I am listening to remarks about Pentecostal preaching and its need of reformation at all levels; local, district, and national. Our preaching has somewhat degenerated into cheerleading sessions that tout the accomplishments of the preacher or a local church or parachurch organization. Our preaching has deteriorated into messages that take grand liberties with the text that the preacher may have read and wrested it from its true biblical context. When we take liberties with the biblical text and take it out of context, we have basically said that what we have to say is more important than what God has to say by His Word. It is my belief that out of context preaching is a very shrewd form of idolatry. Furthermore,
Friday, October 07, 2016
This past March (2016), a good friend of mine recommended a book to me, Out of the Flames, by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone. Not only is this book one of the best books I have read this year, it probably will fall into the category of one of the greatest books that I have read in my lifetime. The subject matter of the book is “the remarkable story of a fearless scholar, a fatal heresy, and one of the rarest books in the world.” It is the story about Michael Servetus who was one of the most brilliant men that has ever lived. Not only was Servetus a theologian, he was also a scientist and was one of the first to discover the pulmonary circulation of the blood through the lungs but he also wrote a book that cost him his life.
One of the reasons that I believe this book is so important is not only for the content of the book but also who wrote it. It is written by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone, a husband and wife team, who are not theologians. This is important because of the subject matter they write about concerning Michael Servetus and his battle with one of the most sadistic souls who has ever lived, John Calvin. The Goldstones are primarily book collectors and write about antiquarian books which are books that are very rare and usually very old. One of the book’s descriptions states that the Goldstones are interested in the “enduring legacy of books.” Because they are not theologians or church historians they have a tendency to write their book about Servetus without the normal bias that comes against Servetus by so many of the church historians, theologians, and religious philosophers who do undertake the task of writing about the conflict between Servetus and Calvin. In fact, I have read before various accounts by authors who generally come from a Reformed bent and it appears to me that before they ever get their thoughts off the ground, Servetus is under a severe thrashing.
Monday, October 03, 2016
Friday, July 01, 2016
This is the second outing that we are going to spend with George Swinnock whom was introduced in the previous post. One of the chief ways of gaining insight into the Puritans is the need to read their sermons but even more so than that is to think and meditate on what they have written. Early on you will discover that there were some matters that set the writings of the Puritans apart. I intend on showing you some of the chief themes and characteristics about their preaching. First, they were very concerned about the state of their conscience. Secondly, they were very focused in on the brevity of life. Thirdly, they used some of the most masterful word pictures in their preaching. I have gathered most of the material I will write today from Volume 1 of George Swinnock’s work (pp. 1-26).
The State of the Conscience
The condition of the human heart is sinful and has great proclivities toward sin. This is the reason that men must be converted because of his fallen nature. Never be surprised at the actions that sinners fall into. “Men’s hearts naturally, are like Nebuchadnezzar’s, the hearts of beasts, grazing only in fleshly pastures, savouring only sensual pleasures, till their reason returneth to them; then they bless and honour the most high God, who liveth forever, Dan. iv. 34; then they mind spiritual dainties, and relish celestial delights” (pp. 3-4). This is the kind of understanding of the human condition that has been seriously lost and sorely neglected by much of our world today. Somewhere along the way, educators, politicians, news commentators, and even religious leaders have come to believe that man is basically good. Take that single sentence that Swinnock wrote in the 17th century and make a comparison with any Christian bestseller today and you will notice a drastic difference in the content of the books. In fact, the New York Bestseller List for the Religion/Spirituality list for today has a book about Scientology in the first slot. The books that follow are those which are very marketable which means that there is very little of a call toward holiness and devotion to God but rather how to get God to do what we want Him to do.
Thursday, June 30, 2016
It seems like forever ago that I spent a month blogging about some of the Puritans. Back in March 2012, I wrote a series of articles on Puritan preaching along with a brief sketch of some of the Puritan preachers. Those men were Jeremiah Burroughs, Thomas Brooks, Thomas Shepherd, and Thomas Watson. During the last five years, I have continually drawn from the writings of these men and their works have often been as refreshing to me as an artesian well that watered my soul. Their commitment to personal holiness, private prayer, and passionate but deep preaching has certainly been a motivation for me. With that in mind, I have determined to spend another month with the Puritans in hopes that those who read this will make a decision to explore some of the lives and works of these men.
Wednesday, December 09, 2015
Study Bibles for Expositors--The Holman Christian Standard Study Bible (HCSB)--Holman Bible Publishers
This study Bible is the sixth one that I will review. Several years ago I ran across a garage sale where due to some very unfortunate events a man had compromised his ministry and his family was selling all of his books, commentaries, and Bibles. While I did find some very useful books at dirt-cheap prices, I did not want to purchase the Bibles because there was a little something sacred about them even though this man was not of my doctrinal persuasion. As I was about to leave, his ex-wife came over and gave me a copy of a very nice leather bound Holman Christian Standard Bible that was just plain text with a single reference column. I started to read it some weeks later and found it to be a thought-provoking translation.
Tuesday, December 08, 2015
We have been reviewing several study Bibles that I thought would be helpful to those who are making a concerted effort to become effective expositors. An expositor is a preacher who has a commitment to preach through the Bible dealing with the context, the doctrinal content, and the application to a New Testament apostolic church. Expository preaching can be best summed up in this threefold manner: Read the text, explain the text, and apply the text. On the other hand don’t let that greatly simplified form lead you to think that this makes for simple preaching for it does not. I have been working at this angle of preaching for a little over ten years now and it is the most demanding sort of preaching that a minister can give himself to. It requires great discipline and you have to get control of your personal schedule so that you can effectively work somewhere that is free from interruptions. However, the soul building that takes place in the preacher and in the life of the church will be astounding! So all of these study Bibles that I have been reviewing for the last four posts is nothing more than an effort to encourage men to be students of Scripture.
Monday, November 23, 2015
The fourth study Bible that I would like to recommend to those who are endeavoring to develop into being an expositor is one that is very useful in looking at a text in a bit of a different light. The NIV Archaeological Study Bible published by Zondervan is another excellent tool for those who would be critical of the biblical text. A preacher will preach to a wide variety of people that visit the church where he will pastor. For the most part the vast majority of apostolic churches have people who attend that believe the Scriptures to be authentic, inspired, inerrant, and authoritative. But we have unbelievers who attend that do not have the same shared confidence in Scripture that we might not have and we have college students who attend schools where professors and other students can be militantly hostile against the Word of God. This Bible is very helpful in combatting some of that rhetoric.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Monday, November 09, 2015
The next study Bible on the list is the English Standard Version (ESV) published by Crossway, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois. The ESV was initially published in 2001 however the Study Bible was published in 2011. If you are a Bible reader and are familiar with other translations, it won’t take you long to realize that the ESV closely resembles the New American Standard Bible. There are not a lot of changes between to the two to the casual reader. I am certain that it you made a comparison with charts and diagrams and so forth that there would be some notable differences between the two of them. Before going further I would like to point out my usual disclaimer that just because I am a reader of this particular translation it does not mean that I can entirely endorse everything about the ESV Study Bible. I look at it as simply being another tool in the toolbox of one who desires to be serious about the exposition of Scripture in his preaching.
Thursday, November 05, 2015
Part 1—Hebrew-Greek KEY WORD Study Bible—AMG Publishers
If you would be a serious expositor of God’s Word, you are constantly on the lookout for good resources that will help you to pull all you can from the biblical text. One of tools that you need is good study Bibles. There was a time not too long ago when we would have had to say a good study Bible but as times have progressed there are many choices of study Bibles that are available for us to use. For the month of November I intend to do a review of a host of study Bibles that I have found helpful to me in the last several years. Another reason that I am going to spend November to do this would be because of Black Friday being just around the corner. If you live near a chain Christian bookstore, you can pick up many of these study Bibles very cheaply and even more so if you decide to go with hardbound instead of bonded or genuine leather.
Friday, October 30, 2015
Increasingly I am much encouraged by some of the conversations that I am having with various Pentecostal pastors around the nation. It is becoming more and more common that I am finding men who are paying the price with discipline and diligence to really dig into the Word so that their preaching has taken a different direction. This direction change is coming because of the challenges that we are facing in our culture and the deep moral depravity that is assaulting the church. We also have to contend more and more with the onward advancement of various world religions that are making inroads to the United States. Our preaching has to change to meet those challenges for we can no longer afford to simply preach to the moment so that people get out of their seats and flutter about for a little while to satisfy some shallow emotional need they need to feel better about.
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
I have been revisiting some of my journal scribblings from the last four years or so and have found a variety of thoughts I had written down. Some of those scribblings had to do with little mental or spiritual stimulations that I thought I would put on this blog. This post comes about from three different entries that I have merged together. The first one was from Eugene Peterson’s very fine memoir, The Pastor and the other two were blog entries that Thom Rainer had written which dealt with pastoral ministry. Peterson’s angle was that pastors have fallen into the trap of being turned into church growth gurus and it has cost them the priority of their own spiritual life of prayer, personal Bible reading/study (you would be shocked how many pastors don’t read the Bible on a regular basis), and the practice of spiritual disciplines which include the previous two and a host of others. His fear was that pastors are being turned into executive automatons who can drive cattle about on a range but have lost the art of leading sheep through still pastures. Rainer wrote about the dilemmas pastors face in the church which contribute to great dilemmas in the soul of the pastor. The best way to describe it would be to say that the little foxes have gained an entrance and they are spoiling a harvest.
Monday, October 19, 2015
Several weeks ago I had a very thought provoking discussion with my brother about Pentecostal preaching. In 1992 my parents gave Mark a new Thompson Chain reference Bible for Christmas. It wasn’t too long after that he began to use this Bible as his primary Bible as his everyday carry. He used it for devotional matters, he used it at Texas Bible College in the classroom, and he also used it to preach. One of the other things he did with this Bible was underline every sermon he heard during a twenty-year period. After retiring this Bible in 2012, he discovered something very interesting about this Bible. He went back and looked at all of the Scriptures that he had underlined when he was listening to preachers. He noted that during that twenty-year time period that he had heard approximately 3,500 messages. This came from a variety of places. Obviously the bulk of these came from the local churches where he had attended during that twenty-year time period. There were other unique places where he had listened to preaching. He had been in multiple chapel services at TBC, he had gone to several of the larger Pentecostal churches in the Houston area, and he had been to various conferences although he had not attended as many as I have through the years.
Thursday, May 14, 2015
We have spent the last two posts speaking of what takes place with criticism in the confines of a church. The first one was what takes place in the soul of the pastor. The second was what takes place in the soul of the critic. This last post is devoted to what takes place in the church when critics began to do their work.
As a leaping off point, look to Romans 16:17-20 from the Message (as a disclaimer, I don’t use the Message as a primary source):
Romans 16:17-20 MSG One final word of counsel, friends. Keep a sharp eye out for those who take bits and pieces of the teaching that you learned and then use them to make trouble. Give these people a wide berth.  They have no intention of living for our Master Christ. They're only in this for what they can get out of it, and aren't above using pious sweet talk to dupe unsuspecting innocents.  And so while there has never been any question about your honesty in these matters--I couldn't be more proud of you!--I want you also to be smart, making sure every "good" thing is the real thing. Don't be gullible in regard to smooth-talking evil. Stay alert like this,  and before you know it the God of peace will come down on Satan with both feet, stomping him into the dirt. Enjoy the best of Jesus!