Category: Uncategorized

Ask the Pastor: Did my loved one who comitted suicide really go to hell?

Ask the Pastor: Did my loved one who comitted suicide really go to hell?

This being Suicide Prevention Month, and with a recent, high profile suicide of a pastor, a number of us (pastors) are being inundated with questions about someone’s loved one who had committed suicide, the most common is whether or not the victim of suicide has really gone to hell. This is a challenging and difficult question to answer and I would have to ask one very important question before giving an answer: was the person who killed themselves a believer, actively pursuing a relationship with the Lord Jesus? If you answer that question with no, then I have bad news and we don’t need to take that sentence all the way to its conclusion.

If you answered my question, yes, then I will tell you that it is my conviction that they are not automatically damned because of a suicide. While it is true that all true believers endure till the end, it is also true that in a moment of extreme weakness in mind and spirit it is possible to fail to heed the Holy Spirit and thus not resist the temptation to harm oneself.

Some things to consider

There are some medications (Trazodone, Chantix, etc.) which have suicidal thoughts or actions as a potential side effect. In a case like this, we are not dealing with a purely spiritual issue. Medication prescribed by a competent physician may be complicating the issue. The person might otherwise have a full and vigorous faith but, as a result of adverse effects, kill themselves. I cannot find it in the scriptures where a medical issue required damnation as a result.

The Believer, from the moment of saving faith is secure in Christ. In the situation of a suicide as the result of a spiritual issue, the Doctrine of the Eternal Security of the Believer is most comforting. In John 10:28, Jesus reminds us that He gives His own eternal life, and none shall pluck them from His hand. Had I no other Scripture to go on, this one verse would be enough to convince me that Christ’s wounded lamb was in His presence. However, that Scripture is not my sole stone upon which to build the belief that a Christian who committed suicide does not automatically go to hell. We are sealed by the Holy Spirit unto the Day of Redemption (The full and final redemption at the Resurrection on the Last Day), this is from Ephesians 4:20. Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Our eternal security is based on God’s love for those whom He has redeemed. Our eternal security is purchased by Christ, promised by the Father, and sealed by the Holy Spirit.

Ultimately, the one who commits suicide is in the hands of the just and holy God who always acts righteously. God is not capricious, and neither is He wicked. Acts 15:18, “Known to God are all His works from the beginning of the world.” Therefore, there is nothing in creation that is outside His purview. In Jeremiah 1, we see that God knew us and all of our days before we were formed in the womb. He not only knew the suicide was coming, He permitted it to happen. Remember, God never tempts us to do evil, He always acts in perfect righteousness. (James 1:3, 1 John 1:5, Genesis 1:31. Genesis 3:14-24, 1 Corinthians 14:33, Romans 5:12, Romans 8:28, 1 Corinthians 10:13)

John MacArthur: “It is helpful, I think, to understand that sin is not itself a thing created. Sin is neither substance, being, spirit, nor matter. So, it is technically not proper to think of sin as something that was created. Sin is simply a lack of moral perfection in a fallen creature. Fallen creatures themselves bear full responsibility for their sin. And all evil in the universe emanates from the sins of fallen creatures.”

Child of God, if you lost a loved one to suicide, be comforted in this: God is Holy and furthermore He will keep all of His own and raise them up on the last day. Because I am not Him, I cannot say with ultimate authority that your Christian loved one is in Heaven with Him, but I know the character of the Good Shepherd we can trust Him to manage the soul of the departed loved one. Take your griefs and your questions to Him. Cast all your cares upon Him who cares for you and rest in the Holy Spirit. Your loved one is in His hands and He is always good.

 

ESV & NLT, Better Together

ESV & NLT, Better Together

Thre are two incredible English translations dominating ministry, today, English Standart Version and New Living Translation. On their own, each translation is absolutley phenomenal; they can, and do, stand alone in any church as your main translation. In this article, I want to share some information about both translations and why I think any ministry that uses one, ought to use the other as well.

New Living Translation:

  • Type: Meaning based/Thought-for-thought
  • Reading Comprehension Level American 6th Grade
  • Detailed Translation Notes: Yes
  • Interlinear Availability: Yes, online and phycical book
  • Ideal Audience: While suitable for any audience, NLT is especially well suited to English as Second Language Christians, 1st Time Bible readers
  • Monthly subscription: $4.99 with Tecarta

 

English Standard Version

  • Type: Form Based/Word-for-word
  • Reading Comprehension Level American 8th Grade
  • Detailed Translation Notes: Yes
  • Interlinear Availability: Yes, online and phycical book
  • Ideal Audience: Open. ESV is suited for any audience
  • Monthly Subscription: $3.99 with esv,org

Why should I use both translations?

Simply, we have the largest percentage of people unfamiliar with the Bible since the Middle Ages. Let me say, I do not think that both translations need to be in the sermoon but I would recommend using both in the service.

NLT is very easy to understand and is a great point of entry for those new to the Bible. ESV is also easy to understand and is incredible for exegetical study.

How should I use both translations?

It would be my ssuggestion to do as follows:

NLT should be used for the Responsive Reading and ESV for the preaching. This is the format that we use at Abounding Grace Baptist Church. Many Christians don’t have any more exposure to the Bible than what they get on Sunday and we, as pastors, should be explaining the Bible but we also need to make sure that our people are memorizing the Bible as well.

One translation needs to be your pew Bible. Which one that should be is up to your Leadership.

If your church has any kind of online ministy, I would definitely recommend use of both translations, you just never know who is tuning in, how well they know the Bible, or how comfortable they may be with Endlish.

Is ESV Right for Me?

Is ESV Right for Me?

One of the friends of our ministry asked for some thoughts on the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible and, since many of you probably have questions about choosing a translation, I thought I would share them here as well as sending to him.

I really enjoy the English Standard Version; it has made some impressive strides in the churches and it is one that you can trust to have in your home for worship.

  1. Among the descendants of that most excellent King James Bible, the ESV strikes me as the most liturgical sounding, when read aloud. It has very similar rhythms as the KJV and a melodious tone. The ESV is one of the few translations that fit both the High Church (very conservative, structured litugy) and the Low Church (less rigid, more flexible/contemporary) models of worship and service.

We have recently begun adopting the Hymns of Grace hymnal at our church and part of the reason for that is the fact that the responsorial readings are all in the ESV. Incidentally, this is the only hymnal to offer the ESV.

  1. The English Standard Version is truly a global Bible for English Speaking Christians. This past summer, the Philippine Bible Society hosted a conference wherein they recommended that all churches in the Philippine Islands adopt the ESV. To the best of my knowledge, ESV is also used by a large number of churches in the Asia Pacific Baptist Federation and it is very very popular amongst Reformed Denominations in the US and Australia. I do not have figures for the European Baptist Federation or African Baptist Union, but it is clear that, around the world, ESV is gaining ground on the NIV as the dominant English Bible. Why Is this important? The Bible not only guides our faith, it also molds the language of our worship and when we speak the same language, our fellowship is that much more rich.

 

  1. ESV is faithful to the original manuscripts, easy to understand, and essentially literal. When a pastor brings ESV into his pulpit, you can trust that you are hearing an English translation that accurately represents what the human authors of Scripture originally wrote. The reading comprehension level is around middle school level, making it accessible to most English speaking Christians with little difficulty . Since there are widely variant education levels across the spectrum of Christianity, ESV helps to bridge the gap in understanding the Scripture.

 

  1. There are huge numbers of helps available for ESV readers to aid in understanding the text. From the massive ESV Study Bible and MacArthur Study Bible to commentaries, concordances, dictionaries, the learning library at Ligonier Ministries etc. ESV has one of the largest offering of supporting materials that a Christian will be able to access. Crossway even offers a subscription service, giving Christians access to some of the most popular and detailed resources available to understand the ESV.

 

Is the ESV right for me? This is a good question to ask and, I suspect, what our friend had in mind in asking for my thoughts. If you are a Pastor/Elder, you can request an evaluation kit from Crossway which will include a sample ESV Bible  (they send you a pew Bible) so that the ESV can be experienced by the whole group of Elders.

 

For those who are not vocational ministers, I would recommend that your first choice of translation be whatever is heard from your pulpit on Sunday. That being said, I fully endorse the ESV and commend it to you for your study and personal worship times. For the last 18 years ESV has faithfully served the church and it will continue to do so far into the foreseeable future. It is faithful, accurate, easy to understand, and very accessible. If you need a new Bible this is one of the two translations I recommend most highly when I am asked.

 

Why a Congregational Responsive Reading and How Is It Done?

Why a Congregational Responsive Reading and How Is It Done?

Question: Why does Abouondung Grace Baptist Church have a Congregational Responsive reading of the Scrupture?

Answer: Romans 10:17, “So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.

The Scriptrue makes it clear that hearing is the menhod that God has ordained for His word to be hiddent in the hearts of His people (Psalm 119:11). Because of this, we have added a responsive reading time to our worship service so that our brothers and sisters get as much of the Bible as possible.

During the Congregational Reading, the pastor reads the odd numbered verses and the congregation responds with the even numbered verses in the Responsive Reading Selecttion. This servies two purposes: 1. It brings us together in unity around the Bible 2. It helsp us to remember the Scriptures together;.

How do we pick a selection for the week? There are a number of possibilites The NLT Wayginding Bible offers 52 week overview of the Bible, the NIV Student Bible offers a number of Reading Guides via its 3-track Reading Plans.. IF your church uses hymnlas, Hymns of Grace and Hymns of Glorious Praise both offer  congregational readings. Certain Pew Bibles also offer reading selections. The final two opeions I would receommend would be to follow the Revised Common Lectionary or to read a Psalm per week until you have completed them and then start over.

No matter what choice you make, it is imporant to communicate to the congregation that the Responsive Readings are part of the centrality of the Word in the life of your congregatin. Also, if you are not using Pew Bibles, you will want to put the reading on your screen or on a handout so that everyone is reading from the same translation. (Also, you never know how many in your audience will be unfamiliar witht he Scripture.)

I encourage you to explore a Responsive Reading for your congregation. You will be amazed by the results.

Until next time, Grace to you.

Some Musings on the King James Bible

Some Musings on the King James Bible

Perhaps one of the most elegant and majestic works of art in the English speaking world is the King James Version (hereafter KJV) of the Bible, which celebrated its 400th anniversary in the not too distant past. In the last 60 or so years, though, the KJV has become somewhat of a stumbling block due to the rise of a position suggesting that the KJV is the only “real/true” English translation of the Bible. This position is horribly incorrect but it is not my intention to refute that position in this article. Rather I wanted to share some of the reasons why I love the KJV and, even though it will not be a main translation for my, why it will always have a place in my studies.

  1. When I learned to read, I learned using my grandmother’s large print KJV Bible. You could say that the KJV played a foundational role in my education.
  2. Reading the KJV can, at times, feel more reverent. All too often in out fast paces culture, we rush through our devotions just so we can check off a box on the To-Do List. When reading the KJV, the Elizabethan English’s formal sound reminds us that we need to pause to not only reverence the Lord God but also reverence the Scriptures through which He has elected to make Himself known.
  3. The KJV forces a slow down, at least in my case. Since I do not usually read the KJV aloud, i find myself needing to slow down, sometimes adding additional pauses,  and take my time to get trhough the text. This slow down also allows for reflection on the text itself. Simple reflection on the Scripture can, at times, bring a new appreciation for the message that the Holy Spirit speaks throught he words of Scripture.
  4. KJV is reliably conservative. When you step into the pulpit and open a KJV, there is usually little question as to whether or not you have a high view of the Scripture.

These are just a few of the reasons why I thoroughly love and enjoy the KJV. In 32 years, while owning multiple translations of the Bible, there has never been a time when I have not had a King James Bible in my possession . In all of my lesson prep, I camp-are the translation from which I will preach with the KJV. It has become like consulting a wise old friend on the text of the Scripture.

Some of you, dear readers, have not had much experience with the King James Bible; I would encourage you to rectify that. If nothing else, it should give you a new appreciation for the beauty and majesty of the Bible.

Returning to the Uniform Series

Returning to the Uniform Series

This past year, our ministry has had some growing pains as we have sought the Lord for direction as to how best to serve Him and His children. Our goal, as it should be for any ministry, is to provide you with resources to understand the Scripture (Scripture is the truth referenced in the Truth portion of our name) so that you might have a vital and growing relationship with the God who redeemed you from your sin and unto yourself. Over the course of the last two and a half months, during a recovery from surgery, it became necessary to further dig into what resources we are offering and how we are ministering to you.

One tool which I keep returning to is the material from Standard Lesson, material which makes up part of what is called the Uniform Series. I keep returning to this material because it forces me to remain simple, but not simplistic, and easy to understand. It does this because it is designed to be deployed across the entire spectrum of your church, cradle to grave as it were, so that the entire fellowship is uniform (go figure) in the text being studied for the week.

Picking up with that last thought, I want to explain why I am returning to the Uniform Series and how and why it should be able to help you.

  1. The Uniform Series is designed for use across the entire Church; every grade level discusses the same text for the week and learns good theology while they go. Naturally, it is adaptable based on the level of material so that you are going more in-depth with your high school students or adults than you would with your 1st graders. For some reason, it had never dawned on me, until discussing with a friend back east that his church was doing a series on a particular book but his children were hearing the same stories that they had heard in kindergarten, 1st grade, and now 2nd grade and a realized that a uniformity of text across your church not only ensures that you learn the whole Bible but it also translates into family worship.
  2. The Uniform Series is ideal for family worship. If everyone has studied the same text, you can return to it in your family worship time. You will be able to utilize it to go deeper in your study, exploring related topics or go back and address questions that members of your household have. You’re able to gather your resources and explore the text in whole new ways as the Spirit leads you.
  3. The Uniform Series is used globally. Chances are, at some point during the year you will travel and many churches across the globe follow the parent of the Uniform Series, the International Sunday School Lesson Series. In so doing we are able to ensure that Christians still get a steady diet of the Word of God even if we are travelling.
  4. As a bi-vocational minister, the Uniform Series helps to serve as a set of guiderails from week to week. The lesson plans are laid out a year in advance so that you know exactly what you are teaching on any given Sunday and then it is simply a matter of spending time in preparation.

 

I also want to address an objection or two…

Objection 1: The Standard Lesson Commentary eliminates the need to do the work of preparing a lesson. Yes and no. There is sufficient material provided so that if a person has never taught a Bible study before, they will be able to step into the role quickly and have sufficient material for a basic understanding of the text. No true pastor would take a pre-packaged lesson and make it his entire sermon but it does make for a solid platform upon which to build a lesson.

Objection 2: The Uniform Series is not used by my denomination. I suppose that could be a problem if your main focus is what is happening at denominational headquarters. IF your main concern is helping your people understand the Word of God, this objection is irrelevant.

Objection 3: We do not use KJV or NIV. Ok. Since you should not be simply opening the annual commentary and reading to your audience, you can adapt the text to your translation of choice, it’s all a matter of doing the appropriate work.

Objection 4 (This is the one I hear most so I am addressing it last): The Uniform series does not go straight through the Bible book by book and verse by verse. Again, yes and no. The Uniform Series does not go directly through a single book in a verse by verse manner. It does cover all 66 books across the six year cycle and you can learn more about that on the Standard Lesson website. There is verse by verse study in each section of the particular book being taught but if you are looking, for example, to pick up 1 Thessalonians and go through every chapter one at a time, this is not the format that you want to use.

Ultimately, the Uniform Series will not be the only lessons offered through our ministry but they will provide a core for us as we grow together.

Until next time, grace to you.

Why 2 Translations

Why 2 Translations

On Sundays, you will always hear the main sermon text in 2 English Translations, one that is essentially literal or word-based and one that is thought for thought or meaning based. I am very frequently aske why we do this.

I use an essentially literal text to be as close to word for word from the original languages as possible. Sometimes we do word studies and these stem from the literal translation. I follow up with a meaning based translation to help us get as close as possible to how the original audience would have heard and understood the text.

The meaning based translation is a critical component of our lesson prep for one major reason: we are looking for Original Authorial Intent; what did the Holy Spirit, by way of the human author, intend to communicate to the audience and what was the expected response? We need to always remember that when we come to a text, a response is expected: repentance, praise, or telling others and a meaning based translation helps us get to that faster.

Ultimately, my goal is two-fold: I want you to understand the text better and I want you to help others understand the text better as well.

Until next time…

Grace to you

Wiersbe Study Bible Review

Wiersbe Study Bible Review

 

Note: Thomas Nelson provided two copies of the Wiersbe Study Bible, one hardcover and one black leathersoft, free of charge in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own.

 

From Thomas Nelson

Dr. Wiersbe’s top-quality Scriptural instruction is now available all in one place with The NKJV Wiersbe Study Bible! Dr. Wiersbe has impacted millions of people with God’s Word through his “Back to the Bible” radio ministry, and insightful “Be Series” commentaries. Now the wealth of Dr. Wiersbe’s solid Biblical guidance is presented as helpful commentary alongside the text of the Bible itself. Grow deeper in your knowledge of God’s Word with The NKJV Wiersbe Study Bible.

 

Features include:

  • Over 7,800 verse-by-verse notes by Dr. Wiersbe
  • Hundreds of Catalyst notes which more deeply reveal important biblical themes
  • Book introductions featuring Dr. Wiersbe’s historical background, themes, and practical lessons for each book of the Bible
  • Thousands of cross references, showing the connections throughout the Bible
  • Index of Preaching Outlines
  • Concordance with key words for deeper word study
  • Full-color maps
  • Clear and readable 10.5-point NKJV Comfort Print®

Dr. Wiersbe was the former pastor of the Moody Memorial Church in Chicago and general director of the Back to the Bible radio broadcast for 10 years. He was also awarded a Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement Award by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association.

Product Information

Format: Genuine Leather
Number of Pages: 2272
Vendor: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: 2019
Dimensions: 9.50 X 6.50 X 2.25 (inches)
ISBN: 0785221050
ISBN-13: 9780785221050
Series: Comfort Print
Text Color: Red Letter
Text Size: 10 Point
Note Size: 8 Point
Thumb Index: No
Ribbon Marker: Yes
Spine: Sewn

 

 

Translation:

The Wiersbe Study Bible is offered in the New King James Version of the Bible, the 1982 update/revision to the King James Version. It is one of three major translations that use the Textus Receptus New Testament. It is one of my two most used translations with over 1000 lessons, personal counseling sessions, and hospital visitations being completed out of the New King James Version. It is fastidiously literal yet still beautiful to read, much like its predecessor. The NKJV is an excellent choice not only for any pulpit but also for Christians at every level of maturity.

 

Cover and Binding

This Bible is available in three covers, all with a sewn binding: hardcover, leathersoft/imitation leather, and genuine leather. The genuine leather feels like calfskin although it is not specified.

 

The leathersoft/imitation leather is very convincing and if you did not know it was imitation, you would be certain you were handling real leather.

 

Paper, Font, and Layout

We are presented with a double column paragraph format. There are no center-column references. Instead, Nelson has borrowed from Crossway and placed the references at the bottom of the 2ndcolumn. Like the Bible text, the notes are in a double column format.

 

The font is Nelson’s 10.5 Comfort Print in a red-letter edition. Nelson has really stepped up their game on red-letter editions and this one is very crisp, clear, and consistent. Many times you will find a pinkish hue in the “red-letter” edition but you do not have that trouble here.

 

I find the paper a little thin but the opacity was a pleasant surprise; I was actually expecting more show through than what you really get.

 

Helps:

Catalyst Notes:are more in-depth discussions of particular Bible themes and character issues to help you to be transformed by the Scripture.

 

Be Transformed: This showcases the life transforming impact of particular portions of Scripture.

 

8,000 Expository Notes: The notes provided give you a basic explanation of the Scripture.

 

Index of Preaching Outlines: For the person who is new to teaching the Bible, the Index of Preaching Outlines provide a teaching plan for each Bible Book

 

Introductions and outlines: As is typical, these provide an overview of the book including themes, background, and practical lessons

 

Who is this Bible’s target audience?

The Wiersbe Study Bible is geared toward two groups primarily: the New Bible Expositor and the New Disciple. For the new expositor, the helps will guide into lesson prep with beginning materials to deep dive into. For the new disciple, the helps will provide a solid overview of the Bible.

 

Overall Thoughts

The text is a smidge crowded for me but I do like it. Dr. Wiersbe is one of the top Bible teachers of our generation and I love that fact that a whole new generation of Christians will be able to benefit from his teaching.

Colossians Day One

Colossians Day One

Colossians 1 (NLT)

Greetings from Paul

This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy.

We are writing to God’s holy people in the city of Colosse, who are faithful brothers and sisters[a] in Christ.

May God our Father give you grace and peace.

Paul’s Thanksgiving and Prayer

We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News.

This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.

You learned about the Good News from Epaphras, our beloved co-worker. He is Christ’s faithful servant, and he is helping us on your behalf.[b] He has told us about the love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you.

So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.

11 We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy,[c]12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. 13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom[d] and forgave our sins.

Christ Is Supreme

15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
    He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,[e]
16 for through him God created everything
    in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
    and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
    Everything was created through him and for him.
17 He existed before anything else,
    and he holds all creation together.
18 Christ is also the head of the church,
    which is his body.
He is the beginning,
    supreme over all who rise from the dead.[f]
    So he is first in everything.
19 For God in all his fullness
    was pleased to live in Christ,
20 and through him God reconciled
    everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
    by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

21 This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.

23 But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News. The Good News has been preached all over the world, and I, Paul, have been appointed as God’s servant to proclaim it.

Paul’s Work for the Church

24 I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church. 25 God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you.26 This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.

28 So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect[g] in their relationship to Christ. 29 That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.

Footnotes:

  1. 1:2 Greek faithful brothers.
  2. 1:7 Or he is ministering on your behalf; some manuscripts read he is ministering on our behalf.
  3. 1:11 Or all the patience and endurance you need with joy.
  4. 1:14 Some manuscripts add with his blood.
  5. 1:15 Or He is the firstborn of all creation.
  6. 1:18 Or the firstborn from the dead.
  7. 1:28 Or mature.