Is ANYTHING True?

“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

I am thankful for the education I received both in college and seminary. But to tell you the truth, the most important lessons I have learned didn’t occur in a seminary classroom, but in the classroom of the real world.

You have read in other blog posts how I was influenced by some of the liberalism that was dominant in my college and seminary. As a young pastor, I preached from the Bible, but I was taught that I probably should have a few reservations about the text. I was taught that the Bible needed to be updated and that modern scholarship now knew so much more than the writers of Holy Scripture knew.

You also know how my faith in the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture was restored through works like The Fundamentals and Why I Preach That the Bible Is Literally True. In addition to those books, my theology was greatly influenced by having to live in the real world. I dealt with real people with real problems.

Over the years, I have walked with young parents who lost a child, I stood by the bed of one of my dearest friends as he drew his last breath and I questioned why someone had to endure the horror of ALS. I’ve sat with families who struggled with a family member’s inability to even remember who they were because of Alzheimer’s. Most recently, I stood by the bed of my own father and watched as he made the transition from this life into the next. With age, hopefully comes wisdom — but with age DEFINITELY comes experience.

Through all those experiences — and countless others — I learned that when confronted with situations we don’t always understand, people were not interested in my opinions. They wanted something solid — something they could hold on to — they wanted TRUTH.

I watch many of the discussions on social media like Facebook about the issues of our day. It disturbs me at the number of people who call themselves Christians who want to stand on something other than the truth of God’s Word. When I give my opinion — you can give yours and they are both worth about the same. My daddy said, “Opinions are like noses. Everybody’s got one. Some are just a little prettier than others.”

However, when I stand on the authority of Scripture — I stand on solid ground. I have absolutely no problem at all saying to you and anyone else — “I believe the entire Bible is God’s Holy Word. I believe He protected it from any serious error. Though there are some things I don’t fully understand, I accept it as absolute truth.”

One of the problems we encounter in this day and age involves that term “absolute truth.” Most Americans (as many as 72% according to some studies) do not believe there is any such thing as absolute truth. Even more disturbing to me is the fact that as many as 40% of evangelical Christians do not believe in absolute truth.

The definition of absolute truth is this…

“unchanging truth from God that is applicable to ALL people in ALL situations ALL over the world.”

Americans are notorious for our belief that we are smart enough to figure out everything on our own. We therefore rationalize everything we do by saying — “what’s right for you is not necessarily right for me.” Religion becomes a matter of TASTE not TRUTH.

In every major world religion, there are some noble thoughts and ideas. As Christians, we should respect people of all faiths. Our major focus is to lift up Jesus Christ — not put down other religions. But…hear me well here…we should NEVER think for a minute that Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism  and Christianity are teaching the same thing just using different terms and ideas. There are distinct and mutually exclusive doctrines in the major religions of the world.

Let me give just two examples.

I believe that in Jesus Christ we meet God in human form. Jesus IS God in every respect. The other major religions do not make those claims for their leaders. Nobody suggests that Buddha IS God or Mohammed IS God or Moses IS God.

Muslims and Jews believe that Jesus was a good person — perhaps even a prophet — but they don’t believe that He was the divine Son of God. They don’t believe He was crucified for our sin or that He rose from the dead. Therefore, on this most significant issue — we disagree and in fact we contradict other religions.

Another major difference is the degree of tolerance extended to other faith groups. Among Christians — we do not tell you that your life is in danger because you affirm a different faith. But in non-Christian countries around the world — your life and your family are in danger if you dare to deviate from the faith of the majority.

My point is this…TRUTH is exclusive — otherwise it is just an opinion. When we make a TRUTH claim, we are saying that the opposite is NOT TRUE. When Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life,” He is saying that any other way is untrue. Either Jesus IS who He claimed to be or He is a fraud.

The argument over same-sex marriage, for example, is not about preference or sexual morality. It is an issue of TRUTH. Is the Bible God’s ABSOLUTE TRUTH for us or is it just one of many opinions? That’s the question.

There was an 18th century French philosopher named Voltaire. He was a skeptic of Christianity. He made this prediction: “In 100 years, the Bible will be a forgotten book found only in museums.”

Guess what? 100 years after he made that prediction — they turned his home into the office of the Geneva Bible Society!

The Bible not only CONTAINS God’s Word — you can put your faith in the fact that the Bible IS God’s Word. Trust it!

Have a great day.

TOP 10 (Part 3)

We’ve finally come to the final two entries in my list of the TOP 10 books that have influenced my life and ministry the most.

I grew up in northeastern North Carolina in a conservative Christian home and community. I was taught to love and respect the Bible and most importantly — BELIEVE it. There was never a doubt in my mind that the Bible was true and that every story in it was true.

BUT THEN…

I went to college and seminary. My professors were greatly influenced by European liberal theology and therefore taught me that much of the Old Testament was not historically accurate. I was told that the resurrection didn’t really matter and that the virgin birth didn’t really happen. From the Red Sea to the Resurrection — everything I had been taught by my parents and faithful witnesses at the Potecasi Baptist Church was now called into question. On top of that I was told that as a pastor, I couldn’t share all this knowledge with church members because they just weren’t smart enough to understand it.

To say I was conflicted is an understatement. That’s where the final books in my list entered my life. I am forever grateful that I was introduced to these books because they helped restore my faith in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Word of God.

2. The Fundamentals
R.A. Torrey

Let me quote directly from the Preface…

“In 1909 God moved two Christian laymen to set aside a large sum of money for issuing twelve volumes that would set forth the fundamentals of the Christian faith, and which were to be sent free to ministers of the gospel, missionaries, Sunday School superintendents, and others engaged in aggressive Christian work throughout the English speaking world.”

When these essays were written, I can’t imagine that the authors could even have imagined the neoorthodox, existentialist, modernist, liberation, feminist, situation ethic or New Age theologies that would enter the 21st century church. These authors probably never thought there would be a day when we would have preachers who would stand in pulpits who didn’t believe the whole Bible to be true.

As I began to read chapters like…
“The Mosaic Authorship of the Pentateuch,”
“One Isaiah” (I had been told there were at least 3 people who wrote the book of Isaiah and on top of that NONE of them were named Isaiah!!!)
“The Doctrines that Must Be Emphasized In Successful Evangelism”

and so many others, I began to see that my parents weren’t crazy! I was told that to be a Fundamentalist was a horrible thing and if you held to those ideas, you were ignorant and uneducated. After reading this book (there are actually 4 volumes in this set), I regained my confidence in God’s Word and my call to ministry. I wear the title FUNDAMENTALIST with honor and without embarrassment. I proudly hold to the FUNDAMENTALS of the Christian faith which include…

The Authority and Inerrancy of Scripture
The Deity of Christ
The Sufficiency of Christ’s Death on the Cross
The Literal, Bodily Resurrection of Christ From the Dead
The Literal Return of Jesus Christ in the Second Coming

And now…the NUMBER 1 book on my TOP 10 List of books that have most influenced my life and ministry…

1. Why I Preach That the Bible Is Literally True
W.A. Criswell

“If we surrender the truth of the verbal inspiration of the Bible, we are left like a rudderless ship on the stormy sea. It is impossible to overestimate what evil is wrought when the Word of God is denied.” (W. A. Criswell)

For over 50 years, W.A. Criswell served as the pastor of the historic First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. This book is not a textbook (like The Fundamentals), but a testimony. As I now felt comfortable with the theology I had been taught and knew to be true — I had to find a way to communicate that truth to the congregations I would now pastor.

Dr. Criswell’s book helped me see that I had been called for one purpose — PREACH THE WORD. Without the Bible — I’ve got nothing to say. I now understood that I have an absolutely trustworthy guide for all the answers to the questions asked by the members of my congregation. I didn’t need to go to the psychology books or TIME magazine to find things to talk about. I have the very WORD OF GOD and I can confidently stand before any group of people and proclaim these truths for the good of every soul who would hear.

For over 32 years now I have been preaching the unsearchable riches of God’s Word. I am thankful for these final two books because without them — I may have become some liberal wishy-washy speaker who had no confidence in his own message. The Bible gives me and all who believe the assurance of our salvation and of the eternal life that is ahead.

Thanks for allowing me to share my list with you. I hope it has inspired you to read more and never stop learning.

Here’s the complete list….

10. How to Get Along with Difficult People by William J. Deihm
9. When Skeptics Ask: A Handbook on Christian Evidences by Norm Geisler/Ron Brooks
8. Heaven  by Randy Alcorn
7. The Power of Desperation by Michael Catt
6. Go Home and Tell by Bertha Smith
5. Bill Wallace of China by Jesse C. Fletcher
4. How Should We Then Live by Francis Schaeffer
3. Total Forgiveness by R. T. Kendall
2. The Fundamentals edited by R.A. Torrey
1. Why I Preach that the Bible is Literally True by W. A. Criswell

God bless. Have a great Easter. We serve a RISEN Savior!!! Tell the Good News.

TOP 10 (Part 2)

Yesterday (3/31/15), I began to share with you a list of the 10 books (other than the Bible) that have most influenced my life and ministry. I know the young folks today like to have books on their electronic devices — but for me — I want to hold the actual book. I love books. In a day when the entertainment industry produces little of any value, books and reading have become even more important to me.

In the first post, I listed the first four books in my TOP 10. They were…

10. How to Get Along with Difficult People by William J. Deihm
  9. When Skeptics Ask: A Handbook on Christian Evidences by Norman Geisler and Ron Brooks
  8. Heaven by Randy Alcorn
  7. The Power of Desperation by Michael Catt

6. Go Home and Tell
Bertha Smith

Those of you who know me know of my commitment to missions through the local church. I grew up learning about people like Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong who gave their lives to the work of missions. I belong to a denomination (Southern Baptist Convention) that has one of the greatest missionary forces in the world. Through our local church giving, we have told our missionaries that if they will answer God’s call and GO — we will PRAY and GIVE so they can fulfill God’s mission for their lives. In 32 years, I have led the churches I pastor to give over $1 million dollars to missions through the International and North American Mission Boards.

One of the reasons for my passion about missions is this book Go Home and Tell. Miss Bertha as she was affectionately known gave 42 years of her life in China and Formosa (now known as Tiawan). This book gives testimony to the power of God through prayer in the lives of Chinese Christians and missionaries. Miss Bertha shares how God provided for her and others in perilous times. I promise this book will inspire you and challenge you to PRAY more and GIVE more and the Holy Spirit may even call you to GO!

5. Bill Wallace of China
Jesse C. Fletcher

If Miss Bertha’s book doesn’t completely get you sold out to go into all the world and win people to Christ — then this book will finish the job! This book was first released in 1963 and was translated into five languages and even a movie was made about Bill Wallace.

Bill Wallace grew up in Knoxville, TN and his boyhood dream was to sell cars. He eventually went to medical school and became a surgeon. God called him to China as a medical missionary and this book tells the story of his service. Wallace was imprisoned and abused both psychologically and physically. Bill Wallace was a modern day martyr. His faith proved to be stronger than the Communist Chinese government who eventually murdered him. Bill Wallace was faithful until death.

I encourage you to get your young people to read this story. I believe God still calls people like Bill Wallace to go to difficult places to carry the Gospel. Wallace’s story will serve as an inspiration to every Christian who dares to read it.

4. How Should We Then Live?
Francis A. Schaeffer

Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) was an American Evangelical Christian theologian, philosopher and pastor. Schaeffer was opposed to theological modernism that was gaining prevalence in his day. He wrote extensively in the areas of philosophy and theology and was by all accounts one who could captivate any audience with his wonderful ability to communicate.

Schaeffer said, “I believe people are as they think. The choices we make in the next decade will mold irrevocably the direction of our culture…and the lives of our children.”

This book is Schaeffer’s personal analysis of key moments in history which formed our present culture. If you are a history buff, Dr. Schaeffer’s analysis of the fall of Rome and the resulting progression of Western thought is excellent. The old saying is if we don’t learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat it. As you read Schaeffer’s book, you will quickly see that we failed in our attempts to learn and many of the world’s problems can be directly traced to the fact that we didn’t take seriously the lessons of the past.

3. Total Forgiveness
R.T. Kendall

“When everything in you wants to hold a grudge, point a finger and remember the pain, God wants you to lay it all aside.” (R.T. Kendall)

I’ve recommended this book more than any other over the last 20 years. When I first read it — it absolutely changed my life. As long as you and I harbor feelings of unforgiveness — we will NEVER experience the blessings God wants to give us.

You may have been treated unfairly, you may have been hurt by a trusted friend or spouse — this book is for you! Is it easy? Of course not. But it is truly worth it to experience the joy and blessing you receive when you have a game plan to forgive. Forgiveness is a choice and freedom from the bondage of unforgiveness is available.

We have two more book in the list. I’ll spend tomorrow explaining how these two books have most greatly influenced my life and ministry. Have a great day.