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The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

Revelation Resources: A Bibliography

Dec 16th, 2014 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

A friend of mine asked me to share the commentaries and other reference works that I was using in my preparation and study for the sermon series in Revelation. I sent him the bibliography of my resources, but I thought others might like to see what I would be using, so here are my resources:

“Overcome: The Hope of the Christian in the Revelation of the Lamb”
Revelation Sermon Series Resources
Cade Campbell, FBC Henryville

Bauckham, Richard. The Climax of Prophecy: Studies on the Book of Revelation. Continuum International Publishing Group – T & T C, 1998.

Bauckham, Richard, and James Dunn. The Theology of the Book of Revelation. 1st ed. Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Beale, G.K. A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Transformation of the Old Testament in the New. Baker Publishing Group, 2011.

———.The Book of Revelation: A Commentary, 2013.

Blaising, Craig, Kenneth Gentry, Robert Strimple, and Darrell Bock. Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 1999.

Duvall, J Scott. Revelation. Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2014.

Hamilton, James, R. Kent Hughes (Contribution by). Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2012.

Hamilton, James. God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment: A Biblical Theology. Wheaton, Ill: CROSSWAY BOOKS, 2010.

Hemer, Colin, and Astrid Beck. The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting. Edited by David Noel Freedman. Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company, 2000.

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 1994.

Hoekema, Anthony. The Bible and the Future. Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans Pub Co, 1979.

Johnson, Dennis. Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. EVANGELICAL PRESS, 2004.

Ladd, George Eldon. A Commentary on the Revelation of John. Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company, 1972.

MacArthur, John. Revelation 1-11. Moody Publishers, 1999.

———.Revelation 12-22. Chicago, Ill: Moody Publishers, 2000.

Macpherson, Duncan. The Promise of the Future. Success Source, 2000.

Mounce, Robert.The Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids: Ethics & Public Policy Center Inc.,U.S., 1977.

———.The Book of Revelation (New International Commentary on the New Testament). William B Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1995.

Osborne, Grant. Revelation (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). Baker Publishing Group, 2002.

Patterson, Paige. Revelation: New American Commentary. B&H Publishing Group, 2012.

Riddlebarger, Kim, and Kim Riddlebarger. Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times. Baker Publishing Group, 2003.

Schnabel, Eckhard. 40 Questions About the End Times. KREGEL PUBN, 2012.

Schreiner, Thomas.The King in His Beauty. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Pub Group, 2013.

Staff, Baker Publishing Group. Case for Historic Premillennialism, A: An Alternative to Left Behind Theology. Edited by Craig Blomberg and Sung Wook Chung. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2009.

Storms, Sam. Kingdom Come. Fearn, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2013.

Summers, Ray. Worthy Is the Lamb. Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1951.

Venema, Cornelis. The Promise of the Future. The Banner of Truth Trust, 2000.

Wright, N.T. Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. HarperCollins Publishers, 2008.

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“Waking Up at the Start of the End of the World” (Revelation Listening Guide #1)

Dec 4th, 2014 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

This introductory listening guide provides a foundational survey of some basic information that is helpful for understanding the book of Revelation generally, how to read and interpret the book, and the way we’ll be dealing with the text in the upcoming sermon series. This introductory material is much longer than the normal sermon notes/listening guide will be. The extra material is provided to give listeners and readers a little extra framework for everything that will be coming in the weeks and months ahead.

Overcome: The Hope of the Christian in the Revelation of the Lamb
December 3, 2014
Waking Up at the Start of the End of the World:
An Introduction to Eschatology, Apocalyptic Literature, and the Book of Revelation

I. A Book Most Mysterious: Why We’re Attracted to Revelation and Avoid Revelation at the Same Time

It sits at the back of the Bible, bringing up the rear of the canon, standing there like a sentinel guarding a valuable treasure. And it’s an appropriate ending point for God’s special scriptural revelation, because the last book in the holy library is unlike any other book. It’s a bit of a loner. It’s odd, maybe even a bit standoffish. It doesn’t seem as inviting as the gospels, even though Jesus incarnate is its focus. Nor does it seem as easy to follow as Paul’s letters, even though it is itself a letter to a particular group of churches at a particular place and time in history. No, whatever else we might say about Revelation, one thing is certain. It sure is different.

As soon as we open the pages of Revelation we immediately know that we’re in a foreign world. Everything seems strange and new. Instead of a normal letter that flows in a straight line from beginning to end, we get a set of letters connected to a glimpse into the secret counsels of God. Instead of a list of encouraging instructions, we get a graphic and vivid docudrama that seems to be equal parts fantasy and horror story. And above it all, we definitely get confused. In some ways if we read through to the end of this book we might be left rubbing our eyes and asking, “What was that?!”

Throughout church history this confusion has oftentimes created two very different responses from believers, two responses that we want to avoid. Some students of the Bible have been so attracted to Revelation that they never want to go anywhere else. These are preachers who never seem to preach a sermon unless it’s connected to some fantastic interpretation of Bible prophecy. They oftentimes want to use the book of Revelation as the lens through which the rest of the Bible is understood, rather than having the rest of the Bible be the lens through which the book of Revelation is understood! The opposite reaction is one of avoidance. The book is confusing. It’s controversial. Its correct interpretation is contested, so some just stay away from it. If the first group has an incessant obsession with the book, the second group seems to have a strong allergic reaction to it.

Both of these responses are two extremes that we want to navigate between. We want to acknowledge that the book of Revelation is a part of the biblical storyline and we want to understand it in context through the rest of the Bible. And at the same time, while we acknowledge that the book can be confusing and intimidating we want to always confess that the book of Revelation is a part of the biblical canon. It was inspired by God. It is given to believers. It is meant to be read, understood, and obeyed. We shouldn’t be afraid of it. Everything that is true about the rest of the Bible that is described in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is just as true about the book of Revelation.

So…we must read and hear the vision given by Christ to John on the Isle of Patmos. But before we do there are a few things we should introduce. We need to know what the book is (an eschatological apocalyptic letter) and we need to consider the underlying themes and purposes of the book:

II. Essentials of Eschatology: But…Finally

The book of Revelation is an eschatological apocalyptic letter. Eschatology is the study of last things or final things. It focuses on the point to which everything and everyone is headed, for both individuals (Heaven/Hell) and all of creation and history. And yet, there’s a bit more to it. It’s not merely a prophetic playbook that gives the details for the future. Eschatology in the Bible is centered on two things: The resurrection of Jesus is the climax of history and the truth about the culmination of all things compels us to live in light of the resurrection today, in the present, in the here and now.

1. First, eschatology understands the resurrection of Jesus to be the climax of all history. It’s all about the “last days,” but here’s the catch: from a biblical perspective everything after the resurrection is the last days (Acts 2:14-21; Heb 1:1-2).
2. Second, eschatology isn’t a “pie-in-the-sky” trailer for coming attractions for the Christian church. It’s not a Nostradamus-like preview of future events that are meant to merely inform us about what’s up next. Eschatology is always a message to God’s people that is a call to love the risen Christ, trust the risen Christ, and obey the risen Christ in the here and now. It is always applicable for where we are presently!
3. With these two foundations in place, we might then define eschatology, the type of eschatology that the book of Revelation is a part of, as “The biblical meditation on last things for the purpose of treasuring ultimate things, namely the person and work of Jesus Christ.”

III. The Apocalyptic Puzzle: Vivid Vagueness

And here comes the tricky part. The book of Revelation is an eschatological apocalyptic letter. That means that the book is in some ways in a class by itself. It’s not just an ordinary letter or an ordinary piece of prophetic literature. So that begs the question, what is apocalyptic literature? Well, it has a long history in Jewish writings (biblical and extra-biblical) and might best be characterized in the following ways:

1. It is written to encourage the people of God who are suffering through some type of trauma or cataclysmic event to give them hope in God’s reign over the present and his sovereign triumph over the future.

2. It flows out of a deep reliance on and reference to the Old Testament. So rather than merely being situated in the future, it is rooted in the past revelation of God.

3. It presents its message through vivid vagueness. The medium by which the message is communicated is through repeated patterns of truth that are communicated by symbolic and graphic images, and significant and representative numbers.

We will always lose our way through the maze of Revelation if we fail to recognize and remember these three crucial keys to understanding and interpreting apocalyptic writings, of which Revelation is the most famous example.

IV. Revealing Revelation: Sailing to the Island of Patmos

With that briefest of introductions to eschatology and apocalyptic literature, we can now give a summary introduction to the book itself. We want to briefly consider the basics of the books authorship, the particular way we will be studying the text, and the purposes for which the book was written in the first place:

1. A Preliminary Introduction

A. Author: John the Apostle
B. Date: Probably around 95 AD during the reign of Emperor Domitian
C. Place of Writing: The exilic island of Patmos, a little more than fifty miles off the coast of Asia Minor from the port city of Ephesus.
D. Original Audience: Unlike many of Paul’s letters, the book of Revelation is a circular epistle, meaning it was written to a group of local churches throughout Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) and would have been circulated through those churches by messenger(s). The recipients of the book were the churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.

2. Perspectives of Interpretation

This is a big question. How will we approach the book in this upcoming sermon series? That question really lies at the heart of what we believe about the book as a whole, and throughout church history there have been four major approaches:

A. The Preterist Interpretation: The book is primarily written about the historical situation(s) at the end of the first century. As such, this view typically argues that all (or most) of the prophecies were fulfilled shortly after the book was written and delivered.

B. The Historicist Interpretation: The book is primarily a prophetic outline of the entirety of church history from the time of the apostles until the return of Christ.

C. The Idealist Interpretation: The book is primarily a symbolic overview of the cosmic battle between good and evil, God and Satan, and presents timeless spiritual truths to equip believers to be a part of that struggle.

D. The Futurist Interpretation: The book is primarily a description of the ultimate “last days” including the final judgments of God on the fallen world, the eternal overthrow of Satan, and the ushering in of the new creation into eternity by Jesus Christ.

Different readers and interpreters have defended their views and attacked the others. Oftentimes the conflicts have centered on a belief that an interpretation demands an “either-or” approach. I believe that’s a mistake (especially when it comes to Revelation). As such, our approach will be an increasingly popular view known as:

E. The Eclectic Interpretation: The book is like a fine diamond with different hues and shades. As such, to be most faithful to the text we’ll be open to aspects of each of the interpretations listed above. The book of Revelation is multi-layered as it communicates the eternal triumph of Jesus, the ultimate defeat of evil, and the unending hope of believers, now and in the future.

3. The Purpose(s) of the Book

Finally, in wrapping this introduction up we need to ask why the book was written in the first place. What are the big themes of the letter? What was the purpose for which John took pen to paper? A few days ago I tried to summarize the main message of the book, and I did it this way:

The purpose of the book of Revelation is to confront the church’s crushing crises of the cosmic curse, catastrophic conflict, and cultural compromise through confidence in and commitment to the crucified, crowned, conquering, and coming Christ.

Now, let’s state the obvious. That’s a lot of “c’s.” So let’s take this a section at a time. The book of Revelation is written for believers who are suffering, hurting, and are always being tempted to give in to doubt, defeat, and despair. It confronts the church’s crushing crises of:

A. The Cosmic Curse – Believers suffer from the ordinary consequences of living in a fallen world and are constantly being threatened by sickness, death, suffering, sickness, sorrow, uncertainty, and anxiety.

B. Catastrophic Conflict – Believers are also always in jeopardy of suffering for not merely living in a fallen world, but particularly because they are believers. So Christians face the threats of ridicule, attack, censorship, marginalization, and persecution in our families, workplaces, and by society (or government) in general.

C. Cultural Compromise – Finally, the pressures of the curse and conflict always threaten believers (who are always sinners) with the temptation to compromise their faith and give-in to the call to look and act like the world around them. Sin, immorality, worldly accommodation, and complacency are siren calls that invite us to an “easier” life if we’ll just not take our calling to follow Jesus so seriously.

These are the enemies of the churches that John is writing to, and the way he confronts these dangerous threats is by calling believers to:

A. Confidence in: Believers are called to have faith and belief in, trust in, and love for Jesus Christ that gives us assurance and hope for the future.

B. Commitment to: This confidence in Jesus Christ is then lived out personally and publicly in our allegiance and obedience to and our profession and proclamation of Jesus Christ.

This confidence and commitment to is connected to one specific person. The believer’s hope is not to our wealth, health, self-esteem, nation, government, or any superficial situation that we find ourselves in. Our confidence is in Jesus, and our commitment is to Jesus, and in the pages of Revelation Jesus the Christ is revealed to be the one who…

A. Was Crucified – Jesus was killed, slaughtered as a substitute on a Roman cross to purchase for God a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation.

B. Is Crowned – Jesus didn’t stay dead. The crucified one is also the resurrected on. After being slaughtered on the cross, Jesus was resurrected from the dead and ascended into heaven, being given by his Father a name that is above every name. He is currently reigning at the right hand of God as king over the universe. No other worldly power, person, or empire has the right to see itself as supreme. Only Jesus is worthy of the divine and royal worship of his people!

C. Is Conquering – Jesus will ultimately and triumphantly defeat all evil, the serpent, and he will rid the cosmos of every trace of the curse descended on creation as a consequence of our sin. Jesus (and all those who are his) has won the victory already and will completely overcome and conquer when all is said and done.

D. Is Coming – Jesus (God the Son) will physically and literally return to bring history to a climactic conclusion in which all things that the Bible has been promising and expecting are finally brought into full reality forever! God’s people will be resurrected bodily and all creation will be transformed into a new creation in which God’s people will dwell with him forever in the full beauty and pleasure of his presence. In his coming all the promises and prayers of the Bible will be eternally answered. The hope of Adam will be an eternal reality as Jesus, the seed of the woman, crushes the serpent forever and eradicates the darkness of rebellion from all creation. The hope of Abraham will be an eternal reality as Jesus, the promised heir, will be worshiped by an unnumbered multitude from every tribe, race, nation, and people. The hope of David will be an eternal reality, as Jesus, the physical descendant of Jesse, fully man and fully God, reigns as the supreme king over all creation. And finally, the hope of God’s people’s prayers that Jesus himself taught us to speak, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” will finally, fully, and eternally be answered as Heaven and earth are united in the unending reign of Jesus Christ!

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What’s Next: Announcing the Start of New Sunday Morning Sermon Series in 2015

Nov 19th, 2014 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

Power and Glory Cross 1In January 2012 we began to preach an expository sermon series through the book of Romans. Following a series through the Gospel of John, the series was titled, The Power and the Glory: The Gospel of God in the Book of Romans. When we stepped off into chapter one we had no idea what God would do in our church in the years to come, but our expectations were high as we began to climb this tallest of all peaks in the mountain range of New Testament books.

Now, nearly three years later, we can’t fully express all that God has done in our midst. A few weeks after beginning the sermon series our town was rocked by the March 2nd tornado. Through the aftermath of that storm we began to minister to our community and rebuild the physical and spiritual damage and devastation that had been left in the tornado’s path. And we stayed the course in our Sunday morning preaching, verse-by-verse walking through the grandeur of the gospel that radically changes lives forever.

And our church was transformed. We renovated the church building and worship sanctuary. We added an office suite. We held worship services in the gym. We put time, effort, and money into community clean-up, rebuilding, and service projects in our town. And our heart for the gospel near us was enflamed with a passion for taking the gospel to the nations. We sent a mission team to Honduras, then to Moore, Oklahoma, and then to Hartford, Connecticut. Now we’re in the process of sending a group to Eastern Europe, the nation of Macedonia. And all the while God’s Spirit has continued to breathe revival in our midst – saving sinners, transforming lives, mending relationships, and equipping believers that God grafted into our fellowship and united to us as our hearts have been knit together.

In the background of all that God has been doing has been the steady and repeated immersion of our church in the book of Romans. We feasted on a weekly diet of the truth of God’s gospel, his grace, his sovereignty, and how the God who saves sinners through the blood-soaked wood of a Roman cross transforms believers into lives of sacrificial worship. We confronted the truth of our depravity in chapters 1-2. We drank deeply from the doctrine of justification in Romans 3-7. We soared on the heights of Romans 8 (for eight months!). We trekked up the breathtaking paths of God’s sovereign grace in chapters 9-11. And we’ve been pierced by how the gospel is applicable to every area of our lives, publically and privately.

So now, it is late November 2014 and we’re moving through Romans 15, with only chapter 16 left to preach. We’ll be finishing this monumental sermon series in the first few weeks of the new year of 2015. Almost three years to the day after this journey began we’ll be closing the pages on this series. We’ll never move away from the gospel. And you’ll definitely hear other sermons preached from Paul’s epistle to the Romans, but this once-in-a-lifetime series will be moved to a memory. But God’s magnificent word and his invincible power will not be a memory. His word, proclaimed to his people is powerful to save and to change lives forever. We believe that we will continue to see the fruit of what God has done through this series in Romans for years to come.

But we are moving on in our preaching schedule for Sunday mornings, and as a team of pastors/elders we’ve been preparing for this transition for some time. Where we go and what we preach is not a light matter. We are charged with the task of preaching the “whole counsel of God,” to preach the whole truth of the Bible for the building up of the church. The Bible is big and it is infinitely deep, and so over the last few months we’ve been praying and planning about the direction that God wants to take us next. And now as we enter the holiday season, as the temperatures begin to drop, and as we bring our series in Romans to a close, we want to let you know where we’ll be headed next. We’re excited to unveil where we will be spending much of our time on Sunday mornings for the next few years! So we’re announcing the next two Sunday morning series. We want you to build expectation, get excited, and begin praying for us as we prepare and for our whole church concerning the things God will be doing in our midst in the months to come.

Beginning in early 2015 we’ll start a short(er) sermon series all about God’s plans for what a local church should look like and be like. In many ways it’s going to be a “nuts and bolts” introduction to the way God has told believers to live in community together in local churches. We’ll be talking all about right-doctrine, elders, deacons, worship, church planting and local church ministry:

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“DIVINE DESIGN: GOD’S PLAN FOR HIS CHURCH IN THE LETTER OF 1 TIMOTHY”

We haven’t spent much time in the books called “The Pastoral Letters,” but as a team of pastors we believe these blueprints for how local churches are to function are unimaginably important. As we continue to grow, and as our ministries continue to expand, we believe that it is vital for us to be grounded in how God has created our fellowship to live, breathe, and glorify him in a healthy gospel-saturated and God honoring way. That’s what 1 Timothy is all about. It’s a short book and the series will be pretty short too. We expect to spend a few months in this epistle, finishing the series after the summer sometime in the Fall of 2015.

Because this series will be noticeably shorter, it will be a much needed and refreshing “deep breath” after spending so much time in Romans. We think it will be good to go through a book over an intentionally shorter period of time, and we also believe it will be helpful as we gear-up to once again dive into what will be another epic sermon series like the ones in John and Romans. That’s what we’re preparing for in late 2015, and even though it’s about a year away, we want you to already begin preparing and praying about what is coming. After a few months in 1 Timothy we’ll start a new series unlike any that we’ve preached before:

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“THE CREATION, THE CURSE, AND THE CHRIST: THE GLORY OF THE GOSPEL IN THE BOOK OF GENESIS”

A sermon series through Genesis is daunting, in many ways like our Midweek series through Revelation! It will be our first Sunday morning series through an Old Testament book, and it will be the longest book we’ve preached through (50 chapters)! But it’s going to be so good. Every page of Genesis is foundational to everything else in the Bible, and every verse in its story sings the good news of Jesus Christ – in the beginning when the Word shouts all creation into existence, in the shadow of a whispering serpent, in the choking bites of a poisoned fruit, in the impenetrable fog of a cosmic curse, in the gracious promise of a coming king, in the flooding mercy of a mighty deluge, in a promise to an elderly man with no children, in the impossible birth of a miracle baby, in the provided lamb of a horrifying sacrifice, and in the blood-soaked stains of a many-colored robe, the beauty of Jesus Christ leaps off every page.

This is where we’re going. This is what’s next. We’re excited about the future at First Baptist Church Henryville, and as always we want to thank you for the great privilege of allowing us to preach the glorious gospel each and every week. We do not take this calling lightly, and we truly appreciate your prayers…now and in the weeks to come.

Toby, Cade, and Logan
Pastors, FBC Henryville

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A Vision of What is to Come: A Sneak Peek At Our Upcoming Revelation Sermon Series

Nov 11th, 2014 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

RevelationAs I begin to prepare for a new and upcoming sermon series I like to try and sketch out a rough-draft outline of how the series through the book of the Bible might be preached. I read through the book dividing it into preaching units and giving each passage and sermon a preliminary working title. It’s not ultimately set it stone. As we go through the series the passage lengths may be shortened or lengthened, new and additional sermons may be added or adjusted, and oftentimes completely new titles make their way into the final sermon that is preached. Even with all those caveats, however, I genuinely value the road map that this preliminary prep-work provides for me as I begin to trek through a new series. Even though I know that some things will change, I have a blueprint and guide that helps me focus as we move forward.

As our time in 1 Samuel comes to an end, as so many of you have been both telling me that you’re looking forward to our new series in Revelation and have been praying for God to work in our lives as we study this very difficult book, I thought I’d give you a sneak-peek both into my preparation process and to what you can be looking forward to in the months to come. We’ll start the series with the introductory session in December and begin in earnest with chapter 1 of Revelation in January 2015. I encourage you to use this series outline as a promotional tool to build anticipation, a guide to help you study the book along with the preaching, and as a prayer-guide to help you pray for me and the other pastors as we lead you through the book of Revelation in our Midweek service each week:

Overcome: The Hope of the Christian in the Revelation of the Lamb
Preliminary Series Outline

1. Waking Up at the Start of the End of the World: An Introduction to the Study of Eschatology and the Book of Revelation
2. Apocalypse Now: What Revelation is All About (1:1-3)
3. The Alpha and Omega: Coming With the Clouds (1:4-8)
4. One Like a Son of Man: The Keeper of the Keys (1:9-20)
5. The Spirit Speaks: An Introduction to the Seven Churches of Chapters 2-3
6. First Love First: To the Church in Ephesus (2:1-7)
7. Faithful Unto Death: To the Church in Smyrna (2:8-11)
8. In Satan’s Shadow: To the Church in Pergamum (2:12-17)
9. Uncompromising Christianity: To the Church in Thyatira (2:18-29)
10. No Grave Clothes Allowed: To the Church in Sardis (3:1-6)
11. The Fellowship of the Faithful: To the Church in Philadelphia (3:7-13)
12. The Offer of Abundant Life: To the Church in Laodicea (3:14-22)
13. What Was, and Is, and Is to Come: An Introduction to Revelation 4-22
14. Holy, Holy, Holy: Life in the Presence of Almighty God (4)
15. The King on David’s Throne: The Lion-Lamb, The Slaughtered-Sovereign (5)
16. Signed, Sealed, and Delivered: The Wrath of the Lamb (6)
17. Like Sands and Stars: The Inheritance of All the Nations (7)
18. Trumpeting Tribulation: The Symphony of Righteous Judgment (8-9)
19. A Sweet and Sickening Scroll: Feasting on the Word of God (10)
20. A Worldwide Witness: Living Though Dead (11:1-14)
21. Thy Kingdom Come: The Sound of the Seventh Trumpet (11:15-19)
22. Desolation and Dragon-Fire: The Conflict of the Cosmos (12)
23. The Monster and His Mark: The Dominion of Antichrist (13)
24. The View From the Mountaintop: The Mark of the Lamb (14:1-13)
25. A Holy Harvest: The Fields of Blood (14:14-20)
26. The Terrible Tabernacle: Trembling Before the Wrath of God (15)
27. Poured Out Plagues: Where Sin is Not Passed Over (16)
28. Babylon Ascending: The Beauty and the Beast (17)
29. Babylon Descending: The Fall of the Fall (18)
30. The Banquet of the Bridegroom: Getting the Party Started (19:1-10)
31. The Rider on the White Horse: A Truly Triumphal Entry (19:11-21)
32. On Earth as it is in Heaven: Meditating on the Millennium (20:1-6)
33. Judgment Day: The Serpent is Silenced (20:7-15)
34. Everything Sad Coming Untrue: The Beginning of the Very Best (21:1-8)
35. Joy to the World: The People of New Jerusalem (21:9-21)
36. The Garden Again: Far as the Curse is Found (21:22-22:5)
37. Even So, Come: Living the Book of Revelation (Forever) (22:6-21)

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FBC Henryville Marriage Retreat!

Oct 5th, 2014 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

TheHeartOfMarriage
February 13-15, 2015

To sign up Click HERE and follow the steps outlined on that page.

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What Does the Gospel Have to Do With My Job?

Sep 24th, 2014 | By | Category: Awana and Sunday Evening Worship, Sunday Night Worship, The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

This Sunday night at FBC Henryville in our series “Follow: The Jesus Focused Life For All of Life” we are going to look at WORK.  Why do we work? Is our work important to God? Should I enjoy my work?

This sermon is going to be one of the most important sermons in this entire series because it is about what we do with the vast majority of our lives. We work! Day in and day out, we work.  And the truth about us is that we will work till Jesus comes back.  But wait a minute!  Will the return of Christ bring an end to our work?  Hmmm! That’s a really good question. We would love for you to come Sunday night at 6:15 to learn the answer to that question and more.

 

Here is a video teaser for the sermon

 

 

 

 

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From Preparation to the Pulpit: How a Sermon Series and A Sermon is Developed

Aug 21st, 2014 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

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I’ve always enjoyed TV shows that take me and other viewers behind the scenes into factories and workshops to give us a glimpse into how so many of the products we love and depend on are actually created. I’ve even enjoyed some of the “behind the scenes” tours of factories and plants where I’ve been given a first-hand demonstration into the assembly process of something that until that moment I’d only known as a finished product. Whether they’re manufacturing electronics, automobiles, or candy, I’m always fascinated by the process that culminates in something that is at once both familiar and spectacular. In the end it gives me a greater appreciation for some of the things that I’m too often tempted to take for granted.

That’s why I want to give you a “behind-the-scenes” look into my own process of preparation for an upcoming sermon series, from its earliest stages to the time that I preach. Oftentimes we only see the “finished” sermon when it is preached during a worship service. Certainly that act of preaching is what everything has been aiming toward, but you might like a glimpse behind the closed doors to see how the sermon you hear on Sunday or Wednesday has made it to the moment of being preached.

If so, then I’d like to take you on a short tour of my own preaching process. As many of your already know, in just a few months we’ll be starting a new Midweek sermon series in the book of Revelation. I’m in the middle of preliminary research and preparation for this series, so this is a great time to pull back the curtains and let you see what I’ve been working on, what I am working on, and what I will be working on as this series is developed. In good “Revelation” fashion, we’ll see what was, what is, and what’s to come.

Before we jump in, let me say that this is how I prepare for a series and for sermons. Others have their own techniques, and I’m certainly not saying that my way is the best or only way! This isn’t a step-by-step clinic in how to do it best. It’s just a walk-through of my own path from text to sermon. So what you’ll see is how I’m working right now (and have been working) on the upcoming Revelation series. In so doing, I really hope that you’ll be encouraged to pray for me all the more as we all prepare to step into this mysterious and wonderful book. Additionally, relentless and desperate prayer is the foundation and fuel for ALL sermon preparation at every stage in the process. Prayer isn’t listed as its own step in the process simply because it’s the fire and the glue that powers and gives substance to every part of preparation and preaching from beginning to end!

I. 1 Year Out: I Commit to Where We Go Next

I’m always somewhere in our church’s preaching schedule, and as I’m preaching I’m aware of where we (as a local church) have been, what books we’ve preached through, what topics we’ve covered, and what some of the issues are that we’ve had to deal with as a community of believers. With all that in mind, as a preacher I’ve got a lot of sermon series ideas and concepts on different parts of the Bible that I’m eager to preach at some point in the future.

As we preach through a book, and when I think that I’m about a year from finishing the series or sets of series that I’m presently in, I begin to seriously take stock of where I believe we should turn next. I spend time praying, talking with folks in the church, and meeting with and bouncing ideas off the other pastors. All of this is so that about a year-out I’m pretty settled with where I’ll be turning next in our preaching schedule. I take into consideration who I’ll be preaching to, the places and genres in the biblical text that we have been through in the recent past and are currently going through at the moment. I look at how in-depth or long a sermon series might be, and after prayerfully considering all that information I’ll privately commit to a new sermon series in my own mind and heart.

II. 8-6 Months Out: The Very Earliest Stage of Preparation

1. I’ll try to begin a focused, devotional, and meditative read-through of the Bible book, and maybe listen to some various sermons from other preachers from different texts in the book.

2. I’ll sketch out a first draft series title. I’m a big believer in giving a sermon series a title. It helps with promotion and gives listeners a framework to think about the sermon series. I want the title to be broad enough to give me freedom as the series develops yet specific enough to give our church an idea as to what is actually coming up.

3. I’ll begin making a list of resources/books I’ll want to have on hand for the series.

III. 6-4 Months Out: Real Preparation Starts

1. Once we’re about six months out, I’ll begin to be more open about the upcoming series. It won’t appear in announcements or promotionals yet, but it won’t be just something that’s kept to myself and/or the other pastors.

2. I begin gathering and organizing reference and research materials. Some of these materials I may already have, but regardless I try to begin to get as many as 10-20 books/commentaries that I’ll be using for research and study. The pictures above are the hardcover and kindle editions that I’ve gotten for research work in Revelation.

3. I begin slowly working through preliminary research. This includes some general works on the Bible book, some background materials, and some commentaries. Depending on the text, I might work from a collection of five to ten commentaries as I’m dealing with a specific text to preach throughout the series, but I won’t typically read but two (maybe three at the most) commentaries (at various levels of difficulty) all the way through before the series starts (or at all). The Revelation series is a little different from other series simply because of its size, scope, and notorious difficulty. So I’m trying to put a lot more into the research compared to some of the other series we’ve gone through. This research will continue from this point on through the sermon series to some extent.

IV. 4-0 Months Out: The Final Preliminary Phase

1. By this point in the sermon series that I’m currently preaching (right now it’s 1 Samuel) I’ll be working to bring it to a conclusion. I’ll know where I’m going with finishing the series up, and more of my study attention will be ramped up on the upcoming series.

2. I’ll begin intensive and focused readings of the Bible book that I’ll be preaching through in the next series. Before I preach my first sermon in the next series I want to typically have sought to read through the entire book as many as 25-40 times (all of the way through in one sitting in many cases). I want to familiarize myself with the text, to internalize the text, to know. I’ll also try to read through the text at least a few times in the original language (if it’s Greek!) and at least once in each of the common English versions (KJV, NASB, NIV, HCSB, NLT, RSV, etc) and the rest of the times through in the version that I’ll be preaching from (ESV) I’ll also read through the study notes in a trusted Study Bible.

3. I’ll outline the book (maybe a few times) and divide it up into potential preaching segments.

4. I’ll make a rough-draft of a possible preaching schedule of the various textual segments throughout the book. This will give me a general idea about how many sermons the series will contain. As the series progresses this preaching schedule will certainly be adjusted as needed, but this begins the very real process of thinking through how I’ll be preaching the book.

5. I’ll begin to make notes on key theological themes, important terms, and a series of questions that I’ve asked myself throughout my readings of the text. I’ll start a notebook/file for this series.

V. 2-0 Months Out: First Real Sermon Preparation

1. The announcements for the new series will be more visible.

2. I’ll make a rough-draft of sermon titles for the first few weeks/months of sermons. I won’t title every sermon, and the sermon titles will almost always change, but this begins my own serious thinking about how I’ll be approaching the series through an attempt to describe the initial sermon passages through a title.

3. I’ll begin initial work on the first introductory sermons in the series, spending some deliberate time with the direction the series will be starting. Like a sermon itself, the beginning and ending of a series is vastly important.

VI. Weekly Sermon Preoaration: From Preparation to Pulpit

So far the planning and preparation that I’ve recounted has taken a wide-angle view that shows the development of an entire series, months in advance. So what does the preparation for an individual sermon look like over the course of a normal five-day work week (Monday-Friday for instance). Well, I’ll briefly show you:

1. Day 1: This is the day immediately following the preaching of the last sermon on Sunday or Wednesday. So Day 1 is usually on Monday or Thursday depending. I’ll read through the text for the next week, and write down just some initial thoughts, questions, or ideas that come to mind. In other words, I face the text. Regardless of how I may have felt about the last sermon, and regardless of what this week might hold, I know that I’ll be preaching in a week, and I know the text that I’ll be preaching. I try to remind myself not to get overwhelmed because I know it’s going to take time and effort. It varies from week to week and from sermon to sermon, but on average a typical weekly sermon is going to take at the very least 10-20 hours of study, writing, development, and editing. That’s not including everything else a pastor’s schedule might demand on a weekly basis: family time, counseling, visitation, evangelism, leadership meetings, or Bible studies that have to be taught, etc. And that’s for each full-length sermon.

2. Day 2: I spend the time in the text. I’ll read through it in the original languages. I’ll read through study notes. I’ll outline and diagram the text. I’ll jot out questions and mark key words or themes that come to mind. I want to get into the text and walk around, examining it from every angle.

3. Day 3: I’ll begin the actual sermon work. I’ll write out the main point of the passage, jot down application points/preaching points and begin a rough draft of how I will preach the text. Only after all this is done will I then turn and spend some time with some commentaries. I’ll make notes on what other scholars and pastors have noted, write out some important insights that I might read, and work through any difficulties if I’ve reached any different conclusions about the text than some of my most trusted commentators and pastors.

4. Day 4: I’ll write out the sermon. This may include a manuscript, or it may simply be a very detailed and fleshed out preaching outline. This is how most of this day will be spent, writing and rewriting.

5. Day 5: I’ll edit the manuscript or outline. I’ll work on transitions, wordings, illustrations, and sharpening my introduction and conclusion. I’ll transfer the edited sermon/outline onto a new sheet/preaching pages, and put it aside. At least one day a week (ideally) is spent free of any sermon prep work. The day I’m preaching (changing whether or not I’m preaching in the morning or evening) I’ll go back over my notes and with a pen make any final changes. I’ll put my preaching outline sheets in my Bible, preach…

…and the whole process starts again.

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Take and Read: Considering Reader’s Edition Bibles

Jul 10th, 2014 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

imageAs you sit in a darkened movie theater suddenly the lights dim, the screen lights up, and sound begins to flood the room as a voice booms: “Cinedigm, a new paradigm in cinema!” Cinedigm is an entertainment company that has worked to transform theater showing into a digital format over the last few years. As that voice booms at the beginning of a show, it’s absolutely clear that they want the audience to know that they are offering something different, something new, something better.

But different and new isn’t always better. Vinyl records have made a huge comeback in recent years. J.C. Ryle, the Anglican evangelical and contemporary of Charles Spurgeon, reminded us over a hundred years ago that oftentimes the old paths are the best paths after all. C.S. Lewis spent time confronting the dangers of what he termed “chronological snobbery,” the misguided view that newness is better just because it happens to be new. Oftentimes the old things are far better than any innovation.

With that in mind, I want to introduce you to a new trend in Bible publishing that really isn’t that new after all: Reader’s Bibles. We might say that they’re “an old paradigm in Bible reading!”

These new(er) editions of Reader’s Bible seek to create a format more like an actual book. That typically means thicker paper, no cross-references, no study notes, simplified typeset and no verse numbers. Granted, the format creates problems for study and teaching/preaching, but it’s great for reading, for sitting down and trying to cut-back the distractions and dig into the text of the Bible.

And as I said, this new “trend” in Bible publishing is downright ancient. Stephanus’ Greek edition of the New Testament was the first edition of the Bible to include chapter and verse divisions. The Geneva Bible (pictured above) was the first English Bible to include chapter and verse divisions, in 1560. These new reader editions are modern editions and translations that seek to highlight the strengths of reading the Bible the way readers would have approached the text for hundreds of years before the modern era. In 386 A.D, when the North African playboy Augustine picked up the Bible in his garden after hearing a voice say “tolle, lege…take up and read,” that’s the way he would have encountered the text, and that’s the way these new editions want you and I to encounter the text.

These reader’s editions have some very real benefits:

1. Their clean and simple design (without two text-columns for instance) makes for an attractive text format.

2. Without the added bulk of cross-references, concordances, and other study aids, these editions are often smaller and in some ways easier to carry.

3. They focus the reader onto the text instead of unnecessary distractions.

4. They aid in reading the Bible in context, seeing the various books of the Bible as a united and flowing unit without the artificial and uninspired verse divisions. This helps us see more clearly how a biblical author would have composed his work.

While there are some very real strengths to these formats, there are, however, some very real drawbacks:

1. In-depth study isn’t as easy without the helpful aids of concordances and references.

2. Not having verse divisions makes it harder to use these Bibles for teaching/preaching and/or following along while someone else teaches or preaches.

3. Knowing the chapter and verse references is helpful for scripture memorization.

The most recent (and currently available) version is an ESV Reader’s Bible from Crossway. It comes in a one-volume hard-back boxed edition. I love this edition because it’s the English version that I already use for most of my teaching and preaching, it’s relatively inexpensive (about $25.00), and the top of each page does contain the corresponding chapter and verse divisions which make it a bit easier to navigate (photos courtesy of the Bible Design Blog).

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I’m also looking forward to checking out another reader’s edition that will release later this year. It’s called Bibliotheca and is a modernized American Standard version that will be published in four separate hard-cover volumes: (1) The Old Testament Law and Early Prophets (2) The Old Testament Later Prophets (3) The Old Testament Writings (4) The New Testament.

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With all that said, I’m really excited to use these new editions in my own personal reading and devotion times and I commend them to you as something you may want to check out for yourself. If you’d like to see my copy of Crossway’s reader’s edition, just ask me about it at church. I’ll have it with me!

Yours in Christ,

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Brick by Brick and Verse by Verse: Faithful Preaching Through Patient Exposition

Jun 10th, 2014 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

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“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” – Anne Lammot, “Bird by Bird”

”What’s next?” – President Jed Bartlett, “The West Wing”

In 1536 the young French lawyer, theologian, and author John Calvin rather unexpectedly found himself in Geneva. He had not planned on moving to the lakeside city. He had arrived in the town only for an overnight stay, planning to travel on the next day. He had no allegiance to Geneva, nor any prior reason to plant himself there, and yet it was to be the city that would be connected to his name for the rest of history. It caught him off guard, yet there he was, and there he began to work alongside his friend William Farel in the ministry to the church. By 1537 Calvin was serving as pastor of the church, and he took to his task in a simple and revolutionary way. He preached the Bible. He taught the Bible. Every week would find him taking his hearers into the depths of God’s word sequentially through the Scriptures, preaching and teaching verse by verse.

Then things went wrong. In new city elections a town council was elected that was opposed to many of the reformation initiatives introduced by Calvin and Farel, and in 1538 both of the men were banished from the town. Calvin was fired from the pastorate and exiled to Strasbourg. He would remain there until 1541, teaching, writing, marrying a former Anabaptist widow, and continuing his service in ministry to the church under his mentor Martin Bucer.

Then his life changed once again. The religious and civil work in Geneva had imploded in the absence of Calvin and Farel. Now in 1541 the city council of Geneva sent letters begging for Calvin to return and resume his work as pastor in their town. After much reluctance (for obvious reasons) Calvin returned to Geneva where he would live the rest of his life until his death in 1564. On his first Sunday back he set the tone for the rest of his ministry. He opened his Bible and began to preach from the same passage where had left off three years before, as if no time had passed in his preaching schedule. He simply moved to the next verse.

We live in a society that places a high premium on innovation, advancement, and flair. The future belongs to those with big ideas, who demand results, who think outside the box. Our church life can oftentimes have a tendency to mirror the heart of the world’s culture. We want snappy services, cutting-edge music, and dynamic speakers who will hold our attention with his devotion to relevance and flash. We want to see explosive growth, engaging programs, and first rate facilities. “Sure,” we may think, “read something from the Bible, but don’t forget to give us a cool light show.”

This is the era of the tweet, the bite-sized breakdown of information, the instant communication, the breakneck speed of always moving on to something else. Slowness is primitive. Patience is overrated, and we have more social media sites to keep checking, and time is of the essence. In such a world it is especially tempting to want to mold our preaching ministry into that model. There is a pull to shortened services, and fast paced series usually over a controversial or practical topic – bite-sized sermons that are condensed down to the minimum number of characters possible, an attempt to reduce our message to an easily remembered slogan.

But we don’t believe that’s what is best.The pastors of FBC Henryville are convinced that a healthy diet for God’s people will consist of regular, slow, and careful preaching through the entire Bible through sermon series that preach through the whole of various books of the Bible. We believe that it is healthy for a church to be slowly immersed, marinated, soaked in the aromatic sauce of God’s Word, and we equally believe that preaching through books of the Bible and/or sections of the Bible are the best recipe to see that happen. In response to a culture advocating speed, innovation, and constant change, we believe that slow, purposeful, and deepened preaching is the heart of faithful preaching. The Anglican bishop J.C. Ryle was right: “The old paths are the best paths after all.”

It’s true that preaching through books of the Bible has its challenges, and we even admit that it’s not the only way to preach. It’s not even the only way to preach faithfully. Nor is it the only way to preach expository sermons. There have been plenty of pastors who have faithfully preached their entire ministries without taking their people straight through books of the Bible. Charles Spurgeon (perhaps the single greatest preaching influence on both Toby and myself) didn’t preach that way. Neither did Jesus or Paul for that matter. Nor is it true that topical series have to be shallow or non-exegetical. Topical series have their place, and that’s why we preach those type sermon series regularly.

But we still believe that the primary textual diet for the church should be a patient preaching ministry through whole books of the Bible. When I say “patient,” I’m not necessarily referring to slowness. We’re not saying that we should spend ten years in every book of the Bible. But I am saying that we want to submit ourselves wholly to the text, and that means being committed to let the text take it where it will, and not impose our own fast paced schedule onto it. An expository sermon is one in which the text controls the aim, emphasis, purpose, point, and boundaries of the sermon. An expository sermon series, then, is a series in which a larger body of text does the same thing for a whole series of sermons that are linked together.

In the last four years (in addition to various topical series) we have preached through John, Ruth, Job, Philippians, Jonah, Malachi, and Galatians, and we’re halfway through both Romans and 1 Samuel right now. After we finish 1 Samuel we’ll move into the book of Revelation, and we’re already discussing and praying about where we’ll be going when Toby finishes his series in the book of Romans sometime next year.

Why do we believe this is best? Why are we so committed to this type of preaching? Why in a world of iPads, smart phones, and online shopping do we believe that the patient and careful preaching through whole books of the Bible is so important for the life of the church? Well, there are several reasons:

1. It allows the text to set the parameters for the preaching ministry, not the cleverness or interests of the preacher. In other words, when I commit to preach through a book of the Bible I am saying that the specific book of the Bible will be setting the agenda for my preaching, not whatever topic I may want to comment on publicly from the pulpit. The text is in charge, not me. It keeps me from only preaching the hobby-horse topics that I personally find the most exciting. In the same way it forces a sermon to be preached and heard on the basis of what the text says, not on the basis of what we may “feel.” It seeks to show that the text is authoritative, not our feelings about the text.

2. It forces me to preach a wide variety of texts and genres. If I’m just picking random verses to preach throughout the year, then I’m almost always going to be preaching verses and genres that I’m most comfortable with. Preaching through entire books of the Bible forces me to step outside my own comfort zone.

3. It provides a congregation with a wide exposure to the entire Bible. Sometimes patient expository preaching through whole books of the Bible gets a bad reputation for just being unbearably slow. But that’s not the case. Again, in just the last few years we’ve preached through gospels, epistles, prophetic books, and historical narratives. Within those genres we’ve covered everything from the basics of Christian discipleship (Philippians), the person of Jesus Christ (John), living in the grace of the gospel (Galatians), suffering and the sovereignty of God (Job), true worship (Malachi), missions to the ends of the earth (Jonah), and a whole host of other issues that we desperately need to have spoken into our lives. In the middle of a series it may seem like a slow walk through a long book, but when taken over the course of an entire ministry we find that we are faithfully feeding all the Bible to the people of God.

4. It forces us (or at least it should!) to keep our preaching in the context in which the passages are written. That simply means that by preaching through whole books of the Bible we’re spending time on passages and everything that went before and after. We’re seeking to prevent misunderstanding the text by isolating a verse out of its immediate, textual, and biblical context.

5. It shows us clearly how the entire Bible is a witness to the person and work of Jesus Christ. The four gospels are the narrative recounting of God’s incarnational ministry in Jesus, focusing particularly on his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. They are called gospels for good reason, and yet it in a larger sense every book of the Bible is a gospel book. They are all about Jesus, each and every one of them.

6. It forces us to plunge into the depths of hard texts and hard topics. Some parts of the Bible are hard to understand. Some parts of the Bible are easy to understand but hard to accept! Some parts of the Bible just deal in uncomfortably graphic and blunt ways with sensitive topics that we’d like to tiptoe around. There are some parts of the Bible that if left to myself I just might avoid. Preaching through books of the Bible won’t let us do that. It safeguards the preacher from cowardice. It forces us to preach what’s next. Over the last three weeks Toby has preached through one of the most difficult passages in all the Bible, Romans 9:10-24. I’ve told people that his three sermons there have felt like rafting through three class-5 rapids! I’m not very brave. I’m skittish! So preaching through books of the Bible forces me to let God say what God says to his people – all of it, even (and especially) the hard parts.

7. It forces us to recognize that the power of transformation in a believer’s life and in the life of a whole church doesn’t take place over night through the work of one dynamic preacher. It happens slowly, like trees that are shooting up out of the soil, growing into living plants that bear much fruit. Planting a garden is slow. There’s no magic fertilizer that will just automatically turn your vegetable garden into a supermarket. It takes work. It takes patience. It takes time. Preaching through whole books of the Bible keeps us focused on that truth. You will never be grown in Christ simply because you listen to a good preacher. You’ll be grown because a faithful preacher patiently walks into the pulpit each and every week and pours out the life giving Word of God to those who hear.

That’s the type of preaching that we’re committed to. We’re all in. There’s no turning back. We know who we are. We know what we’re called to. In our vainer moments we’re tempted to believe that we’re mighty warhorses for God’s kingdom, fast race horses who speed the message of the gospel forward, mighty steeds of power and beauty that will impress all those who see us. That’s not just wrong; it’s stupid. Preachers, even the best of us, are nothing more than pack mules and work horses, slowly hauling the bread of life to the table of God’s people each and every week. We are the donkey and its foal that patiently carries Christ into the presence of God’s people so that they might glimpse him and shout their hosannas as they lift up palm branches. We are Balaam’s burdened messenger, simply following the command of our creator to stop and speak the words and warnings that we have been given for the sake of our weary rider.

William Carey, the founder of the modern missions movement and the famed Baptist missionary to India in the early nineteenth century endured seven whole years on the mission field before seeing one single convert. He faithfully preached, served, and worked for seven years before he even saw the first evidence of fruit. Carey attributed his perseverance to a single-minded commitment. He wrote, “I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.”

I can plod, and that’s what I intend to do. For as long as God gives me breath I desire to be single-minded in one great endeavor – to preach and teach the “whole counsel of God” as God gives me strength to do so.

The Roman emperor (and architect) Hadrian is famous for building his colossal defensive wall across the width of northern Britain. It’s construction was a mammoth undertaking. It is said that when his builders asked in amazement how Hadrian expected them to erect such a massive and daunting feat of engineering, Hadrian replied, “Brick by brick, my citizens; Brick by brick.”

When you ask how we endeavor to fulfill our God given task to disciple believers, reach the nations, evangelize the lost, and minister to the church, our reply is similar: “Verse by verse, my friends; verse by verse.”

Under His mercy,

Pastor Cade

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Still Their Finest Hour: D-Day 70 Years Later

Jun 5th, 2014 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

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“…honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.” – Philippians 2:29-30

Honor such men.

That’s what Paul wanted for Epaphroditus and the other servants of the church like him. They had risked their lives. Epaphroditus had nearly died on his voyage to reach the Roman quarters where Paul was being held in state custody. Those who had gone above and beyond to meet the needs of others in the service of others were to be honored. Granted, Paul is speaking of a very specific type of service. At its heart the service that Epaphroditus rendered was commendable because it was in the service of him who is infinitely commendable. The risk was taken “for the work of Christ.” That certainly sets his example apart.

And yet it is from verses like these that all of Western Civilization, ascending from a Judeo-Christian heritage, establishes the rightness of honoring those among us who have made sacrifices on behalf of others. We believe deeply that those of us who have received gifts should be grateful to those who have given the gift. We believe firmly that those of us who have been defended and rescued from danger should be thankful to those who have done the defending and who have done the rescuing. We should honor those who have given of themselves in our service, on our behalf, and for our good. As Abraham Lincoln noted in the Gettysburg Address when he gathered with others to honor the memory of the Union dead at the dedication of a national cemetery, “it is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.”

Today we honor those who should be honored. It is fitting and proper to do this.

Just before dawn seventy years ago today, bombs began to fall on German defenses along the English Channel. During the night troops had parachuted into the darkness behind enemy lines, and as the sun began to rise on June 6, 1944 nearly 200,000 allied soldiers charged across a narrow swath of beach into the Normandy region of France, followed by hundreds of thousands of more troops who would push into the interior of the continent for the liberation of Europe. For almost five years (since 1939) all of Europe had fallen under the dark shadow of the Nazi regime as Hitler’s war machine blitzed in every direction, crushing any resistance in its way. It had only slowed as it reached France’s coastline, and from there Hitler stood waiting to launch his much anticipated invasion of Churchill’s Britain.

But that invasion would not come. Britain held fast in the skies over London. Churchill did not surrender. England stared down Hitler. The Royal Air Force defended the British Isles. The all victorious German army did not follow in the steps of the Conqueror. They did not cross the Channel. Instead, their focus was turned to other fronts. They turned their gaze to Russia and Stalingrad. Then in late 1941 the United States entered the war, sweeping across North Africa and up into Mussolini’s underbelly in the Italian mountains.

All this led into the closing weeks of the Spring of 1944 when the war in Europe moved into its final phase. The entire world’s focus once again zoomed onto that small space of sea separating the allies in Britain from Nazi controlled France. The world held its breath, and in that pause Eisenhower, Bradley, Montgomery, and many others opened Operation Overlord. Hitler would be confronted and defeated. Europe would be regained. Those who had lived through the murderous conquest of the Reich’s evil empire would be liberated, and it would all begin on the blood soaked sands of Normandy, a peaceful stretch of shoreline that would be drowned in violence and forever be known by the haunting names of Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword.

Winston Churchill, commenting on the heroic service of the airmen over Britain in 1940, said “never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” Those words apply to those troops who waded ashore into the fires of death seven decades ago.

Amy and I have been married almost five years. In the Fall of 2009 we gathered with friends and family in a beautiful church in Natchez, Mississippi. Several hundred guests joined with us as we made vows of marriage to one another and to God. We love each and every person who attended that service. We are so thankful for all the many gestures of love and support that we received on that special day.

And yet there was one person whose presence at our wedding stood out, at least to us. Bud Roberts, along with his wife Dot, have been longtime friends of our family from Greenwood, Mississippi. He was a U.S. Army Ranger in World War II. He and the other members of his unit scaled the cliffs over Omaha Beach under murderous fire from German machine guns on June 6, 1944 to help secure the heights allowing for reinforcements to follow. He later marched across France, fought at the Battle of the Bulge, and pushed into Germany as the war in Europe came to a close.

Amy and I know that it was because of men like Bud Roberts and the sacrifices they made, the deaths they died, and the lives they gave, that we were allowed the privilege of celebrating a fairytale wedding all these years later. Bud Roberts attended our wedding in 2009. But Bud Roberts, and all the other veterans of D-Day (along with the long line of veterans throughout our history) gave us the gift of our wedding seventy years ago in the early morning hours of a French dawn. Those soldiers paid for our wedding dearly on the shores of Normandy’s beaches with their very lives. They gave us the gift of marriage the moment the doors of those landing vessels opened and they ran into the fire and not away from it.

Again commenting on the RAF’s actions over Britain in 1940, Winston Churchill said:

“The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.

But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, This was their finest hour.”

Seventy years later all of us who live on this side of D-Day look back in thankful wonder. That was the greatest generation indeed. What manner of men were these? Their gift can never be repaid. All we can do is stand in honor and acknowledge their sacrifice. That was their finest hour indeed, and it is our finest hour still.

In awe-filled gratitude,

Cade

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