Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Book: Practicing the Power

Back to books! This book was provided by Booklook and this review first appeared at my personal website.

Sam Storms’ newest book, Practicing the Power, takes a look at the activity of the Holy Spirit in Christian believers today. At the outset, a few things should be made clear. 1: Storms is writing for Christians, as such the discussion and interaction in this book is meaningless outside of the family. It’s about family issues—if you’re looking for an overall introduction to Christianity, this does not claim to be one—look onward. 2: Storms comes to different conclusions than I have held regarding how the Holy Spirit works in Christians today.
That being said, let’s take a look at this book.

First, Storms approaches the work of the Holy Spirit from a Bible-driven perspective. That is important to note: though he reaches different conclusions on what the text means from other pastor-author-teachers (e.g. John MacArthur), he is not standing on whipped cream. His argument is based on the text.

That there is a discussion to be had is made crystal clear in how, for example, Storms examines Acts and the prophecies of Agabus related to Paul’s return to Jerusalem. While some would argue that Agabus used symbolism and so was ‘exactly right,’ Storms’ views Agabus as having missed it a little but that his ‘prophecy’ was still accurate. While some explorers of the NT find Agabus as evidence of the last of prophecy, Storms draws the conclusion that Agabus is a template of current prophecy. Therefore, current claims to prophecy should be evaluated like Agabus rather than according to Deuteronomy—that is, if a prophet gets it a bit wrong, as long as they are mostly right it’s acceptable. The Deuteronomistic view would call for execution, though mediated through grace one might simply suggest the so-called prophet just hush.

As a second observation, Storms does spend a fair amount of time refuting his perception of cessationism. Unfortunately, it’s a lopsided debate—he quotes very little from actual sources and runs instead from what he suggests a cessationist might say. It is far easier to rebuff an argument of your own making, and I would like to see a real interaction, based in Scripture, between Storms and a reasonable cessationist (not one who will just push the “heretic” button). I think it would be instructive.

Third, I admit to struggling with the outworking of Storms’ conclusions. The biggest difficulty is his unwillingness to draw any sort of boundary line of ridiculousness which the Holy Spirit would not cross. He invokes moments from recent decades where the Holy Spirit allegedly had whole congregations simply rolling in the floor laughing and only highlights that it would be manipulative to tell jokes to try and get that started rather than examining the question: to what end would the Spirit do this work?

It is here that I struggle with his outcome: without being too rationalistic, the church has long held that God is at work in the world with a purpose and the underlying conclusion here is that we cannot question the purpose of anything. We can only shrug and accept that if someone says it was the Holy Spirit, it must have been—and not understanding how God is going to use the extremities and excesses is no reason to question them. In truth, such questioning apparently reveals a lack of faith.

While this will give me pause in widely distributing Practicing the Power around my local church, it is a good source for the Charismatic point-of-view of the ongoing existence of every spiritual gift. Storms’ focus is on tongues, prophecy, and healing, though he touches on others. If you are a Christian in that part of the family, you will find encouragement and guidance here.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day 2017

I won’t take much time, but I thought would offer this observation:

I’m sitting here doing homework for Advanced German. I’m translating and watching Hitler, particularly his speech at the Sportspalast upon becoming Reichskanzler.

As a speaker, he’s mesmerizing. I can make out some of what he says (I can read it better than hear it) and his use of rhythm, cadence, gestures—it is all remarkable.

Through the hindsight of history, though, I know what comes from his speaking. While he speaks of not lying or swindling (nicht lugen, nicht schwindeln,) he starts his own people on the course to destruction and horror. He sets out the groundwork for destroying all those who do not conform to his image—his efforts killing millions of civilian Jews, Gypsies, and myriad others—all through his words.

And then there are the millions who had to shed their blood to stop that one madman and what he caused.

If you think about it, before then there were the men and women who died that we would have a country at liberty, with the hope of avoiding tyranical governments that would lead us into wars like Hitler led his people into. And the ones who, since then, have died again to protect liberty—at least, as best that could be figured out how.

All we really have are cliches at this point—thank you, freedom isn’t free, and so forth. But they are true even if repetition has made them sound mundane.

Studying history has, at the bare minimum, the power to remind us of the importance of days like Memorial Day. We see the evils that were and are no more—the word “genocide” was created based on some of those evils—and we can celebrate. It gives perspective, and it gives pause.

Freedom is never free—someone has paid the down payment, others continue to pay the installments—and thank you is not enough. So cherish what we have and support those who protect it. Soon enough, more will have to give their lives to make the next payment.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sermon Recap for May 28

Here is what you'll find: after each sermon title, there's an "audio" link that allows you to play or download that sermon's audio file. Then there should be an embedded Youtube Link to the sermon.

If you'd like, you can subscribe to the audio feed here: for iTunes users. Other audio feeds go here:

The video is linked on the East End Baptist Church web page here: or on my personal Youtube Page here:

Good morning! Here is yesterday’s sermon and the video, properly fixed, for last Sunday night. 2 for the price of 1!


May 28: Psalm 73 “What of the Wicked?"


Asaph: Player of CYMBALS!
Temple Era
Hebrew Language


Book 3 of the Psalms
The wicked thrive
The righteous struggle
Does God even notice?
Legitimate Questions!


Justice is on an eternal scale
The catch is that there are no “good” people
God took the ultimate justice


Do not help the wicked prosper
Help the righteous (followers of Jesus)
Help the ones in need
Tell of the works of God!!

May 21 PM Video:


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Review: NLT Breathe Audio New Testament

We’re closing on summer. For some of us, that means plans for hours in the car in travel. While we all love hearing the same 89 songs repeated over and over on the iPod, there might just be better ways to spend some of that time. I would suggest that a good audiobook is one way to pass the highway. Even beter? A great audio Bible.

That’s where the NLT Breathe Audio New Testament comes into play. This is a fully dramatized version of the New Testament drawn from the New Living Translation of the Scriptures. The NLT deserves its own consideration, but briefly, this is an easily-readable Bible translation. You will get the point from it even if you will not quite get the extra-long sentences that Paul actually writes with.

Now, there’s more to an audio Bible than just the translation. This version is a dramatized version, meaning it’s not just one reader. You have voices—not just voices in your head, but voices on your radio. I must admit that having John Rhys-Davies is excellent and difficult: that he does not ad-lib that “asps are very dangerous” when Paul is bitten by the snake in Acts was a bit disappointing. (Not really, but it’s SALLAH FROM INDIANA JONES!!!!) The voices capture the essences of the story and cover the material well.

Further, the dramatized version features a good score and some basic sound effects to create an immersive experience. It’s a good listen.

Now, to the drawbacks: first of all, you’ll have to keep with 18 CDs. That may be challenging and there is an app for that, but that’s a lot of data to be moving. The physical media is fine, but if they had encoded MP3 data most newer car CD units could have played it and it would have taken less space.

Second, at times I found the background scoring and effects difficult to balance in terms of listening. The voices would get softer, appropriately, but then I’d turn it up to hear and lose the balance. If I were listening one-to-one through headphones, I would say it’s not a problem. But in the car, there were some balancing issues with volume needs.

In all, I don’t think those issues are insurmountable and had a pleasant trip listening the Gospel of John and Acts last week. I recommend you throw this in the rotation and bolster your family’s spirit alongside the classic rock marathon you had planned.

(Please note: I was given a copy of this in exchange for the review.)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sermon Recap for May 21

Here is what you'll find: after each sermon title, there's an "audio" link that allows you to play or download that sermon's audio file. Then there should be an embedded Youtube Link to the sermon.

If you'd like, you can subscribe to the audio feed here: for iTunes users. Other audio feeds go here:

The video is linked on the East End Baptist Church web page here: or on my personal Youtube Page here:


I’m a little late because I tried uploading the evening sermon at home. Since I was on AT&T’s so-called “high-speed” service, it took about 20 hours to upload. That puts the sermon blog onto Tuesday instead of Monday.

Sunday Morning audio is here.

Merciful Cleansing!




Nothing is more characteristic of a Christian than mercy.

(John Chrysostom)

Quentin F. Wesselschmidt, ed., Psalms 51–150 (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture OT 8; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 2.

Salvation of Infants

Do we know and recognize our own sin?


Seek Forgiveness

Give Forgiveness

Confront Sin

Don’t commit adultery and murder

Sunday Evening audio is here

Ok, so the video glitched out and I’ll have to try it again tomorrow. From the office cable-speed Internet service.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Sermon Recap for May 14

Here is what you'll find: after each sermon title, there's an "audio" link that allows you to play or download that sermon's audio file. Then there should be an embedded Youtube Link to the sermon.

If you'd like, you can subscribe to the audio feed here: for iTunes users. Other audio feeds go here:

The video is linked on the East End Baptist Church web page here: or on my personal Youtube Page here:


Good evening!

Here is yesterday’s sermon. We took last night out to encourage those blessed to still have their mothers to take the time and be with them. Mother’s Day can be a challenging time, where we want to celebrate the gift that mothers are to most people while being sensitive to those who are not; to encourage rebuilt family relationships while caring for those who have no further contact with their mother. It’s important to not do one without the other—emotional health is a real thing and we need to care.

On to the sermon:

Morning Sermon, May 14: Psalm 25 (Audio)

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Marriage....1 Corinthians 7

In Summary:
Oh boy. Last week, lawsuits. This week, marriage. And singleness. It’s like Paul was deliberately planning to make it hard to blog through 1 Corinthians. Or, perhaps, that the problems in the Corinthian Church were right down the line of where we have troubles today. Marriage and sex are not the only things addressed here. We also see Paul address dealing with being a slave, being circumcised, and being betrothed.

And, of course, this chapter leaves the reader with a challenge regarding how to take Paul’s instructions. After all, verse 25 says that he has “no command” from the Lord. Does that make this an option? Or do we say that Paul can command from the Lord without him realizing it? That is, as he writes Scripture that we recognize is inspired, does it matter if he thought it was a command from God?

Settling that issue takes a lot of ink in commentaries on 1 Corinthians. For our purposes, let us zoom out and consider the whole chapter. Paul’s recommendation on life status, be it marriage or religion or slavery (with the appropriate notice that Roman slavery was quite different than modern slavery,) is that we prioritize our relationship with Christ over all else. Our focus is to be obedient to Jesus and let the rest work itself out in due time.

In Focus:
Turning to 1 Corinthians 7:17 as a focal point for this chapter, let us move forward with this idea. Paul says that each person should walk in the way they were when they were called, or saved. This summary is then applied to religious heritage, taking note of circumcision and Jewish heritage. Paul reminds the Corinthians that, honestly, they could not choose whether or not they were circumcised, so why stress about it now? 

The same principle is applied to slavery. Now, here again, we need to take note that most of the Roman world’s slavery was quite different than modern-day slavery (or the “Enlightenment Era” slavery we see in history books, either). It was common and slaves did, generally, have some rights and protections. Even so, Paul notes that slaves should take the opportunity for freedom if it was there. But if not, then to focus on serving the Lord. Again, many who were slaves did not have the choice.

By extension, we can connect this to the marriage discussion. The ancient world did not, usually, pick spouses for love and fun. Parents made choices for their children, and that was that. So, for those who were caught in the obligations of their families and society, Paul presents this: go ahead and marry, because you have bigger issues in glorifying God in all of life. But, if you want a different direction and can handle the strain, then set aside those obligations and walk with Christ.

In Practice:
Well, practically, a few basic ideas come through.

First, you cannot do anything about what you once were. Your birth, your heritage, your nationality, all of these were beyond your choices. There were also choices that you made up until now. You cannot change those. So deal with them and build from them. If God’s grace is enough (and it is….), then pick up and move forward.

Second, do not try to be what you are not—serve God as you are, not as that “other” person. Let me sound racist for a moment: I cannot identify with the experience of being an African-American in America. I’m a white guy. A Southern white guy. While the greatest factor in my identity is who Jesus is making me, I cannot escape being a white guy who grew up watching the Dukes of Hazard and still loves that TV show. (Don’t ask about the movie aberration.) While I can be open and welcoming, I do no one any good by faking myself as anything but what I actually am. The kingdom of God is served well by the unity of diverse peoples, not by homogeny and blandness.

Third, recognize marriage for what it is: a valuable relationship intended to help one another grow in Christ. I need my wife—not just for the “rights” mentioned in 1 Corinthians 7:3 (though that is a vital part of marriage)—but for the mutual help and support inherent in our partnership. Marriage should be entered with our walk with Christ in view, but it is not absolutely necessary for it. Your marriage can be the way God works in the life of an unsaved spouse and children—but you should be very hesitant to enter a marriage for that purpose.

In Nerdiness:
I’ll give you the traditional Baptist view of 1 Corinthians 7:12-16, which I leaned toward above. It is not that the presence of Christian family member saves, but that the believer may just influence the lost to salvation.

Further, there are some other arguments to be had from here: does 1 Corinthians 7:7 mean Paul was unmarried? For a religious leader of Israel, a Hebrew of Hebrews, a Pharisee, he would have been in the minority to be unmarried. But maybe so….

Should we marry? I think we should—but it is always with the Kingdom of God in mind.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Sermon Recap for May 7

Here is what you'll find: after each sermon title, there's an "audio" link that allows you to play or download that sermon's audio file. Then there should be an embedded Youtube Link to the sermon.

If you'd like, you can subscribe to the audio feed here: for iTunes users. Other audio feeds go here:

The video is linked on the East End Baptist Church web page here: or on my personal Youtube Page here:


Sunday AM, May 7: Psalm 14 (audio)

Sunday PM, May 14:

I had hoped to give you two options, but I can’t find where the crew recorded Walter Wills’ preaching Sunday night here at East End Baptist.

So, you get my message from the conference on parenting, which is here.

I’ll get Walter’s message uplinked when I have it.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


I might get in trouble for this, because my wife is in the planner business. (Seriously, she works at and makes planners.) But I think I’m overplannered.

Not overplanned. But I sit here, and I’ve got a great big calendar on the wall, two different apps on the Mac, an Android phone, a smart watch, and 4 different paper planners. All of which use different systems. In other words, I’ve got too much stuff to have any idea what’s going on in my world.

So, as an observation: you need a system of keeping yourself organized. That much is absolutely true. But you don’t need two systems. It’s like the old proverb that a man with one watch knows what time it is, but the man with two has no idea. The man with 4 calendars doesn’t know where he was supposed to be last Tuesday.

This is my thought: get a system and use it. Stick with it. I need a calendar/planner for events and my week flow guide. I’ll develop the latter a bit more in another post. But don’t chase every “awesome” planner. Find one you can use and work it.

Because working a plan is more important than planning a plan and replanning a plan.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Out-of-Court: 1 Corinthians 6

In Summary:
I’ve struggled with sitting down to deal with 1 Corinthians 6. At present, there is a lawsuit pending against one of the mission boards of my denomination, and my first thought was that I would appear to be aiming specifically at that issue. Then it dawned on me: if we reserve speaking of challenging Scripture points for the times when they do not appear immediately relevant, what good are those points in Scripture? None at all. But this is like being a series preacher: I didn't pick the topic. It's just time for this text.

We continue on through 1 Corinthians, hitting chapter 6. This chapter addresses two major themes. The first is lawsuits and court challenges among believers. The second is sexual immorality and our responsibility about it. Given that the true Author of Scripture is the Lord God Almighty, it should not be a surprise that we continue to deal with both of these issues.

First, let us deal with the second issue. Paul reminds the Corinthians that forgiveness does not grant a license to do whatever they want. Just like the stomach is for food, but not all food is healthy, so every behavior that you can do does not equal a behavior that you should do. He specifically highlights participation in prostitution, though the wider contrast is important: if you are joined to the Lord Jesus, then you ought to glorify God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:20). It is in this passage that we find the oft-repeated “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” reference (sometimes poorly shortened to the body being a temple). Kept in context, that verse reminds us of keeping pure in heart as a temple is kept pure for its god. With the testimony of all Scripture, this is part of how we know that church buildings are helpful but optional—though gathering with the church is not!

Second, let us look at the lawsuit section. The opening 11 verses of this chapter address the church at Corinth over going to court (literally, “law”) with another. This tells us that we are not looking at victims of crime but at disputes between individuals. It is not likely that these were in-church arguments, as the church in Corinth was still somewhat on the margins of society. That is possible.

In Focus:
Paul tells the Corinthians, though, that it is not just a bad idea to use a secular court to solve their problems, it is shameful (v. 5) for Christians to ask the unrighteous to settle their disputes. It is bad enough (v. 7) to have disputes, but to ask the wicked to handle them? That is even worse.

Paul goes so far as to highlight that it is better to be wronged and cheated than to do this! He then segues, neatly, to a  reminder of the fact that all of them were some kind of sinner before they became believers. And since they are all now justified by grace, they should show that more to one another.
In Practice:
Before we go further, we need to take an important note: Paul is not speaking of criminal actions. I have seen hints of pastors and churches attempting to suppress people who were victims of crime by appealing to this passage. I would suggest that neither Paul nor the Holy Spirit authored this passage with the intent that victims of sexual assault should let church boards determine if it really happened and what to do about it. In the modern American system, I would suggest this relates to the civil side of law rather than the criminal—if someone has committed a crime, then 1 Corinthians 6 is not a passage that is germane to the situation. When we see criminal actions slide into civil court, it gets a bit grayer, but there is still a justification to consider the court. If you are the victim of a crime, then utilize all the resources of the criminal justice system.

This passage, practically, reminds us of a critical reality: be careful who you ask to judge your issues. After all, you are submitting to their rules, their mindsets, their priorities. If our priority is to live like Jesus, then we should be working through our own disputes and seeking God-honoring people to help us with them. Specifically, why do we use the courts to settle when we think our fellow believers have done us some wrong? Consider the damage to our testimony of Christ.

I have seen (and won’t spend the time tracking down, though I should) lawsuits about who votes in church business meetings. Lawsuits attempting to fire or restore a pastor. Lawsuits over all sorts of trifling nonsense among believers. You know what good they do? None.

And taking a look back at 1 Corinthians 6:7, realize this: just because you are right does not mean your lawsuit is right. Paul asks why it is not better to be wronged than to bring shame on the body of Christ. It’s a valid question. It even applies to churches: sure, you terminated that person properly, but are the resources not better spent doing things other than defending the claims? Why not pay it off and let it go? 

It hurts. It’s not pleasant. But God Himself said that He would equalize matters: vengeance is His, after all. (Romans 12:9) Trust God to make you whole.

In Nerdiness:

What does it look like for the church to deal with these matters themselves? I don’t know for certain. I do know this: such a structure would need to envision the fallibility of all of us. There would need to be wisdom and prudence in who, how, and when such systems were used. And always stuffed with grace. That’s a great detail concept for some graduate student somewhere.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Sermon Recap for April 30

Good evening! Here are the sermons from yesterday. There was a glitch with the file for the video on Sunday night. Remember that you can click on the audio link to listen or download.

Morning Sermon: Psalm 5 (audio here)


Evening Sermon: 1 John 5 (audio)

Thanks for watching!

Sermon from May 19 2024

 Good morning! Yesterday we talked about Simon Magus. Didn't actually hit on the sin of simony, because we don't really see it that ...