On the Plains of Moab Blog
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November 3, 2012, 7:09 PM

So Long, Friend

A friend of mine from Orlando passed away on Reformation Day.  His name was Bob.  Good guy.  I am going to miss him.  I regret that I could not be in Orlando today for his funeral service.  So, I did the next best thing.  I e-mailed my own tribute to be shared.  I hope that it was encouraging to the family.

Bob was a member of Woodbury Presbyterian Church.  This is the church where I served for nearly four years as a seminary intern.  I remember that he used to kid me that I was so boring in the pulpit as to be dangerous.  He called me "Dr. Death."  In recent years, he pulled back on that assessment and said that I'd made wonderful progress.

Bob also took note of my strange love affair with the Virginia Tech football program.  He never did actually know what a Hokie was.  I was the only one he'd ever met.  He had great fun with all the ways he could play off the Hokie Pokie.  I remember back in 1999, druing the the National Championship game when the Hokies lost to Florida State, he actually picked up the phone to call me during the second half to rub it in that Tech was going to lose.  Some day, I will forgive him for that indiscretion.

But, I want to tell you, this guy really loved Jesus.  And I loved him.  I want you to know him, too, because I know you would have loved him as well.

Here is my long-distance tribute that I shared today:

My heart is heavy.  Pat and Jamie, I am so sorry.  My prayers and my thoughts have been with you and will stay with you.

To Bob:  In the week before you passed, I had you on my mind.  It was disappointing that in my last two trips to Orlando, I did not get to have that lunch at Sonny’s with you, Bob.  I understood, of course, there were other things going on.  You were in the middle of the fight of your life.

I watched the two YouTube videos that you recorded for the family at Woodbury.  (Here and Here)  The first one, classic you, Bob.  Humor fully intact.  (The singing in the choir thing never gets old!)  Overflowing with the joy of the Lord.  Praising Him for the strength to make it through very difficult days.  Knowing that He loved you even more than you loved Him…and that is saying a lot, ‘cause you really loved Jesus, Bob, and that was so evident.

That second video you made, made from the rehab center in Tampa, will stay with me for good.  I saw your heart breaking, even as you were still so obviously in love with your Lord.  Always, no matter what.  The tear in your eye at the end, I will never forget.  You loved life.  You loved your wife and your daughter and your friends.  You were THE man.  You had so much more to do, to experience.  So much more to give.  Bob, you are still the MAN.

Thanks for your example.  Thanks for your friendship.  Thanks for the laughs.  Thanks for your laugh.  Thanks for the tips to good restaurants.  Thanks for the graciousness.  Thanks for the hospitality.  And…………..Thank you even for the sermon critiques.

By the way, my preaching hasn’t killed anyone yet -- no Eutychus on my résumé to report so far.

Bob, we still need to do lunch.  I am counting on that lunch someday.  I CAN count on that.  You know that very well.  Because.  We will meet again.  Of that, I take a great measure of comfort.  Even on a day like this.  Resurrection is a beautiful word, Bob.  And resurrection belongs to the both of us because of our common love of Jesus.

When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be!  When we all see Jesus, we'll sing and shout the victory!

Well done.  Well done.  Well done.  My friend.

See you sometime.  I’ll pick up the tab.

Much Love,


October 31, 2012, 9:03 AM

Happy Reformation Day!

I know this is Halloween.  Okay.  But it is also an important date in Church history.  Read below for more.

The article (partial) below is posted from the First Things blog (http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2012/10/reformation-day).  


Reformation Day

It was around two o’clock in the afternoon on the eve of the Day of All Saints, October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther, hammer in hand, approached the main north door of the Schlosskirche (Castle Church) in Wittenberg and nailed up his Ninety-Five Theses protesting the abuse of indulgences in the teaching and practice of the church of his day. In remembrance of this event, millions of Christians still celebrate this day as the symbolic beginning of the Protestant Reformation. At Beeson Divinity School, for example, we do not celebrate Halloween on October 31. Instead we have a Reformation party.

But did this event really happen? Erwin Iserloh, a Catholic Reformation scholar, attributed the story of the theses-posting to later myth-making. He pointed to the fact that the story was first told by Philip Melanchthon long after Luther’s death. Other Luther scholars rushed to defend the historicity of the hammer blows of Wittenberg. In fact, the door of the Castle Church did serve as the official university bulletin board and was regularly used for exactly the kind of announcement Luther made when he called for a public disputation on indulgences.

But whether the event happened at two o’clock in the afternoon, or at all, is not the point. Copies of Luther’s theses were soon distributed by humanist scholars all over Europe. Within just a few weeks, an obscure Augustinian monk in a backwater university town had become a household name and was the subject of chatter from Lisbon to Lithuania.

It was not Luther’s intention to divide the Church, much less to start a brand new church. To the end of his life, he considered himself to be a faithful and obedient servant of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. Though Luther renounced his monastic vows and married a former nun, Katarina von Bora, he never forgot that he had received a doctorate in Holy Scripture. His vocation was to teach the written Word of God and to point men and women to the Lord of Scripture, Jesus Christ.

On this Reformation Day, it is good to remember that Martin Luther belongs to the entire Church, not only to Lutherans and Protestants, just as Thomas Aquinas is a treasury of Christian wisdom for faithful believers of all denominations, not simply for Dominicans and Catholics. This point was recognized several years ago by Franz-Josef Bode, the Catholic Bishop of Osnabrück in northern Germany, when he preached on Luther at an ecumenical service. “It’s fascinating,” he said, “just how radically Luther puts God at the center.” 

Luther’s teaching that every human being at every moment of life stands absolutelycoram deo—before God, confronted face-to-face by God—led him to confront the major misunderstanding in the church of his day that grace and forgiveness of sins could be bought and sold like wares in the market. “The focus on Christ, the Bible and the authentic Word are things that we as the Catholic church today can only underline,” Bode said. The bishop’s views have been echoed by many other Catholic theologians since the Second Vatican Council as Luther’s teachings, especially his esteem for the Word of God, has come to be appreciated in a way that would have been unthinkable a century ago.


October 30, 2012, 10:01 AM

Strawmen...er, Straw-Women

I wish I had a dollar for every time I hear or read this challenge:  "You can't take the Bible literally!  I mean, you eat shellfish don't you?  Well, Leviticus says you can't!  You don't have your children put to death because they back-talk you, do you?  Well, Leviticus makes provision for that!"

And on, and on, ad nauseam.

Please.  Stop it.

I've said before, and I'll say again, this is sloppy.  Sometimes it is done to mock Christians who don't know any better.  Worse still, for many, it demonstrates a willful misrepresentation of Scripture in order to score a political or cultural point.

 The latest example of this kind of work is in Rachel Held Evans book,  A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master.”  I have not read the book, (and do not have any plans to do so).  However, I did come across an outstanding review of the book by Kathy Keller.  Kathy is the wife of best-selling author and speaker, Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New Yor City.  Kathy is an outstanding teacher and author in her own right.

The review of Evans' book is a superb primer on hermeneutics (interpreting the Bible).  It is a gracious response to the book.  I do hope and pray that it gains a wide reading.  It is painfully necessary!  I do recommend that you take the time to read the review, line by line, and very carefully.

I can't recommend Evans' book...but do read the review.  Read it! 

Book Review

October 29, 2012, 5:24 PM

Along the Way

This past Sunday, we moved into the "How?" of evangelism.  Why? What? Where? and now How?  Obviously, this question takes up the final; four sermons of the series.  Pretty important!  Yesterday, I preached a sermon called "Along the Way."  The sermon text was from Acts 8.  Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.  Amazing how Philip shared the Gospel as he was heading out of town, to who knows where.  He was used greatly by God.  He shared when he had the opportunity.

I think there are two things that stick out in my mind from yesterday that I want to replay today:

#1  Pretty interesting that two "deacons," Stephen and Philip, were used in such an incredibly evangelistic way.  The application is delicious for the "normal" pew dweller.  I think all of God's people are called to share the Gospel.  I can't walk away from that story without seeing that pretty plainly.  Too often, we get it in our minds that the minister is supposed to do all of the serious work in Kingsom building.  At least the spiritual aspect of it -- and I do need to place that qualification in there!  But, we are all called to Kingdom building!  Two deacons are proof of that, I think.

#2  God uses us as we go about our business, along the way.  Don't freak out trying to think of methods and correct approaches.  Just be yourself.  If you are a growing Christian.  If you are serious about growing in your understadning and grasp of Scripture, then you will be just fine.  Just go with what you know and the circumstances God provides.  But, don't be a chicken; and definitely don't buy into the bunk that you don't have anything worth sharing!

You do!

I don't think it's too early to showcase this unecessarily seasonal portion of Scripture, but notice the joy hear in the message.  Place yourself there...because you can!

in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to [the shepherds], and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  10 And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger."  13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!"  15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." (Luke 2:8-15 ESV).

October 26, 2012, 6:30 AM

'Nuff Said

This will preach!

October 21, 2012, 6:11 PM



Okay, you done did it again.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude to a congregation that has killed me with kindness!  What a blessing today was for me and my family.  You filled the pews and it was a lovely reception afterwards.  So, thank you all!  Your presence was enough for me.

It seems to me that the message today about evangelism beginning within the walls of the sanctuary on Sunday mornings was lived out with passion this morning.  I pray that God is up to something special with this congregation.  I can just sense it coming on.  So, keep it up!

Next week, we will begin to look at the "How?" of evangelism.  First up, Acts 8:26-40 in a sermon that I am calling "Along the Way" with Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch.  It is amazing to see how God sets up certain evangelistic encounters.  Perhaps if we grasp this "along the way" concept, our witness will become so incredibly courageous.  At least, I certainly hope so! 

October 17, 2012, 10:08 AM

Stuff Preachers Think About

From time to time, I like to link to an article that I think provides a little insight into the preaching/teaching task.  Today, I am linking to a blog entry from Mary Nagaeli, a Presbyterian pastor and professor on the west coast who, in this blog entry, is lamenting the near impossibility of teaching the Scriptures in the modern context.  I link to this so that you might know that preachers really do struggle with the task given the unending distractions of modern life.

Is Our Teaching Method Watering Down Our Doctrine?

October 11, 2012, 5:35 PM

For God So Loved...

Just a warm up for this Sunday.  Great song from Jaci Velasquez.  Think about this!


God so loved the world
That he gave his one and only son
That whosoever believes in him
Will not perish but have everlasting life

I try so hard to find the words to say
To let you know how great is this god to whom i pray
Nothing can nor ever will compare
To the peace that flows in your soul when he is living there
Oh I know you've been through so much
It's hard to contemplate letting go and reaching out in trust
But I know the simple truth
That love is here for you
So take him at his word and see what he can do

God so loved the world
That he gave his one and only son
That whosoever believes in him
Will not perish but have everlasting life

The promise is yours and mine
Take hold of this love
For the rest of your life

God so loved the world
That he gave his one and only son
That whosoever believes in him
Will not perish but have everlasting life

But it's time to take a step of faith
Be prepared for Jesus' love to carry you away

Everlasting life
You loved me
God so loved the world
He gave
His one and only son, one and only son
If you just believe
It will set you free
He loves you so much
Just believe


October 9, 2012, 10:29 AM

Evangelism 101


Okay, here then is the road map for the remainder of this now started sermon series.  As always, seven sermons.  As you can see, this series will not center around one particular book of the Bible.  I will be going to various places in the New Testament where evangelism is either explicitly there are not so subtly implied.

Here is how I see these remaining messages coming together:

The first message was an introductory message that answered the question, "Why?"  Why do evangelism?  I shall write more on that now past tense sermon tomorrow.

This Sunday will answer the "What?"  What is the message of evangelism?  What is it all about?

The third sermon in the series will answer a basic question about evangelism:  "Where?"  Where does evangelism begin?  I think you may be surprised with what we will talk about.

Sermons #4-6 will adress "How?"  How do you do evangelism.  This part will take three well-known and well-loved passages and mine them for what they teach us about doing evangelism.

Finally, #7 will be a first for me.  Unpacking the so-called "Romans Road" plan of salvation.  I am calling this the application sermon of the bunch.  Here is one way to communicate the Gospel when you have the opportunity.

Having said that, here is the schedule summary:



#1.  10/07/12  Matthew 28:16-20  The Great Omission


#2.  10/14/12  John 3:14-21  On-Message


#3.  10/21/12  1 Cor. 14:20-25  God is Really Among You!


#4.  10/28/12  Acts 8:26-40  Along the Way

#5.  11/04/12  John 12:20-22  Showing the Way

#6.  11/11/12  1 Peter 3:13-16  Being the Way


#7.  11/18/12  Romans (Various) The Romans' Road

October 8, 2012, 5:11 PM

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