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GPS – Trials on the Road

GPS – Trials on the Road

by Rick Shrader

We have been dealing with our walk with God and the junctions in the road. On this road there are many things including blessings, answers to prayer, changes in direction. One of the most difficult things to understand and deal with is a trial that God brings into our The Bible is full of examples and admonitions concerning trials. The earliest of these in the biblical text is the trial of Job. Job probably lived in the days of the Patriarchs and the book of Job could be the first inspired book in the Bible. In the midst of his trials, Job gives us one of the most oft quoted passages about trials: “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). These three statements are encouragement to us.

He knows the way that I take. We serve an omniscient God Whose knowledge is beyond our comprehension. “Who hath known the mind of the Lord?” (Rom 11:34). Yet God, while seeing every movement of His creation, takes special interest in the lives of His people. Jesus told us that God sees every sparrow that falls, every flower of the field that grows, and that He knows the number of hairs on every head of every person in the world (some of us are of less trouble to Him than others)! In addition, God hears every prayer of every believer in the world at any given time, even if those prayers are mere thoughts (He declares our every thought, Amos 4:13). I am reminding us that this same God sees every detail of the trial you are going through right now. It is popular today to be amazed at AI (artificial intelligence—and it is humanly amazing I guess). But I choose rather to trust in EI (“Now unto the King Eternal, Immortal, Invisible, the only wise God”!! 1 Tim 1:17). Be assured with Job from centuries past, He knows the way you take.

When He has tried me. Not only does God know our path, He has built into that path lessons to make us more wise and holy. “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (Jas 1:2-3). Though our parents chastened us, “He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness” (Heb 12:10). He knew this trial was coming when He created the world and then put you in it! Remember the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before us (Heb 11), including patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and those in the church. Though we have an enemy who would “sift us as wheat,” our Lord prays for us! He makes intercession for us in heaven, constantly, faithfully, lovingly. Perhaps your trial at this time (and there are numerous kinds in every life) is health, or finances, or family problems, or moral failure, or just not having enough time to do things. Cast your cares on the One Who cares for you! “Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (1 Pet 4:19).

I shall come forth as gold. Job knew that he would come through his trial in the proper way because God was overseeing the whole process. We need to have the end in sight, whether it is a temporary struggle of this life or the Bema Seat itself where we will find our gold, silver, and precious stones. I have always found comfort in the thought that there will be an end to the present situation, and when that end comes I will be thanking God and rejoicing at what He has taught me. Job saw it and responded well. “And the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends . . . The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning” (42:12-12).


Further Thoughts on Trials from Job and Others.

The writer of Hebrews said, “And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets . . . And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us” (Heb 11:32, 39-40). David was faithful in keeping his head when Saul and Absolom were losing theirs; Joseph was also faithful though his own brothers betrayed him; Daniel was taken from his home which he would never see again only to become the second highest official in Babylon; Peter failed his Lord in a crisis time but was later restored and was used to opened the gospel door to the gentiles.

Job’s trial is more accessible because we have the full story in a single volume. We are even taken behind the scenes at the very beginning to see God praising Job to Satan and Satan accusing Job to God. It reminds us that Satan is the accuser of the brethren and that more happens behind the curtain of this present world than we can see. It is amazing (or is it troubling?) what God allowed Satan to do to a blameless and upright man who feared God and shunned evil! Though we wrestle against principalities and powers from the darkness of this world, we hardly ever see the extent of it. What heavenly creatures may be watching the outcome of our struggles?

We know that Job’s friends were of no comfort or help. “Miserable comforters are you all” he said to them (16:2). In the end God warned these “friends” to repent and do right or His judgment would come upon them. Job prayed for them. That act of forgiveness did not replace their need to repent before God, but it reminds us that we should not allow the offenses of others to affect us and burden our souls for years to come. Our forgiveness should always be open and as ready as our Lord to respond. Job’s wife (it’s a good thing we don’t know her name) was also no real comforter. “Do you still hold to your integrity? Curse God and die!” Job’s classic response was, “Shall we not accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (2:9-10). I have seen that the most difficult trials to face are those one faces alone because loved ones will not share the load. This makes the trial harder and creates even more burdens.

Job’s responses to his trial remind us that though we lose heart for a moment, we do not need to be overcome by the hardship. In his first reply, Job wished he had never been born (chapter 3). But this is to blame God for failing in our life to sustain His purpose. The feeling may tempt us, but we know better. Job also groaned over the depth of God’s allowances. “For the arrows of the Almighty are within me; my spirit drinks in their poison; the terrors of God are arrayed against me” (6:4). It is always tempting to ask why God is doing what He is doing. Solomon would later say, “In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: surely God has appointed the one as well as the other” (Ecc 7:14). In fact, Solomon will remind us, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting . . . And sorrow is better than laughter . . . The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth” (7:2-4). What do we learn by laughter? But look what we learn at a funeral.

Job also was tempted to be quiet before God and not speak to Him at all (9:1-4). No one can say anything to God that He doesn’t already know and for which He doesn’t already have an answer. Still, we are to pour out our souls to God in the time of our trouble. Job even begged God to speak to him when He seemed so silent (chapter 13). No doubt there are those times when our prayers don’t seem to go past the ceiling. Job even longed for the good days before his trouble came upon him (chapter 29). That sort of feeling sorry for ourselves and looking for happier times can discourage us even more. We should look to the end, when we will praise God for His goodness. Job’s most amazing verses are 19:25-27, “For I know that my Redeemer lives!” In the end Job’s faith sustained him. He did see the end from the beginning and knew that “in my flesh I shall see God.” Even if this trial brings me to an early end, to be absent from the body and present with the Lord is far better.

“This principle likewise moderates that inordinate fear and sorrow to which we are liable upon the prospect or the occurrence of great trials, for which there is a sure support and resource provided in the all-sufficiency of infinite goodness and grace.  What a privilege is this, to possess God in all things while we have them, and all things in God when they are taken from us!” 

John Newton, Letters of John Newton, p. 137.



GPS – When You Took the Wrong Road

GPS – When You Took the Wrong Road

by Rick Shrader


In February I wrote about the junctions in life’s road. Life is full of those decision times when we must choose to go one way or the other. We have the Holy Spirit and the Word of God to guide us, but many times we decide to go a way that seems best to us and we make an unwise choice. Those choices may last a short time or they may affect the rest of our lives. How do we handle these unwise choices?

It is never too late to do right. We all start life on the wrong road. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one, to his own way” (Isa 53:6). As soon as we realized the broad road leads to destruction and that God has provided the right, howbeit narrow road, we turned to Him from idols to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. Conviction, repentance, and trust in Christ moved us from the wrong to the right path. That is basically the formula that we use in all the lesser changes in life. We must realize from God’s Word that we made a mistake, let godly sorrow work repentance, then go in the right direction from that point.

The junction in the road where we made the poor choice is long behind us now and we can’t go back to that time. We have to look ahead to that opportunity God gives to turn in the better direction. We ought to say, “If the Lord wills we shall live and do this or that. . . Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (Jas 4:15, 17). There is another junction in the road up ahead and this time we will trust the Lord’s direction. “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Prov 3:6).

1) Is it a bad moral choice you made or are making? Do you know that such a thing is sin before God? These wrong choices can be corrected immediately. “Godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation, not to be regretted” (2 Cor 7:10). “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). Your bad choice may be an offense to a brother or sister in Christ. This may not seem so burdensome as the moral sin, but it is a sin nonetheless. “Leave your gift before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother” (Matt 5:24). These wrong choices, whether morally corrupt or simply offensive, can and ought to be remedied quickly. It is never too late to do right.

2) Some decisions have longer effects and cannot always be totally reconciled, at least not quickly. A choice of occupation may have come to a dead end or placed you in a compromising position. It may take time to prepare yourself for another profession. Perhaps you realize that you were not the best parent to your young children and they are older now and not prepared as they should be for life. You can still be a good parent. Read Proverbs often and ask the Lord to give you godly wisdom for each situation.

3) Some decisions we live with all our lives but make the best of them by God’s grace. A child out of wedlock, finding yourself married to a person you thought was a believer but is not, or that marriage ending in divorce. Sometimes the church you have known all your life or for many years is no longer following God’s Word and you are forced to make a change you did not want to have to make. Sometimes it will be God’s will to remain in a difficult situation such as staying with a lost spouse if that person is pleased to dwell with you (1 Cor 7:13). You can still have a godly effect on your adult child though he has not yet surrendered to God. You are still the parent God has given him. Above all, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Pet 5:6-7).

“No human hand has ever drawn an absolutely straight line.  That is the ideal of the mathematician, but all ours are crooked.  But we may indefinitely diminish the magnitude of the curves.”  Alexander Maclaren, The Acts, 159.

Further Thoughts on the Wrong Road from the Life of John Mark

John Mark made a bad decision early in his ministry with Paul and Barnabas. “Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem” (Acts 13:13), “returned” is from the ordinary word meaning to leave. John Mark was a Judean and Jerusalem was his home. Compared to the rural countryside of Pamphylia, John was a city boy. Even in the company of uncle Barnabas and the apostle Paul, he felt very uncomfortable when they landed on the Galatian continent. The very place is called Attalia in Acts 14:25. Today it is called Antalya, a very pretty vacation spot. It was not so pretty to John Mark.

John (sometimes called John, sometimes Mark, or “John called Mark” in 15:37) had a privileged youth to this point. He was probably the young man who followed Jesus and the disciples to the garden of Gethsemane and then fled from the soldiers (recorded only in Mark 14:51) and it is also possible that the last supper was eaten in his parents’ house. His later stature as a Bible writer and traveler testifies to his familiarity to all the believers.

There have been various views as to why John returned home rather than go on with Paul and Barnabas. Fear, of course, would be one of them. This area, after all, is where Paul will be stoned and left for dead. Perhaps he was homesick on this first missionary journey away from home. We’ve all felt that during our first year at college or when we moved away from home. Many feel John could have been jealous for uncle Barnabas (the word is “cousin” or “kin”) because during this trip Barnabas, who is always named first to this point, now takes a back seat to Paul. It is Barnabas who later defends Mark to Paul. Regardless (and Luke sees no reason to explain it further), John Mark made a decision that will impact his life and ministry for a great while to come. He probably had many sleepless nights thinking over his decision.

The issue is taken up in Acts15:36-41 when Barnabas wants to take John Mark with them on a second journey but Paul will have none of it. Barnabas was “determined” (from bouleuō, to be resolute) to take John but Paul did not think it was good, (he insisted mē axioō, it was unfit) and that John must not go because he “departed” (here the word is from apostasia) and basically quit. Now we see that John Mark’s bad decision is causing division among other brethren. This is always the case that our unwise decisions affect many others for a good while to come. Aren’t we glad that all of our decisions aren’t written in the Bible as Mark’s was for all to see! Yet they are known and accounted for by God.

Luke records that the “contention became so sharp that they [Paul and Barnabas] parted from one another.” This division will last for the rest of their lives in a physical way, though Paul and Barnabas, as adults should, will patch things up spiritually between themselves. Paul will mention Barnabas positively five times in his epistles, three time in Galatians. This present contention will also affect Silas and Judas, Timothy, Luke, and Titus, as well as the churches where he could have ministered. It is amazing how many others we affect in our lives by the decisions we make, whether good or bad or just unwise.

The good news is that the life and ministry of John Mark was far from over. Though Paul “chose” Silas (who will appear only in the second journey of Paul), Barnabas “took” Mark and returned to Cyprus, his home territory (Acts 15:39; 4:36). Tradition has it that Mark will later travel with Peter (1 Peter 5:13) but most of all that God will use Mark to write the second gospel. This is a testimony that it is never too late to do right. “The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin (Exod 34:7).

On another side, it is also disputed whether Barnabas responded properly toward Mark or whether Paul did. Barnabas seems more loving and forgiving and that is natural for those with closer family ties. On the other hand, Paul seems to be more practical and more consistent with his principles. Sometimes it takes both kinds of friends to set us on the right path again. Sometimes we ourselves can be too soft on those who need correction, and at other times we can be too severe and unforgiving toward those who have hurt us. As we have seen, in the end God will bring us all together if we have a heart for His heart. In Col 4:10, John Mark is with Paul during his first Roman imprisonment. Later, in 2 Tim 4:11 in the Mamertine prison, Paul asks Timothy to “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.” How that must have stirred Mark’s heart. Let us do that quickly with our wounded and discouraged brethren, God has done it long before.


GPS – Walking as Strangers and Pilgrims

GPS – Walking as Strangers and Pilgrims

by Rick Shrader

The apostle Peter wrote to the “pilgrims of the Dispersion [diaspora] in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1). James also addressed his readers as “the twelve tribes scattered abroad” (literally, “of the diaspora”). Peter especially designates these Jews as Christian believers or “elect” (vs 2). Diaspora means a scattering of the “spora” or seed. These believers had been sown among these provinces throughout Asia Minor.

In 2:11 Peter calls them both “sojourners and pilgrims.” Sojourner (para+oikos) means “without a house.” Pilgrim (para+dēmos) means “without a people.” These terms in the New Testament are used to describe the Jews who have been scattered throughout their history and also of the Christians of the first century. Paul says to the Ephesian believers, “You are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph 2:19). D. Edmond Hiebert described them as “sojourners in an alien land, dispersed and far removed from their homeland. However, they were assured of their future in-gathering to their heavenly home.”

The Jewish people have always felt this estrangement as a people on the earth. Unfortunately, we are seeing that age-old antipathy toward them expressed in hateful racism today. But we as Christian believers in Jesus Christ will also experience a similar thing, as John wrote, “In the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ . . . for the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev 1:9). Christians are people with a foot in two worlds. Yes, we have to live here for now as the old song said, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through,” but our real citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20). We do not have a home in this world nor a people. Our spiritual family are all strangers and pilgrims as well. “For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland . . . that is, a heavenly country” (Heb 11:14, 16).

In an epistle to Diognetus, early in the second century AD, a believer named Mathetes wrote about Christians, “Every foreign land is their home, and every home a foreign land. . . They find themselves in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh. They spend their days on earth, but hold a citizenship in heaven.” Is this the way twenty-first century Christians live today, or have we lost that perspective of our true citizenship? Jesus said, where our treasure is, that is where our heart will be also (Matt 6:21).

In Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian and Faithful are passing through the town of Vanity Fair, so named because the vanity was non-stop, 24 hours a day. There they found themselves in a strange environment and odd-looking to the residents. “They wondered at their apparel, so they did likewise at their speech, for few could understand what they said. They naturally spoke the language of Canaan, but they that kept the fair were the men of this world. So they seemed barbarians each to the other.” Christian and Faithful were beaten and jailed but the townspeople still created a riot over their presence which was blamed upon the two themselves, and they were run out of town.

It is easy to be more concerned with what the world thinks of us than what our Savior thinks. James wrote, “Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (Jas 4:4). This should concern us greatly in the day in which we live and walk with the Lord. John wrote about false prophets, “They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us” (1 John 4:5-6). You really don’t have to work at displeasing the world. All you have to do is work hard at pleasing the Lord and the world will by itself be displeased. A lost and dying world needs the godly believer, if for nothing else than a convicting testimony of God’s grace.


Further Thoughts on Strangers and   Pilgrims from Hebrews 10:25

“Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb 10:24-25).

Strangers and pilgrims (Christians) gather together in church. This has been the pattern since the Sunday night of resurrection and has continued for over two thousand years. Unbelievers have always been welcomed, sought in fact, to come and observe what Christians do in this strange gathering. However, the local gathering is designed for those who are basically strangers and pilgrims to the rest of the world. This great verse contains four actions that motivate these believers to gather together.

Forsaking. This first action is put in the negative as a warning and a contrast to the previous verse. How can we stir one another up to love and good works if we forsake the gathering? One of the major reasons for being in church is to communicate verbally with others who need encouragement. This word is used in very serious ways in the New Testament. Jesus cried to the Father on the cross, “Why have you forsaken me.” Paul mourned that Demas had forsaken him, “having loved this present world.” In the warnings that follow verse 25, those who are not part of the assembly “willfully” do not receive these truths. But the writer notes that we should not be surprised because this is the “manner” of some. The word ethos (ēthōs, as we say it) refers to the culture of the world of which church attendance is usually not a part.

Assembling. The assembly of the local church is a familiar word to believers. Usually the word would be “ekklesia,” but here is one of the few uses of the word “sunagogē,” usually translated as synagogue. We have it also in Jas 2:1 referring to the congregation of believers. 2 Thes 2:1 uses it referring to the raptured saints who will be “gathered together” in the clouds with the Lord. So whether we say “assembly” or “congregation,” we know what it means.

The Christian church is not a synagogue nor is Sunday a Sabbath day. In America we have always been glad that Saturday and Sunday have been the weekend, when one can choose to worship on either day without work obligations. Christians gather on Sunday because that is the day churches in the New Testament gathered. “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread” (Acts 20:7). John gave it the title, “the Lord’s Day” (Rev 1:10). Sunday, of course, is the day of the Lord’s resurrection and we are believers in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord. We do the business of the church on this day. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). We could rightly add to that singing, receiving offerings, and even eating common meals.

Exhorting. Parakaleō is a familiar Greek word meaning to come or call beside. It can mean to comfort or to encourage. It is difficult to come along beside someone from an invisible distance. In verse 24 we read the words “stir up” or “provoke.” We get our English word paroxysm from the Greek word. A connotation would be a convulsion or seizure. Stirring up and exhorting results in a person being moved to right action. This is often done by the preaching of the Word but could happen in other ways in the assembly. An encouraging word or an explanation of a truth may be just the thing a struggling believer needs at that moment. In verses 22, 23, and 24 the writer used a soft command, “let us,” to strengthen individuals, encourage better witnessing, and to consider one another’s needs.

Approaching. The local church is essential because the “Day” is approaching. That is the second coming of Jesus Christ, and to believers that means the rapture of the church. “Approaching” (engizō) is variously translated in verses that describe the imminent coming of Christ. “The night is far spent, the day is at hand” (Rom 13:12); “The coming of the Lord draws near” (Jas 5:8); “The end of all things is at hand” (1 Pet 4:7). Therefore we should assemble “so much more.”

Statistics abound that show American church attendance going down each year. I think that church attendance among conservative Baptists may also have gone down over the last few years. Was it just covid? Was it just the ease of sitting at home and watching online services? The biblical admonition as we see the apostasy of the age is not to run from the assembly but to run to it even more. We don’t need fewer services during the week, we need more, or at least we should not do away with the ones we have. Assembling together is not a mere legalism, and it is more than just the command. It is a dire necessity for believers as we approach the end of the age.



GPS – Walking as Mere Men

GPS – Walking as Mere Men

by Admin


The apostle Paul described the Corinthian believers as those who were “behaving like mere men” (1 Cor. 3:3).  We have been thinking about the Christian walk and the word “behaving” is the normal word for “walking” (peripateo means “to walk around”_.  How was it that they walked as “mere” men?  We are told that they walked carnally.  Four times in four verses (3:1-4_ Paul described the Corinthian believers with the word “carnal.”  It becomes immediately obvious that true believers in Jesus Christ, though being spiritual and having the Holy Spirit, can also behave carnally.  Carnal is the English word for “flesh.”  That word appears over 150 times in the New Testament referring to the physical body, human works, the old nature, the works of our hands, and things we do when we give in to our old nature.  When referring to this last usage, “flesh” is translated “fleshly” or “carnal” in five specific passages in five ways.

Sold under sin (Rom 7:14, “I am carnal, sold under sin”). Paul had come to realize the devastating nature of sin that remains in the believer. Though that nature has been rendered powerless by justification (6:6), it still roams the halls of our hearts barking out orders. In order to be successful in the Christian walk the believer must know the difference between the voice of the new nature and that of the old. The remainder of Romans 7 is a unique description of how the new and old natures fight within the believer.

Fed with milk (1 Cor 3:1-4, “I fed you with milk and not with solid food”). Though Paul desired to feed the believers with the meat of the Word, their carnality only allowed them to take milk. Even Bible study is severely limited in its effects when the mind is set on carnality (see Heb 5:12-14). In a carnal condition the believer hears good words, even the meat of the Word, but makes bad decisions. Peter will say, “add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge” (2 Pet 1:5). Virtue, or spirituality, must always be the priority in a believer’s walk.

Fleshly wisdom (2 Cor 1:12, “not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God”). There is much fleshly wisdom in the world but it is a wisdom that does not know God (1 Cor 1:21). Worldly wisdom may make one famous, or rich, or popular, and even religious. The believer has wisdom available that comes through the grace of God. James says the wisdom from above is pure and peaceable and is sown in peace of them that make peace (Jas 3:17-18).

Fleshly mind (Col 2:18, “vainly puffed up in his fleshly mind”). Similar to fleshly wisdom, a fleshly mind wanders away after false humility, even into a worshiping of angels and other pseudo-religious things and is “vainly” puffed up, that is, empty-headed though it appears to be full. The old nature puffs us up but the new nature builds others up (1 Cor 8:1).

Fleshly lusts (1 Pet 2:11, “fleshly lusts which war against the soul”). Many naïve Christians have thought they could safely play with temptation of the flesh only to find destruction of the flesh. We must see the fleshly temptation of the world as a war waged for our destruction. We have “weapons of warfare” (2 Cor 10:4-6) that can make us victorious in the battle if we will only use them. The “members” of our bodies are either weapons that enslave us or that give us victory (Rom 6:13).

Richard Baxter: “A heart in heaven is the highest excellence of Christian temper. As the noblest of creatures, so the noblest of Christians are they whose faces are set most direct for heaven.”

~ The Saints’ Everlasting Rest, p. 259.

Further Thoughts on Carnality from 1 Corinthians Chapter 3

Paul continued his discourse on carnality (1 Cor 3:1-4) through the remainder of chapter 3. This chapter is best known for the description of the Bema Seat of Christ, especially verses 12-15. The Bema Seat (“Judgment Seat”) of Christ will take place immediately after the church is raptured, just before the tribulation period begins (see Rev 4:4, 10 for the rewards already given and the casting of the crowns before the throne).
Reference to the Bema Seat is important because our spirituality or carnality now will determine our reward or loss of reward then. Of interest in chapter 3 is the reference to believers as “every man,” “no man,” and “any man.” These descriptives show how the believer’s walk will affect the rewards which he will receive at the Bema Seat.

Note: I’m using the KJV for English consistency which translates ekastos (“each one separately”) as “every man;” oudeis & mēdeis (“none, no one”) as “no man;” and ei tis (“anyone, whoever”) as “any man.”

Every man (i.e., every believer will experience this: 5, 8, 10, 13). God gave the gospel to every believer (5). Every believer will receive the result of his own work and not for anyone else’s work (8). The believer’s work must be based on the foundation of Christ for it to have eternal value (10). Every believer’s work, spiritual or carnal, will be evaluated at the Bema Seat of what sort it is (13).

No man (i.e., no believer should do this: 11, 18, 21). Many have tried to please God by building on a foundation other than Christ but there is no other such foundation (11). We deceive ourselves when we seek to be wise in the worldly sense. It is better to be a fool in the world’s eyes and truly wise in God’s eyes (18). Therefore, Paul says, no man should glory in men because God has given believers everything (21).

Any man (i.e., all believers may do this: 12, 14, 15, 17, 18). The reference to “any man” is a reference to the ability of a believer to choose the good or bad. A believer can chose to build his Christian life with gold, silver, and precious stones, or he can chose wood, hay, and stubble. These represent good works or carnal works (12). The fire of God’s Bema Seat will try our works. If any man’s work abides the fire, he shall receive a reward (14). By the same token, if any man’s work is burned up by the fire, he will suffer a loss of reward (15). Paul calls our body the temple of the Holy Spirit. Any man who defiles this temple will be destroyed. “Defile” and “destroy” are the same Greek words meaning “to ruin” (17). In light of this, any believer has freedom to choose to be a fool or to be wise. Paul encourages the believer to be a fool in this world that he may be wise before God (18).

The subject of spirituality and carnality, rewards and loss of rewards, must also include a final factor. The subjects in these include all believers. Paul is not talking about lost and saved but about Christians who can choose to be spiritual or carnal. This truth is brought home in four verses.

Saved so as by fire (15). The man who loses reward due to carnality will not lose his salvation. This is similar to the carnal man in chapter 5 whose carnality caused the destruction of his flesh but his spirit was saved (5:5).

The temple of the Holy Spirit (16). The Holy Spirit lives within every believer whether he is living as carnal or spiritual. Sadly, the carnal believer appears to be the same as a lost person though he is not. The Holy Spirit will never leave the believer.

All things are yours (21, 22). All believers will inherit all things in the kingdom of God. Yes, a loss of reward will mean a loss in places of leadership, but not a loss of salvation, eternal life, or presiding as the bride of Christ in His kingdom.

You are Christ’s and Christ is God’s (23). Paul said we are dead, and our life is hid with Christ in God (Col 3:3). Nothing can be more secure than to have the Holy Spirit in you, while you are in Christ, and while Christ is in God. “No man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one” (John 10:29-30).

Not Now—Momentarily!

There is a contemporary view which says that believers are reigning “already—not yet” in the kingdom of God i.e., the kingdom of God is already here in a spiritual way but it will come in a physical way later. Rather, in 1 Corinthians 4, Paul was scolding the Corinthians when he wrote, “You are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us—and indeed I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you!” (1 Cor 4:8). Then we will judge angels (6:3). So, if Christ is “not now” reigning, when will He reign? Paul says, “Momentarily!” “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (15:52).


GPS – Providence and Decision Making

GPS – Providence and Decision Making

by Rick Shrader


When we are walking on life’s road and navigating the junctions and choices in life, we need to remember that we are not alone. Though we have many companions and counselors helping us make the right turns, as believers we have a Friend Who never leaves us nor forsakes us. Our Lord Jesus Christ is now both human and divine, One Who knows our human sorrows and Who also sees with divine omniscience. Here is a child of Adam walking with the Son of God! This is a great partnership.

God’s Providence

As God, our Lord has all the attributes necessary to guide us. His sovereignty will work all things together for our good (Rom 8:28). His omniscience sees the whole path we walk, not just the next bend in the road. His omnipotence gives Him the power to create, adjust, and change any circumstances to conform to His will.

The Lord also uniquely uses the means necessary to carry out His will for us. “He who calls you is faithful who also will do it” (1 Thes 5:24). In this age He does not need nor use miraculous means to direct our paths. We don’t get hand-writing on the wall, audible voices thundering from heaven, nor inspired prophets to deliver the voice of God to us. His Word and Spirit are gifts enough. But the Lord does manipulate the circumstances behind the scenes in ways unknown to the human eye. “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Rom 11:36).

We can also trust that the Lord’s purposes are for our good. That does not mean that all of the circumstances along our road are easy or comfortable. In fact, for many they have been very difficult and often have ended in persecution and death. Sometimes they are sickness, brokenness, and trial and we are tempted to complain and ask God why. Finally, however, we humble ourselves under His mighty hand and cast our cares upon Him because we know He cares for us (1 Pet 5:6-7). With such a Companion, we can finish our race with joy.

Our Responsibility

As a toddler hanging tightly to a father’s hand, we hold and follow God’s leading. This requires a life of learning but it starts with learning about Him. The Lord has given us all things that are needed for life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3). We grow and mature in these things as we learn His Word (2 Tim 3:16-17). The more we understand the Word of God the more we know how to be abased or to abound and endure all the twists and turns in life through Him Who strengthens us (Phil 4:12-13).

Purity is the first thing we learn (2 Pet 1:5). As the Word of God converts us and changes us into the person He wants us to be, we are more and more attuned to His will. To live a peaceable life is first to be pure and then gentleness follows (Jas 3:17).

Prayer is the key that causes us to be partners with the Lord as we hold His hand and follow along. Our prayers, when effectual and fervent, avail with God (Jas 5:16), i.e., they make a difference. They don’t of themselves change things, but they petition God Who changes things. Prayer is our great asset in navigating life’s road and following where God leads.

John Flavel: “Prayer honors providence, and providence honors prayer . . . Providences have borne the very signatures of your prayer upon them.” Allen & Chester, The Glory of Grace: an introduction to the Puritans, p. 145.


Covenantal and Dispensational Theologies, Four Views

Brent Parker & Richard Lucas, editors

This is another “Views” books which gives the reader four different views on a subject.  This is also the second of such books I have reviewed this year. This volume covers the same topics as last month’s book but by different well-known authors.

Covenant Theology, by Michael S. Horton, the J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary. Horton is an obvious choice to write on covenant theology. His large volume on systematic theology, The Christian Faith (2011), has become a standard text for that point of view. Horton basically presents and explains the three “theological covenants” of covenant theology: the Covenant of Works, the Covenant of Grace, and the Covenant of Redemption. These are primarily defended from the Westminster Confession of Faith and other similar confessions (since they are not mentioned by name in the Bible). Horton goes on to link circumcision to infant baptism and Passover to communion in what he describes as a “Vista from the grand balcony of this covenantal house” (p. 60), though I think a view from the ground floor would have been more profitable.

Progressive Covenantalism, by Stephen J. Wellum, professor of Christian Theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Wellum has been the major voice for this more recent variation of covenant theology. He writes, “Progressive covenantalism argues that the Bible presents a plurality of covenants that progressively reveal our triune God’s one redemptive plan for his one people, which reach their fulfillment, telos, and terminus in Christ and the new covenant” (p. 75). There are two views among PC advocates that this section helps make clear. The first is Wellum’s “three horizons” of biblical interpretation: textual, epochal, and canonical. Textual is the immediate context; epochal is God’s unfolding plan; and canonical means considering a text with regard to what comes before and after. A second helpful explanation in this section is his extended discussion of typology. PC is heavy into type and antitype. “However, ultimately the types reach their antitypical fulfillment first in Christ and then his people” (p. 83).

Progressive Dispensationalism, by Darrell L. Bock, Senior Research professor of New Testament studies, Dallas Theological Seminary. Darrell Bock, along with Craig Blaising, also of Dallas Seminary, have become the leading voices in the PD movement. Bock describes  his view by comparing it to traditional dispensationalism, especially each version’s view on Israel and the church. He writes, “The difference within dispensationalism is, whereas traditional dispensationalism kept the two tracks completely distinct, progressive dispensationalism brings them together so one people of God emerge among distinct structures of Israel, church, and then consummated kingdom” (p. 127-128). PD sees the kingdom existing today as an “already-not yet” kingdom (inaugurated eschatology). Among Bock’s many contributions to this view, one that clarified it was his view that in the millennial kingdom, the “one people of God” also means that even Israel will not have a more prominent place than the other nations. “Again, this is not Israel over the nations, but Israel with the nations” (p. 139).

Dispensationalism, by Mark Snoeberger, professor of systematic theology and apologetics, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. Since this traditional dispensational view is what I believe, I enjoyed this section the most. In fact, I thought it was one of the best defenses and explanations recently given. Among the topics covered, I thought Snoeberger’s description of literal interpretation as “originalist” was unique, in keeping with current understanding of constitutional issues. Also, his explanation of how the OT is used in the NT was very helpful, including his criticism of typological methods. Perhaps the best contribution was his explanation of how the biblical covenants and biblical dispensations fit and work together including a unique chart (p. 166). Snoeberger lists the “formal” covenants: Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, New, and includes the Palestinian in some places. Other so-called covenants (such as Edenic, Protoevangelium, and Eternity) he labels as “arrangements” which contain no redemptive element and were not made with Israel specifically. The dispensations, then, are God’s way of administrating His plan for the earth. Snoeberger also emphasizes that God’s glory in the millennial kingdom will be the culmination and the doxological (rather than redemptive) center, or “mitte” in God’s purposes. “The rule of God” is “God’s primary plan for achieving his own glory” (p. 164).


GPS – At the Junctions in the Road

GPS – At the Junctions in the Road

by Rick Shrader


Learning to walk involves many necessary actions: balance, falling, turning, and direction. The Christian walk also involves many actions including turning, eating, talking, learning, and many more. I believe one of the neglected areas of our walk involves the junctions (turnings) in the road. A fork in the road with various options still allows you to go only one way. You have to make a choice, and that choice will change your whole life.

Biblical Examples. Abraham and Lot came to a junction in their lives where Abraham gave Lot a choice of which way to go. Lot’s choice of Sodom changed his life and Abraham’s. John Mark, in Acts 13, returned home rather than going on with Paul and Barnabas, a choice that changed his life and many others. Paul, in Acts 16 wanted to go to Ephesus and Bithynia but the Holy Spirit sent him on to Troas where he received the Macedonian call, junctions that changed his life and the gospel ministry. We all face similar junctions in our own lives many times.

Unforeseen Junctions. There are many junctions in life’s road before we ever realize how important they were. Our parents were making decisions for us (job location, school choices) that changed our lives. The high school (or church!) we attended had a big effect on where we went to college. The college we attended had a big effect on whom we married. The person we married had an effect on the rest of our lives and many others.

Huge Junctions. Some junctions are life-changers. The first and most important is our decision to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. Every Christian would admit that their salvation decision changed their life. In fact, the Bible says it must! The second and third most important decisions go together: marriage and God’s will. True, they don’t always go together but they should. In fact, they usually happen around the same time in a person’s life. What are you going to do in life? Have you asked God? Whom should you marry? Have you asked God? The wrong decision at either of these junctions will (can, and usually does) ruin the other decision because both decisions are for life. God has a reason for you to be married to a good mate, and He has a will for your lives together.

Ongoing Junctions. Will you and your spouse build a Christian home together? This will affect both of you, your children, your parents, your grandchildren, and everyone with whom they associate. The church you chose to attend, whether you think so or not, will change your life and your family’s lives. If the New Testament says anything, it says how important the local church is to a believer’s life. Then, for the rest of your life, you will constantly be making personal decisions. Will you have a devotional life? Will you serve in your church? Will you pick up bad habits that destroy your health and testimony and affect your children? Will you work at your marriage?

Re-Thinking Junctions. There are a few junctions that can be reversed—the one, for example, you made a few minutes ago. Stop! Go back to the junction and go the other way. Also, Repent! God forgives sin and restores lives. True, scars and results usually have to be carried the rest of your life, but you can do it with God’s help. And, Learn! You may not come to the same junction twice, but you will come to the same kind of junction many times. Experience is the best teacher. Walk with the Lord, but choose wisely.

“Your ears shall hear a word behind you saying, This is the way, walk in it, whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.” (Isa 30:21)


Perspectives on Israel and the Church, Four Views

Chad Brand, editor

This is one of many “Views” books which give the reader four different views on a subject.  This volume (2015) concerns the views on covenant theology and dispensational theology with a newer variation of each.

The Traditional Covenantal View, by Robert L. Reymond, professor of Theology emeritus at Knox Theological Seminary. Covenant Theology has been around since the Reformation. It gets its name from its belief in three “theological” covenants: the covenant of works (with Adam in the garden); the covenant of grace (in effect since the fall of Adam into sin); and the covenant of redemption (made between the Father and the Son in eternity past). They do not deny the biblical covenants but see that God is working out His will by electing those whom the Father previously gave to the Son, and saving them all during the covenant of grace from the fall until the end of the world. This is a basic amillennial view and a “replacement theology” whereby the church (i.e., the elect) replaces Israel as God’s promised people.

The Traditional Dispensational View, by Robert L. Thomas, Professor of New Testament emeritus at The Master’s Seminary. Thomas deals with Israel in the OT and the NT. In the OT Thomas shows that the land promise has never been fulfilled literally to Israel. He says, “A literal approach interprets the words as God intended  them and as Abram understood them. No typology. No spiritualizing. No symbolism. No preunderstanding of how the words must fit into a system of theology.” In the NT he shows how “Jesus might have canceled God’s promises to Abraham but did not.” Here Thomas reviews 10 times in the life of Christ where this could have been done if that is what Christ intended. Obviously He did not. Then Thomas reviews 6 ways in which the “Apostles might have canceled God’s promises to Abraham but did not.” After reviewing the biblical covenants showing the literal promises to Israel, Thomas reviews the book of Revelation (about which he is well-known for his large 2-volume commentary) and writes, “The book of Revelation is full of references to God’s faithfulness in fulfilling his promises to national Israel.”

The Progressive Dispensational View, by Robert L. Saucy, distinguished professor of Systematic Theology at Talbot School of Theology. In the early 1990s Saucy of Talbot along with Craig Blaising and Darrell Bock of Dallas Seminary, and many others since, introduced significant changes to traditional dispensationalism. These include hermeneutical and ecclesiastical changes, prophetic and covenantal changes. Saucy includes three in this volume. 1) Israel is still God’s special people with promises of a millennial future. 2) The church participates with Israel in the new covenant as one combined people of God, not as a uniquely separate entity. 3) The kingdom of God exists now in an inaugurated form called “already-not yet.” It is here already in an inaugurated, or spiritual, form but will also come later in a material form. Prominent in Saucy’s presentation is the view that the church is establishing the kingdom by its evangelism to the Gentile world. Saved Jews and Gentiles will eventually inhabit the millennial kingdom as a united people of God. The eternal state is often included as a renewed earth and an eternal earthly kingdom. It should be noted also that the description of “progressive” does not mean culturally contemporary, but rather as a more biblical theological, i.e., progressive revelatory view. The view also necessarily includes much more typical and allegorical hermeneutics than its predecessors.

The Progressive Covenantal View, by Chad O. Brand, speaker and lecturer and Tom Pratt Jr., president of Eagle Rock Ministries. This newer version of covenant theology has emerged in that last 15-20 years. Its voice has mainly come from Stephen J. Wellum, Brent E. Parker, and Peter Gentry of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. It is a more mixed view on eschatology than its forefather, covenant theology, with some a, post, and pre-millennial views. Its primary thesis is that all Old Testament covenants and promises are fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. His followers are one people of God who fulfill the promises as a kingdom—some even propose they are the promised “land” (obviously in a spiritual way) of the kingdom. Progressive Covenantalism is constantly developing.

As a traditional dispensationalist, I am concerned with the two “progressive” developments to the historical views of Israel, church, and the kingdom including the complementary hermeneutic, supersessionism, and expanding views of the new covenant.


GPS – Learning to Walk

GPS – Learning to Walk

by Rick Shrader


The most common description of the believer’s life in the New Testament is the word “walk.” The word appears, in relation to the believer, almost 200 times. It is used in negative connotations such as, “when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries” (1 Peter 4:3); in descriptions of the enemies of Christ such as, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil 3:18); and in discussing carnality, “For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies” (2 Thes 3:11). But the great majority of the time the word “walk” describes the various positive ways a believer lives his life.

In physical life, learning to walk is one of the first challenges for a child. It doesn’t happen all at once (at least not with most kids) but takes small movements until that first step is taken. We all remember watching our children roll over, crawl, and then pull themselves up to a low table. Then it takes a while as the child holds an adult hand and wobbles alongside for short distances. Finally, however, the child must venture on his own and off he goes! For the rest of his life, walking is like breathing. We all do it without thinking. We may have to think about riding a bike, swimming, or jumping a rope, but we walk automatically.

I think God uses the analogy of walking to describe the Christian life because it is something that a believer ought to do automatically. It should not involve ongoing decisions about balance, which foot goes first, or how long each step should be. When we walk, those decisions are done almost without thinking. Such also is the Christian walk.

Walking with God in our Christian life has many admonitions for different circumstances. Just as you walk barefoot or with shoes, fast or slow, casually or purposefully, our believing walk also has many variations. Consider the following: “Walk in love, as Christ also has loved us” (Eph 5:2); “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside” (Col 5:2); “Walk worthy of the calling with which you were called” (Eph 4:1); “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise” (Eph 5:15); “As Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4); “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal 5:16); “Let us walk properly, as in the day” (Rom 13:13); “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Col 2:6); “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Eph 5:8); “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10); “This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it” (2 John 6). The list could go on and on.

To the new Christian these things may seem like huge challenges, just as taking that first step was a major undertaking to a toddler. But after doing it for a while, even mom can’t keep up with where that little one intends to go! So it should be with those who have walked with the Lord for any length of time. Sure, there are those accidents or foolish experiments that impede the walking for a while, but the one with life in his limbs will not be down for long. “Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name” (Psalm 86:11).


Dispensationalism Revisited

Kevin Bauder, Bruce Compton, editors

This 2023 publication from Central Seminary Press is the best review and defense of dispensationalism in the last few years. After reading so many opinions and critiques of the subject, this book felt like meeting with an old friend and walking for a while. Yet at the same time it brought new and up-to-date clarification on a number of important and contemporary issues. At various points, the book speaks to the issues of progressive dispensationalism, covenantalism, and progressive covenantalism. Roy Beacham writes, “All three of these methodologies . . . Embrace the preunderstanding that predictive prophecy can be, has been, and is being fulfilled in some other way than literally. In fact, this hermeneutic is intrinsic to each of these systems since none of their theological constructs could exist apart from the idea of partial nonliteral fulfillment” (35).

Ten dispensationalists contributed to the book, seven from five well-known seminaries, one from the University of Minnesota, and two Baptist pastors. The topics were these: 1) The Glory of God and Dispensationalism: Revisiting the Sine Qua Nons of Dispensationalism, by Douglas Brown, Faith Baptist Theological Seminary. Doug Brown emphasizes the third Sine Qua Non of dispensationalism, the glory of God. “In this author’s view dispensationalists have not always given adequate attention to the glory of God in their teaching on dispensationalism” (17).

2) Literalism and the Prophets: The Case for a Unified Hermeneutic, by Roy Beacham, Central Baptist Theological Seminary. “Dispensationalists embrace the idea that God intended all prophetic foretelling in Scripture to be understood literally and only literally” (32).

3) Israel and the Church: Is There Really a Difference? by Kevin Bauder, Central Baptist Theological Seminary. “This chapter will offer an understanding of this expression [people of God], which, while often used, is seldom defined” (72).

4) Biblical Covenants and Their Fulfillment, by William Berrick, The Master’s Seminary. “This study purposes to illumine the believer’s mind regarding the fulfillment of the covenants within the scope of their interrelationship with biblical dispensations” (102).

5) The “Kingdom of Heaven/God” and the Church: A Case Study in Hermeneutics and Theology, by R. Bruce Compton, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. “The expressions kingdom of heaven and kingdom of God refer essentially to Christ’s future earthly rule in the millennial kingdom” (121).

6) Israel in the Church Fathers, by Larry Pettegrew, Shepherd’s Seminary. “The eschatological system held by these early church Fathers, according to Hauser, was therefore premillennialism but not necessarily the kind of premillennialism that goes hand in hand with pretribulationalism” (139). Pettegrew will further explain, “Moreover, almost all the Fathers, including the early Fathers who were premillennialists, were inconsistent in their hermeneutics, engaging in some doubtful typological interpretations” (145).

7) Acts, the Church, and the Use of the Old Testament in the New Testament, by Andrew Hudson, pastor, Westside Baptist Church, Janesville, WI. “This essay presupposes that, even though Acts is a unique book, it should be interpreted according to a literal or normal historical-grammatical hermeneutic” (168).

8) The Church, Israel, and Supersessionism, by Ryan Martin, pastor, Columbiaville Baptist Church, Columbiaville, MI. “I intend to present an exegetical argument from Romans 9-11 that ethnic Israel has a distinct future in God’s plan” (196).

9) Will Jesus Come Before the Millennium? A New Testament Answer from Revelation 20, by W. Edward Glenny, University of Minnesota. “The goal of this essay is to defend and show the support for a premillennial return of Christ in Revelation 20” (234).

10) The Case for the Pretribulational Rapture, by Jonathan Pratt, Central Baptist Theological Seminary. “My goal is to provide both exegetical and theological arguments in defense of the pretribulational rapture” (250)

It should be noted also that this volume was a tribute to Dr. Charles Hauser, Jr., registrar and dean of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Minneapolis, MN, from 1986 until his retirement in 2006. I sat under Dr. Hauser when he was professor and Academic Vice President at Denver Baptist Theological Seminary where I received a ThM degree. I also knew Dr. Hauser during his years at Central. He and his wife Ann were great people. May God increase their tribe.



GPS – The Stewardship of Dying

GPS – The Stewardship of Dying

by Rick Shrader


December marks the end of the year. It is the dying of the seasons, the lengthening of the night, the shortening of the days. Just as God has made His world “for signs and seasons, for days and years,” He has made human beings to live and to die. Life came by the creative hand of God, death came by the sin of mankind. By God’s grace, however, “death is swallowed up in victory” by faith in Jesus Christ. I want to end this twelve-month series speaking of death for the believer. That may sound odd for a December article but it is fitting for the end of the life cycle about which I have been writing.

Just as winter brings an expected end to the seasons, spring always follows with new life. The death of the believer brings an end to earthly life, but it brings the beginning of eternal life with God. I believe Christians ought to look forward to this transition we call death. This is not to say that death itself is enjoyable or easy, but it is to say that we are “earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven.” Given a choice between the two, I would choose “having a desire to depart and be with Christ which is far better.” The Puritan William Bridge said, “Death is terrible. It is called the king of terrors. But to sweeten this, it is called sleep.” So let me give a few biblical facts that sweeten this thing we call death.

Facts about death. First, we should understand that death is not a punishment for the believer, it is just the last debt we owe to our human existence. Jesus has “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light” for the believer even though “it is appointed unto man once to die.” Thomas Wentworth, at his death sentence said, “I come to pay the last debt I owe unto sin, which is death, and by the blessing of God, to rise again through the merits of Christ Jesus to eternal glory.” Second, death does not separate us from our union with Christ. “The dead in Christ will rise,” and “so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Third, dying is the culmination of our progressive sanctification. This is perhaps the greatest opportunity for Christian testimony in our life. The words of great saints become more pointed and effective as they approach death, and their memorial brings many tears to doubting eyes. “The way of life winds upward for the wise, that he may turn away from hell below” (Prov. 15:24).

Analogies about death. There are well over twenty analogies of the process of dying. The more common ones are: going to sleep and waking (1 Thes. 4:13; Psa. 17:15); folding a tent and putting it away (2 Cor. 5:1; 2 Pet. 1:14); sowing a seed that produces a new form (Jn. 12:24; 1 Cor. 15:38); a ship departing from its moorings (2 Tim. 4:6; Phil. 1:23); flying away (Psa. 90:10).

Testimonies about death. Believers have always been encouraged by the testimonies from great saints as they were entering the valley of the shadow of death.  Philip Doddridge influenced great men such as Isaac Watts and C.H. Spurgeon who referred to his book as “That holy book.” Doddridge wrote, “I acknowledge, O Lord, the justice of that sentence by which I am expiring; and own thy wisdom and goodness in appointing my journey through this gloomy vale which is now before me.  Help me to turn it into the happy occasion of honoring thee and adorning my profession!  And I will bless the pangs by which thou art glorified, and this mortal and sinful part of my nature dissolved. . . let me close the scene nobly.” The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul, p. 319.

Other observations on Dying

Richard Baxter: “The thing to be considered is our unreasonable unwillingness to die, that we may possess the saints’ rest.  We linger, like Lot in Sodom, till ‘the Lord being merciful unto us,’ doth pluck us away against our will.  I confess that death, of itself, is not desirable; but the soul’s rest with God is, to which death is the common passage.”   The Saints’ Everlasting Rest, p. 241.

C.H. Spurgeon: “O Lord, let them not die without hope, and may thy believing people learn to pass away without even tasting the bitterness of death.  May they enter into rest, each one walking in his own uprightness.”  Spurgeon’s Prayers, p. 114.

Matthew Henry: “If it be the will of God that I should finish my course this year, let me be found of Christ in peace, and by the grace of God death shall be welcome to me.”  Biography of Matthew Henry, p. 112.

Gregory Spencer: “The Black Plague.  Brutal war.  High infant mortality.  No antibiotics.  Perhaps because death seemed to walk constantly with those in the Middle Ages, the church thought that believers needed to prepare to meet their Savior, to learn to ‘let go’ of this life and die with grace.  They called this practice ars morendi, Latin for ‘the art of dying well.’”  Awakening the Quieter Virtues, p. 150.

J.C. Ryle: “Most men hope to go to heaven when they die; but few, it may be feared, take the trouble to consider whether they would enjoy heaven if they got there.  Heaven is essentially a holy place; its inhabitants are all holy; its occupations are all holy.  To be really happy in heaven, it is clear and plain that we must be somewhat trained and made ready for heaven while we are on earth.” Holiness, p. 58-59.

A.W. Tozer: “I thank God that heaven is the world of God’s obedient children.  Whatever else we may say of its pearly gates, golden streets and jasper walls, heaven is heaven because children of the Most High God find they are in their normal sphere as obedient moral beings.”   Mornings With Tozer,

Robert Freeman: “When I go down to the sea by ship, and death unfurls her sail, weep not for me, for there shall be, a living host on another coast, to beckon and cry, All hail.” WWII Memorial, Alaska.

A Dialogue—Anthem, By George Herbert (1593-1633)

Alas, poor Death! Where is thy glory?
Where is thy famous force, thy ancient sting?

Alas, poor mortal, void of story!
Go spell and read how I have killed thy King.

Poor Death! And who was hurt thereby?
Thy curse being laid on Him makes thee accurst.

Let losers talk, yet thou shalt die;
These arms shall crush thee.

Spare not, do thy worst.
I shall be one day better than before;
Thou so much worse, that thou shalt be no more.

From The Temple, 1633, by George Herbert.              

The Great Concern, Edward Pearce (1633-1673)

“Truly, this is the posture which some (though but a few) are found in; they make conscience to discharge the duty that is incumbent upon them; they say with their Lord, ‘I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work’ (John 9:4). They see night coming, death coming, judgment coming, eternity coming, and accordingly they desire to lay out their whole souls in the work of God, to live up to the laws of Christ in every relation, and they look upon that day as lost wherein they have not done somewhat for God and their own souls. And how comfortably may such look death in the face when it comes! I have read the life of a holy minister who was seized upon by sickness, which was unto death, while he was preaching the everlasting gospel, and lying sick a few days sick before he died, a fellow laborer of his, another holy minister, coming to visit him, and seeing death in his face, cried out in some passion, ‘O dear sir, are you going to heaven from us?’ To whom he replied, ‘Yes, I bless God, that my Master found me in his work.’ Truly, might a man have his choice and option, he would have death to find him while he is engaged in the work of God.” The Great Concern: Preparation for Death, p. 102.


GPS – The Challenge of Older Age

GPS – The Challenge of Older Age

by Rick Shrader


Being a septuagenarian myself, I know many of the challenges of older age. Solomon called it the “difficult” days (Ecc. 12:1) but he also said, “the splendor of old men is their gray head” (Prov. 20:29). Moses encouraged us to “number our days so that we can gain a heart of wisdom” (Psa. 90:12). David said we should “bear fruit in old age” (Psa. 92:14) and Job said “wisdom is with aged men” (Job 12:12). Here are a few responsibilities we have in older age.

To God. Our first responsibility is always to our Creator and our Savior. David prayed, “O God, You have taught me from my youth; And to this day I declare Your wondrous works. Now also when I am old and gray-headed, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come” (Psa. 71:17-18).

To Society. The unsaved world may despise mortality  and try every way possible to prevent it, but 100% of humans have died and that percentage won’t change. Growing old gracefully is a blessing to the world around us. The date-palm tree in Israel averages 200 years and grows 100 lbs. of figs every year until it dies. Psalm 92 says we should be like the date-palm “to bear fruit in old age” and “to declare that the Lord is upright” (Psa. 92:14-15).

To our Family. The family is the oldest and most important institution on earth. Through it we carry on God’s image, God’s mandate, and most importantly, God’s gospel salvation. Where would the world be now if every believing family had won all of their children to the Lord? The faith should be passed on to generations to come. “For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children” (Psa. 78:5-6).

To the Church. The language of family becomes the relationship we have to the “household of God,” to all of our “brothers and sisters” in “the family of God.” For many who don’t come from a believing family, water (of baptism) becomes thicker than blood. Jesus asked, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?”  His answer was, “Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother” (Matt. 12:48, 50). Paul specifically instructed Titus to instruct the “older men” and the “older women” be a “pattern of good works” and to admonish “young men” and “young women” to “speak things that are proper for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1-6).

To Yourself. “The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness” (Prov. 16:31). There are too many excuses to use in your older years to keep yourself from walking with God. Paul wanted to “finish my course with joy” (Acts 20:24).

William Law spoke of our older age, “Delight in its service and beg of God to adorn it with every grace and perfection.  Nourish it with good works, give it peace in solitude, get it strength in prayer, make it wise with reading, enlighten it by meditation, make it tender with love, sweeten it with humility, humble it with penance, enliven it with psalms and hymns, and comfort it with frequent reflections upon future glory.”  A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, 1729.

Other observations on Older Age

Woodrow Kroll: “There was just something about those ‘old time’ missionaries, the ones who had stuck it out for thirty or forty years on the field without complaint. They had something down deep inside that I didn’t see in many of my twentieth-century students.” The Vanishing Ministry in the 21st Century, p. 9.

A.W. Tozer: “O God, let me die rather than to go on day by day living wrong.  I do not want to become a careless, fleshly old man.  I want to be right so that I can die right!  Lord, I do not want my life to be extended if it would mean that I should cease to live right and fail in my mission to glorify You all of my days!”  Mornings With Tozer, May 31.

Spurgeon: “It usually happens that, when we listen to a venerable patriarch, such as he then was, there is all the greater weight in his words because of his age.  I fancy that, if I had heard the same sermon preached by a young man, I should not have thought much of it; but there appeared all the greater depth in it because it came from an old man standing almost on the borders of the grave.” Spurgeon’s Autobiography, Vol. I, p. 208.

D.L. Moody:  “The longer I live, the more I am convinced that godly men and women are not appreciated in our day.  But their work will live after them, and there will be a greater work done after they are gone, by the influence of their lives, than when they were living.”  Spiritual Power, p. 107.

Francis Schaeffer: “Much of the younger generation surely is like this:  they know nothing of saying ‘no’ to themselves or anything else.  But this is only half true, because the older ones are also like this.” True Spirituality, p. 20.

Thomas a’ Kempis: “Vanity it is, to wish to live long, and to be careless to live well.” The Imitation of Christ, p. 24.

John MacArthur: “At the age of 83—after having traveled some 250,000 miles on horseback, preached more than 40,000 sermons, and produced some 200 books and pamphlets—John Wesley regretted that he was unable to read and write for more than 15 hours a day without his eyes becoming too tired to work. After his 86th birthday, he admitted to an increasing tendency to lie in bed until 5:30 in the morning!”  Titus, 72.

An Old Disciple

There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge(Acts 21:16).

“Such a great concourse of people there was to the feast that it was a hard matter to get lodgings; the public houses would be taken up by those of the better sort, and it was looked upon as a scandalous thing for those that had private houses to let their rooms out at those times, but they must freely accommodate strangers with them. Every one then would choose his friends to be his guests, and Mnason took Paul and his company to be his lodgers; though he had heard what trouble Paul was likely to come into, which might bring those that entertained him into trouble too, yet he shall be welcome to him, whatever comes of it.

“This Mnason is called an old disciple – a disciple from the beginning; some think, one of the seventy disciples of Christ, or one of the first converts after the pouring out of the Spirit, or one of the first that was converted by the preaching of the gospel in Cyprus, Acts 13:4. However it was, it seems he had been long a Christian, and was now in years. Note, It is an honourable thing to be an old disciple of Jesus Christ, to have been enabled by the grace of God to continue long in a course of duty, stedfast in the faith, and growing more and more prudent and experienced to a good old age. And with these old disciples one would choose to lodge; for the multitude of their years will teach wisdom”  (Matthew Henry).

Barna Reports

“When asked about the most influential people in their spiritual journey, most U.S. adults name family and friends. Generally, mothers (57%), fathers (33%), grandmothers (24%) and friends (20%) rank highest on the list. For older adults, though, the influence of a pastor is also prevalent. More than one in four Elders (27%) and one in five Boomers (21%) say a pastor has been the most influential to their spiritual journey. This finding points to the critical role pastors play in the lives of seniors. Amid the Church’s rally cry to reach younger generations, pastors are still most trusted by older adults.” Faith-Generations, Oct. 18, 2023.


GPS – The Junctions in the Road

GPS – The Junctions in the Road

by Rick Shrader


One of the things that is often overlooked in literature on the family is the wisdom we need when we make big decisions in life. I call these junctions in the road. When we come to an intersection that only has two alternatives, we can only take one of them. That decision will change everything in our lives. Job responded to Zophar, “Have you not asked those who travel the road? And do you not know their signs?” (Job 21:29).

Birth. We came into the world by someone else’s decision. It is a junction for which we had no choice. This junction results in many circumstances that we will live with for the rest of our lives: our parents, our looks, our country of origin, the inflection of our voice, our ancestors.

Salvation. The first big junction in the road we all come to is the decision to ask Jesus to be our Savior. Even to refuse Him is to take a different road in life. Where would you be now if you hadn’t taken the “right” turn? For those who consequently have sought to know God’s will, almost everything has changed. “All things have become new.”

Marriage. Next to salvation, the decision to marry is the next largest decision you will make in your life. If you are faithful to your wedding covenant, you will live with this person for the rest of your life. Her family is your family. Her inherited problems are your problems and her inherited blessings are your blessings. The children you produce will be a unique blend between the two of you which no other two people could possibly produce. The wedding vows promise that you will go down this path together until death parts you.

Children. Children are produced by a sexual union whether in marriage or out of marriage. The child that is produced by that action (junction) is your responsibility for the rest of your life and theirs. In proper marriage, the decision to have children is a momentary junction with life-long responsibility. You will work the rest of your life to support, clothe and feed, teach, counsel, and bandage this person all your days. A husband and wife team is the God-ordained way to do this. A father and mother is the ordained means to produce godly children that worship God and eventually choose this same junction in their lives.

Daily decisions. Life is a list of daily decisions, common junctions in the road. There are wrong and sinful turns. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov 16:25). There are decisions that are neither moral nor immoral but change one’s life. “For they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh” (Prov 4:22). There are those decisions that keep you in the will of God. “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psa 23:3). “He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

Death. The last junction in the road is to depart from this life. God should be the one to make this turn at His own time. Some usurp God’s will and exit this life prematurely and sinfully by suicide or assisted death. Jesus met with Moses and Elijah on the mount of Transfiguration and “spoke of His decease [Gr. “exodus”] which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem” (Lk 9:31). It was as though Jesus was planning for the exit. Peter, one of the witnesses of this event, therefore said, “Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. Moreover, I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease [exodus]” (2 Pet. 1:14-15).

Observations on Junctions in the Road

Louis L’Amour: “How often it is that a whim may alter the course of our existences! How often the simple decision whether to go right or left when one leaves a doorway can change so much! A man may turn to the right and walk straightaway into all manner of evil, and to the left, all manner of good.” Fair Blows the Wind, 235.

C.S. Lewis: “But in friendship, being free of all that, we think we have chosen our peers. In reality, a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another, posting to different regiments, the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting—any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, Who said to the disciples, ‘Ye have not chosen me but, I have chosen you,’ can truly say to every group of Christian friends, ‘You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.’” The Four Loves, p. 126.

Robert Alden: “The precepts of Proverbs are like signposts at critical junctions in life where we might stray from the road. Carefully mapping out our journey, making intersections which might be confusing, and noting dangers to be avoided along the way are the best ways to guarantee a safe trip.”  Proverbs, p. 48.

Ken Mondschein: [on Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken”] “Frost uses the metaphor of a traveler journeying through a forest to represent the journey of life. The traveler comes upon a fork in the road and must decide which path to take. The two paths represent the different choices we make in life, and the traveler’s decision to take the less traveled path symbolizes the choice to take a risk and follow one’s own unique path.” A Collection of Poems by Robert Frost, Introduction.

Jeremiah Burroughs: “A contented heart looks to God’s disposal. That is, he sees the wisdom of God in everything. . . The Lord knows how to order things better than I. The Lord sees further ahead than I do. I see only the present but the Lord sees a great while from now.” Quoted by Jim Newheiser, The Journal of Modern Ministry, Fall, 2004, p. 72.

The decision to leave church

The decision to leave or continue going to church is one of the most life-changing junctions in the road. In the book, The Disciple-Making Parent, 2016, Chap Bettis relates statistics that show the road marked “Leaving” is a broad road.

“In twenty-five separate surveys of more than 22,000 adults and 2,000 teenagers, George Barna found that only 20 percent of the respondents had maintained a level of spiritual activity consistent with their high school experience. In another study, he found that 58 percent of young adults who attended church every week when they were teens did not attend church at all by the time they were 29. Dr. Kara Powell of the Fuller Youth Institute at Fuller Seminary took a more conservative approach and only counted those who were a part of a church or youth group when they graduated from high school. Her estimate, based on multiple surveys, was that up to 50 percent of young people did not stick with their faith once they were in college.

“Britt Beemer of the America’s Research Group studied only those who said they attended church every week when they were growing up but never or seldom attend today. After more than 20,000 phone calls, he came to a shocking revelation: Of those who reported they no longer believed the Bible true, 40 percent first had doubts in middle school, 44 percent first had their doubts in high school, and about 11 percent had their first doubts in college. In other words, we are losing many of the hearts of our children in junior high, even though we don’t lose their bodies until later.” pp. 9-10

Justice Clarence Thomas remembers the junction that changed his life. Clarence and his brother were raised by their grandparents when his mother could no longer raise them. Of his swearing in on October 23, 1991, he wrote,

“I thought back to another sunny day in 1955, the day my brother and I had walked to the white house at 542 E. 32nd St. to live with our grandparents, all of our belongings stuffed into a pair of grocery bags. So began the journey that had led me at last to these steps. It was there Daddy and Aunt Tina [his names for his grandparents] taught me all they knew and gave me all they had.” My Grandfather’s Son, p. 289.