Thursday, December 28, 2017

Re-Issue of “How Value Determines Stewardship” Dec. 28, 2017

          Ten years ago this week I wrote about our need to think more seriously concerning stewardship in the coming year.  The need continues a decade later.  Even more things compete for our time, our money, and our attention than they did a few short years ago.  We need to determine what is really important in our lives and use our resources wisely.  What will actually matter in eternity?  What does God really value?  What should be our true, God-honoring priorities?  These are all questions we need to ask and answer.  What do you truly value the most?


Allen Raynor Weblog: “How Value Determines Stewardship”

(Dec. 26, 2007)

          What gives anything its value?  Who determines what gold, silver, diamonds, pearls or other jewels are worth?  What about other possessions of ours?  Your photo albums may not hardly bring 25 cents at a yard sale but to you they are priceless.  Your home may be a bit run down and nothing too special at all to a realtor or would-be buyer but to you it is where you spent many Christmas times together with your family and, of course, there is the door facing with the markings signifying little Johnny and Suzie’s growth.

          Even precious metals and jewels are only worth what someone will pay.  If people quit buying gold, the price would drop significantly.  What is of great worth to you?  Some have, in essence, sold their soul for various things.  It could be wealth, fame, influence or a number of other things.  The truth is that people place a high value on the things they pursue.

          The value we place on things or people determines our level of stewardship where they are concerned.  A steward is really nothing more than a manager of something or someone.  A “Stewardess,” for instance, or as we know them better today as “flight attendants,” have the task of managing persons on an airplane flight.  The airlines have determined that the customers have enough value they should take good care of them so they might just show up on another flight later on!

          Christians are taught in God’s word to be good stewards over all God has given to their charge.  If you wonder what qualifies, the answer is everything!  We should be good stewards of the earth or environment, our own health and even the health of others where we can, our families, our churches, every position we have, and the list goes on.

          One common mistake we make is in thinking that what we possess is ours.  When we start to think that way the value goes down in our mind.  It is one thing to back into a light pole, but it is another thing to back into the same light pole in your friend’s car!  How about this; it is one thing to rip a dollar bill to shreds but it is another thing to rip to shreds a hundred dollar bill, even though they look exactly the same to a blind man!  The difference is the value we or someone else assign to something.

          How much is your Bible worth?  How much is your church worth?  How much is your pastor worth?  How much is your prayer life worth to you?  The answer to each of these questions is not determined by but rather revealed through our behavior.  We may claim great value, however there is no evidence.  When we stand before God in judgment, I am afraid there is going to be a lot of awkward silence and heads hanging low!

          As we enter into a new year it is a great time to become a better steward of what you have been given charge over.  Men, you need to be better men because you value your wife and family.  Women you need to be better women because you value your family and because God expects it.  Children and teens you need to be better stewards of your lives and not engage in things that will hurt or even kill you, whether you’ve figured that out yet or not.  Church members you need to be better stewards of the church God has given you.  You are stewards of the lost people all around you.  How much do you value them?  Your stewardship will reveal the value you place on these people/things.  How important is money to you?  You say, “not that important.”  Well, it is important to God so maybe you need to give more to Him.  Unfortunately when stewardship is mentioned, money is often the first thing which comes to mind, however it is only one of many things, but still yet important.

          In the coming year let us try and set some specific stewardship goals for ourselves in several specific different areas.  We will never get there unless we plan!  What do you value, and how much?


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Recommended Reading from 2017 (Pt. 3) - Dec. 21, 2017

Sadly, the wonderful holiday of Christmas has been stolen by Satan and the world which Scripture tells us he is “god” over.  He takes all that which is good, that which God created and saw that it was good and corrupts it and mocks God in the process.  The celebration of Christ’s birth has become, ironically the most selfish holiday of the year.  I loved Mike Slaughter’s book Christmas is Not Your Birthday: Experience the Joy of Living and Giving like Jesus.  In this book he shows how mankind has corrupted this wonderful celebration and how believers can take it back.   The book is a challenge for each believer to re-evaluate his/her own lives and their own Christmas celebrations and their own attitudes to see if they measure up to what the Lord intended.

         Many signs point to the end of days.  The world is going about its business just as it has always done and is largely oblivious to the rapidly approaching end of time.  David Jeremiah’s book Is This The End?  Signs of God’s Providence in a Disturbing New World is eye-opening and genuinely helpful.  It will get you excited about what God has in store!  He gives insight on the rapture of the church, the tribulation period, how countries such as Russia fit into end times, and God’s special place for Israel.  The book gives great emphasis to what is going on today in light of Bible prophecy.

          Another great book that helped me understand end times more was The Second Coming of Babylon by Mark Hitchcock.  The book shows the place of resurrected Babylon in end times; as well as traces the history of ancient Babylon, and shows the Scriptural usage of the term “Babylon” especially in the book of Revelation.  It is a book that really is hard to put down after you start reading!  Another great book by Hitchcock that I read this year is called 101 Answers to Questions About Satan, Demons, & Spiritual Warfare.  Many like to focus only on the positive in life and even in their faith.  But, these things are reality and they must be faced.  Satan is real; demons are real; spiritual warfare is real.  Furthermore, these realities are harsh.  They are essential for our focus, attention, and studies.  This book, as the title indicates, is a question and answer book.  Hitchcock states a common question then gives a biblical answer.  The book is packed with great information.  I highly recommend this to all believers.  Keep it as a reference.  Use it to answer the questions that arise in your mind and to answer the questions others ask you.

          Ray Stedman’s book Spiritual Warfare: How to Stand Firm in the Faith is one of the very best on the subject.  People do not understand as well as they should the ongoing realities in the spiritual realm.  We need to understand those things and be ready.  This is a sort of “how to” book on dealing with the warfare we are already engaged in.  We have no choice as believers.  We are already in the battle, the question is, how will we carry out our duty?  This book is great encouragement and filled with wisdom for all believers.

          Heaven should be constantly on the minds of all Christians.  It is our future home/reality.  It may be in your near future and not merely the distant.  Truthfully, even if you have several years ahead of you, it is not too far away.  Many myths and legends exist about Heaven and they have corrupted biblical teaching to a degree many no longer have a clear and realistic view of the literal Heaven.  David Jeremiah helps us understand Heaven better by separating facts from urban legends in his simple book Answers to Your Questions about Heaven.  Use it as a guide, a reference, and to give as a gift.

          Many books come out each year that help people have more confidence in Christianity and the Bible.  This discipline is called “apologetics.”  Many of these books are academic, although there are a significant number that are lay oriented to help the average person defend their faith to their neighbors, friends, co-workers, and extended family.  Os Guinness has an award winning, brilliantly written book called Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.  Guinness calls Christians away from a “cookie cutter” approach to evangelism and sharing of their faith citing the fact that our world is incredibly diverse and we need to embrace that fact and share with each person as individuals and not merely like we were sharing to the masses.  This book will help you re-think how you witness to those around you in a very good and helpful way.  It will also help you see the need to better equip yourself for divine encounters to share your faith.

          A steward is a manager.  Every area of life calls for good management/stewardship.  Money is a particular hang-up for many people.  It is not just about systematically giving to the church and for God’s work, but it is in areas like buying things we cannot afford and things we do not need, accumulation of debt, falling for the world’s lies about “stuff” and possessions.  We are actually called upon to work hard specifically to be able to give more.  Sadly, if anyone works hard they feel entitled to spend it on themselves, but that is not the way the Bible presents stewardship.  I really got a lot out of The Money Challenge: 30 Days of Discovering God’s Design for You and Your Money by Art Rainer.  It will help you see money differently and evaluate your life, your goals, your priorities, spending habits, and desire to give to God’s work.

          This year marked the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.  There has been a flood of books that have been released marking the occasion from deep critical works, reference works, biographies of key figures, and laymen-oriented overviews of the historical event.  I enjoyed Erwin Lutzer’s Rescuing the Gospel: The Story and Significance of the Reformation.  It is readable, understandable, and engaging for almost every believer.  Reading this book will go a long way towards helping you understand the monumental significance of this time period in Christian history.


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Recommended Reading from 2017 -(Pt. 2) Dec. 20, 2017

This year has been a year of indescribable grief and hurt for our hearts as we lost our youngest son Devin in February.  December 20th would have been his 16th birthday.  Without a doubt, God’s Word has ministered the most to our hearts and brought comfort in ways beyond what we could have imagined.  God has used many authors and books to help us to try and come to terms with such a terrible, terrible loss.  One of the first books we read after our loss was a book passed on to us by a co-worker of my wife.  The book is called Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss.  It almost looks like a children’s book, but it really is not.  It is both simple and deep at the same time.  It gives some good perspective where it is so welcomed.  It is a book that can be read in about 30 minutes and it is time well spent.  For a much more involved and in-depth look at the subject of grief, we greatly benefited from Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller.  The first part of this book is theoretical in that it gives the history of how those from the past have historically viewed grief and dealt with grief.  It moves from there into the more practical and finally ends in the Scriptural in its 325 total pages.  It is a book that will take a person some time to work through but the benefits are significant.

          Another great book that helped me put grief and pain in perspective was Ray Stedman’s book Let God Be God: Life-Changing Truths from the Book of Job.  Job is a difficult book to wade through and most people do not do much more than merely read it from time to time.  Few messages are preached on it and few memorize passages from its pages.  Stedman does as good of job as any author I have ever read at the point of breaking down Job’s meaning into understandable, usable truths.  Like the sub-title indicates, it can be life-changing when we understand more about suffering and pain, Satan’s desires, and God’s ultimate sovereignty.  Understanding Job goes a very long way toward understanding life here on this earth.

          I have always been greatly encouraged and strengthened by reading of the martyrs down through history.  Men and women have been so strong in their faith they have given their lives for the truth of Christ.  This year in our family devotion time we read a new book, which is a fresh perspective on the martyrs by author Bryan Litfin called Early Christian Martyr Stories: An Evangelical Introduction with New Translations.  It was very encouraging to us as we considered again the enormous and unwavering faith of those who came before us.

          I believe the Lord’s Supper is of extreme importance in the life of the church.  Sadly, it has become just another Sunday for people to miss church.  But when you consider what it is and why it is important it is then not so easy to dismiss.  R. C. Sproul has a great little book that is concise in its explanation of this special celebration called What is the Lord’s Supper?  It will help deepen your understanding and appreciation for the sacrifice of our Lord.

          I have argued for many years that legalized abortion is the single most revealing facet of our godless culture.  Many things are bad, but the mass slaughter of our children and the embrace of this culture of death, is incomprehensible.  The Gospel & Abortion, from “The Gospel For Life Series” by Russell Moore and Andrew T. Walker, gives some great insight into the issue and how we as Christians can respond.  The book is concise and a great tool for all believers.  Pornography is another pervasive problem that is far worse than many realize.  It is hard to talk about and often is not talked about by believers.  Another in the Gospel for Life Series is The Gospel & Pornography.  It offers a concise challenge to all believers to consider pornography through the eyes a Scripture and see it as God sees it.         

          I had the privilege of preaching through the Old Testament book of Judges and finishing it earlier this year.  The book describes a wicked and Godless period in Israel’s history where everyone did what was right in their own eyes.  It is exactly that which drew me to preach through the book.  So much of it parallels the United States of America in the modern era.  The most helpful resources I used in my study were Judges: Such A Great Salvation by Dale Ralph Davis, Judges For You, by Timothy Keller both which are great for laymen.  For more depth study, and especially for pastors studying/preaching through Judges, do not miss Daniel Block’s exposition of the book in the New American Commentary Series (NAC).

          This past spring I was able to preach through the Old Testament Book of Ruth on Sunday evenings.  The 4 chapters in the book tell the story of God’s providence in, not only the lives of the individuals – Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz – but of God’s greater work in providing an earthly King, David and an eternal King, Jesus  I found Sinclair Ferguson’s book Faithful God: An Exposition of the Book of Ruth very helpful and insightful.  I also got much from John Piper’s book A Sweet & Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, and the Sovereignty of God based on the Book of Ruth.  Dean R. Ulrich’s book From Famine to Fullness: The Gospel According to Ruth was really good at helping me keep this Old Testament book in a New Testament perspective.  For pastors and those who want to study deeper, I was thoroughly blessed by Daniel I. Block’s commentary on Ruth in the New American Commentary (NAC) series.  It is deep and breaks down words and customs in an exhaustive manner.  Probably the best commentary available on Ruth though is Robert L. Hubbard Jr.’s exhaustive commentary (316 pp.) in the New International Commentary Old Testament (NICOT) series.  I found it to be the most helpful tool overall in my study of Ruth.

          For pastors, I would recommend The Hardest Sermons You’ll Ever Have to Preach by Bryan Chapell.  The book includes insights for ministering, particularly in the time of death and funerals, to those left behind.  Life is full of tragedy, hurt, and pain and pastors are appointed to help give biblical perspective on what has taken place.  The circumstances covered by the book include such things as sudden deaths, suicide, abortion, murder, death of a child or baby, etc.  Each circumstance has a manuscript of an actual message that was preached upon the occasion discussed. 


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Recommended Reading from 2017 -(Pt. 1)-Dec. 19, 2017

George Barna is a Christian pollster who has been extensively researching and analyzing trends that affect the church, our culture, and morality for decades.  He has written more than fifty books.  I found his book America At The Crossroads: Explosive Trends Shaping America’s Future And What You Can Do About It to be insightful and informative, albeit sobering and discouraging.  About 90 percent of the book is an overview of his research, with analysis, in several categories, such as religious beliefs and behavior, beliefs concerning the Bible, political ideology, beliefs on social issues, priorities, etc.  Then in the last section of the book he deals with the question “What You Can Do.”  Here he explores the importance of being a true follower of Christ, not merely a Christian in name only.

          I read The Gospel & Same-Sex Marriage from “The Gospel For Life Series” by Russell Moore and Andrew T. Walker.  This little book is packed with a lot of good information.  Like all volumes in this series it is concise and to-the-point, but provides the reader with valuable information to refute the claims of our day by mainly affirming what true and biblical marriage really is.  By understanding what it is, one will quickly see what it is not.

          Occasionally, the title of a book intrigues me so much I want to read it.  That is exactly what happened when I first discovered Gregory Koukl’s book The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything that Happens In Between.  In about 200 pages Koukl covers all the bases in a very thought-provoking, insightful manner.  The book is unique in that it holds the interest of someone who has studied the issues of faith for a long time, yet is simple enough to be placed in the hands of a new Christian, a non-believer or even a skeptic.  He covers realities about God, man, the person of Jesus, creation, the cross, and resurrection.

          There are several great books on Heaven.  One of the quickest ways to get excited about what Heaven is really going to be like is to read one of these books that help you understand Heaven better.  One simple and straightforward book on the subject is The Real Heaven: What the Bible Actually Says by Chip Ingram.  It covers all the basics in a simple, easy to follow format.  It pictures the New Heaven and New Earth as well as helps believers understand what happens now after they die, where their loved ones are, etc.

          Surprise Endings: Ten Good Things About Bad Things by Ron Mehl was a part of my daily devotional time for several mornings earlier this year.  The book is not really a devotional book per se but it served that purpose for me.  It is inspiring and encouraging as he takes well-known Scriptural passages and makes modern application to real-life situations.  It was a very enjoyable book to read.  It will give you much encouragement.

          Another book I used during my daily devotional time was Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible, the classic work by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  It is somewhat of a topical arrangement with comment on the book of Psalms.  He shows how the Psalms express the deepest groanings of our hearts.  I found it quite helpful.

          There are lots of books available on the subject of prayer and you might even find a book on fasting on rare occasion; but good books on the subject of biblical meditation are quite rare.  Most of what is available is on the mystic side.  However, I found Robert Morgan’s book Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation to be very helpful, uplifting, challenging, and encouraging.  He gives many verses and ideas as to how we can move beyond merely reading the Scriptures and toward making them a part of our daily lives and walks with the Lord.  The answers are all there in the Bible, we just need to know where to look and how to recognize them when we see them.

          Over the past few years, I have greatly enjoyed the series co-authored by broadcaster Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard.  This year I read Killing Regan: The Violent Assault that Changed a Presidency.  In March 1981 the mentally disturbed John Hinckley Jr. shot President Reagan and nearly took his life.  This event changed the President in several significant ways.  Killing Reagan is a book that shows the character of Ronald Reagan the man in the face of this event.  I have read several biographies of Reagan, but this is like no other.  Like others in the “Killing” series it is extremely well-written and very engaging.

          Former Fox News host Megyn Kelley wrote a book called Settle For More which was very inspiring to me.  The premise for her book is based on a few words which changed her life.  She realized she had settled for less in her life and began a journey of changing those things.  A journey which led her out of the practice of law and into journalism.  Reading this book personally challenged me to work harder in some areas of my life and not give up on certain dreams and goals.


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Re-Issue of “Christmas Spirit and Christian Spirit” Dec. 14, 2017

Ten years ago this week I wrote a weblog that expressed my concerns about how Christ is so often absent from Christmas.  The holiday seemingly becomes more about “us” each and every year.  Author Mike Slaughter released a book a couple of years ago that addresses this whole issue in some depth called Christmas is Not Your Birthday.  Christmas has slowly over time, developed an almost cult-like following; especially in America with lavish celebrations often without a single thought of Christ.  How can it be so?  The answer seems to be that Satan has ultimately hijacked the celebration that should be all about Jesus.

Allen Raynor Weblog: Christmas Spirit and Christian Spirit
(Dec. 19, 2007)

          It is December once again; snow and ice have blanketed many parts of the nation recently.  Lights brighten the profile of houses in our neighborhoods and Christmas trees are immaculately decorated in our family rooms.  Sweets are everywhere!  Office parties, church fellowships, parties with friends, and family get-togethers test our will power not to overeat to the max! 
          I have observed that what should be a very celebrative season is often marred by tragic events.  On my way to church this Sunday, for instance, at approximately 8:15 AM I was taken back at how full the parking lot was at Walmart.  I find it incredibly ironic that 9 days before CHRIST mas that America’s largest retailer would be enormously busy, yet only a small crowd gathered for church.  I guess I would expect it if there were a holiday called GIFT mas, but really?  at CHRIST mas of all times? 
          There are several details which make up the overall Christmas story in Scripture.  There is the detail that there was no room in the inn, that Mary was Joseph’s “betrothed” wife, that Jesus was born in a cattle stall, the fact that the baby Jesus was laid in a manger or trough, and also that the wise visitors from the east came and presented Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Most likely Jesus was anywhere from 1 to 3 years old when these wise men paid their visit.  A visit to a local mall today would indicate that this visit by the wise men and the presentation of gifts was the most important part of all.  It would be like paying 50 dollars for an NFL game ticket, paying no attention to the game, ordering a hot dog and drink and calling that the highlight of the day!  When asked about the game, the same person would respond, well I’m not exactly sure who was playing!  Seems ludicrous does it not?  Well, guess what, welcome to the Christmas season in America.
          We have now figured out how to celebrate Christmas without recognition of Christ’s birth, Easter without recognition of His Resurrection, Thanksgiving without thanking God,  Independence day without considering God’s gift of our nation, Memorial Day without remembering God, Labor Day without acknowledging the ability to work as coming from God, Mothers and Fathers Day without any sense of realization that God gave us our parents, need I go on?
          Any worries about Christmas stem from uneasy retailers concerned their profits will be less than expected or hoped for.  Everyone wants a piece of the pie.  You can even stuff  someone’s stocking with Burger King gift certificates; Subway if they are a teeny big more health conscious!  What I will refer to as TV spots with attitude, such as one particular spot for Lexus encourages those who are worried they are not getting what they really want to hurry down to the “Lexus December to Remember” sale going on.  Well aren’t they nice; practically giving away cars just in time for CHRIST mas.  The personal sacrifice on their part is enormous!  I know it was a real toss up for them to decide whether to do this or help the homeless!  I hope they did the right thing!  It really is comical when you think about it.  I was at least pleased recently after purchasing an item at the “Family Christian Store” and being thanked with a “Merry Christmas.”
          Thus far you may have said right on!  Please consider this dear Christian.  In this season of celebration, how many times have you gotten angry with your wife or husband over nothing, maybe even quit speaking for a while?  How about at church; did someone say something mean to you during the finger food fellowship and quietly in your heart you’ve vowed not to speak to them again?  Did the cashier give you back too much change and you somehow forgot to correct him/her?  All these things and more are far from the spirit of Christmas.  In fact, the “Christmas spirit” we often hear about is simply a “Christian spirit.”  A Christian Spirit is something we need throughout every day of the year, not just a few select days in December.  The reason the world can shop without care on Sunday mornings in December, people can pout, act ugly to one another, and succumb to ads which encourage them to spend more money on themselves than others, and a number of other things is because, not only the Christmas spirit is absent, but the Christian Spirit is not there.  What a tragedy!  Even among Christians, we might ask where is it?  Christmas is really a sad holiday if it is nothing more than a padding of retailers pockets, erecting trees, and gorging until we are miserable.  My friends it is so much more.  Please celebrate Jesus Christ this Christmas!  Don’t be fooled by imitations!

In Christ

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor