You Probably Saw This Coming

Posted September 25, 2008 by reglerjoe
Categories: Uncategorized

Well, it’s been awhile since my last blog post. I’ve come to realize that anonymous blogging is an exercise in vanity. I’ve also come to see that the blogosphere is well populated with many who desire reform within independent Baptist fundamentalism.

There’s just too much for me to do in service to the Savior to continue to expend energy into anonymous blogging. Perhaps one day I’ll return to the blogosphere, attaching my name to the post I write. But first, there’s a few doctrinal issues I need to nail down.

Until then, you can find reglerjoe reading and commenting on the blogs linked in my sidebar.

I have left posts that I thought are worth reading. I’ve removed the more caustic and controversial. I’ve also turned off the comments option so you won’t think this is an unashamed solicitation for comments extolling my writing style and expounding the reasons why I should keep a viable presence in the blogosphere. ;-)

May God bless all of my readers.

Super Bowl in the Wilderness

Posted February 19, 2008 by reglerjoe
Categories: Miscellany, Theology

“Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.” (Matthew 4:1)

At first glance, I usually only notice the major elements of the story of the Savior’stemptation_of_christ.jpg temptation: wilderness fasting, Satan tempting, angels ministering. But recently, one verse stood out from the text, grabbing my attention – “Jesus was led up of the Spirit.”

Odd. Jesus instructs us to pray for deliverance from temptation, and here Jesus is led into temptation by none other than the Spirit of God. Why? Why would the Spirit draw the Son to the devil to be tempted to sin?

Because Jesus was led to the wilderness to do combat – spiritual combat – with the devil himself. Though Christ teaches us to pray for deliverance from temptation, He needed not to fear it. We are weak; He is strong. We are clothed in flesh – sinful flesh; in Him dwells the fullness of the godhead bodily. We are nothing without Him; by Him all things consist.

Up to that point in the history of man, the devil was unbeaten – he had a perfect season. His record was 1.5 bizzillion and 0. Every man and woman ever born, had succumbed to temptation. None had triumphed over the devil. Ever.

Then Jesus came, and He was looking for a fight. Somebody needed to put the ol’ serpent in his place, and Christ was willing to do it – with both hands tied behind His back:

“And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” (Matthew 4:2)

With weakened flesh, hunger, exhaustion, He comes to the match. The Second Adam will triumph gloriously where the first Adam failed miserably, and Christ’s victory is made all the more glorious when contrasted with Adam’s failure. Adam succumbed in paradise; Jesus overcomes in the desert. Adam fell though he feasted on the fruit of the garden; Jesus was half-starved. Adam had the benefits of pristine surroundings and tame animals, untouched by the curse of sin; Jesus was engulfed in the scorching heat and surrounded by the wild beasts. (Mark 1:14)

The combat ensues, and the devil brings his old playbook, well worn but always successful. And his favorite play of all? Make your opponent doubt the Word of God.

Previously, Christ’s baptism was announced by the voice of God thunderously proclaiming, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” What does the devil say to the Son? “If thou be the Son of God…”


“Doubt Him,” is the devil’s game. His impudence and arrogance with Christ is telling. The devil quotes Scripture to cause doubt in the Word of the Father. How many times have I heard it said that the devil knows the Bible? Yes, he is acquainted with the Holy Book, but he is no theologian – else he would’ve understood that the Son cannot sin and that his efforts were an exercise in futility. Truthfully, I think the devil didn’t comprehend the fullness of Christ’s Sonship. This Jesus of Nazareth was not just God’s favored prophet, or some gifted miracle worker. He was not just an Elijah – He was more. Infinitely more. He is God in the flesh.

Twice the devil comes with his “ifs”; thrice the Son responds with, “It is written.” And Jesus accomplishes what no other man could do alone – He vanquishes the devil. Like the Patriots who desperately wanted a perfect season, the devil labored to retain his perfect record, only to fall in the match that counted the most. One loss was all that it took, and now that ol’ serpent is a defeated foe, shamed and disgraced by the very Word he wished to disparage. And like the Giants’ fans that rushed the field to hoist their champions on jubilant shoulders, angelic spectators thronged their King, ministering unto Him.

The world has a new Champion who will forever keep the title, “Undefeated.”

“For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

My Biggest Hindrances to Prayer

Posted February 12, 2008 by reglerjoe
Categories: Pastoring, prayer

We preachers know that prayer is the lifeblood of ministry. Without it, we are of all men most miserable. Spurgeon put it this way:

spurgeon-close-up.gifOf course the preacher is above all others distinguished as a man of prayer. He prays as an ordinary Christian, else he were a hypocrite. He prays more than ordinary Christians, else he were disqualified for the office which he has undertaken.

We must pray, and not only pray, we must pray more than the average Christian.

We all know the necessity of private prayer and the benefits of that most precious of Christian graces, and yet despite this understanding we still struggle with praying. We are both inspired and shamed by the stories of great saints of old who were known to spend hours in the closet – admiring such spiritual discipline and knowing we fall miserably short of their example.

Why is the prayer closet so elusive? Why is it so hard to find the time we want to pray? We have the same 24 hours in our day that the great men of the faith had. Why does the modern pulpit languish in prayerlessness?

The answers to those questions will vary with every individual, but let me share with you what I’ve noticed to be the two biggest hindrances to prayer in my own life.

First there is this matter of time – or better yet, timing. It’s not more time I need, it’s better timing. As a married-with-children, bivocational pastor a lot of people want my attention, which means they want my time. From the moment my feet hit the floor in the morning to the moment my head hits the pillow at night there is something needing to be done somewhere, and usually someone needing me to do it (in fact, as I type this paragraph my son is asking me to print out a picture of Master Chief for him, and my two-year old girl is riding the horsey on my knee).

If I try to get away from it all, or lock my self in a room somewhere, there’s always a phone ringing or some kind of distraction. So I figured out that if private prayer is going to be a habitual part of my life I’m either going to have to get up before everyone or stay up after everyone goes to bed. The evening is the only time when my wife and I can relax together and decompress after a long day, so I chose to get up early to pray.

This leads me to my second biggest hindrance to prayer – fatigue. We’ve all been there: kneeling to pray and waking up 30 minutes later, our Bibles wet with drool. Nothing is quite as discouraging in prayer as the inability to stay awake in prayer. In this we are not alone, for even the disciples’ prayer life was affected by fatigue.

“And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:40-41

Well said. Our spirit is willing, but our flesh is weak. We want to pray, but so often we are so tired. Perhaps the disciples were feeling drowsy because of their big Passover meal and a few glasses of the ol’ fruit of the vine. Perhaps they were experiencing in the garden what we experience on the couch after the Thanksgiving meal. Whatever the reason, the disciples vividly depicted the ineffectiveness of drowsy prayer warriors.

In prayer, we want to cry out, not crash hard. But how? How do we stay alive, alert and attentive? A few tips from my own personal experience:

First, I prioritize sleep – at least seven hours. Fatigue is an indication of sleep deprivation, and for those of you inclined to believe that sleep deprivation is a mark of sanctification, stop now and read this post. Get your sleep, brethren. It will probably mean getting to bed earlier and perhaps turning off Letterman. So be it. Sleep is as necessary to productive ministry as any other physical activity.

prostrate-prayer-copy.jpgSecondly, to some extent, I avoid horizontal praying. Face-down praying is a wonderful way to emphasize our obeisance to God and our worship of Him, but if I linger in that position for long, I’ll wake up later with carpet face. I don’t believe that there is only one proper posture in the prayer closet, so I alternate between kneeling, prostrating, and walking around the room.

Thirdly, I pray aloud. Prayer is – to our human perception – a one way conversation. We talk to God, but He does not respond audibly. I also have noticed that I pray more passionately when I pray out loud. Hearing my prayer helps me stay awake and focused.

Last, but not least, I make sure I have a hot beverage on hand. Of course, that would be coffee, and I like it hot, strong, and black. Now for those of you persisting in the error of your coffee-less ways, I suggest tea, or hot chocolate, or any number of namby-pamby drinks available today (kidding – relax!). Even decaffeinated coffee is fine. A bold tasting, warm beverage is what I need to get my brain to functioning before 6 in the morning.

These are just a few observations from a guy who definitely is not an example of a great prayer warrior. Most of my wisdom in life has been learned by doing things the wrong way, so feel free to share your own suggestions and success stories.

Until next time, keep it between the ditches and the greasy side down.

You Might Be a Bivocational Pastor If…

Posted September 18, 2007 by reglerjoe
Categories: Pastoring


  • In a business meeting at the job, you’re boss says something you agree with and you respond with a hearty, “Amen!”
  • As you stand to preach on Sunday, you wonder if you remembered to clock in.
  • In the break room, you’ve been known to announce, “Let us ask the Lord’s blessing on this food.”
  • You take your Bible, briefcase, and box cutter to church.
  • You can squeeze in a hospital visit during your lunch break.
  • You have written sermon outlines with Sharpies on cardboard.
  • When coworkers ask about your weekend they say, “So what did you do over the weekend? …oh, wait…never mind.”
  • You wonder what full-time pastors do with all of their free time.
  • Newbies on the job don’t know whether to use your given name or call you Father, Reverend, or Pastor.
  • Multi-tasking is not efficiency – its survival.
  • Your idea of a vacation is locking yourself in your office and studying all day.
  • You enjoy the frightened look on your coworker’s face when you jokingly tell him that you mentioned him in your Sunday sermon.
  • You don’t preach reruns, you preach”The Best Of”.

Unbelievable: Preaching that Lacks Passion and Sincerity

Posted August 31, 2007 by reglerjoe
Categories: Celeb Pastor, Pastoring, prayer, preaching

Few things are as dishonoring to Christ and His cause as boring sermons. The very exercise which should be heralding the riches of God’s glory, calling sinners to repentance, and edifying the saints is many times the instrument by which God is portrayed as irrelevant, sinners are bored to tears, and the saints are driven to clock-watching instead of sermon-listening. How sad.

ben-stein.jpgTo the average churchgoer, the Sunday sermon is the longest, most dreaded 30 minutes of the week. It has, for many, become a worthless formality between waking up Sunday morning and going to Cracker Barrel Sunday afternoon.

Some have attempted to remedy the problem by nearly eliminating the sermon completely from the church service. A greater emphasis has been placed on entertainment style worship, and many sermons have been shortened in length and shallowed in content to become more palatable to our ADD stricken society. But the end result is not better preaching, but no preaching at all.

Of course, no preacher hits a homerun every time he steps to the plate, and we all have those congregants who persist to nap, no matter how enthusiastic our delivery style. I believe some of my listeners would sleep even if I conducted a mosh pit worship service followed by a Benny Hinn-style healing crusade. But to many sermon sufferers, a sincere and passionate preacher would be a welcome relief.

G. Campbell Morgan told the story of a successful actor named Macready who was approached by a pastor puzzled as to why crowds flocked to hear drama but not to hear sermons. Macready answered, “This is quite simple, I present my fiction as though it were truth; you present your truth as though it were fiction.”

What are we doing that makes our preaching boring? What bad habits have we developed that rob our sermon delivery of passion and sincerity? I have a few observations:

We sound insincere when we use the same words in our public prayers week after week. A heartless prayer prepares the people for a heartless sermon. It communicates, perhaps unwittingly, that the preacher is really not conversing with God, he’s just going through the motions…and the same will probably hold true with his preaching.

Another bad habit that robs us of passion and sincerity is not making eye contact with our listeners. When we look people in the eye we are conveying the attitude that we mean business – that we are serious about what we are saying. When I am, on occasion, a sermon hearer instead of a sermon giver it always irks me when the preacher won’t look at the crowd. It really is odd that a man would deliver an entire sermon to the clock in the back of the auditorium.

Need I mention how awful it is to preach in a monotone voice? And remember, monotone isn’t just a calm drone, it’s any pitch repeated without variation. Even southern “windsucking” preachers can be monotone if they never vary from their hollerin’ pitch. Variety is the spice of life, and a variety of voice pitch spices the sermon with a good amount of sincerity and believability.

Even worse than the wretched monotone sermon is the sermon delivered in a fake, affected voice. Your preaching voice should be an enlargement of your normal voice, not a bad impersonation. I know of an evangelist who persists to preach in a style that is an obvious mimic of one of his preacher-heroes, for when he speaks conversationally his voice and demeanor change completely. When actors act, their drama seems real; when preachers act, their sermons seem fake – so let’s abandon the imitation.

Another sermon delivery style that conveys artificiality is forced alliteration. Can we be honest here? The only people that really care for alliteration are preachers. I know we think that it helps our people remember our sermon, but it rarely does. Preachers like to alliterate because it makes us feel like we wrote a proper outline. Some preachers mistake alliteration for proper exegesis, thinking that the purpose of studying a passage is not so much to unpack its meaning but rather to make all 4 sermon points begin with “B” or end with “-tion”. Hey, if alliteration fits – great! Go for it! But let’s not pound square pegs into round holes.

There’s yet a more spurious practice, one that is the most commonly used and the most difficult to describe. It is the habit of using misplaced emphasis on the last word of a sentence – a strange sort of “up-tone” on every last word. It’s a speaking style that is never used in conversation, but often employed in mindless recitation and vain repetition. Somehow, it found its way into the preaching style of many a pulpiteer. It is a sermon killer, no matter how pristine and professional the outline might be.

It might be helpful to listen to your sermon recordings once in a while, or better yet, watch a video of yourself delivering a sermon. For those mature enough to handle constructive criticism, ask your wife this: “Honey, if there was one thing about how I preach that you could change, what would it be?” If her response is “just one?” then brew some coffee, brother – it goes well with humble pie.

For a more thorough and eloquent treatment on this subject, I refer you to Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students of course. He has a few very helpful chapters regarding sermon delivery and pulpit antics.

Why Passion Leaves the Prayer Closet

Posted August 22, 2007 by reglerjoe
Categories: Numbers, prayer

The following testimony will sound condemnatory towards my alma mater. I do not mean it to be so. The last thing I want anyone to think is that I would blame an institution for my own spiritual failure. I also understand that many of my fellow alumni would purport an opposite testimony to that of mine – theirs being equally legitimate as mine. Keep these statements in mind as you read this post.

prayer.jpgAs a young man, I had developed a sweet affection for God. I remember well reading the Bible as a “hart panteth after the water brooks”, drinking in every word, thirsty for the knowledge of God. My times of solitary prayer were rich and meaningful. I remember one night especially, weeping for hours in my bed for the joy that God’s majesty brought to my soul. I wanted to serve this holy and majestic God with my life. I gave myself to the ministry.

Off to college I went, still enchanted by the love of Christ.

My first semester introduced me to the hectic lifestyle that is the college student’s. Classes, friends, dating, and weekend ministries all clamored for my attention, and I gladly gave it. The Still Small Voice that I had so cherished a few months earlier was soon drowned out by the busy drone of college activities. I had done that which I thought was impossible: my religious affections had grown cold…in Bible College!

My cold heart was receptive to misguided zeal and incredible busy-ness. Those sweet seasons of communion I had enjoyed with my Savior were replaced by brief and obligatory moments of time that I had scratched out of my hectic college lifestyle.

And in those brief minutes of devotion, something changed…something wasn’t the same…a certain familiarity and closeness was absent. My prayers were different. Felt different. Sounded different.

I was different. My paradigm had changed. No longer was God my end-all, and the joy of my life – He had become a means to make me bigger – more successful. My prayers revolved around my prideful desire for more attention from my ministry superiors, more success in the numbers game, and more notoriety on campus. I developed a legalistic perspective on prayer, thinking that the more time I put in the prayer closet equated to bigger numbers for the Sunday bus route. So I tried harder to pray longer, but I was willfully ignorant of the lack of real passion for God.

God existed for my glory. I did not exist for God’s glory. Everything I did in the ministry appeared to be done for God, but on the inside, I knew all was pride-fueled.

But God has some sure-fire remedies for pride infected preachers: frustration, failure, stagnation, anonymity, desperation…to name a few. For almost 10 years, I tried to get God to do ministry my way. And He slowly, lovingly, and graciously used my failures and my stupidity to mold me more into the shepherd He wanted me to be.

Let me reiterate that I do not blame any of my decade of cold spirituality on my alma mater. It was my fault that I allowed myself to become inordinately distracted with hectic schedules and sinfully obsessed with numbers.

I have dined on the dry husks of legalistic and robotic prayer. I have tasted the bitter waters of prideful motivation. They are all vanity. By His grace, I once again enjoy the sweet refreshment of communion with Christ. The prayer closet is no longer a chore; it is a joy. Prayer is no longer timed recitation; it is loving conversation.

Life is good when He is life.

Surmise Surprise – How NOT to Prepare a Sermon

Posted July 2, 2007 by reglerjoe
Categories: preaching, Shallow Preaching

pastoral-counseling-graphic.jpgAs a young Bible college student, I was taught to start preparing my Sunday morning sermon the week before after a Sunday night service. The scenario, I was taught, should proceed thusly: after having been with my people during the Sunday services, and then counseling with them some in the afternoon and even more after the evening service, I should sit down in my office and replay the day’s events. Based upon mine own surmising, I would determine what subject to preach to my people the next Sunday morning. I was supposed to determine their spiritual needs by considering the questions they had asked in the office, or by the reactions they had to my preaching, or by any number of activities symptomatic of a “special need”.

The problem? The sermon preparation is aimed primarily at surface issues. If couples are arguing in the counseling office, then the next Sunday I should preach about not arguing, or how to love better, or how to keep your mouth shut, or something.

If a teenager confessed to listening to raunchy music, I should preach about the evils of Rock-n-Roll. If a man desired help with alcohol abuse, I should preach the next Sunday about the dangers of liquor – and on and on…

And so you see that type of topical sermon preparation revolves entirely around what is said in the counseling office – what the counselees feel their problems are, and what I feel their solution is.

Another problem with this type of “guess-the-felt-need” sermon preparation is that anybody who comes to the pastor’s office with some really shocking or controversial problem can bank on the fact that their scandalous situation will more than likely determine next week’s sermon.

It is almost comical how often some IFB preachers will use the phrase: “a couple came into my office last week…” in one sermon.

This is why expository preaching surpasses topical preaching as a means by which to sanctify God’s people. Expository preaching unleashes the sanctifying power of the Truth.

John 17:17 “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”

God knows the hearts of men, and He knows what their true needs are. God doesn’t have to guess what they might need – He KNOWS; and His Word, when preached faithfully, does its job of addressing the individual’s need.

Many topical sermons, especially the ones prepared as described above, do not unleash the inherent power of God’s Word. More often than not, they are sermons aimed at surface issues which serve only to temporarily soothe a person’s outward symptoms while his real spiritual ailment festers and worsens. This inevitably leads to a cycle of frustration on the part of the needy congregant, who then must incessantly make regular trips to the pastor’s office for yet more counseling.

I do not say this to mean that we could never preach good, contextual topical sermons. That would be absurd. And, sure, there are times when the special needs of a congregation are obvious – during incredible tragedies, for instance. But expository preaching builds the church.

Spurgeon said it well:

“Let us be thoroughly well acquainted with the great doctrines of the Word of God, and let us be mighty in expounding Scripture. I am sure that no preaching will last so long, or build up a church so well, as the expository. To renounce altogether the hortatory discourse for the expository would be running to a preposterous extreme; but I cannot too earnestly assure you that if your ministries are to be lastingly useful you must be expositors.”


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