How Much Do You Like the Buffet?

Larry and Jane Hudson are dear friends from the Main Street church of Christ. Years ago they invited me to Sunday dinner following the AM worship assembly. This special couple was celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary at the time, and so they asked me to go along and commemorate the happy occasion.

Our destination? Owensboro, Kentucky and Moonlite Bar-B-Q.

Everybody in this neck of the woods knows about Moonlite. Think casual dining. Think family feel. Think all-you-can-eat BBQ buffet. Underline the word “all.” Hungry guests stand in line with a plate and then help themselves to a smorgasbord of tasty, home-style dishes.

Buffet. Choose what you want. Skip what you don’t want. Go back as many times as you wish. This is gastronomical heaven. I loaded my plate with country favorites—mashed potatoes, pulled pork and green beans, but then skipped the macaroni and cheese, gravy and rolls.

I left the restaurant full as the proverbial tick. Okay, maybe not full—I stopped just one bite shy of gluttony.

The meal was great; the Christian company was even better.

It occurs to me that many preachers treat the Word like a trip to Moonlite. They fill their theological dinnerware with perennial favorites. They “eat” what their doctrinal belly desires (Philippians 3:19), but then pass over those food items that their denomination deems unpalatable. For instance, some heap their plate with faith, but then consciously omit what the Scriptures teach about baptism. They select some of God’s Word, but not the sum of God’s Word. They claim to be “Bible-believing,” but then do a “Moonlite” on those passages that teach the necessity of immersion.

Does the New Testament require baptism? You say, “No.” Look again:

According to Matthew 28:19-20, baptism is involved in my becoming a disciple of Christ.

According to Mark 16:15-16, baptism is something I must engage if I want to be saved.

According to Acts 2:37-38, baptism is something I must undergo in order to be forgiven of my sins.

According to Acts 8:12-13, 38, baptism is something to which I must submit, even if it means changing my religion.

According to Acts 10:48, baptism is something I must obey because it has been commanded.

According to Acts 16:14-15, 33, baptism is something I will yield to—immediately—in order to be faithful to the Lord.

According to Acts 22:16, baptism is something I must do if I desire my past sins to be taken away (cf. Acts 9:6).

According to Romans 6:3-7, baptism is that which makes a difference (slave of sin vs. slave of righteousness) in my life.

According to 1 Corinthians 12:13, baptism is the means by which I enter the body or church (cf. Ephesians 1:22-23).

According to Galatians 3:26-27, baptism is the way that I become a child of God.

According to 1 Peter 3:21, baptism saves.

Do you have your Bible handy? Read through Jeremiah 36. Jeremiah prophesied during the closing days of the southern kingdom of Judah. On one occasion, the prophet received a divine message from God and then had the words written on a scroll (vv. 1-3). This inspired document was later read to king Jehoiakim by Jehudi (vs. 21). When Jehudi read that the kingdom-nation would be overthrown by the Babylonian empire, Jehoiakim decided he couldn’t “stomach” anymore. The arrogant ruler took a scribe’s penknife, cut up the scroll, and then cast it into the fire until it was consumed (vs. 22-24).

Jehoiakim would have liked Moonlite. Eat what you want. Skip what you don’t want. Mashed potatoes “Yes,” dinner rolls “No.” Authoritarian rule, “Yes,” servile bondage “No.” Faith “Yes,” baptism “No.”

Dear reader, the Bible is not a self-serve restaurant. We can’t pick out the parts that we like and then reject or cut out the portions that don’t strike our fancy. We must declare and consume (Jeremiah 15:16) the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27; cf. 2 Timothy 4:2-4), including those passages that teach the necessity of baptism.

Is your preacher offering some of God’s Word, or the sum of God’s Word? “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever” (Psalm 119:160).

Why Can’t You Hurry a Good Pot of Pinto Beans?

I MAKE NO secret of it.

My favorite meal consists of fried potatoes, fried cornbread and home-cooked pinto beans.

Oh yeah, and a slice or two of white onion.

Having become something of a connoisseur of pintos over the years, I’ve made a significant discovery – beans cooked quickly aren’t fit to eat.

It’s true.

Good beans have to soak overnight in salt water, then be boiled, then be left to simmer slowly in a pot on the stove.

We’re talking hours.

That’s why I’m unwilling to eat store bought, canned beans.

Canned bean aren’t worth the aluminum can and paper label that encases them.

Now that I think about it, that’s pretty much what they taste like – aluminum and paper.

Food processing factories leave out the most important ingredient in good beans.


You can’t hurry a good pot of pinto beans.

Gospel sermons are a lot like good beans because they require time.

They need several hours of mental industry and preparation.

A preacher can’t cook up a lesson late Saturday night before he goes to bed any more than you can microwave a bag of beans.

If a congregation expects a regular diet of well-balanced spiritual meals (John 6:27), then the preacher has to devote large blocks of time to his studies each week.

Sound, Bible-based sermons have to soak, then be boiled, and be allowed to simmer slowly in the recesses of his heart and mind.

Passages have to be explored.

Greek and Hebrew languages have to be researched.

Commentator insights have to be considered.

Relevant illustrations have to be chosen.

Thoughts have to be organized.

Immediate and remote contexts have to be deliberated.

Ancient cultures have to be brought to bear.

And I haven’t even mentioned prayer yet!

Brethren who sometimes maintain that their preacher spends too much time in his study fail to appreciate the true nature of his work.

A preacher is first and foremost of all a thinker.

He has to chew on and digest the Word himself before he can bring it to the table of the Lord (cf. Ezek. 3:1ff) on Sunday.

Paul told Timothy, “Give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine…meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them…take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Tim. 4:13b, 15a, 16).

Are you hungry for real food (1 Pet. 2:2)?

Do you want to be nourished spiritually (1 Tim. 4:6).

Is your diet prompting growth and maturity in the inner man (Heb. 5:12-14)?

Canned beans aren’t fit to eat.

Neither are canned sermons.

Encourage your preacher in his studies.

Insist that he be a diligent student.

Make sure that he has sufficient time behind his desk, with his Bible, books, and computer.

When he’s able to cook for long periods of time, then you’re able to eat well.

“Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart…” (Jer. 15:16).


Some biblical observations about the nature and grandeur of the Word of God

GOD IS  T H E  MASTER artist (Gen. 1:1, 27; Job 37:15-16; Psm. 8:3-6; 19:1; 33:6; 95:4-5; 104:1-4, 24-25; Isa. 42:5; Rom. 1:20; Heb. 1:2).  Throughout His Word He often painted very graphic and evocative word pictures by means of metaphors.1

“But what exactly are metaphors?” you ask.  Perhaps the easiest and best way to explain them is to describe what they do.  Metaphors 1) compare two things, and 2) establish a similarity and connectivity between them.  They 3) communicate ideas through vivid, three-dimensional verbal descriptions to show us how “A” is in some sense is like “B.”2

Pour carefully over the follow Bible metaphors and note what they tell us about the nature and grandeur of God’s Word“What is the Bible…?”

  • IT IS THE UNDISTORED MIRROR that lays bear and reflects the real spiritual status of man.  Jas. 1:23
  • IT IS THE FAITHFUL JUDGE that will finally weigh the words, actions, and life of man.  Psm. 51:4; Jn. 12:48
  • IT IS A MIGHTY HAMMER that shatters the stubborn will of man.  Jer. 23:29
  • IT IS A WHITE-HOT FIRE that melts the hardest heart of man.  Jer. 23:29; Mal. 3:2; Isa. 5:24
  • IT IS A SHARP, TWO-EDGED SWORD that pierces the conscience of man. Heb. 4:12; Eph. 6:17
  • IT IS A BRILLIANT LAMP AND LIGHT that illuminates the path of man.  Psm. 119:105, 130; Jn. 12:46; 1 Pet. 2:9
  • IT IS THE STRAIGHT PATH that directs the walk of man.  Psm. 119:32; Jer. 6:16; Psm. 23:2; Prov. 2:13, 15; 4:11, 18; 22:5; Isa. 2:3, 59:9; Mic. 4:2
  • IT IS LIVING SEED that germinates in the heart-soil of a spiritual man and then yields much fruit.  1 Pet. 1:23; Lk. 8:11
  • IT IS THE STAPLE BREAD OF LIFE that feeds, sustains, and matures the eternal spirit of man.  Mat. 4:4; Deut. 8:3; 32:2; Jn. 6:32-33, 63;
  • IT IS PURE, SWEET HONEY that satisfies the spiritual appetite of man. Psm. 119:103, 19:10
  • IT IS FRESH, HEALTHY MILK that promotes growth in the essence of man.  1 Pet. 2:2
  • IT IS HEARTY, DELICIOUS MEAT that feeds and nourishes the deepest appetite of man.  Heb. 5:14
  • IT IS AN ELABORATE TOPOGRAPHICAL MAP that illustrates and details the eternal soul of man.  Psm. 25:5, 143:8, 119:19, 119:33; Isa. 30:21
  • IT IS PRECIOUS, REFINED GOLD AND SILVER that holds and keeps inestimable value in the inner being of man.  Psm. 12:6, 19:10; 119:14, 72, 127
  • IT IS PRICELESS TREASURE that enriches the inner spirit of man.  Prov. 2:1; Job 28:18
  • IT IS AN IMPENITRABLE SHIELD that protects the true heart of man.  Psm. 91:4
  • IT IS COMFORTING BALM that heals and soothes the broken heart of man.  Jer. 8:22; Prov. 3:8
  • IT IS A FIRMLY EMBEDDED NAIL that cannot be easily removed from the thinking of man.  Eccl. 12:11b
  • IT IS GENTLE RAIN that blesses and nourishes the heart-soil of man.  Deut. 32:2
  • IT IS A PRODDING GOAD that pushes and nudges the moral behavior of man.  Eccl. 12:11a
  • IT IS HIGH-POWERED DYNAMITE that breaks down the independence of man.  Rom. 1:16
  • IT IS THE SOLID FOUNDATION that withstands the storms of man.  Lk. 6:47-48, 21:33; Psm. 119:152; Isa. 40:8;
  • IT IS THE ALL-WISE COUNSELOR that unravels the worries of man.  Psm. 16:7; 73:24; 119:24; Prov. 1:1-7; 8:14, 19:20; Psm. 2:6; Jas. 1:5
  • IT IS GREAT SPOIL AND PLUNDER that abundantly blesses the immaterial needs of man.  Psm. 119:162
  • IT IS UNCOMPROMISING LAW that defines and authorizes activity of man.  Deut. 32:45-47; Col. 3:17

1 The Greek words, meta, meaning “over,” and pherein, meaning “to carry” suggest a transfer of meaning.

2 Leyland Ryken, “Metaphors in the Psalms,”