A Portrait of Paul


Identifying a True Minister of Christ

© 2010

203 pages

By Rob Ventura and Jeremy Walker

Reformation Heritage Books


The authors of this book seek to draw principles from an in-depth study of the life of the apostle Paul to help church-goings and church leaders recognize the true marks of a Minister of Christ. Both authors are pastors. Both men did a sermon series from the book of Colossians, and this was the fruit of it.

I would highly recommend this book with one caution: this is an intense book! It could have easily been four hundred (400) pages. There are so many admonishments and cautions jam packed in this one book. Each chapter ends with a practical message to the “Fellow Christian,” and the to the “Fellow Pastor.” Each section was full of conviction because I am a church member and one who is aspiring to be a pastor. This is a great book for a small group to go through, but I would especially recommend it to a pulpit search committee. It is not the kind of book that Dave or Chad (other two others on this blog) would read next to a fireplace with a cup of coffee, it reads more like a workbook.

In the chapter entitled, “The Subject of Paul’s Ministry,” the first sentence of the “Fellow Christian” section states, “Are you sitting under a Christ-Centered, Christ-saturated, Christ magnifying ministry?” This is a question that requires a lot of thought and self-reflection, and this was only the first sentence. This was the first question, there are ten more in that section and that section is not even two pages! It’s a good book, but not a quick read. If you are considering reading this book as an individual or a group, let me know.



Brian L. Spivey – D.O.C.


When was the last time you heard a sermon about Joseph? The famous ‘Coat of many Colors.’ “The Favored Son.” “The Tenacity of Joseph” “The Joseph Spirit.”
It probably focused on Joseph’s entrepreneurial spirit. Or how God will raise us up after we have been faithful in our trials. Is that the major theological lesson God wants us to understand from that story? The narrative of Joseph is just a demonstration of the Messiah and His future work. Joseph was sent to his brothers, and his brothers rejected him. Sound familiar? Joseph was put into a pit? Does this remind you of someone? His brothers were the ones who ate bread with him, and they were the ones who lifted up their heel against him. The ones who betrayed Joseph were the very people with whom he dipped morsels of bread. Remind you of another person? Joseph was raised and seated in authority to preserve the life of his people. What about the ‘Coat of many colors’? How does that point to Christ?
A sermon about Joseph that doesn’t mention Christ is missing the point!
There’s Nobody Like Jesus. He secured our salvation and lives forever.
In my past life, I once heard an “evangelist” sermonize for 70 minutes about how Christians need the armor of God to go to heaven. We need the armor, but the armor does not forgive our sins and change our eternal destiny. There’s Nobody Like Jesus.

ONLY ONE person can turn a woman who was famous for singing about adultery into a changed woman who now sings, (Shirley Murdock with Darwin Hobbs) “There’s Nobody Like Jesus” – JESUS THE MESSIAH.


Brian L. Spivey

Can You Sing the Song of King David & Our Forefathers?

David’s song would probably not be played on a contemporary Christian radio station, or played in our churches, but maybe it should.

In Psalm 16, he prayed, “Preserve me, O God.”  The Hebrew word for “preserve” means “to keep or guard.”  We can see this word in action when we look at how guards surround a king, and when a shepherd guards his sheep. David took refuge in the only person who can perfectly shepherd and protect him.

In verse 2, there is a second singular ending on the end of the Hebrew verb, “Say.”  It is a strange thing because it is in the feminine form.  I believe the KJV and the NKJV captures the gist of the why it might be there when they translated verse 2, “O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord.”  David confessed to himself and the Lord, “You are my Lord.”  At the end of verse 2, David declares that his goodness “Extendeth not to thee…”David recognized his radical corruption.  This recognition is crucial for a true understanding of our condition before God.  We won’t feel a need to run to Jesus without this knowledge.

We stand undone and condemned before a holy God.  Without the foreign righteousness of Christ we are men most miserable – we are without hope. The realization of knowing ones sins was huge for pillars in church history.  Bernard of Clairvaux, a 12th century mystic said, “The knowledge of God and knowledge of self belong together and that in their mutual dependence they are necessary for salvation.”  Question # 1 of The Heidelberg Catechism provides a biblical summary of our only comfort in life and in death.  But question #2 asks, “What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?  The answer – “Three things:  First, how great my sin and misery are…” This was the first on the list.  This was the song. The apostles knew how great their sin and misery were; the believer in the 12th Century knew this; the elders and church leaders in Germany in the 16th Century knew this; and David declared this in Psalm 16.  When you look squarely “into the eyes” of a Holy God, can you see “How Great, How Great is our sin!  Sing with me how great is our sin. Then all will see how Great, how Great is our GOD”

Can you sing the song of King David and our forefathers?  Well then, there is hope for you… You can now RUN to Jesus for safety.

Brian Spivey — D.O.C.

Legalism, a paint-by-number spirituality


“The attraction of legalism is that, despite all its complexity, it’s mindless. It requires little or no personal engagement. It’s sheer mechanics, simple arithmetic, no more difficult than cranking a hoist or measuring a length of board. You just follow orders. You match the parts to the diagram and apply pressure. It need draw nothing from your heart, your mind, your strength, your soul. Its like paint-by-numbers: it requires no artistry, no imagination, no discipline, just dumb, methodical obedience.”

from Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God; Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath (W. Publishing Group, 2006), page 108; emphasis added.




Many men are turned off by “church” because of the way it has become feminized in these last forty years.  Some of the contemporary songs and images of God’s love does not connect with the average man.  Take for instance the concept of divine romance.  The combination of these two concepts does not excite the average “Joe the Construction Worker.”   Let’s face it, men don’t respond very well to, “Jesus, lover of my soul,” and “I want to fall in love with You.”  If we want more biblical masculinity in our churches, then maybe we should stop condoning these depictions of God as some ethereal Elvis Presley or a majestic Marvin Gaye.  God has not revealed Himself in Scripture as some helpless romantic.

So is there a love, other than romantic love, that calls men to repentance and accountability?  Can there be something stronger than romantic love?  Is there a love that challenges men to be spiritual leaders in their home, church and community?  YES, it is called Biblical love.

In the OT book of Hosea, God tells Hosea to marry a prostitute and have children with her.  God told Hosea to do this to provide His people with a vivid picture of His kind of love.  No, this was not romantic love, but a commitment to love no matter how unfaithful Israel was.  What kind of person would commit himself to an unfaithful spouse?  What kind of love is that?  Biblical love.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God…” (1 John 3:1 ESV).  Do we know for sure it wasn’t romantic love?  Well, don’t take my word, let the Bible answer that question: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16) – no romance there.  By this we KNOW love {Biblical love}… that HE laid down His life for us… (1 John 3:16a).  Romantic love?  NO, that’s not love!

OH, what love He has for us, that He would give His life… that’s love

Jesus went to Calvary to save a wretch like you and me… that’s love

They hung Him high, stretch His wide, He hung His head, for us He died… that’s love

But that’s not how the story ends because in three days HE rose again… that’s love

OH what love He has for Us!!!

What Does the Book of Hebrews have to do with a Nail?


If you haven’t read or studied the book of Hebrews in the past two years, you might want to move it to the top of your reading list.  But I don’t want you to take my word only, read and ponder the following quotes:

“Every Christian needs to understand Hebrews.  If they do not, they will misunderstand the Old Testament and will also fail to fully appreciate what our Lord Jesus Christ has done, what he is doing now, and what he is going to do in the future.  As a result, they will remain spiritually stunted” xi, Stuart Olyott – I Wish Someone Would Explain Hebrews To Me! (The Banner of Truth Trust, 2010)

“The doctrinal importance of this book is exceeded by none, not even by the Roman Epistle.” Arthur Pink – An Exposition of Hebrews, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 2006.

Look how much we learn about Jesus from the first four verses:

(1) The Son is the Heir (2) the Creator (3) the Revealer (4) the Sustainer (5) the Redeemer (6) the Ruler and Supreme.

The number seven in the Scripture often connotes completeness.  The apostle wanted to let his readers know right from the start, that Christ was the complete and final revelation of God.  Anything they were clinging to was inferior.  Christ is so much better.

On what doctrinal peg (teaching) are we hanging our soul?  Whatever it is, if it is not the finished work of Christ on the cross, we hanging our soul on a rusty, worn out nail that will eventually pass away.  The only nail we should point to is the nail that held Christ on the cross.  That nail reminds us that the Messiah was God’s plan from the beginning.  That nail reminds us that it was the Father’s plan to bruise Him.  That nail reminds us that our sins have been “Nailed to the cross and we bear it no more, Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, O’ my soul.”

Twelve of the thirteen chapters of Hebrews is constantly pointing to that nail.

 My friend, is it well with your soul today?

If not look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

Brian Spivey D.O.C.

A Lamb for the Lame







How do you read the Bible?  Is the Bible just a book that teaches us how we are to live, or is it more than that?  The Bible is God’s story of salvation.  It makes all the difference in the world how we read the Scriptures. 


For instance, when we read in the Scriptures that God used Peter and John to heal the lame man (Acts 3), what should be our response?  The answer all depends on whether a person views the Bible as a book of morals, or God’s story of salvation.  If we view it as a moral book, then the result will be a desire for us to find a lame man and ask God to work through us like He worked through Peter and John; besides, “God is no respecter of persons.”  Yet, if we view the Bible as God’s story, then the result will be a deeper appreciation and devotion in us toward the God who heals those who cannot heal themselves. This lame man was healed by the lamb who takes away the sins of the world.


If we are reading the Bible as God’s salvation story, then when we read about a leper or a lame man, it should automatically remind us of our own condition.  As sons of Adam, we are spiritual lepers.  We cannot heal ourselves.  We were born sinners.  When we see the lame, we should remember that we have no ability to come to God unless He draws us. 


In 2 Samuel 9, we are introduced to a lame man by the name of Mephibosheth.  He lived far from the king. He was a descendant of Saul, so he was a natural enemy of the king.  He had no intention of ever seeking out the king.  He was a rejected refugee.  Mephibosheth was as good as dead.  He hid from the king and was not part of the king’s family.  But the king called Mephibosheth and gave him life.  He gave him an inheritance and adopted him.  He made him a son with all rights and privileges.


A moral book?  Then, we should praise God for David and try to imitate king David.


A book about God’s salvation history?  Then we stand in awe of how our King humbled Himself and came to earth to show us mercy.  He gave us new life, an inheritance, and the adoption of sons.  This story should evoke gratitude for the wisdom and kindness of our God – The Lamb of God came to earth to heal lame.Kosher+slaughter


“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To Him be the glory forever.  Amen



Brian (D.O.C.)


What is a Biblical Peacemaker?


“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9)distant horizon


What was the first thing that came to your mind when you heard the word peace? Did you think of someone holding up two of his fingers?  Or did you imagine a bunch of people sitting around smoking drugs and listening to the Beatles? Maybe images of people marching across a bridge, while dogs attack them came to your mind, or people who are pacifists.  If your brain automatically associates words with pictures, then you probably thought of an upside broken cross with a circle around it, or a blue ocean; but whatever association we attribute to this word, if it is not biblical, we will misunderstand these familiar words of Jesus The Messiah.

It is true that Christians are commanded to pursue what makes for peace (Romans 14:19), and so far as it depends on us, we should live peaceably with all (Romans 12:18), but is the war between men the predominate meaning that Jesus wanted to convey?  Is one who seeks peace with men a biblical peacemaker?

On the surface it might seem that way, but man’s biggest spiritual problem is not war against himself, but war against a holy God.  God revealed Himself as holy.  He is also just.  He must judge sin.  Man is sinful and stands condemned before a holy God. God’s wrath is poured out on all mankind (Romans 1:18).  Man is separated from God and there is a gulf that cannot be crossed (Isaiah 59:2).  The good news [the Gospel] is that God has bridged that gap through His Son, Jesus Christ.  Now for those that embrace Jesus as the Messiah, He is our peace, for both the Jew and the Gentile (Ephesians 2:14).

God is the God of peace.  He has already reconciled some to Himself through the finished work or Christ on the cross.  Christians don’t make peace between man and God, but we are ambassadors for Christ.  God is making His appeal through us – we implore men on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20).  I believe that the true blessing Jesus speaks of in Matt 5:9 is not for marching men with peace signs, but is poured out on Christian men marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before.  Peacemakers are those men who proclaim, “Be reconciled to God!”— Christ completed the work of redemption on the cross.


Repent and receive Jesus as your personal Savior and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) AND YOU can become a biblical Peacemaker today.


Brian L. Spivey – D.O.C.


The Secret Key to the Christian Life is…


Christians yearn to be better Christians, that is, more like Christ. We would like to have greater victory over our sins, we’d like to pray more (often, and fervently), we’d like to “do” more in service to God and His purposes in the world. We want to be more faithful and diligent in our devotion to Christ.

Therefore, many books are published with titles that reflect this inner desire. “The Keys to Passing Your Spiritual Tests”, “The Secret of the Lord: the Simple Key That Will Revive Your Spiritual Power”, etc., etc. I don’t mean to make too much of this language, but it brings up the question, “Is there a secret key to the Christian life?” Is the Christian life “locked”, and only some Christians have the “key”?

No, not really. Conceptually, it would be nice if there were simply such a key. It would make the Christian life a lot easier. Perhaps that is what makes such books so popular. If we just had more knowledge, the right facts, following Jesus wouldn’t be quite so difficult.

However, I have found no easy way to deny myself, to take up a cross, and follow Him. No easy way, but a joyful way. The “secret” of the Christian life is really no secret at all. It is expressed throughout the Scriptures. It is our union with Christ by faith that we become better Christians, have greater victory over our sins, and accomplish more for the kingdom of God. All Christians have this “key”, so use it!

C.M. Granger

Are You a Groundhog or a Christian?


There are seven festivals instituted by God for the Israelites.  These festivals were shadows or types of Christ.  You can find a detailed description in Leviticus 23.  Males were required to travel to the temple in Jerusalem to celebrate three out of the seven – The Feast of Unleavened Bread, The Feast of Weeks and The Feast of Booths.  The one that’s probably most unfamiliar to us is The Feast of Booths.  They had to hold a holy convocation for the first day, and a holy convocation for the eighth day.  No ordinary work was to be done.  You can read about all the details of this festival in Leviticus 23:33-44.  The point I want to emphasize here is what the Israelites were suppose to remember during this time – that the people of “Israel dwell in booths when I (The Lord) brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (verse 43).

The children of Israel had to leave the ‘comforts’ of their homes and live in these ‘booths’ for seven days.  This helped remind them that when God brought them out of Egypt, they had nothing but His presence.  If they had His presence, then they needed nothing else to survive.  These booths, or ‘tabernacles,’ were reminders, but they also pointed forward.  They were to look forward to the Messiah who would be ‘God with them.’   The tabernacle stood as a visible witness that salvation was God’s way or no way.  It typified the Incarnation of Christ.  The tabernacle was also a visible reminder that God’s presence – the most holy place, was off limits; it was only accessible by a representative.  The curtain dashed all of our hopes, and kept us out of the presence of God.

But the greatest miracle the world has ever experienced happened over 2000 years ago – Jesus was born.

John said that Jesus dwelt (tabernacled) among us (John 1:14).  Jesus said that He was the only way to the Father – there is no other name whereby men can be saved.  Jesus became our hope that entered into the inner place behind the curtain (Hebrews 6:19).

Why do we need to participate in a shadow?   We don’t need to go back to darkness and build booths.  Jesus said He was the light of the world.  A shadow disappears when the sunlight is directly overhead.  When the true Light of the world came, He dispelled the shadows.  Those festivals were not the real thing, they only pointed to the real thing.  Only a groundhog is foolish enough to believe that a shadow is a real thing… Are you going to be Christ-follower, or a groundhog?


Brian L. Spivey