August 16, 2016


In the grand book of Deuteronomy, chapter twenty-eight, God continues to explain the judgment that will come to Israel if they are disobedient. These curses include a nation that will be identified by its language: The Lord shall bring a nation against thee, from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand. (28:49) In a walled city, if you were to hear a strange tongue, you would be on guard; in this text, it was a warning of judgment.

The land I live in is filled with many languages. Some of these tongues quickly identify the national background of the speaker. Normally, for a nation to be united, the country has to have one major language. It is misguided to think that all languages could be equal in one nation. The growth of a language, other than the one that unites the people, could be a signal of disruption and a possible sign of judgment. It would be unwise to demand that all languages but one be silenced. When a new language threatens a coup, however, trouble is on the agenda.

Languages help us identify many things, good or bad.


Not only can our language identify our national backgrounds, it can also place us as being from a certain area of the country. Our community here is a retirement development. Some of our folks have had all the snow they want, so they come from New Jersey, New York, New England, and places like Boston. Others have come from mid-America and the deep South. When we have a community social, it becomes a plethora of accents.

When Peter tried to deny his relationship to Jesus, he was caught by his speech. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech betrayeth thee. (Matt. 26:72-73)

Words make up our vocabulary, so the speech of an educator, doctor, scientist, or engineer leaves you with a fairly good idea of what is his/her vocation. Then there is the moral quality of conversation. Tongues that freely take God’s name in vain, or are risqué, tell you a lot about the speakers background and moral perspective. Before you ever ask someone a direct question about their spiritual condition, their language has already betrayed them.

Yes, I am going somewhere with this. It applies to what has been happening in the circle of those who profess to be Christians as well as the phenomenon of the remaking of the American church. The political atmosphere at this point in time only adds to what we need to know about those who attempt to identify with Christianity.


In every discipline there are popular words, and the “in crowd” is obligated to use them to prove they are current. It is so obvious that it is humorous. In education and in theological symposiums, it seems that every paper or presentation has to use these terms even if they aren’t relevant to the specific subject. It is a strange way to try and prove you are a scholar. The problem is that this use of pet words is passed along to those who don’t know what they mean.

This is one of the ways that Bible ignorance has infected the Christian conversation. Some of my pet peeves include the word “kingdom.” It is used by many who seem to think it is some kind of magic wand. The truth is they have no idea what “kingdom” they are even talking about! “Similarities are not equal,” and the Bible describes a number of kingdoms. The use of cute little phrases is simply nonsense. People talk about “building, growing, enhancing, or strengthening the kingdom.” Which kingdom is that? God has made it clear that He alone is in charge of His kingdoms. God will build all of His kingdoms. He may use us to help in some minute action, and we may act as servants, but we are not building His kingdoms. When did God die and leave prideful man in charge?

To add insult to injury, in addition to taking credit for what God is doing, men have the gall to defend their views, ideas, opinions, and interpretations. Those human conclusions are irrelevant. There is only one true idea, the one that God has stated clearly in the Bible text before men began to insert their own ideas. Our speech definitely betrays us.

One more illustration is the use of the word “holiness.” Holiness is the sovereign possession of a holy God. We have no holiness and cannot beg, borrow, or steal it. God alone is holy, and if any of His holiness is in my life, it is because God dwells within each believer. Any holiness that flows in or out of my life is totally God's working through this earthly frame; I am not the source or the owner.

For the self-centered person, this looks like a matter of splitting hairs. The truth is that this religious cancer is destroying many of the young bucks in ministry today. The younger generation is enamored with false intellect. The purveyors of error - often scholars - poison young minds by their use of words that hide real meaning. What they are reading and following is obvious because “their speech betrays them.” Watch for the “buzz words” that are used in order to make one sound so much like the “in crowd.” In their youth and inexperience, they fail to ask about the theology behind the verbiage. Their heads and hearts have been turned from the scriptures, where the answers really lie - turned instead to those who have hidden truth behind their terminology and speech.
But that is a topic for another day.

Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min.

A communication service of Shepherds Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible. Shepherds Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches.
Write for information using the e-mail address or ShepherdStaff

August 2, 2016

Love in the Truth: [Cooperation & Separation]

Dr. Rick Flanders
Churches and their leaders ought to be interested in what the Bible says about Christian cooperation.  There is a “one-another” aspect of the Christian life that must be lived.  Believers in Jesus Christ are to associate themselves in local churches for the fulfilling of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-21, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:46-49, John 20:21-23, Acts 1:8), and also some facets of Gospel work are actually done best with churches working together.  This becomes especially apparent in times of revival, when God’s people are operating on God’s program.  But when preachers and churches try to do things together, they face what can seem to be complicated ethical issues.  Some cooperation even among Christians can open us to bad influences or the unintentional implied approval of wrong things.  It is vital that Christian leaders know and follow Biblical principles of spiritual cooperation and separation. 

There are many New Testament passages that address the subject of dividing light from darkness (Genesis 1:4), and knowing with confidence when believers must decline an opportunity to work with others, and when we must say, “Yes” (such as Matthew 7:15-20, Romans 16:17-20, Second Corinthians 6:14-18, Ephesians 5:7-12, Titus 3:10-11, and Jude3-4).  But the clearest collection of teachings related to the subject in one chapter is found in the Second Epistle of John.  This little letter was written by the Apostle John in his final years on earth to a dear Christian lady who had trouble discerning when it is appropriate to help and encourage a certain ministry, and when it isn’t.  Let us read it again, and notice five principles that show the servant of God how to love the brethren while staying loyal to the truth.

1.      The truth may be known (verses 1 and 2).One of the great problems of our time is that the very existence of knowable truth is disputed. Every opinion of philosophy, religion, or politics is weighed as an unverifiable proposal, and there is no room in many minds for absolute truth.  This flawed approach to truth has even influenced the minds of Christians.  We must be reminded repeatedly it is wrong.  There is such a thing as truth, and the truth can be known.

In his second epistle included in the canon of scripture, the Apostle John identifies himself simply as “the elder” (the old man) because he was the only one of the twelve apostles still alive.  The ones to whom the letter is addressed are called “the elect lady and her children,” whom the Apostle is said to “love in the truth” (verse one).  This phrase, “love in the truth,” sums up what he is about to say.  It is stated in the first verse that Christians are “they that have known the truth” and in the second verse that the truth “dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever.” It is a distinctive Christian doctrine that God has revealed absolute truth to man in the Holy Scriptures.  The Apostle Paul tells us in his First Epistle to the Corinthians that vital truths which do not come to us through observation or tradition or philosophy (“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him”) have been revealed to man by God’s Spirit through the verbal inspiration of the Bible (“But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit,…not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual”—First Corinthians 2:7-13).  Jesus said it plainly in a prayer to the Father: “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17).  Contrary to popular philosophy, absolute truth can be positively known.  Every idea is not purely a matter of opinion.  Some doctrines have divine authority.  The First Epistle of John emphasizes this fact (see chapter 1, verses 1-3; chapter 4, verses 1 through 6; and chapter 5, verses 13, 19, and 20).  We have the truth and always will, and we must choose to believe it, stand by it, and teach it!  By the illumination of the Spirit, divinely-inspired scripture gives us the basis of confidence in certain facts that we can affirm to be true, without a doubt.

2.      Truth and love go together (verse 3).  The salutation of the epistle emphasizes the balance and relationship between “truth and love.”  Followers of Jesus must be committed to both truth and love.  The temptation to hold to one and forget about the other will lead us astray.  Jesus did teach us, “Love one another; as I have loved you …By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35).  I am to love every other true believer in Jesus Christ, even though problems arise when brethren (people we are commanded to love) veer into error in their teaching or practice. Shall we stop loving them, or just ignore the ways in which they have strayed?  This dilemma is examined and resolved in many passages of the New Testament, such as Romans 14 (where we are told to “receive” those who are “in the faith” but “weak,” while avoiding the “doubtful disputations” that can arise when you try to love an erring brother).  Second Thessalonians 3 commands us to “have no company” with a Christian whose practices are “disorderly” (read again verses 11 through 16), but warns us not to regard the erring brother “as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”  We must have discernment to maintain the balance between truth and love in fellowship with others.  But our Lord calls upon us to have that discernment.  We will not be excused from loving the brethren at the Judgment Seat because we have been exceptionally “separated” from what’s wrong. It is easier to decide that we will just love, and forget about the truth, or just stand for the truth and forget about loving the brethren, but we have the duty to love, as well as the duty to stand.  Remember what Jesus said to the Christians at Ephesus.

“I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: and hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast labored, and hast not fainted.  Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.”

(Revelation 2:2-4)

Followers of Jesus must have the wisdom and the consecration to maintain the balance of love and truth.  We do not have the option of picking one or the other, although some churches, some Christian families, and some preachers seem to have done that very thing.  There are “love” churches which teach very little truth, and there are “truth” churches which practice very little love.  Such churches, as well as the preachers who make them the way they are, and the dysfunctional families they produce, do not correctly represent true God.  He presents Himself as “gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon children’s children” (Exodus 34:6-7).  He is balanced between mercy and truth (remember Psalms 25:10, 57:3, 85:10, 86:15, 89:14, 98:3, 100:5, and 115:1) and Jesus is “full of grace and truth.”  When we fail to reflect that balance we distort the image of God.  God’s uncompromising truth demanded that justice be executed upon the sins of mankind, but His love sent His Son to take our punishment.  The balance of truth and love in God was the reason for Calvary!  Truth without love is not really God’s truth, and love without truth is really not God’s love.  Neither the “come as you are and leave as you were” ministries nor the cold-hearted ministries proud of their high standards meet the expectations of their Lord.  Christian love and Christian truth go together.

3.      Truth must be lived as well as believed (verse 4).  The Apostle rejoiced to find the lady’s children “walking in truth.”  This is a phrase he uses again in his third epistle (verses 3 and 4), and it teaches us that truth is not only something we believe and teach; it is something we live.  In making decisions about whether or not to do something, the servant of Christ should ask, “What will I be saying by what I will be doing?”  Now having anything at all to do with somebody else, or showing any regard or appreciation for a ministry, does not imply to sensible people that I endorse everything they do or think.  What grown-up thinks that it does?  But there are things I can do that do indicate that I approve of certain wrong things in another person’s life or preaching.  Ephesians 5:11 says that the children of light should “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.”  Having anything to do with an erring brother does not necessarily involve having fellowship with their sinful works, but there are clearly ways a Christian’s actions can imply approval of wrong doctrine or practice.  We must walk in truth and avoid saying the wrong thing by what we do.  This sometimes requires a preacher to refrain from working with another preacher under certain circumstances.

4.      Truth must govern our love (verses 5 and 6).  In recent years, people have been saying that “love unites but doctrine divides.”  With this adage, they have advocated that doctrine be minimized or neglected.  Actually the adage is true, but the conclusion is false.  Although truth and love go together, and balance each other, the teaching of scripture is that truth is in some sense above even Christian love.  The truth of true doctrine naturally divides people on either side of an issue.  But to avoid taking a position on a scriptural issue in order to promote some weak kind of “unity” or to express something falsely defined as “love” is actually a way of abandoning truth.  Never give up truth for love.  “The truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).  In Second John we read that “this is love, that we walk after his commandments.”  Apparently, real love for Christ will always call for us to comply with His truth.  Love “rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth” (First Corinthians 13:6).  We must never give up truth for “love.”  Our expressions of Christian love must be guided by the limitations of Christian truth. It is not really love that motivates a preacher to say something wrong by his actions.  Love may motivate you to receive a weak and erring brother in some way and to some degree, but it is never an excuse to recognize an unbeliever as a Christian (remember what we are commanded in Second Corinthians 6:14-18 and Jude 3-4, and how the teaching of separation will apply to teachers who take the name of Christian but deny the fundamentals of the Christian faith), or through some association to give approval to a brother’s error.  The more two churches or preachers agree on doctrine, the more they can freely work together without implying unfaithfulness to the truth.  If you and I honestly disagree on what the Bible says about Christian apparel (for example), it may not be wrong for us to cooperate on some level or in some way, but it might well be wrong to cooperate on another level in a way that implies that one of us endorses the error of the other. Truth, in this way, guides and limits our expressions of Christian love.

5.      Love will insist on the truth (verses 7 through 13).  The lady addressed in the Second Epistle of John was tempted to help the ministry of “deceivers” masquerading as servants of God (wolves in sheep’s clothing—Matthew 7:15).  She missed the point that all “Christian teachers” are not the same.  They must be tested by their views regarding “the doctrine of Christ.”  False teachers must not be received as Christians or even encouraged in their work (verses 10 and 11).  Although this policy may seem “mean” to sweet ladies like the one addressed in this letter (and you have known others like her who can’t seem to keep from sending money and other help to very unworthy “ministries” or who can’t see the point of leaving the church they had always attended even when it has openly departed from the faith of its fathers), whose appreciation for Christian love clouds their discernment about false teachers, the fact is that standing for the truth is an act of love.  Nobody has a greater need for Jesus or is in deeper trouble than an apostate preacher or a cult-member.  “Receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed.” To avoid challenging his errors about the deity of Christ or to give him encouragement in his religious work are not ways of exercising love for his soul.  To refuse to accept his message as the true Gospel, or acknowledge him as a true servant of Christ, is to love him.  It is to love him enough to confront him with the truth that can save him forever.

As we continue reading the Bible, we find that the Third Epistle of John encourages us (again) to “love in the truth” (verse 1), to “walk in truth” (verses 3 and 4), and to “be fellowhelpers to the truth” (verse 8).  Ours is a time when fundamentalist Christians need to learn again to work together as our spiritual forefathers did.  There is a way to love one another within the bounds of truth, to “love in the truth,” and the revival that we are asking the Father to send us will put us in the spiritual state (see Psalm 85:6-10) where we can do it successfully.  May followers of Christ think this through prayerfully, so that the day of uncompromising Christian brotherhood and cooperation may dawn again soon.

Dr. Rick Flanders
Revival Ministries

July 13, 2016

SOMEONE TELL ME, Clay Nuttall, D. Min.

These long days of illness have given me a good opportunity to triple my reading time. It has been very profitable, and I am reading more widely than ever. While it assists me in my research, I keep coming back to questions that are not found in any written text. Having spent a lifetime in ministry, education, and missions, my mind is full of questions. Some answers are clear; others are not. As you read my questions, you may have some wisdom to share. If so, I ask you to pass it on to me.

Some weeks ago, I had lunch with a dear friend who is the president of a well-known seminary in another country. We were considering the impact, or lack thereof, of theological education on every level. I could easily spend a month recording the positive effects of training on the lives of so many who have served the Lord so well. Many of these folks have gone on to their reward, and we are grateful for having known them. On the negative side, though, it has been painful to see men and women who appeared to have been well-trained but who have slid, or jumped, into theological systems and questionable moral practices of which they now seem to be proud. This type of errant direction was unusual in the past, but it has now become a rush with men and women who ought to know better. So my question to you is this: “Why has this departure from truth become so popular?”


There is no question in my mind that the American model of education is responsible for adding fuel to this fire. The liberal mind-set has always been a part of that system. It is flawed and tends to hide behind intellectualism, philosophy, and so-called “science.” It is intellectually cruel with the capacity to turn truth into a lie, deluding people into thinking that it is indeed the truth. As time has passed, this “liberal mind-set” has become the majority and has now created a mental dictatorship.

The admission that something is a lie comes when you have to force others to think like you do. Ultimately, you are punished if you don’t think (or believe) like they do. If truth doesn’t stand on its own two feet, then it is a lie. This is exactly where our world is at this moment.

The liberal mind-set makes much to-do about “critical and analytical thinking,” the truth is that their approach forbids such serious consideration. The American educational model is really just indoctrination and brainwashing. If you don’t support the fairy tales of evolution, global warming (even they know that was dumb), and moral degradation such as sodomy or transgenderism, you are a danger - an enemy. You are not allowed to either think or speak on the subject.


Almost everyone we know today has been raised to think with a liberal mind-set. It might be understandable that this could happen in an academic world run by intellectual pagans. It is understandable that the present plight of this nation came about because the liberal mind-set is now the only one that is tolerated.

What troubles me is that this mind-set has become the standard for most so-called Christian institutions. Our crowd “longed for the leeks and garlic of Egypt [Numbers 11:5].” They wanted to be like the “big boys” in education. Like all departures from error, some of that error was carried along. Such is the sad story of Luther and Calvin.

That is not to say that some institutions are not battling to pass on a biblical mind-set. Of course most of them would say that they do “think biblically,” but where is the proof? They have bought into the world of “form” rather than the imperative of “content and meaning.” A good education will cover a lot of ground and disciplines, but it will never bow to human reason as the final authority. Everything ought to begin and end with the authority of the Word of God.


So how can it be that some who were trained with a high biblical standard, with professors or pastors who were loved and respected, could then move to flawed theology? At this point, I am thinking of men who were educated beside me or in front of me. Some of this has to do with our own circle of education, where indoctrination or brain-washing was used. They were not taught critical and analytical thinking, and the truth as it was presented never became their own.

Pick up the catalog of an institution, any institution, and start asking questions about individual courses or sections. Where is that clear effort to lead the student in owning the theological truth? Course after course is full of good information, our truth. We even give them exams so that we can know they remembered our truth. Where is the emphasis of God’s truth as it is displayed in the text, in that the student knows how to own what he gleaned from that text?

Those who have moved on to theological error and the liberal mind-set didn’t get it. They have joined the great movement of “adding to the Bible” whatever they want it to say. Intellectual pride makes that so easy. Young men in particular are lured by theologians with twisted minds who a have made rewriting the Bible into an art form.

So here we are back at the beginning. The fact is that not all students will get it, but I would be satisfied if most of them did. I have a short list in front of me; how did these men get drawn into a historical theology that reads like “Alice in Wonderland???” 

Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min.

A communication service of Shepherd’s Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible. Shepherd’s Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches. Write for information using the e-mail address or at ShepherdStaff.


July 5, 2016

Archival Series: It’s Not About “Cultural Fundamentalism” It’s About Personal Separation

Dr. Chuck Phelps
It has become vogue to declare one’s loyalty to “historic fundamentalism” while distancing oneself from “cultural fundamentalism.”  “Historic Fundamentalism” is defined by those who affirm this paradigm as belief in the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith.  “Cultural Fundamentalism,” according to those who disenfranchise from it, is fixated on music, dress, ministry associations, and methods.1  While such an argument may be appealing, it is simply not valid.  Failure to biblically explain one’s position on matters pertaining to Christian liberty by attacking a newly created straw man called “cultural fundamentalism,” will cause increasing polarization among those who profess to know the Lord and love His Word.  Peace among the brethren will not come as a result of pummeling the straw man called “cultural fundamentalism.”  Why not?  Because it’s not about “cultural fundamentalism,” it’s about personal separation!

Does Charles Spurgeon represent “Cultural Fundamentalism?” 

In 1887, C.H. Spurgeon wrote,
“At the present time it is a matter of notoriety that preachers of no mean repute defend the play-house, and do so because they have been seen there.  Is it any wonder that church members forget their vows of consecration and run with the unholy in the ways of frivolity, when they hear that persons are tolerated in the pastorate who do the same?  . . . . The fact is that many would like to unite church and stage, cards and prayers, dancing and sacraments.  If we are powerless to stem this torrent, we can at least warn men of its existence, and entreat them to keep out of it.  When the old faith is gone, and enthusiasm for the gospel is extinct, it is no wonder that people seek something else in the way of delight.  Lacking bread, they feed on ashes; rejecting the way of the Lord, they run greedily in the path of folly.”  (The Sword and the Trowel, 1887)
Think about it . . .

1. The term “fundamentalism” was coined by Curtis Lee Laws in The Watchman Examiner in 1920.  Charles Spurgeon predates “fundamentalism” and thus cannot legitimately be called a fundamentalist. Yet, those who attack the straw man of  “cultural fundamentalism” must see that the straw man of their making sounds a lot like Spurgeon.

2. The cross-denominational Niagara Conference is considered to be the seed-bed out of which fundamentalism grew.  The Niagara Creed was written in 1878.  Statement #12 of Niagara’s Creed says,
“We believe that we are called with a holy calling to walk, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, and so to live in the Spirit that we should not fulfill the lusts of the flesh; but the flesh being still in us to the end of our earthly pilgrimage needs to be kept constantly in subjection to Christ, or it will surely manifest its presence to the dishonor of His name: Rom. 8:12-13; 13:14; Gal. 5:16-25; Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:1-10; I Pet. 1:14-16; I John 3:5-9.”
Niagara’s Creed, which both predates and lays the foundation for the fundamentalist movement sounds a lot like the straw man now called “cultural fundamentalism.” 

With the statements of Spurgeon and Niagara in mind, it is without doubt revisionist history to seek to divorce “cultural separation” from historic fundamentalism.  Personal separation predates fundamentalism and flows through every pore of genuine Christianity.  Attacking personal separation by calling it a new name fails to deal with the fact that our faith requires personal separation.  Those who attack personal separation without interacting with Scripture may garner a following but they do not promote true biblical faith that interacts with culture and the holiness of God.

It’s not about “cultural fundamentalism.”  It’s about consecration as evidenced by and through personal separation!   Article #48 of The Fundamentals is simply entitled “Consecration.” (Note:  The Fundamentals are the articles that birthed “fundamentalism.”)  It is evident to all who will read this article and others in The Fundamentals that historic fundamentalism understood and interacted with biblical instruction concerning personal separation.  Those who seek to divorce personal separation from historic fundamentalism are revisionists who demonstrate an appalling ignorance of and perhaps even cavalier arrogance toward true biblical Christianity before the birth of fundamentalism, during the formation of historic fundamentalism and flowing from historic fundamentalism. 

For the genuine Christian, “personal Separation” predates “fundamentalism.”  It is rooted and grounded in our call to holiness (I Pet. 1:15-16; I John 2:15-17).  Even the word “church” (ekklesia, “called out”) is embedded with the necessity to separate.  Sadly, there are those who want to make a movement called fundamentalism defend separation and forget that separation is defended by and declared in Scripture.   

Beware of those who belittle personal separation by attacking “cultural fundamentalism.”  To belittle separatism is to belittle Scripture and to ignore what it means to live a life of consecration.  It’s not about “cultural fundamentalism,” it never has been.  It’s about living a consecrated life of personal separation to please a holy God.

Dr. Chuck Phelps

(Originally appeared April 23, 2013.)
1) Dr. Matt Olson: Pursuing Transparency With Change
Some may ask, “Are you fundamentalists?” If you are talking about believing the fundamentals of the faith, being willing to separate over them, and being committed to living a holy life before God—then the answer is a resolute, “Yes.” If you are talking about our being willing to separate over “cultural fundamentalism” and its demands to separate over Bible translations, music, dress, methods of ministry, secondary associations, etc., the answer is an equally resolute, “No.” We cannot. (Italics added)
Related Reading:
Dr. Rolland McCune, Militancy Has Always Characterized Fundamentalism

On April 24, 2013 the FBFI’s Proclaim & Defend blog has published the article by Dr. Phelps.  Please see, Chuck Phelps on Personal Separation.