Wednesday, June 30, 2021

When the Lord Fights Your Battles

There’s truly no battle too big for God to handle. I know sometimes your situation can seem hopeless. This addiction has already ruined so much. Those fears leave you paralyze. That depression has you smothered. The cancer’s got you on the ropes. 

You may have an adversary breathing down your neck. You may have an enemy who makes a life mission of making your life miserable. You may have a seemingly insurmountable army surrounding you on every side, mocking you mercilessly, calling your mamma ugly names, and threatening to destroy you. 

Listen, the battle is real. We’re going to face hardships and struggles in this life. We live in a world where sin has all kinds of consequences. Sometimes we create our own chaos, and sometimes we’re caught as collateral damage for someone’s else screwups. 

My plea and prayer for you today is this: Take your troubles to God and let Him fight the battle for you, because when God fights for us, you know that victory’s coming! 

I could give you multiple examples from the Bible of this truth. One of the better known accounts comes from 2 Samuel 17 where a towering giant named Goliath was huffing and puffing against God’s people and threatening to blow their house down. And while the army of Israel was left shaking in their boots, a young shepherd boy named David knew that no giant was too big for God to handle. 

“Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.” 

I’m telling you that when you know the battle belongs to the Lord, you can have the strength and courage of David in the face of an imposing giant. When you know that God fights for you, you don’t have to fear the enemy or be afraid of his taunts against you. When you know that God is for you, you can trust Him for the ultimate victory. 

Try to fight the battle in your own strength, and you’ll lose. Trust in the name of the Lord your God, and the victory is sure. 

When Jesus squared off against the enemy of death in the battle of all battles, He fought on our behalf, suffered for our sake, and conquered the grave so that all who believe in Him can share in the glory of eternal victory. No battle is too big for our God!

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Jesus - Judge and Savior

One of the reasons we tolerate, accommodate, and even celebrate depravity is that we don’t know what it means to fear the Lord. If we think of Jesus at all, we think of His gentleness, kindness, tenderness, mercy, and love. These are all true characteristics of Jesus, no doubt.

But do we ever stop for even a moment to consider that He is also the holy and righteous and great and mighty Judge of all the earth?

“At the set time that I appoint I will judge with equity…I warned the proud, ‘Stop your boasting!’ I told the wicked, ‘Don’t raise your fists! Don’t raise your fists in defiance at the heavens or speak with such arrogance” (Psalm 75:2, 4-5).

“For the Lord holds a cup in his hand that is full of foaming wine mixed with spices. He pours out the wine in judgment, and all the wicked must drink it, draining it to the dregs” (Psalm 75:8). 

We are so full of ourselves. We are consumed with self-righteousness. We parade our pride and flaunt our immorality. We do whatever is right in our own eyes. 

But we have forgotten God. We have disobeyed His commands, disregarded His ways, and dismissed Him altogether. 

Do we not know that He is the righteous and just Judge of the living and the dead? Have we forgotten that God destroyed the wicked of the world through the great flood? Do we remember what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah? The army of Pharaoh at the Red Sea? The destruction of the Canaanite nations? The punishments against disobedient Israel? 

God does not take sin lightly. And try as we may to suppress such thoughts, we will be held accountable to God on the Day of judgment. Is that not a sobering truth? Is there any hope of being spared, since we know that we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God?

Indeed, there is! While the wicked will be condemned to eternal punishment, the righteous will be saved unto eternal life. 

Who, then, are the righteous and who are the wicked? 

The righteous are those who have been made righteous only by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and resurrection life. Truly, no one is righteous by his own deeds. Not even one. But Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, so that whoever believes in Him may not remain in darkness, will not perish, but will be saved. It is by the grace of God we are saved through faith. 

The wicked are those who refuse to come to Jesus for salvation. Since the wages of sin is death, we are all in need of a Savior to rescue us from the just wrath of God. Those who arrogantly, stubbornly, willfully, and foolishly reject the only means of salvation – the cross of Christ – remain under His wrath. 

“Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18). 

So let us walk in the fear of the Lord! That is, let us believe in Christ, living in reverential awe of His holiness and majesty, His power and His glory, His righteousness and justice, while clinging humbly to His mercy and His grace. And let us learn to dread His displeasure, seeking to gladly obey His Word and not to pridefully reject His truth and thus face His judgment. 

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).

Monday, June 14, 2021

We All Need Jesus

I don’t know where you’re at in life, but I know that we all need Jesus. Don’t roll your eyes and stop reading. You need to hear this.

Either we’re all here by cosmic chance where life has no ultimate meaning, and when you die it’s game over, no heaven to gain or hell to fear. In that case, you might as well seek to maximize your happiness while you can here on earth. Indulge yourself with sex, drugs, and rock and roll, raise a nice family, bet all your money on a horse, serve at a soup kitchen; it doesn’t matter. Whatever makes you feel good – do it.

Or, there is something of an Intelligent Being or God who exists and gives meaning to life and eternity.

If you do believe there is a God or some kind of Higher Power out there, then you have to come to grips with who He is, or who She is, or what It is or They are. There is no shortage of belief systems to choose from. See if one of the Eastern religions makes sense. Maybe a New Age thing could be your thing. Islam might be worth looking into. Or create your own version of what you think a God ought to be like.

But they can’t all be right. That would be like a math teacher saying, “Hey, you don’t have to get the right answer, just write down something. I’ll give you credit.” But exactly half of 100 is 50. Multiply 3 by 16 and you get 48. The square root of 9 is 3. Every time. All other answers are incorrect.

Is there one true God above all other contenders? One true God who makes the other versions false?

The answer is a resounding yes! Let me give you three reasons why Jesus alone is God Most High.

1 - The very fact of creation gives proof that there is a Creator. Every book must have an author. Every house has a builder. And the universe declares the glory of its Maker. The moon and stars, the skies and seas, the flowers and trees, and everything that lives and moves showcase the handiwork of a masterful Architect.

2 – The Bible tells us that this Author of Life is Jesus. Is the Bible true? The answer to this question makes all the difference in the world. Space fails to give this topic justice, but the evidence from manuscripts, archeology, history, prophecy, theology, and internal consistency clearly point to the reliability and truth of the Bible as the infallible Word of God.

3 – After dying a horrific death on the cross, Jesus rose to life and ascended to heaven. No other religious system even makes such a claim as this. The evidence is irrefutable for the resurrection of Jesus, and every claim of His identity, His purpose, His promises, His salvation is thus verified. Somebody conquered death!?! Does this not change everything?

Indeed, it does! And if you’ll follow the lead and seek to know this Jesus, you will soon discover that He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). In Him you will find new life, abundant life, and eternal life. In Him you discover the truth that guides you in the right way.

But apart from Him, the void in your heart will go unfilled and the pursuit of all your pleasures will prove but a chasing of the wind. The prospect of eternal separation from God in hell remains, while the hope of better things in heaven evades. We all need Jesus.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Hazardous Journey

“Men Wanted for Hazardous Journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success – Ernest Shackleford.”

That’s how the famed British explorer advertised in the London newspapers for his ill-fated Antarctic expedition in 1900. He wanted the men to know right up front about the dangers of such a voyage. Shackleford was amazed at the overwhelming response to his ad.

When Jesus advertised for disciples, He said, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). In other words, the cost of following Christ is not buried somewhere in the fine print. He wants us to know that if we are serious about walking with Him, then we’d better be ready to suffer with Him.

Some people are willing to go with Jesus as long as the road is safe. As long as the journey doesn’t get too uncomfortable, too demanding, too difficult, they’re in. But when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the gospel, they fall away. Or when the cares of the world or the deceitfulness or riches entice the heart, their professed allegiance to Jesus gets choked out and they prove unfruitful.

The way of Jesus is a narrow way. He says, “the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:14). It’s narrow because Jesus Himself is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, no one will see the Kingdom of God, no one will inherit the promise of eternal life in heaven except through Christ (John 14:6). Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

To some that sounds so narrow-minded that it cannot be true. But there’s no other “god” who loves you like Jesus. There’s no other “savior” who has emptied himself, suffered in your place, borne your sin and guilt in his body, hung on a cross to die in your place, or risen in victory from the grave, or promised that He will come again soon to take you to be with Him in heaven forever. Nobody, but Jesus!

He alone is the Savior worth following, no matter the cost.

Let me urge you to come to Him today. Repent from your sin, put your faith in Him alone, and He will save you. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

But know, too, that while the gift comes to you already paid by the blood of Jesus, the journey will be hazardous. The ultimate success of this adventure, however, is guaranteed.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Get Ready! Get Set! Go!

Get ready! Get set! Go!

That’s the word I heard at the PORTA High School Baccalaureate service Sunday night for the Class of 2021. Eric Wagler from the band 10 Talents shared this message from the parable of the talents Jesus told in Matthew 25:14-30, weaving in his own life story as he related to the servants who had been entrusted with their master’s resources.

By the way, just a quick word of appreciation to the pastors and churches of the PORTA Ministerial Association for sponsoring this event, as well as special thanks to Mrs. McMahan, Mrs. Perez, Mrs. Reid, and Mrs. Owens for their varied and valuable help.

Two of the servants invested their “talents” well and returned a great profit. The master was thrilled with their work and rewarded them with even greater responsibility and boundless joy. The third servant, however, buried his talent and handed back only what he’d been given. Needless to say, the master was not pleased.

God is our Master, and He has entrusted to His servants the stewardship of His resources. And until Jesus returns, we ought to be faithful and wise to invest these talents not for selfish ambitions, but for the good of others and the glory of God.

What are you doing with the resources, gifts, and opportunities God has given you?

So get ready! How? Spend time listening to the Lord by hearing what He says in the Bible. Pray for guidance and direction, and wait for God’s instruction and counsel to teach you the way you should go.

Get set! Gather with a community of authentic believers who will encourage you, correct you, pray for you, love you, strengthen you in the faith, and help equip you for the ministry God has prepared for you. We truly do need each other.

Then go! Whatever God says to do, do it. Wherever God calls you to go, go. It might not seem to make a lot of sense to you. He probably won’t give you the whole picture at first. You might be inclined to doubt His ways as you look with your finite eyes and limited understanding. But your faithful obedience to the Lord will always reap great reward.

One of my personal favorite verses is found in Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (NLT).

Class of 2021, congratulations on all that you have achieved so far! Let me urge you to look to the Lord to get ready, get set, and go. Keep your eyes on Jesus and keep trusting Him all along the way, and you just might find that when you delight yourself in the Lord, He will not only give you the desires of your heart, but will do immeasurably more than all that you can ask or imagine.

Monday, May 24, 2021

An Anchor for Your Soul

If you’re like me and shaking your head at the constantly changing, uncertain, and often conflicting guidelines surrounding the COVID-19 health measures, aren’t you at least glad to know that the counsel of the Word of God remains unchanged?

Dr. Fauci may waffle back and forth week-by-week, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

Even the “science” and the “data” consulted by the “experts” evolves (one presumes with political pressures and financial motivations – seriously, somebody follow the money on all of this and see where it leads), but “every word of God proves true” (Proverbs 30:5).

It’s foolish to build a house on the sand. The next storm is sure to wipe it all out.

It’s foolish to construct a host of mandates on shifting shadows. The next political cloud will undo every edict.

And it’s foolish to build your life on the unknown, the unsettled, the unsure. The next crisis, the next wind of doctrine, the next trend, the next appealing sound byte will quickly rock the shaky foundation under your feet and you’ll be tossed about like a jon boat in a hurricane.

But when your life is anchored to the rock of Christ Jesus, there is no storm that can capsize your faith.

My hope is built on nothing less

than Jesus’ blood and righteousness 

I dare not trust the sweetest frame

but wholly lean on Jesus’ name

On Christ the solid rock I stand

all other ground is sinking sand

all other ground is sinking sand

Friend, in a world that seems to be splitting apart at the seams, where seeds of discord are sown all around us, where sin gets applauded and right disregarded, come to Jesus and find peace in the midst of the storm. Come to Jesus and find joy in spite of the troubles. Come to Jesus and find hope as an anchor for your soul, “steadfast and sure while the billows roll”. Come to Jesus and find life unshakeable and eternal, abundant, new, and true.

“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Want to know more about this Savior who loves you so much that He laid down His life on the cross for you? Want to know more about this King who conquered sin and death and hell, the One who sits at the right hand of the Almighty and will one day come again?

I would love to talk with you. Call the church office at 217-632-2488, and we’ll open the Bible together and hear from heaven.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The Privilege of Prayer

Women, wouldn’t it be strange if you said you loved your husband, but you never spoke to him? And wouldn’t it also be odd if you did talk to him, but you never bothered to listen to what he had to say? Men, I won’t ask you to comment on that! 

Well, whether or not those things are true in your marriage, unfortunately that’s a description of the way many people pray – or don’t pray. 

Prayer is essentially dialogue between God and His people. It’s communing in fellowship with our Father in heaven who loves us deeply, has chosen us in Christ, has adopted us into His family as sons and daughters, and who longs for us to draw near to Him, align our lives with His Kingdom’s purposes and will, and faithfully follow His perfect counsel. 

But even among Christians, many go about their day without ever giving a thought to communicating with the One they claim to love. 

Or for some, prayer is a one-sided conversation where we do all the talking but don’t really do any listening. And even at that, many prayers are pre-scripted or memorized (which is not inherently wrong, and can be very helpful), but the danger is that maybe all we’re doing is “saying our prayers” but we’re not really communicating with God. 

If we would truly know the friendship of God – a real love relationship with the Creator of the universe – then we must learn how to pray. 

Of course, the Bible is packed with the prayers of godly men and women to teach us how to call upon the name of the Lord. Whether in times of trouble and sorrow, to express our praise and thanksgiving, to intercede on behalf of another, to seek forgiveness for our sins, to ask for provision for our needs or guidance for decisions, or literally anything that pertains to life, God invites us to His throne of grace in the name of Jesus and promises that there we will receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16). 

And the pattern of prayer that Jesus outlines for His disciples in Matthew 6 still works pretty well, too, as we engage our hearts and minds with our tongues in prayer to our Father. 

But let’s make sure that in our praying that we take the time to listen for God’s response. Let’s keep our ears open and actively seek to hear from the Lord. “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:9). And let’s then do the hard work of waiting upon the Lord in faith. If we know that He hears our feeble, yet sincere prayers, and if we know that He responds for His glory and our good, then we would do well to trust Him to answer when and how He chooses to do so.

For surely, He is the sovereign, omnipotent King who reigns over all from His throne in heaven, and who invites us to “cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). He is the God who can move the mountains and part the waters to make a way where there seems to be no way. And He is our Father in heaven who delights in the prayers of His children. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!

Monday, April 19, 2021

"God loves naughty boys"

Henry Ironside, who ministered in the first half of the 1900’s, pastoring the Moody Church in Chicago for 20 years, tells this story.

“I remember, when I was a boy, going to a missionary meeting. A missionary was there from Africa and was showing us a whole lot of curious things, and then he said, ‘Now, boys, I want to tell you the kind of Gospel we preach to the people of Africa. How many good boys have we here?’ 

A lot of us thought we were good, but our mothers were there, and so not one of us dared hold up his hand. ‘Well,’ said he, ‘not one good boy here; then I have the same message for you that we have for the heathen in Africa; God loves naughty boys.’ 

‘My,’ I thought, ‘he is getting all mixed up,’ for you see I had heard people say, ‘If you are good God will love you.’ But, dear friends, that is not true. God is not waiting for you to be good so He can love you; God loves sinners.” 

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). 

Friend, if you’ve been hearing people say (and believing) that God can only love you if you’re good, then this revelation of God’s sacrificial love can change your world. The truth is that apart from Christ we’re all morally deficient, ungodly sinners and even enemies of God. We’ve done nothing – and can do nothing – to earn God’s love. 

Truly, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). 

And as it is written, “None is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). 

As rebellious, self-centered trespassers, we deserve the wrath of God, not His love. 

But here’s what you need to hear and believe and embrace: God is love! And being rich in mercy, overflowing with grace, whose love is unfailing, unending, unconditional, and unparalleled; whose love is amazing, steadfast, great, and perfect; this God put His love on display for all to see by sending His Son Jesus into our world to die in our place. 

Not for the good boys, but for the naughty boys.

And on the cross of Calvary, the blood of Jesus shed for the forgiveness of sins can make the sinners clean, washing away every stain, making us right with God, and saving us from His just wrath. Not only that, but He adopts us into His family as sons and daughters, and by His resurrection victory He gives us the promise of eternal life. 

And I don’t even have room to unpack the abundance of life that He gives us even now – a life of purpose and meaning, fellowship in His presence and with His people, peace that passes all understanding, joy inexpressible, hope unshakeable, and the guidance and comfort and help and power of His Holy Spirit all the time, every day, every step of the way! 

I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene

And wonder how He could love me, a sinner, condemned, unclean

How marvelous, how wonderful, and my song shall ever be

How marvelous, how wonderful, is my Savior’s love for me! 

Have you received this gift of God’s sacrificial love that brings eternal life? Why not repent from sin, trust Him today as Savior, and surrender to Him as Lord? It doesn’t matter what’s in your past or where you’re at right now. Come to Him in faith. God loves naughty boys. 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Ready for Revival

I am ready for a revival! How about you?

I am ready to see God reignite a flame in the heart of every believer. I am ready to see the power of Jesus’ resurrection victory transform lives for His glory. I am ready to see what happens when the Holy Spirit fills the followers of Jesus for undivided loyalty and unbridled obedience to the will of God.

I am ready to see Christians get thoroughly right with God, confessing and renouncing sin, turning away from every form of wickedness, putting all idolatry and immorality to death, and finding the freedom of cleansing forgiveness in Christ fresh and new like never before.

I am ready to see those who claim the name of Jesus embrace Him fully, clothing themselves in His righteousness, transformed by the renewal of their minds, abiding richly in Christ, delighting in His Word, and walking in lockstep with the Holy Spirit day by day.

I am ready to see a new hunger for the things of God among His people, passionately pursuing purity and holiness, living by faith and not by sight, loving the Lord with everything they’ve got and loving their neighbor as themselves.

I am ready to see revival!

I am ready to see the church on her knees pleading with the Father to pour out His mercy upon us, to amaze us anew with His grace, to overwhelm us again with His unfailing love, and to unleash the wonder of His power at work within us.

I am ready to see the church praying earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest fields, to raise up men and women who will unashamedly witness for the gospel in their homes, neighborhoods, workplaces and schools, and to call out some to serve as vocational missionaries, pastors, and ministers to the hurting and helpless.

I am ready to see the church crying out to God for the salvation of lost souls with an aching that cannot be quenched apart from a mighty and marvelous work of God.

I am ready for revival!

And I am ready to experience the heart of true surrender in the church, with the Bride of Christ giving herself in full submission to the mission of her Savior, putting herself at the disposal of God to be used any way He desires to reach others for Christ.

I am ready to see prodigals coming home, the hopeless finding hope, the broken finding healing, the fearful finding the Prince of Peace, the lonely finding a Friend, and sinners finding the Savior.

I am ready to see a Great Awakening in our land and to the ends of the earth as the people of God take the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit with a burning desire to see souls saved. I am ready to witness the Spirit of God opening the eyes of the blind to see the glory of Christ Jesus, as men and women, boys and girls are rescued from spiritual darkness and brought to the light of the Kingdom of God, ushered by God’s grace from death to life, and freed from the chains of sin to serve to the risen and living Christ.

I am ready for revival, and I’m ready for it to begin in my own heart and among the church right here in Petersburg.

Oh, God, “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Psalm 85:6).

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Resurrection Truth

If the resurrection of Jesus is not true, then what fools we are who believe this. Seriously, what a waste of our few years on this planet if we’ve fallen for a hoax thinking that Jesus came back to life after a horrific crucifixion.

But if it is true, then doesn’t this change everything for now and for eternity?! The faith we profess, the hope we possess, the life we express, the Lord we bless – everything hinges on the reality of the resurrection of Jesus. How do we know it’s truly true, that it really did happen, and it’s not just a wishful fantasy of someone’s clever imagination?

Of course, volumes have been written on the subject, but allow me to summarize a few key pieces of evidence to help strengthen (or challenge) your belief about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

The prophets foretold it. Long before Jesus ever stepped down from glory into our world, the prophets spoke of the coming King who would conquer death and reign forever. Just one example comes from Peter’s message on the day of Pentecost where he quotes from David (Psalm 16), and says, “he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption” (Acts 2:31).

The Bible records it. “All Scripture is God-breathed,” (2 Timothy 3:16), and obviously the Bible clearly records the resurrection as fact. When the women went to the tomb, they expected to find the dead body of Jesus, but the angel said, “He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6). “Every word of God proves true,” (Proverbs 30:5).

Jesus appeared to many people after His resurrection. Over the course of 40 days from His resurrection to His ascension into heaven, Jesus presented Himself alive by many proofs (Acts 1:3). He showed them His nail-scarred hands and pierced side. He ate with them, talked with them, walked with them, taught them. They saw Him, touched Him, and believed.

Names were named. If I made a hole-in-one on 18 at Shambolee, who’s going to believe me unless I tell you who I was playing with so you could go ask them yourself? In 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul talks about the resurrection, He names specific people, including himself, who were eyewitnesses of Jesus. In effect, he’s saying, “If you don’t believe me, go ask them!”

The disciples of Jesus testified to His resurrection even to their own martyrdom. If they had stolen the body of Jesus, as some claimed, perhaps they could have circulated the lie for some time. But who goes to such great lengths of suffering and dying while staging something they know is not true? And none of them ever blew the whistle unraveling the mystery? They never wavered because they knew it was true.

Lives were patently transformed by the resurrection of Jesus. Unbelieving skeptics like Saul/Paul and James are examples of men whose lives were changed by the truth. Fearful, dejected disciples were made bold and courageous as they proclaimed this message. Jesus gives life and power to those who believe the reality of the resurrection.

Indeed, the resurrection of Jesus is not only true, it is the most glorious and life-saving news you’ll ever hear, for Christ died to save us from the penalty of our sins, and He rose that we might have eternal life with Him in heaven! Do you believe this?