Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sense of Adventure

“Where’s your sense of adventure?” After three smacks on the snooze button, a reluctant climb out of bed, a shaving nick on my chin and an extra-long soaking in the shower one recent morning, my wife had the nerve to ask me, “Where’s your sense of adventure?” This was after we had stayed up well past normal sleeping hours wrapping Christmas gifts, writing notes, copying tapes of the church Christmas services, doing dishes and folding laundry. I wasn’t really up for much more adventure.

We’d already wrestled with the boys to get them to sleep which was challenging enough because Tyler’s Sunday School teacher sugared him up at a Christmas party before bringing him home, and Toby was still on a cookie high from the night before at a church fellowship. The goal of finishing our Christmas cards and cleaning house would not be fully accomplished this night. I’d had all the adventure I could take!

Maybe I’m getting old. The adventure of late night movie dates and going out or staying up with each other into the wee hours of the morning just don’t happen as often anymore as they did in the B.C. years (Before Children). Even pulling the occasional all-nighter in seminary seems distant past adventure. And when was the last time I went up on the mountainside and spent the night praying to God?

Yeah, she asked a pretty good question, “Where’s your sense of adventure?” Maybe it’s not in the context of household chores and gift-wrapping, but I don’t ever want to lose the sense of adventure in this life!

Living the Christian faith according to the Word of God is the most challenging and thrilling adventure anyone could ever embark upon. When you’re abiding in the Lord Jesus and growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ, and He’s revealing more of Himself, more of His heart, more of His will – there’s nothing more satisfying and sweet! When you’re bowing down in worship, yielding your life in obedience as a living sacrifice and communing with the Almighty Maker of the heavens and the earth in purposeful, passionate prayer – you’re never more fully alive. When His Word becomes the lamp unto your feet and the light unto your path, and when the Holy Spirit of God fills you and teaches you and guides you on the way – you’re never more at peace or so full of joy.

If you think the Bible is boring or the Christian life is dull, then you’re missing out on the adventure of a lifetime.

The Bible tells of adventure from the words “God created in Genesis 1:1 to the promise of Christ’s soon return in Revelation 22. Just look at what adventurous lives the heroes of the faith led! Look at Noah, who sailed on a high seas adventure for over a year riding out the greatest storm in history. Look at Abraham, who left his home when God called him to go to a land He would later give to his descendents, promising to make him into a great nation and blessing all the peoples on earth through him. Look at Moses, whose young life led him in a papyrus basket down the banks of the Nile and who later stretched out his hand over the Red Sea as God parted the waters to save the His people. Every story reverberates with action and adventure, drama and tragedy, revelation and salvation as God makes Himself known to those who open their hearts to receive Him.

One of the greatest accounts of adventure in the Christmas narratives involves some unnamed “Magi” from the east who came searching for the newborn King. Somehow God revealed the truth of His Son to them and gave them a burning desire to follow the star in order to find the baby Jesus. Just try using your holy imagination to recreate the scene in which these wise men decided this journey was one they knew they had to make. “Dude, where are we going?” “I don’t know – just follow that star!” Just imagine the stories they told when they came home. There’s the encounter with Herod in Jerusalem, the dream warning them to return by another route, and then, there’s the object and delight of their adventure – the child, Jesus, whom they came to worship. The Bible says they were “overjoyed” when God led them to Jesus, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with the best gifts they had to offer.

Where’s your sense of adventure? Follow the star that leads to Jesus and bow down to worship Him as Savior and Lord. Then give Him your life in faith and obedience, and you’ll be living the most thrilling adventure known to man.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Gabriel and Mary

“Mary, you have a valid question there, young lady,” smiled the angel Gabriel. “Naturally, since you are a virgin this would seem a very impossible thing. Indeed, how on earth could you possibly be expecting a child now – and the Son of the Most High, at that!

“Oh, Mary, if only you knew the overwhelming measure of God’s grace and unending love toward you! If you only knew the indescribable power of His very presence with you! You, my dear Mary, have found favor with God! You have been uniquely chosen as the recipient of the sweetest of heaven’s joys, the richest of delights, the greatest of honors among women!

“Mary, God is fulfilling His plan for the salvation of mankind – and He’s giving you a special role. The time has come for the Messiah to reign upon the throne of David, and over the house of Jacob forever, with His kingdom which will never end. This is the moment all Israel has been waiting for! As the Lord spoke through the prophet Isaiah long ago: ‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned…For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing it and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.’

“Your Deliverer is coming to your rescue! Your Savior comes bringing the hope of salvation! Do you see it, Mary? You will call Him Immanuel – God with us – Jesus!

“‘Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is He, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty – He is the King of glory.’

“So, uh-hum, back to your question at hand. I guess I was getting a little excited there. Here’s what’s going to happen. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.

“And I have some more good news for you, Mary. Even Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a child in her old age! No one ever thought Elizabeth and Zechariah would have a child. You know how old they are – Elizabeth is well past child-bearing years. Yet, God has answered Zechariah’s prayer, and Elizabeth is already in her sixth month, expecting a boy!

“I want to tell you something, Mary. You may not understand it all, and I can’t even explain the mechanics well. But I do know this, and I don’t want you to ever forget or ever doubt this one thing: Nothing is impossible with God. Nothing! What He wants to do, He will do. What’s impossible with man is possible with God. He is the Sovereign Lord who made the heavens and the earth by His great power and outstretched arm. He is the One who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. He is the One who parted the Red Sea to rescue His people and rained manna down from heaven to feed them. He is the One who delivered Daniel from the mouth of the lions and walked in the fire to save the three Hebrew boys. Nothing is too difficult for God. What God is doing in you is nothing short of amazing, spectacular and miraculous. But nothing is impossible with God. Nothing!”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary replied with the kind of humble faith and willing obedience that comes from a heart joyfully delighting in the grace of God. “May it be done to me according to your word.”

May the joy of Christmas be yours as you worship the Savior, Christ Jesus – the One for whom nothing is impossible.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Great Christmas "Presence"

“Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

One of the great “Christmas” truths that serves as a wonderful reminder to God’s people all year long is the name given to Jesus – Immanuel, which means “God with us.” Those who have received God’s greatest gift of all – the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord – can with humble thanksgiving also praise Him for the following wonderful "presents" that come with such a great salvation, through our Lord IMMANUEL.

I – Inheritance
Because Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, we have the assurance of a heavenly, eternal inheritance.
"In Him [Jesus], you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” – Ephesians 1:13-14

M – Message
Because Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, we have been entrusted with the world’s greatest message.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

M – Mission
Because Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, we have received the calling of the greatest mission.
“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20

A – Advocate
Because Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, we have a sympathetic advocate with the Father.
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrew 4:14-16

N – Never Alone
Because Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, we are never alone through the comfort of the Spirit.
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” – John 14:15-18

U – Unveiling
Because Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, we have an unveiling of the very image of God.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” – Colossians 1:15

E – Everything
Because Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, we have everything we need for life and godliness.
“Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” – 2 Peter 1:3

L – Leader
Because Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, we have a strong, faithful, loving Leader to follow.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” – Psalm 23:1

May the “presence” of God’s Son – Immanuel – fill your heart with tidings of comfort and joy now and forevermore.

Monday, November 26, 2007

21-Thanks Salute

In a tribute of great respect and appreciation, the 21-Gun Salute represents a solemn occasion to honor those for whom it is fired. Such an event brings to mind tremendous sacrifices made on behalf of our nation. On the Fourth of July, President's Day, and with the flag flying at half mast on Memorial Day, we're reminded to be grateful of those who have served our country courageously. At military and presidential funerals, we're compelled to give thanks for those who have paid the greatest price for the freedoms we enjoy today.

With a similar heart of reverence and thanksgiving, I would like to offer to Almighty God a 21-Thanks Salute to honor and glorify His name. This praise is lifted up to Him in recognition for the innumerable ways in which His blessings have been poured out upon His people. The foundation to this Salute lies in the ultimate sacrifice made for all mankind - the blood of Jesus shed for the forgiveness of sins, and the hope of the resurrection of the dead given us in the resurrection victory of our Lord. There is no greater freedom to enjoy than the freedom from the chains of sin's guilt and shame. It's by the unlimited measure of God's grace and mercy I offer to Him a "heart that leaps for joy," giving "thanks to Him in song" (Ps. 28:7).

Among the many categories of thanksgiving which could be listed, I have chosen to focus this Salute to give thanks for the work that God is doing in His church here in Ridgway. What a pleasure and privilege to serve as shepherd to such a flock. I shared this Salute with the church on Sunday morning (Nov. 25) and reprint it here, in honor of God hearing the prayers of His people and answering in the strength of His might.

21–Thanks Salute

1. I thank God for the deacons He's called to serve, who have been invaluable as supporters and friends and prayer warriors.
2. I thank God for all those who teach and serve in Sunday School and VBS, devoting themselves to the spiritual nourishment of those they lead.

3. I thank God for those who take care of the administrative duties in the church, the financial records, budget reports, membership records, business meeting minutes, etc.
4. I thank God for those who care for the grounds, the maintenance and upkeep of the building and property.
5. I thank God for those who minister in the name of Christ Jesus to others in need, in the hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons through phone calls, cards, visits and prayers.
6. I thank God for the love and compassion of His people here, who encourage the weak and strengthen the weary with a desire to build them up in the strength of the Lord, and for the fellowship that results as we help carry one another’s burdens.
7. I thank God for the prayer warriors, those who pray for others in need, those who pray for their Sunday School teachers, for their pastor, for each other, those who pray that the Lord of the harvest would send out workers into his harvest fields, those who pray for the lost, those who pray for the work of the kingdom of God to be done here in Ridgway.
8. I thank God for those who witness for the Lord, not only with their lives that shine with the light of Christ, but for those who boldly and in the power of the Holy Spirit, tell others about the salvation that is offered through Jesus Christ alone.
9. I thank God for those who give faithfully, financially, to the ministry of the church; who not only offer you the tithe that belongs to God, but give sacrificially above that 10% to the work of building His Kingdom.
10. I thank God for those who invite others to join in the worship and Bible study here, and for those who will this week invite someone to “Orange and Blue Day” next Sunday.
11. I thank God for the ones who brought the donuts and made the coffee this morning.
12. I thank God for those who prepare food and serve and give their time in providing meals for families who have lost loved ones.
13. I thank God for the Iron Men.
14. I thank God for a church who has caught a vision of His mission – who not only prays for the work of missions, who not only gives to the cause of missions, but who is willing to go as He leads them.
15. I thank God for the WMU, who helps educate and encourage us to be more involved in the work of missions.

16. I thank God for those who watch our little ones in the nursery.
17. I thank God for those who have come this morning for the first time, or maybe the first time in a long time, and in advance for those who will be here next week.
18. I thank God for the ones who lead us in giving thanks and praise to God in song.
19. I thank God for the little children He's brought to us, that we may help bring them up in the faith.
20. I thank God for all those who work with the children and youth on Sundays, Wednesday nights, and sometimes give up a weeknight or a Saturday or a weekend for them, and are available any time.
21. I thank God for a church who has invested in me and my family with the love of Christ, and who has given me encouragement to keep growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to keep preaching and teaching the glorious gospel of our salvation.

As I humbly fire this thanksgiving salute, may the name of Jesus be honored and glorified.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I composed the following lines a year ago in gratitude to the Ridgway First Baptist Church for the many ways in which they have demonstrated the love and grace of God to me and my family. I am truly overwhelmed by God's presence and power on display among His people.

Psalm 28:7 says, "The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song."

These words attempt to convey my humble thanksgiving before my gracious Savior and Lord.


Overwhelmed by God’s great mercy
Overjoyed yet by His grace
Gently raise my hands in wonder
Humbly bow in grateful praise
For our Father, our Provider
Overwhelms me with His love
Pouring blessing after blessing
From His heavn’ly throne above

God is gracious, full of kindness
Slow to anger, rich in love
Strong in power, grand in splendor
Highest praise He’s worthy of
He exalts the lowly servant
Who cries out unto His name
Watching ever, leaving never
Age to age He is the same

What have I done to deserve His
Overwhelming grace divine?
Chief of sinners, my description
Death and hell, my final fine
But then Jesus, to my rescue,
Shed His blood upon the tree
Poured His grace out in abundance
Gave Himself to set me free

When I dwell in contemplation
On the goodness of my King
How my thankful heart keeps longing
For the perfect song to sing
How I long to bring Him glory
How I long to love Him more
In the beauty of His presence
Overwhelmed my soul does soar

Father, bring Your church to glory
Raise her up in Christ alone
Grant her strength to be Your witness
Let her love flow as Your own
Thank you for her glowing kindness,
Overwhelming grace to me
Let her radiate that brightness
Desperate for the world to see

In gratitude to Ridgway First Baptist Church for their overwhelming love.
Rob Gallion
November 19, 2006

Monday, November 12, 2007

When what is vile is honored among men

I’m sure in every generation godly men and women have echoed the same words of lament before the Lord as David cried in Psalm 12.

“Help, Lord, for the godly are no more.”

How often it seems as though the faithful followers of Christ have vanished from the face of the earth. There are times when we feel surrounded by wickedness, evil, perversion and sin of every kind. People everywhere are strutting around boasting of their irreverence, flaunting their immorality and applauding those who join them while ridiculing those who stand for righteousness. What is vile is being honored among men.

“Everyone lies to his neighbor.”

Can we even trust one another? Who’s not looking to take advantage of someone else? Whose agenda is not to look out for his own interests? We set our hearts on guard, being cynical and cautious in our relationships. We don’t allow people to get close because we feel that in the end they’ll burn us and betray us.

How should we who claim the name of Jesus respond to such a corrupt generation? Paul addresses the Philippian church urging them toward continual reverence and obedience to God. "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine out like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life..." (Phil. 2:14-16).

God's word is indeed flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.

God will certainly triumph over His foes. He already has, and He will! We are called to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, even as we live holy and blamelessly, letting the light of Christ within us shine before men. Wow! It seems impossible. Yet in the power of Christ who dwells in the hearts of His people, we cannot help but to love. We cannot help but to shine.

Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy; is not boastful; is not conceited; does not act improperly; is not selfish; is not provoked; does not keep a record of wrongs; finds no joy in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

This world will know that we belong to Jesus by our love for one another. And what an impact on a sinful, unbelieving world when we love even our enemies!

Like David, I trust that our Lord will keep us safe and protect us forever. He sees the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, and in His strength He arises and protects them.

I pray that God will bring repentance to the lost. Yes, God’s judgment will be swift and sure and severe to those who reject His salvation and love through Christ Jesus. But may no one step into such eternal fire unwarned and un-prayed for.

Help us, O Lord, to love. Love through us, O Christ, with your supernatural love. Shine through us with your holy light! Turn hearts from evil to good, from darkness to light, from boasting to humility, from wickedness to the righteousness of Jesus. Do it for your glory and name’s sake. And keep us who call upon your name faithful. Strengthen us for the task of bringing the gospel to all nations, urging men to be reconciled to you. Help us to endure in fighting the good fight, running the race and finishing the course. Your grace and your mercy reaches farther than we can know. We bow in reverence, thanksgiving and adoration.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Overcoming Discouragement

The following notes come from a revival sermon preached at Ridgway First Baptist Church on Nov. 13, 2006, by Bro. Denny Steed. Bro. Denny had recently been diagnosed with cancer, had undergone surgery and was going through difficult treatments. Despite his weakness physically, the Lord gave Bro. Denny great spiritual strength in delivering this message along with three other sermons he preached during this week.

Denny Steed went home to be with His Lord and Savior on October 4, 2007, holding on with supernatural joy, unshakeable hope, and all-surpassing peace to the promises of God’s Word to the very end. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family and church family.

Using Psalm 42 as his main text, Bro. Denny shared with us “10 Ways You Can Overcome Discouragement.” What made this message so special and powerful was knowing what Bro. Denny was personally going through as he lived out the hope of the very words he was preaching. He shared openly of his struggles and hardships, yet claimed his victory over sickness and death through Christ Jesus. He knew the reality of Psalm 42:5: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”

Here are the notes as recorded from this message:

10 Ways You Can Overcome Discouragement

1. Pray in faith – expecting and believing God to answer – and keep on praying until He answers (James 1:2-7)
2. Read your Bible (Joshua 1:7-9)
3. Sing praises to God (Ephesians 5:18-19)
4. Share your burden with your church family (Galatians 6:2)
5. Remember God’s promises (Hebrews 13:5; Romans 8:28; John 14:1-3)
6. Keep your heart and mind on God, not on your troubles. Glance at your troubles, but keep your gaze upon the Lord (Philippians 4:6-7)
7. Keep your hope fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2)
8. Consider your troubles as a lesson of discipline from the Lord (Hebrews 12:3-10)
9. Draw strength from God’s grace (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
10. Realize that nothing can separate you from God’s love (Romans 8:35-39)

Bro. Denny concluded by saying this: “If God is who He claims He is in this Book (the Bible), why should I be discouraged. If Jesus is my Savior, who died for my sin, was buried and raised again and is sitting at the right hand of the throne of God right now, and promises me one of these days He’s coming back, why should I be discouraged?”

These written notes hardly do justice to the spirit and passion in which Bro. Denny preached. There is simply no way to describe the love he exuded for His Savior, nor the confidence he placed in God’s sovereignty. But if you’ll allow the Lord to speak the truth of these verses over you, claiming His promises and trusting in His goodness and grace, I believe the Holy Spirit will encourage your heart in depths no preacher ever could.

I believe God was greatly glorified in the life and death of Bro. Denny Steed, who walked by faith, not by sight. We grieve with his family and church, but rejoice that he is at home with the Lord, receiving as his reward the “crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day” (2 Timothy 4:8).

Monday, October 1, 2007

Kingdom-Come Praying

I don’t generally put too much confidence in surveys, but I tend to agree with most studies which show how little time Christians really spend in prayer. How is it that we have time for all the things we really want to do, but spend so little time on our knees? We spend hour upon hour watching television each week, surfing the internet, reading the newspaper and tending our gardens or whatever other hobbies we like to do. There’s nothing wrong with these things in and of themselves, but if they keep us from doing something more essential, such as praying, then we’re wasting time and opportunities God has given us.

Even a church can be so preoccupied with too many programs and activities. Some of these might have been prompted through God’s initiative and movement among His people. Others may just keep us busy, and distracted from the greater need for prayer.

When we do pray, either in our personal “prayer closet” or “where two or three are gathered” in Jesus’ name, I suspect we also ask for far too little, and we often ask for the wrong things. Our prayers can be so self-centered, without even intending them to be. We pray for things according to our will, how we think they should be done. Our corporate prayers are often dominated with requests for the sick (a good thing), yet we ask so little of Him to bring His kingdom (a greater thing).

Believe me when I say that I don’t spend near the amount of time in prayer that I should, either. Nor do I set the standard in Kingdom-come praying. I’ve read the accounts of great faithful men of the past who arose two hours before dawn each day and sought the Lord in fervent prayer. E.M. Bounds wrote a classic book called Power Through Prayer, in which he describes the powerful prayer lives of many godly preachers. One example:

John Welch, the holy and wonderful Scotch preacher, thought the day ill if he did not spend eight or ten hours in prayer. He kept a plaid that he might wrap himself when he arose to pray at night. His wife would complain when she found him lying on the ground weeping. He would reply: “O woman, I have the souls of three thousand to answer for, and I know not how it is with many of them!”

Such biographies leave me hungry for that fellowship with the Father, and I long to feast that fully at the table.

O God, fill me with such a heart of love for You, and such compassion for others. Make my consuming passion be for your glory. Whatever the cost. Whatever it takes. Make me a prayer warrior!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Mercy in Misery

“Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy.” Psalm 28:6

Have you ever been in a desperate situation? Maybe you’re there right now. You see no hope in sight for a better outcome. You’re crushed underneath the weight of your struggle. You’re at the point of absolute despair, feeling like you can’t breathe another breath.

Hold on, dear friend, and lift up your hands, lift up your voice, lift up your soul – for the Lord God is rich in mercy.

The writer in Psalm 28 found himself about to tumble into the pit of death, and he cried out in desperation to the Lord, his Rock. He felt the weight of despair about to overcome him, and probably had for some time with no relief in sight. He pleaded for God to not be silent, but to hear his cry for mercy. He called out to Him for help, for the Lord was his only hope of rescue.

And he received mercy in his time of misery.

The Bible is full of men and women and families and nations who cried out to the Lord in the midst of desperate situations. Here are just three examples from Matthew’s gospel:

  • The blind men who shouted out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” (Mt. 9:27)

  • The Canaanite woman whose daughter was suffering terribly from demon-possession cried out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mt. 15:22)

  • The man whose son suffered greatly from seizures knelt before Jesus, “Lord, have mercy on my son.” (Mt. 17:15)

Read these accounts in their contexts and you’ll see that Jesus is the God of mercy. Even though He didn’t just snap His fingers automatically to heal them, He still heard their cries. Even though He may have seemed to delay a response to their need, He still heard their cries. And He rewarded their persistent faith.

God responds in mercy because He is merciful. I don’t know of a single account in all of Scripture where anyone who comes humbly before the Lord asking for mercy is denied. Even the thief on the cross in his final hour asked Jesus for mercy, and He gave it saying, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Surely He is also the God who will “judge the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:5), and will soon come to “convict the all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words the ungodly have spoken against him” (Jude 1:15). But His mercy is offered right now to all who call upon the name of Jesus for salvation, repenting of sin and trusting in Him. “Our Lord’s patience means salvation” (2 Peter 3:15), so “seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near” (Isa. 55:6).

Call upon the name of the Lord, you who are troubled and desperate! Call on Him day and night – in faith – until you receive His mercy. Come humbly before His throne of mercy and grace, through Jesus, and you will find help!

You’ll never get a busy signal or a recorded voice greeting you with, “All our representative are assisting other callers right now. Please hold. Your wait time is approximately 30 minutes.” You’ll never get an, ““I’m sorry, that’s not my department. Let me transfer you.” You’ll never hear Him say, “Well, it looks like we’ve run out of mercy today. You should have come sooner.”

The Bible says, “The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous” (Proverbs 15:29). God’s mercy is promised not the unrepentant, rebellious and defiant, but to those who belong to Him. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Mt. 5:7).

Yes, He may delay His answer for His own purposes. Perhaps to test the genuineness of your faith. Maybe to see how dependent upon Him you truly are. Sometimes He may even allow you to experience the consequences of your actions as a way of disciplining you in love.

But be assured, dear friend, that the Lord hears the prayers of His people. “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles” (Psalm 34:17).

May you have cause to give praise to the Lord today, and proclaim your thanksgiving aloud, knowing He has heard your cry for mercy.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Refreshing, Restoring Rain

For those who know how dry it’s been lately in Southern Illinois, yesterday’s rain was a blessing. It was much needed relief to the dry and thirsty land. It was a glad and welcomed sight to behold. It was good to feel the rain again.

I was surprised at how quickly such a rain brought restoration. The yard at the parsonage was all but dead. Except for a couple of passes along the ditch and near the sidewalk, the front yard has not needed mowing for nearly two months. It had turned brown by early August. Walking on it made me cringe with each step as it crunched beneath my feet. It was struggling to survive, and with the passing of each day’s heat and parchedness hope dimmed.

You have to understand something – I love my yard! In the spring it came up more thick and luscious green than the Amazon rainforest. With nary a weed or bald spot in sight, it was a perfect barefooting lawn, great for the boys to run around on. Even in the hotter weather of early summer it kept its luster beautifully.

But my affections for the yard are not wrapped up in its pleasant and tidy appearance. This yard symbolizes the labor of the church’s love. Every time I pull up to the house, each time I mow the grass, and anytime I see the kids playing outside I am reminded of the work that George and Tom put into replanting the yard. When we moved to Ridgway three years ago, there was nothing but dirt where the grass should have been. The yard had been in such poor shape that it needed more than just a little help – it needed new life. So these men killed off the old in order to plant the new. It’s for the love shown in their efforts that I thank the Lord as I brag on how great my yard looks!

So, it hurts to see the yard deteriorate as it has in the past several weeks. Yet, the rain that fell on its arid soil yesterday has already begun to spring it back to life! I distinctly noticed green growth appearing in the midst of the browning stubble. Now, I’m sure there are some farmers around here who can tell a more passionate story about what the rain means to them and their livelihood, but I am thankful and rejoice in the Lord for the showers of His blessings.

Sometimes our lives can get pretty dry, as well. Maybe you haven’t picked up your Bible in reading, meditating or praying to the Lord in several weeks. Maybe you haven’t engaged in serious Bible study with others for quite some time. Maybe you haven’t been active in the fellowship of God’s church, or even if you’ve gone to church the experience barely amounted to a sprinkle. Maybe you’ve been neglecting opportunities for ministry or evangelism and the ground of your heart is increasingly hardening with each passing day.

It’s time for you to soak up the refreshing and restoring rain of the Lord! Let the showers of His Word fall upon your thirsty soul today. Let the righteousness of Christ pour over your heart as you yield anew to His authority in obedience. Let the joy of true, Spirit-filled worship flood your being as you bow before the glory of the Lord, coming humbly into His presence, though boldly in Christ Jesus, with songs of thanksgiving and praise.

You may be surprised at how quickly the green growth will appear and begin bringing restoration to your spiritual drought.

Why not start in meditation and prayer in Psalm 27 right now.

PS 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation--
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life--
of whom shall I be afraid?

PS 27:2 When evil men advance against me
to devour my flesh,
when my enemies and my foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.

PS 27:3 Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then will I be confident.

PS 27:4 One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.

PS 27:5 For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.

PS 27:6 Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the LORD.

PS 27:7 Hear my voice when I call, O LORD;
be merciful to me and answer me.

PS 27:8 My heart says of you, "Seek his face!"
Your face, LORD, I will seek.

PS 27:9 Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
O God my Savior.

PS 27:10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will receive me.

PS 27:11 Teach me your way, O LORD;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.

PS 27:12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
breathing out violence.

PS 27:13 I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.

PS 27:14 Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Ultimate Transformer

Youch! It’s been too long since I’ve posted anything on this site. If you’ve checked in occasionally and found nothing new, I apologize. I’m resolving to publish more frequently, even if the whole chapter doesn’t get written.

Transform v. 1. To change markedly in form or appearance. 2. To change in nature or condition; convert.
(The American Heritage Dictionary, 1983)

My oldest son enjoys playing with transformers. It’s pretty cool how he can change them from a robot-looking guy into an airplane or army tank or something. I can’t figure them out, myself. I could look at the instructions all day long but never seem to make it work. My son doesn’t need the instructions. He just starts twisting and turning the figure around until it miraculously becomes an altogether different toy.

This is what God does with those who believe in Christ Jesus. He changes us – not in outward form or appearance, but from the inside out. He transforms our nature. He transforms our thoughts. He transforms our minds. He transforms our attitudes. He transforms our desires. He transforms our ambitions. He transforms us until we become an altogether different person. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17).

It doesn’t always happen overnight. Though we are made new in Christ – born again – the process of transformation takes time. I gave my life to the Lord at the tender age of six. No, I didn’t have the book of Romans memorized, nor did I fully understand the doctrines of election, regeneration, justification or sanctification. I’m still working on some of these things. But I knew that I was a sinner. I knew that God loved me so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for my sins. I knew that if I believe in Him that I would have everlasting life. So, with my mother guiding me, I received Jesus as my Savior and Lord.

That doesn’t mean that I became sinless. Yes, I was saved. Yes, I was in Christ. Yes, I became a new creation. Yes, I was born again. But the process of transformation was only beginning. The Lord is still transforming me into His own likeness with ever-increasing glory (2 Cor. 3:18). He’s making me more and more to reflect His glory in this world.

On our family vacation in August we experienced the trial of having a flat tire on our van. There was a day when I would have been very irritated at the situation. I would have been upset at the delay. I would have been angry at the expense of repair. I would have probably have been miserable for the rest of the trip, and taken my family down with me. But because the Lord is in the process of transforming my thoughts and attitudes and words and behaviors, He enabled me to respond graciously in this situation. Even miraculously, in order to demonstrate His grace, the Lord provided for our needs. That afternoon before we left on our trip, one of the members of the church gave us $200 to help with our expenses. The bill for two new tires totaled $200.21.

As followers of Christ we must live according to the Spirit. “Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires…the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom. 8:5-6). God’s Holy Spirit dwelling in the life of a believer in Christ transforms us as we live in Him and are led by Him. He produces in us “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).

We are powerless to make the transformation ourselves. We must remain in Him, keep trusting in Him, keep in step with the Spirit, and He will transform us into His own likeness – for our good and for His glory. He is the Ultimate Transformer. Not that He changes, but He changes us.

Jesus changed the life of the leper with the touch of His cleansing hand. He changed the life of the centurion’s servant with just a word of healing. He changed the lives of the demon-possessed men by driving out the legion of demons. He changed the life of the paralytic by forgiving his sins, then proved His authority to do so by raising him to walk again. He changed the life Jairus’ daughter when He raised her from death to life. He changed the life of the blind men when He restored their sight.

By His unfailing mercy demonstrated when He shed His blood on the cross for our sins, He changes the lives of all who come to Him through faith. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners -” Paul wrote to Timothy, “of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:15-16). What a transformation the apostle Paul experienced!

If you’re still tracking with this and have never received the mercy of Jesus that alone can save you from the wages of sin, which is death (Rom. 6:23), then the good news of the gospel is for you this very moment. Cry out to Jesus for mercy, acknowledging your sin, receiving His forgiveness, and you will be transformed.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:1-2).

Friday, August 31, 2007

Faith in a Great God

The year was 1941. A committed band of followers of Jesus Christ were ready to step out in faith like they never had before. But they were not the first.

Fifty-one years earlier a small but faithful group of 13 devoted men and women had taken the initial steps of faith that would later pave the way for generations to come. For in 1890, 13 saints took God at His word and planted and established a church in which they would worship their Savior. They set their sights, by faith, on reaching their community with the gospel of Christ Jesus. They pledged together to build up one another as the body of Christ. In only nine years the membership had grown to 98.

Fifty-one years later, even with the prospects of world-wide war looming directly on the horizon, the next generation followed in the footsteps of their forefathers. They approached Almighty God with their need for a new building. They came ready to take God at His word as they moved forward in faith.

And so, in 1941, with $1.83 in the treasury and a great faith in the power of God’s word, the members of the First Baptist Church in Ridgway, IL, purchased this piece of ground on which we gather together this morning, and began construction on this very building. And with members giving freely of their time and money, and with the help of donations from people of other denominations, they completed the building and burned their mortgage in just three years.

It’s a story not just about the history of Ridgway First Baptist Church, but a story about believers in Christ Jesus using their faith – and watching God do what would seem humanly impossible.

There is nothing that is too difficult for the Lord to do. “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is there anything too hard for me?” (Jer. 32:27).

The Roman centurion knew this truth. That’s why he came to Jesus pleading with the Lord on behalf of his dying servant. He knew that Jesus had the authority to “just say the word” and his servant would be healed.

Matthew records for us that Jesus was astonished at this man’s great faith. Then He rewarded the man and healed his servant with just His word.

I wonder if the Lord marveled at the faith of the saints in Ridgway who stepped out in faith to do what they sensed the Lord asking of them. Had they sat down and counted their money, thought about the possibilities of war ahead of them and evaluated the situation on a human level, they never would have made the move. But I believe they knew that nothing is too hard for the Lord. They used their faith, and God rewarded.

Their testimony still echoes in the church today. I pray that we will keep following in these same footsteps of faith. Whatever the call. Wherever He leads. Whomever He sends. He is the Creator of all things, who spoke the heavens and the earth into existence. He is the God of all mankind, who breathed into man the breath of life. He is the Savior of all nations, who came in love to rescue a dying people.

J. Hudson Taylor is quoted as saying, “It’s not so much a ‘great faith’ that we need, but faith in a great God.” Our God is a great and mighty God, with all things under the authority of His command. Nothing is too hard for Him!

How great is your God? Use your faith!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

For my cleansing, this my plea

Here two women in a small village are doing their laundry the old-fashioned way. It’s the same way they plant and harvest their crops - by hand.

I had the opportunity to take an afternoon with our team to prayerwalk through this village. We were fascinated enough simply by their way of life. We were more profoundly fascinated by their need to know the Savior.

I recall seeing these women going about their daily business of washing their clothes, and I was led by the Lord to pray something along these lines: “Father, even as these women wash the dirt and stains from their clothing in this river, I pray that one day they will experience the cleansing touch of Jesus Christ who alone can wash away the dirt and stain of sin from their hearts by His blood.”

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

Oh! Precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow
No other fount I know
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

The Bible says that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22). Jesus testified before His disciples on the night of the Passover, the eve of His crucifixion, as He took the cup, gave thanks, and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt. 26:27-28). And He went out and shed His own blood on the cross that we may be saved from the death wages of sin. “For my pardon this I see, nothing but the blood of Jesus. For my cleansing this my plea, nothing but the blood of Jesus.” I can’t think of a greater joy in all the world than to know that my sins have been forgiven!

I bow in awe before God who put His great love on display in sending His Son to die on the cross for sinful man. For it’s only in Christ that “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Eph. 1:7). And in our Savior who rose in triumph over the grave, we also know the hope of heaven, for “whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

This is what I pray these villagers will come to understand. I pray for the ones God will send to tell them of His love and give them the words of eternal life. May they find that “nothing can for sin atone, nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Jesus in the Classroom

Perhaps one of the most ironic experiences of our two-week mission trip was the experience of telling the Good News of Jesus in the classroom. Not that we walked through the doors the first day and started handing out Bibles or preaching through John's gospel. But as we taught the students English, there were opportunities that arose to speak about our faith in Christ Jesus.

This indeed was what we had been praying for. Yes, we wanted to do a good job of teaching, and we were well-prepared for it. But more importantly we wanted to teach about the grace of God through Jesus our Savior.

Let me share a couple of experiences I had personally. One of my classes dealt with “Occupations.” I presented some job titles and basic work descriptions to the students to help them with their vocabulary. I also gave the students an opportunity to write what they would like to be. In the course of the conversation they asked what job I do.

As we taught the students through our lesson plans, each of us were encouraged to also consider ways in which we might engage the students to ask questions that we could answer with the opportunity of telling about Jesus, giving our testimony or sharing our faith. This was one such moment.

I replied that I am a teacher. I wasn’t sure if saying “Pastor” would have been appropriate in that setting, yet I didn’t want to close this open door. They followed up with questions about what I teach and where. Smile. The door was opening wider. I was then able to tell them that I didn’t teach in a school, but in a church. I also had to briefly describe what a church was. This wasn’t real easy. I had to talk about and gesture to communicate prayer and worship, trying to use their word for God. Since there are no (zero) churches in this area, most did not have any frame of reference for what a church is. Eventually I think they got the concept, at least conceptually.

Then I was able to tell them that I don’t teach a subject like math or science, but I teach people the Bible. I tried to explain that I teach about who God is and His plan for people all over the world. I introduced God’s Son to them and attempted to talk about Him, how He gives those who believe in Him peace and joy and salvation. I’m not sure how much they understood, but they will forever know that they heard this American tell them (for the first time) about Jesus.

Another open door came when one of the students asked what festivals we celebrate in America. I started with Christmas. Smile. This wasn’t the time to talk about Santa Claus and reindeer. I asked if they knew why we celebrate Christmas. No one responded. This allowed me the opportunity to again talk about Jesus as the reason for our festival. I attempted to communicate as clearly as I could with them about why Jesus came to earth and His purpose for dying on the cross. Some of them knew something vaguely about the cross. I even went so far as to try to explain what sin was – it actually became quite humorous trying to act out for them stealing and lying to enforce that point. Then I could share with them that Jesus came to forgive men for their sins and make us right with God, and so to live forever in heaven.

I’m only hoping and trusting that God will use whatever I said, whatever they heard, to draw them unto Himself. I made sure to write the name “Jesus” on the chalkboard so they could see and remember it. Maybe some of them wrote it down.

One other girl asked me once who my hero was. That one was easy. Smile again. I walked to the chalkboard and circled the name “Jesus” that was already written there. The best I could I tried to explain why Jesus was my hero. I hope they caught my heart even if they couldn’t catch my words.

In the opening paragraph I used the word “ironic” in describing this experience of telling two classes of 60-70 students each about my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In America where the right to freedom of speech is our first Constitutionally amended right, if I were to speak about Jesus in a classroom here they way I did there, well, I wonder what might happen. Hopefully somebody would get saved. Smile!

The students were such a joy to teach, with eager minds and respectful, attentive attitudes. I walked into the class for the very first time to a loud round of applause. They were genuinely thrilled to have a foreigner in their classroom. They showed courtesy and kindness to each of our team, and showered us with gifts in appreciation. My heart’s desire is that others will come behind us, watering where we planted, nurturing the seed until it blossoms in the hearts of these precious young men and women. And perhaps they will be the generation that carries the light of the gospel of Christ Jesus back to their homes and villages and throughout their country, and maybe, into the still unreached uttermost parts of the world.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Worship on the Mountain

One of the highlights of our recent overseas mission trip was the Sunday morning we worshipped the Lord God on the side of this mountain. There’s something majestic about praising God while surrounded by the beauty of His creation. There’s something thrilling about being in a spiritually darkened land on the opposite side of the globe singing “One day every tongue will confess You are God, one day every knee will bow; still the greatest treasure remains for those who gladly choose You now.” There’s something special about praying and reading God’s Word and eagerly anticipating the day when such worship rises up to heaven not from a group of foreigners on the side of the mountain, but from the hearts and lips of the people in their own homes, on the city streets and in the public square.

The Scripture we read that bright morning was 2 Corinthians 3:18: “We all, with unveiled faces, are reflecting the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.” This is our great desire – that the glory of the Lord would radiate from us in such a way that the people would see the light of Christ and be drawn to Him. Certainly we cannot speak their language, and any verbal communications will be somewhat limited. But as we allow the Lord’s glory to reflect in our faces, our eyes, our smiles, our touches, our gentleness, our compassion, our humility, our joy, our peace, our kindness, and our love, we trust that His Spirit will begin the work of transformation in their own hearts into the very image of Christ Jesus.

This was our second day in this town, and though we had seen a glimpse of the city from the ground level, our vantage point from above was spectacular. Let me share what I recorded later that evening in my journal:

“The view overlooked the city, and I was swept into a great desire for Almighty God to reach down and bring His salvation to this entire city. Our team is growing in support and love for one another, just as we are growing in love for this people. God, how I pray that You will break through. Hearts that have been darkened and ignorant for so long are so needing to hear of Your wondrous love. Break through to reveal Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, so they will believe and be saved.”

This continues to be my prayer for this people group. Will you join me in asking the Lord of glory to shine forth with the light of salvation in such unreached parts of the world?

“You said, Ask and I’ll give the nations to you, O Lord, that’s the cry of my heart. Distant shores and the islands will see Your light, as it rises on us.”

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Kneel at the Cross

Sometimes the most spiritually satisfying moments come when we least expect it.

This past weekend we held a Youth “Heroes” Retreat at Hillcrest Baptist Camp. I hope to have pictures soon to display! Honestly, although I was excited about the event and looking forward to this time for the students, I confess that I did not saturate it in prayer as I should have. My own heart was not prepared to meet the Lord in that place.

I could blame that neglect on other things (a pastor’s work is never done!), but it falls ultimately on me. God was (as He always is) more than ready to pour out His blessings on His children as they seek Him, but even as I hoped God would move among the students, I was not personally eagerly expecting Him to move in me.

Yet He did. What a Savior we have who first loved us! He takes the initiative to draw us to Himself – it’s not that we come looking for Him. Praise the Lord that God, being rich in mercy and kindness and grace, because of His great love for us, puts the surpassing riches of His grace on display in Christ Jesus. Our hope in Him never rests on our own goodness or merit, but wholly and only on His amazing grace!

At the camp they have created what they call the “Kneel at the Cross Prayer Garden.” My first reaction to seeing it was along the lines of, “Oh, that’s cool. Maybe they should add some flowers around it or something to make it look nicer.” I wasn’t super impressed.

But on Friday night as we gathered at the cross set into the concrete pad – the cross with the nail holes and blood stains visible where the hands and feet of Jesus would have been bound, the cross not made of polished silver or glittered gold but rugged wood, the cross where one Man took the pain that should have been ours – we knelt in reverence and humble adoration. And my soul was moved at the love of Christ.

I tried to imagine the depth of suffering Jesus endured on my behalf. I tried to imagine the pain and agony of such a horrific and gruesome physical death. I tried to imagine the spiritual anguish He felt and the incurable ache that would make Him cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was stricken.

He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

After the suffering of his soul,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isa. 53)

“When I survey the wondrous cross

On which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain I count but loss

And pour contempt on all my pride.”

And I wonder who’s been praying for me. I wonder whose prayer God has answered? Dr. Jester? My church family? My wife? For someone surely was praying as Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus:

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God" (Eph. 3:15-20).

And God answered. When I expected it least, God showed up most.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Send In the Ants

In the past few days we've dealt with some unwelcomed guests in our home. They don't make a lot of noise nor do they raid the fridge or drool on our pillows, but the annoyance level and ick factor compel us to action.

I'm talking about carpenter ants. Now, I'm not crazy about them, mind you, but my wife absolutely can not stand them! I'm more of the mindset that if you ignore them they might go away. My wife realizes this is preposterous thinking and that something must be done right away if not sooner. I wasn't at home when she saw one of the monsters on our kitchen counter the other day, but from my office a few blocks away I did hear the scream she let out.

Apparently my casual approach to resolving the situation was not acceptable, so when she observed another one yesterday morning - that was it! And men, when that's it, it's already too late!

I was busily preparing for a meeting and trying to work through the myriad details related to a very soon approaching mission trip, while also keeping an eye on a youth retreat this weekend, while also squeezing in sermon preparation for Sunday, while also - well, you get the idea. That's when the call came in. There was an unmistakeable urgency in the caller's voice with an undeniable call to action. And if I didn't respond immediately to the report then, um, it would have been bad.

So off to hardware store for some ant spray after arriving home and receiving my assignment. Completing this phase of the mission I returned to the scene of investigation ready to ward off the enemy creatures. But first - there would need to be some removing of wood chips in our front landscaping. I hadn't thought about this opportunity to serve and protect. Actually, it wasn't on my schedule to take the afternoon off in the middle of my very, very important and precious planning and preparation time to shovel and remove said wood chips prior to zapping the adversary with the liquid weaponry.

Regrettably, my attitude about the events that were presently transpiring reflected poorly on my role as a husband. In other words, I wasn't very happy about it, and it showed. Too bad, because I missed a good opportunity to display the love of Christ to my wife. That's the kind of love husbands are to show for their sweethearts - the kind that Jesus demonstrated when He gave up His life for the church. I sure wasn't happily giving up myself for my bride.

It took a few minutes (OK, about a half hour) for me to realize this, and to muster up the humility to confess my selfishness (sin) and seek forgiveness. Let me just say that I'm so thankful for a wife who does forgive. Otherwise I don't think they make a doghouse comfortable enough for my permanent residence.

Now I'm coming to the point of the story - thanks for hanging with me! It's funny that as I was preparing for this mission trip meeting, one of the things I wanted to emphasize is our need to be flexible on the field. Yeah, flexible. We can plan and prepare and think we've got a pretty good idea of what's expected of us, what we'll be doing, what things will be like, but guess what. I have a feeling that we're going to need to be rubber bands. Flexible. Ready to stretch out.

I got a bad check-up on my flexibility scan yesterday. Maybe the Lord sent the ants to test my heart. I still have an overwhelming amount of work to do, but I'm trusting in confidence that God's got it all under control.

"Lord, here am I. Send in the ants if that's what it takes to mold me into the image of Jesus. Break me, melt me, fill me, use me - or better said, make me useable - for Your glory - for Your kingdom." Amen.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I Need a New Word - Describing Gossip

My thesaurus doesn’t quite help me enough here. I’m trying to come up with a word that describes how I really feel about gossip. “Hate” seems too pretty. “Abhor” leaves too much doubt. “Loathe” sounds too much like “love,” and I wouldn’t want to be misunderstood.

Do you know what I'm saying? What more harmful or destructive thing can there be to someone’s name or reputation – or to the witness of the church - than dragging his or her name through the vile mud pile of gossip?

It’s like a child playing with a book of matches. Of course he didn’t mean to burn the house down, but that’s what happens when you play with matches. If you light a match and nobody blows it out, it’s going to cause a fire and someone’s going to get burned.

Gossip works the same way. Of course you didn’t mean to cause such harm. You didn’t mean to destroy anyone’s reputation. You didn’t mean to stain their name. You didn’t mean to divide the workplace, your family or God’s church. You didn’t mean to burn down the house. Unless you did. But when you light the match by passing on potentially destructive information (whether it’s true or not makes absolutely no difference), and nobody blows it out – instead the flame is kindled and waved hotter with every recurring telling of the situation – then somebody’s going to get burned.

If you've ever been burned by gossip, my heart goes out to you. I trust you'll seek not for revenge but reconciliation. Please don't harbor bitterness and rage, but follow the biblical principles toward forgiveness and mercy. A needed blog for another time.

This is how Satan works. Remember, his mission is to steal, to kill and destroy (John 10:10). You’d better believe he wants nothing more than to destroy the house of God – to burn it down and take out as many followers of Christ as possible. And doesn’t he just love to give non-Christians a disdain for those who do call themselves “Christians” but who dish out the gossip with the best of them? We give him that foothold when we talk about others in a hurtful way. We open up the doors and invite him in when we pass along the latest, juiciest news we have on someone.

I ask you, dear friend, How’s your speech? If you find that you often (or ever) begin your conversations with, “Did you hear about Joe…?” or, “Guess what happened at the Jones’ last night…,” or, “You’ll never believe what I heard about Paula…,” then you need to think about whose camp you’re in.

Maybe the better question is, How’s your heart? The Bible says that “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Mt. 12:34). If you’re caught up in dishing out or relishing in the latest unpleasantries, then don’t just button up your lips - go get a heart scan! Let the Lord do a thorough evaluation on the condition of your heart. If necessary, let Him perform the surgery required to get rid of the old one and give you a new one. Let Him put His Spirit in your heart and do the work He desires through you.

I’m urging you, Christian reader, for the sake of Christ to put an end to all gossip! If we’re to live worthy of the calling we’ve received in Christ, then “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Eph. 4:29).

I want you to hate all sin (not those who commit them) – including gossip (not those who gossip). And let me know if you’ve found a better word or coined a new term for expressing such revolsion for the sin of gossip. I might need to use it again sometime.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Possibilities - A Father's Prayer for His Son

The following lyrics were penned while my wife and I were expecting the arrival of our son almost eight years ago. We still wonder at how the Lord will use him for His glory in this world, and we like to imagine the possibilities. And our prayer is still that Tyler (and our newer addition, Toby) will see the boundless love of the heavenly Father on display in Amy and me - and be drawn closer to Christ every day. I almost posted this in time for Father's Day!

He’s gonna need a Mom to teach him how
To sing and dance and laugh
He’s gonna need her voice to read to him
Of trains and trees and giraffes
He’s gonna need her touch when he’s feeling down
Her smile to turn his world around
Lord, please let him see how a Mother’s love should be

And maybe he’ll be a doctor who finds
The cure for a deadly disease
Or maybe he’ll fly a mission exploring some
Unknown galaxies
Lord, we can only guess what You’ve planned
But we pray that one day he’ll take Your hand
Living full of possibilities
And go wherever You lead

He’s gonna need a Dad to show him how
To throw and bat the ball
He’s gonna need him there for his first bike ride
Ready to catch his fall
He’s gonna need his strength in the dark of night
His praise to know when he’s doing right
Lord, please let him see how a Father’s love should be

And maybe he’ll be a doctor who finds
The cure for a deadly disease
Or maybe he’ll fly a mission exploring some
Unknown galaxies
Lord, we can only guess what You’ve planned
But we pray that one day he’ll take Your hand
Living full of possibilities
And go wherever You lead

Lord, we’re holding out so much hope
As we patiently await
This gift of life You’re placing in our care
Please let the love he sees in us
Be Yours he’ll imitate
And may he always be cradled in our prayer

- REG 1999

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Growing by Knowing

As parents of two young boys, my wife and I not only encourage our children to eat what is good and healthy for them, but we also do our best to keep them from intaking what is harmful. We put locks on the bathroom cabinets and under the kitchen sink, so that the two-year-old doesn't open them up and start drinking the Draino. That could be fatal for him, and we wouldn't dream of standing by watching it happen.

Now when he's matured a little, like our seven-year-old, we won't have to keep it locked because he'll have no desire for it. He will have learned that it's not good for him and he'll want nothing to do with it. He's growing by knowing what is healthy and what is harmful - choosing the healthy while rejecting the harmful.

As a pastor, my heart is to protect the church and encourage her to keep choosing to eat the good and healthy nourishment of God's Word while rejecting the harmful deceits of false teachings. I want to see each person living godly, productive, fulfilling lives that honor our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I want each believer to keep growing in the grace and knowledge of Him. I don't want anyone swallowing harmful or possibly fatal false doctrines, which might lead them away from the truth and into sin. If I could somehow lock up destructive heresies and ideas behind cabinet doors, I would.

That's the heart of the slave and apostle of Jesus Christ - Simon Peter - as he writes his second letter under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. When was the last time you heard a sermon or Sunday School lesson out of 2 Peter? It’s one of those shorter letters kind of buried there toward the back, and if your pages stick you might miss it altogether. I’d guess that probably most Christians could not quote or maybe even identify a single verse from 2 Peter. That’s too bad because this short but fervent letter packs a punch that should wake up many sleeping churches in our culture today.

This past Sunday I began what I’m intending to be a five-sermon series on 2 Peter called “Growing by Knowing.” I’ve summed up the main theme in this book by saying that Christians must continue growing in the faith (i.e., the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ) so that we will not be swept away by false teaching, but be assured of our salvation and keep living the godly life that such salvation brings.

Make no mistake about it: there are many deceivers and godless men, as Jude says, who “have secretly slipped in among you” (Jude 4). They “will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them…Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute” (2 Peter 2:1-2). Even in many self-professing Christian churches the raw transforming power of the gospel has been replaced with psuedo-psychological, politically correct, self-help motivational speeches. The whole idea of preaching God’s Word as the absolute truth and authority for our lives is giving way to relativism and compromise. The question many church leaders are asking is no longer, “What’s true?” but “What works?”

I want to encourage you to read carefully through 2 Peter and see if doesn’t speak emphatically to the need for the church to be guarding the treasure of the gospel today. Then read it again and ask the Lord (by the help of the Holy Spirit) to reveal His character and His will to you in these pages. Then read this letter a third time and discern what He wants you to do as a result.

Come hungering and thirsting for the truth of God’s Word and you’ll keep growing by knowing our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Beautiful Thing

“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.” – Ps. 13:5 (NIV)

It’s a beautiful thing to trust in the unfailing love of the Lord. It means that you lay all worries aside because you know that God will take care of all things. It means that you bury all fears because you know that God’s power is greater than anything man can do to you. It means that all doubts are erased because you know that God has proven Himself without fail to be faithful and true.

It’s a beautiful thing to trust in God’s love. You know that He watches over your ways. You know that He guards your steps. You know that He’ll keep you from falling.

And even when it seems like He may be slow in answering, even when it may seem as if you’ve been forgotten, even when it may seem as though His face is hidden from you, yet you know He will answer and deliver.

Even when you wrestle long and hard with your thoughts, even when sorrow pierces your heart, even when your enemy gains an upper hand, yet you know He will rescue and redeem.

So you cry out in confidence, pleading with God to look upon your struggles and answer. You implore Him with great urgency to give light to your eyes, lest you sleep in death and your enemies boast in victory and your foes rejoice at your fall. You know you’re not just shouting to the wind and your prayers vanish in the breeze, but that your deepest, innermost longings and tears will reach the ears and the heart of a God whose love will not fail.

For He is there! He hears and He is not silent. He does not slumber. His eyes do not fail to see your sufferings. His wisdom is not lacking in how and when He responds. His purposes are not misguided. His arm is not too short to save. His help is not far away.

You trust. You wait. You hope. You endure. You persevere in prayer. You never give up. You never despair. You never worry. You never fear. You never doubt. You know that He will come. And when He comes, all will be well. It already is.

And in His salvation your heart rejoices. He has made His salvation known. His name is Jesus! There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. The battle is His. The victory is His. The glory is His alone. By His death and resurrection. No righteousness of my own, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. Sin is atoned and hope is alive for those whose trust is His unfailing love!

In your Savior your heart rejoices and you sing to your Lord a song of thanksgiving. You sing a song of praise. You sing a hymn of gladness. You sing a melody of joy. For you sing a victory song. “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

He has been good to you. He always will be. It’s a beautiful thing to trust in God’s unfailing love.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Blog Me the Old, Old Story

I’m not writing this blog because I have something new to say.

First and foremost, the Bible stands alone as the absolutely true, trustworthy and relevant Word of the living God to man. To add a single new word or delete a single thought would place one in grave danger before the God who speaks for Himself through the Scriptures. To change or compromise its message for a postmodern mindset (or any cultural system) is to set oneself above God – a foolish endeavor to say the least. No, the Bible’s own testimony says it plainly: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16). The "old, old story of Jesus and His love" is still the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.

On a tangent if you’re up for it, go through the New Testament sometime and look up every book’s chapter 3, verse 16. You’ll probably know John 3:16 already, but look up the others. This isn’t an infallible exercise, but an interesting one nonetheless. There are quite a few very powerful 3:16’s in Scripture.

Secondly, there have already been gobs (I think that’s a legitimate number) of great Christian books and Bible references written. I wouldn’t dream of trying to improve upon the richness of J.I. Packer’s Knowing God or A.W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God. I can’t say anything about delighting in God better than John Piper in Desiring God. And I’ll admit that I’m not nearly the reader I would like to be. When you account for the writings of the likes of Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, John Bunyan, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and many other excellent thinkers, pastors and authors, what more can be said of the ways of knowing God and walking in His grace?

I’m writing this only because my generation (give or take) needs to hear someone in their own generation proclaiming the truths of God’s Word and the glories of knowing Him and being known by Him. We need to hear the unchanging message of Scripture applied correctly to our culture today. We need to understand that God’s great and precious promises still pave the way for His followers to “participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by lust” (2 Peter 1:4). We need to heed the call to obey the commands of our God as given in His holy Word so that our foundation as Christians will be unshakeable when the 21st century storms of life and the coming judgment threaten to undo us. We need to be reminded of and nourished constantly in the truth.

And, frankly, you might be more apt to read a blog on the internet than to pick up your Bible and read a chapter or two. I would much rather you not spend another minute reading these words if you would learn more of Jesus in John’s gospel instead, capture the excitement of the early believers in Acts, or be challenged by the teachings toward faith and Christ-likeness in the epistles. Please don’t allow anything to substitute your need for delighting in the law of the Lord and meditating day and night upon His Word.

But if you’re looking for additional encouragement in the sound teaching of the gospel from a fellow traveler on the narrow road, then I trust this site will be a helpful resource to you. There may not be anything new to say, but may the reminder of God's grace spur you on toward love and good deeds. To the praise of His glory!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007


OK, I've been thinking for some time now about how cool it would be to have a blog site, but when my wife told me Sunday that I needed to start one, that was enough for me. After discovering in Sunday School how passionately into computers and web surfing and chatting most of our students really are, in her practical wisdom Amy suggested this might be a good way to stay in touch.

My goal is to use this site as tool for communicating the truth of God's word, the gospel - the treasure with which I (and all believers in Christ) have been entrusted. With so many false teachings prevalent in our culture today and accepted blindly or ignorantly in many churches as well, I trust, with the help of the Holy Spirit, that this site will be a voice serving to guard the sound teaching of the grace of God through Christ Jesus.

One of my greatest struggles in preaching each week is not what to say from God's Word, but what not to say! Seriously I love the study of the Bible, and I could preach for two hours each Sunday if I thought anyone would sit that long to listen. The challenge lies in narrowing down the message to rifle in on the main focus of the passage, which I faithfully attempt to do. However, that usually means that I don't have time to speak in depth on some aspects of the text that truly are fascinating. Perhaps this blog will allow me to share more of the delight I find in the law of the Lord with you.

I encourage your feedback, too! Feel free to ask questions, raise concerns or share your wisdom and insights from the Scriptures here. May the name of Jesus be glorified.