Thursday, January 24, 2008

Choose Life

This week we have witnessed the 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision which legalized the killing of unborn babies. Nearly 50 million babies have been killed since 1973. What a shameful smear on the legacy of this country. I believe the history books will one day record what a disgrace this has been upon the land, a disgrace which may well contribute significantly to our nation’s undoing.

Beyond that, how the taking of each life must absolutely grieve and anger the heart of God. The Bible declares that the Lord God creates life in the womb, from the moment of conception, knitting us together being fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:13-14). We must love what the Lord loves and hate what He hates. We must value every life in every womb in every circumstance – the way Jesus valued your life and mine. The sin of taking away the life of an unborn child in the “best interests” of the mother or the child or society, for the sake of convenience or financial concerns or selfishness or whatever, will not be dealt with lightly.

However, forgiveness is available in Christ Jesus. If you’ve ever had an abortion or encouraged and supported it, I’m not here to beat you up over it. You already know the pain and grief of that experience. I want to tell you that through Jesus you will be forgiven of this – or any sin – by humbly admitting your sin before Holy God, repenting, and believing in Jesus as Savior and Lord. He can and will heal you.

Jesus suffered and bled and died on the cross to pay the penalty for sin, so that you can go free. He will cleanse you and make you new. He will save you. But anyone who chooses to reject His Word, His Truth, the Life that He alone gives, stands condemned already. “Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” (Deut. 30:19).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Gracious and Compassionate God

Have you ever tried to run away from God? You know the Lord has a message or a mission for you, but for your own reasons you have not embraced that call, either conveniently ignoring Him or defiantly rebelling.

Have you ever wished for God to just punish the wicked and be done with them? Maybe you have felt that certain groups of people such as child abusers, drug addicts, liars, murderers or jerks at work simply do not deserve God's compassion, and there's no way in the world you would ever give them the chance to receive salvation.

That's why so many people throughout the ages have identified so closely with Jonah.

You know the story. God called His prophet, Jonah, to go to Nineveh and preach against it. Why? Because the wickedness and violence of that city was flying up in God’s face. A holy, righteous God displayed the greatness of His patience toward this city by sending His messenger to give them a chance to repent. He could have simply wiped them out like an exterminator getting rid of nasty bugs you don’t want crawling around your house. That’s what Jonah thought He should do. And He would have been justified in doing it.

God was justified in sending the flood in the days of Noah. The Bible records for us that “the Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain” (Gen. 6:6) because He saw how great man’s wickedness had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil all the time. The world was filled with corruption and violence, and it broke God’s heart with great anguish.

God was justified in raining down burning sulfur to destroy the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. You can read the graphic details of their wickedness in Genesis 19 if you’d like.

The truth is that God’s judgment is always right. He is just in all His ways. And on the day when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven, “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power” (2 Thess. 1:8-9).

But with an unfathomable compassion for mankind, God, who is also gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, gives men everywhere a chance to turn from their wicked ways and trust in Him for salvation from hell. That’s why He sent Jonah to the Ninevites. That’s why He called Noah to be a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5) in his generation. That’s why He spared Lot and his family from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Bible says of the Lord, “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Jonah did not understand God’s compassion. He couldn’t comprehend why God would give such wicked and sinful people a chance to receive His favor. “They don’t deserve Your mercy!” Jonah protested. “Look at how evil they are! Don’t you see how defiant and rebellious and violent these people are? They deserve Your wrath, not compassion!” In putting it bluntly, Jonah's attitude was: "They can just go to hell."

And so Jonah tried to escape this call by taking a cruise to the other side of the sea. But God would not be denied. On this cruise Jonah found himself immersed in a life lesson concerning the preaching of God’s Word. Jonah learned first hand the awesome power and sovereignty of God as the wind and waves rocked the ship. He discovered the challenge to obey as God kept him alive inside the belly of a great fish. And when God gave him a second chance Jonah set his sights on carrying out his mission, reluctantly though it was.

The day of the Lord’s judgment will come. But He is giving you this moment the chance to receive His salvation. That’s why God displayed His compassion in the ultimate measure by sending His Son Jesus to die on the cross in the place of every sinner. There He took the full weight of God’s wrath for us. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

The truth is, none of us deserve His compassion any more than the Ninevites. But, oh, the mercy and grace of Christ Jesus! When warned, the Ninevites believed God. They turned from their wicked ways and God had compassion on them and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened.

What about you? Confess your sin before the Lord today. Turn away from wickedness and trust in Jesus Christ for your forgiveness. Believe that He died on the cross for your sins and that He rose from the grave. Come in faith to Jesus, for "whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Rom. 10:13). You will experience that truly our God is a gracious and compassionate God!

Friday, January 11, 2008

What We Cannot Do

Some things I can do well; I can re-fold a road map. Some things I’m okay at; I’m about a 70% free-throw shooter. Some things I cannot do at all – like earn my way to heaven.

Do you realize that there is nothing you can do to save yourself? Save from what, you may ask? From the wages of sin, the Bible answers, which is death. Not annihilation, as some false teachers claim, but an eternal state of anguish and torment in hell. You might think your life is a living hell right now, and to some degree it may be.

In hell you are separated forever from the presence of God. Right now you may have distanced yourself from the presence of God by rejecting Him, rejecting Jesus as Savior and Lord, or by simply ignoring the reality of who He truly is and denying His activity in the world all around you. If hell is the absence of God, then maybe you are living in a sort of hell today.

But I’ll be honest with you from God’s own word – you ain’t seen nothing yet. “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Matt. 25:41). “These,” says the King, the Son of Man to those do not respond in faith to the gospel of Christ Jesus, “will go away into eternal punishment” (Matt. 25:46). If you think you have it bad now, just wait until the Lord unleashes the fury of His holy wrath against sin.

Whether you realize it or not, God is pouring out His unfathomable compassion and mercy upon you even as you breathe. If He even began to take away His hand from this world for one moment, this universe as we know it would crumble into ruin. No, contrary to what evolution and big bang theorists would have us believe, “by Him (Jesus, the image of the invisible God) all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible…all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:16-17).

And so God, in displaying His glory in His creation, in providing you air to breathe and a heart to beat and ears to hear and a mind to receive His message, gives you this moment the opportunity to be saved from death and hell. The Bible says even though God will certainly bring judgment and destruction upon the ungodly, that He is also demonstrating His patience toward us now, “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

The message is this: Repent from sin and believe in Jesus! Turn to Jesus and be saved! God loves you so much that He willingly gave His one and only Son to die on the cross for your sins. He doesn’t want you to die. He came to bring you life – eternal life! The Bible says that “whosoever” believes in Jesus will not perish, but have everlasting life. God demonstrated His wondrous love for you in that while you were still a sinner, Christ died for you (Rom. 5:8). You can be saved right now by confessing your sin before God and believing in Jesus as your Savior and Lord.

"Yeah, but you don’t know what I’ve done,” you may say. “You don’t know how many terrible things I’ve said, how many people I’ve hurt, how much hatred is in my heart and the anger in my soul. I could never be good enough to be saved.”

If that’s what you’re thinking, then I say to you that you are on the right track. You can never, ever, be good enough to be saved. There is no amount of good deeds that can possibly earn salvation. In fact the Bible declares that there is “no one righteous, not even one” (Rom. 3:10). “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve gone to church, how many religious deeds you have done, how good a worker you are, how good a parent you’ve been or how much money you’ve donated to charity. You can do absolutely nothing to save yourself.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Eph. 2:4-5). Friend, the only way to be saved is on the basis of God’s grace, which we receive through faith. Come to Jesus today – He’s the only Way to heaven.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Daily Devotions for 2008

This past year I had the opportunity to contribute eight writings in the Illinois Good News Daily Devotion Guide. It was a wonderful opportunity to participate in a work I pray will encourage and strengthen your faith. I want to thank Ed and Donna Handkins for their diligence in compiling this book and allowing this pastor to contribute.

These devotions are now available online at If you are interested in purchasing a copy of the book, you may do so at

It's my hope that God will stir your heart to a greater desire to know Him through His word and through the experience of obedience in 2008.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

New Year's Revolution

I want to be part of a New Year’s Revolution. Resolutions come and go too easily. Even though they’re made they’re seldom kept for more than a few weeks, or maybe only days. If I had a dime for every good intention I’ve had that never amounted to anything, I could almost afford to fill up my car with gas. I really don’t need to make any more resolutions. I need a revolution.

I want to be a part of a spiritual revolution – a movement of God’s church being the body of Christ in spirit and in action. Not just for a season, but for a lifetime. I want to be a part of the next great spiritual awakening in our land.

I want to see God’s Spirit working in the lives of unbelievers to convict them of sin and to convince them of their need for a Savior. I want to see people from all walks of life, from all sorts of checkered pasts and troubled homes find the sweet forgiveness that Christ Jesus offers. I want to see hard-hearted old men and bitter old women find freedom from sin’s bondage. I want to see single moms who struggle to make ends meet discover that God is a gracious provider. I want to see the affluent couple who thinks they have it all realize that the riches of God’s grace in Christ Jesus far surpass the wealth of this world. I want to see the coolest kid on campus get saved and become a fool for the sake of Christ. I want to see the outcast and the nobodies and the lonely and the hurting experience the security of belonging to the family of God. I want to see the girl who for all of her life has been told how ugly and unwanted she is to know that Jesus cares for her and loves her with an unconditional, unfailing love, a love that He demonstrated for her when He died on the cross for her sins.

I want to be a part of a revolution in 2008.

I want to see the Holy Spirit raise up stagnate Christians from their slumber and fill them up with a fresh fire for the Kingdom of God. I want to see the church of Christ being transformed daily into more and more of the image of the Savior. I want to see her growing in the Word of God, being strengthened in the fellowship and unity of the Spirit, and striving toward obedience to the commands of God. I want to see the church caring unselfishly for the needs of one another. I want to see the church giving generously to the work of advancing the gospel. I want to see God’s people using their spiritual gifts to build up the body of Christ so that Jesus may be glorified in her in every way.

I want to see her get sick of being lukewarm. I want to see her truly repent from her apathy and indifference toward her calling. I want to see her get serious about taking the message of the gospel unashamedly into her community. I want to see the light of Christ shine so brilliantly and unmistakably through her that everyone even to the uttermost parts of the world will see the glory of Jesus in her.

I want her to start loving the things that please the Father and hating the things that He hates. I want her to take a stand for righteousness and truth in a culture awash in immorality and godlessness. I want her to be bold in the power of the Holy Spirit and proclaim the truth of the gospel no matter what the risks or consequences may be. I want her to quit worrying about what people think and start caring about what God thinks.

I want to see the church calling passionately and purposefully upon the name of the Lord in 2008. I want to see her on her knees in prayer for the lost. I want to see her pleading daily with God to send out more workers into His harvest fields. I want to see her interceding continually for missionaries both at home and overseas. I want to see her praying for her pastors, Sunday School teachers and other leaders who have been entrusted with great responsibilities in the work of the gospel.

I want to see her standing in the gap for the oppressed, the underprivileged and the unborn. I want to see her ministering in the name of Christ to those who need the touch of the Master’s hand. I want to see her loving like Jesus in word and deed, action and truth. I want to see her laying down her life for her friends. I want to see her demonstrate the mercy and compassion and grace and forgiveness of Christ to the least of these. I want to be part of a revolution in 2008.

Lord, let it begin in Ridgway, IL. Glorify Your name, O Lord, and may Your Kingdom come and Your will be done here in our very midst.

Do you want to be a part of it? Come on!