Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Better Things - A 2008 Memorial Day Tribute

Even though we grieve deeply in the loss of loved ones who have gone before us, yet we hold on to the anchor of hope for our souls in the promises of God, whose Word assures followers of Christ of better things to come. May the words of this poem help direct your gaze toward better things.

Your Word speaks, O Lord, of much better things
And in this great hope we are saved
Saved by the grace of our great King of kings
The pathway to heaven now paved

O how our hearts long to dwell in that place
Where mansions of glory await
Where gold lines the streets and pearls clothe the gates
Our wondrous eternal estate

But here down below our troubles increase
Our sorrows and griefs multiply
Hearts ache with sadness at loved ones deceased
While tears flow like streams never dry

Sons for their fathers and fathers for sons
Weep watching them march off to war
Fighting for freedoms and liberations
Some not to embrace anymore

Others are mothers whose newborns lie still
The sun never gleamed in those eyes
Daily she wonders just how long until
She sings her unsung lullabies

Then ring the voices of faithful and pure
True witnesses of Your promise
Cheering us on with the hope to endure
Lord, may your strength come upon us

Even so, come, Jesus, come and come soon
Come gather us home in the sky
Come let your saints hear that sweet trumpet tune
And dance with the angels on high

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

There is hope! Celebrate Recovery

There is hope!

We were privileged to welcome the Celebrate Recovery ministry team from Harrisburg (IL) First Baptist Church with us Sunday night. Eight men and women gave testimony of how God has changed their lives and brought them out of various addictions and sins, griefs and sorrows and into His marvelous grace - which is Jesus Christ.

The message that rang loud and clear from these transformed lives is this: There is hope! Truly, no matter where you've been or what you've done, no matter how many people you've hurt or how many have hurt you, no matter what's happened or where you've been, there is hope in Christ Jesus our Lord. He is the one for whom nothing is impossible. In Him there is freedom, there is forgiveness and there is victory. There is hope.

In Christ - through the blood He shed on the cross for the sins of the world - there is hope for a new tomorrow. There is hope for better things to come. There is hope for everlasting life.

When we come to Jesus and receive Him as our Savior and follow Him as the Lord of life, there is cleansing from the filthy stain of sin, for there is mercy in His suffering for our sake. When we turn away from sin in repentance and faith, our sins are wiped out and times of refreshing come from the Lord. When we confess our sins we discover that He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

There is hope. And there is peace in Christ - peace that passes all understanding when we present our requests to God with thanksgiving. It is a peace that will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and remove our anxious, worrisome ways. And there is joy - joy that is unspeakable, for our Savior is able to keep us from falling and presents us before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy.

I want to thank the ministry team from Celebrate Recovery for their honesty and openness in sharing their hurts, habits and hang-ups, and for giving God the glory for the great things He has done. These are real people who have stepped out of denial into God's grace. May the Lord bless them richly and reward their work to lead others to faith and recovery in Christ.

If you want to learn more about this ministry, or how you, too, can know the hope Jesus gives go to

Monday, May 19, 2008

Baptist Children's Home - Thank You!

A special thanks goes out to the Baptist Children's Home and Family Services in Carmi for leading in our morning worship service yesterday. Though I was preaching at a sister church and couldn't be there, every report I've heard has been highly complimentary of the young people and their leaders. I hope you know that our God brings hope and healing to the hurting and broken who call upon His name.

The Children's Home is a wonderful ministry clothed in love, sharing the care and compassion of Christ to meet the needs of children and families in crisis. I'm glad to be a part of a church that supports this work with monthly financial gifts and the special Mother's Day Offering. For more information about their services, please visit

Friday, May 16, 2008

Borrow Not a Few (Part 3 of 3)

Are you ready for a downpour of God’s mercy and grace? Have you taken your cares and worries before the Lord, crying out to Him for help – and are you ready to receive it?

In this third part I want to highlight the faith and obedience of the poor widow. As noted in the previous entries, this widow in 2 Kings 4:1-7 was in a desperate situation. Her husband had recently died and she had a debt she could not pay. Not only that, but her two sons would soon be taken as slaves by the creditors unless she could come up with the cash.

So she pled her case to Elisha, the man of God, and she offered the little she had – a jar of oil – so that God might be glorified in His miraculous provision for her needs. All that was left to do was to trust and obey.

But sometimes that’s the hardest part. We can pour out our hearts to God easily enough. We can say, “Here I am, Lord, and here’s all that I have – it’s Yours! Do with me as You please.” But when it comes down to exercising our faith through obedience to the Word and will of God, how are we doing?

Elisha gave this woman some pretty strange instructions. He told her to go and borrow as many empty jars from her neighbors as she could find. “Borrow not a few!” he told her. “Then go in and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each one is filled, put it aside.”

Now it was up to her whether or not she would receive the blessing from the Lord. She could have been skeptical and said, “You know, Elisha, I just don’t see how borrowing some empty jars is going to do me any good. Don’t you have some cash you could lend me? Couldn’t you take up a love offering among your prophets or something? What about calling down some fire upon my creditor – that’ll solve my problems.” And she would have missed the miracle God was about to perform on her behalf.

If she wanted to receive God’s mercy and grace, she had to trust and obey. And she did. She trusted the man of God and followed his instructions. And when she poured the oil from the one little jar she had, the oil continued to flow until all the jars she had borrowed were filled to the brim. Her faith was rewarded by the abundant provision of God, who is rich in mercy and lavish in grace. And if there would have been more empty vessels, God would have filled those up, too.

Borrow not a few! Be careful not to limit the blessings that God is willing – more than willing – and able to pour out upon you. Had this widow acted in little faith and only borrowed a few jars, she wouldn’t have had enough to pay off her debts and keep her sons from being taken into slavery. Instead, she took God at His word and sold the oil to pay her debt with enough left over to live on.

“Truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed,” Jesus said, “you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you” (Matthew 17:20).

Friend, the greatest debt anyone could ever owe is the debt that everyone born into this world owes: the debt of sin. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death. It’s a debt which no amount of good deeds, Sunday School attendance awards or financial giving to the church can pay. It’s a debt which cannot be paid for you by godly parents or grandparents, husbands or wives.

But, as the old hymn goes:
Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow

Are you desperate to be saved from the wages of sin? You can be saved, and you will be saved by crying out for mercy from the Lord. Come humbly before Him today, confessing your sinfulness and turning away from it, turning in faith and obedience to Jesus Christ, who paid your debt on the cross with His own blood. Yes, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

God has an unlimited supply of grace and mercy. He is more than able to supply your every need. Come to Jesus in faith and obedience today.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Borrow Not a Few (Part 2 of 3)

In Part 1 we saw in 2 Kings 4 the widow who needed a miracle to save her two sons from being sold into slavery. She could have looked at her circumstances and crumbled. She could have looked at her own resources and despaired. But she went to the man of God – Elisha – crying out for help.

And there she found what she needed. She took her burden before the Lord, He heard her cry, and He came to her rescue. But first, she had to be willing to give up whatever she had, as little as it was. Elisha asked what she had in her house, and she said, “I don’t have anything in the house, except a jar of oil.”

But do you know, dear friend, what our Lord is able to do with a simple, single jar of oil in the hands of one willing to give it to Him? Do you know what the Lord can do with a sling and a stone in the hands of one willing to give himself to God? Do you know what Jesus can do with two fish and five loaves from a boy willing to give it to Him?

You may not have much to give, but give it anyway! God can multiply your gift in ways we’d never dream of. The apostle Paul concluded a prayer for the church in Ephesus by saying, “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21).

This widow needed help, and she was willing to offer whatever she could – as little as it was – so that God might multiply it back to her. She listened closely as Elisha, speaking with the Spirit of God within him, instructed her to go and borrow empty jars from her neighbors. And I love this part – he said, “Borrow not a few!” He knew that God was more than able to supply her need. Not only was He able, He was willing and ready to demonstrate His mercy and grace in a miraculous way.

Borrow not a few! Friend, if you’re going to ask of the Lord, then be prepared to receive it! God has ordained it that His children should come to Him in prayer to receive their daily bread. He has given His Son, Jesus, who has opened up the way for us to approach the throne of God in heaven. That Way was Jesus’ broken body, offered on the cross for the forgiveness of our sin by His shed blood, that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. By His wounds we have been healed.

If you are a follower of Christ Jesus then you not only have access to come to God, but are given a special invitation in full assurance of faith to draw near to Him. And in that place there are treasures of blessings the Lord longs to pour upon His children. Treasures of mercy and grace in Christ Jesus that are yours for the asking, the seeking and the knocking.

Are you prepared to receive them? Borrow not a few! If you’re gonna pray for rain, carry an umbrella. You might even want to slip on your raincoat and some boots. Roll up the windows and cancel your plans for the afternoon picnic in the park. God’s about to send a downpour.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Borrow Not a Few (Part 1 of 3)

If you’re gonna pray for rain, carry an umbrella. If you’re gonna ask God for help, get ready to receive it.

There’s a great account the Bible gives about a poor widow who had a debt she couldn’t pay, and the creditor was about to come and take her two sons to be his slaves. She was in a helpless situation. Despair, really. What mother wouldn’t agonize over the prospects of losing her two sons, and that on the heels of losing her godly husband? (See 2 Kings 4:1-7).

She needed a miracle. So she went to the man of God, Elisha, in whose company her husband used to serve. She pled her case, crying out for help, knowing that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are attentive to their cry” (Psalm 34:15). She came knowing that “the Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know Your name will trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You” (Psalm 9:9-10). She came because she had highlighted and memorized 1 Peter 5:7 which says, “Cast all your cares upon the Lord, because He cares for you.”

Friend, do you need a miracle today? Are there circumstances in your life beyond your ability to control? Problems in your marriage or other relationships? Family conflicts? Loneliness? Grief? Depression? Health concerns? Financial debts? Addictions? Abuse? Bitterness? Suicidal thoughts? A difficult decision? Do you feel overwhelmed by your desperate situation?

Why not bring your case before the Lord right now? Almighty God in heaven has made a way for you to come before His throne of grace with confidence. At His throne you will receive mercy and find grace to help you in your time of need (Heb. 4:16). That Way is through His Son, Jesus, whom He gave out of His own great love for you. The Bible tells us that “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

And if He was willingly to give up His own Son – “how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). Did God refuse to deliver the Israelites from under the oppression of their slavedrivers when they cried out to Him? Did He turn a deaf ear to Jonah when he cried out to the Lord in his distress from inside the belly of the fish – even though he had deliberately disobeyed God? Did the Lord Jesus ignore the shouts of blind Bartimaeus as he cried, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”(Mark 10:47)?

Our Father in heaven knows what you need before you ask Him, but how He longs for His people to come humbly before Him in prayer, depending upon His goodness and mercy to meet their daily needs. God is greatly glorified in our dependence upon His provision for our needs. He loves to pour out His the riches of His grace in Christ Jesus, that He may be glorified in us as we are satisfied in Him.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

Want to thrill your Mom this Mother’s Day? What would be the best thing you could possibly do for the woman who carried you for nine months, delivered you into this world and fed, changed, bathed and clothed you? What would be appropriate to give to the one who made you wash behind your ears and brush your teeth, who did thousands of loads of your laundry and washed thousands of your dirty dishes? What gift could even begin to honor such a special woman who read you story after story, who packed your lunch each day and made sure you finished your homework each evening?

Maybe a beautiful bouquet of roses would do the trick. Sure, that’ll show her that you recognize her beauty and the unfading worth of her devotion as a mother. So they’ll fade away in a couple of days – the important thing is that you think she’s beautiful.

Or how about a gift certificate to a day spa? She’s worked so hard for years and years, laboring in love for her family, that she deserves to be pampered for a day. That should refresh her enough to keep her canning those garden beans for you again this summer.

I know, a nice pair of earrings. Yes, the ones shaped like a heart because you appreciate the sacrificial love she has shown to you. She’ll keep them in the jewelry box you gave her for Christmas, right along with the birthday bracelet you bought her and the other set of heart-shaped earrings you gave her last year for Mother’s Day.

Hmmm, there’s that restaurant she likes to eat at. If you can get there before 11 a.m. you should be able to beat the rush. They do offer a senior discount. Or there’s this new book out that teaches women how to be a good mom. She loves to read. Wait a minute, maybe she’d think that you don’t think she is a good mom and so she needs to read this book. Better scratch that.

What would thrill your Mother’s heart this Mother’s Day? May I suggest something that I think would absolutely delight your Mom not only for a day, but forever? How about this: Honor your Mother with your life! Honor her by living a life of integrity. Honor her by serving others in love. Honor her by raising your own family well. Honor her by making your life count for something.

How? Honor your Mother by giving your heart and soul to the Lord Jesus Christ. Some of you know right now that you’ve abandoned the biblical values that your Mother holds dear. You’ve neglected the things of the Lord and followed your own self-centered pursuits. Some of you know that your rebellious choices have disgraced your Mother, and that your lifestyle grieves her deeply. She would love for nothing more than to see you turn from sin and turn to the way of Truth – Jesus. I’m not talking about just going to church. I’m saying come to your senses and fall upon the mercy of the Father in heaven, who waits to receive and welcome any who repent and call upon the name of Jesus.

“Well,” you say, “my Mother passed away already. It’s too late for her to see me come back to the Lord.” But I say to you, dear friend, that you turning to Christ right now and living faithfully for Him is even more certain to thrill your Mom. For if she’s in heaven now then there would be no small celebration over your turning from sin to Jesus. And if – God forbid – your Mom was an unbeliever, I assure you that from where her spirit dwells in torment now her only desire would be that you won’t go there, too.

Gifts are nice, don’t get me wrong. I’ve already given my own Mother a hanging basket in which Tyler and I planted some flowers, which my wife planned because I stink at giving thoughtful gifts. But do you know what God says about bringing Him gifts and offerings? “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice…” (1 Sam. 15:22). I would rather you show Me that you love Me by trusting Me and obeying My Word, He says, than to bring me the fattened calf to make yourself feel better while ignoring My instructions. Don’t you think your Mom feels the same way?

Thrill your Mom this Mother’s Day and forever by honoring her with your life. The greatest honor you can bring your Mother is a life of faith and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. That will truly be a Happy Mother’s Day!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Delighting In the Word of God

"Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands." - Psalm 112:1

What's not to delight in when it comes to the commands of the Lord? Why would we not receive His word gladly and eagerly? How could we possibly think that God would ever give a word or command that would somehow lead to our demise or destruction, or result in our misery and unhappiness?

It's like telling my two young sons on Christmas morning to get out of bed and go into the living room. Can you imagine them saying, "But, Dad, we're tired. We want to sleep in today. We want to play with our old toys first. You don't really love us. You don't want anything good for us." Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?

The fact is, that if I've already told them we'll open gifts on Christmas morning, it won't take much persuading to get them racing to the living room and tearing into the presents. They would be gladly and eagerly jumping out of bed, delighting in my word, because they know that my plan for them is for their good and not for their demise or destruction or misery or unhappiness.

There are tremendous blessings God has promised for those who fear Him, who delight greatly in His commands. The Lord has offered mankind the ultimate gift beyond anything that we deserve or could possibly earn - it is His gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What foolishness to reject such a gift! What blindness to not see that such a great salvation from the wages of sin is offered to you! How ignorant to think that God does not desire what is absolutely good for us! Why choose to sleep in and keep wanting to play around with the old things when God has promised something so much better for us in His Word?

You can be sure that not one of His promises has ever failed, nor will they ever. The Lord is faithful and He is true. His Word will never fail, never disappoint, never mislead and never fade away. For in His Word we see Jesus, the One of Whom the Scriptures testify, and in Whom are hidden all the treasures we will ever need or could ever want.

In Him the lonely find a true Friend. In Him the hurting find a great Physician. In Him the weak find Strength. In Him the fearful find a Shelter. In Him the weary find Rest. In Him the troubled find a Counselor. In Him the lost find their Way. In Him the uncertain find the Truth. In Him the dead find Life. In Him the slave finds Freedom. In Him the thirsty find the Living Water. In Him the hungry find the Bread of Life. In Him the wanderer finds a Shepherd. In Him the darkened find Light. In Him the orphaned finds a Brother. In Him the anxious find Peace. In Him the helpless finds Hope. In Him the unloved find Love. In Him the defenseless find an Advocate. In Him the sinner finds a Savior.

What's not to delight in, dear friend? Put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, come humbly and reverently before His throne, and delight in His commands. The richest of God's blessings await.