Thursday, December 31, 2009

Do It Again in 2010

So here we are about to embark upon a New Year. How many of you thought by the year 2010 we’d be living a little more of the Jetson world than we are? At least our daily transportation system ought not to include driving cars on roads, right?

By the way, do people say the year, “Twenty-Ten,” or is it “Two-thousand ten”? Either way it’s hard to believe we’re a tenth of the way through the 21st century!

On the first Sunday of two-thousand nine I preached a message from John 8:12 where Jesus declared: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” The sermon title was: “Let It Shine in 2009!”

That became something of my axiom for the year, and hopefully the light of Christ has shone through my own life, through my family and through the Ridgway First Baptist Church. Jesus also said in Matthew 5:16: “Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” I can’t say it’s shone perfectly, but isn’t it amazing how even a little light can dispel the darkness?

Last week several people from our church went out Christmas caroling to the homes of some of our home-bound members and others. It was well after dark, but thankfully Jerry Cathey wore this funky headband/adjustable spotlight thing and it lit up the way for us to see where we were going. It was quite a sight, actually, but at least no one tripped over cracked sidewalks or turned ankles in potholes.

When we follow the Light of Christ Jesus, we’ll not be walking in darkness. His Word will become for us “a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.” His Spirit dwelling in the hearts of those who belong to Him will illuminate the truth and guide us in His ways. We’ll be able to see the way we should go, and we won’t be tripping over the obstacles that otherwise would cause us to stumble into sin.

This coming Sunday then, I hope to preach a message that serves to help steer our course for the new year. The Lord has been trying to teach me more about faith. I’m not always a real attentive student, however. All I know is that I want to have a greater level of faith in God than I have now. I read the Scriptures and see examples of men and women with the kind of faith that moved mountains, and isn’t that what Jesus said would happen if only we had faith the size of a mustard seed?

Honestly, I don’t see many mountains moving. But I’m ready to. I’m ready to trust so completely in the will of God and the power of Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit that nothing becomes impossible. Nothing! Didn’t Jesus say, too, that “everything is possible for him who believes” (Mt. 9:23)?

We trust so readily in our bank accounts, our resources on hand, our human understanding of what can and cannot be done, but do we leave room for God to act supernaturally? We’re so often just like the disciples who see the size of the task ahead of us and say, “How in the world are we going to feed this many people? All we have here are two little fish sticks and five slices of bread. What good is that going to do?”

Yet I believe that God wants to put His glory on display in ways that cannot be explained away. Jesus did it that day by feeding the 5,000 with the young boy’s lunch, and He can do it again in 2010. I believe that Jesus can still heal people with the power of His word, just as He gave sight to the blind men and opened the ears of the deaf, just as He made the lame to leap for joy and cleansed the lepers of their disease.

And even more miraculous than healing the physical body, Jesus can heal the very souls of men. He can take one who is dead in trespasses and sins and make him alive together in Christ. He brings peace to the brokenhearted and joy to the downcast. He replaces despair with hope and ashes with beauty. He even forgives sin and saves “whosoever believeth in Him,” giving everlasting life – a new life – to those who deserve the wages of their sin, which is death and hell.

I can’t wait to see what God has in store for the coming year! I can’t wait to see how He’ll put His glory on display! He’s done it before, and He’ll do it again in 2010!

Monday, December 21, 2009

He's Making a List

Last year at Christmas somebody gave me a snowman tie. I can’t remember who. I think it may have been Amy and the boys. Anyway, you can push a little button on the tie and it will play Christmas tunes.

One of the songs is “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” How many children in the world have modified their behavior at least a little bit around Christmas time because of this song? You know the line: “You’d better watch out / You’d better not pout / You’d better not cry / I’m telling you why / Santa Claus is coming to town.” Parents have used this song for ages to threaten their kids to try to make them be good for goodness’ sake.

See, everybody knows that Santa’s got this list. He knows if you’ve been bad or good. He’s even double-checking to see if he’s got it right. There are presents at stake here! The entire thrill of Christmas is a make or break deal based on which list you’re on.

Nobody wants to be on the naughty list. It’s bad news if you wake up on Christmas morning and all you’ve got in your stocking is a lump of coal. Man, you want to see presents under the tree – with your name on them! That’s what Christmas is all about, right?

Well, not exactly.

Then it’s about the spirit of giving, right? You know, being kind to others, spending time with family, going to basketball games at the holiday tournament, drinking eggnog and blowing your diet on candy canes and cookies?

Uh, maybe we’d better take a look at it all from God’s point of view. Being kind to others, giving, family – those are good things, yes. Basketball – definitely. But there’s a greater purpose. God has a purpose and plan for all that He does.

See, God’s got this list going, too. It’s a book, actually. It’s called the “Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:27). In this book are the names of those who belong to the Lamb, who is Jesus, the Messiah. He is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). He is “our Passover lamb” who has been sacrificed on the cross (1 Cor. 5:7). He is the “lamb without blemish or defect,” whose precious blood has redeemed us from the empty way of life handed down to us from our forefathers, who was chosen before the creation of the world, and through whom we believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him (cf. 1 Peter 1:18-21).

And nobody gets on this list just by being good. The truth is, we all deserve to be on the naughty list. We’ve all sinned. Not a single one of us is perfect. You may be a better neighbor than State Farm. You may have a coffee mug inscribed with: “World’s Number 1 Dad.” You may have an employee of the month certificate hanging on your wall. None of those things will get your name in the Lamb’s book of life. Even faithful church attendance, giving to the poor and saying your prayers are not enough.

There’s simply no way we can possibly save ourselves. Nothing impure will ever enter into the glory of God in heaven, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

The only way you get your name written in that book is by repenting of your sins and receiving Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. God sent His Son, Jesus, to save us from our sins! He is the Savior who has been born to us; He is Christ the Lord! He came to seek and to save that which was lost. He came with the authority to forgive sins. He came to testify to the truth of His everlasting kingdom.

Even Linus knows what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown. It’s not about Christmas pageants or beautifully decorated trees or big family gatherings. It’s about God sending Jesus, who came not to condemn the world, but to save His people from their sins.

There’s more than presents at stake here. The thrill of heaven is a make or break deal based on whether or not your name is written in that book. The message of the Savior is the good news that brings great joy – and it’s for all the people. It’s for you, dear friend.

May your Christmas be filled with the peace of knowing Christ Jesus and the joy of His salvation.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

According to Your Word

For everyone who’s ever been greatly troubled. For everyone who’s ever been afraid. For everyone who’s ever asked, “How can this be?”

Meet Mary. The young Mary from a no-where town called Nazareth. The Mary to whom the angel Gabriel delivered earth-shattering news. The Mary who would carry the Son of God in her womb.

When the angel appeared, Mary was greatly troubled. Yeah, you think? Who wouldn’t be? It’s not every day such a supernatural messenger shows up with a such a startling greeting.

I imagine she was going about her chores, doing whatever work young Jewish girls did back then – which probably did not include texting her friends or watching the Disney Channel after school. When suddenly this other-worldly figure appears with a greeting from the Lord: “Oh, Mary, you have received the richest outpourings of the grace of God! The Lord is with you!”

I think I’d be a little shaken, as well. I know because I watched “The Nativity Story” on DVD, and the angels were a little spooky. Besides the appearance of this angel – in itself a shocking enough event – the Bible tells us that Mary was troubled at his saying, and her mind raced with emotion trying to figure out what this greeting was all about. “What have I done? Why are you here? Am I dreaming? Pinch me if you’re real.”

Very quickly Gabriel spoke reassuringly to Mary: “Mary, you have nothing to be afraid of. God has found favor with you! His grace is all over you!” Wow – who wouldn’t love to hear such a word from God!

Then Gabe dropped the bomb. “Now, listen, Mary, I have something to say that’s going to blow you away. Maybe you’d better sit down. Are you ready for this? You are going to have a baby boy!” Boom. As Mary’s jaw drops to the floor.

“You will name him Jesus. He will be great – the Son of the Most High! The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. What do you think about that?

And Mary, scooping up her jaw, said, “Uh, back up to the part about the baby thing. Did you say that I am going to have a baby? Let me get this straight – I am going to have a baby. Did I hear that right? Me, a virgin girl, no husband, no man. They didn’t teach it this way in biology class. So, how exactly is this going to work?”

Gabriel explained: “Forget what you know about the birds and the bees. God’s doing something supernatural here. Something mysterious and miraculous. The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of God will overshadow you. And so, the Son you will bear will be holy, the holy Son of God. Pretty cool, huh?

“Even your cousin Elizabeth is having a baby! That’s not possible either, is it? But she’s already six months pregnant! I want to tell you something, Mary: There’s nothing impossible with God.”

And Mary, in humble submission to the power and promises of God, replied: “I’m not worthy. I’m overwhelmed. I’m simply a servant of the Lord. But I believe what you say. May it be to me according to your word.”

What a beautiful response! What a perfect picture of faith and willingness to go with God’s plan! She didn’t understand it all still. She didn’t know what all would lie ahead – the great blessings nor the deep sorrows. But she accepted the assignment to be God’s chosen vessel through which the Savior of all mankind would enter into our world.

We don’t always understand how God works. We’re often left greatly troubled by the circumstances surrounding us. Even our sincere questions may leave us wondering still over the mysteries of God’s wisdom and ways. But, friend, take heart in this supernatural truth: “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37).

May your humble submission to the power and promises of God’s word prove your faith today.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Light of the Messiah

If you don’t already have plans to be in the house of the Lord this coming Sunday, why not be our special guest at the Ridgway First Baptist Church? We would love the opportunity to welcome you and worship with you.

This Sunday, December 13 at 10:40 a.m., our choir will be presenting a special cantata entitled, “Gather at the Manger.” The songs and the narration of this Christmas celebration will lead us not only to reflect on that nativity scene in Bethlehem, but to rediscover the faithfulness of God in sending a Savior – His Son, Jesus. And realizing this truth will transform your life as you receive Him as your Savior and Lord.

Personally, I’m also excited about the young man who will be singing a solo part in the cantata. You’ll have to come and find out who!

Then at 2:00 Sunday afternoon, if football’s not your thing and if you’re willing to give up your naptime, let me invite you to the SIC community choir’s performance of “The Messiah.” I’m not getting paid to promote this concert, but my wife will be singing in the soprano section and it should be a terrific event. Tickets are $5, and it will be held at the George T. Dennis Visual & Performing Arts Center at Southeastern Illinois College.

As I understand it, in the summer of 1741 a 56-year old composer was at the low point of his musical career. He was suffering from poor health following a stroke, and was in considerable financial difficulty. He wanted to do something different from his previous works, and had been reading from the book of Isaiah.

His heart was captured in the ninth chapter of Isaiah. George Frederick Handel then set out to compose a piece that might somehow display the glory and truth of the text. What he came up with within just 24 days was one of the most majestic and triumphant oratorios ever written, “The Messiah,” concluding with the grand Hallelujah Chorus.

Encompassed in this masterpiece is the lively joy of Isaiah 9:2-7. In this text the prophet speaks of the child to be born, the son that will be given to us. This is the One whose coming will bring the light of dawn upon a nation walking in darkness. This is He who would shine the great light upon those dwelling in the land of the shadow of death. He is Jesus, the Son of God, the promised Messiah!

This is the One who multiplies the nation and increases its joy. This is the One whose victory over the enemy is decisive and sure. This is the One who reigns with a government of peace that will never end. This is He whose kingdom will be established and upheld with justice and righteousness forever and ever. And so we sing, “Hallelujah!”

This is the One whose name is Wonderful Counselor. He guides in perfect wisdom and counsel those who set their hearts to follow His ways. His Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. Walk in His wonderful counsel and you’ll not be led astray.

This is the One whose name is Mighty God. The ultimate victory over sin and wickedness resides in His strength and power. Jesus has indeed already conquered sin and death by His own death upon the cross and His great triumph over the grave, and will one day soon display the full glory and might of His reign. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

This is the One whose name is Everlasting Father. He is without beginning or end, the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega, who was and is and is to come. Jesus Christ, in the heart of a Father, is the same yesterday, today and forever.

This is the One whose name is Prince of Peace. He is the author of peace, the only source of true and perfect peace. Jesus Himself is our peace, who gives us His peace and in whom we have peace even when the troubles of the present world may rage around us, for He indeed has overcome the world.

Friend, if you’re living in the darkness of sin right now, then open your eyes to behold the Light of the world – Jesus Christ! Follow Him, and you’ll never walk in darkness, but you’ll have the light of life!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Experiencing Christ in the Christmas Season

How did December’s calendar get booked so quickly? Is it just me, or do events and activities absolutely multiply this month? My wife and I “calendarized” (her word) our schedules last night, and there’s hardly a day where something’s not written in.

The challenge seems to be, as always, how to experience the true meaning of Christmas in the middle of the Christmas season. Most of the stuff we’ve calendarized relates to ministering in the name of Christ Jesus. Activities include fellowshipping, worshipping, serving, encouraging, giving and evangelizing. Throw in parenting and pastoring, and you’re looking at a pretty healthy set of biblical instructions.

So how’d it all get so crazy? How, in the very process of doing “Christiany” (my word, I think, but maybe I've heard it somewhere before) things, do we lose sight of the One whose birth we celebrate? Doesn’t the true meaning of Christmas revolve around the love of God the Father for mankind – the love from which He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life? Isn’t Jesus the sole reason we celebrate – the One who is the “good news of great joy that will be for all the people,” the Messiah and Lord, Jesus our Savior who will save His people from their sins, Immanuel – God with us?

We don’t want to lose sight of that truth, and the joy and salvation that come with it! We don’t want to lose sight of the merciful and gracious promises of God from centuries before wrapped up in the form of a newborn baby in a manger. We don’t want to lose sight of the sacrifice that Jesus would become for sinners on the cross of Calvary, nor the resurrection victory He won over sin and death. And we don’t want to lose sight of the hope of the glory to be revealed when Christ Jesus comes again as the Almighty King.

So to help us all experience the unique peace and joy and salvation of Christ Jesus this Christmas, let me invite you to come together in worship at the Ridgway First Baptist Church. We’ll do our best to help focus your heart on the reason for the season. We’ll be singing some of your favorite songs of Christmas praise, we’ll be proclaiming the good news of Christ Jesus from the Word of God, and we’ll be giving you plenty of opportunities to bless others in the name of Christ this season.

On Sunday, December 13, the choir will be presenting a special Christmas celebration called “Gather at the Manger.” You won’t want to miss this opportunity to draw near to God and feel the wonder of His presence through this musical presentation.

Listen, I know you’re busy. If I could free up some extra time for you this month, I’d do it. But I urge you to give yourself first to the Lord – before letting your schedule control your life. Give yourself to the Lord Jesus first, and see how He returns the rest and peace to you in supernatural ways.

Maybe you don’t belong to a church at all, and you’re really not sure about this whole “Jesus” thing. Here’s the deal: You don’t have to accept our invitation to come to church services, but I plead with you to not reject the greatest invitation that’s ever been given – and that is the invitation for you to receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ the Lord. Christmas is your reminder that God has gone to the greatest lengths imaginable to save you from your sins. You know you have sin in your life – who doesn’t? And it’s that sin that keeps you from experiencing the glory of God, and it’s that sin that will ultimately result in death and hell unless Someone comes to your rescue.

Friend, the King of creation, the Almighty Maker of heaven and earth, has come to your rescue, and He’s invited you to be His guest at the greatest celebration feast ever given. He invites you to repent of your sins and put your faith in His Son Jesus Christ. “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). And, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13).

It would be an utter insult to the Host to decline such a gracious offer, and to do so will confirm your own destruction. Don’t delay! Let His kindness lead you to repentance today.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Memorizing Psalm 63

OK, so nobody took up the challenge to memorize Psalm 100 last week. At least no one who came to church on Sunday ready to recite it before the congregation. I'm telling you, there's something special about committing the Word of God to memory. The effort alone of allowing His Word to sink into your mind and your heart is worth it!

So here's the new challenge I laid out Sunday before the church: Memorize Psalm 63. Yeah, I know, this one has eleven verses, whereas Psalm 100 only has five. No problem, I know you can do it.

And it will be a great blessing not only to you personally, but to the church corporately. Not to draw attention to yourself, but to show that God's Word is to be treasured highly, and to show that through His Word God reveals Himself, His purposes, His plans and His ways to us.

The Scriptures are "more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward" (Psalm 19:10-11).

Psalm 63 (NIV)

O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.

I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

They who seek my life will be destroyed;
they will go down to the depths of the earth.
They will be given over to the sword
and become food for jackals.

But the king will rejoice in God;
all who swear by God's name will praise him,
while the mouths of liars will be silent.

Song of Thanksgiving

If you’re looking for a heart-song to sing this Thanksgiving, or an appropriate Scripture to read around the dinner table, I have a suggestion for you. Often times we feel the gratitude somewhere deep inside, but it’s difficult to find the words to express it. We know we should be thankful, for God has blessed us in abundance, but how can we say thanks?

One of the greatest psalms of thanksgiving and praise to God is found in 1 Chronicles 16. The setting is upon the return of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. You’ll remember that the Ark was the primary symbol of God’s presence and power among His people Israel. Because of the faithless superstition of Eli’s wicked sons, the Hebrew tribes were defeated in battle and the Ark was captured by the Philistines. Later, when David was king over Israel his army struck down the Philistines and eventually the Ark was brought back to Jerusalem with much great celebration and rejoicing.

Friend, if you’ve experienced the power of God or have been blessed by His presence in your life, then you have a heart-song to sing. If you know what it is to enter into the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, if you’ve drawn near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, and if your heart has been cleansed from a guilty conscience because of the work of Christ Jesus on the cross, then you have a song of thanks to sing!

So if you’re looking for the words to express your thanksgiving, try offering these as your heart-song to God (1 Chronicles 16:8-36):

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples.

Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; speak of all His wonders.
Glory in His holy name; let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad.

Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face continually.
Remember His wonderful deeds which He has done, His marvels and the judgments from His mouth, O seed of Israel His servant, Sons of Jacob, His chosen ones!

He is the Lord our God; His judgments are in all the earth.
Remember His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations, the covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac.

He also confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, ‘To you I will give the land of Canaan, as the portion of your inheritance.’

When they were few in number, very few, and strangers in it, and they wandered about from nation to nation, and from one kingdom to another people, He permitted no man to oppress them, and He reproved kings for their sakes, saying, ‘Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm.’

Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.

Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.

For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; He also is to be feared above all gods.

For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.

Splendor and majesty are before Him, strength and joy are in His place.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering, and come before Him; worship the Lord in holy array.

Tremble before Him, all the earth; indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved. Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; and let them say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns.’

Let the sea roar, and all it contains; let the field exult, and all that is in it.

Then the trees of the forest will sing for joy before the Lord; for He is coming to judge the earth.

O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting.

Then say, ‘Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather us and deliver us from the nations, to give thanks to Your holy name, and glory in Your praise.’

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting even to everlasting.

Then all the people said, ‘Amen,’ and praised the Lord.”

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Old One Hundreth

I'm throwing out a little challenge here. We'll see if anyone actually reads this blog and is willing to invest some time in God's Word.

This coming Sunday (Nov. 22) I'm planning to preach from Psalm 100. A Psalm of Thanksgiving.

Here's the challenge: Memorize Psalm 100 (in your favorite translation).

Here's the incentive (besides the great and priceless reward of taking in the Word of God and letting it permeate your being, hearing from the Lord and learning from Him, and delighting in the Lord God who is good and loving and faithful, etc., etc.): the first person to quote this Psalm on Sunday morning will receive a copy of "The Treasury of David," Vol. II, Psalms 58-110, by Charles H. Spurgeon. It's a tremendous treasure of insights into the Psalms and a powerful expression of adoration for the Savior. Oh yeah, you've also got to be willing to recite it before the congregation.

I'll give away other books to anyone else who comes with this Psalm memorized on Sunday, even if you're not the first.

Anyone up for this? See you Sunday.

We've Got It Good - Let's Give Thanks to God

So often we like to complain about things, but, man, we’ve got it good.

I read recently that if the world was represented by 100 people, 53 of them would live on less than $2 a day. Some of you spend more on coffee in a day than that. We’re a rich nation. Maybe you don’t see yourself as having much, but compared to the majority of people in this world, you’ve got it good.

And not only in wealth, but in the peace and freedom our country enjoys. You read every day accounts of violence and oppression in many lands, yet here we’ve got it good. We live in relative peace. You don’t go to bed at night fearing a terrorist attack. We live in great freedom. You don’t worry over breakfast that the government’s going to come in and take over your land, your house, your bank account, your healthcare – oh, wait a minute. Better not go there now.

The point is this: God has blessed us tremendously – individually and nationally. But, oh, how I fear for this nation because we have forgotten God. As the Lord spoke through the prophet Hosea: “Yet I have been the Lord your God since the land of Egypt; and you were not to know any god except Me, for there is no savior besides Me. I cared for you in the wilderness, in the land of drought. As they had their pasture, they became satisfied, and being satisfied, their heart became proud; therefore they forgot Me” (Hosea 13:4-6).

I challenge you to read Hosea or Jeremiah or any of the prophets and see if God doesn’t have the same word for the people in our generation as He did for rebellious Israel!

What will we do? Will we continue to follow our own stubborn, proud, perverted ways and face increasing measures of His righteous judgment? Or will we return to the Lord our God as He still – for now – invites us to do?

Lest we forget the kindness and grace of God toward us, I want to let the words of George Washington remind us to give thanks to the Lord. The following is the text of President Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789:

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go: Washington

Friday, November 13, 2009

Soon and Very Soon

I don’t know how soon “soon” is, but I know that Christ Jesus the King will return soon. The question is: are you ready?

The revelation John received from the Lord begins this way: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place” (Rev. 1:1).

In the last chapter of Revelation the truth of what is soon to come is further emphasized. “The angel said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place’” (Rev. 22:6).

And in the very next verse in the red letters we read: “Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.”

And in Rev. 22: 12, again the words of Christ: “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

And in the very next to last verse in the Bible we see once more the urgency of the whole matter: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).

It’s imperative. It’s urgent. It’s imminent. Jesus Himself will come again, and He’s coming soon! Only this time it won’t be as a baby in a manger in the little town of Bethlehem, but as the mighty, conquering King of Glory.

“At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Matt. 24:30-31).

The question remains, and it’s more pressing now than ever: are you ready? It’s more pressing now than ever because the signs of His coming are clearer now than they’ve ever been. We’re one day closer to that Day now than we’ve ever been.

And no man knows when it will be. Oh, many have made predictions on when the world will end, and so on, and thereby have proven themselves to be false prophets by their failed prophecies. But do not be deceived, dear friend. “The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (1 Thess. 5:1-2).

The Bible warns over and over again that we must be ready for that Day. “Be dressed and ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes…You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Luke 12:35-37, 40).

So, are you ready? Are you waiting and watching for His return? Are you longing for that day? Have you put away all sin and turned in faith to Jesus Christ? Have you received Christ Jesus as the Savior and Lord over your life? Don’t wait! You never know what tomorrow may bring! “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Welcoming Ganesha?

I read on the front page of Monday’s (Nov. 2) Evansville Courier and Press a feature on the installation ceremony of a Hindu deity at the Tri-State Hindu Temple in Newburgh. It is a fresh reminder of the absolute blindness that veils the eyes and hearts of so many in our own neighborhoods and throughout the nations.

It’s a sad story. Well-meaning, religious-minded people are celebrating over a 2,200 pound elephant-faced stone carving supposedly designed to represent an image of God. The article states that this particular idol called Ganesha is revered for his wisdom and as the remover of obstacles. The ceremonial offerings and rituals performed during the installation were intended to bring God’s presence into this idol.

It’s heart-breaking because hundreds of millions of Hindus are believing in an empty way of life handed down to them from their forefathers. And not only Hindus, but billions of Muslims, Buddhists and people of all kinds of religions are being deceived and destroyed by the “father of lies” himself.

And it’s not just people of eastern world religions that I’m burdened for; it’s also the people of this nation and people in our own neighborhoods who have fallen for Satan’s schemes. It’s for all those who have “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised” (Rom. 1:25) that I am in sorrow. That includes many well-meaning, religious-minded people along with the downright defiant and disobedient, and my heart aches for them to know the Truth.

I am aware that some reading this will call me a closed-minded, intolerant and foolish Bible-thumper. Please understand that I speak not out of hatred toward anyone, but out of love for everyone. The only hatred I have is toward sin. I’m saddened and angered by the consequences of sin, both temporal and eternal. Sin leads to death.

But it’s the love of Christ that compels me (“Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” 1 Cor. 9:16), because the fact is that Jesus gave His very life on the cross for all mankind. The one, true God of the universe showed just how much He loves each and every person in the world by giving His own Son to die! Jesus suffered the blows upon His back. He felt the pain of the nails being driven into His hands and feet. He experienced the humiliation and anguish of the cross. And worst of all, He felt the wrath of God being poured out upon Him as He bore our sins in His body on the tree.

And He did it all for love – for the glory of God. If there was any other way man could be saved from eternal death and hell, if there was any other way to experience true peace and joy, and if there was any other way to have the assurance of an everlasting inheritance in the heavens, then Christ died for nothing. All other religions, in some way or another, are trying to offer man what only the Lord God has already offered exclusively in Christ Jesus.

But not only did Jesus die so that we could be forgiven for our sins, but the proof of His power and authority is in His resurrection from the dead! No other prophet or so-called “god” has conquered the grave! Jesus lives! And “whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

The God of heaven and earth has gone out of His way to display His glory – in His creation and in His Son. He has done nothing but offer this world abundant and eternal life – if only we’ll repent of our sin and receive the forgiveness and new life that Jesus Christ alone gives. “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

The Lord pleads with you to come to Him and be saved. He is not a “god” that has to be removed from a wooden shipping crate, nor a “god” who must be put to bed at night. “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god’” (Isa. 44:6).

See also, among others: Exodus 20:1-6; Psalm 135; Isaiah 44

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Victorious Church of Jesus Christ

We’re not quite in November yet, but already I’m a thankful puppy. I wish everyone could know how wonderful it is to be part of a loving, caring, giving, growing, fun-loving, fellowshipping, serving, discipling, witnessing, encouraging, praying, worshipping, singing and praising church of Jesus Christ!

I’m telling you, the church is where it’s at! If you’re not actively involved in a local church that preaches and teaches the Word of God, stays in step with the Holy Spirit, exalts the name of Christ Jesus and glorifies God the Father, then you’re missing out on God’s plan for your good and for His glory.

You’re missing out on the way God works to reveal Himself in this world. You’re missing out on being a partner in the greatest enterprise this world has ever seen. You’re missing out on an international movement of people from every race, every color, every tribe and every language bound together in the love of Christ and the unity of His Spirit with a common mission to proclaim the praises of the One who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light!

Every institution, every government, every organization, every social club and every cause will one day fail or fade away. But the church of God will stand forever, my friend. There is no force, no power, no authority, no ruler, no king, no throne, no nothing that will ever be able to stop the advance of the church of Jesus Christ. Even “the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Mt. 16:18).

Listen, I’ve read the back of the Book. Jesus Christ has triumphed! The church wins! Our Savior has secured the victory by His resurrection from the grave. He’s conquered the last enemy – death, and has destroyed him who holds the power of death, that is, the devil. And “He has set free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Heb. 2:15).

One day, and I believe soon, Christ Jesus will return and receive those who trust in Him and take them to be with Him forever and ever. There they will dwell in the Father’s house, in the very rooms, or “mansions,” that Jesus has prepared for them. In that day the perishable will be clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, and then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:54-57).

I thank God for this victory, for the new birth, and for the living hope we have through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and for the assurance of the inheritance that is “imperishable, undefiled and unfading – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice…” (1 Peter 1:3-5).

And I’m thankful for the First Baptist Church in Ridgway who’s living in this victory. I’m thankful for the many ways they’ve shown appreciation to their pastor during the month of October. Stop by sometime and I'll tell you about the many ways in which they’ve blessed my family and I in abundance. Or, if you’re on FaceBook, look me up and you can see pictures of some of the gifts they’ve sent to encourage me.

If you don’t have a church family you’re involved in, then I urge you to join us in worship this Sunday. And if you don’t have a saving relationship with Christ Jesus then I especially urge you to confess your sin before the Lord, turn away from it, and put your faith in the One who gave His life on the cross of Calvary and triumphed over the grave on the third day! Let Him take over, go where He leads, partner under His power together with other believers in the church, and watch as He brings the victory!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Acting on the Word

I love this cartoon!

Obviously the message led to action! That’s what every preacher wants to see happen in the lives of his congregation – and in his own life, for that matter. Not the standing outside in your boxers scene, but action! Obedience to the word of God!

A Bible preacher preaches and teaches not just for the transmission of information, but for the induction of transformation. We want to see lives changed! We want to see sinners transformed into saints by the power of God’s holy word and by the power of His Holy Spirit! We want to build spiritual muscle in the lives of God’s people. We want to see men and women growing strong in the faith. We want to see boys and girls trusting wholly and gladly in Christ. We want to see the church taking what they’ve heard and putting it into action.

Didn’t Jesus say the same thing at the end of His great “Sermon on the Mount?” Listen to how Jesus charges His hearers to do something about what they’ve just heard: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell – and great was its fall” (Mt. 7:14-27).

It’s nothing but foolishness to listen to the word of God and not do anything about it. But to act on what you’ve heard, to put into practice what the Scripture calls you to do, forms a foundation for your life solid enough to withstand any storm.

For the past two weeks I’ve preached on tithes and offerings. Dangerous stuff for any preacher who’s only a business meeting away from losing his job!

So, if I’ve laid out God’s word concerning tithes and offerings, and if my hearers are wise, what will we see happen at the Ridgway First Baptist Church? People standing outside in their boxers? Perhaps not, but we will see the level of giving substantially increase as the church puts into practice what the Lord says to do. If there is no change in giving, then either everyone’s already tithing faithfully to the local church and bringing their offerings of worship, or some are still living foolishly in disobedience to God’s word.

As I’ve said in my messages, bringing the tithe (which is ten percent of one’s earnings, which belongs to the Lord as holy) into the storehouse (the local church) is not so much about money as it is about obedience. And bringing our offerings above and beyond the tithe is not so much about money as it is about worship. Are we being obedient to the Lord with our tithes, and are we honoring Him with our offerings?

The people of Israel in Malachi’s day were guilty of robbing God by failing to bring the full tithe into the storehouse. In fact, they were insulting and dishonoring Him by bringing lame, blind and diseased animals as their offerings of worship! Is it any less an insult to the Lord today when we bring anything less than our full tithes and offerings?

Believe me when I say that the least of my goals is to do any kind of fundraising for the church. But I know without a doubt that when God’s people are faithfully obedient in this area of giving, the windows of heaven will open and the Lord Himself will pour down so many blessings for us that there won’t be room enough to store it (Mal. 3:10). And believe me when I say, as with the apostle Paul: “Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account.” I so want for God’s people to be found faithful as fully devoted followers of Christ Jesus!

What about you, friend? What are you doing with what you’ve heard about the gospel? You’ve heard that Jesus is the Savior. Good! Are you trusting in Him? You’ve heard that He is Lord. Are you doing what He says?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Healing for the Hurting

I’m writing today especially to those of you who are going through a tough time right now. There’s healing for the hurting.

Maybe you’re in physical pain, where everything seems to hurt, and what doesn’t hurt, doesn’t work. Every day is a struggle just to get up and going and to somehow make it through. You feel the pulls and the cracks and pops and aches and strains of a body that’s been through the battle and you’ve got the scars to prove it.

Maybe your hardship is emotional. You don’t want to be this way, but you feel depressed so often. You’ve been burnt too many times, and it just feels like the world is caving in all around and everything’s against you. You’re anxious and worried and upset and fearful about so many things that you can’t even begin to enjoy today. You dread getting out of bed because of what might go wrong.

Perhaps you’re struggling financially. Whether it’s because of some poor choices you’ve made or something completely unforeseen, times are flat tough. Each week and every month it’s getting harder to make ends meet, or maybe they’re not meeting at all. You might be swimming in debt and feel like you’re about to be pulled under.

Maybe you are hurting relationally. It seems like every relationship you’re in ends up in the dumps. Maybe your spouse has been unfaithful. Perhaps your children have turned against everything you’ve taught them. It could be problems with people at work. You’ve held certain expectations for someone to come through for you and they’ve let you down.

Perhaps your hurt is something altogether different. You might be hurting for somebody else going through an excruciating ordeal. You wish you could take the suffering for them, and it’s killing you to see them struggle.

Here’s what I want you to hear today, friend: Jesus loves hurting people. Jesus loves hurting people. Now, you have to read this the right way and understand the syntax, you know, verbs and adjectives and stuff. I’m not saying that He delights in causing harm to people, but He loves hurting people. See what I mean?

Jesus has a deep compassion and sympathy for those who are hurting. Just ask Mary and Martha, whose brother Lazarus had died. When Jesus saw Mary weeping at the loss of her brother, and all the others who were there also crying, the Bible says that Jesus was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” And in the shortest verse in all Scripture – and one that packs a powerful punch – it says: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).

Did He ever turn away the hurting who truly called upon His name?

Jesus understands your sorrow. He knows your hurts. He feels your pains. He sympathizes with your weaknesses. And He loves you with an unfailing, steadfast love.

In fact, it was for this reason that He came and suffered Himself on the cross of Calvary – to take away sin. The sinful condition of mankind, from the fall of Adam and Eve that’s infected every human being, means that we live in world marked by suffering and hurt, sickness and disease, pain and death.

Only Jesus, God in the flesh, who though tempted in every way just as we are, was without sin (Heb. 4:15), and only He is able to deal with the effects of sin because He Himself has conquered sin by His death for us on the cross and by His resurrection victory over the grave!

“God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). The Bible further states: “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

There it is! There’s the healing for the hurting! The cure for the ailment! The remedy for the disease! Friend, if you’re hurting, there’s healing in Jesus.

“Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will freely pardon” (Isa. 55:6-7).

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Covered Like Chlorophyll

My wife pointed out an interesting article in last Sunday’s Evansville Courier & Press. It was in the Life section. I don’t usually read the Life section. I can’t remember a time I’ve ever read the Life section. If it were possible to subscribe just to the Sports section, and maybe the weather page, and once in a while the opinion page, I’d do it.

Anyway there was a piece on the arrival of autumn, and its beautiful display of fall colors. The interesting thing is something that I learned in this article that I probably should have learned way back in 4th grade, but didn’t. Do you know why leaves change colors?

There’s this stuff called chlorophyll. Webster’s defines it as “the green photosynthetic coloring matter of plants…” (Those dots represent other stuff in the definition that I didn’t understand.) Apparently it’s also a “waxy green chlorophyll-containing substance extracted from green plants and used as a coloring agent or deodorant.” Maybe next time I’m out of Old Spice I’ll grab the nearest green plant and rub it under my arms.

Seriously, I must have been absent the day they covered Chapter 1 in 4th grade science, or maybe I was busy daydreaming about becoming a quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. I wanted to be the next Roger Staubach. Still do. Either way, I missed chlorophyll. My 4th grade son, of course, has already learned about it in Chapter 1.

According to the article, the reason the leaves change colors is because their chlorophyll breaks down. The reason the chlorophyll breaks down is because there’s a shortage in food production for the tree. The reason there’s a food shortage is because there’s a decrease in sunlight, which happens when the days get shorter and the nights get longer and cooler.

The breakdown of the leaves’ chlorophyll reveals the colors of brown, yellow and orange which, get this, are already there but are covered by the green chlorophyll in spring and summer! These colors that make for such beautiful fall scenery are always present even through the summer, but are covered over by the green chlorophyll. Mrs. Bush would be so proud that I’m finally getting somewhere.

Now let me take a swing at using this as an illustration (there are a couple of ways to go here – you could probably do better). As long as we stay in the “Son” light, we’re covered like chlorophyll by His life-giving mercy and grace. Our sins are covered by the blood He shed for us upon the cross of Calvary. Our eternal future in heaven is covered by His victory over sin and death and hell. We’re covered by the righteousness of Christ Jesus and the new life He gives to us through faith.

See, unlike the picturesque colors present beneath the chlorophyll of the leaves, there is no beautiful display in us other than Christ Himself. All of our best efforts at righteousness are but filthy rags in the sight of God. Contrary to popular opinion, there’s nothing beautiful in the heart of sinful man that will ever impress a holy God.

Apart from the complete covering of Christ, you and I would be helplessly lost, with no promise of an imperishable, undefiled and unfading inheritance laid up for us in heaven. There would be no sweet anticipation of the glory that is to be given us when Christ Jesus is revealed. There would be no talk of mansion-building in the Father’s house as we await the return of our Savior.

The leaves are beautiful to behold – for short while. But what ends up happening to a leaf when it fails to get the sunlight it needs? It soon falls off the tree and dies. Hmmm. I’ve seen too many “leaves” break down and turn away because they weren’t getting the “Son” light they needed.

We need to stay in the “Son” light! We need to keep feeding daily on the life-giving mercy and grace of our Lord and King by hearing and obeying His Word, by communing with Him in prayer, by uniting in fellowship with His church, by ministering in love to others, and by singing His praises and proclaiming His salvation with a grateful, humble heart day after day.

Fellow leaf, are you covered in the chlorophyll of Jesus Christ?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Child-like Faith, Simple Songs of Praise

“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.”

“Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

Aren’t these some of the most beautiful songs you’ve ever sung? Go ahead, sing them out loud. If you’re by yourself right now, sing from your heart to the Lord. If you’re sitting there and others are in the room, invite them to sing along with you. It’ll let the light in.

Here’s another one I remember singing: “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do. My God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do. The mountains are His, the rivers are His, the stars are His handiwork, too. My God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do.”

There was a book written several years ago entitled, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. I didn’t read it, and I can’t recommend it. But I’m intrigued by the title. Some of the most helpful lessons in life might just be the things that we learned as small children. Share everything. Play fair. Look both ways before crossing the street.

And some of the simplest songs and most familiar Bible stories we learned as young children might just be the most helpful of all.

Of course, there’s so much more to learn about God than these songs teach. We can’t stay as spiritual infants and toddlers and expect to be able to experience the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. We must grow and mature in the Lord, in wisdom and understanding and knowledge of His will. We must move on to solid food, constantly using the truths of God’s word in to stand strong against sin and to build others up the body of Christ.

But aren’t you thankful for the simple songs that have to please the heart of God when sung from the hearts of His children? Isn’t it a child-like faith that God wants from us?

“And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, ‘Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.’ And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them” (Mark 10:13-16).

Let’s not complicate the matter. The only way to experience the kingdom of God is to receive it with the faith of a child. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

You might say it’s all childish stuff but of no value in today’s real world. I’ve got news for you, friend: “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). And I’m just foolish enough to believe it, because I’ve seen what the power of God can do. I’ve seen what love the Father has for His people. I know the indescribable joy and supernatural peace that comes from the assurance of His promises. I’ve experienced His goodness, His mercy and His grace.

And even as I grow stronger in Christ Jesus, I’ll continue to sing the songs that helped lay the foundation of my faith all the way to heaven: “Praise Him, praise Him, all ye little children, God is love, God is love. Praise Him, praise Him, all ye little children, God is love, God is love.”

Monday, September 14, 2009

Manley Beasley: Man of Faith - Instrument of Revival

If you are pathetically content with your spiritual life, then whatever you do, don’t read the biography Manley Beasley: Man of Faith – Instrument of Revival. This book will challenge you to walk in faith unlike you’ve ever walked before. It will drive you into your prayer closet to commune with God more personally than you’ve ever known. And it will lead you to embrace and triumph through your sufferings with greater power and joy than you could possibly imagine.

I had never heard of Manley Beasley until a pastor friend recently recommended this biography. I’m glad he did. And now I’m recommending this book for anyone who believes there ought to be more to the Christian life than what most people experience.

Here’s what Michael Catt, Senior Pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, GA, and executive director of Sherwood Films which produced the movies Facing the Giants and Fireproof, had to say: “Manley Beasley was the greatest man of faith I ever knew. While many of us talk about faith and preach about it, Manley was a living example of the faith life. His ministry and message have greatly influenced me to believe God for the impossible.”

In this book biographer Ron Owens effectively blends multiple testimonies and stories about Beasley with Beasley’s own messages preached at various stages in his life.

One such testimony comes from one of Manley’s closest friends and partners in ministry, Jimmy Robertson: “The first time I had Manley in a meeting, after the service he announced that we were going to stay at the church to pray. We prayed until 1 a.m. Next morning at 5:00, I heard a knock on my door and there stood Manley. I said, ‘Is there an emergency?’ He said, ‘There sure is. We need to pray.’ That was the beginning of a glorious revival in our church and community.”

One of the messages Owens records for us from the preaching of Manley Beasley outlines three kinds of faith: Intellectual faith, emotional faith and volitional faith. He spoke about a time when God began teaching him things about faith that would radically shape his life and ministry. The situation involved a desperate financial matter where Beasley found himself needing a certain amount of money. In his words:

“I tried bargaining with God. I even attempted to play on His sympathy – but God doesn’t respond to either of those approaches. You can wish; you can desire; you can anticipate; you can do all kinds of things but still not have ‘substance.’ Sadly, that is about as far in the walk of faith that a lot of people go. They know intellectually. Their emotions desperately desire. But neither of these in or of themselves move God into action.

“I told God that if He would just solve my problem, I would never doubt Him again. As I look back, I realize that I was getting it backwards; I was trying to get God to meet my need so that I could really believe. I did not realize that anyone can believe ‘after’ they have received. That is not real faith.

“I was finally beginning to see that faith was not only intellectual and emotional, but also volitional. God has given us a will. With that will we make choices – choices to either accept something or reject it…

“I began to realize that God was waiting on me to act on His revealed truth because faith is acting on the Word of God. I must not only believe He can meet a need; I must not only want Him to meet a need; I must begin to act as though the need has been met, even though I might not be able to see it, feel it, smell it, taste it or hear it. I must begin acting as if it is so, when it is not so, in order for it to be so, because with God it is already so.

“This now meant that I had to begin acting as though I had the $30,000 I needed to cover the note and the car. I said, ‘Lord, I don’t understand it.’ He said, ‘That’s none of your business.’ I said, ‘How are You going to do it?’ He said, ‘That’s none of your business either.’ I said, ‘But Lord, what if I fail?’ He said: ‘Who said you were a success?’ I already knew that I was a failure, but that moment I decided that sink or swim, live or die, I was going to trust God.”

You’ll have to read the book to find out what happened next. But only if you’re ready to kiss a boring spiritual life good-bye.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Living in Victory over Evil

"In war there is no substitute for victory." - Gen. Douglas MacArthur

Just as true in spiritual warfare as on the physical battlefield. And infinitely more so.

The devil is real and wants to devour you. He is an enemy of the good, a liar and a thief who comes to kill, to steal and destroy. He prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

But in Christ Jesus the Lord, you who are in Him, you have already been given more than enough firepower, more than enough ammunition to live in victory over evil, victory over sin, victory over Satan, victory over hell and victory over the grave.

There's no substitute for victory in this war. It's time for Christians everywhere to resist the devil, standing firm in the faith we're given in Christ Jesus, and live in victory over evil.

O, for the faith to stand strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might!

To Him be the power and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Psalms of the Day

When I was at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary one of our required classes was "Spiritual Disciplines" taught by Dr. Don Whitney. I took this course in my first semester there, way back in the fall of 2001, but still remember many things from his teachings and still keep up many of the disciplines.

I'm sure anyone who has taken this class will never forget the "Psalms of the Day" reading plan. If you follow it you'll read the entire book of Psalms in one month. It goes like this: You take the day of the month (today is the 24th), and you begin by reading Psalm 24. Then you add 30 and read the next Psalm (Ps. 54). Add another 30 to read Ps. 84, then Ps. 114 and finally Ps. 144. You're reading five chapters each day. At the end of 30 days you've covered the whole book. The only exception concerns Ps. 119, which you know takes a little longer to read. You get to skip that one on the 29th, and read it instead on the 31st of the month.

To drill this plan in our heads, Dr. Whitney would make whoever was the last one into class have to tell the class what the Psalms of the Day are. You always wanted to be prepared with them on the tip of your tongue, rather than having to try to remember what day of the month it was and then doing the math on the fly as you rush into class.

But this discipline of reading through the Psalms each month has also been drilled into my heart. When you start getting into the Psalms like this, you don't want to get out. Have I kept up the discipline perfectly? No. It's more like I've gone in seasons where I'll read through a month or two at a time, then return to it a couple of months later. And often I'll find that I might end up reading just one Psalm of the Day - and as the Spirit speaks that one becomes my focus of prayer throughout the day.

I think the point is not just reading for the sake of completing the exercise or being disciplined enough to do it, but soaking in God's Word and letting the Word of God soak in me. And I have found that to be incredibly rich.

Here's the first Psalm of the Day for today, Psalm 24 (NIV):

The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it,
the world and all who live in it;
for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.
Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to an idol
or swear by what is false.
He will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God his Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, O God of Jacob.
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.

"Let the word of Christ dwell richly in you..." (Col. 3:16).

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Show Me the Works!

Maybe the question should be: “What does it mean to believe in Jesus?”

People often say they believe in Jesus, but a quick look at their behavior, their speech and their attitudes shows they really don’t know what believing in Jesus means. They’re not concerned to obey Jesus’ commands, they’re not careful with the words they use and their hearts are full of bitterness, criticism and selfishness.

That’s not what it means to believe in Jesus.

Suppose you and I were having a conversation and we both said, “I believe it’s going to rain today.” When we left I grabbed my golf clubs and headed to the links. You went out to roll up your car windows. Which of us really believes it’s going to rain?

Just because someone says he believes in Jesus doesn’t really mean that he believes in Jesus. Talk is cheap. A mental acknowledgement of the historical fact that there once lived a good man named Jesus, a man who called Himself the Son of God, who was crucified on a Roman cross and rose on the third day – what’s it worth? The Bible says that even the demons believe. So what?

Show me the works! Show me that your faith in Jesus compels you to good deeds. Show me that because you’ve been forgiven in Christ you freely forgive others who have wronged you. Show me that because the Truth is in you your lips speak the truth instead of lies. Show me that because of Christ’s love in you your love for others is evidenced by compassion and kindness. Show me that because of the new life Jesus gives you your speech is no longer unwholesome and corrupting but helpful and instructive in building others up. Show me that because of the living hope of an eternal inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading that you have been given by the mercy and grace of God you rejoice greatly in the Lord rather than fret needlessly over the temporary trials of the day.

Show me that because you’ve been born again your life is no longer marked by malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander, but by your craving for the Word of God and your hunger for holiness. Show me that because of what the Prince of Peace has done for you and how the Spirit of peace lives in you you’re filled with a peace that passes all understanding. Show me that because God is your provider you don’t worry about what the unbelieving world worries about, but you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, knowing that all these things you need will be given to you.

Show me that you walk by faith and not by sight. Show me that you rejoice as you share in Christ’s suffering, that you count yourself blessed when others insult you for the name of Jesus, and that when you suffer as a Christian you praise God that you bear His name. Show me that because Christ died for you you’re no longer living for yourself but for the One who died for your sake and was raised. Show me your works!

Now make sure you understand that I’m not saying that we are saved by our works. You can not do one single thing to earn salvation. Jesus has done it all. But what I am saying is this: if our faith is real our salvation will result in works of righteousness as the life of Christ flows through us. The Bible says, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). The late, great, singer-songwriter Rich Mullins said it this way: “Faith without works is like a screendoor on a submarine.” Useless, and dangerous!

To put it as simply as I know how, believing in Jesus means trusting Him and obeying Him as we let Him live His life through us. The result will be great glory to God and great gain to us. Are you believing in Jesus? If not, will you repent of your sins right now and turn in faith to Christ?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Don't Wait for the Concert

“He Is” is the song that will bring you to your feet when The Lesters take the stage at the Popcorn Days festival on Thursday, September 10. Or it might bring you to your knees in praise. I’ve heard them sing this live twice, and both times the effect has been one of those spine-tingling things that brings tears to your eyes and lifts your heart in worship before Almighty God.

You’ll also be encouraged by the message in the song, “He Didn’t Throw the Clay Away.” Encouraged may be too soft a word. The truth of God’s forgiveness in Christ as we come humbly before Him is absolutely refreshing! It’s cleansing and healing. It is blessed and joyful. It might just rekindle (or kindle for the first time) your love for the Lord that translates into a greater measure of thankfulness and trust and devotion to Him than you’ve ever known before. Here are some of the lyrics:

“Empty and broken, I came back to Him / A vessel so unworthy, so scarred by sin / But He did not despair, He started again / And I bless the day He didn’t throw the clay away…Over and over He molds me and makes me / Into His likeness He fashions the clay / A vessel of honor I am today / All because Jesus didn’t throw the clay away.”

Maybe it will just be the smile on Brian Lester’s face as he sings that will have you taking note that this man has a genuine love for the Lord. And you’ll find yourself praying, “God, give me that kind of joy! Let the song of my heart rise before You with such adoration and delight in who You are and for all that You have done!”

Listen, you don’t want to miss this special evening with The Lesters. We are very excited about bringing this Southern Gospel quartet to Ridgway, and we want to urge you to make plans to come and bring your friends and family with you. Here’s a word from Brian Lester about their music ministry as found on their web page:

“Simply put, we love music. . . and we love introducing others to Jesus Christ through our music and personal ministry. It’s a passion that began with our grandparents, Harvey and Opal Lester, in 1925. And it’s one that has endured to the third, fourth and fifth generations. In fact, this year our family is celebrating eighty-four wonderful years of sharing the Good News through Gospel music. And we’re more excited now than ever before.”

And we hope that you will be a part of this special evening on Thursday, September 10. But please, don’t wait for a concert to get your life back on track with the Lord! Don’t wait for an inspiring set of music to move your heart to worship God! Don’t wait for a testimony from someone on a stage to put your trust in Jesus!

We’re planning for a wonderful concert in four weeks, but God may have other plans before then. If you’re living in sin and rebellion against God’s ways as He’s shown us in His Word, then now is the time to confess your sins. If your love for the Lord and for others has grown stale, then now is the time to repent and return to Him wholeheartedly. If you’ve never known what having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is all about, then now is the time to believe in Him for abundant and eternal life!

Why not join us in worship this Sunday morning? No excuses. Just be here. 10:40 a.m. You will receive a glad-hearted welcome from the people of God. We will not judge you or condemn you, but love you with the love of Christ. We’ll sing songs of praise and worship to our Savior, but you don’t have to sing out loud if you don’t want to. We won’t make you sing a solo. We’ll approach our Lord in prayer. We’ll open up His Word and hear the truth of Scripture. We’ll rely on His Spirit and His power and strength and guidance to help us carry out His commands.

I know that you may be thinking, “It’s been so long since I’ve been to church, if I come the walls will fall in.” They won’t. Don’t wait any longer. It’s been too long already and you know that you need to be here. No more excuses. Jesus is worthy. “He’s the Alpha and Omega / Our God and our Savior / He is Jesus Christ the Lord / And when time is no more / He is, He is!”

Monday, July 27, 2009

Judgment Day

“You’re going to Vegas!” And with those words some of America’s most talented citizens move on to the next round.

It’s all pretty subjective, isn’t it? If the three judges like your act, if they’re swayed enough by the audience’s engagement and if you’ve got the style to go along with your skills, then you’re on to Vegas.

I suppose it’s the same with sports like diving, gymnastics and ice skating. Sure the judges are trained. Most are former superstars in their field. But still they’re human. Preferences creep in and weigh into their decisions. It’s subjective.

And don’t even get me started about the college football polls!

Personally I like competitions where the numbers decide the winners. Like the guy who eats the most hotdogs in 10 minutes wins. The team that scores the most points wins. The person who answers all the questions correctly gets to be a millionaire. The driver who crosses the finish line first drinks the milk. There’s no human judge factor there. You don’t walk away saying the judging is unfair.

Listen, do you realize there will be a day of ultimate judgment for every person that’s ever walked the face of this earth? And there will be a Judge, all right, and His judgment will be right and true. There will be no crying foul. None can offer any defense against His verdict. The perfection of His justice will be clear to everyone.

The Bible speaks about two different judgments. One will be at the point where unrepentant sinners will be judged to eternal condemnation in the lake of fire. Revelation 20:12ff. says, “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books…If anyone’s name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

Please don’t blame God or think Him unkind for judging justly. God has gone to the utter extremes to show His love and salvation to mankind. He has revealed His glory, His power and divine nature in the world that He’s created, so men are without excuse. He has given to mankind His written word, the Bible, by which we might know Him and be saved. He has given us His final Word, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. He put His love for you on display when He sent His Son into this world to die on the cross for sinners.

This judgment is simple. “Whoever believes in him [Jesus] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their works were evil” (John 3:18-19). There’s no subjective bias at all here. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

If you’re not sure where you stand, then you’d better be quick to find out – and come to Christ!

Then there’s the “judgment seat of Christ” judgment day. Standing here will be those who have been called by God, repented of their sins and believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord. This is where Christians will appear, “that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). This is the judgment where “each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor. 3:13-15).

Christian, that ought to highly motivate you to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ Jesus! It’s not your works that will save you, but your works will be judged, and those works give evidence of your faith. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).

That Day is drawing near. May we be ready.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Coming Through in the Clutch

When the game is on the line, who do you want at the plate? Down by one, runners on first and third, two outs, bottom of the ninth. If you could choose any player from any team to step into the batter’s box, who would you take?

This summer I had the privilege of helping to coach my son’s baseball team. If I had a dollar for every time we won this season I’d be flat broke. We’re still working on things like knowing which base to throw the ball to, when you can force a runner out and when you have to tag him, and not swinging at pitches over your heads. We were pretty much out-sized and out-skilled by all our opponents, but I think our boys gave a great effort. I hope they had fun playing and I hope they learned the game, at least a little.

If our team was down by one in the bottom of the ninth and I could have any player I chose up to bat, I would want the kid who would be most likely to take a walk, or hope that he’d get hit by a pitch. But in the Bigs, who wouldn’t want Number 5 from the Cardinals at the plate with the game on the line? Nobody’s going to come through like Albert Pujols. The guy’s an amazing hitter and a terrific clutch performer – without the aid of steroids, I might add. I wonder if I’d be a better preacher if they came up with some PED’s I could take (Preaching Enhancing Drugs)?

If you watched the Major League Baseball All-Star Game from St. Louis, you probably saw how good of a baseball player Pujols is. I’m writing this before the game, so I’m predicting a single and a home run from Albert, though the American League will win its 13th in a row.

But did you know that Albert Pujols is also a devoted follower of Jesus? You may not hear the announcers highlighting that about him, but I want you to read the testimony he has written on his website.
It’s quite a lengthy statement of his faith along with an invitation to trust Jesus as Savior. Here’s a portion of his post:

People have said, “Albert, I would give anything to be able to play baseball like you.” They may look at my abilities and think that being a great baseball player is the goal of my life. Believe it or not, baseball is not the chief ambition of my life. Becoming a great baseball player is important to me, but it is not my primary focus. Because I know the Hall of Fame is not my ultimate final destination.

My life’s goal is to bring glory to Jesus. My life is not mostly dedicated to the Lord, it is 100% committed to Jesus Christ and His will. God has given me the ability to succeed in the game of baseball. But baseball is not the end; baseball is the means by which Dee Dee and I glorify God. Baseball is simply my platform to elevate Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. I would also rather be known as a great husband and father than an All-Star baseball player. Perhaps one day I could be honored with an invitation into Baseball’s Hall of Fame. That would certainly be a boyhood dream of mine come true, but it is a far greater honor that one day I will be in heaven with God to enjoy Him forever.

How do I know that I will spend eternity with God in heaven? It goes back to the original discussion – Faith. The Bible says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” It is my faith in Jesus Christ’s work in my life that grants me eternal life with God. Nothing more, nothing less. That’s why the mission of this Foundation is “Faith, Family, and Others.” It is because our faith is at the heart of everything we are and everything we do.

Wow, now that’s a life lived for the glory of God! Friend, even with Pujols at the dish with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, down by one, you’re not going to win every time. He’s not always going to knock it out of the park. But our God is always faithful and true. His word will never fail you. His mercies never come to an end. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. When eternal life is on the line, why not turn your life over to the One who will come through in the clutch for you?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Every Knee Shall Bow

The Bible says “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11).

One day Jesus will be revealed in all His glory among all mankind, the living and the dead. One day there will be no more doubt about who He is or what He has done. One day it will be crystal clear to all that Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth and the life,” and that “no one comes to the Father except through [Him]” (John 14:6).

One day all other “gods” will be exposed as frauds, all other religions shown to be false and all other “paths to heaven” proved empty. One day all the praise due the name of Christ Jesus will be given to Him from every corner of His creation and from every mouth of every creature. “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” (Ps. 150:6).

In the heavenly realms the angels and all who dwell there will greatly rejoice that Jesus Christ is Lord. They will worship in glad adoration, filled with awe and delight as the King of kings and Lord of lords comes to take His throne.

“Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’ And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’” (Rev. 5:11-13).

Even the demons of hell will acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord. Even the most wicked and vile men who have walked upon this earth will know that He is God. They will recognize His power and authority over all things.

This does not mean that they will be offered a second chance at salvation, for “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). And it’s not that they desire to serve Him as Lord, but they will indeed realize the utter folly of their ways and will be forced to acknowledge as true the One who is Faithful and True – the One whom they so arrogantly rejected. They will bow their knees in fear and trembling before Him in light of the eternal wrath they shall soon receive and the everlasting shame that shall cover their heads.

Friend, that day may not be far off. Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming soon” (Rev. 22:7, 20). Indeed He will come again in the twinkling of an eye, like a thief in the night, at the trumpet call of God, and all those who are “in Christ” will rise to meet the Lord in the air and be with Him forever. “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Heb. 9:28).

The question is this: Are you eagerly awaiting the return of your Lord Jesus Christ? This world seems to be spiraling toward the day of Christ’s return. Will you be found longing for Him, or will you be put to shame? You can bow now joyfully before Christ as Lord, or you will bow later sorrowfully. But mark this: you will one day bow down to Jesus.

Let me urge you, dear friend, to bow now! Acknowledge Jesus Christ as the only One who can save you from death and hell, and turn your life over to Him today. Believe that He is the Son of God who came from heaven to earth, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life and died upon the cross of Calvary – the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. Believe that on the third day God raised Him from the dead, because it was impossible for death to keep Him bound. Believe that Jesus is now exalted at the right hand of God and that He will one day – soon and very soon – come again and receive all who believe in Him unto Himself, that where He is, there we also may be.

Will you confess Him now as your Savior and follow Him as your Lord, to the glory of God the Father?