Tuesday, January 29, 2013

We Need Revival

I say the church needs revival.

We need a revival of godliness in the hearts and lives of God’s people, because in a world of moral decay we need more than ever to let the light of God’s holiness shine through us and pierce the darkness of this generation.

We need a revival where there’s a fresh, passionate devotion to Christ in the church, because it often seems like we’ve lost our first love, and we’ve become lukewarm in our affections for Christ and the things of His kingdom.

We need a revival where we hunger and thirst for the Word of God, because in large measure the noise of the world’s latest philosophies and opinions and entertainments are drowning out the voice of God as we ignore His Word.

We need a revival where we start praying to our Father as if our lives, and those of our brothers and sisters and our friends and neighbors and the nations depended upon it, because we’ve become so self-sufficient that we feel we don’t need God’s help.

We need a revival where we gain a renewed zeal and urgency to tell others the good news that Jesus saves, because the time of His return is nearing and there are people in your family and mine that still need to repent from sin and turn in faith to Christ.

We need a revival that brings new joy to souls of God’s people, that we might rise up in the midst of a crazy and chaotic world filled with sorrows and pains and brokenness, and yet trust in the Lord and declare, “I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength…” 

The church needs revival. I’m not just talking about the First Baptist Church where I serve as Pastor. I know that I, and we, need it. I’m talking also about your church and every church where the name of Jesus is proclaimed.

I thank God for the churches that are growing and accomplishing God’s work in this world, but there are way too many that are plateaued or in decline, not just numerically, but spiritually. There are far too many professing Christians whose lives are not reflecting the image of Christ, who have no desire to glorify God, whose hearts are stubborn and whose steps follow the ways of the world rather than the ways of the Lord.

If we’re going to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world that Jesus says we are, we need revival. This nation needs a spiritual awakening more than ever, yes. Our country is descending into a moral abyss where we’re calling good evil and evil good and not even blushing by it. Everybody’s doing what’s right in their own eyes. We’re freefalling on the road to destruction and we’re oblivious to the outcome of our ways.

But I believe that before the world awakens to their need for Jesus, the church needs to get right with God. If we really want God to heal our land, we need to humble ourselves before Him, pray and seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways. Then, God says, He will hear from heaven, will forgive our sins and heal our land (2 Chron. 7:14).  

We need to hear and to heed the call to return to the Lord today. Christian, will you let revival begin with you? What do you say, prodigal son? Will you come back home to your Father before spending another night in the pigpen of despair and rebellion?

What about you, O ye of little or no faith? What’s holding you back from embracing the truth of Jesus? What does this world give you that’s of any real value, when Christ offers life abundant and eternal? Why carry the weight of your guilt and shame any longer? Jesus forgives your sins, saves you from death and hell, and promises His peace, His provision, His protection, His power and His presence. Why not receive Him as Savior and Lord now before it’s too late. Maybe revival will begin with you.        

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Stuck in life's elevator?

I think they would have been fine for a little while longer, but the six people stuck on our elevator last Friday were grateful we didn’t delay in responding to their need. And with a big thanks to the Petersburg Fire Department for answering the call and arriving so quickly, everyone is safe and sound, and now has an exciting story to tell.

It’s fixed now, and I’ve ridden on it personally, so if you come to church and need to use the elevator, you can travel up and down with absolute confidence. The same kind of confidence that compels you to go buy another lottery ticket because you’re sure this will be the big one. The same kind of confidence that you have in Congress to enact laws that will help our spiraling economy and offer workable solutions to curb violent crime.

In other words, we’re thinking about stocking the elevator with non-perishable food items, bottled water and an emergency kit containing an LED flashlight, AM/FM radio, a fuzzy blanket, waterproof matches, sanitation kit, ponchos, yellow rope and a blue tarp. You never know. Not that we’re expecting anything to happen, mind you. And if anything does happen, don’t panic. We know who to call.

Who do you call when you get stuck in life’s elevator? What do you do when you feel trapped, helpless and don’t know how long this season of sorrow might last? Where do you look for help when your husband says he doesn’t love you anymore, when you get that dreaded call from the doctor, or when the company says they’re downsizing?

Life is filled with hardships and trouble. No one is exempt. Whether it’s the stuff you can’t do anything about or the pains we bring upon ourselves due to poor choices, we all go through tough times. My closet’s as full of junk as yours is. The one who comes to your rescue makes the difference between staying stuck or being freed.

The people on that elevator could have pried and pulled and pushed and punched that elevator door all day long and nothing would have happened other than they’d have exhausted and bruised themselves and grown frustrated and fearful. Sometimes you just can’t solve your problems on your own. You need to call someone that knows how to get you out.

I am convinced that our omnipotent, omniscient, ever-present God is always on-call and able to deliver us. He knows how to get us out of whatever turmoil we’re in. I’ve been rescued too many times to doubt Him now. He may not always change our circumstances immediately, but He can help us see them in light of His mercy and grace and wisdom. He may not always reveal His purposes perfectly to us, but He has proven time and time again that He is worthy of our unwavering trust.

Why don’t we call on Him more often? Why do we exhaust and bruise ourselves trying to solve our own problems when God is standing by waiting to help? Why is it that praying for His help is often a last resort rather than our first instinct?

I think that if we only knew how much He truly loves us we would never delay in crying out to Him for help. If only we realized how utterly dependent we really are upon Him for every breath we breathe, for every meal we eat, for every step we take and for every good thing we need and enjoy in life, we would run to Him and never leave.

Maybe you’ll be fine for a little while longer, but you don’t want to stay stuck in life’s hurts forever. Whatever you’re going through today, let me urge you to call upon the One who is ready, willing and able to answer your call and come quickly to your rescue. Call upon the Lord. Come to Him through faith in the name of Jesus. You can take absolute confidence in Him, more so than a ride on the church elevator.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Sweet Sound of Grace

I think the word “grace” has to be one of the sweetest sounds the tongue can utter and that hearts can hear. The undeserved favor of God. Being recipients of riches we had no part in obtaining, especially in light of what really do deserve because of our sin.

Friend, when I talk about sin and how far we fall short of the glory of God, my purpose is never to knock you down, never to destroy you, never to condemn you, and it’s never done in hatred. If I was driving by your house at night and saw smoke billowing from your roof, would you call me a hater for stopping my car, running up to your home and shouting for you to wake up and get out before you burn to death?

My motive for dealing with sin is to show you the depth of God’s love for you, His unending mercy and His bountiful grace. It’s to point you to the cross, where Jesus gave His life for the forgiveness of your sins. It’s to warn you of the fires of eternal hell and to plead with you to embrace Jesus and the glories of everlasting life.

Listen, I’m a law-breaker, too, who is guilty as charged, but I found a Judge who set me free. That’s grace!

I’m a messed-up train wreck waiting to happen, but I’m seeing this Counselor who keeps my head on straight and my feet walking on the right path. That’s grace!

I’m a simple-minded man with limited understanding, but I’ve been talking with this Author whose Book gives me wisdom. That’s grace!

I’m telling you, I’m a hopeless and helpless human being, but Jesus is my unshakeable hope of heaven, the help I always need and so much more. That’s grace!

I’m a discouraged and dejected soul, but Jesus has lifted me up out of the pit, set my feet on solid ground and given me wings to soar like an eagle. That’s grace!

I’m a sinful and self-centered wretch, but Jesus has saved me from my sins and clothed me in righteousness. I was lost, but now I’m found. I was blind, but now I see. That’s amazing grace, and it sounds so sweet!

I just want you to hear it, too. The watchman on the wall is held responsible if he sees the sword coming and fails to blow the trumpet to warn the city. 

Perhaps you heard last week’s news concerning Pastor Louie Giglio and the pressure from the White House to withdraw himself from giving a prayer at the Presidential Inauguration ceremony. Giglio had been invited as a friend of Pres. Obama, but a liberal watchdog group found some audio of a message he had preached some 15-20 years ago concerning homosexuality.

In that message, Giglio highlighted the amazing grace of God offered to people engaged in a sinful behavior. As a faithful watchman he sounded the alarm. And as a preacher of grace he pointed to the cross, where mercy and grace are given to “whosoever believes.” For this he is labeled a “hater” by those who claim to be the tolerant ones. His message is not one of hate. It’s a message that says, “I love you too much to let you die in your sin. Let me show you how Jesus can give you abundant and eternal life.” 

Many people today don’t even want to know that the sword is coming. Many don’t even want to be warned that smoke is billowing from their rooftop.

Friend, in love for you I urge you now to flee from the danger of sin’s deadly force, and run to the mercy and grace of Christ Jesus. He will save you from any and every sin, and sing the sweet sound of His amazing grace to your soul.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Help! I'm the parent of a teenager!

My wife and I are now officially the parents of a teenager. Your prayers are coveted. If it comes to needing a support group, somebody let me know when and where. 

It reminds me of the young preacher, fired up about the family, who entitled his message, “Rules for Raising Children.” After he had children of his own he renamed it, “Suggestions for Dealing with Kids.” When his children became teenagers he quit preaching on the subject altogether. 

Well, certainly I am no expert on raising children either. But I have to say that God has indeed blessed our family richly. Our now 13-year-old son Tyler is growing into a fine young man, and Toby at age 8 is still quite a ham, but a cute ham. 

Parenting children of any age is not easy. Sometimes it’s downright hard. And especially for those single parents out there, I’m praying for you this morning. Between my wife and me it’s tough enough. I can’t imagine doing it solo. May God give you an extra measure of strength and patience and fortitude and grace and wisdom. 

At the risk of sounding like I know what I’m doing, I want to encourage you, parents and grandparents, with a few words about our experience raising our two boys, so far. And let the record show, as well, that my wife takes on the greater load of the day in and day out work involved. By the way, make no mistake about it – it takes work! 

So here are three things (among others) that we do as parents. Not to say we’ve got it all figured out. Far from it. We make mistakes and get upset and miss the bigger picture, too. But God has been good in spite of our shortcomings.

One, we love our children sacrificially. Love means action, not just warm, fuzzy feelings. We love by providing for their needs, protecting them from harm, giving them our time and attention, showing interest in their interests, encouraging their dreams, helping them reach their goals, speaking kind and uplifting words and not calling them names or talking down to them, disciplining them appropriately when they cross the boundaries, and a million things more that means we might have to give up our preferences and agendas to show love to our children. See 1 Corinthians 13 for a greater definition of what love is, and love them like that. 

Two, we teach our children by instruction and by example. This is our responsibility as parents. We teach them the right way to go. We teach them to love the Lord and His Word. We teach them to love the church. We don’t assume they’ll just get it. There are too many other voices that would lead them astray. We teach them what’s right. And we strive to live out what we say we believe. Usually they’ll learn more by what is “caught” than what is “taught.” It takes the verbal instruction and life examples.

Three, we pray unceasingly. We pray with thanksgiving for our children. They are treasures from the Lord. We pray with dependence upon Him for daily wisdom and guidance. We pray for our children and pray with our children. We know this job is too big and the responsibility too awesome for us to handle on our own. We need God’s help, and we’re not afraid or ashamed to ask for it. After all, He knows them and loves them better than we do, so we rely upon His guidance as we raise them.

I hope that offers you some help and encouragement today. God bless you as you strive to honor Him in how you raise your children. And, after a few more years of this, I reserve the right to re-write this article, and I may come to you for help!