Thursday, November 27, 2014


Of all the rich blessings that come from the grace of God, the greatest is the gift of salvation. I’m grateful for every good and perfect gift that comes down from our Father in heaven, but the abundant, eternal life He gives in Christ Jesus far outshines them all.

Have you thanked God for your salvation today? 

Or have you even received His gift of everlasting life yet?

Sometimes in passing thought I wonder where I’d be without Him. What would my life be like if Jesus had not have called me to believe in Him? What if I had flat out rejected His sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of all my sin? What if I had despised His mercy and grace and the promise of heaven?

Maybe I could get by in this world. Go to work, make some money, try to hold a family together. Maybe even make an effort to do some good for others, coach my kid’s baseball team, give some money to the food pantry or the Red Cross once in a while. I could feel pretty good about myself. Be a good, productive citizen. But what assurance for better things to come would I really have to look forward to?

Or perhaps I’d be the guy who couldn’t hold down a job. Maybe I’d be the alcoholic who lived in secret shame, or the homeless man who lost his house and whose wife kicked him out to the street for gambling all our money away. Maybe you’d be reading about me on in the police blotter for abusing kids or holding up a gas station.

It is sobering and saddening to think about living without the life and hope of Jesus. You just can’t find the kind of meaning and fulfillment in life apart from Him. You can’t find the kind of strength or help you need to make it without Him. It’s foolish to even try. There’s just no other way. All other roads will ultimately lead to emptiness, frustration, disappointment, regret and death. 

Friend, if you have not yet come to Jesus for eternal salvation, then I have some good news for you. Today can be a brand new day, the beginning of a brand new life. The Bible says, “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).

That’s got your name written all over it. You are immeasurably loved by the Almighty Maker of heaven and earth, the King of kings and Lord of Lords. But because our sins have separated us from Him, we deserve His wrath rather than His mercy. And no amount of good deeds could ever earn any of us favor with a holy and righteous God.

Jesus, however, is God’s perfect provision for our sin: “But God being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved…” (Ephesians 2:4-5). This is the amazing grace that is greater than our sin! Jesus took our sin upon Himself on the cross that we might die to sin and live for righteousness.

In the words of the famous hymn: “And when I think that God, His Son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in; that on the cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.”

So what do we have to do in order to receive this forgiveness for sin and the assurance of everlasting life? Repent of sin and believe in Jesus. That’s it. You can call upon the name of the Lord right now, receiving Him as your Savior and Lord.

And you’ll agree with me that of all the blessings that come from the gracious hand of God, the greatest of all is the gift of salvation in Jesus. “Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul. Thank you, Lord, for making me whole. Thank you, Lord, for giving to me, Thy great salvation so rich and free.”

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Our Transparent Community Thanksgiving Service

In the name of transparency, I want to let you know exactly what’s in store for you if you vote with your feet to attend this year’s Community Thanksgiving Service.

That line is intended to speak in contrast to the current White House administration which promised to be the most transparent this nation has ever seen. As it has played out however, they’ve been doing nothing but covering up, misleading, deceiving, distancing, backpedaling and eating their empty promises. When South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson rudely interrupted the President’s joint session speech to Congress in 2009 yelling out, “You lie!” at least he was telling the truth.

In the news this past week (not the main stream lap dog news media, mind you), videos have surfaced unveiling some telling footage featuring one of the major advisors to the Affordable Care Act. The infamous consultant is Jonathan Gruber, MIT professor and Obamacare architect, who was paid $400,000 through contracts with the Department of Health and Human Services in 2009, in addition to other state contracts of $1.6 million to help design the health law.

You need to look up some of the videos to get the full impact of Gruber’s arrogance and condescension, but here are a couple of lines. “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” he said at the University of Pennsylvania in 2013. “And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical for the thing to pass.”

And this: “This [Affordable Care Act] was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies.” If I had more space, there’s plenty more material indicting the administration’s intentionally dishonest approach. But you get the idea. You’re not stupid.

Now that’s what I call true transparency. This has been quite a revealing behind-the-scenes look at what many of the leading liberal elitists really think, but are usually careful to not say publicly. Yet they’re not even blushing as they brush this news aside.

Nancy Pelosi (should I even waste the ink on her comments?) has touted Gruber’s work in helping craft the healthcare plan. After his comments have gone public however, Pelosi now claims she doesn’t even know who he is, nor did he help write the bill.

Seriously, you can look all this stuff up. Not on the main stream news, however.

And President Obama himself is, of course, distancing himself from Gruber, calling him “some advisor who never worked on our staff.” Just some advisor, huh? Records show Gruber has visited the White House more than a dozen times, with one of the meetings in the Oval Office with Pres. Obama, which Gruber bragged about on a PBS “Frontline” interview in 2012, as they ironed out the bill.

The healthcare fiasco is just one of many news items which make it seem to me like we’re just not getting the whole story. Think IRS scandal, Benghazi, Fast and Furious, Immigration issues, birth certificate (oh, I forgot, that one’s been settled, right?).

So when it comes to transparency you may not get it from Washington, but you will get it here without the spin. The Community Thanksgiving Service to be held this Sunday, Nov. 23, at 7:00 p.m. at the Petersburg First Baptist Church will be a worship and thanksgiving celebration to the Lord Almighty. We will sing praise songs and hymns. We will pray. We will read the Bible. There will be a gospel-centered message. We will receive an offering. We will offer a mix of healthy and unhealthy snacks after the service.

I’m not lying. Pastors from at least seven churches are planning to be there, and I hope you are, too. We think you’re smart enough to make a good decision and join us!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thanking God

 It’s a good day to be alive in Petersburg, IL! If you were able to get up and out of bed this morning, eat a decent meal or two or three today, take a hot shower, wear some warm clothes, go to work or school or enjoy retirement, then I hope you’ll agree with me.

God’s “common grace” abounds as He delights to show His favor to mankind. The blessings of everyday things we often take for granted are truly gifts from the hand of God, intended to lead us to praise and thank Him, and ultimately to lead us to the greatest gift of all – eternal life in Christ Jesus.

Have you thanked God lately for the home you live in? “Wait a minute,” you say. “God didn’t give me that home. I worked hard to earn enough money to buy it!”

But who do you think gave you the ability to earn wealth? Who providentially opened the door for the job you have? Who wired your mind and crafted your hands to be able to learn your trade or succeed in your profession? Who instills within the heart of man the desire to research, accomplish and teach? Who gives man the responsibility to care for his family, his community and his world, and impresses upon him the willingness to strive for the good of his fellow man?

In just two weeks many of us will be sitting around tables full of food with our families in warm homes, maybe cheering on a favorite football team or watching a spectacular parade in New York City. We’ll know that we’re supposed to be thankful, but will we address our gratitude to the proper Source? Here’s where many miss the message.

I want to offer a very practical way of helping you express your thanks where the thanks is truly due. Rather than saying, “I’m thankful for my family. I’m thankful for my friends. I’m thankful for my health,” or whatever else it is, turn your attention to the Giver of such blessings. Perhaps say it like this with gratitude from your heart, “God, thank You for the blessing of my family. Thank You, Lord, for my faithful friends. Father in heaven, I give You thanks for the health You’ve given me.”

And while we’re on the subject, why not give God thanks for the freedoms we have in this nation, and for the men and women in uniform who have put their lives on the line for us? The Lord has surely been gracious to us in America.

Thank You, Father, for the blessings and opportunities and freedoms You’ve given us. And thank You for all those who have sacrificed so much for this nation, and for those serving even now to protect us from the evil schemes of our enemies and to promote the greater good throughout the world. Please cover them with Your strong hand of protection. Provide for their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Remind them of Your presence and Your promises as they call upon Your name. Bless their families at home with Your peace that passes all understanding, given freely to those who pray to You with thanksgiving. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Friend, may I suggest even now, for the next two weeks and beyond, that you ask God to continue to cultivate within you a heart of gratitude to Him? Take note of the everyday blessings of life, and give thanks to God for them all. Choose gratitude rather than grumbling, complaining and whining. Count your many blessings and see what God has done! It’s a good day to be alive!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Pastor Appreciation Blessings

Ever wonder what it would be like to go to your own funeral? Wouldn’t you like to hear how people remembered you, what they thought of you, what kind of impact you made in their lives?

Hopefully people would actually show up and have some nice things to say!

This past Sunday I didn’t attend my own funeral (thankfully), but people did show up and say some nice things in appreciation of their pastor. In fact, it was rather a blessing to my family and me to hear several speak and to read many notes of kindness and encouragement from the congregation. The accolades were actually somewhat embarrassing, and the generosity was quite overwhelming. 

To borrow a line from an old Toby Mac song, “Love was in the house and the house was packed.” 

Can I just say that God is good? Sometimes He blows me away with His goodness. And the times when I’m not being blown away I’m not really paying attention. Have you ever heard this line somewhere before, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever”? Which days does that leave out? 

Now, I’m not real sure that I deserve any of the compliments handed out Sunday. If there’s any good thing in me at all, if I’ve helped anyone out along the way, if I’ve pointed anyone to the Lord, if I’ve made a difference in this world at all, the credit all goes to Jesus. 

Steve Baughman, the king of awesome Christian T-shirts, was wearing one on Sunday that would have fit me perfectly (metaphorically speaking). It said on the front: “I’m not the man I ought to be”, and to that I say Amen. I know what the Bible says about being a godly man, and I can assure you that you will not find my bald headed photo in the dictionary under the entry “looks like Jesus.” And it’s not just because I don’t have beautifully flowing long brown hair and a nice no-shave November beard, both of which of course Jesus had because that’s how He looks in all the artwork painted by European painters in the Renaissance. Such an Anglo-looking man for a first-century Jew, too. Curious. 

But the back of Steve’s shirt highlights my spiritual journey well: “Thank God I’m not the man I used to be.” Apart from the transforming work of Christ in my life, apart from His daily goodness and mercy, apart from the unceasing faithfulness of the Lord, I don’t know where I’d be, but it sure wouldn’t be in the pulpit on Sunday. 

It’s only because of Jesus that I know I’m forgiven and freed of sin’s penalty and power. It’s only because of Jesus that I know I’m clothed with the righteousness and holiness of Christ. It’s only because of Jesus that I know I’ve been given new life and have an inheritance kept in heaven for me that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading. 

I’m not all that I ought to be, but thank God I’m no longer dead in sin. I have been made alive with Christ by His grace because of the richness and greatness of God’s love, demonstrated to the full through the sacrifice of Christ Jesus on the cross and His triumphant resurrection victory over the grave. Amen! 

I wish everyone had a chance to endure, I mean, experience such a blessing of hearing others tell you how much you mean to them. Why not tell someone you love today how much you appreciate them – before the funeral?