Monday, April 25, 2016

Connecting to Sunday School

I agree with McGary – we do have some outstanding Sunday School teachers at First Baptist Church! From the nursery all the way up to senior adults, we have teachers who love the Lord first and foremost, who love the church family dearly, and who want to make an eternal impact for the Kingdom of God right here in Petersburg, Illinois, and all throughout the world.

It’s a privilege to work together with such a faithful, devoted team.

And I don’t mind making this plea to you, that if you aren’t actively involved in a church that’s leading you to become a more fully devoted follower of Jesus, then let me invite you to come and check out our Sunday School. It’s not just for kids!

Let me share with you briefly at least three things you can expect by participating in Sunday School.  

Encouragement. You know how, “Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came”? Sunday School provides that environment for you on a deeper level than any bar ever will. We care for each other, pray for each other, and love each other with Christ-like love. Get involved in a Sunday School class and you’ll find people who will give you encouragement in your life.

Equipping. We unapologetically teach biblical truth to equip you to live the kind of life that pleases God. We teach not only for information, but for transformation. Our desire is that your life will be changed by the power of Christ, so that you will live out the faith, and in so doing find purpose, contentment, joy and peace like never before.

Engagement. Not referring to finding a potential mate (although who knows?), but finding opportunities to engage in hands-on mission work. Our church is active in reaching our community and beyond with the message of salvation in Christ, and you can be a part of it. Our classes and church have been involved recently in such projects as: serving at the Baptist Children’s Home in Carmi, Ronald McDonald House, Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree ministry, Streator Baptist Camp, Lake Sallateeska Baptist Camp, Mary Bryant Home for the Blind, supporting Compassion International, ministering at the Children’s Activity Center in East St. Louis, Sunny Acres Nursing Home, Countryside Estates, Menard County Food Pantry, and more!

Some people mistakenly think they can live a good Christian life apart from being connected with the church. It’s not possible. I’m appealing to you who profess to know Jesus but are disconnected from church. A soldier who tries to take on the enemy apart from his battalion will soon find out how foolish and dangerous that is. But a strong army doing battle together can accomplish great victories.

If you’ve been disconnected and think you can do okay spiritually without the church, let me urge you to reconsider and come join us this coming Sunday at Petersburg First Baptist Church. Sunday School for all ages starts at 9:30. We’d love to see you there!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Come, Lord Jesus!

On some days, especially those in which the evils of sin in our world hit closer to home, my heart cries out, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20). 

Do you ever feel that way? Do you long for the day when God’s justice against the wicked will be carried out swiftly and speedily? The psalmist in crying out for justice exclaims, “Arise, O Lord! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked” (Psalm 3:7). 

Do you yearn for the day when the sorrows of this life will be no more, when there will be no more tears, no more death, no more mourning, no more pain? When God Himself will dwell with us His people as their God? 

That Day is coming, dear friend, and it will be soon. So hold on. 

Do you wait for the day when violence will be replaced with peace? When deception disappears in light of truth? When immorality surrenders to purity? When evil is overcome by goodness? When wrongs are made right? When God avenges the blood of His people? When the very presence of sin will be banished forever? 

That Day is on the way, even though we’ll endure days when it seems it can’t come quick enough. 

The Lord is the supreme Judge of all the earth, and all are held accountable to His righteous judgment. He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness through His Son, Jesus (Acts 17:3), where the righteous will be rewarded with everlasting life, while the wicked will be brought to everlasting destruction. The Bible could not be clearer on this point. 

Jesus speaks of this coming Day: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats…

“And he will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’…Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’…And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-32, 34, 41, 46). 

Talk about a sobering word. Are you ready for that Day? Jesus came and suffered and died on the cross so that your sins could be forgiven, so that you could be made righteous in Him, and so that you could have assurance of everlasting life. He took the wrath of God’s judgment upon Himself so that by believing in Him you would be saved.

Why not turn in repentance and faith to Christ right now and receive the free gift of everlasting life? And you’ll also discover that the Lord blesses His people with the goodness and mercy of His presence, even as we wait and pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!”

Monday, April 11, 2016

What are you thinking, Boss?

Bruce Springsteen, you’ve had some great songs, man. You rocked my generation back in the 80s. “Glory Days,” “Born to Run,” “Brilliant Disguise,” and, of course, “Born in the U.S.A.” to name a few. And I guess you’re still at it. That’s pretty impressive, a 66-year-old still rocking the house, still living the dream, still making the girls swoon.

And like many other entertainers, you have a voice and a platform. You have opinions and convictions, and I like the fact that you’re willing to stand up for what you believe. I hear you when you say, “Some things are more important than a rock show.”

So you cancelled your show in North Carolina last Sunday because you felt that the “bathroom law” recently signed there by Gov. McCrory pushes our country backwards instead of forwards. This is the law that protects our women and children from intrusion in public restrooms by men who claim they think they’re women. 

You believe this bill discriminates against the rights of transgender people to use whichever restroom they choose based on their personal gender identity, rather than on their biological, God-given chromosomes. 

But, man, I have to disagree with you on this one. Maybe it’s the cool and politically correct thing to do, supporting issues like this, and I don’t have any reason to think you’d be concerned about being biblically correct, but even from a common sense view of what’s right and wrong, what’s good for society and what’s bad, this is a no-brainer. Respectfully, I say to you and PayPal and Disney and the NFL and all the other corporate PC’ers who love to throw their weight around threatening to pull business from states that seek to protect the welfare of its citizens and refuse to encourage perverted behavior: Have your lost your blessed mind? 

You’re not only opening the doors for people who are seriously confused about their sexual identity, you’re also giving free access to sexual predators who just might fake a transgender look in order to get a peek into a women’s bathroom or locker room. Or worse. I sure wouldn’t want my wife, my young nieces, or any girl or woman to have to worry when they go to the bathroom at the mall or change clothes at the gym or swimming pool that some dude in a dress and a wig might follow them in with no questions asked. In what world is that right? 

Before you call me a hater, let me say that I’m with you on this part – that I, too, am concerned about people who consider themselves transgender. But the way to address our concerns is not to celebrate their “courage” for expressing their depravity nor to accommodate their deviant desires, but to get them the help they desperately need. And I believe the best help we can lovingly and compassionately give them is the life-saving and life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ, who can take all of our messed up minds and make us into a masterpiece of His mercy and grace – for His glory and for our good. There’s hope for anyone who comes to Jesus, and that’s a song worth rockin’ to! 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Donkey basketball, home improvement, taxes, eroding first amendment rights and gospel hope for sinners

Random thoughts for your amusement and/or contemplation, and/or disposal. 

Donkey basketball. I have to admit that even though I was skeptical, it did provide some entertainment. For the first five minutes anyway. After that I was ready to go. I wonder what Coach Rathgeb thought about allowing a bunch of donkeys to tromp around on the basketball court? Not sure how this ever got started or became a thing, but I can now say that I am cultured enough to have experienced donkey basketball. 

Installing a new light fixture and ceiling tiles in our laundry room is really stretching my handyman skills. I seem to have a knack for turning an afternoon project into a multi-day crusade. It’s all trial and error – mostly error.

This year I did my own taxes, for the first time in about 15 years. Not feeling tons of love for Caesar right now. Can understand why the tax collectors in Jesus’ time were so despised. I’ll give Caesar what belongs to him, but he seems to be taking more all the time. What’s that bumper sticker say? “I love my country. It’s my government I fear.” 

Have you read about the state’s intrusion on the rights of the Timber Creek Bed & Breakfast in Paxton, IL? The owner refused to rent his facilities for a homosexual couple’s celebration of their same-sex union because of his Christian beliefs, and a judge has ordered a fine of $80,000 and is attempting to force the owner to offer his facility to this couple. 

In a statement, owner Jim Walder said in part: “To be absolutely clear, we cannot host a same-sex wedding even though fines and penalties have been imposed by the Illinois Human Rights Commission. Our policy will not be changing. We are not looking for a fight, but when immoral laws are purposely passed (or deemed constitutional) that blatantly conflict with God’s Word and when the heavy hand of government tries to force us as Christians to embrace sinful behavior, we have a moral obligation to resist and stand for biblical truth. “It is better to obey God than men” (Acts 5:29). 

America is still a great nation, but “the times they are a-changin.” Just wait until they try to force pastors to perform same-sex “marriages” in whatever Christian church they choose. Just wait until calling homosexuality a sin is deemed “hate speech” and you are fined or imprisoned for your crime. 

Mark it down – the more that we stubbornly continue to forsake the ways of the Lord and embrace our own sinful desires, the more wrath we’re storing up for ourselves on the day when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 

Let me assure you that hope for better things to come is not in the government, but in the God who rules in righteousness and is still in the business of saving sinners. Homosexuals, adulterers, tax evaders, drunkards, thieves, liars, murderers, and all. 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 still good news today, even for those who have been acting like donkeys.