Monday, July 30, 2018

Old school still rocks

As I add a little age to my years, the things that were normative back in my day are now considered “old school.” And you know what – I’m good with that.

In fact, I’m probably a bit more resistant to embracing that latest new thing than most people. I’d rather read a book in print than on a tablet. I trust Rand McNally more than Google Maps. And I like to tell the freckle-faced kid at the counter what kind of hamburger I want instead of swiping a screen and pushing buttons on a self-serve kiosk.  

I know I’m old school, but sometimes old school still rocks.

I grew up riding a three-wheeler, playing in the creek, and shooting bb guns. Our phone was mounted to a wall, our TV got three channels if you adjusted the rabbit ears just right, and when you wanted to hear your favorite new song you had to keep listening to the radio until they played it.

And watching Bible stories come to life on flannelgraph was cool beans!

For some of you reading this, your old school includes candlestick telephones, Amos ‘n’ Andy on the radio, and music on the phonograph. Not to mention fans in the windows, Spam for lunch, and cruising around in a Chevrolet Bel Air.

Now that must have been real swell!

Here’s one more old school throwback that still rocks – Vacation Bible School. Granted, we don’t do everything like we used to. The songs are new every year. We don’t have three hour sessions every day for two consecutive weeks. And we don’t even use flannelgraph boards anymore.

But the one thing that hasn’t changed is the message of Jesus Christ. Unapologetically we’re still old school when it comes to the truth of the gospel. We still teach the children that Jesus loves them, that He is the Son of God who came into this world to save sinners, and that by believing in Him they have everlasting life.

Let me encourage you to bring your children, grandchildren, and neighborhood kids (with their parent’s permission!) to VBS at First Baptist Church in Petersburg next week. It starts Monday, August 6, and goes through Thursday, August 9, from 6:00-8:00 each evening. Children from ages 4 through those who have just finished 6th grade are invited to come.

We’re located at 103 W. Sangamon Ave., just one block west of the only stoplight in town. If your child needs a ride, call us at 632-2488 and we’ll arrange transportation.

Then plan on joining us on Sunday, August 12, at 10:45 am for VBS Family Day, where the kids will showcase some things they’ve learned through the week, and afterward we’ll enjoy some hotdogs, chips, and drinks for lunch.

So, even though I’m writing this article on my Dell laptop and e-mailing it to the newspaper office while periodically checking my smart phone for text notifications, I’m old school at heart and looking forward to a great week of some old school VBS!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Steps to stewardship

Here’s a thought: Don’t spend money that you don’t have.

Here’s another thought: Spend everything you have for the sake of the gospel.

I’m not trying to go all Dave Ramsey on you here, but isn’t that first thought simple enough? If you don’t have the money to buy it, don’t buy it.

For the sake of this discussion, I won’t even talk about taking on a home mortgage, a car loan, or student loans, which are all overwhelming enough. But isn’t it crazy the kind of credit card consumer debt many people carry?

I read a recent report that said Americans paid about $104 billion in credit card interest and fees over the past year, with total credit card debt running $815 billion.

Think about this for a minute. There are approximately 250 million adults in this country. If my math is correct, that’s an average debt of $3,260 per adult, with the average person paying $416 per year in interest and fees alone. Other reports vary in their numbers, but you get the idea.

Our household is now three adults (counting our 18 year old son). If we were the average on this, our credit card debt would be nearly $10,000, and we’d be paying over $1,200 in interest and fees alone. I can think of hundreds of things we could do with $1,200 a year rather than give it to Visa.

Like spending it all for the sake of the gospel – and that begins with a good understanding of stewardship. Christians should know that everything belongs to God, and He will hold us accountable for how we manage what He has entrusted to us.

I want to encourage you to take some new stewardship steps today and embark on a pathway toward giving gratefully, joyfully, and generously to God through the church, so that the good news of salvation in Jesus can reach more people locally and globally.

Most people know that the Old Testament command to tithe means giving 10% of one’s income to the Lord. The people of God understood clearly that the tithe belonged to the Lord; it was holy to the Lord (Lev. 27:30). And in addition to the tithe, there were other offerings they were regularly told to bring.

However, not everyone was always faithful. Through the prophet Malachi, God told His people that when they refused to give the tithes and offerings, they were actually robbing Him because they were keeping for themselves what belonged to God.

Well, what about the New Testament? Does the command to tithe still apply, since we are not under the law but under grace?

Let me answer it this way: Living under grace in Christ takes us farther than the letter of the law. If people under the law were required to give 10%, how much more should we living under grace delight to give above and beyond the tithe?

Studies show today that tithers make up only some 10-25% of normal U.S. congregations (although some studies say it’s much less!), with the average Christian giving something like 2.5% of their income to the Lord, and many giving nothing at all. That’s not just a math problem, that’s a heart issue. It ought to be a joy for believers to give faithfully and generously to the Lord through His church, and 10% ought to be the starting point, not the finish line.

So here’s a four-step challenge to rethink the way you handle the money God has entrusted to you. 1: Remember that it’s all His. 2: Repent of the ways you’ve been robbing God and/or spending His money selfishly and/or foolishly. 3: Start tithing. 4:  Prayerfully seek His wisdom in how you manage all He’s given you.

Then see how His blessings flow through you to a world in need of Jesus.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Preaching sobering truth about hell

I don’t know which topics your pastor preaches about, nor which subjects your pastor does not preach on. My guess is that most major on things like doing good deeds, being humble and grateful, knowing God’s love, living by faith, and the importance of reading the Bible and prayer. That’s all good stuff. And hopefully the message of the cross and the way of salvation through Christ Jesus alone is always central to the sermon.

Some preachers rightly address current issues pertaining to the needs of the congregation or certain national or world events that impact our lives. Sermons addressing grief and suffering, racial equality, care for the poor and needy, etc., help the congregants view such issues through the lens of the Bible.

I should add here for the record that every sermon should be exposited from the Word of God. The pastor/preacher/teacher is charged with correctly handling the word of truth as an ambassador of Christ, which means saying what the Bible says and not preaching our own opinions, ideas, philosophies, or political correctness.

Even dealing with “controversial” topics and discovering what God has to say about issues like abortion, homosexuality, marriage, submitting to authorities, and being faithful stewards of God’s resources entrusted to us (like money!) are geared toward equipping the believer for the work of the ministry and for building up the body of Christ. And, yes, the Holy Spirit often uses the preaching of the Word to convict people of sin!  Pastors ought to not ignore hard or unpopular teachings for fear of offending someone, as long as the truth is spoken in love and God’s glory remains our greatest goal.

Let me ask you this: When was the last time you heard a sermon warning people about the dangers of hell? Of course, heaven is a popular topic, as it should be. But shouldn’t we also in zealous, unapologetic compassion warn men about the reality of hell, knowing that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23)?

What does the Bible say about hell? Jesus describes the torment of hell by calling it an “outer darkness” and a “place [where] there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12). In Matthew 25 He says, “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” (41, 46).

You can see why this is such a sobering and unpleasant subject to preach. But can you also see why it’s imperative that we understand hell’s horrors and the urgency of pleading with the unsaved to turn to the Lord?

In Revelation 14:9-11 an angel announces judgment against those who worship the beast, that they will “drink the wine of God’s wrath…and the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

Later in Revelation 20 John sees the great white throne, where the dead will be raised to stand before God in judgment according to their deeds. Those whose names are written in the book of life, that is, who have been redeemed from their sins by the blood of the Lamb, will be saved to eternal life. Those whose names are not found will be “thrown into the lake of fire” because their deeds will condemn them.

There’s no way to sugarcoat this. And I’d be unfaithful as a servant of the Lord if I tried. Friend, in love I urge you to trust in Jesus and be saved from the wrath to come. Put your faith in Jesus and find forgiveness and cleansing from all your sins. Find in Him mercy and grace in abundance. Find in Him peace and love like you never knew before. Find in Jesus joy for life in the present and the blessed assurance for life everlasting.