Thursday, December 31, 2020

Sayonara, 2020! Auf Wiedersehen! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. And take your junk with you!

If only it were just as easy as evicting a bad tenant, renting a dumpster, cleaning house and starting over – oh, wait. No evictions, which is great for those who have been seriously impacted by the financial conditions of 2020, but as with everything else there are freeloaders and scammers who take advantage of the situation. And landlords stuck with problems they can’t do anything about. So it goes.

When the government was handing out cash earlier this year like candy at a parade, somebody apparently fabricated a business using my name and address, and now I’m getting statements from the U.S. Small Business Administration reminding me that my loan balance of $9,800 will be due in August, and it’s accruing interest as we speak.

Upon some research, a Bloomberg business article reported on how astonishingly easy it was to loot from the government’s COVID-19 loan program for small businesses. Literally all you had to do was complete a five-minute online application, say you had at least 10 employees, and collect your $10,000 in a few days.

In one district in Chicago, loan payouts were 12 times greater than the number of eligible recipients. I know, shocker, right?

And now with the newly signed $900 billion stimulus deal in motion, I hate to even think of the wasteful and fraudulent ways that money will fly out the window. But don’t worry. You’ll get your $600.

Unfortunately, we can’t evict 2020’s junk. We may turn the page on the calendar year, but the problems carry over. The virus isn’t going anywhere. Small businesses are still going under. Racial tensions haven’t been resolved. Political corruption remains rampant.

Are we listening to what God is trying to say? Isn’t it time we trust in Him with all our hearts, resting in His care, and seeking Him as our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble?

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). My fellow Christian, if we care to tune in, we’ll hear Him saying: I’ve got this, I’m with you, and I’ll save you!

God is still enthroned on high and no earthly calamity or king of any nation will ever threaten His eternal reign.

God still abides with us. He is Immanuel (“God with us”), and as we abide in Christ and His Spirit dwells within us, we will know the glad reality of His presence.

God still saves to the uttermost those who draw near to Him through Jesus. His promise of eternal life to those who believe in Jesus still stands, for He is forever faithful to His Word.

So be still. Rest your raging, anxious spirit in the Lord, and know the stillness of knowing God.

But if you’re not a follower of Jesus, then you need to heed this word: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15a). God longs to show you mercy and pour out grace upon grace, but the door will not be open forever. Who knows what 2021 may bring? The time is now: “Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15b).

Monday, December 28, 2020

Love in Jesus

No, the announcement of the Savior’s birth did not come first to the religious elite in the hallowed halls of Jerusalem, nor to the political powers in Rome, but to shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem as they kept watch over the flocks by night.

Lowly, powerless, insignificant, nameless shepherds. Facing all kinds of fears, no doubt, from bandits, wolves, disease – and bearing the shame of high society.

How often do you suppose these shepherds may have wondered if God noticed them at all? If He really cared for them? Or if He even existed? Too many ticks on the clock with a flock of fickle sheep can trick your thinker into some discomforting theological pickles. And life certainly wasn’t blowing them any kisses.

Yet on that night with the brilliant light of God’s glory shining about them, and with the joy they discovered when they found the baby lying in the manger, every question was answered and every doubt and fear erased. This message of good news of great joy is indeed for all the people, and even these shepherds recognized their great worth in the eyes of heaven.

Friend, no matter how lowly or insignificant you feel, how unloved or unappreciated, or how shamefully others may treat you, and no matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, this message of salvation through Jesus Christ the Lord is still good news of great joy for all people!

You are of such great worth in the eyes of heaven that Jesus literally came to give His life for you. The depth of God’s love for you is demonstrated at the cross, where mercy flows freely and grace abounds richly to all who believe and receive Him as Savior.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

May your Christmas season abound with the love of God through Christ Jesus!

Joy in Jesus

Do you ever find that your heart is not as full of the joy and wonder of your faith as it should be? Ever feel numb or indifferent to the spiritual things that you know ought to excite your soul and set your spirit ablaze?

Try beholding the glory of Jesus. John was absolutely captivated by the glory of Christ, and he never got over it. Writing his gospel account some 50 years after being with Jesus, he’s still in awe by the thought that he saw His glory.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Somehow, in some supernatural way, the Holy One from heaven, the all-powerful, all-knowing, omnipresent God Most High, Creator of all things, the Good Shepherd, the Lamb of God, the giver of living water and the bread of life, the light of the world, the Savior of the world – took on the flesh of mankind in all of its weakness, struggles and temptations.

And He revealed the very face and glory of the invisible God.

Re-ignite your complacent soul this season by gazing afresh upon the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. See Him with your eyes of faith through the Scriptures. Let His goodness and mercy and beauty recapture your heart and set your spirit ablaze.

And I still affirm that the experience of worshiping together with the body of Christ (the church) remains essential. That’s why we invite you to join us at Petersburg First Baptist Church every Sunday morning. We need the encouragement of fellowship and corporate worship experience. 

By the way, did you see the Gallup Health and Healthcare Survey released recently? It showed that the only demographic group who reported improved mental health in 2020 were those who attended weekly religious services! In a year full of stress and fears and chaos of all kinds, the fellowship of the church has become more important than ever.

Yes, we are taking all necessary safety precautions for your physical health. And yes, we respect the decisions of those who feel they should stay home and worship online instead. 

But we are created for community, and the community we find in Christ can be found nowhere else. The fire of a church set ablaze by the Spirit of God in worship of the Son of God will light up your soul with the glory of God! Come experience the joy and wonder together!

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Peace in Jesus

I know the pressures and stressors of life are off the charts right now for many people, but I also know that peace is possible no matter what you’re facing.

When the angels announced the good news of great joy to the shepherds outside Bethlehem, they declared the glory of God in the highest and peace on earth to men. That peace is found in Jesus, and those who know Him as the Prince of Peace experience the blessing of His peace even in the midst of the storm.

If you find your heart in turmoil and despair, crushed under the weight of worry and anxiety, turn to Jesus and find peace for your troubled soul. Let me encourage you, friend, to take some time this season to meditate on these truths from God’s Word:

“For in him [Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:19-20).

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Again I say that when you fix your eyes on Jesus, trusting wholly in Him and walking in His ways, He will keep you in perfect peace. That doesn’t mean your problems will all disappear, but it does mean that the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus so that you will not cave to fear and anguish and panic but rather find the comfort of God’s presence and promises of His provision and protection to be real.

Now, a word of warning must accompany this truth, as well. While the Lord’s healing peace is made available to all, the unrepentant will never know it. “But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked” (Isaiah 57:20-21).

Friend, come to Jesus and discover peace you never thought possible. “May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace! (Psalm 29:11).

Monday, December 7, 2020

Hope in Jesus

What are you hoping for today? Are you hoping the Bears get their act together before the season ends? Hoping we might still get to watch some Bluejays football or basketball sometime this year?

Are you hoping for peace in our nation? Hoping for a vaccine or effective treatment for COVID-19? Hoping for an end to world hunger, a workable answer to climate change, or a cure for cancer?

What are you hoping for? Are you hoping your car makes it through another winter? Hoping your job doesn’t get cut? Hoping you or your babysitter doesn’t get sick?

Are you hoping your marriage survives? Hoping your wayward son comes to his senses and returns home? Hoping that your mom in the nursing home is getting the care she needs?

Life can be filled with headaches and heartaches, anguish and agony. Indeed, life can be flat-out overwhelming. Maybe today you feel like you’re drowning in a sea of despair. The waves of trouble seem unrelenting, and you have no where to go, no one to turn to, and no hope in sight.

Friend, I want you to know that in Jesus there is hope for better things yet to come.

“Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever…The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in the land of deep darkness, a light will shine” (Isaiah 9:1-2).

The people of Israel in the prophet Isaiah’s day had turned away from God and faced the consequences of their rebellion – spiritual darkness, wandering, weariness, and hunger. Yet even then, rather than humble themselves in repentance to the Lord, they raged against God and cursed Him in defiance, which thrust them into further darkness and distress.

But when the light breaks through, the darkness doesn’t stand a chance.

God was giving His people hope by announcing the coming of their Savior. Even upon such a stubborn-hearted, stiff-necked, ungrateful and unholy generation, the Lord of mercy and grace was not abandoning His promise but fulfilling His Word with the hope of salvation.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

“…and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

“In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

If you’re looking for hope in your despair or light in your darkness, look to Jesus. The promise of His first advent (“coming”) brought hope to those in gloom, and the promise of His return gives us sure hope today for better things to come.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Is Unity Possible? There's One Hope

 We are the divided states of America. The media, of course, has long-since called the election for Joe Biden while President Trump has taken the count to the courts. Democrats are cheering, some Republicans are conceding, and a few holdouts are still hoping for a hail Mary.

Biden is claiming victory and calling for unity. How nice that would be! You know, just like the Democrats rallied around President Trump after his win in 2016 and like the Republicans joined hands with President Obama during his two terms. If only!

In order to achieve unity, somebody has to give up the fight. But we’re far too divided for that to happen. Fundamentally, philosophically, we are at odds on too many issues.

We can’t even agree on how to process ballots or battle this virus.

I know this sounds pretty pessimistic. But I’ll be honest: I don’t have much hope for America uniting together as one nation unless we truly humble ourselves under God. Unless we repent from our wicked ways and seek His face, there will be no healing in our land.

And listen, you don’t have to be a Bible scholar to know what’s right and what’s wrong. Isn’t it clear that abortion is wrong? Isn’t it clear that homosexuality is wrong? Isn’t it clear that lying is wrong? Isn’t it clear that greed is wrong? Isn’t it clear that slander and bitterness and pride and envy and divorce and drunkenness and violence and bribery and injustice and selfish ambition and sexual immorality and obscenity and stealing and sorcery and strife and anger all reflect the way of unrighteousness rather than the way of the Lord?

We need to confess our sins and repent! Nationally and individually, we need to beg the Almighty for forgiveness. We need to come to our senses, return to the Lord, and pray that by God’s mercy He will take us back.

I know that it’s possible! Our Father stands watching and waiting for His prodigals to come home. He has an incredible track record of showing compassion and steadfast love to those who trust and obey His Word. He has sent His Son Jesus to bring salvation to all who call upon His name, and in Him to unite all things in heaven and on earth. 

So no matter who’s in the White House, let us turn from sin and pursue righteousness and justice and peace and mercy and humility and honesty and kindness and patience and goodness and respect and love for one another before we devour each other and this divided house falls.

O God, send your Holy Spirit to invade hearts and lives across this land with the saving and transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for the good of this nation and for your glory. Amen.

Monday, September 14, 2020

You are loved!

For whoever needs this today – you are valued greatly and loved deeply.

I know the stress right now feels overwhelming. I know the nights are painfully lonely. I know the regrets of past mistakes haunt you.

But there’s a greater love. It’s the love of the almighty Maker of heaven and earth, the One who carved the seas and filled them with all kinds of living creatures. It’s the affection of the majestic Author of life, the One who set His glory above the heavens yet cares for every single sparrow and every single sunflower and every single spider that weaves such fascinatingly designed webs that it leaves one in wonder over the wisdom of its Creator.

And more than these – by a long shot – the Father in heaven loves those whom He has created in His own image. And that includes you.

You are not here by accident, chance, or coincidence. No, you were carefully, thoughtfully, skillfully “knit together” in your mother’s womb by God. You were “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Every single one of your days has been written in His book before you drew your first breath (see Psalm 139:13-16).

Oh, friend, if you could see yourself through the compassionate eyes of your Maker you would never again have reason to hate your life. Despise the sin within? Sure. But to detest your life? How could you, when you’re loved with an everlasting love by the One who is good and merciful, faithful and true?

Let me give you an illustration.

A man in Dundee, Scotland, was confined to bed for forty years, having broken his neck in a fall at age fifteen. But his spirit remained unbroken, and his cheer and courage so inspired people that he enjoyed a constant stream of guests. One day a visitor asked him, “Doesn’t Satan ever tempt you to doubt God?”

“Oh, yes,” replied the man. “He does try to tempt me. I lie here and see my old schoolmates driving along in their carriages and Satan whispers, ‘If God is so good, why does He keep you here all these years? Why did he permit your neck to be broken?’”

“What do you do when Satan whispers those things?” asked the guest.

“Ah,” replied the invalid, “I take him to Calvary, show him Christ, and point to those deep wounds, and say, ‘You see, he does love me’. And Satan has no answer to that. He flees every time.”    

You see, He does love you! No matter where you’ve been, no matter what you’re going through – look to the cross and see how much He loves you.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Why not join us this coming Sunday at Petersburg First Baptist Church, and we’ll bask together in the riches of God’s unfailing love!

Friday, September 4, 2020

Yes, you can memorize Scripture!


When was the last time you tried memorizing Scripture? You can’t, you say? I say you can! If I gave you a million dollars for every verse of the Bible you memorized, would that motivate you to give it a shot?

You’ve memorized the Pledge of Allegiance. You might have learned the Gettysburg Address. You probably know the Lord’s Prayer and maybe the 23rd Psalm by heart. I think you can do it! 

Let me give you a few helps to encourage you to try to memorize one chapter from the Psalms. 

1. Choose a Psalm that you love. If your heart is engaged along with your mind, you’ll find great joy in the experience.

2. Remember the value of Scripture memorization. A soldier would never go to battle without his weapon at hand. When you have God’s Word abiding within, you’ll always have His truth at the ready. I could say much more on this point, but that’ll have to be another article. 

3. Set a deadline. This can vary by the length of the text as well as your own desired pace, but give yourself a month to memorize the 21 verses of Psalm 145, for example. But see No. 6 below. 

4. Be accountable to someone. This will keep you from quitting or putting it off. If you know that you’ll have to recite it in your Sunday School class or in a worship service, that will keep you moving forward. 

5. Ask God for help. Don’t neglect the power of God’s Spirit to impress His Word in your heart. Spend much time in prayer seeking the Lord. 

6. Read the passage out loud and often. Even before you start working on committing it to memory, read the entire chapter out loud at least 20 times. Maybe 50 times. 

7. Write it out by hand. This will help ensure that you are getting every word, comma, and period in place. 

8. Record yourself reading it, then play it back often as you’re out walking or driving. Try to read it with appropriate passion, emphasis, and context. 

9. Study the Scripture you’re working on. Who’s the author? Who’s the audience? What’s the occasion? What is God saying? How does it lead you to respond? 

10. Line by line, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, start memorizing it word for word. You might be surprised at how quickly it all comes together. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Trusting in the King of kings

Who are you voting for in the upcoming Presidential election?

It’s already been a grueling election year – I suppose they all are – but the next couple of months could get ugly. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could learn to be nice to each other even when we see things from different points of view?

Certainly in terms of the future of our nation, however, there’s a lot riding on this election. The left and the right are fundamentally divided over the direction we should be heading. Differing philosophies, differing values, differing goals. It’s not just about the next four years; it’s about who we are as a country.

Yes, it is important that we vote. Christian, pray about your vote. Seek to align your vote with the principles of the God’s Word (as much as possible in an imperfect, fallen world with imperfect, fallen candidates). Honor the Lord with your vote. Love your neighbor with your vote. Seek the well-being of your city, your state, your nation with your vote.

But let me say that no matter what happens, our ultimate trust ought never to be in a mere mortal man, nor in a system of government, nor in the strength or prosperity of a nation. Our help is the God of Jacob and our hope is in the Lord our God.

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright” (Psalm 20:8).

Nations rise and nations fall, and even the United States of America will not last forever, but the Kingdom of heaven will never fail.

“The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:19).

“Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations” (Psalm 145:13).

“The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 146:10).

In a world of much uncertainty and chaos, a world of turmoil and upheaval, a world of violence and wickedness and suffering, I say why wouldn’t you turn to Jesus as King of your life? Why not trust Him to rule in perfect righteousness and justice as Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace?

No politician ever gave his life on a cross for the forgiveness of your sins, but the King of Glory did. No other world leader conquered the grave by rising from the dead, but the King of the ages could not be defeated.

So let us “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Let us pray for those in leadership positions (1 Timothy 2:1-2), let us strive for godliness as sojourners in this world (2 Peter 3:11), and let us keep our eyes on the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16), who will come again in power and great glory (Matthew 24:30).

He’s got my vote!

Monday, August 10, 2020

Wearing out your Bible


So I got a new Bible from my wife for our 27th anniversary last week! Yes, she’s something of a saint for sticking with me all this time! Definitely my “good thing” from the Lord (Proverbs 18:22), a gift of God’s grace.

Do you know how hard it is to give up an old Bible? I’ve had this one since December, 2008, and have used it practically every day for almost 12 years now. There’s duct tape holding the outside cover together and packing tape on the inside. Its features include yellowed edges from fingerprints, a couple of coffee stains, underlined verses, and even faded maps.

Old Bibles are the best. The one I had before this was a Promise Keepers NIV Men’s Study Bible. That one was a Christmas gift from Amy in 1997. Nearly 1,600 pages of Scripture and study notes highlighting the godly character required of men. Remember Promise Keepers?

Here are the seven promises of a Promise Keeper, which are probably more relevant now than in the heyday of the big stadium PK events of the 1990’s:

Promise One: A Promise Keeper is committed to honor Jesus Christ through worship, prayer and obedience to God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Promise Two: A Promise Keeper is committed to pursue vital relationships with a few other men, understanding that he needs brothers to help him keep his promises.

Promise Three: A Promise Keeper is committed to practice spiritual, moral, ethical and sexual purity. 

Promise Four: A Promise Keeper is committed to building strong marriages and families through love, protection and Biblical values.

Promise Five: A Promise Keeper is committed to support the mission of the church by honoring and praying for his pastor, and by actively giving his times and resources.

Promise Six: A Promise Keeper is committed to reach beyond any racial and denominational barriers to demonstrate the power of biblical unity.

Promise Seven: A Promise Keeper is committed to influence his world, being obedient to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.

That’s the kind of men we need in our world today! Let’s rise up, men, and live bold, faithful, purposeful lives that impact our homes, churches, communities, and nation for the Kingdom of God. Let’s forge a clear path for others to follow, especially our sons and daughters. Let’s refuse to compromise with worldly ways, and let’s reject passivity by accepting responsibility to lead, serve, and influence this world for good.

Start today by getting out your Bible and hearing what God has to say to you. The single most influential way to grow in your faith is the consistent intake of God’s Word.

Wear your Bible out. Make notes in the margin when God says something you need to hear. Underline key verses that help guide your steps. Read it. Study it. Meditate on it. Pray through it. Memorize it. And most of all, do what it says. You’ll be well on your way to being a godly man.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Hypocrisy at its worst

Double standards, different sets of rules, contradictions – is it any wonder why the public doesn’t have much confidence in the recommendations for mitigating the virus, when large gathering of protesters and rioters fill the streets with the praise of the talking heads, but you can’t have youth baseball practice anymore? When funerals for George Floyd and John Lewis draw hundreds or thousands, but you can’t have more than 50 people when your loved one dies?

I could go on for a while. When climate change protesters leave streets littered. When BLM activists rage against the few legitimate cases of police brutality but ignore the overwhelmingly greater issues of black-on-black violence, fatherless homes, and rampant drug and alcohol abuse. When the experts and politicians claim to be following the science and the data to save lives but can’t see the plain biology showing that life begins at conception and continue to promote taking lives.

But even worse, when those who say they belong to Jesus live like the devil, the impact on an unbelieving world can have dire and eternal consequences. Christian, I urge you to live by faith as a witness to the world!

Hypocrisy may be one of the most cited reasons why people don’t attend church. They know that professing Christians ought to be living to a different standard than non-believers. That’s very true. They should be.

Those who claim to know Jesus should be marked by attitudes of compassion, humility, gratitude, joy, peace, and so on. They should display gentleness, kindness, self-control, mercy, forgiveness, patience, etc. And they should be men and women who pursue righteousness and holiness and purity in every way, while renouncing ungodly and worldly passions.

If your primary excuse for not seeking after Jesus or the fellowship of His church focuses on the hypocrisy of self-identified Christians, first of all I’m glad that you see that there is indeed an expectation that Christ-followers should obey the truth of God’s Word.

And I’m sorry that the reality of our lives doesn’t always align with the righteousness of Christ Jesus. We all still stumble along the way. We wrestle with the old habits and lose. We still fall for Satan’s lies and foolishly indulge the desires of the flesh. At least sometimes.  

Christians are a work-in-progress. We are in the process of being transformed into the likeness of Jesus, but the construction is often slow and imperfect.

But let me urge you to keep your eyes on Jesus and not on the hypocrites. Listen, we know we’re imperfect. That’s why we know we need Him more than anything! We need His forgiveness. We need His guidance. We need His strength. We need His help.

And you know you do, too. “But God demonstrates His own love in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). That’s an incredible kind of love that offers forgiveness and cleansing from sin. And the offer stands for you to receive salvation today.

Excuses won’t work on judgment day. Look to Jesus, the perfect and sinless Son of God, and believe in Him for everlasting life.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Congrats to the Class of who's ready for 2020-21?

Let me start with a loud shout out to Mr. Brue, Mrs. McMahan, and everyone else who made the Class of 2020 PORTA High School graduation ceremony happen last Saturday night! You have gone to great lengths to give these seniors a memorable and honorable finale to their PORTA career, and I think I speak on behalf on many in our community in saying thank you!

I know you have many additional and seemingly impossible challenges on your plate right now, but in the midst of it all you sent the seniors out in style. Great job!

Let me also add publicly that the First Baptist Church prays for you regularly as you navigate through the ever-changing recommendations for what school will look like in 2020-21. Whatever happens will not be ideal for anyone, and it may not work for some, but we’re asking God to guide you in wisdom toward the best possible solutions for our families.

To the graduating class of 2020, way to hang in there! Perhaps the life lessons you’ve learned in flexibility, perseverance, and self-motivation (you did learn that, right?) will prove to be of greater value than the math class you would have coasted through anyway those last few weeks (with apologies to Mrs. Owens!).

Teachers – you also deserve a round of applause from the community! I bet they didn’t teach you how to do online instructional videos in college or prepare you for remote learning possibilities, but thank you for your diligence in reaching out to your students through a very challenging time. And even now as you wonder what’s going to happen in just a few short weeks, well, the Chris Farley meme Mr. Davis posted on Facebook pretty well sums it up!

You’ll have to see Farley’s facial expression (and hair) for full effect, but it says, “2020 teachers when they realize they have to provide in class instruction, live zoom instruction, online instruction for those who missed the live instruction, teach subjects they normally don’t teach and send work home for those who cannot access online content…” It’s LOL good!

A word to families and students, here, as well. My counsel to you is to make the best of whatever happens. I know that there are all kinds of worries and concerns and complications and what-ifs out there, and you’re having to decide between sending children to school, doing online learning, or even considering homeschool options. I pray God will give you wisdom to do what is best for your children in your situation, and by His help to do so without grumbling or complaining, but rather with patience, grace, encouragement, and love.

Friend, let me remind you that God cares about your situation, whether school decisions, family issues, job concerns, money troubles, or whatever. There’s no detail too small or mountain too large for Him to handle. “In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears” (Psalm 18:6).

Monday, July 20, 2020

Treasuring Marriage

Maybe you’ve heard about the empty-nest couple, as the husband took off his glasses and lay his head on his wife’s lap she said “You know, without your glasses on you look just like the young handsome man I married.” He replied, “Without my glasses, you still look pretty good, too.”

It’s a good thing that marriages survive on more than good looks!

To all who are married and have stuck it out through good times and bad, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, and plan to keep doing so until death parts your ways, I offer you my most sincere commendation and appreciation. I’d give you a medal if I had one!

Marriage is a wonderful gift from God. It’s His divine design for the good of mankind, for companionship, friendship, intimacy, help, encouragement, strength, security, and joy. God knew what He was doing when He created a woman for Adam from his rib, “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh,” as Adam described this exciting new creature in the garden.

The Bible says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). In affirming this truth, Jesus went on to say, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:6).

Contrary to popular opinion, marriage is not a man-made institution subject to change with the cultural tide. It’s God’s original blueprint for the flourishing of the human race. His design for marriage is for one man to be united with one woman in a lifetime covenant of faithfulness and love. It’s a perfect plan. And it’s the height of arrogance and foolishness for anyone to dismiss or attempt to redefine what God has perfectly created for good.

“Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4).

I want to encourage you to honor marriage! Treasure your marriage by thanking God for the gift of your spouse, by praying with and for your spouse, by asking God to make you a better husband or wife, by learning to praise and encourage rather than critique and put down, by listening well, by loving sacrificially and respecting one another graciously, by resolving to work things out, by asking for forgiveness when needed and freely granting forgiveness, by choosing to overlook some faults and maintaining realistic expectations.

And if you’re not married, will you seek to be a champion for God’s way of doing marriage? For the blessing of every area of community life – economically, socially, mentally, emotionally, morally, spiritually?

My in-laws are celebrating 58 years of marriage this week. My parents’ 50th wedding anniversary is in September. Amy and I will celebrate 27 years in a couple of weeks. Good, strong, thriving marriages aren’t based on good looks and they aren’t built on sand. It takes hard work, commitment, faithfulness, and love. But firm on the foundation of God’s grace, a marriage covenant can indeed last a lifetime.

Are you hearing the gospel?

If you haven’t heard a good toe-stepping, sin-revealing, soul-convicting message lately, then you may not be hearing from the Word of God. I’m not talking about angry hellfire and brimstone screaming from the pulpit, but if you can walk out of a church service week after week thinking about how good you are, or if you can read the Bible and conclude that you just need to try a little harder or do a little more, then you’re not hearing the gospel.

The revelation of a God who is holy and majestic and righteous and just ought to leave us humbled and broken that we are such sinful creatures. When Isaiah saw the vision of God’s glory it left him saying, “Woe is me! For I am undone; for I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5).

Truth is, we’re all unclean, born with a sinful nature inherited from Adam. It’s not just that we do sinful things, say unkind things, or think bad thoughts, which is all true enough; sin is in our blood like green on grass.

And contrary to popular opinion, there’s nothing we can do to be “good enough” to earn a trip to heaven. Like asking Hulk Hogan (in his prime) to uproot a giant sequoia tree with his bare hands, we are utterly and wholly incapable of attaining a right standing before God on our own. No amount of religious deeds, no perfect church attendance, no dollar amount of an offering can atone for our sin.

It gets worse (before it gets better). The Bible says that because of our sin we deserve to die, to face God’s righteous wrath and just sentence of eternal condemnation in hell. It ought to be a sobering and woeful thought!

But the good news is that God has made a way for us to be saved! “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…through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:4-9).

This God who made the heavens and the earth, the sea and sky and all that is within it, this sovereign, glorious, holy and all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present Lord offers the gift of forgiveness and mercy and grace to all who come to Him through faith in His Son, Christ Jesus.

Friend, if you’re feeling conviction of sin and know that you need forgiveness, call out to Him now in repentance and faith. Receive Him as Savior and follow Him as the Lord of your life, and you’ll know the joy of this new, abundant, and eternal life that Jesus alone can give.

Are you hearing it yet?


Well, we’ve been meeting in person at the Petersburg First Baptist Church building for worship for four weeks now, and yes, it’s a little stilted still, a little awkward, a little different, but it’s all good.

To be honest, I was getting pretty exhausted with recording our services, preaching to a lifeless camera which never once cracked a smile at my attempts toward humor or gave me an “Amen!” or even shot back a quizzical look over a point I was trying to make. There’s nothing like communicating to an actual live congregation!

There’s a reason God calls His people to assemble themselves together regularly. We need each other. We need the face to face interaction, the eye contact, the smiles, the body language. We need the security of just being together, the sense of unity, acceptance, and fellowship. We need the experience of God’s presence permeating the hearts of those who gather in the name of the Lord to pray, sing, and hear His voice through His Word.

Now, I fully realize that not everyone feels comfortable with coming back to the building yet for health concerns, and I wholeheartedly respect that decision. While we are doing our best to keep all necessary safety measures in place, some people may need to keep opting out for a while. And those in the higher risk categories ought to carefully evaluate the risks.

Also, if you are sick, or if someone in your family is sick, then we would politely ask you to stay home. We’re still live-streaming our services on Facebook and uploading them to YouTube and our website where you can watch from home at your convenience.

Maybe it’s an overabundance of caution, maybe it’s not enough. All I know is that God is in control of all things and He is our help in all things, so we’ll keep looking to Him for wisdom, guidance, and grace, and seek to be faithful to His leading.

Either way, we are reminded that the church is not just the one-hour Sunday morning crowd. In fact, I’ve been encouraged and delighted to see many ways in which the people of God continue living in faith, serving one another in love, and shining out the gospel of Jesus.

Indeed, the church is un-cancelable!

Jesus declared, “Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18

Friend, if you belong to Jesus then let me urge you to renew your devotion to the Lord and to His church. Whether you’re able to meet in person with us (or your own local church), or whether you need to stay home during this season, keep walking in step with the Holy Spirit according to the truth of God’s Word, as we strive to “be” the church and not just people who “go” to church!

And if you’re looking for a church home, we’d love to welcome you.

Can we keep it?

“With liberty and justice for all,” America’s promise of freely pursuing a happy life still stands. It stands as a beacon of hope to those who seek to exercise and enjoy these unalienable rights endowed to them by their Creator. It stands as a torchlight drawing the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

But let us be assured that such a promise can only be kept when those living in its light live right.

The whole idea of America rests upon “we the people” embracing and embodying the fundamental values that gave birth to this nation, nurtured its growth, and inspired its greatness – the values grounded upon the teaching of Scripture.

If you have a chance to read Eric Metaxas’ enlightening book, “If You Can Keep It,” please do. The whole premise of the work flows from a short conversation that took place in the summer of 1787. Emerging from a room in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall on the last day of the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was approached by a Mrs. Powell who shot her question directly: “Well, doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?”

Franklin answered succinctly, “A republic, madam – if you can keep it.”

If you can keep it. If this nation would rise, if this nation would prosper, if this nation would truly be a “more perfect union,” then it would wholly depend upon the people to self-govern according to the principles of God’s Word.

John Adams said it this way: “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity.”

Andrew Jackson said: “That book [the Bible], sir, is the bedrock on which our republic rests.”

And George Washington: “The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained.”

We are a nation upon which God has shed His grace because He is gracious and because He blesses those who seek Him.

But we are in grave danger today. In our ongoing quest for freedom and justice to prevail, we have neglected the weightier matter of righteousness. We have forgotten God – or better said, we have rejected God – and our individual and corporate sins prevent the promise of “Blessings of Liberty” from reaching its fulfillment.

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).

Now is the time to repent and return to righteousness. We need to recognize our sin as sin against a holy God, and confess that we have forsaken the way of the Lord in favor of indulging our ungodly appetites for greed, sexual immorality, impurity, power, strife, violence, drunkenness, and all kinds of evil which we’ve substituted for good.

We need to come to Jesus, without whom we will not be saved from the wrath of God to come upon the sons of disobedience. We need to “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,” (Titus 2:12), as His mercy and grace and love lead our hearts to Him in humility, gratitude, and obedience.

And we need to walk in the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit, by faith, according to the truth of God’s Word, apart from whom we cannot please God.

Will we keep the promise of America? May God have mercy.

Poor Wendy

I never thought I’d be one those people. You know, the kind that push their pet around in a stroller, but here I am, walking our puppy Wendy around our neighborhood in a pet stroller that we ordered from Amazon.

In fact, I’d have probably laughed secretly and wondered how someone could spoil their furry little friend so rottenly. Those were the kind of people who put air conditioners in their doghouses and buy the little booties for when they go on a walk in the rain. The kind of people who treat their dogs to a spa day and hire a professional photographer to do a photo shoot with the pooch wearing sunglasses and a tutu.

Don’t get me wrong. I like pets, but I’m not over the top about it. They’re high maintenance. You’re always vacuuming, sweeping, cleaning, entertaining, playing, taking them out to do their business, making arrangements when you want to go somewhere or feeling like you can’t go anywhere. You have to remember their shots, flea and tick meds, heartworm pills.

And then sometimes your small and excitable puppy jumps out of the car and breaks her front legs. It was parked, but she couldn’t wait to get out and somehow landed awkwardly, frantically yelping in the most pitiable way you’ve ever heard. Of course, we took her to the vet, who met on a holiday no less, and decided we’d attempt to set her legs and cast them (as opposed to doing surgery). We’d check in two weeks to see how it well she was healing.

The right leg was looking okay, but the left was not. The options were limited: living with a bad leg that would likely be always painful, or perform surgery to try to fix it. I felt a little embarrassed to ask how much this thing was going to cost. I mean, how much is too much? Where do you draw the line to say we can’t afford to do whatever we can to help her?

It’s crazy how attached we become to these little ankle-biters, this eight-pound Velcro pup who just wants to be with you every moment of every day – when you’re eating, sleeping, doing yard work, watching TV, reading, going to the bathroom, everything.

So, she’s recovering well so far from her surgery, and hopefully in a couple months will be back on her feet running around again.

Isn’t that like the love of God for us? There is no line, no boundary, no limit to His love. He gave up His Son to die in our place so that we could be healed from the pain and penalty of sin. “This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Friend, if you ever start to feel like your life is not worth saving, look to the cross, where our Savior bled and died so that you could be forgiven, healed, made right with God, and promised a home in heaven. Why not turn to Him in faith today and be saved?

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Lamenting and Repenting

When Ezra was told about the peoples’ sin of intermarrying with the surrounding nations, he tore his garment and his cloak, pulled his hair out from his head and beard (ouch!), and sat appalled. He then fasted and fell on his knees with hands spread out to the Lord in prayer. 

When Nehemiah found out the remnant of those who survived the exile was in great trouble and shame, and when he learned that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and its gates destroyed by fire, the first thing he did was to sit and weep. He wept and mourned for days, fasting and praying as he felt the burden of the nation’s distress.

When Jesus looked over Jerusalem knowing the destruction that was coming because they rejected Him as their Messiah, He wept.

My point is this: Our nation is in serious trouble. We have disobeyed God’s commands. We have rejected His warnings to turn back to Him. We have spurned the one thing that would give us peace – Christ Himself. And we are facing His judgment.

Romans 1:18-32 describes our nation perfectly. The Bible says that God’s wrath is revealed against the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. They suppressed the truth about God. They did not honor Him or give thanks to Him. They exchanged the glory of God for worthless things. So God gave them up to do what ought not to be done, and they suffered the consequences for it.

God’s wrath often takes the form of Him simply saying, “So you don’t want Me around? Fine, go ahead and do what you want to do. I’ll step away and you can see how things work without Me.”

And it’s never good.

Haven’t we pretty well told God to stick it? Haven’t we embraced all kinds of unrighteousness while rejecting the gospel?

We’ve devalued life by applauding abortion, glorifying violence as entertainment, disrespecting others because their skin’s a different color, treating people with contempt and hatred, abusing the weak and helpless, and by a thousand other horrific ways.

We’ve written in our own sexual values and crossed out the Bible’s teaching on the subject by winking at pornography, celebrating homosexuality, indulging in immorality, and living in sensuality. 

We’ve allowed greed to guide our decisions, anger to rule our tongues, injustice to oppress the poor and needy, and unrighteousness to mock God’s truth.

We have forsaken the Lord and we’re tasting His wrath.

Now is the time to lament over the brokenness in our nation brought on by our sin. We need to sit and weep and fast and pray. We need to acknowledge the glory of God and confess that we have acted corruptly. We need to repent from our ways and turn again to the Lord, who in Christ promises to extend forgiveness and mercy and grace.

“Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish” (Jonah 2:9).

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The answer is Jesus

While I would love to wax eloquently on every cultural topic currently dominating the headlines, sometimes the simple answer is the best. And the answer is Jesus.

I know, that sounds so Sunday School, too easy, and ultimately unhelpful in light of the real world issues we’re facing in our nation. We need unity, we need reconciliation, we need justice, we need peace.

And I say, for all this, we need Jesus.

In fact, I would ask, how can we even attempt to solve any of our difficult social problems without divine help? Man has been at war with man for a long time for all kinds of reasons. Should we sign more peace treaties? Should we hold more protests? Should we write more laws?

None of mankind’s solutions has ever solved the dysfunction of the human heart. And isn’t that the real issue? “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:21-22).

If we truly want to see lasting change, where justice prevails, where peace flows freely, where respect and mercy and love for one another is more than just a dream, then we must turn to the only One who can change the human heart. His name is Jesus.

I heard an illustration once that helps us see this clearly: Has it ever occurred to you that 100 pianos all tuned to the same fork will automatically be in tune with each other?

In a man-centered world where everybody’s marching to the beat of their own drum and tuning their piano to whatever sound their itching ears want to hear, then why are we surprised to see clashes at every turn? Why are we shocked that there’s such disrespect for life, injustice, unrighteousness, rage, unrest, and turmoil of all kinds when we’ve all created our own set of values and what’s right for you may not be right for me, and truth has no absolutes?

But in Christ Jesus, who shed His blood on the cross to reconcile man to God, we are made one. We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and peace with God means peace with one another. He’s the fork to which we need to be tuned.

Let’s repent of our sin, turn to Jesus in faith, and allow Him to do the work of changing our hearts. In Christ, and in Christ alone, there is unity, reconciliation, respect, peace, and love among men. Walls of hostility are destroyed, so that there is no division. Black and white, young and old, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, Jews and Gentiles – are brought together and made one at the cross.

The answer is Jesus.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Moving forward to a new normal in Christ

Do you like doing new things? Most people would probably answer yes, as long as that new thing was your own idea! But often we’re pretty resistant to change. We like doing things the way we’ve become used to doing them. It seems to work for us, and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” So we’re hearing a lot of talk about wanting things to go back to normal.

Here’s another well-worn phrase, made famous by many rock-solid church-goers throughout the ages: “We’ve never done it that way before.”

Welcome to the era of change!

We’ve never had a “Drive-in Worship Celebration” before. We’ve never done a Facebook live-stream before. We’ve never pre-recorded our services and uploaded them to YouTube before. We never had a YouTube channel before. We never offered online giving before. We never had Zoom prayer meetings before. We never had Sunday School class on that internet thing before.

So welcome to the new normal! What if, instead of talking about things going back to normal, we start looking to see where God is leading us to go forward? What if the old ways weren’t really in line with where God wanted us to be in the first place, so we start moving forward to the new normal kind of life in Christ that we should have been living all along anyway?

What a time in the history of the church to re-evaluate what we’re doing and why we’re doing it and how we’re getting it done! God is graciously giving us a chance to hit the pause button and to reset the priorities of our lives according to His plan for His glory.

And I believe that reset begins with personal and corporate revival.

If ever there has been a time in our generation to allow the Lord to breathe new life into His church, it’s now! It’s time for the dry bones to hear the Word of the Lord and come to life!

It’s time for the church to wake from her slumber, her lethargy, her apathy, and return to the Lord with her whole heart, to seek the Lord with laser-focused pursuit, and embrace a new normal life in Christ Jesus in which we capture a new passion for holiness, a new devotion to prayer, a new love for the Word of God, a new joy in Christ Jesus, a new spirit of gratitude and praise, a new hunger for corporate worship, a new desire for fellowship with God’s church, a new compassion for people in need, a new zeal for evangelism, and a new realization of our stewardship responsibilities.

Friend, let me assure you that God delights to do a new work in the lives of those who are willing to come to Him. And even if you’ve never before put your faith in Jesus for salvation, now’s a great time to let Him give you a new life. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Perhaps the old things were broken after all.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

I should stay outside

Despite some seasonal allergy issues, I love being outside in the spring, enjoying the glory of God’s creation. “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1).

But on the rainy days when I’m stuck indoors I’m trying to wrap my head around this reopening plan for Illinois. Maybe I’m wrong, but it feels like we’re playing a game with the kid who keeps changing the rules along the way, cheats on the score, and moves the bases farther apart when you’re not looking.

I want to believe that these lockdown efforts have been sincerely made in the interests of protecting peoples’ physical health. And I’m willing to give some benefit of the doubt regarding decisions made from the early models and curves based on very limited data, so that we didn’t end up with a worst-case scenario.

But my confidence in the opinions of “experts” has significantly eroded. Obviously, not even all the experts agree on the models used or the means employed to reduce the spread of the virus. And when you hear too many conflicting reports and changing scenarios and interesting death counts and curious funding incentives combined with increased governmental control, isn’t it time to rethink things?

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m all for protecting people, especially the most vulnerable among us, and I believe we should wash our hands frequently and exercise commonsense approaches to safety.

But when Pritzker says he’s following the science to save as many lives as possible, yet has already defied all science in championing the causes of abortion and transgender dysphoria, you’ll have to pardon me for my suspicions.

And when his family is allowed to travel freely while the rest of us are urged to stay home; and when Mayor Lightfoot can get her hair done, but you can’t; and when one former President could go golfing before the golf courses were allowed to open, but you couldn’t, doesn’t that at least give us reason to say, “Now, wait a minute here…”?

Well, I’ve probably said too much. I’m complying so far, but I’m praying for wisdom. I’m praying for those who’ve suffered from this sickness and for those who are grieving the loss of loved ones. I’m praying for those who have lost their jobs and for small businesses that are having to make excruciating decisions. I’m praying for the farmers who haven’t lost their jobs but are losing their farms. I’m praying for the children staying at home, but whose home is not a safe place for them to be. I’m praying for the isolated widows who need contact with other people and for our collective emotional and mental health, as well.

My list is long, but mostly I pray that God will give us all the faith to trust in Him no matter what. In the meantime, maybe I’d better just stay outside.