Are You Listening?

Is COVID-19 the judgment of God? We do not know nor can we know without reservation from Scripture. It may be, but God does not say so. Now, Matthew 24:7-8 speaks of the signs of the times in reference to the first half of the tribulation. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Certainly, the coronavirus could be characterized by pestilences, but we cannot say it is a judgment of God in 2020.

So, what then is COVID-19 saying to us? Echoing back to Matthew 24:7-8, it is a reminder that such a day is coming; that the tribulation (Revelation 6-18) will occur. Above all, COVID-19 is God speaking to us and calling us to repentance.

Note these words recorded in Luke 13:1-5, There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

How easy it is for us to look at others in world as worse sinners than we are and say, “God is judging them!” Note that Jesus goes right on by that scenario and calls everyone to repentance, I tell you, . . . unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

Unbeliever, wake up to the fact that unless you repent, turn from anything and everything you have been believing in for salvation, you will perish. Jesus says, I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32).

Is COVID-19 the judgment of God? Can’t say, but it is the mercy of God giving you, sinner friend, another opportunity to repent and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior! Don’t delay!

For information on how you can become a genuine follower of Christ, please watch the following:

The Best Gathering Place

Is it a local restaurant?

Is it a concert venue?

Is it a college campus?

Is it a coffee shop?

Is it a sports stadium?

Is it the break room at work?

Without a doubt, the very best gathering place is anywhere the Word of God is opened, read, taught, explained, discussed, applied, and revered!

Last evening, our small group gathered around 1 Timothy 3:1-7. We prayed, read the passage, and then went through a verse-by-verse, almost word-for-word study of God’s precious Book. Never did we ask, “What do you think it means?” We looked at the passage in its context through observation (What does it say?), interpretation (What does it mean?) and application (How do I respond?).

After one hour, we could say that we had met with the Lord; He had spoken to our hearts; the Holy Spirit had guided us into truth! Our hearts were knitted closer to God and to one another. That then made our prayer time to close out the evening a true gathering around the Throne of Grace!

The dynamic of a Sunday morning service is the gathering around the reading and preaching of the Word of God whether it is inside or outside the building. This gathering is of utmost importance (Hebrews 10:25).

The best part of meeting at a coffee shop is the reading of God’s Word. I highly recommend this resource: https://matthiasmedia.com/products/one-to-one-bible-reading

The most edifying conversation and instruction in the home is when husband and wife gather around the Word to read and pray. (The same for the family.)

The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever. (Psalm 119:160)

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

How can a young man cleanse his way?
By taking heed according to Your word.
10 With my whole heart I have sought You;
Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!
11 Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You.
12 Blessed are You, O Lord!
Teach me Your statutes.
13 With my lips I have declared
All the judgments of Your mouth.
14 I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
As much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on Your precepts,
And contemplate Your ways.
16 I will delight myself in Your statutes;
I will not forget Your word.
(Psalm 119:9-16)

The gathering around the Word should cause us to anticipate the great gathering in the sky at the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) and then the gatherings around the Throne in Glory (Revelation 4, 7)!!

The best gathering place is around the Word of God!!

COVID-19 DISTRACTIONS #2

Yesterday, I was reminded of a statement that has bearing on the COVID world we live in today. During the last few weeks of my mom’s earthly sojourn, she listened to my wife read Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven. One day in particular, she looked appreciatively at Denise and said, “Thank you for reading to me about Heaven. You are helping me prepare to go Home.”

Has the coronavirus so captured your attention that your mind is solely earth-bound? I realize we need to take some serious precautions, but how easy it is to be consumed with COVID at every turn! As I said in yesterday’s blog. it is the first topic of discussion, frustration, fear, etc.

If you can say that you are a true believer in Christ, a genuine child of God, may I turn our thoughts upward?

Mediate on the following:

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Rev. 21:4)

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:1-4)

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8)

Is COVID helping to prepare you for Home? The brevity, fragility and uncertainty of life are indeed real, but when you have complete assurance that eternity in Heaven with the Lord Jesus Christ awaits you, the fear of this virus can be exchanged for the anticipation of Revelation 21:4!!!

I’m goin’ home
Where the streets are golden
Every chain is broken
Oh I wanna go
Oh I wanna go
Home
Where every fear is gone
I’m in your open arms
Where I belong
Home
(Chris Tomlin)

(If you are not prepared, would you take time to watch either of these videos?)

Be sure to watch all the Done chapters.

COVID-19 DISTRACTIONS

(Wall Street Journal)

In the past few weeks, I have often heard the following statement: “I will be glad when this mess is over!” Of course, they are speaking of the coronavirus pandemic.

No doubt COVID-19 has affected you as it has me, and quite frankly, from a selfish standpoint, I am done with it as well. I am weary of the constant discussions about it, the masks, the social distancing, care facilities and hospitals being closed to visitors, stares from others when I forget to wear my mask, the political bantering about it, trying to following the direction signs in the floor, the affect upon the sports worlds, the inconsistencies of businesses in following the local authorities’ mandates, etc. Have I covered them all? Probably not. Sigh.

Now, at the beginning of every thought, every circumstance, every question, every doubt, every frustration, every illness, every misunderstanding, everything in life, I must begin with God (Genesis 1:1), with Who He is; His attributes, character and essence. He is always, and for all time, the correct starting point, the perfect plumb line, the no-fail GPS for our lives.

Since that is true, I know that Satan wants to use his ability (2 Corinthians 11:3) along with our old sin nature (Romans 6-7) to keep us from dwelling in the land of absolute truth, Who God is; from abiding in Christ (John 15). So, he uses distraction and deception along with your human viewpoint. As harmful as COVID-19 can be, lets’s face it, the coronavirus has caused us to live distracted lives.

Can I help you? Are you distracted? Have your thoughts been more earthward than heaven-bound? If so, will you meditate on Psalm 94:19? In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul (NKJV). When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul (NASB)

Stop right now in the midst of all your disquieting thoughts and list the comforts, the consolations of God. Recall them to mind. Sing them to your heart and to any around you who will listen. Pray them back to God. Talk of them with your spouse, your children, your co-worker, your neighbor, your friends.

Spurgeon says it well, When I am tossed to and fro with various reasonings, distractions, questions, and forebodings, I will fly to my true rest, for thy comforts delight my soul. From my sinful thoughts, my vain thoughts, my sorrowful thoughts, my griefs, my cares, my conflicts, I will hasten to the Lord; he has divine comforts, and these will not only console but actually delight me. How sweet are the comforts of the Spirit! Who can muse upon eternal love, immutable purposes, covenant promises, finished redemption, the risen Saviour, his union with his people, the coming glory, and such like themes, without feeling his heart leaping with joy? The little world within is, like the great world without full of confusion and strife; but when Jesus enters it, and whispers “Peace be unto you,” there is a calm, yea, a rapture of bliss. Let us turn away from the mournful contemplation of the oppression of man and the present predominance of the wicked, to that sanctuary of pure rest which is found in the God of all comfort. Good will to us, and to give us some evidence and assurance of his love and favour towards us; these are his comforts. (Treasury of David, C.H. Spurgeon)

Indeed, this “mess will be over” in time, but the comforts and consolations of God will last forever. They are a delight, not a distraction!!

Can You Find a Man?

While reading Jeremiah 5 recently, these words caught my attention:

Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem;
See now and know;
And seek in her open places
If you can find a man,
If there is anyone who executes justice,
Who seeks the truth,
And I will pardon her
. (5:1)

In Jeremiah’s day, Jerusalem was a corrupt city. If a man could be found that sought the truth and executed justice, God would hold back His judgment. It was as if there was not even one man who did right and sought after truth.

When we see the course of so many men in our nation today living out their unbridled passion for violence cloaked in terms of justice and making decisions based upon lies, we wonder, where are the men of truth and justice?

It is time for us to rise up and be those men! We need to be men who love God, love our wives, and love life.

A man who loves God searches for the truth in the pages of God’s Word. We must be like Ezra who prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel (7:10). Sir, are you a seeker of truth who can be found in the “open places” declaring truth to others? Are you walking justly (Micah 6:8) because truth dwells in your heart? A man who has something to say is one who loves and personally knows the truth of God’s Word! The world doesn’t need anymore human viewpoint!! We must be men who are known in the streets for speaking Truth!

A man who loves his wife lives out Ephesians 5:18-33 by the grace of God. He is able to love his wife correctly because he loves God with all of his heart (Matthew 22:37). Furthermore, a husband who submits to God (5:21) will have no problem living a life of servant submission to his wife. Men, you don’t need a better wife to be happy. You need to be the best servant husband for your wife and the testimony of the gospel (Philippians 2:1-8). What do you say in the “streets” of your town about your wife and about marriage in particular? Does your love for her portray to a lost world the glories of marriage; the gospel of Jesus Christ? We must be men who are known in the streets for full-on loyalty to their wives!

A man who loves God and his wife will also love life. With all the fluctuation and mandates about COVID-19 as well as the division and sin in our country, sometimes it’s hard to love life. Solomon laments in Ecclesiastes 2:18, Then I hated all my labor in which I had toiled under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will come after me. “The healthy Christian believer certainly would not hate life, no matter how difficult the circumstances might be. Certainly some great men . . . have [even] wanted to die, such as Job, Moses, Elijah, and Jonah, but we must not take these special instances as examples for us to follow. All of these men finally changed their minds. The Christian should love life (1 Peter 3:10; Psalm 34:12), seeking to put the most into it and getting the most out of it, to the glory of God. We may not enjoy everything in life, or be able to explain everything about life, but that is not important. We live by promises and not by explanations, and we know that our labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).”(Warren Wiersbe) We must be men who are known in the streets for loving life!

Hey man, what are you known for “in the streets”?

One Grateful American!

On this July 4th weekend, there are so many things that cause my heart to rejoice and express a sincere note of gratitude and patriotism as an American!

  1. That God allowed me to be born to godly, Christian parents and to be born again (John 3) in the United States of America!
  2. For parents, church, family and public education that taught and demonstrated what it was to be a respectful, God-honoring citizen of the USA!
  3. For a dad who proudly served his country in the Army during the Korean War.
  4. For my mom who loved to play patriotic music in our home either on the piano or through the stereo.
  5. That I could learn the history of this great land through a correct worldview and not one rewritten to suit the desires of a socialist agenda.
  6. For trips to Washington, DC, Appomattox and Chancellorsville, VA, President Lincoln’s birthplace, West Point, the USS Wilmington, Fort Sumter and many other places of historical value while still living at home with my folks.
  7. After marriage, the Korean War Memorial, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Lincoln Memorial, President Ronald Reagan Library, the Twin Towers Memorial, and many more.
  8. To stand at Bristol Motor Speedway with over 140,000 fans and watch the American flag descend to the track via a parachutist while Lee Greenwood sang, “God Bless the USA!”
  9. To pledge my allegiance to the flag and the values it represents!!
  10. The joy of watching the precision and glory of the Air Force Thunderbirds at Shaw Air Force Base, Sumter, SC.
  11. To attend patriotic concerts such as the ones in Kingsport, TN and Murfreesboro, TN.
  12. Singing our National Anthem many, many times in many different locations with my hand across my heart!
  13. To be parked on the hill in Johnson City, TN, for the fireworks and to hear all the car radios around us tuned to the freedom music from a local station. Will miss that this year!
  14. For family picnics with us all wearing Old Navy patriotic t-shirts!
  15. Sparklers, fireworks, hot dogs, homemade ice cream, strawberry pie, etc.
  16. To share a word of thanks to everyone who has served in our military.
  17. To have preached the funerals of men and women who served in our military.
  18. Recently, watching a WWII veteran slowly rise to salute the flag as it was folded and presented to a grieving wife. Tears flowed down my cheek and my heart swelled with gratitude!
  19. To join with other believers on a Sunday morning to acknowledge God’s goodness to us in this land, not as an act of idolatry, but one of sincere thanksgiving!!

Today, I will say that it is hard for me to ask God to bless our nation when we have certainly not blessed Him in so many ways by turning our back on Him, disregarding prayer and the Word, killing millions of babies, displaying a hatred for Christ, and living for the American Dream rather than surrendering to righteousness. Nevertheless, I do ask that God would bless our land with His mercy and grace that we may continue the cause of freedom and the Gospel around the world for His glory!

Know What We Were Doing . . . ?

This past week, my wife and I have been recalling some of the events of our first week of married life which all began on June 20, 1981. We would say to each other, “Know what we were doing today 39 years ago?”

We reminisced to an outdoor gospel sing by the Inspirations at Inspiration Park in Bryson City, NC; to what we ate during our honeymoon week (Hamburger Helper, Pork Chop Casserole, Golden Grahams cereal); to the eight-sided cabin on Lake Santeetlah, NC, “in the middle of nowhere;” to where we attended Sunday morning service in Robbinsville, NC; to our drive through the Smokies to Gatlinburg; to our “hike” up Clingman’s Dome on the spur-of-the-moment (Denise was still wearing her Sunday dress and heels. I carried her 3/4 of the way…seriously.); to our stay at Rocky Waters Motel in Gatlinburg in which we had only enough money left over to buy two TV dinners for supper which we thoroughly enjoyed on our room balcony!! I promise you, the adventures have continued!!

Recently my wife shared a quote with me she had heard on a podcast about marriage. “Couples who have been married for over 35 years enjoy their marriage as much as the first year.”

One of the key ingredients, among others to accomplishing a refreshing marriage, is husband and wife must make many more investments in their marriage than withdrawals, and that is every day.

Our marriage, like every one else’s, has had days of rocky waters, no pun intended. Praise the Lord for His grace to enable us to work through those churning, troubling moments and days.

In order to look back over your marriage with joy and a good dose of sentimentality, you must . . .

  • Live in the world of forgiveness and not apologies.
  • Never stop dating.
  • Always keep your spouse above your children.
  • Pray together.
  • Laugh a lot.
  • Learn to listen.
  • Share the Word together.
  • Shut out the world.
  • Enjoy romance.
  • Make frequent trips, husband, to Kroger’s for those $10 dozen roses! (Sometimes on sale for $8)
  • Do things out of the ordinary.
  • Hold hands and pray together before you go to bed.
  • Put down your cellphone or tablet.
  • Take the lead, men, and ladies, let him lead.
  • Walk in humility.
  • Never speak of your spouse in a negative fashion in public nor run to your parents when there’s a conflict.
  • Hold hands, kiss, cuddle, etc. like you did or wanted to do when you were dating. Have at it now! It’s legal and fun!!
  • Be a servant.
  • Adore each other.
  • Don’t be a “tight-wad” all the time, guys. Splurge on your sweetheart once-in-awhile.
  • Prepare your children to leave home.

There are many, many other things to add, but let me just ask, “What were you doing ____ years ago?”

Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love.
(Proverbs 5:18-19)

Living In a Word-Filled World

Recently I walked into a local hospital room to find the lady whom I had come to visit soundly sleeping. Her daughter, faithfully at her side, filled me in on her current condition.

After awhile, the daughter said, “Go ahead and wake her. She will not want to miss seeing you.” As soon as her name was called, her eyes opened and she said, “Hi, Pastor. It is so good to see you, and we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

That was just the beginning. As our conversation moved forward, she interspersed scripture from a heart that was settled on its promises and appropriate for praise and trust in our great God. This kind of response was not a surprise because this is what I have heard from her for over twenty years. Her bank of memorized scripture has been her life for over sixty years.

If you were awakened out of sleep, would scripture be on the forefront of your mind? Would a word of truth be ever present on your lips?

Psalm 119 describes the heart of one whose passion, whose world is the Word of God. The following portion, verses 11-18, could be spoken of this dear lady.

11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

12 Blessed art thou, O Lord: teach me thy statutes.

13 With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth.

14 I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches.

15 I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.

16 I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.

17 Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live, and keep thy word.

18 Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.

In a day of unashamed lying, fake news, “who’s telling the truth,” and “what will happen next,” we need to know the Truth, rest in the Truth, speak the Truth, and live the Truth. God’s Word should be the world we live in.

Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. (Ps. 119:97)

A Little Bit of Heaven on Earth!

After eleven weeks of meeting through Zoom, the doors were opened yesterday at Boones Creek Bible Church to gather corporately. Wow! What an awesome experience of the grace of God! Indeed, as best as I can say, it was a little bit of heaven on earth (Revelation 4-5)!

Some of the highlights:

  • All the smiling, happy faces!! The laughter of children and adults! Even though many were reserved due to playing-it-safe, there was an atmosphere of joy-filled expectation. We had seen most folk on Zoom through the weeks, but nothing takes the place of being in person! You know, I get a glimpse of heaven through the precious Word of God, but one day, it will be in person! (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
  • Congregational singing!! Pastor Andrew directed us to consider our great God as we began the morning gathering singing, “Behold our God!” From there, we were exhorted to consider the only way to God and our position in Christ by singing “In Christ Alone.” Eleven weeks ago, the last song we sang corporately was “He Will Hold Me Fast.” Certainly, that is what God has done through these days of uncertainty. We finished with looking to the future by prayerfully singing, “Be Thou My Vision.” These songs came from asking our congregation to share a song that would sum up their personal testimony during COVID-19. Normally I sit on the front row and to hear the folks behind me singing was powerful!! Now I sing off-pitch at times, but in heaven, it will always be to God and in tune (Revelation 5)!
  • Visitors! How wonderful to see folks attending that our people had invited. I believe that this pandemic has awakened many to the issue of death. People want the Truth. What a joy to welcome new faces, to pray with them, to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to listen to their stories. The only sad note about today was those who refused to receive Christ as Savior. How wonderful it will be when see all our spiritual family in Glory, those who have received Christ alone for salvation (John 1:12). Visitors, no; family, yes!
  • Prayer! We saw God answer prayer today!! In Heaven, Christ is interceding for us (Hebrews 7:25) for us right now! We have continual access to the Throne through our Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Although our hearts are heavy for the current upheaval in the streets of America and the continual effect of COVID-19, the Church should be a little heaven on earth as it exalts the One Who can change everything, Who makes life worth living, who is worship — the Lord Jesus Christ!!

Sunday Guidelines

Been thinking about all the preparations that have been made and are currently being made as churches open their doors to meet again.

Our first Sunday to be “shut-down” was March 22. (The Church was never closed; only the building was empty.) We have been using Zoom for Sunday morning, prayer meetings, and small group meetings. This past Sunday, just the leadership met in the auditorium while the service was Zoomed to everyone else. The purpose for our in-house meeting was to get a first-hand view of the guidelines we need in to have in place for opening our doors this Sunday.

On my way to church, I said to my wife, “Churches are making a lot of plans and preparations for next Sunday to protect folks from the virus. I wonder, how much planning and preparation goes on personally in the heart of man to be protected from the old sin nature so that our worship will be in spirit and in truth (John 4:24)?”

May I offer some suggested guidelines, not in a legalistic fashion, but simply to honor God and help us be ready to gather in His presence?

  1. Have the whole family pray together on Saturday night in heart preparation for gathering on Sunday.
  2. Have clothes and breakfast already planned out and prepared on Saturday night to lessen the stress of Sunday morning.
  3. Get to bed at a decent hour so you are not so tired on Sunday morning.
  4. Be prepared for opposition from the flesh and the devil on Sunday morning. Don’t be surprised. You are in a battle.
  5. Have a season of prayer as a family and listen to worship music on the way to church.
  6. Before you exit your vehicle in the church parking lot, pray and ask the Lord what pew you should sit in so you will be near the person God wants you to minister to that morning (even six-feet apart).
  7. Maybe take a different route to church to add some freshness to the journey.
  8. The trip to and from church should be a blessed, happy time of joy and singing and sharing because you are born again, and you were made to praise the Lord!

We have guidelines to protect from the virus. May we with a right heart follow some “guidelines” to protect us from ourselves. After all, this Sunday’s worship is not about us but about loving God and loving our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-39)!

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!” (Psalm 122:1)

Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Selah (Psalm 84:4)

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:16-17)

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)