Grace to Go!

Stretching out his hand and with tears in his eyes, he said, “Soon this hand will touch the hand of my Jesus.”

These words were spoken last Saturday by a dear man of God who has given his life to faithfully proclaim and live out the excellencies of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pastor Bud Parker has been diagnosed with an inoperable malignant brain tumor that is affecting his mobility and vision. As I sat by his side in his humble mountain home, the affects of cancer were readily seen, but the grace of God was much more manifest. It didn’t take long to realize I was seated in the presence of a man who is ready to go Home to Glory!

There were many more times of rejoicing than notes of sorrow as we conversed. During his lengthy stay in the hospital, the Lord enabled him to share the gospel with many, and three precious souls came to salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). We talked of the ministry joys of past years, the privilege of preaching the Word of God, the joy of mentoring so many men in the ministry, as well as rejoicing in all the folks who had come by to visit.

With his precious wife, Mildred, seated across the room, he looked at me and then her and said, “I am ready to go to heaven, but I don’t want to leave my bride of 58 years. The other night, the Lord spoke to me and said, ‘Don’t be afraid. She was My bride before she became your bride. She is the apple of my eye’.”

Especially at a time like this, the Word of God is the very best comfort, assurance, and hope. While reading 1 Peter 1:1-8, Pastor Parker’s eyes would glisten and then fill with tears. Some of the passages he quoted along with me as best he could. At one point, he raised his hand to rejoice!

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,

5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:

7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:

Near the end of our visit, I noticed that his wife, two of his daughters and other family members were on the front porch. I invited them to gather in the living room, and we sang a medley of songs about heaven. My, what a glorious time we had as we lifted our voices and hands in praise to our great God! Indeed, what a day it will be when our Jesus we will see!!

Watching the grace of God in its total sufficiency from my front row seat was an honor and a blessed encouragement! This dear man of God is living out the words of Tom Hayes’ song, New Grace.

All of grace is my story
All the way from earth to glory,
Since by grace He lifted me from sin and woe;
Living grace He has extended
As on Him my heart depended,
And He’ll give new grace when it’s my time to go.

CHORUS:
Grace not yet discovered,
Grace not yet uncovered,
Grace from His bountiful store;
Grace to cross the river,
And grace to face forever,
There’ll be new grace I’ve not needed before.

VERSE 2:
There’s been grace for every trial,
There’s been grace for every mile,
There’s been grace sufficient from His vast supply;
Grace to make my heart more tender,
Grace to love and pray for sinners,
But there’ll be new grace when it’s my time to die.

CHORUS:
Grace not yet discovered,
Grace not yet uncovered,
Grace from His bountiful store;
Grace to cross the river,
And grace to face forever,
There’ll be new grace I’ve not needed before.

Grace to go!!

Let’s Cheer ‘Em On!

Pulling into the Tweetsie Trail parking lot for our early morning run, there gathered around the trailhead were 30 or more college students. They were in fine shape bringing back memories of my pre-gotta-watch-what-you-eat, what’s-that-hanging-over-your-belt days! They were all lean, trim and in optimum running shape.

Andrew and I headed down the trail and about two miles in, we heard the sound of runners gaining on us. These college age gazelles in various groupings passed us with great ease.

As we approached the three mile mark, some of these students were gathered waiting for the rest of their gang. Are you ready for this? They saw us coming and formed lines on either side of the trail and began clapping for us and cheering us on!!! Wow!! They did not know us. We were not in their group. The only thing that unified us was what called us to be on the Tweetsie Trail . . . running.

As Andrew and I continued our run, a pertinent application struck a chord in my heart. This is how Christians should treat others, especially those in the family of God.

So, how should we treat others in the family of God? Should we carry long-term grudges against them? Should we withhold forgiveness? Should we just write them off? Should we misapply scripture to fit our reasons for distancing ourselves from our brother and/or sister in Christ? Should we gossip about them? Should we make them feel like a nobody when seen in public? What does the Word of God say?

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. (Romans 12:10, 16)

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:7)

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

You may not run races here on earth, but if you are a believer, you are running a race that will count in Glory (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Hebrews 12:1-3). Hence, may I encourage you to cheer on your brother and sister in Christ? Should we treat them different here than we will in Heaven? Who needs to hear you clapping and cheering them on?

They Are Growing Up!

One of the cool features of being a grandparent is watching your twin grandsons grow and change every day! Given that our two bundles of energy have had to overcome great obstacles, those points of development are magnified.

Yesterday, I listened to them sing more words to the choruses that accompany our wagon rides on the farm road. I saw one of the boys take more steps in his struggle to walk. I heard their vocabulary increase as we walked to the back of our property. And, I watched with a full heart their zest for life as they proved again and again, they are “all boys”!!

Indeed, it is fascinating to watch our children and grandchildren grow and learn; to attempt new things; to make progress; to act like little adults; to fall down, get back up, and try again. How often we look at the kids and then the parents and say, “That apple doesn’t fall far from that tree!”

As a follower of Jesus Christ, one commanded to mature in Christ, what would others say about my growth in Christ? Could they give specific points of development? Have I grown from the times when I “fell down” each day?

2 Peter 3:18 says, But grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 4:15-16 exhorts us, Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. And 1 Peter 2:2, Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up.

Can you imagine Sunday morning as we gather to worship, an older believer walks up to you and says, “I have seen great growth in your life this week! I saw you from a distance be confronted with a situation that normally would elicit anger from your heart, but you responded in kindness and wisdom as Christ would. To God be the glory! Stay in the Word, walk on your knees, and be faithful!! Let’s pray together and ask the Lord to help both of us take the next step in wisdom.”

Instead of looking for the faults in others, let’s look for growth points and be encouragers. Let’s rejoice as we mature together in Christlikeness. Let’s help each other when we “fall down.” Let’s walk together to Glory. After all, we are the family of God.

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:5-7).

His GPS

My wife gets a laugh at my expense when I argue with my GPS. Many times I’ve said, “There’s a better way.” Or, “I’m not following those directions. That will take me the long way around.”

When it comes to discerning the will of God and/or needing direction for your day, those are arrogant statements to make.

Yesterday morning, I opened my Bible to the YouVersion daily reading plan with a hungry heart seeking a word from the Lord. My longing was, “Lord, I am reading every word, every phrase with my eye on You and my ear open to Your voice.”

How cool to see and hear the Lord reveal Himself and His Word to me as I read and jotted each piece of direction in my journal. In the midst of doing so, He directed someone to send the first passage as a text message of encouragement. Wow! How great is our God!

Here’s His GPS for my heart and life in response to my longing:

Unto You I lift up my eyes,
O You who dwell in the heavens.
Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters,
As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes look to the Lord our God.
(Ps. 123:1-2a)

For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. (Hebrews 3:4)

Plans are established by counsel. (Proverbs 20:18)

A man’s steps are of the Lord. (Proverbs 20:24)

Behold, God is my salvation;
    I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
    and he has become my salvation.”
(Isaiah 12:2)

Throughout the day, these truths were set before me. I did not argue with His GPS. They have given me peace and assurance.

Looking forward to His direction today. I’m watching and listening. His way/GPS is perfect (Psalm 18:30).

BCBC . . . Gone!

In October 2018, the pastor of one of China’s best-known underground churches asked this of his congregation: had they successfully spread the gospel throughout their city? “If tomorrow morning [our church] suddenly disappeared from the city . . . , if each of us vanished into thin air, would this city be any different? Would anyone miss us?” Leaning over his pulpit and pausing to let the question weigh on his audience. he said, “I don’t know.” (The Guardian, January 13, 2019)

The persecution in China continues and the faith of our brothers and sisters in Christ is being tested. So much so, that the aforementioned pastor is now in detention with his wife.

My heart in writing this post is not to just simply move on in reference to these believer’s plight, but I too was challenged by this pastor’s question. If tomorrow morning Boones Creek Bible Church no longer existed, its doors were closed by the authorities, would the Tri-Cities be any different? Have we spread the gospel around our four county area?

Only God knows the full influence of Christ we have made upon our area in sixty plus years. Nevertheless, what affect am I, are we, having on our neighborhoods for the cause of Christ? At our work? In our schools? How are we using our homes for discipleship? Are we living out the gospel as well as sharing the gospel? Are we making a difference for eternity?

For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. 2 But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. 3 For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.9 For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 ESV)

Would we be missed?

Incredible Grace

2019 VBS

As the last of the children got off the van and headed to their apartment homes, I got back into our church van with tears in my eyes.  Vacation Bible School is over for 2019.

God, in His incredible grace, gave us an awesome week! Grace enabled a young boy to be born again.  Grace gave tired, faithful workers the ability to love, serve, and be energized every night.  Grace overcame the flesh and led our workers to be unified around the gospel.  Grace overwhelmed us with answers to prayer.  Grace provided wisdom for the workers to overcome obstacles.  Grace produced compassion for all kids of every race. God’s incredible grace was on display every night!

My tears, though, were mostly for these kids who rode the van.  Their world is one of drugs, sin, selfishness, abuse, alcohol, and no hope. They will not be under the sound of biblical teaching every night next week.  They will be allowed to roam in the night.  They will have to fight to survive.

We will seek to follow up with these kids in the days to come.  We will pray for a miracle of God’s grace to break the chains of sin in the hearts of their parents and in that apartment complex.  We will trust in God’s incredible grace to do the miraculous for His glory!

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8).

Praying with tears that soon they will be tears of rejoicing because of God’s incredible grace!

A Much-Needed Reminder

This past weekend was a much-needed refreshment for my soul. Ministry in the past year and a half has been difficult. While seated by the lake at the Wilds, the Lord pointed out this passage to me. Reluctantly, I must say that I had forgotten some of the ingredients of gospel ministry, of following Christ. Paul, through the Holy Spirit, reminded me last Saturday morning.

But as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. (2 Cor. 6:4-10)

Pressing forward in His grace!

Wonder What Its Like

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Wonder what it’s like to know that you are just hours, days from seeing Jesus face-to-face?

That was the question posed by wife as we drove to see a friend who is living out his last earthly days. Cancer has crept in upon him and left him in a swiftly weakened condition. He is now under hospice care.

As we entered his living room, now serving as a “hospital room,” we were greeted by a sedated, yet peaceful friend who managed a bit of a smile. His weakened voice spoke in soften tones. His dear wife stood on the other side of his bed tenderly stroking his arm and speaking words of encouragement to her longtime companion and friend.

After my wife and I shared, with tears, words of love and appreciation from our heart, I read 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 and Psalm 73:23-26, 28. Our friend drifted in-and-out as I read. His dear wife acknowledged certain truths here-and-there. I watched God’s Word bring sweet reminders and grace-filled assurances to both of these precious believers in Christ.

We concluded with prayer and then we sang two stanzas of Blessed Assurance. Our friend’s wife joined in as she said to her husband, “We know that song, don’t we?”

Before we departed, I reached down and touch my friend’s shoulder and reminded him again what he meant to us, that we loved him, and that we were praying for him. With that, he gave me a wink and softly spoke, “I love you. Praying for you, too.”

To answer my wife’s question, neither of us know personally because we are not in that condition at the moment. From watching my friend and his wife, I can say, there is grace for the journey, peace for the soul, a song for the heart, a balm for the hurt, truth for the mind, a glorious reunion to come, and a Friend that sticks closer than a brother, because blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.

Indeed, precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints (Psalm 116:15).

I’ll see you on the other side, friend; then I too will be seeing Jesus face-to-face.