Listen to Him

Last night’s presidential debate, . . . well, what a fiasco! What an eye-opening view once again into the heart of man (Jeremiah 17:9).

How difficult it is to listen to three men argue, interrupt, accuse, disparage, and fuss! Proverbs 18:13 reminds us, If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.

This past Sunday, I had the joy of listening to Carl Butler, the new pastor of Thompson Baptist Church, Thompson, PA, preach from Hebrews. The major portion of his message was seven reasons why we should listen to the Lord Jesus Christ.

As God’s final Spokesman, Jesus Christ deserves to be heard because . . .

  • He was appointed heir of all things (1:2).
  • He was God’s Active Agent in creation (1:2).
  • He revealed the Divine Glory (1:3).
  • He represented God’s character in the flesh (1:3)
  • He upholds all things right now by the word of His power (1:3).
  • He has totally purged our sins (1:3)
  • He finished the job and is seated at God the Father’s right hand (1:3)

Against the backdrop of last night’s disappointment and debacle, may I say to you today, because of Who Christ is, listen to Him. Men will fail you. Men are not omniscient. Men are fallible. Men are self-serving. Men need Jesus.

Open your Bible. Sit at Jesus’ feet (Luke 10:38-42). Listen to Him (Romans 10:17; James 1:19-21; Revelation 2:7).

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5)

(Debate pic from thinkadvisor.com)

The Monday After

“We had six saved today, three baptized, ten join the church, the house was full, and I had great liberty in preaching!” (A fake tweet that parallels the statements of some pastors on Monday after they have had “a ready good” Sunday!)

“We had a small crowd, no one came forward at the invitation, a section of the church was empty due to a group who left the church this past week, and I bombed my sermon.” (A fake tweet that parallels the feelings of too many pastors on Monday after a “rough” Sunday.”)

Before social media, I heard both of these kind of statements when I attended a local preacher’s fellowship or read a bi-weekly preacher’s newspaper. Now it’s in real time on Sundays and Mondays.

Oh the joys and heartaches, the delights and discouragements, the successes and failures, and the highs and lows of Sundays for a pastor!

But every Monday, I have to come back to the Truth. I cannot listen to myself. I must preach the Truth to myself.

My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him.
6 He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be moved.
7 In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength,
And my refuge, is in God.
(Psalm 62:5-7)

And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:18-19)

For without Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. (Romans 12:15-16)

Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:5-11)

And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:18)

The “tweet” that will really matter is when we stand alone before the Lord Jesus Christ at the Bema, and we hear His declaration about the ministry that He entrusted to us. That’s when it will matter.

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss. (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)

So men, let’s press forward today in the grace of God as we keep the end in mind rather than our viewpoint or other’s tweets on Monday! Christ’s evaluation will be right and eternal.

What an Evening!!

It happened again last night. Three couples gathered on our back porch and had a special evening of fellowship, exhortation, encouragement, edification, laughter, tears, and sharing.

What made it such an awesome evening? Was it the back porch setting? How about the beautiful sunset? Perhaps the delicious cake and coffee? Could it have been the stories that were told? Indeed, all of these things played an important role.

So, what was the ingredient that made the evening so rich? Simply this . . . three couples gathered around the Word of God.

It happens every week. We open our Bibles, read through a passage of Scripture, and then work our way through the verses letting the Holy Spirit teach us in context, observation, interpretation and application. Never do we share “what we think the passage says,” but as the Author intended for us to understand. As the leader, I simply ask questions, explain some words, and guide the discussion, but it is the Word does the work.

Our lives have been so enriched by the Word! We have come to relish our familial relationship as brothers and sisters in Christ through the Word! The honesty and transparency has risen each week because of the Word! Then our time of prayer is one of precious communion prepared by the Word!

Whether you are involved in a small group or it’s just you and your spouse or your family or with your co-worker at lunch or in the church building on Sunday, the best gathering is always around the Word of God!

7 The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward.
(Psalm 19:7-11)

Already looking forward to the next time we gather . . . around the Word!

The Scenic Route in Marriage

No beach trip this summer . . . bummer!! For several years, my wife and I have begun the summer season with a trip to North Myrtle Beach or Hilton Head Island.

Well. thanks to COVID, our plans, like yours, have been constantly rearranged. Oh well , , , we have just continued on the scenic route in our marriage.

Since I love to drive, and my wife likes to ride, we have enjoyed many, many journeys over the years. Some short, some medium and some very long. No matter, every trip is an event, an adventure on the scenic route.

This past Saturday night, I told my wife to bring a change of clothes to church on Sunday and be prepared to head out after our morning ministries.

Watagua Lake has been our “most-go-to place” since the middle of March, so the destination decision was not difficult. Our afternoon trip began with an “On the Go Order” from Dunkin Donuts for refreshing iced tea. Then it was a stop at KFC for a four-piece grilled chicken dinner to go. Our favorite spot at the lake is Watagua Point. Since it was Labor Day weekend, all the picnic tables were taken. No problem. We grabbed our camping chairs and found a somewhat shady spot with a fabulous view of the lake and the mountains in the background. Just being together was all we needed.

After dinner, Denise took a nap, and I read. We chatted, prayed, took pictures, went for a walk, shared the blessings from the morning church gatherings, and just enjoyed being together.

The key to taking the scenic route in marriage is just simply enjoying the journey and most of all, the one you are with!! We made memories. We made an intentional investment in our marriage. We held hands, kissed, and hugged each other. As we say, “We like us!”

No matter whether your beach trip has been cancelled or COVID has rearranged your plans, you are still married. Make the investments. Enjoy the scenic route.

On the Edge of Our Seats!

(NASA Photo)

“Hurricane Laura could potentially cause weekend issues in TN!”

“News Reveals Who’s Likely to Lose Power with Laura”

Breaking News!

In no way am I belittling or making light of the devastating effects of a storm or of the reporting of news events. What gets my attention is that instantaneous news information from around the world keeps us on edge. There’s no moment to rest.

Sadly, much of the headlines are potentialities and prognostications. Once again, bait material to keep you coming back for more and to keep you on the edge of your seats.

Even worse, the land of “what if’s” or “could be’s” is a land of worry, fear, regret, and failure. It is not dwelling in Truth.

Now, here’s absolute Truth that should keep you on the edge of your seats!

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.” 5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:1-6)

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:52-57)

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” 5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” (Revelation 21:1-5)

This is news that will one day occur, that will break through the skies! This is not breaking news to alarm but to give joy-filled anticipation!

Today, I am on the edge of my seat looking for the Lord’s return and the joys of eternity, but I am at rest in doing so. You see, this is absolute truth, and Jesus will return just like He said . . . on time and at the right time!

The Views Are Magnificent!

COVID, masks, social distancing, 6 feet, signs to tell me where to stand, restrictions, regulations, no football, protests, riots, fake news, lies, cynicism, murders, hatred, fear, loneliness, seclusion, death, etc. That’s the world we are living in right now. We read about it everyday, see it in town, hear about it from others, and are constantly notified via social media.

In the midst of it all, my greatest need each day is time in the presence of my Lord reading His Word, sharing my heart in prayer and listening to His response. For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Romans 15:4).

Recently, my heart needed one of my favorite spots to meet with the Lord. It is aptly named, Beauty Spot. Located in Unicoi County, TN, on the AT, the views are 360 degrees, the quiet is so calming, and the distractions of life below are removed.

As I opened my camping chair and my Bible, Psalm 121 became food for my weary soul.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help.
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

3 He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
8 The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore.

My journal is a dear companion to me, and I began to write as the Word spoke to my heart.

I will – An action from the heart based upon who Jehovah is and my need.

Lift up my eyes – I must look above my troubles and see the Lord, high and lifted up and not on earthly things, people, etc.

To the hills from which comes my help. My help comes from the Lord Who made heaven and earth – The hills have no power to help me, but they resoundingly speak of the character and greatness of their Creator, Jehovah Elohim!

Sitting there enjoying the breeze and the stillness, I pondered the beauty and majesty of Unaka Mt., Rich Mt., Buffalo Mt. and others and the following thought came to my mind. When I lift my eyes to the hills for help, I can gaze at Mt. Mercy, Mt. Love, Mt. Power, Mt. Joy, Mt. Presence, Mt. Omnipotence, Mt. Omniscience, Mt. Faithfulness, Mt. Refuge, Mt. Grace, Mt. Righteousness and these transcendent peaks go on-and-on!!! Also, in Christ, I am always at the summit!! Positionally, I am at God the Father’s right hand!!

My friend, today, will you lift up eyes to the hills? Will you fix your gaze on the One Who made heaven and earth? The view is always thrilling, always praise-worthy, always magnificent!!!

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!!