Faith & Courage

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Wow!  What a world we live in today!

  • Rebellion towards authority.
  • Fake news.
  • The threat of nuclear war.
  • Disrespect for our flag and our country.
  • Hatred poured out on the gospel.
  • Natural disasters.
  • And on and on and on and on…..

But, are we surprised?  Since the Garden of Eden, sin has had its tentacles sunk into the heart of man and its curse on this earth (Genesis 3).  Jesus said, These things I have spoken to you, . . . . In the world you will have tribulation [trouble] (John 16:33).

Yesterday morning, needing an encouraging boost from the Lord, I read the following words:

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:1-8).

Did you note the repeated phrase, So we are always of good courage (5:6, 8)?  How can I have good courage in a world of sin and trouble?

  1. Remember, as a born again believer, you are not Home yet!
  2. When your body groans because of pain, accident, old age, etc., remember God said it would. Hang on, a new body is coming!  The groaning is a constant reminder of that new house!
  3. God has prepared us for this. We are equipped to endure to the end by His grace.
  4. Faith gives courage because faith is based upon the character of God Who is holy and cannot lie. You look around, and you are tempted to fret and despair.  What does faith say?  Who is God?  Wow! What courage that brings!

How are you walking today?  What has your attention?  What are you meditating on?  Living by faith or fear?  Courageous or cowering?

By the way, Christ has the final, authoritative word on all of life.  Meditate on the rest of John 16:33, These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Press on, believer!

Change!!!

old car 1         old car 2

For good while now the “How many ____________ does it take to change a light bulb?” lines have been circulating.  For instance,

  • How many Pentecostals does it take to change a light bulb? Any of them because they all have their hands in the air!
  • How many Methodists does it take to change a light bulb? We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey, you have found that a light bulb works for you, that is fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your personal relationship to your light bulb and present it next month at our annual light bulb Sunday service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, three-way, long-lived, and tinted; all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.
  • How many independent Baptists does it take to change a light bulb? CHANGE!!  WE AIN’T CHANGIN’ NOTHIN’!!

Now, please take these and others like them all in stride.  It is only a joke.

Truthfully though, for oh so many, change is not a joke.  Most folks don’t like change, and for many, the older we get the harder it is to deal with change. We want our grocery store to stock the same items on the same aisle week-after-week; we tend to want our children to stay young and at home, never to grow up; we are not too fond of anything that is labeled “new and improved” because we know it’s not going to be the same; and we don’t want the stamp machine down at the post office to change either.  Just ask Barney Fife.

You see, change provides a sense of security.  When things supposedly stay the same then we are comfortable.

Truth is, change is all around us every day. Nothing ever stays the same: the universe, your job, your children, the government, the newness of your car, etc.

With that being said, I want to share from my heart two brief, important principles of life in reference to change.  There is much more to be said, but consider these simple truths.

  1. Security in this life can only be found each day in knowing and resting in the Immutable One, Jehovah God.

Malachi 3:6 declares, For I am the Lord, I change not.

Ponder these words found in Psalm 102:12, 25-28, But Thou, O LORD dost abide forever; And Thy name to all generations . . . Of old Thou didst found the earth; And the heavens are the work of Thy hands. Even they will perish, but Thou dost endure; And all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing Thou wilt change them, and they will be changed. But Thou art the same, And Thy years will not come to an end. The children of Thy servants will continue, And their descendants will be established before Thee.”

Since God is unchanging, therefore, His Word is unchanging, His plans are unchanging, His character is unchanging, and His knowledge is unchanging.

This security in Jehovah can only be found through a personal relationship with Christ (John 14:6; Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:1-9).

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

  1. For the follower of Christ, change is the order of the day in our walk with Him.

The good that comes out of all things working together is the daily transformation of our lives into the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:28-29; Galatians 5:22-23; 2 Peter 1:3-11).  All of us as believers wear an “Under Construction” sign due to the sanctifying work of God in our lives through the Holy Spirit.

As we spend time in the Word beholding our God and His Son, we are changed by the power of the Word. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17).

So, how do you respond to change? Are you resting today in the Immutable God?  Are you growing and changing into Christlikeness as the Spirit convicts and instructs you?

The most important changes of life are spiritual not material. This isn’t about changing a light bulb which is discarded.  This is about the life of a genuine believer in Christ shining for God’s glory.

Sing Congregation! Sing!!

In Christ Alone

There are many reasons to be excited about attending church on Sunday and one of those is participating in worship with a congregation that sings!

Music has always been a major part of my life.  My mother played the piano for nearly 75 years.  My dad loved to sing.  I cut my musical teeth on children’s records and long-play albums.  The sounds of Jack Holcomb, Helen Barth, Doug Oldam, 16 Singing Men, and many others filled our home every day.  We even had a membership with Word Record Company and received monthly sacred albums.

My mom would play the piano in church and Dad would lead the singing.  I vividly remember as a little boy that small congregation along the river in Dart, Ohio, singing their hearts out to such songs as “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder,” “Hear Ye the Master’s Call,” and many, many others.

Believe it or not, the first time I led singing in church was at the age of 12, and I led my first choir at the age of 14.

Some of my fondest memories of music are also connected with a packed out Lodge at The Wilds Camp and Conference Center as a teen singing those great camp songs!  Also, how blessed to have attended many, many Southern Gospel concerts with my father-in-law, my wife and our daughters who are musicians.

How absolutely grateful I am that God created music!!  Even more, how awesome it is to sing with other believers on Sunday who are gathered in the presence of God, our Heavenly Father, lifting their voices in praise and heartfelt melodies!!

This past Sunday, as I stood at the front row of the auditorium, I could hear the congregation singing behind me.  Having led singing for many years in our church, I could only imagine their countenances as they sang, “Amazing Grace, My Chains Are Gone,” “Come, Christians Join to Sing,” and a new song we are learning, “Jesus, the Son of God.”  Many, many times when our congregation sings, I think, “This has to be a foretaste of Heaven!!”

May I encourage you to serve the Lord, to worship the Lord, and minister to all those around you this Sunday by lifting your voice in praise!  Ask your worship leader ahead of time what songs will be sung so you can sing them with your family during the week before the Sunday worship gathering.  Use those songs in your personal daily meeting time with God in His Word and prayer.  Come prepared to Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name  (Psalm 30:4)

Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! (Psalm 47:6)

Sing out the honor of His name; Make His praise glorious. (Psalm 66:2)

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. (Psalm 95:1)

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. (Colossians 3:16)

Itty-bitty Christians

This picture says so much! We found these “cute” onesies in a religious bookstore this week. Others said, “Itty bitty _________” (fill-in-the-blank with a church denomination).

I think I understand the “cute” intent of the maker and store owner, but how many of us as true, born-again believers could wear this outfit?

Itty-bitty Christians . . .

  • Are satisfied to stay an infant when it comes to spiritual growth in the Word. Instead of totally immersing themselves in the daily personal intake of the Word (Psalm 119; Ephesians 4:11-16; 5:18-20), a quick dose of an internet devotional or a religious song on Sirius XM on the way to work suffices. The outcome is an itty-bitty faith in an itty-bitty God.
  • Are satisfied to stay an infant with it comes to living out all of God’s purposes for you in the body of Christ, the local church (Acts 2:42-47; Ephesians 3:10; 4:11 – 6:20). Sunday is the Lord’s Day all day, not just for a couple of hours for me to pick and choose how I want to worship. The outcome is itty-bitty participation, connection, transparency, honesty, accountability, body-life, service, praise, fellowship, prayer, evangelism/discipleship, one-another’s, exaltation of Christ, etc. As one lady told me about her church experience, “I like going to the early service because I can go, get it done, and go about my day.”
  • Are satisfied wearing a “onesie” because life is about them instead of glorifying God and serving others. (Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 12:9-21; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 1:15-18) The outcome is an itty-bitty Christian who seldom makes an impact on the world for Christ.
  • Are satisfied being a nominal Christian rather than a genuine, all-out disciple of Christ. Read Luke 14:25-27. Does that passage describe an itty-bitty Christian wearing a “onesie”?

Believers, we are exhorted to grow, to mature in the faith. Take heed to the following and let’s cast off our itty-bitty Christianity!

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. (1 Corinthians 14:20).

Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen. (2 Peter 3:17-18)

Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. (Ephesians 4:13-15)

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. (Hebrews 5:12-13)

Eclipsed

As I opened the door of the Activity Center, I was greeted with wall-to-wall people! Finding a bit of space to enter, I said to a couple of ladies, “Have mercy! What’s going on?” Their reply, “It’s the eclipse. Have you not heard about it?”

How could I have not heard about it? It has been the buzz for the past two months and rightly so. Social media and the internet have been lit up. The Weather Channel, schools, law enforcement, employers, resort areas, motels and families, to name just a few, have been in major planning mode for this historical event.

When my family reserved our get-away for August 21st, I seriously did not know about the eclipse. Nevertheless, Wyndham Resorts in the Smokies made sure we did. That was the reason for the crowd I mentioned above. We were treated to free viewing glasses, goodie bags with Moon Pies, Eclipse gum, glow sticks, and other items as well as a finger-food buffet in the social room which included chocolate glazed Krispy Kreme donuts to help us celebrate.

As the time drew near, the crowd increased as people with their viewing glasses made preparation for this phenomenon. As I looked all around me, I saw what I would expect, but it said so much to me. Everyone with glasses in place were looking up.

Soon the sky drew dark, the pools lights kicked-on, and an eerie stillness came over the crowd.   The eclipse here was not total but very, very close.

After two minutes plus, the sky started to lighten again. Within minutes, we were back to a bright sunshiny day, life moved forward in post-eclipse form. Of course there was more food to be had, so the upstairs gathering continued, I promise you!

So many thoughts coursed their way through my mind leading up to the eclipse and afterwards.

  • An event like this in such precise order, timing, and fulfillment once again proves the awesome work of the Creator and Sustainer of this whole, vast universe (Genesis 1:1; Psalm 19:1-4; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17).
  • How interesting that man was able to pinpoint its direction and timing, and make plans to be in its path, even willing to set for hours on the interstates to not miss such a sight.
  • As I watched the upward gaze of so many, I could not help but think of Titus 2:13, Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ. We have been given a promise that Christ will come back in the clouds to receive His Church (John 14:3; Philippians 3:20-21; 1 Corinthians 15:51-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). This event will happen because God cannot lie, yet He has not told us when it will occur. There are no signs for the rapture of the Church, only for Christ’s second coming. Believers, we need to be ever looking up because the Rapture could occur today! His imminent return should always have immediate effects upon our lives.
  • Man calculated the timing and track of the eclipse and man, although blessed by God with great intelligence, is fallible. God is infallible. Oh, that we would put more trust in our faithful Creator (Psalm 33:4; Lamentations 3:23; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; Hebrews 10:23) than man whom God created.

“Oh, yes, ma’am, I’ve heard about the eclipse, but do you know about the greatest eclipse that has ever happened? That was on the day when Jesus Christ died on the cross and the whole world was dark for three hours” (Matthew 27:45-50).

With that, I received a smirk from her face and a shrug of her shoulders.

My friend, do not let your thinking eclipse God’s truth and promises.

Life Is Never Boring

Back yard

A peek into my Thursday:

Up at 5:30.

Dunkin Donuts coffee, time in the Word and prayer on my back porch while watching the fog roll in. . . and then out.

Write in my journal.

Send out a few texts to encourage others.

See pictures of a new grandbaby of one of our church family.

Take coffee to my wife.

Read the newspaper, my wife and daughter’s blog, and a few tweets.

Add a few pictures to our church Facebook page.

See what’s been happening in the world via World Magazine site.

Receive an encouraging word from an “everydayer” texter.

Communicate with a missionary concerning an upcoming visit in September.

Talk to a guest speaker who is coming this Sunday night to preach.

Send anniversary greetings to one of my dear friends.

Help my wife a bit in the kitchen as she prepares food to minister to a burdened soul.

Rejoice over answered prayer!!!  Watch God at work!!

Put some of the final touches on Sunday AM’s message.

Leave a “Love is . . . ” cartoon for my wife on the towel covering the freshly baked bread.

Receive a phone call that brings tears of joy!!

Lunch on the back porch.

Begin working on Ephesians study.

Hurt for the tragedy in Barcelona, Spain.

Get rid of a stack of stuff that is not necessary.

Answer emails.

See some church family in the parking lot of a local store.  The smiles on their boys’ faces was priceless.

Listen to, counsel and pray with two lives that are bent and broken under the load of sin.  Grateful for the healing balm of God’s Word.

Watch others minister to the hurting.

Disciple a new believer.

Listen to a song that causes my heart to rejoice because the song repeats the phrase, “In the middle of it all, there is Jesus.”

Share a few thoughts for Sunday’s bulletin.

Enjoy an Ale-8.

Count blessings.

Reflect on some of my reading from this morning in 2 Kings 3 where Elisha tells King Jehoshaphat, For thus says the LORD, . . . This is a light thing in the sight of the LORD (3:17-18).

Have watched God at work all day through the mundane and the important.  Nothing is too hard for our God. It is always a light thing for Him because “in the middle of it all, there is Jesus.”

Ready to Face the World

Bible Reading

As we proceeded around the small group circle last night in Prayer Meeting, one person after another shared a passage of Scripture from their Wednesday morning time with the Lord.  What stood out to me was how many of them followed up the reading of that passage by saying, “And later on in the day, I had an issue come up that my morning scripture reading addressed.”  Or, “Later on in the day, I was engaged in conversation with someone who needed what the Lord gave me from His Word this morning.”  Or, “I was fearful over a situation today but thinking on Truth stabilized me.”

Read these words carefully:

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16).

Yesterday morning, my time in the Word covered so many examples of God giving clear direction to His people (i.e. Micaiah in 1 Kings 22; Elijah, 2 Kings 1; Jehoshaphat, 2 Chron. 20; Joseph, Matt. 2).  What an encouragement these passages were to my heart as I sat at the lunch table with other leaders from our church discussing future ministry and needing God’s guidance.

There are many reasons to daily read and meditate on the Word of God, but suffice it to say that you and I need God’s Word to teach, rebuke, correct and instruct so that we are prepared for today.

What did God say to you from His Word this morning?  Watch for how He will use it later on in your day.

The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple (Psalm 119:130).

From a pastor’s heart,

dale

The Gospel Family

 

AFrica 7

Different languages and accents.  Various colors of skin.  Diverse worship styles. Different college backgrounds.  Varied cultural differences.

Africa 4

That’s what I saw in South Africa and Malawi among the natives, the missionaries, the transplants and the travelers.

Africa 5

Whether it was on a plane, in a mission compound, in a Sunday morning service, at a café for breakfast, in the middle of a bunch of teens, or gathered at a camp, I saw something that touched my heart in some very special ways.  It was a foretaste of Revelation 5:8-9 which reads,

Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll,

And to open its seals;

For You were slain,

And have redeemed us to God by Your blood

Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

For sixteen days I had the blessed privilege to experience the multi-faceted family of God all radically changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ; people from varying tribes and tongues and people and nations.

Africa 6  Africa 3

The family of God needs no introductions; our spirit bears witness with each other (Romans 8:16).

The family of God doesn’t see race but grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The family of God loves one another (John 13:35).

The family of God honors one another (Romans 12:10).

The family of God rejoices and weeps together (Romans 12:15).

The family of God serves one another in love (Galatians 5:13).

The family of God encourages each other (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Why? Because of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ!! (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 2 Peter 3:9).  What an awesome family around the world from every tribe, tongue, people and nation that will one day gather around the Throne in Heaven!!

From a Pastor’s Heart,

dale

I Surrender!

Paardeberg Mt. Retreat 1
Paardeberg Mt. Retreat, South Africa – 1st Evening of Camp

“How would you like to go to Africa for 16 days and serve with CampsAbroad in South Africa and Malawi?”

“Do what? Are you kidding me? Wow!  How cool would that be? Wow!”

My heart started racing a bit, my mind going from hither and yon.

After some explanation about the trip, some info about travelling to a third-world country, and the dates, I said I would pray about it, but I already knew I might as well be packing my bags.

Africa 1
Traveling north to Mzuzu, Malawi

Of course, I said yes.  (How interesting that those sixteen days were completely empty on my calendar, which is rare. Also, the initial call came on the first day of our evangelism training conference at the church I pastor.)

As I considered all we had talked about, I must admit there was a bit of fear . . . fear of the unknown.  Where would we be sleeping?  What would we eat?  How would we travel?  How long would our flights be?  Could I be gone from Denise for 16 days?  Dan had travelled to Malawi four years ago, but we were headed north to be with folks neither of us knew. Questions upon questions, and . . . they all centered around me.

Then one morning, the Lord led me to Luke 18:29-30,

So He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

No more questions.  Truth is, when you are a follower of Christ living for eternity with eternal values and for God’s glory, there are no questions, fears, worries, doubts, just a “Yes, Lord; I surrender.”

Surrender to the will of God is the best choice . . . always.  As for God, His way is perfect (Psalm 18:30).

Are you willing to leave all for Christ?  Remember, when you do, the present and eternal gain is perfect.  You will never regret following Christ!

My Greatest Heartache in Ministry

 

Africa Camp 1

For the past two weeks I have savored the awesome blessing of spending the first half of the month of July in Africa serving the Lord, seeing souls saved, and ministering together with dear brothers and sisters in Christ through the ministry of The Wilds Camps Abroad!  This trip to South Africa and Malawi was a definite “get-me-out-of-my-comfort-zone” trip.  Although I had made other mission trips, I had never visited a third-world country.

Since coming home, I have intentionally entered in my journal my “take-aways” from this journey.  One in particular stands out to me above all others.  I am ashamed to admit it, but I must say that before this trip, I had prayed, but I had not prayed so fervently, so frequently, so specifically, and as trustingly as I did while in Africa.

Without reservation, all that we experienced by the hand of the Lord was absolutely in direct response to prayer!  We watched God answer in so many ways, and we had a “front-row seat” to watch it happen for His glory and our good!!

Africa Camp 2

 

For instance, without going into great detail, after three days of training the nationals how to operate a teen camp, the first day arrived with great anticipation but a bit of fear of the unknown.  It’s 8:00 a.m.  Where are the campers? We looked out in the yard of the mission compound to see only one teen camper.  You read that correctly . . . one teen camper.  Undaunted but not knowing how to gather more teens, Dan, our leader make the absolute best decision.  He looked at all of the workers and said, “Let’s gather in small groups and PRAY for GOD to bring in campers.”  That’s exactly what we did.

As our group cried out to God for a manifestation of Jeremiah 33:3, for God to surprise us, He did exactly as He promised!

Within 30 minutes or less, the gates to the mission compound opened and a pick-up truck laden with a bunch of eager teens entered the grounds.  Moments later, the scene was replayed.  Eventually, we had 88 teens to begin our first day of camp!!  We saw God at work!! What a time of praise we had as we then saw some of those precious souls hear the gospel and respond to the call of salvation!!

Africa Camp 3.jpg

You may be puzzled as to why I have entitled my post “My Greatest Heartache in Ministry” when the past few paragraphs have been about God’s amazing work in my heart and the lives of others.  Quite frankly, I will say that my greatest heartache in ministry is the lack of prayer among God’s people . . . me included.

I’ve seen folks get up way early to be at church to go on some church fellowship trip.  I’ve seen believers pack out an auditorium or outdoor arena to hear their favorite singer or group and sometimes pay a hefty price for the ticket (Oh, and drive two hours to get there.) I’ve seen church members not miss a business meeting so they could vote their way.  And on and on I could go, but ask a group of believers to attend a prayer meeting, a prayer advance, or even pray, and . . . well, you know the rest of the story.

When are we as believers who have the very ear of our Almighty, Omniscient, Omnipresent God (Psalm 34:17), the blood-bought invitation by our Righteous Advocate and Great High Priest to enter into the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:14-16: 1 John 2:1-2), and the Holy Spirit to intercede for us (Romans 8:26), when are we going to make prayer a blessed, expectant, humble, dependent, relational priority of our lives?

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting (1 Timothy 2:1-8)

From a pastor’s heart,

dale