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.

That’s My Old Church

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A man is rescued after many years on a desert island. As he stands on the deck of the rescuing vessel, the captain says to him, “I thought you were stranded alone. How come I can see three huts on the beach?”

“Well,” replies the castaway, “that one there is my house and that one there is where I go to church.”

“And the third one?” asks the skipper.

“Oh, that’s my old church.”  (Wikipedia)

How many of us could drive through our town or city and say the same thing?

There are definitely a few biblical reasons for leaving a church and moving on to another, but I am convinced that most of the time, it has nothing to do with biblical reasoning or issues.  And sadly, many of the stated “biblical issues” are not biblical at all.  They are just strong preferences.

Wonder how many churches in your area are splits off of another church, and sometimes sadly are a split from even another church?  Some church splits are due to personality clashes, arguments over a building project, music preference, translation issues, petty offenses, wrong interpretation of separation, perceived misconceptions, etc.

Then there are splits created by sins such as gossip, pride, sowing discord among the brethren, refusal to obey the biblical instructions of how to address conflicts, power-struggles, dictatorial leadership from pastors and/or deacons, unbiblical response to church discipline, bitterness, etc.

The point of this post is simply this.

  1. As spoken by Thom Rainer, “There is little good that comes from church splits.”
  2. God is bigger than any issue that creates a church split.  Why not trust God?  Everything man puts his hands to, he ruins.  The flesh profits nothing.
  3. Prayer and humility is the answer, not gang warfare.  We should be fighting in prayer not in corner groups, email or on social media.  Even in situations of doctrinal deviation, patience and prayer should be the overriding mode of operation.
  4. Remember that every church is made up of sinners, hopefully saved by the grace of God, in desperate, daily need of God’s grace, and purchased by the blood of Christ.  We are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:9-20).  We are to be growing in grace everyday (2 Peter 3:18).
  5. Whatever issue causes that split, because of a lack of humble resolution, it is the reason for the “new church” to start.  Is that a proper foundation?  Will it last?
  6. The greater testimony for Christ in our communities should be repentance, reconciliation and rejoicing, not division, discord, and death.
  7. Consider please the following passages of Scripture before ever being a part of a church split: Proverbs 6:12-19; 13:10; 15:6; Romans 12:3-21; 13:10-14; 15:1-3; 15:5-6; Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 3:1-23; 10:31; Ephesians 4:1-3, 14-32; Philippians 1:12-18, 27; 1 John 4:7-20.

Sadly, the word “split” is more synonymous with “church” than the word “reproduction.”  With the first, there is usually death.  With the last, there is always life.  Paul sums it up correctly in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17.  May I suggest it this way—Are we of the _____________ version, or of ______________ism, or of _________________ denomination, or of ______________ college, or of ____________________ conference or . . . of Christ?

Oh that our eyes would ever be on Christ alone! (Hebrews 12:1-3)  When we stand before Him at the Bema, He is all that will matter.  It’s His Church anyway, not “my old church.”

 

 

 

God Is Looking For A Man

Dad-Army

Recently while looking through a stack of papers that had collected on the bookshelf in the garage, I found something precious, challenging, and meaningful to my heart.  Immediately I recognized the handwriting on the stenographer’s note paper as being my precious dad’s penmanship.

At the top of the page were the words, “Jer. 5:1,2  Search for a Man,” and in the right corner, he had penned my name.  This was one of his many ways of encouraging his son, of being a mentor to me.  The writing is below.

God is looking for:

  1. A man who will not lose his individuality in a crowd.
  2.  A man of convictions who is willing to say “no” when all others are saying “yes.”
  3.  A man who is upright, pure, and generous.
  4.  A man that’s not a coward in any of his parts; no fear of man.
  5.  A man with balanced character, conviction, and consecration.
  6.  A man who wants substance rather than show.
  7.  A man who will be the conscience in his society in which he lives.
  8.  A man who delights in the privilege to glorify Jesus Christ.
  9.  A man who is dogmatic in his loyalty to the Bible, even if it costs him his friends.
  10.  A man who is determined to stand for Christ even if it becomes unpopular cause.
  11.  A man who denounces sin without apology in high or low.
  12.  A man who has a desire to fellowship with good men.
  13.  A man who displays compassion for lost souls.
  14.  A man dominated by the control of the Holy Spirit.
  15.  A man who knows how to discern between love that is based on truth or mere  sentimentality.
  16.  A man who has a decisive desire to build a strong Christian home.
  17.  A man who walks in the will of God.

Thanks, Dad, that even after departing this earth sixteen years ago, your influence is still strong in my life!  Thanks for being that kind of man. By God’s grace and for His glory, I want to be that man, too!

Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem,
    look and take note!
Search her squares to see
    if you can find a man,
one who does justice
    and seeks truth. (Jeremiah 5:1)

I Want To Be That Man

It’s Sunday!

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Have you ever really given some concentrated thought to all that happens in a local church on Sunday?

Sunday is a day of joy, tears, praise, mistakes, sin, confession, forgiveness, sadness, misunderstandings, questions, conviction, conversion, repentance, greeting, fellowship, preaching, truth, testimonies, introductions, singing, forgetfulness, encouragement, edification, communication, conversation, mishaps, announcements, listening, sharing, praying, burden bearing, heartaches, grace extended, mercy given, satanic attack, war with the flesh, victories, laughter, fears, disgruntlement, giving, decision-making, meeting strangers, discipleship, hypocrisy, rushing to get there on time, and so much more.

So, with that in mind, how should we respond?

Without a doubt, before any believer pulls into the parking lot, he/she must spend time with the Lord in prayer!  If able, on your knees in humble, contrite, calling out, dependent prayer before you leave home.

The Church is the Body of Christ, the vehicle God is using today to accomplish His redemptive purposes in this world, and the target of Satan, the flesh and the world.  The Church is not in a defeatist mode because we are on the winning side (Matthew 16:18), and God will do great things in and through His Body (Ephesians 1-6).. But, to be able to work through all the aforementioned things, to accomplish God’s purposes and plans for the local church, we must be in tune with the heart of God, not our heart!

You see, prayer is the declaration of your dependence upon God, your surrender to God, and your life before God.

Matthew 17 records the inability of the disciples to heal a young epileptic lad.  The father brought his case to Jesus to which He replied, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you?  How long shall I bear with you?  Bring him here to Me.  Jesus rebuked the demon and the boy was completely healed.  Jesus goes on to say that the disciples inability was tied to unbelief and a lack of prayer.

The whole goal of every local church Sunday gathering is to “bring people to Jesus; to help them move one step toward Jesus” for God’s glory!  Therefore, to work through all the stuff of a Sunday and not be a faithless generation, we must pray, . . . believing God.  He gives power to overcome our sin and weaknesses and gives power to energize our worship.  He can move mountains!

So, next Sunday in the midst of “all the stuff of a Sunday,” be sure to pray before you arrive at church, pray as you walk into church, pray with others in the foyer before church, pray at your seat, pray along with those leading in worship, pray while the message is being delivered, pray during the invitation, pray with some folks around you at the close of the service, pray in your small groups, pray for your pastors and leaders, pray, pray, pray, and when you have finished praying, pray!

1 Timothy 2:1-4 – First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Ephesians 6:18 – Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Ephesians 3:14-22 – For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Dried Out, Delighted Men

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It happens every January at Men’s Prayer Advance, the most-anticipated yearly event on my personal calendar.

Thursday afternoon, men from all over the country gather for three days of preaching, praying, and “like-a-reunion” fellowship.  As the congregational singing begins, you can sense that this is going to be good and the preaching will be spot on, . . . but it’s not there yet.

Thursday evening, the singing is again filled with praise and the preaching is convicting and good, but it’s not there yet.

Then one of two major events occurs following the evening service . . . group prayer meetings.  These groups consist of men from their own local church or with various others attending MPA.  We are challenged to gather at our meeting location or back at the motel for a time of “CPR” praying.  Each group prays through three rounds of prayer, which consists of Confession, Praise, and Requests.  Each group is encouraged to get honest before the Lord.  Each individual is challenged to get clean, not cleaner.  As we work our way through CPR, we are in no hurry.  Sometimes, the confession goes around several times and can last for awhile as does the praise and requests.  These prayer meetings can last for an hour or on into the morning hours.  Meeting with God in honest prayer changes hearts, changes lives!

Friday morning, some men are a bit tired from the long night, but all are deeply refreshed and ready for the morning sessions.  The music and preaching are once again stirring and challenging, . . . we are not there, just yet.

Then comes the second most important event of the MPA, the Sweet Hour of Prayer.  Each man is given a folded brochure that will help guide him through an hour of private prayer before the Throne of Grace (Matthew 6:5-8).  For many first-timers, they find themselves asking, “How can I pray for one hour?”  Well, let me just say that this question has been answered many times over the years with simply, “Wow! I ran out of time!”  As men are located all over the campus inside and outside before the Throne of Grace, the touch of God comes upon us, and we can say, “I have seen the Lord!”  Everything changes.  Spiritual vision becomes clearer.  Consciences are clean.  Some trust Christ as their personal Savior.  Homes and marriages are restored.  Phone calls back home are made. Men are revived. (Psalms 51; 85:6; Isaiah 6:1-8)

What happens?  It’s called prayer!  You see, when we first come to MPA, so many of us have been “intoxicated” with all that this nasty world throws at us with its sin and satanic influence that it takes those two prayer events combined with the preaching of God’s Word to get us “dried out” and delighted in our God (Psalms 34:1-3; 37:4)!

Come Friday night, it’s on!  There is an anticipation in the hearts of men that begins with the first song and carries through to the final amen (Psalm 100:1-5).  The praise is glorious, the singing of 750 men is victorious, and the altar is filled with tender-hearted, broken, contrite men drawing ever nearer to God (Psalm 34:18; James 4:8)!

Then on Saturday, it’s time to hear one more message and reflect upon all that God has done in our hearts for His glory.  We know we cannot take MPA with us, but the God of MPA never leaves us (Hebrews 13:5b-6).  We know He will enable us to continue on for Him as we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 9:8; 2 Peter 3:18).

You see, that’s why it’s call an Advance!  The greatest advancements we make in our Christian lives are “on our knees” in prayer (Jeremiah 33:3; Matthew 7:7-11)!  As Harold Vaughan reminded us, “How refreshing to be clean in the presence of God!”

Who Will You Be in 2019? (Part 2)

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Our greatest and most important investment in 2019 involves our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. The statement of the Apostle Paul found in Philippians 1:21, For to me to live is Christ, and in 3:8, 10, Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord . . . that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.

With that in mind, I want to share some resources to help you move forward in your walk with Christ, your growth in the knowledge of God and the application of the Word of God on a daily basis for 2019.

Besides your passion to read God’s Word in 2019, what else to you plan to read in this new year?

In this blog post, I am giving some book suggestions for men since my wife gave many helps in her Wednesday post for ladies: Suggestions for Books, Journals, Planners and More
Biblical Manhood

The Masculine Mandate: God’s Calling to Men, Richard D. Phillips (Reformation Trust)

Disciplines of a Godly Man, R. Kent Hughes (Crossway Books)

A Man After God’s Own Heart, Jim George, (Harvest House Publishers)

Biblical Marriage

Like the Shepherd: Leading Your Marriage With Love and Grace, Robert Wolgemuth (Regnery Faith)

The Ministry of Marriage, Jim Binney (Faithful Life Publishers)

What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage, Paul David Tripp, (Crossway Books)

Biblical Purity

Finally Free: Fighting For Purity With the Power of Grace, Heath Lambert (Zondervan)

Sexual Detox: A Guide for Guys Who Are Sick of Porn, Tim Challies (Cruciform Press)

The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges (NavPress)

Biblical Dads

Raising a Modern-Day Knight: A Father’s Role In Guiding His Son to Authentic Manhood, Robert Lewis, (Tyndale House Publishers)

The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan (Charles Foster Publishing)

Parenting, 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family, Paul David Tripp (Crossway Books)

Biblical Church Body Life

Trellis & the Vine: Colin Marshall & Tony Payne (Matthias Media)

The Vine Project: Shaping Your Ministry Culture Around Disciple-Making, Colin Marshall & Tony Payne (Matthias Media)

Letters to the Church, Francis Chan (David C. Cook)

Miscellaneous

Experiencing God Workbook: Knowing and Doing the Will of God, Henry Blackaby (B & H Publishers)

Forgiveness: Discover the Power and Reality of Authentic Christian Forgiveness, Gary Inrig (Discovery House)

Power Through Prayer, E. M. Bounds

The Beauty of Intolerance: Setting a Generation Free to Know Truth & Love, Josh & Sean McDowell (Shiloh Run Press)

Stonewall Jackson: The Man, the Soldier, the Legend, James I. Robertson (MacMillan USA)

All Things For Good: The Steadfast Fidelity of Stonewall Jackson, J. Steven Wilkins (Cumberland House)

This list could go on and on, and I even feel guilty for leaving them out, but this is just a mere sampling of some good, helpful reads. I would also encourage you to visit the online bookstore of christlifemin.org and check out their devotionals, books on prayer, parenting, manhood, etc.

Indeed, “Leaders are readers.” Men let’s go against the grain and be men who read and lead! Are you ready?

Who Will You Be in 2019?

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Dr. Bob Jones, Sr, often said, “There are no stains on the pages of tomorrow!”  That’s a challenge, comfort and encouragement.  Truth is, what I plan today has effect upon my tomorrow which will become yesterday and then collectively a life.

With that in mind, I want to share some resources to help you move forward in your walk with Christ, your growth in the knowledge of God and the application of the Word of God on a daily basis for 2019.

The most important thing you will do in 2019 is keep your eye on Christ and watch what He does through His Word.  I am so intrigued that on His divinely human side Jesus did what we are to do:  Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel (John 5:19-20). I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me (John 8:28).

First of all, what is your plan for reading God’s Word in 2019; His fresh Love Letter to you?  The YouVersion Bible app provides many plans for you to follow.  May I remind you that the goal of reading the Word is not to check off boxes, but to come to know the mind and heart of Christ whereby we think and act biblically (Psalm 119:9-11; Matthew 4:4; John 6:63; 1 Corinthians 2:16; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12).

Along with reading the Word of God, may I strongly suggest using a journal to record what God says to you each day.  It may be one sentence or a whole paragraph or more.  Think about it!  The God of Heaven and Earth is speaking to you; your Heavenly Father if you are born again (John 14:6)!!  Therefore, it is important to watch Him as Jesus did.  You don’t want to miss it! Then after a few days, read back over what you have written and see how God is leading you, what He is teaching you about Himself, and what He has revealed to you about you.

Use a spiral-bound notebook, a journal, your tablet or a journaling Bible.  I simpley record the day and date, the Scripture passages I am reading, and even what the weather is like on that morning.  Here is what my journal looks like from yesterday:

Tuesday, Jan. 1                                          51 degrees, partly cloudy

Matt. 1:1-17; Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 1; Genesis 1-2

As I read through these passages today, the Lord reminded me that Christ Who was active in creation and came to redeem a genealogy of sin, is the One I am to be a witness of as I delight and walk in His Word, planted by the rivers of living water.

That thought ran through my mind all day.  As Denise and I were enjoying our annual New Year’s Day brunch at Cracker Barrel, I was brought to tears as I looked at all kinds of people in the restaurant and wondered if they knew this Christ, my Savior.  The Word I had read in the morning moved me to see people as Jesus does and softened this old, selfish heart for them.

I will share more tomorrow about some other resources.  Let me close by sharing the following.

Last Sunday morning, a dear, godly lady said to me after the morning gathering, “Pastor, last week I was going through some things and counted 16 spiral-bound notebooks of my Bible study notes.  I don’t want to throw them away.  Perhaps they will be found someday and be an encouragement to my son who needs the Lord.”  I can attest that when you are in conversation with this dear saint of God, you are speaking to a Word–filled believer.

Let’s meet with the Lord today!  He is waiting for you (Matthew 11:28-30; Luke 10:38-42).  Listen to Him (Revelation 2:7).  Start with a clean page.

Because Love Has No Limits!

“What would you do for someone you love?”

That was the headline at the top of our local newspaper insert, Parade. Oh, and yes, in this instant internet age I still read the newspaper. Nevertheless, that question piqued my interest here on the brink of a new year.

Immediately my thoughts were turned to, “What would I do for the One Who Loves me eternally? What would I become and do the for Christ Who gave Himself for my redemption and justification? What would I do for Christ Who demonstrates His for me love today, tomorrow and for all eternity?”
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

In these past few days, we have heard much through preaching, podcasts, and social media to encourage us to begin a new year with a “clean sheet / a fresh start.” Therefore, may I simply ask each of us to consider what we will be and do in 2019 for the Lord Jesus Christ, the One Who motivates us by His eternal, unconditional love?

The answer should be the same one word answer as found under the question in the Parade insert that prompted this post. That word . . . EVERYTHING.

 

Get Rid of That Flute! Trash That Trumpet!

music in church

Music in church.

What God has created for an awesome expression of praise, worship, solace, joy, meditation, conviction, challenge, surrender, and discipleship is sadly a major source of division in the Body of Christ and has been for centuries.

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