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!

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!!!

The Best Gathering Place

Is it a local restaurant?

Is it a concert venue?

Is it a college campus?

Is it a coffee shop?

Is it a sports stadium?

Is it the break room at work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COVID-19 DISTRACTIONS #2

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

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

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

Mediate on the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be sure to watch all the Done chapters.

COVID-19 DISTRACTIONS

(Wall Street Journal)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can You Find a Man?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Grateful American!

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

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

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

Living In a Word-Filled World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Little Bit of Heaven on Earth!

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

Some of the highlights:

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

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