Sunday Zoomers

My wife and I had “been to church,” read, eaten dinner, played two rounds of croquet, and it was still the early part of the afternoon! Such is a COVID-19 Sunday!

Yesterday marked the third Sunday for our online services. How cool to see all the faces of our church family as they connected one-by-one to Zoom. To read the Word, to sing praises, to watch an object lesson for the kids, deal with a glitch on my part, and to share praises and answers to prayer; how thankful I am for this blessed online connection!

When I finished teaching through Romans 8:26-27, everyone had a time of prayer in their home or car. We then stayed online for 10-15 minutes for some “fellowship.” We wished one of our ladies a “Happy Birthday” in song, heard about one of our precious girls learning to ride her bike without training wheels, rejoiced in the peace of God overwhelming the souls of one of our families who are on the medical frontlines, listened to someone give a testimony of the power of God’s Word in their life, and recognized all the children!

Indeed, this is difficult, challenging, and very different, but praise the Lord for our church family who are united in working through this trial to praise the Lord and encourage one another! As we have been reminded, the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is waiting for us (Romans 8:18).

So while we wait for our gathering in person here and our eternal gathering in Glory (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), we will continue to Zoom and have a literal day of rest.

“How about another game of croquet, Hon?”

How You Doing?

(Slate.com)

As a pastor, as well as for our church congregation, yesterday was a very different day. But then again, it has been a very different two plus weeks!

We were travelling along, for the most part, doing just fine. Our economy was on an upswing. Students were preparing for their final semester and graduation. Many of us were already in the countdown mode for our beach vacation.

Restaurants were booming. Retail stores seemed to be profiting. And, we were going to church . . . just like we always do.

Have you heard the screeching of the brakes? Basically, life has been put on hold. So much of what we would consider the ingredients of life has been removed from us, closed down, quarantined, or reduced.

May I ask, “How are you doing?” We are going into week two of the various levels of virus response in our area. Yesterday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee enacted an executive order for statewide closures due to COVID-19. Again, may I ask, “How you doing?”

Are you missing your “normal” life? No sports, no Friday night restaurant trips, no TJMaxx, and no Sunday gatherings. (It seemed so strange to walk into the waiting area of my eye doctor last week to find only three chairs located a 100 miles from each other!!!)

Bottom line is, we have been really good at cramming our 24 hours-a-day with the stuff of life. I am not minimizing the severe threat of the coronavirus, but I must say that it has also caused many of our idols to come crashing down in front of us. So very much of our life has been characterized by being “crazy busy” with a truck-load of temporal things.

Friends, life is not found in the abundance of things or activities or recreation or even people. Everything and everyone around us, as far as this time on earth is concerned, is temporal. We can do all within our power to keep things propped up, running smooth, and filling our lives with what we think really satisfies. All it takes is for a virus or a tornado or some other tragedy to wipe it all out; to remove it from our grasp.

Here’s the true bottom line: Who is Jesus to you? Life is not things. Life is a Person (John 14:6). The Lord Jesus Christ came to save you from your greatest crisis which is your total inability to save yourself from an eternity in hell (John 3:16-18; Ephesians 2:1-10). But He did more than that. He came to give you Himself, the only way back into a right relationship with God and the assurance of an eternity in Heaven. For more information, click on this link and watch the four YouTube videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsP-etMyUZk

Indeed, God has abundantly, mercifully and graciously given us so much to enjoy here on earth, but if they were all taken away from us, would Jesus be enough? When things get back to “normal,” remember the only true normal is Jesus Christ, first in all things (Matthew 6:24-33; Colossians 1:15-18; 1 Corinthians 10:31). Christ is the issue in all of life!

How you doing? Would you pray for me, too, that I’ll keep my eyes and heart fixed on Christ?

It’s Sunday!!!

Praise the Lord!

Praise, O servants of the Lord,
Praise the name of the Lord!
2 Blessed be the name of the Lord
From this time forth and forevermore!
3 From the rising of the sun to its going down
The Lord’s name is to be praised.

4 The Lord is high above all nations,
His glory above the heavens.
5 Who is like the Lord our God,
Who dwells on high,
6 Who humbles Himself to behold
The things that are in the heavens and in the earth?

7 He raises the poor out of the dust,
And lifts the needy out of the ash heap,
8 That He may seat him with princes—
With the princes of His people.
9 He grants the barren woman a home,
Like a joyful mother of children.

Praise the Lord! (Psalm 113)

Oh the joy of gathering on Sundays in the presence of the Lord to worship Him! What an awesome grace blessing is the Church, the body of Christ! And to think that every Sunday, we join with the multitude of saints around the world to magnify the name of the Lord Jesus Christ!! We, who have been brought out of the ash heap and seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6)!

Yesterday at Boones Creek Bible Church, we “practiced” for that glorious day when we are gathered around the Throne in Glory!! How graced we are to praise God, to proclaim His excellencies, to hear the Word read and preached, to pray corporately and one-on-one, to live out the Christ life, to pray for and encourage believers, and to seek the lost that they may come to Christ for salvation.

AM Gathering
Welcome and Introduction: Pastor C
Prayer: Hunter Addison
Call to Worship: Pastor Andrew (Romans 8:6)
Song: #111 And Can it Be (1,3,4)
Song: #529 It Well With My Soul (1,3,4)
Song: Forgiven
Offering Received/Offertory: Debbie Duncan and Alli Isbell (Abba Father)
Offertory Prayer: Andrew Newsome
Pastor’s Pals & Children Dismissed
Scripture Meditation: Clayton Van Huss (Isaiah 64; Romans 8:1, 6, 11, 15)
Preaching of God’s Word: Pastor C (Romans 8:3)
Invitation: Forgiven
Closing Prayer

PM Gathering
Call to Worship: Pastor Andrew

Sing to the LORD
Song: #327 He Lives (1,2)
Song: #98 My God is a Righteous God (1-3)

Offering to the Lord
Song: #13 Bow the Knee (1-2)
Prayer: Pastor Andrew
Song: #519 Spirit of the Living God

Testify of the Lord
Adopt-A-Missionary Presentation: Sams’ Family
Personal Testimonies

Hear from the Lord
Preaching of God’s Word: Pastor C (Romans 8:4)

Commune with the Lord
Corporate Prayer

O church, arise, and put your armor on;
Hear the call of Christ our captain.
For now the weak can say that they are strong
In the strength that God has given.
With shield of faith and belt of truth,
We’ll stand against the devil’s lies.
An army bold, whose battle cry is love,
Reaching out to those in darkness.

Chorus:
Arise, shine for your light has come
Arise, shine for the Risen Son
Lift your eyes, we are His radiant bride
Arise, o church arise!
(Keith & Kristen Getty)

Five Reasons to Attend & Participate in Weekly Prayer Meetings

In a day when church attendance is waning in America, there is a gathering each week that can be a powerhouse of God’s working and a refreshing, reviving time of community.

In days of old, this gathering was simply known as Prayer Meeting. That designation is still in vogue today but not as frequent. And, even though the gathering may be called a prayer meeting, little to no time is given to prayer.

Without sounding legalistic or making you feel guilty, let me share some reasons why believers should be involved in a weekly prayer gathering.

Prayer connects us with the character of God.

The Lord’s model prayer begins with the words, Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name (Matthew 6:9). Albert Mohler, in his book, The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down, gives us good insight to God’s name being hallowed, “When Jesus petitions God to hallow his name, he is asking that God act in such a way that he visibly demonstrates his holiness and his glory”

How absolutely awesome to see God display His character to His church through prayer and in His response to our supplications!

Prayer connects us with answers from God.

How many times have you quoted Jeremiah 33:3, Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know. Or 1 John 5:14-15, And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

God’s answers are always right. They are always the best for us. They always bring Him glory. They always transcend the work of man!

How absolutely awesome to see God answer the prayers of His people!!

Prayer connects us to the body of Christ.

There are two passages of Scripture that resonates in my heart concerning the early church. Acts 2:42 says, And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then in Acts 12:5, we find these words, Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.

The richest fellowship a body of believers can experience is when they are gathered around the Throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:16). Intercessory prayer unifies the body in marvelous ways around the person of Christ, the glory of God, and the helplessness of man. David Mathis has written an excellent post on this point. https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/nine-profits-of-praying-with-company

Prayer connects us to the Person of prayer.

Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of prayer (Luke 5:16; 6:12; 22:42). Prayer draws the church into the influence of the preeminent One, the Lord Jesus Christ. Prayer leads the church to follow the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4) and Head of the Church (Ephesians 5:23).

Prayer connects us to eternity.

The Church is involved in the gospel ministry of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). The eternal destination of every individual around the world is one second away from reality. The Church needs to gather to pray for lost souls with a passion and a purpose (1 Timothy 2:1-8).

The old hymn, Brethren, We Have Met to Worship says it well:Brethren, see poor sinners round you slumb’ring on the brink of woe;
Death is coming, hell is moving, can you bear to let them go?
See our fathers and our mothers, and our children sinking down;
Brethren, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.

Furthermore, we desire that God’s will be done here on earth as it is in heaven and for His kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10). That’s an eternal viewpoint in prayer!

“Four things let us ever keep in mind: God hears prayer, God heeds prayer, God answers prayer and God delivers by prayer.” (E. M. Bounds)

Will you be willing to make the connections this week in your local church prayer gatherings?

A Pastor’s Monday

The rambling thoughts of a pastor looking back over a Sunday . . .

I wish I had said that better.

Did I do my best?

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Cor. 15:58)

Was the Lord pleased?

Did I handle the text accurately?

Will that message stand at the Bema?

Lord, what would you have me preach next Sunday from Mark 12:35-40?

Sure was good to see them back again!

Why didn’t anyone respond to the invitations?

I hope they will not be hurt in any way because I failed to recognize them.

That song was powerful. How challenging, convicting, and Christ-centered!

I should not have let that get me down.

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. (Heb. 12:3)

Those testimonies were so encouraging!

Lord, I need You.

How uplifting were his words to my heart!

Why don’t folk return on Sunday night?

Lord, forgive us for our pride
When our faith becomes a show,
Dressed in righteous deeds to hide
All the stains below.
We have judged Your sons and daughters
For the sin that is our own.
May we now forgive each other
And lay down our stones.
Forgiven, forgiven,
Through the blood of Christ
We are forgiven.
(Forgiven, Brittany Born, Kate DeGraide, Rebecca Elliott)

Thankful for the Spirit’s illumination of Christ during the Lord’s Supper.

I never got to speak to that visitor.

How awesome to see that prayer answered!!

Satan is attacking it seems on every front.

Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

They’ve been gone for two Sundays now.

Thankful for the Word to share with a hurting, confused heart.

Lord, I need You.

What a blessing to see how the Word and worship affected biblical change!

What trials will come my way this week?

You prepare a table right before me
in the presence of my enemies
though the arrow flies and the terror of night
is at my door I’ll trust you Lord
Surely goodness, surely mercy,
right beside me all my days,
and I will dwell in Your house forever
and bless Your Holy Name
(Psalm 23 Surely Goodness, Surely Mercy; Shane & Shane)

I missed them today. Need to follow up.

Sure grateful for all those who are so faithful.

Must get some exercise today.

I did a poor job communicating that announcement.

Lord, how can we reach out to that hurting family down the street?

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. (Genesis 6:8)

I should have taken the opportunity to shepherd the flock better at the end of the members meeting.

God gave grace again.

Lord, I need You.

I’ll be back next Sunday, Lord willing.

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. (2 Timothy 4:2)

An Epidemic in the Church

Image result for Epidemic images
UPI.com

There is a plague that has been and continues to sweep through the body of Christ around the world! This scourge has the power to hurt, ruin, maim, tarnish, destroy and kill. It is an epidemic!

What is it? GOSSIP!

The Apostle Paul in his concern for the Corinthian Church said, For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder (2 Cor. 12:20). Gossip here is defined as “whispering, secret slander; of the magical murmuring of a charmer of snakes.”

Romans 1:29-31 describes the sinful, rebellious actions of the unrighteous as being filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanders, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,  foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Here gossip is “a whisperer, secret slanderer, detractor.”

“Sinful gossip is bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart” (Pastor Matt Mitchell). This “bad news” may be the truth, but it becomes “bad news” when brought up out of the well of a deceitful, selfish, proud heart.

Within the church, it is much easier to talk to other people about someone with whom you have issue than to talk to that person directly with the desire to humbly understand, listen, and biblically correct the situation (Matthew 5:23-24; James 4:11)

It is also easier to talk to other people about someone than to talk to God about it in humble prayer. A gossiper does not believe in the power of a sovereign God to perfectly handle any situation or issue.

You see, if you slander, gossip, speak evil of another to someone, that thought is hard to be removed the next time the one gossiped about is seen again by the “informed.”

How many pastors, deacons, Sunday School teachers, laymen, brothers and sisters in Christ have been maligned by an evil tongue?

How many churches have been split or damaged because of one tongue hinged to an evil heart?

For now, I leave you with God’s viewpoint on this issue. Instead of destroying others with our tongue, lets destroy gossip!

Proverbs 18:21 – Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

Proverbs 26:20 – For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife. The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.

James 1:26 – If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.

Ephesians 4:29 – Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Facing Opposition

Image result for congregational pew boxes images

While preparing to record my weekly radio broadcast, the Lord led me to this illustration and used it to speak a needed word of exhortation to my own heart. Hence, I share it below in hopes it will encourage you, especially pastors and their flock.

When he was appointed as the pastor of a church in Cambridge, England, in 1783, Charles Simeon was delighted. The people of the church did not share his joy. Many of the prominent members of the church opposed his convictions on reaching the lost with the gospel. To show their displeasure they locked their pew boxes during the service and left them empty so that those who came to hear Simeon preach had to stand or sit in the aisles. Eventually God began to work, and Simeon’s ministry had a powerful influence on the nation of England and the world through his efforts to encourage missionary work.

Image result for congregational pew boxes images

During the dark days of opposition Simeon wrote: “In this state of things I saw no remedy but faith and patience…. It was painful indeed to see the church, with the exception of the aisles, almost forsaken; but I thought that if God would only give a double blessing to the congregation that did attend, there would on the whole be as much good done as if the congregation were doubled and the blessing limited to only half the amount. This comforted me many, many times, when without such a reflection, I should have sunk under my burden.”

Opposition does not mean that we are doing things wrong—often it is evidence that we are doing things right. If we allow ourselves to be deterred from doing anything unless we have complete approval, it is certain that we will never accomplish anything of value. Rather than being discouraged by opposition, we should take comfort in God’s faithfulness and keep on doing what is right.

( https://ministry127.com/resources/illustration/standing-strong-in-the-face-of-opposition )

They Are Growing Up!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BCBC . . . Gone!

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

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

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

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

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

Would we be missed?

Incredible Grace

2019 VBS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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