In a Split-Second!

Missle Cruiser

That’s all it takes for news anyplace in the world to reach the world along with its far-reaching impact due to the internet.  It impacts the minds, hearts, and emotions of millions . . . in a split-second!

Even the worn-out announcement “Breaking News” still grabs the inquisitive minds of so many!

Early this morning as I sat by the fireplace reading Jeremiah 14-16, I repeatedly saw phrases like this: Then the Lord said to me . . . The Lord said . . . Therefore thus says the LORD.

Compare for a moment earthly, internet news and the words of God.

  • The news you hear in the world turns old in moments; God’s Word is never stale, it’s eternal and life giving (Psalm 33:11; 119:25, 89, 92-93; 1 Peter 1:25).
  • The news you hear in the world is often tainted by man’s viewpoint; God’s Word is always pure, perfect and true (Psalm 119:160; Proverbs 30:5; John 17:17).
  • The news you hear in the world is always a symptom of a greater problem; God’s Word always correctly diagnosis the case and prescribes the correct remedy (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  • The news you hear in the world can quickly become irrelevant; God’s Word is always relevant and fresh for every situation of life (Psalm 119:89-96).

As I pondered God’s direct communication to and through Jeremiah to Israel and their subsequent response, I thought of my response to God’s Word as I read its pages.

Which affects me more; which grips my heart the most; which grabs my inquisitive mind?  News on the internet or the truths of God’s Word?

Spend some time meditating on Psalm 119:97-104.  In a split-second it can change your life, and it’s always for good.

97 Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
98 You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies;
For they are ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
For Your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the ancients,
Because I keep Your precepts.
101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way,
That I may keep Your word.
102 I have not departed from Your judgments,
For You Yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are Your words to my taste,
Sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through Your precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way.

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!!!

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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.

The Gospel Family

 

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

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

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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.

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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!

Three Anchor Truths In the Middle of the Storm

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Lately I have found myself repeatedly singing,

In the eye of the storm, You remain in control
In the middle of the war, You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me, in the eye of the storm.  (Ryan Stevenson)

The trials and hardships of life, others and mine, at times seem to be so burdensome, numerous, and troubling.

How do we press on in the eye of the storm?  How do we stay afloat?  As I pondered these things, three anchor truths came to mind that can be your stay in the middle of the storm.

#1 Christ suffered, bled and died for me and my sins.

The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).

Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18).

When I consider the pain of my trial, I must look to Christ Who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself (Hebrews 12:3) to save me from my greatest crisis.  What is my greatest crisis?  The answer: How do I save myself from going to hell because I am a sinner?  Since Jesus Christ took care of my greatest crisis and the tomb is empty, He will enable me to make it through any other crisis.

#2 Christ’s resurrection gives me blazing hope

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).

Hope in the New Testament is a…

  • blessed hope (Titus 2:13)
  • joyful hope (1 Thess. 2:19; Rom. 12:12)
  • comforting hope (1Thess. 4:13-18)
  • hope of glory (Col. 1:27)
  • anchoring hope (Heb. 6:19)

“When a Christian truly understands the hope he has in Christ, it results in a steadfast sense of security and stability.” (Gene Getz) 

#3 Being in Christ promises me an awesome future!

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. 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. 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. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18)

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. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 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. 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.” (Revelation 20:1-4)

Jesus, being God and having been in a boat in the eye of a storm (Mark 4:35-41), is the only true Anchor for life, trouble, sorrow, persecution, misunderstanding, questions, death, pain, sin, etc.

Resting Secure in His Arms

Our world has changed so much since the beginning of February when foster grand-babies entered our lives.   Yes, you did see that as plural . . . twin boys.  Born at 24 weeks and now moving toward seven months old.

As I fed one of the boys last Friday morning, burped him, and then felt him go to sleep on my shoulder, I began to pray with tears streaming down my cheeks.  In his attempt to drift off, he fought it for a while, whimpering, and moving his head back and forth.  It was then I drew him to my face and neck as I sang to him holding him ever so close.  After a few minutes, he was resting, breathing comfortably, and secure in Papaw’s arms.

My tears were not only because of our love for these boys, but also due to what the Lord reminded me as I prayed.  There are times I am fussy, discontent, worried, fretting, fearful, and questioning why.  Never leaving me or forsaking me, my Heavenly Father is there to draw me to His side.  I just need to stop fighting it.  I need to stop trying to hold up my own head and simply rest on His shoulder. There I always find Him to be that quiet place of refuge and strength; that eternal abode of contentment; that One Who accepts me in the Beloved . . . quiet and secure in my Heavenly Father’s arms.

Psalm 62:1           Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him.

Psalm 119:114    You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word.

There Is No Other Answer

But God

For years, every time I read two particular words in Scripture, especially as found in Ephesians 2:7, but God, my heart leaps within me!  It is a resplendent sound of joy, assurance, perspective, and calm no matter what questions or circumstances of life may come my way!  But God!

Try this.  State your condition or question, then add the words, “But God!”  For instance, “I don’t understand why I lost my job, . . . but God!” Go ahead, try it.

Soak your soul in just these few passages alone and then listen to the link to follow.  Indeed, there is no other answer.

But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive (Genesis 50:20).

David stayed in the desert strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands (1 Samuel 23:14).

My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:26).

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:4-9).

But God – Larnelle Harris

Breaking News!

 

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OH NO!  What’s happening???  Grab the kids and run for the shelter!!  Quick, hide your money!  Peek outside! Are they coming to cut off my head????

We live in a fear-mongering world!

I would venture to say that way too much of our lives, our decisions, and our actions are motivated by fear.  Our thoughts are consumed with, “Oh my! What if . . . .!”

Think about it, when is the last time you heard Fox News or any other news outlet use the “Breaking News” announcement for something that was wholesome, encouraging, and completely truthful?  Those two words are a literal catch-phrase, and indeed, when announced, they’ve gotcha!  Your attention is captured and your heart moves to fear . . . “Now what?”

Fear is a money-maker.

Fear is a peace-stealer.

Fear is a heart-stirrer.

Fear is an alarm-ringer.

Fear is a stress-producer.

Fear is a blind-puller.

Fear is a joy-crusher.

Fear is an obedience-excuser.

I must be honest, as I have written in this blog, fear is something that I have had to battle in my life.  And usually what we fear, just like worry which is its second-cousin, never happens.  There are many things in my life that I have missed out on because I was afraid.  The most important of all . . . just living day-by-day under the sunshine of God’s loving, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign care.

Now, before I am thrown under the bus, I understand being wise, cautious, and having common sense, but fear that does not trust in the promises and character of God is of the flesh and Satan!

Just stop for a moment and think of all the things you fear.  Write them down.  Then go to the Word and see what God says about them.

For starters, what fears do these truths obliterate?

Isaiah 41:10 – Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

2 Timothy 1:7 – For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

Psalm 23:1-4 – The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.

Psalm 34:4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

Truth is, every time you are fearful, “Breaking News” should be a passage of Scripture brought to the forefront of your mind!  God’s “Breaking News” is fresh, eternal, truthful, calming, encouraging, and fear-removing.  Read Psalm 34:4 again.  Do you want the devil or The Deliverer?

So what will come to your mind the next time you hear, “Breaking News!”?

A Masada-Sized Fear!

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As we pulled up into the parking lot, there it was . . . the main transportation to Masada . . . a cable car suspended in mid-air!  Folks, my take on this is, man made it and therefore it can break.  There was no way I could ride hanging from what to me was a thin thread with thousands of pounds suspended from it.  When the moment came for our group to board, the crowd was so large that I slipped away.  No one missed me until they were on their way up the mountain.

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For five years, I have been dogged by the fear of knowing I would probably “return to the scene of the crime” someday.  Also, Craig, who organizes these trips, has threatened me non-stop ever since!

So, Monday morning, January 16, after a dip in the Dead Sea, it was off for a stop at En-gedi to view where David hid from King Saul (1 Samuel 23:29), and then . . . Masada.  I wanted to be like David and hide again, but I knew I needed to face this fear by God’s grace.

Same story as five years ago.  The bus ascended the parking lot and there in my view was that cable car.  As we entered the complex and received our tickets, I was praying and so were others.  Craig came to me and said, “I want you get in the middle the cable car, face the mountain, and keep your eyes on me.  I promise you, it will be okay.”  I did exactly as he said.  My knees were a bit rubbery, but it wasn’t long until we were at the summit.  The doors opened, and by grace, I had conquered another fear in my life!  My! What views and history I had missed by slipping away five years ago.

As I walked around on that massive rock plateau of what was once Herod’s fortress (Masada), I thought about Craig’s words to me.  They are absolutely spot-on for dealing with any and all of our fears.

  1. Get in the middle of the cable car. Whatever that fear is in your life, you need to get right into the middle of it and meet it head on!  Don’t make excuses for it!  Don’t try to make it what it is not.
  2. Face the mountain. Yes, your fear(s) may be a mountain to you, but instead of running from it, taking some false remedy to overcome it, or living in that fear the rest of your life, face that mountain!
  3. Keep your eyes on me. This final command is the most important.  Hebrews 12:2 says, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the Throne of God.

The word looking means “to turn the eyes away from other things and fix them on something.”  This is not a quick glance but a fixed look on something.  For all the fears of life, you must fixed your eyes on Christ.

That fixed look begins at salvation as you see Christ alone as the only Savior (1 Timothy 4:10, We have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers), Redeemer (Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 1:18), Reconciler (Colossians 1:20-21), Rescuer (Colossians 1:13), and Justifier (Romans 3:24; 5;1) for sinful man.  He is the Author and the Finisher of our faith.  This is proven by the fact that He is seated at the right hand of God the Father, the place of authority.  There is only one way to Heaven and that is through the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6).  Jesus is not A way; He is the ONLY WAY.  You must turn from all other religions and self-helps to Jesus Christ alone.

Then once you are truly born again, you live the rest of your life with your eyes fixed on Christ through faith in His Word because now Christ is always for you (Romans 8:31-39). Peter stepped out of the boat in faith, but he began to sink when he took his eyes off of Christ (Matthew 14:22-33).  The Lord’s words to Peter sum up all of life after salvation when He said, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid (14:27). Our Savior never leaves us or forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5).  He is our Shepherd Who leads us even in the valley of the shadow of death, but we are to fear no evil, because He is with us (Psalm 23:4).

What do you fear?  Let these words sink into your heart.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. . . . For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” (Isaiah 41:10, 13)

By the way, all the way up the mountain, Craig talked to me.  In the midst of your fear, rather than listen to yourself and others as well as the distractions of your fears, listen to Christ.  Read and meditate on His Word that addresses all the fears of life.

So, get in the middle of the cable car; face the mountain; and keep your eyes fixed on Christ!