Ready to Face the World

Bible Reading

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

Read these words carefully:

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

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

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

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

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

From a pastor’s heart,

dale

Sunday Worship in Mzuzu

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One the blessings of our journey to Africa was the opportunity to keep up my journal entries. These writings are very dear to me.  They recount my walk with Christ, my relationship with Denise, the grace blessings of every life as well as many, many other things that my mind would not recall.

Here’s a partial entry from Sunday, July 9

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What a glorious day!! Sunday worship at Charity Baptist Church was a huge blessing.

  • God gave grace to preach the first service.
  • The congregational singing was powerful; watching Daniel and Mark Anton lead the congregation is fun to watch; then other men get come up to lead a song which they call a special; the choir of young folk was awesome.
  • The offering is received by folks going forward and putting their offering in a basket while the congregation sings.
  • Matt preached a powerful sermon from Ruth 2 on the subject of grace.
  • The service ended in a very touching way. Pastor Daniel had the whole USA mission team line up across the front.  Then he said, “I want our church to come up and greet you and place a love gift in the basket.  It won’t buy the team a car but it will buy you a Coke.  When you all drink it, think of us and pray for us.”  Wow!  These poor folks gave out of their poverty.  As we sang, hugged and swayed, what a special time it was!!!
  • Another brother stood and shared what a blessing it was to have blacks and whites worshiping together in the unity of Christ.

Love Offering

Youth Choir

Africa 11

From a pastor’s heart,

dale

Take a Vacation from the Lord

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Come on now.  Don’t deny it.  You’ve been thinking about that annual summer vacation to the beach, Disney World, Pigeon Forge, etc.  Vacations are a good thing.  We all need our physical, mental, and spiritual batteries recharged!

Question.  When you go on vacation, do you plan for those special daily times to build your relationship with the Lord?  Do you take your Bible, journals, and books so you can feed your soul? Can you say when you have returned that you and your family love the Lord more or less?  Do you research the area before you arrive to find a solid Bible preaching/teaching church where you and your family can worship on Sunday morning?

I will submit to you without reservation, the best parts of our vacations over the years have been our time in the mornings in the Word and prayer.  Vacation must not be a time to leave the Lord at home. Vacations should be a time where everyday distractions are removed, and you can enjoy His presence and His precepts!

I hear so often from so many that due to their work, school, recreation, and church schedules, they struggle to get time in the Word and prayer.  And believe it or not, it shows (I know by experience in my own life).  Vacation is a time for you to unplug from all the aforementioned things and be refreshed.  What better way to do so than to meet with Jesus everyday as an individual, as a couple and as a family.   Even Jesus Himself went apart from the crowd to meet with His Father (Matthew 14:23).

Furthermore, because you are in such a relaxed mode on vacation, that’s even more reason you need the Word of God to ward off the attacks of your flesh, the world and the devil.  I promise you, they never take a vacation.

And finally look at the effect the intake of the Word will have upon you:

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; 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)

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.  (Psalm 119:97-104)

So, as you plan for all the places you will eat, recreate, lodge and relax, be sure to seek Him first (Matthew 6:33).  By the way, He’s the One Who gives you the strength, provides the funds, and watches over you for your vacation.

Don’t take a vacation from the Lord when you are on your vacation!

You Can Teach An Old Dog New Tricks!

 

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“I’m too old to memorize Scripture!”

I’ve heard that statement over-and-over again throughout the years.

Recently, a gentleman in our church has his restful afternoon interrupted by great discomfort in his chest and arm.  He ended up having his heart shocked in the ambulance and at the ICU, his defibrillator replaced with a pacemaker, and a few days stay in the hospital.

While standing by his bedside, he said, “Preacher, I’ve been memorizing some Scripture.  While I was in the ambulance, I had perfect peace because one passage that I have learned came to my mind.”  He then quoted Psalm 107:1, O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever.

This morning while talking to his wife on the phone, she relayed to me something her husband said a few month ago.  “There are familiar verses of the Bible I know, but I need some new verses.”  Hence, he has set out to accomplish his goal.

His goal enriched his soul in a traumatic moment as the comforting, powerful Word of God came to his mind.

What passage are you working on?

Are you making excuses?

How has God’s Word enriched your soul today?

Oh, by the way, this man is 78 years old.

This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.  (Joshua 1:8)

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. (Psalm 119:11)

Been There . . . Sustained

 

Paige and Ruby (2)

Memory flashback.  Aware that the potential was before them, the truth of her passing yesterday afternoon hit my heart with an aching pain of grief for them.

Yesterday, dear friends of ours held their 26-week-old daughter in their arms and watched as she slowly enter Heaven into the presence of the One Who had created her.  She, along with her twin sister, were born at 25 weeks and 2 days.

This family has been down this road before having seen their first son born at 22 weeks.  The only difference, after many, many weeks in the children’s hospital, he came home. Today he is an active, healthy little man . . . a trophy of God’s grace.  His younger brother was full-term and likewise is doing very well.

Why a memory flashback?  July 2, 2017, will mark 30 years that my wife and I held the precious lifeless body of our second daughter in our arms.  She was stillborn.  I so well remember her little rosy cheeks, head of hair, and tender lips.  My, how it hurt that night, just like I’m sure our friends hurt yesterday, and do today.

What sustains you in a time like this?  In spite of the tremendous grief and pain, these truths hold you together.  These were our rock in the midst of our storm.  These held us together as we departed from the hospital with an empty car seat, and then arrived home to see a vacant nursery.

Psalm 91:1-4       He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

2 Samuel 12:22-23            And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.

2 Corinthians 1:3               Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.

Psalm 73:22-26, 28           Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever. But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works.

Romans 8:26-31                Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

Memory flashback?  Yes.  Tears, hurt, grief, and a hurting heart? Yes! Marvelous, unexplainable, sustaining grace?  YES!!!  A grand reunion awaits us and for our dear friends, too? YES!!!

 

Encouraging resources to offer further help:

Grief – Finding Hope in the Darkness

Blessings – Laura Story

I Will Rise

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!”?

That Dimmed Look

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There she sat, all prettied up, seated in her comfy chair, and a silent stare etched on her sweet face and a dimmed look in her eye.  The TV was playing on old rerun of Gunsmoke. When I entered the room, she lifted her clouded eyes and smiled a bit, but she did not recognize me.

I knelt down on one knee beside her, greeted her warmly, and began a conversation that was mostly one-sided.  She handed me something that was very real to her but only imaginary to me. That dimmed look was one of struggle as she tried to put words together to form a sentence, but she could only mumble a few recognizable words at best.  She called me by another name, “Mr. Gilbert,” which reminded me of the many years of hearing her say, “Well, there’s my pastor!”

That dimmed look, eyes a bit foggy, soon was changed.  As I began to quote Psalm 23, she joined me word-for-word and her countenance was lifted.  Then I began to sing How Great Thou Art to which she chimed in.  Her precious, melodic soprano voice was clear and precise. Our duet continued through two stanzas of Amazing Grace and one verse of In the Garden.

When we finished our mini-concert of praise, I had prayer with her.  She hugged me, kissed my cheek, and thanked me for coming to see her, once again struggling to put words together. As I headed for the door, she returned to her dimmed look with that bit of a silent stare.

As I walked down the hallway, I couldn’t help but think about what came to her mind so readily and caused her dimmed look to be one of hope-filled anticipation. She probably learned Psalm 23 as a child and has sung those songs for years because of her personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ alone.

If I were in her shoes . . . would I have the same response?  Have I filled my mind with whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praise-worthy (Philippians 4:8)?  Have the praises of God and His Word been my meditation (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 19:14; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16) while I still have the capability to do so?  Or is my mind filled with worry, fretting, anxiety, fear, lies, lust, bitterness, useless trivia, and “breaking news”?

In time her memory will totally fade unless the Lord calls her Home before then.  But in the meantime, that dimmed looked is brightened when the chords of her heart are reminded of what really matters . . . the eternal things, the Eternal One  . . . the One she will see and know forever when her faith becomes complete sight.  No more dimmed look.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

 

My Savior First of All

When my lifework is ended and I cross the swelling tide,
When the bright and glorious morning I shall see;
I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side,
And His smile will be the first to welcome me.

Chorus:
I shall know Him, (I shall know Him,) I shall know Him,
And redeemed by His side I shall stand;
I shall know Him, (I shall know Him,) I shall know Him
By the print of the nails in His hand.

2 Oh, the soul-thrilling rapture when I view His blessed face,
And the luster of His kindly beaming eye;
How my full heart will praise Him for the mercy, love and grace,
That prepared for me a mansion in the sky.

—- Fanny Crosby

Jesus Ministered Again on the Sea of Galilee

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As I prepared my heart and mind for another trip to Israel, the thought of riding on the Sea of Galilee again brought a renewed spirit of great expectancy!

Five years ago as the boat pulled away from the dock, my wife and I stood near the bow and fixed our gaze all around us.  “This is where Jesus spent so much of His early ministry!”  We envisioned Him walking on the water, travelling along the shore, calming the storm, reaching out to Peter, healing the maniac of Gadara, as well as other events in Jesus’ Galilean ministry.

In a few moments, the owners of the boat began to play over the loud speakers, “How Great Is Our God.”

The splendor of the King, clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice
All the earth rejoice

He wraps himself in Light, and darkness tries to hide
And trembles at His voice
Trembles at His voice

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God

Age to age He stands
And time is in His hands
Beginning and the end
Beginning and the end

The Godhead Three in One
Father Spirit Son
The Lion and the Lamb
The Lion and the Lamb

Name above all names
Worthy of our praise
My heart will sing
How great is our God

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God

Several of us, gathered at the bow, began to sing along, tears streaming down our cheeks.  The calmness of the sea, the beauty of God’s creation all around us, the person of Christ living in us (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27) and  the fellowship in worship of brothers and sisters like us in Christ was so absolutely awesome!  Once again, Christ was ministering on the Sea of Galilee!!

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Well, fast forward to three weeks ago, and once again, we experienced the same, but this time on a much deeper level.  How wonderful to sing “How Great Thou Art,” “10,000 Reasons,” and “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High.”  With hands and voices raised up to heaven, our hearts overflowed with praise to our great God for His Son, His salvation, and His grace! Then we heard the Word of God preached to us while we sailed along.  The Christ in us ministered once again on the Sea of Galilee to each of us.

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Of course we are back home now, and the same Jesus continues to minister to us as we obey His call recorded in Matthew 11:28-30, Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

The same Christ, Who through the Holy Spirit, taught us, led us to worship, and ministered to our hearts on the Sea of Galilee is ready and willing to do the same today.  All you must do is open the Word of God and let Him speak to you from the pages of His eternal, life-giving book of absolute truth!

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So, come along with me today and let’s “ride the boat” as Jesus ministers once again to His redeemed ones!   Go ahead and sing, too!! (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16-17).

How’s Your Passion?

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Recently, I was asked this question by a dear friend.  We hadn’t seen each other for a couple of years, and after getting caught up, he asked, “How’s Your Passion?”  Passion for what?  Coffee?  UK Wildcats? Running?  Hiking?  Cars? Food?

Having known this person for many years, I knew what he meant.  He wanted to know how my passion for Christ was going?  He went on to say that recently two seminary students had ask him how they could keep their own passion going.  His answer, “You have to get up every day, early in the morning, and meet with God.”  His passion for Christ is on display every day and is so vital to him that he has even prepared a special place in his home to meet with God.  There you will find the fireplace, his chair, table, lamp, books, music, quiet and whatever else is necessary for him to pray, study and sit at Jesus feet.

Passion for Christ cannot be found doing ministry.  Passion for Christ cannot be gained from someone else.  Passion for Christ cannot be purchased at Lifeway Christian Bookstore. Passion for Christ comes by meeting daily with Him, alone, letting His Word read you, seeking His face, listening to His voice, and pouring out your heart to Him in prayer and worship.

Psalm 63 shows us another man, David, who was passionate about seeking God.

O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips shall praise You.
Thus I will bless You while I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.

Pastor Steven Cole puts it, “David expresses longing for God’s presence, praise, joy, fellowship with God, and confidence in God’s salvation. The psalm shows us that David’s priority was to seek the Lord. Seeking after God should be our most important priority.”

So, let me ask you like my friend did me, “How’s your passion?”