Burdened, Not Amused

The longer I strolled through the amusement park, the more burdened and sad I became. Everywhere I turned, people were trying to fit in, wanting to be accepted, living a lifestyle of sin, provoking their children to anger, flaunting their assumed freedom, living for the moment, trying to buy happiness, bowing down to the idols of their heart, motivated as described in Jeremiah 17:9

Then, the next morning while reading Ephesians 4:17-19, my mind was transported back to the day before and those dear soul’s greatest need . . . the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ!

Why? Because they are living in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness (4:17b-19).

If it were not for the grace of God, Ephesians 4:17-19 would describe me. But, how marvelous is the mercy and grace of God that has transferred me from darkness to light! As an old song written by Rusty Goodman says,

Had it not been for a place called Mount Calvary,
Had it not been for the old rugged cross,
Had it not been for a man called Jesus,
Then forever my soul would be lost,

The change this world needs can only be found in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ!! But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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 2:4-9).

Protesting on the street corner, shaking your head in disgust, or responding in anger or arguing will not change sinful hearts. These dear souls, just like you did, need someone to love them enough for God’s glory to share the love of God through the cross work and resurrection of Jesus Christ that can radically change their life for eternity. Real life and adventure is only found in following Jesus Christ!

If you are searching today, my friend, read these scripture verses again and again until your eyes are opened to see your condition before God. Watch the video “How can I go to Heaven?” at the top of the sidebar.

I share this because I care for you. No critical judgment toward you. Jesus is the only way, the truth and the life (John 14:6) Everyone must go by the way of the cross or forever be lost, . . . and Jesus Christ did all that was necessary for you to have a life worth living here and for all eternity!

Tramily

One of the many things that’s really cool about hiking the AT is the “tramily.” This is a shortened form for “trail family.” Generally referred to as the group of people in which you spend a significant amount of time hiking a trail with, typically also lodging in town with whether at a hostel, hotel room, or otherwise (The Trek).

Back in May while hiking north to south near Pearisburg, VA, Rick and I passed many thru-hikers, some of which I follow on Instagram. Most of the hikers were friendly, some even stopping to chat. I’m certain that these conversations were aided much by my trail companion’s antique backpack. (I’ve almost decided to change his trail name from Good News to Antique Pack!)

Folks from all over the country. People you have never met before in your life. They speak, share stories, camp out, eat together, ride in the back of a pickup truck into town, etc. What brings them all together? Well, it’s obvious! The trail, and in this instance, the Appalachian Trail, the AT!

This one trail, whether being hiked south to north, north to south, flip-flopped or sectioned hiked, brings together the tramily. The trail is the point of connection.

There is another family that is, without reservation, the greatest family on the planet, and that is the redeemed, adopted, justified family of God (Romans 3:21-26; 5:1-5; Ephesians 2:1-22). We come from all walks of life, backgrounds, cultures, circumstances, nationalities, ethnicities, etc., yet we are bound eternally by the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He, and only He, is the point of connection.

Here’s what the Word of God, absolute truth, has to say about his eternal family:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

One in Christ
11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:1-22)

Are you a member of God’s family? If not, please read and meditate on the passage above. Surrender to Christ. Call out to Him to save you, and He will (Romans 10:9-13).

For further understanding, please take time to view the following video:

Oh, that all the Tramily would become one in God’s family through Jesus Christ alone for all eternity, and . . . you, too, my friend. Just as the trail is the point of connection, Christ is the only eternal point of connection.

Yesterday

Heartbroken. Grieved. Hopeful. Concerned. Saddened. Not surprised. Confident. Driven to prayer.

These and other emotions filled my mind and heart yesterday in reference to the events in Washington, D.C. And, there will be more to come, I’m sure. Nevertheless, along with many, many others who will offer their thoughts via social media, blogs, podcasts, etc., I share these with all sincerity of heart and for God’s glory.

  1. I was born on January 22, 1959 in Marietta, Ohio, at which time I became a citizen of the United States of America. My parents raised me to love and honor our nation, and I do so to this day. While as a five-year-old living in Marietta, I knelt down beside our living room couch at our home located on 318 Sixth Street and received Christ as my personal Lord and Savior (John 1:14; 3:16; Romans 10:9-13; Ephesians 2:1-10). At that moment, I became a citizen of two worlds, the USA and Heaven! The first one is temporal and the other eternal. The first one is made by man and sought to be governed by man and therefore has many flaws. The eternal one is the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10). I say all of that to say this, although I am grieved by the display of sinful men’s hearts yesterday, I am not shaken because my citizenship in Heaven is eternal, righteous and secure in Christ and governs my citizenship here. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself (Philippians 3:20-21). I’m not home yet!
  2. Life has been this way since the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3-4; Romans 1:16-32). There is ONLY ONE remedy and that’s the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. As has been well said for a while now, “The Gospel changes everything.” Life transforming change cannot occur through governmental laws, reform, or programs. They have a degree of moral effect for a period of time but until man’s heart is transformed, laws will change and be added and more programs will be created to address man’s temporal needs. (Here’s a good read on government) That being said, the need of the hour is not reformation but transformation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 precisely spells it out, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. A good example of transformational change is found in 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10, For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. Lives changed by the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) for eternity is the change that is needed.
  3. What I am about to say here is with the deepest of sadness. I am not without fault here but let me bear my soul. While I have called our church family to prayer this week and have noticed that others churches have done the same, I am a bit chagrined and distressed by this call to prayer which is accompanied by a “Really????” in my own heart. As a man and a pastor looking back over almost 62 years, I wish I had given my life much more to a life of prayer (John 15:4-5). Furthermore, one of the greatest disappointments of my life as a pastor is having to beg believers to pray, to attend prayer meetings. We are where we are today because, as a point of reference, the mid-week prayer meetings are the least attended gatherings of the week in a church’s ministry or have been completely done away with. Call for a prayer meeting and a few might show up, and lovingly may I say that when the meeting convenes, seldom is there heart-crying out prayers of repentance, reconciliation and renewal! This link will help us if we will follow Christ and the early church in prayer (Hebrews 5:7; Matthew 14:23; Acts 4:23-31). Prayer is the declaration of our dependence upon God as we understand our desperate condition without Him and without His omnipotent, omniscient work. We as a church are where we are because we have traded the prayer meeting for other religious activities that we must keep propped up by our our wisdom and strength and that meet our felt needs. Suffice it to say, we must begin today to live out 2 Chronicles 7:14; Psalms 4, 40, 42, 86, 102, 142; Jeremiah 33:3; James 5:16-18.

May God help us! May God have mercy upon us!

Listening for the shout, the voice and the trump today (1Thessalonians 4:13-18)!

Sincerely, today, from a pastor’s heart.

Abounding With Thanksgiving

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding with thanksgiving (Colossians 2:6-7).

The most grateful people on the planet should be everyone who has received Christ Jesus the Lord for salvation! Through His work on the cross (Isaiah 53:3-11), His bodily resurrection from the tomb (1 Corinthians 15:1-8, 12-20), and the gift of saving grace and faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), we have been made eternally secure in Christ (Romans 5:1-11; Ephesians 1:13-14), rooted in Him and established in the faith (Colossians 2:6) and delivered from the wrath of God and hell (Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:10). The abundant gift of salvation in Christ alone is the ground for abounding thankfulness.

As you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18), your eyes are opened more and more to all of who Christ is and to all we have in Christ! At each discovery, your heart overflows with abundant thanksgiving and your lips speak forth His praise!!

As we try to move our thoughts away from a very different and difficult year to this week of thanksgiving, may your heart be turned to the One Who is totally worthy of our praise and gratitude! May your heart abound with thanksgiving!

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 3-5)

Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! (Psalm 103:1)

Are You Listening?

Is COVID-19 the judgment of God? We do not know nor can we know without reservation from Scripture. It may be, but God does not say so. Now, Matthew 24:7-8 speaks of the signs of the times in reference to the first half of the tribulation. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Certainly, the coronavirus could be characterized by pestilences, but we cannot say it is a judgment of God in 2020.

So, what then is COVID-19 saying to us? Echoing back to Matthew 24:7-8, it is a reminder that such a day is coming; that the tribulation (Revelation 6-18) will occur. Above all, COVID-19 is God speaking to us and calling us to repentance.

Note these words recorded in Luke 13:1-5, There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

How easy it is for us to look at others in world as worse sinners than we are and say, “God is judging them!” Note that Jesus goes right on by that scenario and calls everyone to repentance, I tell you, . . . unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

Unbeliever, wake up to the fact that unless you repent, turn from anything and everything you have been believing in for salvation, you will perish. Jesus says, I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32).

Is COVID-19 the judgment of God? Can’t say, but it is the mercy of God giving you, sinner friend, another opportunity to repent and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior! Don’t delay!

For information on how you can become a genuine follower of Christ, please watch the following:

Grace to Go!

Stretching out his hand and with tears in his eyes, he said, “Soon this hand will touch the hand of my Jesus.”

These words were spoken last Saturday by a dear man of God who has given his life to faithfully proclaim and live out the excellencies of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pastor Bud Parker has been diagnosed with an inoperable malignant brain tumor that is affecting his mobility and vision. As I sat by his side in his humble mountain home, the affects of cancer were readily seen, but the grace of God was much more manifest. It didn’t take long to realize I was seated in the presence of a man who is ready to go Home to Glory!

There were many more times of rejoicing than notes of sorrow as we conversed. During his lengthy stay in the hospital, the Lord enabled him to share the gospel with many, and three precious souls came to salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). We talked of the ministry joys of past years, the privilege of preaching the Word of God, the joy of mentoring so many men in the ministry, as well as rejoicing in all the folks who had come by to visit.

With his precious wife, Mildred, seated across the room, he looked at me and then her and said, “I am ready to go to heaven, but I don’t want to leave my bride of 58 years. The other night, the Lord spoke to me and said, ‘Don’t be afraid. She was My bride before she became your bride. She is the apple of my eye’.”

Especially at a time like this, the Word of God is the very best comfort, assurance, and hope. While reading 1 Peter 1:1-8, Pastor Parker’s eyes would glisten and then fill with tears. Some of the passages he quoted along with me as best he could. At one point, he raised his hand to rejoice!

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,

5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:

7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:

Near the end of our visit, I noticed that his wife, two of his daughters and other family members were on the front porch. I invited them to gather in the living room, and we sang a medley of songs about heaven. My, what a glorious time we had as we lifted our voices and hands in praise to our great God! Indeed, what a day it will be when our Jesus we will see!!

Watching the grace of God in its total sufficiency from my front row seat was an honor and a blessed encouragement! This dear man of God is living out the words of Tom Hayes’ song, New Grace.

All of grace is my story
All the way from earth to glory,
Since by grace He lifted me from sin and woe;
Living grace He has extended
As on Him my heart depended,
And He’ll give new grace when it’s my time to go.

CHORUS:
Grace not yet discovered,
Grace not yet uncovered,
Grace from His bountiful store;
Grace to cross the river,
And grace to face forever,
There’ll be new grace I’ve not needed before.

VERSE 2:
There’s been grace for every trial,
There’s been grace for every mile,
There’s been grace sufficient from His vast supply;
Grace to make my heart more tender,
Grace to love and pray for sinners,
But there’ll be new grace when it’s my time to die.

CHORUS:
Grace not yet discovered,
Grace not yet uncovered,
Grace from His bountiful store;
Grace to cross the river,
And grace to face forever,
There’ll be new grace I’ve not needed before.

Grace to go!!

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!

Helping Children Understand Easter

 

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Golgatha

This is an awesome time of the year!  The apex of history is the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ and His bodily resurrection from the tomb (Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Matthew 26:57-28:10; 1 Corinthians 15).  This event sets Jesus Christ and Christianity apart from ALL other religions around the world.

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Outside the Empty Tomb, January 19, 2017

How important that our children understand the truth about Christ and Easter.  There is no problem with enjoying eggs, candy, bunnies, and baskets, but our younger generation must know the truth, and Christ, Who is Truth.

My wife’s blog will help you accomplish this.  Be sure to take take to read and watch, Helping Children Understand Easter

The Heart of Valentine’s Day

Roses

This is a special day for those “in love.”  For married couples, it is just another day of intentionally working at their marriage with a little bit of flare added to it or sadly for some, it is a “catch up” day or a day just passed by.

Nevertheless, the very symbol of Valentine’s Day really sums up the whole of married life….as well as everyone’s life.  It is a heart issue.  In other words, the heart of every issue is an issue of the heart.  This speaks even to those of a broken heart today.

Jesus said, in answer to the lawyer’s testing question of what is the greatest commandment, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself (Matthew 22:37-39).

Before an unsaved, lost man can be born again (John 3:1-16) and then love God with all his heart, he must turn to Christ and receive Him as the Word of God clearly states.  Until a man receives Christ as the only way to God the Father (John 14:1-6), he has no desire to love God (Romans 3:9-17).  But when a sinner is born again, the perfect love of God is poured out upon him/her (Romans 5:5), and they understand the greatest love of all from the Creator and Sustainer of true love (1 John 4:7-19).  No man understands or lives out genuine love until he comes to know God through Jesus Christ alone.

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:9-13).

For a married couple that knows and understands the love of God, the heart is still the issue of every facet of marriage.  No matter what route or adventure marriage takes, loving God with all your heart is the answer.

Many years ago in Bible college, I was introduced to the simple marriage triangle.

marriage triangle

This triangle simply teaches, the closer each spouse moves to God, the closer they move toward each other. The further each moves from God, the further they move from each other. Broken marriages always involve at least one partner moving away from God.  Blessed marriages involve both partners loving God with all their heart, moving closer and closer to God.  When you really love someone, you want to be with them.  You want to move closer to them.  You want to know them.

God created marriage, not man (Genesis 2:18-25).  Therefore, if you desire to have a marriage that fulfills all that God intended and makes for a heart-filled Valentine’s Day every day, move closer to God through His Word, prayer, and worship; love Him with all your heart, and your neighbor (your spouse) in the same manner.

The heart of every issue is an issue of the heart.

Happy Valentine’s Day!