Making Connections

Living the Christ-life is not a random adventure; it is not a relationship where you check the box and then go on each day as if God doesn’t exist.

Walking with Christ is a life of making connections throughout the day as the Holy Spirit guides our steps. Aware of God’s presence in your life, you look to see where He is working, teaching, and leading.

This is the abiding life. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:4-5).

Let me explain. Yesterday morning, I went to bed and awoke with a heavy burden on my heart concerning the local church of which I am a pastor. My daily Bible reading included Ezra 1-2. There I was reminded of the faithfulness of God to fulfill His promise to Israel. He even used a worldly king to accomplish His plan as the captives returned from Babylon to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple and the city. God was and is faithful to His covenant.

Interesting, . . . the faithfulness of God. Two days ago I recorded one of my weekly radio broadcasts, titled “Seeing the Faithfulness of God” from Lamentations 3:21-26. Then, as I read Ezra, the following was in the study notes from Warren Wiersbe. “Regardless of our circumstances, we can trust God to be faithful. Great Is Thy Faithfulness isn’t just a verse to quote or a song to sing. It’s a glorious truth to believe and to act upon, no matter how difficult the situation in might be.”

Then as I turned to read another part of my daily Bible plan, these words of Christ recorded in Luke 24:38-40 spoke to my heart. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. Oh, how troubled and doubtful I become when I do not keep my mind fixed on the faithfulness of God, For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us (2 Corinthians 1:20).

As I walked through my day, I continued to see the faithfulness of God through answered prayer, discipleship, a conversation with some folk on the mountain while hiking, His creation all around me, an encouraging word from a growing believer in Christ and the words of several songs sung while hiking back down the mountain.

The events of the day were random, but the connections were not. They were all a part of living life in Christ Who is our life (Colossians 3:4).

What connections will you see today on this journey with Christ?

From A Pastor’s Heart,

Dale

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.

The White Blazes

We made it!!

If you have ever wondered what it is like to hike the Appalachian Trail, it is apply defined by the words extreme adventure!

As you trod over the well-worn path, one step after another leads to decisions, caution, carefulness, speed, slowness, rest, joy, possibilities, views, varying weight, anticipation, etc.

As I recently hiked a section in Virginia with a friend, the AT reminded me of participating with Christ in living His life, the Christian life! Indeed, when Jesus invites us to follow him (Matthew 16:24), a good synonym would be extreme adventure!

As you hike the AT, there are many items needed such as hiking shoes, back pack, trekking poles, tent, food, much planning, and major will power to make this trek successful. But above all, there is something you must have to make it from Springer Mt. in Georgia to Mt. Katadhin in Maine. What is it? The infamous white blazes. There are approximately 165,000 of these rectangular 2 x 6 inch white markings that are found on trees, posts, and rocks. The distance between each blaze varies but they are the “law” on the trail; they are the surety markers if you are to stay on trail.

In this extreme adventure of following Christ, we have an eternal white blaze that guides us every step in this journey of life, the Word of God (Psalms 23:1-3; 32:8-9; 119:105; John 14:6; Colossians 2:6). Just as I cannot stay on trail without the white blazes, neither can I participate in Christ’s life without His Word (Galatians 2:20).

This life will offer many different side paths to take (e.g. blue blazes) that may or may not be beneficial. There will be rocks, creeks, roots, decisions, caution, carefulness, speed, slowness, rest, joy, possibilities, views, varying weight, anticipation, etc. along the trail of life, but you must daily follow the white blaze of God’s Word. These white markers are surety on the AT; the Word of God is the same in this trek of life.

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. 19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Peter 1:16-21)

Establish my footsteps in Your word… (Psalm 119:133).

Discipleship & Running (2)

Wow! The smell was rank! It may have been just me or both of us, but the aroma in the car was almost roadkill worthy. But, what do you expect with all that sweat!

You say, “what does that have to do with discipleship?” Well, you may or may not have heard it said, but “discipleship is messy.”

Think of all Jesus dealt with in reference to his disciples. Here He is leading this band of twelve knowing one would betray Him, one would deny Him and they would forsake Him at the cross.

At various times Jesus had to deal with their insecurities, their misunderstandings, their pride, their selfishness, their unbelief, their hasty decisions, their inopportune sleepiness, their parents, their confusion, their rejection of children, their hindering statements, their temptations, their prejudice, their low commitment, their fears, their bad spirit, their doubts, etc. Leading these men was messy.

We and those we disciple are messy, too. As you do life with others, as you get to know one another, weaknesses, sins, and frailties are exposed. We can easily relate to the list in the previous paragraph. Many times, the stories of those we disciple are complicated by sin and its consequences. It’s a mess! And, we too, have paragraphs and chapters in our life that we wish had never been written.

If we stopped right here, it would end like a cheap television talk show. All the gory details, the mess, the sin, the raw display of our humanness, but no solution, no spiritual transformation.

Discipleship is simply helping someone take the next step toward Christ for God’s glory. As you do life together, pray together, read the Word together, serve together, work in the yard together, play ball together, share together, laugh together, eat together, talk together, etc., you will work up some holy sweat as you together exercise unto godliness (1 Timothy 4:7).

The smell of a messy life can be transformed by the grace of God (Romans 5:19-21) into a sweet-smelling aroma for Christ and unto God (2 Corinthians 2:15-16; Ephesians 5:12).

As someone has said, “Let your mess be transformed into a message;” a message of the Christlife being formed in you and lived out of you (Romans 6-8; Galatians 4:19; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Peter 3:18). That’s a pleasing aroma!

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)

21 Days of Prayer (Day #20)

How appropriate that the 20th day of our “21 Days of Prayer” would fall on Good Friday, the day we fix our thoughts in particular on the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The doctrinal significance of the death of Christ on the cross in regards to prayer is displayed in part by the following scriptures:

We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (1 John 2:1b-2)

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, (Hebrews 10:19-20)

The practical application is now given in part below by Oswald Chambers from his classic, My Utmost For His Highest.

We too often think of the Cross of Christ as something we have to get through, yet we get through for the purpose of getting into it. The Cross represents only one thing for us— complete, entire, absolute identification with the Lord Jesus Christ— and there is nothing in which this identification is more real to us than in prayer.

“Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8). Then why should we ask? The point of prayer is not to get answers from God, but to have perfect and complete oneness with Him. If we pray only because we want answers, we will become irritated and angry with God. We receive an answer every time we pray, but it does not always come in the way we expect, and our spiritual irritation shows our refusal to identify ourselves truly with our Lord in prayer. We are not here to prove that God answers prayer, but to be living trophies of God’s grace.

“…I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you…” (John 16:26-27). Have you reached such a level of intimacy with God that the only thing that can account for your prayer life is that it has become one with the prayer life of Jesus Christ? Has our Lord exchanged your life with His vital life? If so, then “in that day” you will be so closely identified with Jesus that there will be no distinction.

When prayer seems to be unanswered, beware of trying to place the blame on someone else. That is always a trap of Satan. When you seem to have no answer, there is always a reason— God uses these times to give you deep personal instruction, and it is not for anyone else but you.

Today, consider and answer the following:

  • Meditate and pray through the passages of Scripture given above.
  • Meditate on the truth of your identification with Christ in prayer, especially in regards to “the point of prayer.”
  • Which is more important to you, God answering your prayers or being a living trophy of God’s grace?
  • Have you reached such a level of intimacy with God that the only thing that can account for your prayer life is that it has become one with the prayer life of Jesus Christ?
  • Has our Lord exchanged your life with His vital life?
  • Did you receive deep personal instruction from God today that was just for you?

The veil is torn in two. Enter into the joy the Lord!

21 Days of Prayer (Day #4)

(3/17/2021)

When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel. (Judges 2:10)

What? How is it possible to be brought up in the shadow of the mighty works of God, to have lived around men like godly men such as Joshua and Caleb, and then for it to be said, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel? How is that possible?

How is it possible that we have a young generation (Gen Z: Born 1999-2015) right now in our churches, including BCBC, that have grown up under the teaching of the Word of God on Sundays, perhaps educated in a Christian school or home-schooled, attended weekly children’s ministries and they do not have a heart for God nor for the things of God? How is that possible?

How is it possible that this generation has never seen a lost sinner genuinely transformed by the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit in salvation (Titus 3:4-7; Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10)? Perhaps all they have heard are the old stories of salvation and transformation but nothing recent, fresh and grace-born!

Today, I want to call us to pray for GOD’S INCREASE in the hearts of our Gen Z young people!! In this time of prayer, let’s go boldly to the Throne of Grace on behalf of our young folks from ages 4-21.

  • Pray that our young people will truly be transformed, regenerated believers.
  • Pray that our young people will come to know the heart of God (Psalm 42:1) and have a passion for Christ over happiness in worldly, temporal things/goals.
  • Pray that our young people’s eyes will be “opened to the fact that sin isn’t a Christianese catch phrase; it’s a reality that shows up in our daily lives” and that they will know through the Word how to conqueror sin (Psalm 119:9-11; Ephesians 6:10-18).
  • Pray that our young people will have first person accounts in their lives of the work of God.
  • Pray that our young people will be like the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times but desired also to know what Israel ought to do (1 Chronicles 12:32). Point being, that our young folks would desire more to know what God would have them do than what is happening on social media or the culture is offering.
  • Pray that the parents of our young people will be more about knowing, loving, and obeying God (Matthew 6:33; Colossians 1:18) than chasing and fulfilling worldly desires.
  • Pray that the Word of God will have the most preeminent and prominent place in the discussion and discipleship of our homes; even as parents confront the difficult subjects of our culture and world (Psalm 119)
  • Pray that our young people will see and experience a real walk with Christ on a daily basis as opposed to seeing Christianity as “Sunday only.” Pray that they will see radical transformed, obedient adults!

May For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21) be said by our young people rather than the words of Judges 2:10.

Let’s Have a Monday!

Sunrise in the country.

How sad that so many in the world look at the second day of the week, Monday, as a downer, a negative. How many times have you heard someone respond to a bad day or rough situation as “I’ve had a MONDAY!”?

For born again believers, Mondays should be a launching pad for a week of ministry, a week of walking with Christ! Having gathering on Sunday around the person of Jesus Christ by singing, by praying, by participating in corporate worship, by fellowship, by responding to the conviction of the Holy Spirit through the preached Word, by confession of sin, and by being encouraged to see Christ live His life out through us each day should cause us to arise on Monday morning ready to fulfill Matthew 28:18-20, Psalm 34:1-3, and Ephesians 4:12-16, 5:19, Colossians 1:15-18.

In particular, today, on this Monday, when someone inquires about your weekend, what will you say?

Will you share what God taught you about Himself, about Christ, and/or about yourself? Will you talk about the song lyric the Holy Spirit used to cause you to rejoice? Will you honestly share how you repented and changed via the conviction of the Holy Spirit through hearing the proclamation of God’s Word? Will you share how blessed it was to pray with a hurting brother or sister in Christ? Will you make much of the greatness of your God, the blessing of walking with the Lord Jesus Christ, and the joy of the Holy Spirit?

Mondays are created by God. Mondays are as fresh and new as Christ is because we walk every day in newness of life in and through Christ (Romans 6:1-14). As my friend Evangelist Ron Lynch says, “Christ gave Himself for you in order to give Himself to you that He by the Spirit of God might live His life through you. To live the Christian life is not for you to live but for you to die so Christ can live through you (Galatians 2:20).

So, today, let’s have a “MONDAY” in Christ!!

We Are Where We Are

For a year or more, our world has been and continues to be consumed with COVID-19. It has rearranged our lives in so many ways in bringing fear, death, sorrow, loss, anger, masks, division, criticism, long lines, solitary living, confinement, quarantine, etc.

COVID as a word has probably been used more than any other word in our vocabulary. Somehow, some way it always finds a place of mention or domination in our conversations.

When you consider the baggage of COVID as mentioned in the previous paragraphs, look around you. We are where we are today because our minds and lives have been consumed with a topic of death, despair, division, and dread in every area of life.

Where are you today? Are you dwelling on the aforementioned “D‘s” of COVID or the life, hope, unity and joyful expectation found only a personal relationship with God the Father through the cross work and resurrection of Jesus Christ (John 10:10; 14:1-6; 15:1-11; Ephesians 2:1-10; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Peter 1:3-6; 1 John 5:11-13) ?

No matter what you have endured through this pandemic, may I encourage you to look to Psalms 42-43? Read these words over to yourself quietly and out loud; meditate on what you are reading; then pray through the passage. If you have such darkness pervading you that you want to run away to fleshly, worldly, sinful temptations, let Peter’s response to Christ be your response. After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life (John 6:66-68).

You are where you are based upon where or to whom you have turned. Will you turn to Him Who has the words of eternal life? Cast all your care on Him (1 Peter 5:6-7, 10).

No matter what COVID brings, Christ is always the answer. Be found in Him.

He’s where you are . . . waiting on you to turn to Him.

Antichrists in the Church

Image result for church

What? No way!

Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but antichrists exist in every Bible preaching church.

Last night in our small group, we studied 1 John 2:18-27, and I will be preaching from this passage on Sunday. John writes the following, Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour (2:18).

The word antichrist means “against Christ” and is seen by opposing Christ and replacing Christ. Satan, who will be the engine behind the future Antichrist (Revelation 13:1-8), hates Christ, constantly opposes Christ and the body of Christ both individually and corporately. Furthermore, Satan tempts us as believers to replace the preeminence of Christ in all areas of our life with anything of a temporal nature or philosophy, even things that may be good.

So how do antichrists show up in local churches?

  • When repentance and confession of sin has been exchanged for making the congregation comfortable, then the holiness of Christ has been replaced and opposed by fleshly, carnal, proud living. (1 Peter 1:13-16)
  • When programs of the church mean more to the congregation than exalting Christ and personal discipleship, then He is opposed and replaced. (Colossians 1:18) Programs do not change people; Christ does.
  • When church members think that ministry is to done by the “hired staff” because “that’s what we pay them to do,” then genuine gospel ministry has been opposed rather than expanded. (Ephesians 4:11-16)
  • When sports takes the high seat of choice by church members, then Christ has been replaced by temporal goals that amount to nothing in eternity. (Matthew 6:33)
  • When church members criticize the leadership and gossip behind their backs, they are opposing Christ and doing the work of antichrist by their corrupt speech as they seek to gain a following. (Ephesians 4:29, 31)
  • When prayer gatherings are poorly attended, the gospel ministry is being opposed and replaced because prayer is the power behind all ministry. (Matthew 21:13; Acts 4-6)
  • When a consumeristic attitude of felt needs is the determiner of what church to attend, then Christ is being opposed and replaced by human standards and “following your heart.” (Philippians 2:1-11)
  • When the family is more important than Christ, He is opposed and replaced with the attitude that “family is the most important thing.” (Luke 14:26)
  • When staying home and watching the morning service online, because it’s more comfortable, becomes the norm, then Christ is opposed and replaced because He commands us (His Body) to gather and all the more as we see the day of His return drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25).
  • When music and entertainment takes the place of the preeminence of preaching, Christ, the Word (John 1:1) is opposed and replaced.

Friends, the Church is Christ. We are His body (1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 4:12; 5:23) joined to Him in salvation (Ephesians 4:15-16). Christ is the Head of the Church (Ephesians 1:22-23) and is to be the preeminent One in the Church (Colossians 1:15-18). Therefore, if Christ is not the issue, the goal, the motive, the heart, the reason, the life and the head of the Church, then the spirit of antichrist is at work opposing and replacing Christ.

May we exalt Christ by being Word-filled (2 Timothy 3:16-17), Holy Spirit empowered (Ephesians 5:18), God glorifying (1 Corinthians 10:31), discipleship minded (Matthew 28:19-20) believers who long to make much of Christ (Philippians 1:21) and nothing of ourselves (John 3:30).

Be careful, antichrist may be in the pew or chair behind you next Sunday, or he may even walk in with you. Let’s reject the spirit of antichrists and be all out for Christ!!