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!!

Dried Out, Delighted Men

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It happens every January at Men’s Prayer Advance, the most-anticipated yearly event on my personal calendar.

Thursday afternoon, men from all over the country gather for three days of preaching, praying, and “like-a-reunion” fellowship.  As the congregational singing begins, you can sense that this is going to be good and the preaching will be spot on, . . . but it’s not there yet.

Thursday evening, the singing is again filled with praise and the preaching is convicting and good, but it’s not there yet.

Then one of two major events occurs following the evening service . . . group prayer meetings.  These groups consist of men from their own local church or with various others attending MPA.  We are challenged to gather at our meeting location or back at the motel for a time of “CPR” praying.  Each group prays through three rounds of prayer, which consists of Confession, Praise, and Requests.  Each group is encouraged to get honest before the Lord.  Each individual is challenged to get clean, not cleaner.  As we work our way through CPR, we are in no hurry.  Sometimes, the confession goes around several times and can last for awhile as does the praise and requests.  These prayer meetings can last for an hour or on into the morning hours.  Meeting with God in honest prayer changes hearts, changes lives!

Friday morning, some men are a bit tired from the long night, but all are deeply refreshed and ready for the morning sessions.  The music and preaching are once again stirring and challenging, . . . we are not there, just yet.

Then comes the second most important event of the MPA, the Sweet Hour of Prayer.  Each man is given a folded brochure that will help guide him through an hour of private prayer before the Throne of Grace (Matthew 6:5-8).  For many first-timers, they find themselves asking, “How can I pray for one hour?”  Well, let me just say that this question has been answered many times over the years with simply, “Wow! I ran out of time!”  As men are located all over the campus inside and outside before the Throne of Grace, the touch of God comes upon us, and we can say, “I have seen the Lord!”  Everything changes.  Spiritual vision becomes clearer.  Consciences are clean.  Some trust Christ as their personal Savior.  Homes and marriages are restored.  Phone calls back home are made. Men are revived. (Psalms 51; 85:6; Isaiah 6:1-8)

What happens?  It’s called prayer!  You see, when we first come to MPA, so many of us have been “intoxicated” with all that this nasty world throws at us with its sin and satanic influence that it takes those two prayer events combined with the preaching of God’s Word to get us “dried out” and delighted in our God (Psalms 34:1-3; 37:4)!

Come Friday night, it’s on!  There is an anticipation in the hearts of men that begins with the first song and carries through to the final amen (Psalm 100:1-5).  The praise is glorious, the singing of 750 men is victorious, and the altar is filled with tender-hearted, broken, contrite men drawing ever nearer to God (Psalm 34:18; James 4:8)!

Then on Saturday, it’s time to hear one more message and reflect upon all that God has done in our hearts for His glory.  We know we cannot take MPA with us, but the God of MPA never leaves us (Hebrews 13:5b-6).  We know He will enable us to continue on for Him as we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 9:8; 2 Peter 3:18).

You see, that’s why it’s call an Advance!  The greatest advancements we make in our Christian lives are “on our knees” in prayer (Jeremiah 33:3; Matthew 7:7-11)!  As Harold Vaughan reminded us, “How refreshing to be clean in the presence of God!”

Get Rid of That Flute! Trash That Trumpet!

music in church

Music in church.

What God has created for an awesome expression of praise, worship, solace, joy, meditation, conviction, challenge, surrender, and discipleship is sadly a major source of division in the Body of Christ and has been for centuries.

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Music. I said it.

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You want to start a possible firestorm in a conversation?  Mention the word “music.”  Even writing about this causes me to cringe a bit.  There is much debate about the kind of music being used today in our churches.  May I kindly offer the following?

Often the cry is heard, “We don’t sing the old hymns in our church anymore,” or “I sure miss the old hymns,” or “These old hymns will die if we don’t sing them in church.”  No matter whether that is the case or not, may I ask, as I was reminded recently, “Do you sing hymns at home?”

The best place to learn the great hymns of the faith is at home.  Sing them at supper.  Sing them in the car.  Sing them around the fire pit.  Sing them during your family devotions.  Sing them on the way to church.  Sing them while holding your child in your arms.  Sing them while washing dishes.  Sing them at family gatherings.

On any given Sunday, a congregation may sing around 30 minutes. How many opportunities do you have at home each week?  Take advantage of those hours to disciple and worship with your family and guests.  Make your home a house of praise! I have a hunch your worship time on Sunday will be more Godward-focused and heart-expressed.

Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion! Declare His deeds among the people (Psalm 9:1).

I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me (Psalm 13:6).

Therefore I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the Gentiles, And sing praises to Your name (Psalm 18:36).

Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy (Psalm 33:3).

Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:18).

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord (Colossians 3:16).

Thank the Lord He created music!  Sing!!

Just Give Him Praise!

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Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!  
(Psalm 150)

Steven Cole asks an excellent question, “I wonder how many of us could honestly say, ‘Praising God characterizes my life’?”

Personally, there’s something special about being around people who love to praise the Lord!

Such was the case Tuesday night as a group of us attended the Bristol Revival in Bristol, VA.  This is the first week for these meetings under the gospel tent.  With around 2,500 or more in attendance, the praise did flow!

What a blessed time it was to gather outside the tent with around 200 men to pray before the service. With men crying out to the Lord, hands raised in supplication (1 Timothy 2:8), it was a blessed time in the presence of God asking for the power of God to change hearts and lives through the preaching of God’s Word

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The praise and worship continued as the service began with joyful, full-hearted singing.  Once again, there was shouting, rejoicing, and brighten countenances all around.  These folks were praising God for Who He is and for what He had done!

What stood out to me were the young folks seated around me.  Next to me was a nine-year-old boy in our group who at one point nudged me on the leg and pointed to my hands.  They weren’t clapping with the music, and he did not want me to miss out on the blessing of praise!

In front of me were two young folk, ages 12-15, who seated next to their father, were more than engaged in rejoicing and making connections throughout the whole service.  It was a delight to see them so engaged.

The preaching of Evangelist CT Townsend was powerful and penetrating.  Oh the praise and joy that rolled as we were challenged to consider the blood that has redeemed us, reconciled us back to God, purchased our pardon, and set us free from our bondage to sin (Exodus 12; Ephesians 1:7; 2:13; Colossians 1:14-22; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:22; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

The praise continued as lost souls walked forward at the invitation to receive Christ as their personal Savior!  As their names and ages were called out, the believers rejoiced with those in Glory (Luke 15).

“Psalm 150 gives us the where, why, how, and who of praise. Praise can be expressed through singing and music (including clapping, dancing, lifting our hands, kneeling, lying prostrate, etc.), through testimony and thanksgiving, prayer, sacrificial service, and giving.” (Cole)

Is your life characterized by praise?  Are you obedient to Psalm 150:6?

God is eternally worthy of all our praise!

A dear friend of mine in ministry is often heard to say, “Just give Him praise!”

Sing Congregation! Sing!!

In Christ Alone

There are many reasons to be excited about attending church on Sunday and one of those is participating in worship with a congregation that sings!

Music has always been a major part of my life.  My mother played the piano for nearly 75 years.  My dad loved to sing.  I cut my musical teeth on children’s records and long-play albums.  The sounds of Jack Holcomb, Helen Barth, Doug Oldam, 16 Singing Men, and many others filled our home every day.  We even had a membership with Word Record Company and received monthly sacred albums.

My mom would play the piano in church and Dad would lead the singing.  I vividly remember as a little boy that small congregation along the river in Dart, Ohio, singing their hearts out to such songs as “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder,” “Hear Ye the Master’s Call,” and many, many others.

Believe it or not, the first time I led singing in church was at the age of 12, and I led my first choir at the age of 14.

Some of my fondest memories of music are also connected with a packed out Lodge at The Wilds Camp and Conference Center as a teen singing those great camp songs!  Also, how blessed to have attended many, many Southern Gospel concerts with my father-in-law, my wife and our daughters who are musicians.

How absolutely grateful I am that God created music!!  Even more, how awesome it is to sing with other believers on Sunday who are gathered in the presence of God, our Heavenly Father, lifting their voices in praise and heartfelt melodies!!

This past Sunday, as I stood at the front row of the auditorium, I could hear the congregation singing behind me.  Having led singing for many years in our church, I could only imagine their countenances as they sang, “Amazing Grace, My Chains Are Gone,” “Come, Christians Join to Sing,” and a new song we are learning, “Jesus, the Son of God.”  Many, many times when our congregation sings, I think, “This has to be a foretaste of Heaven!!”

May I encourage you to serve the Lord, to worship the Lord, and minister to all those around you this Sunday by lifting your voice in praise!  Ask your worship leader ahead of time what songs will be sung so you can sing them with your family during the week before the Sunday worship gathering.  Use those songs in your personal daily meeting time with God in His Word and prayer.  Come prepared to Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name  (Psalm 30:4)

Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! (Psalm 47:6)

Sing out the honor of His name; Make His praise glorious. (Psalm 66:2)

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. (Psalm 95:1)

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Colossians 3:16)

Itty-bitty Christians

This picture says so much! We found these “cute” onesies in a religious bookstore this week. Others said, “Itty bitty _________” (fill-in-the-blank with a church denomination).

I think I understand the “cute” intent of the maker and store owner, but how many of us as true, born-again believers could wear this outfit?

Itty-bitty Christians . . .

  • Are satisfied to stay an infant when it comes to spiritual growth in the Word. Instead of totally immersing themselves in the daily personal intake of the Word (Psalm 119; Ephesians 4:11-16; 5:18-20), a quick dose of an internet devotional or a religious song on Sirius XM on the way to work suffices. The outcome is an itty-bitty faith in an itty-bitty God.
  • Are satisfied to stay an infant with it comes to living out all of God’s purposes for you in the body of Christ, the local church (Acts 2:42-47; Ephesians 3:10; 4:11 – 6:20). Sunday is the Lord’s Day all day, not just for a couple of hours for me to pick and choose how I want to worship. The outcome is itty-bitty participation, connection, transparency, honesty, accountability, body-life, service, praise, fellowship, prayer, evangelism/discipleship, one-another’s, exaltation of Christ, etc. As one lady told me about her church experience, “I like going to the early service because I can go, get it done, and go about my day.”
  • Are satisfied wearing a “onesie” because life is about them instead of glorifying God and serving others. (Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 12:9-21; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 1:15-18) The outcome is an itty-bitty Christian who seldom makes an impact on the world for Christ.
  • Are satisfied being a nominal Christian rather than a genuine, all-out disciple of Christ. Read Luke 14:25-27. Does that passage describe an itty-bitty Christian wearing a “onesie”?

Believers, we are exhorted to grow, to mature in the faith. Take heed to the following and let’s cast off our itty-bitty Christianity!

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. (1 Corinthians 14:20).

Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen. (2 Peter 3:17-18)

Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. (Ephesians 4:13-15)

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. (Hebrews 5:12-13)

How To Overcome Dull, Lifeless Prayer

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Read carefully Paul’s words in reference to the church at Philippi:  I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now (Philippians 1:3-5).

Look at those words, making my prayer with joy.  Is prayer a joy in your life?  Do you have a joy-filled time praying?  In others words, is praying a happy time for you?  Is it a time of rejoicing, praise, thanksgiving, and sweet communion with your Heavenly Father?

If you pray in the power of the Spirit (Romans 8:26; Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20), you will be praying with joy because it is a fruit of the Spirit.

For many, prayer is a burden, a drudgery, and/or a duty.  May I encourage you today to find a place to meet with God and enjoy His presence?

  • Praise Him for Who He is and thank Him for how He has shown His character to you through answered prayer. (Psalm 145:3)
  • Thank Him for what He taught you in His Word. (Psalm 19:7-11)
  • Rejoice in a promise that He has shown you; that you can hang onto today. (Matthew 7:7-11)
  • Sing to Him. (Psalm 96:1)
  • Raise your hands in adoration and submission to Him. (1 Timothy 2:8)
  • Thank God in advance for how He is going to answer prayer, save souls, lead you through the day, give wisdom and grace,

I believe if you will make prayer with joy this morning, it will set your day to be one of joy and blessing.  Try it!  (Philippians 4:4-7)

Advance

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There are many words to describe the various aspects of our Christian experience that is our daily walk with Christ in relationship with our Heavenly Father through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Some of those descriptive terms include putting off and putting on, retreat and rest, keep on keeping on, press toward the mark, be zealous, and many others.

Last week I saw the word advance come to life.  A group of ladies from our church attended a conference in Roanoke, Virginia, known as Ladies Prayer Advance.  The gathering began on Thursday at 1:30 with a general session which included singing, prayer groups, more singing, and powerful preaching from the Word of God.  This was followed by workshops and then a supper break.

The evening service began at 7:00 p.m. with singing, prayer, choir ministry, and the preached Word.  The first evening session is followed up by one of the most important events of the conference, prayer meetings.  Ladies gather with their group and follow the prayer prompt of what is known as CPR, Confession, Praise, and Requests.  As they go around their circle in at least three rounds of prayer, the Holy Spirit moves in, hearts are convicted and broken.  Honest and transparency abounds.  The conference really begins here.  Prayer meetings have been known to last all night.

My wife returned to her room somewhere between 11:00 and midnight.

Needless to say, when the Prayer Advance began again the next morning at 9:00, there were some tired ladies.  Instead of listening to their fatigue, they pressed on through a whole day of preaching and workshops followed by another service after supper and more prayer time.  Before lunch is one of the great highlights of Friday’s events called Sweet Hour of Prayer where you find a quiet place and pray for one hour.

Then Saturday morning rolls around with an 8:30 start for a workshop and then the final session at 10:00.

I have attended several Men’s Prayer Advances and have been the van driver for the past two Ladies Prayer Advances, and the same thing happens every time.  By the time the Friday night service rolls around, the conference participants are pumped, excited, expectant, full of praise, clean before the Lord and walking close to their God.

This same spirit escalates into the Saturday morning final session, and my friend, I will tell you, it is a bit of heaven on earth!!!

Why does it happen this way?  One word describes it . . . Advance!  Although our earthly bodies through fatigue, excuses, fears, laziness, and unconfessed sin calls us to slow down, quit, go take a nap or various other backward responses, the grace of God through praise, prayer, and preaching causes you to advance.  As each session and workshop moves along, the ladies are moving closer to the Lord! They are advancing!  And of course, that is the way it is supposed to be as we read in James 4:6-8, But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

I promise you, no believer has ever regretted drawing closer to God, advancing toward God and the things of God.

Yes, there are times when we need to retreat and rest, but advance should be a term to describe our relationship with God on a daily basis.  Grace is sufficient even when we are tired, tempted, and tested.

There’s a song we sing in our church that describes what I’ve tried to convey in this blog post.  Listen to it and . . . ADVANCE!

I Run to Christ

(Text by Chris Anderson; Tune by Greg Habegger)

I run to Christ when chased by fear
And find a refuge sure.
“Believe in me,” His voice I hear;
His words and wounds secure.

I run to Christ when torn by grief
And find abundant peace.
“I too had tears,” He gently speaks;
Thus joy and sorrow meet.

I run to Christ when worn by life
And find my soul refreshed.
“Come unto Me,” He calls through strife;
Fatigue gives way to rest.

I run to Christ when vexed by hell
And find a mighty arm.
“The Devil flees,” the Scriptures tell;
He roars, but cannot harm.

I run to Christ when stalked by sin
And find a sure escape.
“Deliver me,” I cry to Him;
Temptation yields to grace.

I run to Christ when plagued by shame
And find my one defense.
“I bore God’s wrath,” He pleads my case—
My Advocate and Friend.

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