A Touch of Heaven

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It is now 355 days away, and yes, I am counting, until we gather again for the Friday evening session of Men’s Prayer Advance!  Every year, I must say that it is a “little bit of heaven on earth.”  There is a genuine spirit of expectancy; a passion to worship in song, prayer and praise; a longing to hear the Word preached again; and an unparalleled unity among men before the Throne of God!

How is it that over 600 men gathered in one auditorium are singing with all their heart and voice, even if they have no musical ability?  How is it that these men are uninhibited in their expressions of love for God and surrender to God?  How is that men are willing to clap and/or raise their hands in praise, shout for joy, and even move to the altar in conviction even during a sermon, pray with such honesty and transparency, and not be ashamed to confess Christ before their peers?

I believe the answer is found in Exodus 14:30-31, Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses. 

And then note their response to the Lord’s working as recorded in Exodus 15:1-3 and following,

Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying,

“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;

    the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.

2 The Lord is my strength and my song,

    and he has become my salvation;

this is my God, and I will praise him,

    my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

3 The Lord is a man of war;

    the Lord is his name.

The Children of Israel had been exposed to the character and works of God!  They saw, listened, believed and then worshiped!

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The Friday night service is a touch of heaven because we arrive on Thursday afternoon in need of a touch from God, a heart-change.  From the very first general session until Friday night, we are exposed to powerful, convicting preaching; many times of prayer with another man or in groups; CPR prayer (confession, praise, requests) in our Thursday half-night of prayer; Sweet Hour of Prayer on Friday mid-morning; breakout sessions that deal with men’s heart issues; and music that magnifies Christ, glorifies God, and lifts the soul!

So, when Friday night rolls around, you have over 600 men who are ready to worship because as we heard this year, “we are not cleaner, we are CLEAN” before the Lord!

You know, Sunday services at church, for instance, should be times of awesome worship, too, if we are being exposed every day to the Word and broken in prayer!  When you have a daily fresh encounter with God Who is your Holy, Loving, Just, Righteous, Awesome, Transcendent Heavenly Father, it will affect your worship!  And as Romans 12:1-2 reminds us, worship is 24-7 . . . not just on Sundays or Men’s Prayer Advance.

So, are you giving God Exodus 15 kind of praise today?

Are your co-workers experiencing salt and light (Matthew 5:14-15) and seeing Matthew 5:16 fulfilled in their lives because you have been exposed to the Son?

Will today in your home before your family and next Sunday at your church be a touch of heaven because you are clean?

As we were so challenged this year, we must “keep the clay wet” (Jeremiah 18:6); “shut the door” (Matthew 6:5-15); and “stay in faith” (Hebrews 11:6).

(If you want to watch the services, check out this site as well as the other links: Thursday NIght Service 1.26.17)

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).

Been to the Holy Land Twice in One Month

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“Why go to Israel?”  “Aren’t you afraid?”  “You wouldn’t catch me dead over there.”  “This isn’t a good time to go over there.”  These are only an assortment of questions and statements I heard in the days leading up to our trip.

Why did we go?  Because Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.  He is the most important person in my life and will be for all eternity. He died and rose again for me, and my heart and life is enriched by being in the place where He ministered, suffered, was rejected, crucified, buried and rose again for me and the whole world!

Why go to Israel? God’s Word is the most important book in my life.  His Word is forever alive (Isaiah 40:6-8; Hebrews 4:12), but it becomes 3-D when you have an opportunity to visit Capernaum, ride a boat on the Sea of Galilee, visit the Garden of Gethsemane, sing “Jesus Paid It All” in the prison where He was scourged, stand at the Garden Tomb, and walk the Mt. of Olives where Jesus will return at His Second Coming (Acts 1:9-11).

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My second Holy Land visit this month occurred last Thursday through Saturday as men from our church joined 600 plus other men in Roanoke, VA, for the annual Men’s Prayer Advance (christlifemin.org).  What an absolute thrill to unite with these men in genuine heart-felt singing; multiple opportunities for passionate, honest prayer; listening to soul-stirring, Holy Spirit convicting preaching; and watch God at work in changing lives for His glory!!

Israel and Men’s Prayer Advance, two trips to what I’ll call the Holy Land because these were days set apart to meet with our Lord, to know Him better, to hear His voice, to walk in His will, and to gather at His Throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Oh, by the way, I’ll be walking in the Holy Land today, too, because everywhere I go, Christ is there.  He will never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrew 13:5-6); He dwells within me (Colossians 1:27).

Christmas In the Past; Life in the Present

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The build-up and anticipation of Christmas is unequaled in our country!  As is often said, “The preparation for Christmas seems to get earlier and earlier each year.”  Indeed, Christmas is a very special holiday and one that many folks prepare for throughout the whole year.  But, what about the days after?  Is there a let-down?  After all the planning and performing of cantatas as well as children’s plays, buying and wrapping gifts, preparing for company and meals,  taking family photos, and  celebrating firsts (marriage, children, house, job), is all over, how will you handle the days and the weeks after?

  1. Begin today in God’s Word reading it with the same passion as you did all the “Christmas passages.” Memorize other portions of the Word of God with the same fervor as you did to memorize Luke 2:1-20.  Read books about the life of Christ beyond the cradle with the same zeal as you did all the Christmas books.  Read them to your children, and make Christ’s life BIG to them every day!!
  2. Live with a daily anticipation of the next biggest day of your life as a believer—the Rapture & the Bema (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Titus 2:11-14; 12 Corinthians 5:10).
  3. Enjoy singing songs of praise and worship to our God all the other months of the year with gusto and joy on your face as you did the carols of this season (Psalm 96:1-9).
  4. Be a giver today as you were on Christmas (Acts 20:35).
  5. Open up your home for family and guests today and into next year (Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9).
  6. Walk in the same grace today that was sufficient yesterday as you dealt with the “tug in your heart” over that special person that was not here this Christmas season (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  7. Be as energetic today about the gospel as you have been prior to December 25 (Philippians 1:27).

2 Peter 1:3-8

According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;

And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;

And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(Photo:  Steven Lawson)

I Left the Theatre

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You attend to the theatre to view the latest, greatest, “gotta-see-it” film.  You’ve bought your ticket, a big tub of popcorn and a 32 oz. Coke, and have settled into your seat.  Are you comfortable now?

15-20 minutes after the show begins, you abruptly stand up, leave your popcorn and Coke, and head for the exit!  In the not-too-distance future, your spouse comes out to check on you. She approaches you with her inquisitive face and asks, “Why did you leave?”

“Well, my brain can only retain 10-20% of what I hear, so I figured, why stick around?”

Have you ever done that?  When’s the last time you left a football game, a concert, and/or a play because your mind would only retain a small percentage of what you heard or saw?  Truth is, 9.5 times out of 10, you arrive early and stay late for an event.

You know why?  Because you love it!

Let me tell you, tailgating, whooping it up and hollering at your favorite football game is just over-the-top fun!!

Hard to beat a good concert, too!  And I want the best seats, up close! I want to be where the action is! Love it!

Now, you want to know when I’ve heard the 10-20% brain capacity excuse?  It is always in reference to the length of a Sunday service, and especially the sermon.

So what’s the deal?  I’ll just put it bluntly . . . you get your “worship on” more with what entertains you than Who loves you and gave His life for you.  And that entertainment might even be a Christian concert. . . and the music is loud, too.

The Church is Christ, and Christ is the Church (1 Corinthians 12:27). If you are a true, born again believer, then you are a part of the body of Christ, the Church.  Everything about Church should excite you and call you be enthralled with its Head (Ephesians 5:18-32; Colossians 1:18).

Sadly, too many believers view the church they attend by seeing people’s faces instead seeing the face of Christ.  Hence, because the people who attend your church are imperfect sinners who disappoint, discourage, criticize, and fail, the church does not live up to your liking.

How about going to church this Sunday to enjoy Christ alone?  When the song service and/or sermon goes too long, beyond your 10-20% mental capacity, just let your heart take over (Matthew 22:37) and enjoy being in the presence of God, His Son, and the work of God that you cannot see through all the facets of a Sunday service! You will be surprised at what you remembered because your worship was in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

By the way, how about coming back in for the rest of the film?

A Giving Celebration

 

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“God directs his people not simply to worship but to sing his praises before the nations. We are called not simply to communicate the gospel to nonbelievers; we must also intentionally celebrate the gospel before them.” (Tim Keller)

One of the many ways we can “celebrate the gospel” before nonbelievers is for them hear how God meets our needs for His work and His glory!  How sad that the unbelieving world sees us storing up treasures here, even going into debt for temporal things that have no eternal value, and they never heard the stories of how our great God supplied our needs and especially provided so we could get in on the blessing of giving!!  God wants you to celebrate not grumble or be a Mr. Scrooge.

The following passage describes one of the many celebration activities in a believer’s life:

But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 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 9:6-8).

One of the most joyful events that occurs in any church service is when the offering is received!  Think about it.  Look at the following based upon the above passage:

  1. God promises that if you sow bountifully, you will reap bountifully.
  2. God does not pressure you to give.
  3. God does not want you to be miserable when you give but joyful.
  4. God is able to provide so you can get in on the blessing of giving.

Indeed, it is more blessed to give than receive (Acts 20:35), even when you do not think you have to give.  God is able!  So, when it comes time to give, do not look at your wallet, look at your God Who 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 Cor. 9:8).

Therefore, people of BCBC, preparing to give and then giving to missions in 2017 should really make you celebrate when you consider 2 Corinthians 9:15!!

I am looking for much celebration in the days to come!  God is able!

Scratchin’ My Head

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Yesterday’s presidential election was, I believe, a display of the mercy of God and a direct answer to the millions who gave hours to effective, fervent prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  God heard our cries, and our nation has been delivered, this time, from four or more years of a pagan, ungodly, anti-Christ government, national agenda.  It was as though we were in Daniel’s shoes as he prayed for the city of Jerusalem and Israel, O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name (9:19), God intervened once again.

What rejoicing is wrought when God answers from His Holy Throne in mercy, grace and victory!  Yesterday, the election results were the buzz.  But, I have to be honest with you.  I am scratchin’ my head at something.  To watch God work in such a powerful way, in such a way that left many in disbelief, I am at a loss to explain why our churches were not filled to capacity last night with the people of God from everywhere praising the Lord in song, testimony, praise and MORE PRAYER.  Quite frankly, I am perplexed.

After the Exodus and the crossing of the Red Sea, the people of Israel gathered to sing the song of the redeemed (Exodus 15) in praise for God’s deliverance.  A parallel passage to Exodus 15 is found in Isaiah 12 which has an eschatological tone of millennial praise!  What a day that will be for the nation of Israel and us! Seems like to me that the hymn of praise recorded in Isaiah should have been the words of our mouth and the meditation of our heart (Psalm 19:14) last night in prayer  and praise gatherings across this land!!

Still scratchin’ my head this morning.

And They Continued

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Men’s Prayer Advance

One of the most fascinating books in the Bible is the one penned by Luke, the book of Acts.  Every time I read the first few chapters and see the early church in action, my heart shifts into fourth gear, and it’s rolling!  What an awesome privilege to be involved in the much later years of continuing the ministry of Jesus Christ, not because of who and what we are, but because of Who and What  He is!!  Does it get any better than that????  Wow!

In the second chapter, I find a word that resonates in my heart . . . continue (2:42, 46-47).  These passages read, They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

The word continue means to “give constant attention to” (2:42) and “to continue all the time in a place” (2:46).  The first definition speaks of a daily attitude toward prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and the second refers to set times of corporate prayer.  Put the two together and you see that no matter when the church meets, whether on a Sunday or in someone’s home or at a small group fellowship gathering or in a leadership meeting, prayer is always a part of that meeting.   Interesting that the second word is in the present tense, therefore, this praying in community never stops; it is always an essential element of corporate gatherings no matter the size. And may I add, I really believe that this time of prayer is not just for the food or a brief time of prayer so we can move onto the rest of our business, service, or activity.  Prayer as we see in the early church was indeed their declaration of total dependence upon God!

If Boones Creek Bible Church is to continue the ministry of Jesus Christ as it moves forward through its 60th year of ministry, we MUST CONTINUE in prayer just as we see in Acts 2:42, 46.  Truth is, the Church really did not begin at Pentecost.  It all started in a prayer meeting in the Upper Room prior to Pentecost . . . These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication (Acts 1:14).

And they continued in prayer.

Clippin’ Grace Coupons in Ministry

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Life is all about the grace of God.  We do not deserve anything except hell because of our sinful state.  But in His grace, God has provided salvation for all men (John 1:12; 3:16; Ephesians 2:1-4, 8-9; Titus 3:5).  Then, in and through His grace, He provides so many undeserving gifts everyday of our lives (John 1:16-17; Ephesians 2:4-7).  How easy it is to dwell on all the bad around us that we forget to focus on the grace of God which is transcendent over all (Romans 5:20).  So with that in mind, my goal for Friday’s blog is to share with you from a pastor’s heart some of the “grace coupons” in ministry that I’ve been able to “clip” over the past seven days. So here we go!

  1. Worshipping on Sunday at Boones Creek Bible Church! One of the many true blessings of a Sunday at BCBC is joining with our congregation as they sing.  With raised voices, uplifted hands and glowing countenances, praise is abundant!  Many Sunday mornings on my way to church I find myself saying, “I can hardly wait to sing with my brothers and sisters in Christ today!”   Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16).
  2. Seeing ladies cry out in prayer, singing, and worship as they joined together for three hours in the presence of the Lord at BCBC. You can read a bit more about it on my wife’s blog post Friday Favorites.
  3. When I was an earlier teen, my dad pastored a church here in south Johnson City, TN. Words cannot describe what a grace blessing it is to be living and pastoring in the same area that has always been so special to me.  When we moved here from Bluefield, West Virginia, two men, Stacey Tester and Ralph Gouge, came from Johnson City to assist us.  They made a huge impression on me.  Stacey and Ralph have since gone on to Glory, but today, I have the privilege of participating in the funeral for Dixie Gouge, Ralph’s precious wife.  Furthermore, Ralph and Dixie’s daughter and three of their children are part of the BCBC family.  Also, I saw Ralph and Dixie’s son this week which was the first time since we moved away.  As we sat in the Gouge’s living room and reminisced about our time here and about my parents, I thought, “Lord, how good you are to me, and how good to be still connected to my dad’s ministry in such a blessed way!”
  4. Joy in ministry is often mixed with sadness and sorrow as even mentioned above. Yesterday I stood by the bedside of a dear man whose body is riddled with Alzheimer’s. His wife has faithfully stood by his side and cared for him with love and great compassion for several years.  With Bernice on one side and me on the other, we shared Psalm 23 and then sang several songs:  In the Sweet By and By, When the Roll is Called Up Yonder, Heaven Is a Wonderful Place, Until Then, I Have Found a Hiding Place, and others.  As a pastor, I am so grateful for the opportunity to minister the balm of God’s Word and the blessed encouragement of song that gives encouragement for today and expectation for the future.  It is all by His grace!
  5. Finally, there’s the blessing of preaching and teaching the Word of God!! Currently, I am preaching through Revelation . . . the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ.  How timely; how sobering; how hope-filled!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ . . . . To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.  (Ephesians 1:3, 6)

Friday’s Findings

What a week this has been!  Winter raised its frigid head and blew in a storm of gnarly winds, bone-chilling temps, yet layered the ground with a pristine blanket of snow.  Quite, frankly, its just been another typical week in the life of a child of God.  And as always, it must be said, “God is good all the time; all the time God is good.”  So, here’s a few blog posts to end the week that you might find edifying, challenging, and humorous.  Looking for the Lord Jesus Christ to return today!  Will He find you and me watching and faithful? I heard Dr. Charles Wagner say many years ago in a sermon, “The imminent return of Christ should have immediate effects upon my life!”

Why Don’t Choir Members Smile

Three Reasons Why Bible Reading Can Feel Like a Chore

Fifteen Ways to Honor Your Wife

Our Home Heating Unit Is Broken and We Think It’s Funny

Only Just For Fun