Men, Advance!!

Three days of . . .

  • powerful, practical preaching,
    • effectual, fervent prayer,
      • joy-filled, uplifted singing from the heart,
        • penetrating conviction of the Holy Spirit,
          • intentional exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
            • heaven-like reunion fellowship

. . . that’s Men’s Prayer Advance 2021!!

And it’s been that way every year as far back as I can remember. My first Advance was way up in the mountains of northern Virginia. You basically went to the end of world and made a right turn. Tucked back in those hills was a place for men to gather and meet with God. In more recent days, we have met at different locations around the Roanoke, VA, area, but God still meets with us in glorious power as we meet with Him!

I have always loved the title of this event . . . Prayer Advance. As a man, we need times of retreating for rest and regathering, but when it comes to prayer, we must be advancing and advancing and advancing! When you consider the absolute, transcendent, magnificence of our God of Whom it was said, For with God nothing will be impossible (Luke 1:37) and Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him (1 John 5:14-15), the call to prayer is one of advancement!!

Oswald Chambers said, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.” Satan and your flesh will do anything to keep you from praying, especially prayer that is as Harold Vaughan challenged us, “confident, faith-filled praying that reaches up and cries out to God” (1 John 5:14-15; Psalms 3:4; 5:1; 18:6; 30:2,8; 34:6; 72:1; 88:11,13; 102:1; 107:6,13; 120:1;138:3;142:1).

Men, every time you pray, you are calling God in on your situation; you are moving into kingdom work; you are dwelling in the arms of all-sufficient grace and omnipotence; you are trusting in the One Who is omniscient and omnipresent; you are crying out to the One Who is holy, righteous, and perfect in all His ways, Who loves you with an everlasting love because of your position in Christ. (If you need illumination along these lines, spend time reading and praying Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1:15-23 and 3:14-21 after meditating on Ephesians 1:1-14 and the Psalms passage listed above.)

Begin your time with the Lord, unrushed, by praising Him for Who He is and thanking Him for what He has done (Psalm 100:4). As we were reminded this week, let’s move away from problem-based praying to Christ-exalted prayer that believes what God can do over what man attempts to do.

I’ll be sharing more this week about Prayer Advance. In the meantime, men, let’s make advancements today on our knees before the Throne of Grace!!

Brief Retreats

Last week I celebrated my 62nd birthday tucked away with my wife in a cottage on Watauga Lake in East Tennessee. Besides acknowledging another year of life and my wife making the day special, we went away for other reasons, too.

First of all, just as Jesus went withdrew Himself from the crowds (Matthew 14:23) and went to the mountain to pray (Luke 6:12-13), we as disciples of Jesus Christ need to do the same (Matthew 11:28-30). Two days removed from cell phones, internet, normal life, distractions, and responsibilities is an investment in your walk with Christ that is more than worth the effort. You have time to pray, listen, write, read, and be still. All you need is your Bible, journal, a ready heart, and a quiet place.

Second, marriages need maintenance like many other things in life. No matter if your marriage is humming or in need of a tune-up or a major overhaul, you and your spouse need brief times away to talk, plan, be attentive to each other, pray, read, play games, take a walk, laugh, sit on the porch swing, take a hike and share what God has been teaching you. All you need is place to get away and leave everything else behind.

May I encourage you to plan a brief retreat in the next six months? You need it in your walk with God and your marriage needs it. Sometimes, it’s good to retreat before you can advance.

And What Will We Do?

On this important day in American history, we (born again believers, John 3:16) will and must do what we are to do everyday, and especially today!

PRAISE THE LORD!

I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
2 Every day I will bless you
and praise your name forever and ever.
3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.
(Psalm 145:1-3)

READ GOD’S WORD!

And that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for [c]instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:15-17)

PRAY!

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

MAKE DISCIPLES!

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20)

LIVE THE CHRIST LIFE!

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

You see, friends, the ultimate daily, lifetime step for every believer is wrapped up in one word no matter the circumstances of this world or who’s in authority . . . obedience. The joy of fellowship and the appropriation of blessings in Christ are revealed as we walk in obedience to our righteous, holy, perfect, loving transcendent Heavenly Father by His grace!

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. (1 John 2:3-6).

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.

Prayer Points – Day of Prayer

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Praises

1. God is in complete control (Is. 45:7)

 2. Our Father knows all our needs (Matt. 6:31-33)

3. Nothing can separate us from His love (Rom. 8:37-39)

4. God uses calamity to turn people to Him (Is. 19:22: Hab. 3:2-6)

5. God’s ways are deep and wise (Ps. 92:5,Is. 40:13-14)

6. The LORD is with us (Ps. 46:1, 11)

The World

1. God’s word to have free course and be glorified (2 Thess. 3:1)

2. Seekers to find true shepherds and not false ones (Jer. 50:6, Mark 6:34)

3. Powerful witness of gospel media (Acts 1:8)

4. Repentance of world leaders (Jonah. 3:6, Dan. 4:37)

5. Wisdom for leaders in making decisions (Prov. 21:1, 1 Tim. 2:2)

6. Mercy: Delivering lives and limiting the pandemic (Amos 7:1-6)

7. Specific places: NYC, USA, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, etc. (Ps. 46:10)

8. A realization of the destructive nature of sin in our world (Rom. 5:12)

Those in Need

1. Strength, wisdom, love, and protection for health workers (Ps. 145:9)

2. Healing for those who are sick (Matt. 8:16-17)

3. Income for those who have lost work (Eccl. 5:19)

4. Sustaining of ministries hampered by the lockdowns (Ps. 90:17)

5. Sustaining of persecuted Christians in poor areas of the world (Heb. 13:3)

Spiritual Growth

1. Renewed perspective on God’s priorities for our lives (Ps. 90:12)

2. Pursuit of God more than entertainment (1 John 2:15-17)

3. Devoted time to Scripture memory and meditation (Ps. 119:11)

4. Devoted time to private prayer and corporate prayer (Matt. 6:6, 18:20)

5. Hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt. 5:6)

6. Purity for God’s people stuck at home (Ps. 119:9-10)

7. Spiritual strength to rise and work (1 Cor. 15:10, Col. 1:29)

8. Growth in faith and endurance (Jam. 1:2-4)

9. Joy and thanksgiving (1 Thess. 5:18, Ps. 92:1)

Families

1. Parents refocusing on their calling to their family (Eph. 6:4)

2. Husbands & wives serving one another spiritually (Gen. 2:18, 1 Pet. 3:7)

3. Families bonding in seeking God together (Ps. 133:1, 1 Chron. 16:10-11)

4. Children learning from their parents’ godly responses (Prov. 23:26)

5. Edifying activities & positive spirits for children stuck at home (Col. 1:9-12)

6. Salvation of unsaved loved ones (1 Cor. 7:16)

Pastors and Missionaries

1. Increased closeness to God Himself (Ps. 73:25)

2. Abounding grace for new and overwhelming challenges (2 Cor. 9:8)

3. Wisdom to re-plan for the rest of the year (Prov. 16:3)

4. Wisdom & Discernment to feed, lead, & protect their people (1 Pet. 5:1-4)

5. Boldness and faith to show people their sin (Is. 58:1, Jer. 23:22)

6. Opportunities to powerfully testify of Christ (Acts 4:33)

7. Protection from attack (2 Thess. 3:2)

8. More laborers sent out to the uttermost parts (Matt. 9:38; Acts 8:1-4)

Local Churches

1. Good online connections and edifying communication (Heb. 10:25)

2. Fellowship for isolated Christians (Ecc. 4:12)

3. Love, grace, forgiveness, mutual care, and increased bonding (Jn. 13:34)

4. Spiritual initiative of members being proactive to edify (Eph. 4:12)

5. Consistent support of pastors and missionaries (2 Cor. 9:11)

6. Increased commitment to one another as a body (1 Cor. 14:12)

7. Unity of God’s people (Jn. 17:21, Eph. 4:3)

Reviving of the Church

1. Deliverance from complacency and spiritual slumber (Rom. 13:11)

2. Alert to the nearness of Christ’s 2nd Coming (Matt. 24:7-8)

3. Revival of corporate prayer & fasting (even while apart) (2 Chr. 20:3-6, 12)

4. Great repentance on individual, local, & international levels (Joel 2:12-17)

5. Formation of prayer groups that will endure beyond this time (Matt. 18:19)

6. Powerful testimonies of hope that impact the panicking world (1 Pet. 3:15)

7. Spirit-empowered boldness in sharing the gospel (Acts 1:8)

8. God manifesting Himself in a mighty way among us (Ex. 33:16, Lk. 11:13)

9. A time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19-20)

10. A work of the LORD’s doing, marvelous in our eyes (Ps. 118:23)

“When saints are all alive and instant in prayer, it is the index and token that the Lord will open the windows of heaven and pour them out such a blessing that they shall not have room enough to receive it.” – C.H. Spurgeon

(Compiled by our fellow servant in the gospel ministry, J. B.)

Zoomin’ On!!

Singing In Christ Alone, The Solid Rock,  Nothing Ever Can Nothing Ever Will, Be Still My Soul, He Will Hold Me Fast, the reading of Galatians 5:16-26; preaching from Romans 8:5-11, Sunday School & Adult Bible Fellowships, hearing of gospel ministry in Brazil to the deaf, and corporate prayer, these were some of the components of the last time we met in March as a corporate body in our church building.  I’ve intentionally kept the hard copy of the Sunday Gathering Order in the flyleaf of my Bible.  Good memories!

Yes, we have missed the many ingredients of a Sunday at BCBC as well as other gatherings. Nevertheless, God in His grace and mercy has been so very good to us!

In this midst of this quarantine, what have we enjoyed?  What blessings have been graced upon us?

  • Zoom Services.  Thank the Lord for technology that has kept us connected.  With all the push toward social distancing, the Lord has enabled us as a congregation to stay close.  Through Zoom, we see/hear each other, chat with one another, share blessings, fellowship with our missionaries (Asia and Europe), rejoice over the salvation of a precious soul, evangelize those who would not attend a gathering in person, and . . . wave at each other when we “leave the meeting.” 🙂
  • Zoom Prayer Meetings.  What a blessing to hear adults, young people, and children pray for the salvation of lost souls, spiritual awakening in the world, America, and the Tri-Cities, and revival for BCBC!
  • Zoom Small Groups.  Each week when groups have chosen to meet, they have experienced the presence of the Lord as they pray, discuss the Romans passage from the previous Sunday’s message, share burdens, simply chat, and encourage one another. Once again, the grace provisions have been rich!
  • Zoom Sunday School. The upper grade school class has been meeting after the morning service. Last Sunday, they were able to have a “visitor” from Germany participate in their class as they even did an outdoor activity. How cool is that?!?!
  • Zoom Teen Meetings. Pastor Andrew has been able to continue teen ministry through meetings at various times through the week, even reading through Mere Christianity with some guys. So good to see a passion to continue to disciple.
  • Zoom Apples of Gold. My wife loves to disciple ladies through this ministry. The past three Sunday afternoons, she has given a cooking lesson (jam, donuts, biscuits and sausage gravy) for the purpose of creating hospitality and gospel conversation times going forward. There has been teaching and questions from the participants, laughter, encouragement, and even the fulfillment of given opportunities to be a blessing to others during week.

Indeed, there are many other grace blessings that I am not aware of because our God is bigger than the coronavirus and social distancing, and He is fulfilling the promise of Matthew 16:18 around the world! I am certainly looking forward to meeting again in a corporate setting at our building to sing, pray, fellowship and hear God’s Word proclaimed, but in the meantime, we rejoice in how God accomplishes His will and work no matter the circumstances.

Praise the Lord!
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
2 Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord,
or declare all his praise?
(Psalm 106:1-2)

For nothing will be impossible with God. (Luke 1:37)

But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God. (Luke 18:27)

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. (Psalm 20:7)

Don’t Miss It!

Could the rapture be occurring today?

Are we in the beginning of the tribulation period?

Is God judging the world; our country?

Was this virus a part of a conspiracy?

These and many more questions have been asked, and we grope for answers. Of those questions stated above, I know that the rapture of the church has not occurred and therefore the subsequent tribulation (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:9). Since there are no signs for the rapture, only promises, we know that it could occur right now. As my wife has said, “It will happen in somebody’s lifetime. It might as well be mine!”

Also, in reference to this virus being the judgment of God, I agree with Thomas Schreiner’s statement, “All temporal judgments are meant to direct our attention to final judgment.” (Revelation 20:7-15)

Nevertheless, from the very beginning of the gradual shut-down, “safer at home” mandates, and face masks, I have had one definite fear. It is not a sinful fear, but one that has driven me to prayer and the Word. It is that when the “pandemic” is over, we will miss what God intended for us personally, nationally, and corporately as in our local churches.

This very desire led me to roll out of bed Tuesday morning at 3:30 and get on my knees in prayer. “Lord, You are under no obligation to reveal to me your purposes in permitting this virus, but if You would be so gracious, would you share enough with me so I don’t miss what You want to teach me?”

After prayer, I began to read the Word. Currently, I am reading through 1 Chronicles, Luke, Psalms and Colossians. Normally, there is one psalm to read each day in my Bible reading plan, and having read Psalm 129 on Monday, I read Psalm 130. Having completed my reading and writing in my journal the things God has spoken to me about, I picked up my phone to record my daily reading in the YouVersion app.

My reading was not complete. Psalm 131 was scheduled for Tuesday as well. God speaking to me was not complete either because Psalm 131 was the answer to my prayer. As I read, I believe the Lord revealed to me one of the reasons for this trial. “Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me” (Psalm 131:2). God has seen fit at this time to wean us off of much of what we thought was so important for life to be fulfilled.

This is good. Many said before the virus, “I sure wish I could slow down.” Or, “Life is crazy busy!” Or, “There is so much going on that I can’t keep up!” Well, we got our wish. What will we do with It? What have we been doing with it?

Folks, God is trying to get our attention! We had better be awake (Romans 13:11-14). During this shut-down . . .

  • How are the current circumstances giving you an opportunity to seek the Lord?
  • What has the Lord said specifically to you? Could you write it down; could you articulate it?
  • What changes have been made spiritually that will affect all other areas of your life going forward? What has been “weaned away” from you? (Romans 6:1-14; 8:1-39; Ephesians 4:17-32)
  • Have you given more time to prayer? (Psalm 130; Romans 8:26-27; 1 Timothy 2:1-8)
  • Have you read the Word with a greater passion and hunger for Truth? (Psalm 119)
  • Have you sensed a greater conviction of the Holy Spirit that has led to repentance and transformation into Christlikeness? (Acts 17:30; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Hebrews 4:12)
  • Have you been crying out to the Lord for a spiritual awakening and revival in our land? (Psalms 3:4; 80; 61:2; 85:6 119:126; Joel 2:12-13)
  • Have you found yourself thinking more about prophecy, the end times? (Titus 2:13)
  • Have you come to realize your need of eternal hope; the need of a personal relationship with Christ? If so, listen to the following link: https://vimeo.com/41496372

This Sunday will mark the fifth Sunday in-a-row that we will not be gathering within the walls of brick and mortal as a church to worship our great God and to fellowship together. How grateful I am for the online connection that has helped us to continue to grow and “meet.” No matter, for our congregation and myself, I don’t want us to miss it! I don’t want any of us to miss what God has to say to us; what He has planned for us going forward!

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

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

6 When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches.
7 Because You have been my help,
Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice.
8 My soul follows close behind You;
Your right hand upholds me.
(Psalm 63:1-8)

I Don’t Want to Go Back to Normal!

COVID-19 has changed all of our worlds around the world!

In short order, our personal calendars have gone blank. Any attempt to reschedule has the word “hopefully” attached to it.

For thousands, there is a longing to get back to “normal” such as work, school, ballgames, shopping, eating out, not wearing a mask, etc.

There is one area of life that I hope does not return to “normal,” and that is what I will call “typical church life” here in America before the coronavirus.

My perception at times over the years has been that the church has been too reliant on programs and “business as usual.” (I remember attending a church growth conference in the 80’s that said if I would spend a $100 to buy their materials, my church would grow to 300 in one year.) With that in mind, there have been occasions where I have desired to announce on a Sunday, “Beginning now, all ministries of this local church are laid aside. For the next 40 days, we will give ourselves to fervent prayer and the reading of God’s Word to discern how Christ, the Head of the Church (Ephesians 5:23), would have us continue His ministry for His glory (Acts 1:1-14; 1 Corinthians 10:31) in the days to come.”

Well, guess what? It happened! We are living it out right now in April 2020. Indeed, these are uncharted waters for all of us. At the risk of sounding heartless for all who have suffered loss, I must say that I am optimistic! I believe God is up to something awesome right now, and because the Church is His vehicle to accomplish His redemptive purposes, and the Church is still here, having not been taken out (1 Thessalonians 4:13=18), I’m on my knees. I’m watching. I’m anticipating. I’m longing. I’m expecting. I’m reading. I’m listening. I’m rejoicing.

You see, who am I, but I will say with a broken, weary heart that I don’t want to return to “normal” if it’s more of . . .

  • Man-centered, convenience-driven, “I’ll serve if it doesn’t interfere with MY life” ministry. In other words, the self-life taking preeminence over the Christ-life. (Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 2:20)
  • Prayer meetings usually being the least attended gathering of God’s people on any given week. (Acts 1:13-14; 4:23-31;12:5-17)
  • Lost souls not hearing the gospel from the redeemed on a regular basis; few coming to Christ; and the baptismal pool having to be swept out because it’s become a den of cobwebs and dead bugs. (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15)
  • Dry, empty altars. Call me old-fashioned, legalistic, and/or emotional, but we need a fresh awareness of the holiness of God, a renewed vision of Christ and a visitation of the convicting power of the Holy Spirit that drives us to our knees in repentance and revival! (e.g. Judges 10:10; 2 Kings 11:17-20; 2 Chron. 15:1-19; Acts 2-5; 10-20)
  • Personal preferences and the fear of man being the driver of ministry decisions as well as the stated “biblical standard” which determines whether we are right or wrong. Since the virus has shuttered our Sunday meetings and weekly ministries, I don’t hear complaining about music preferences, Bible translation arguments, -ism discussions (whatever you wish to use to preface -ism, put it in there). By the way, I don’t think we are going to hear about many church splits during this time!!! (Proverbs 25;29; Romans 12:10; Ephesians 4:1-6; Philippians 2:14; Colossians 1:9-18)
  • Church membership being a take-it-or-leave-it decision. (1 Corinthians 5:1-12; 2 Corinthians 2:6; 1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:1-5)
  • Pharisaical, hide-behind-my-looking-good-Sunday-attire and continuing to answer the “How you doing?” question with a “Fine!” Oh, that we would be transparent and genuine in our conversation acknowledging our dependence upon the Lord and His people. Oh, that we would enter into the hurts, sorrows, burdens, and sins of others through prayer and scripture reading to help them take the next step toward Christ during fellowship time rather than being upset that our favorite donut was no longer available. (Romans 14:19; 15:14; Ephesians 4:15; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 10:24-25; James 5:16)
  • Prayerless, powerless, going-through-the-motion preaching and teaching of God’s Word in every area of ministry. Martyn Lloyd-Jones put it this way, “If there is no power, there is no preaching.” (Isaiah 61:1; Zechariah 4:6; John 15:5; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 2:14; 3:6-7; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Philippians 2:13; 2 Timothy 4:2)

Over the past few weeks, I have heard pastors say that they were attempting to keep things as normal as possible while using online services. I totally understand what they are saying. With all my heart, may I say, let’s not seek to keep things normal. Let’s cry out for a fresh touch from the Throne of God! Let’s be willing to go with God and not be timid about asking for a fresh movement of the power of God. And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31).

Perhaps we could begin that 40 day prayer movement now so we will be ready to follow the Head of the Church into this new territory of ministry when the Lord opens the doors.

I end this post truly from from my pastor’s heart, with two quotes from Vance Havner:

“Too many church services start at eleven sharp and end at twelve dull.”

“The church is so subnormal that if it ever got back to the New Testament normal it would seem to people to be abnormal.”

I don’t want to go back to normal!

That’s My Old Church

old-church

A man is rescued after many years on a desert island. As he stands on the deck of the rescuing vessel, the captain says to him, “I thought you were stranded alone. How come I can see three huts on the beach?”

“Well,” replies the castaway, “that one there is my house and that one there is where I go to church.”

“And the third one?” asks the skipper.

“Oh, that’s my old church.”  (Wikipedia)

How many of us could drive through our town or city and say the same thing?

There are definitely a few biblical reasons for leaving a church and moving on to another, but I am convinced that most of the time, it has nothing to do with biblical reasoning or issues.  And sadly, many of the stated “biblical issues” are not biblical at all.  They are just strong preferences.

Wonder how many churches in your area are splits off of another church, and sometimes sadly are a split from even another church?  Some church splits are due to personality clashes, arguments over a building project, music preference, translation issues, petty offenses, wrong interpretation of separation, perceived misconceptions, etc.

Then there are splits created by sins such as gossip, pride, sowing discord among the brethren, refusal to obey the biblical instructions of how to address conflicts, power-struggles, dictatorial leadership from pastors and/or deacons, unbiblical response to church discipline, bitterness, etc.

The point of this post is simply this.

  1. As spoken by Thom Rainer, “There is little good that comes from church splits.”
  2. God is bigger than any issue that creates a church split.  Why not trust God?  Everything man puts his hands to, he ruins.  The flesh profits nothing.
  3. Prayer and humility is the answer, not gang warfare.  We should be fighting in prayer not in corner groups, email or on social media.  Even in situations of doctrinal deviation, patience and prayer should be the overriding mode of operation.
  4. Remember that every church is made up of sinners, hopefully saved by the grace of God, in desperate, daily need of God’s grace, and purchased by the blood of Christ.  We are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:9-20).  We are to be growing in grace everyday (2 Peter 3:18).
  5. Whatever issue causes that split, because of a lack of humble resolution, it is the reason for the “new church” to start.  Is that a proper foundation?  Will it last?
  6. The greater testimony for Christ in our communities should be repentance, reconciliation and rejoicing, not division, discord, and death.
  7. Consider please the following passages of Scripture before ever being a part of a church split: Proverbs 6:12-19; 13:10; 15:6; Romans 12:3-21; 13:10-14; 15:1-3; 15:5-6; Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 3:1-23; 10:31; Ephesians 4:1-3, 14-32; Philippians 1:12-18, 27; 1 John 4:7-20.

Sadly, the word “split” is more synonymous with “church” than the word “reproduction.”  With the first, there is usually death.  With the last, there is always life.  Paul sums it up correctly in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17.  May I suggest it this way—Are we of the _____________ version, or of ______________ism, or of _________________ denomination, or of ______________ college, or of ____________________ conference or . . . of Christ?

Oh that our eyes would ever be on Christ alone! (Hebrews 12:1-3)  When we stand before Him at the Bema, He is all that will matter.  It’s His Church anyway, not “my old church.”

 

 

 

Dried Out, Delighted Men

mpa 2019 (1)

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!”