Different languages and accents. Various colors of skin. Diverse worship styles. Different college backgrounds. Varied cultural differences.
That’s what I saw in South Africa and Malawi among the natives, the missionaries, the transplants and the travelers.
Whether it was on a plane, in a mission compound, in a Sunday morning service, at a café for breakfast, in the middle of a bunch of teens, or gathered at a camp, I saw something that touched my heart in some very special ways. It was a foretaste of Revelation 5:8-9 which reads,
Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
For sixteen days I had the blessed privilege to experience the multi-faceted family of God all radically changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ; people from varying tribes and tongues and people and nations.
The family of God needs no introductions; our spirit bears witness with each other (Romans 8:16).
The family of God doesn’t see race but grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The family of God loves one another (John 13:35).
The family of God honors one another (Romans 12:10).
The family of God rejoices and weeps together (Romans 12:15).
The family of God serves one another in love (Galatians 5:13).
The family of God encourages each other (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Why? Because of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ!! (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 2 Peter 3:9). What an awesome family around the world from every tribe, tongue, people and nation that will one day gather around the Throne in Heaven!!
This week my wife has written some extremely insightful, practical and helpful posts about the issue of children coming to Christ for salvation at an early age. These writings would be extremely helpful for parents and anyone who works in children’s ministries.
Having received Christ as my personal Lord and Savior at the age of five, this is a subject very dear to my heart.
As a pastor, I have had the joy of seeing many children born again over the years. How precious is a tender heart coming to Christ in simple faith, taking God at His Word.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Romans 5:6-11)
Almost every day, I scan through the headlines, Latest News and Watch Now sections of foxnews.com. Here are some of what made yesterday afternoon’s news:
An Execution: Hunt for criminal after sheriff’s deputy killed
At least 2 dead after magnitude-7.8 earthquake hits New Zealand
France remembers 130 killed in Paris attacks 1 year ago
Georgia prepares to execute man who killed ex-girlfriend 15 years ago
Pennsylvania inmate arrested in 2008 murder of New York teenager
18-year-old charged with murder in road-rage beating
Father and son die in hiking accident near Northern California lake
Rocker Leon Russell dies in Nashville at 74
Four Americans killed by suicide bombing in Afghanistan
Wow! Deaths, killings, murders, . . . one tragedy after another. The Word of God addresses these scenarios and gives us the root cause of them all.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man. (Matthew 15:19-20a)
You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. (John 8:44)
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:1-4)
The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23a)
And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment. (Hebrews 9:27).
How sad to see an innocent life snuffed out because of a selfish, wicked heart. How painful to see the effects of sin! How awful to watch men and women play out the defilement of their hearts. And we say, “How tragic!” My friend, none of things in the aforementioned news headlines rank as the greatest tragedy. And before I go any further, I am not heartless nor belittling the agony or pain described in those headlines. Nevertheless, the greatest tragedy occurs every day on earth when a man or woman dies in their sins, rejecting the person of the Lord Jesus Christ Who paid for their sins, and therefore slips into eternity never again having the opportunity to accept the free-pardon of sin through Christ. In short, the greatest tragedy today is when someone dies and goes to hell . . . and they do so by their own choosing. Jesus Christ came to earth, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for our sins as our substitute, and rose from the tomb to prove He is Who He said He was and is, and . . . He did it all for you. No one needs to die in his sins and go to hell, a place reserved for Satan and his demons, because God so loved you, my friend, that He gave His only Son, the only one like Him, to die in your place so you would not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
The greatest tragedy . . . an eternity in hell.
The greatest triumph . . . eternity in heaven.
If this post today has piqued your interest, has created within you a desire to know more, would you take 17 minutes to consider just Five Questions and their answers.
17 minutes vs. eternity? Please take time to watch it now.
Understanding fully that Daniel 9:3-19 is dealing with Israel, there is a much-too-close parallel to our country, the United States of America. As we gathered at the altar in our church last Sunday night to pray, this Scripture text was our guide for prayer and supplication. For every believer across this land, Daniel’s prayer needs to be the attitude and action of our prayers today and tomorrow for us and our country.
America is not equal with Israel in the eyes of Jehovah, but the same sinful, unbelieving heart that caused God to turn from Israel is the same deceitful heart that has brought such shame to our land; a nation that once was greatly used to declare the gospel at home and around the world as well as stand for the righteousness. Now, look at us!
Believers in every town and city, we need to fall to our knees, repent and cry out to God! Set aside your personal worldly pursuits. Put entertainment, ballgames, and Facebook to death for now. Churches, forego those programs that you think are so important (Prayer is the only thing that gives power to ministry programs anyway!) There needs to be prayer meetings before and after school, throughout the day in our homes, in our small groups, at the office, in our commute to and from work, on our lunch breaks, on the street corner, at family gatherings, etc. Prayer is the declaration of your need and dependence upon God. Prayer is the means of finding grace and mercy in a time of need (Hebrews 4:16), . . . and we are in a desperate time of need that ONLY the Throne of Grace can provide!!!
People of God, WE MUST PRAY, AND I MEAN PRAY!! Let Daniel 9 be your guide. You see, no matter who is seated in the White House, they cannot correct our nation’s sinful pattern of guilt and destruction. Only the Gospel changes everything (Colossians 1:13-14)!!!! See you at the Throne of Grace!
The worst sin is prayerlessness. (P.T. Forsyth)
God is more willing to be prayed to, and more ready to hear prayer, than we are to pray. (Matthew Henry)
What a man is on his knees before God, that he is, and nothing more. (Robert Murray M’Cheyne)
Daniel 9:3-19Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. 4 And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, 5 we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. 6 Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land. 7 O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those near and those far off in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of the unfaithfulness which they have committed against You.
8 “O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. 9 To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him. 10 We have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets. 11 Yes, all Israel has transgressed Your law, and has departed so as not to obey Your voice; therefore the curse and the oath written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against Him. 12 And He has confirmed His words, which He spoke against us and against our judges who judged us, by bringing upon us a great disaster; for under the whole heaven such has never been done as what has been done to Jerusalem.
13 “As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth. 14 Therefore the Lord has kept the disaster in mind, and brought it upon us; for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works which He does, though we have not obeyed His voice. 15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and made Yourself a name, as it is this day—we have sinned, we have done wickedly!
16 “O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people are a reproach to all those around us. 17 Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord’s sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. 19 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.”
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!
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).
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.
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!”
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!
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)
This was in the subject line of an email that showed up in my account last week sent by an evangelical children’s ministry. Immediately I thought, what if today was the very last day to share the gospel? What effect would it have upon me? What would change about my day? What would be different about my decisions? Who would I want to talk to about Christ? Then I realized, today could be the last day for me here on earth. The Rapture could occur today or the Lord could call me Home.
You know, I think that if we really, really believed that each day we lived was the very last day for us here on earth “to go with the gospel,” our motives, attitude and goals would be different. The gospel would have a profound, immediate effect upon us.
We would live separated unto the gospel (Romans 1:1).
We would not be ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16).
We would long for souls to be saved by the gospel (Romans 10:1)
We would make it our aim to proclaim the gospel (Romans 15:20)
We would not want to hinder the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:12)
We would pray for boldness to share the gospel (Ephesians 6:18-19)
We would endure hardship for the gospel (Philippians 1:14)
So, what will be different about your day today as well as your weekend based on the truth of the gospel and the promise of Christ’s imminent return (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17)?
Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel (Philippians 1:27)
There are so many things to praise God for in looking back over yesterday at Boones Creek Bible Church! One of which was the official beginning of the Love Works initiative! Through loving God with all our heart and our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-39), we want to reach the world around us for the cause of Christ. With the Great Commission as our authority (Matthew 28:18-20) and Jesus Christ our example (Mark 10:45), we desire to accomplish the following goals:
Express the love of God through works of kindness and compassion (Matthew 9: 36-38; 25:40; James 1:27; Jude 22)
Share the Gospel of Christ with as many people as possible (Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8)
Impact our community as a body of Christ (Matthew 5:16)
In the days and months to come, we will be fulfilling these goals in feeding the poor, serving others in the public schools, public offices, restaurants, and college campuses, going door-to-door, serving through our Sunday School classes, basketball tournament, community clean-up, etc. The response of our people was so very encouraging today!! Thanks for all your suggestions as well!
A great illustration from Scripture as to how love works is found in the account of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). We as a body of believers will do as Jesus said, “Go and do likewise” (10:37). Love works, and it all begins in earnest next Sunday in the community around our church!!
Tuesday, I spent the better part of the day in the midst of the Tennessee Legislature. As I met with our state senator and representatives, I left with an encouraged, but burdened heart. These elected officials work in the midst of outright temptation of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). At times, I could sense the oppression just lurking around the corner. Yet, that is the world we live in. How should we live in these days of apostasy, debauchery, and decline? Jude 20-21 gives us a clear remedy:
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
Your most holy faith is the body of absolute truth found only in the plenary, inerrant, inspired Word of God. All the enemies of Truth will tempt you to turn away from the Truth, to doubt the Truth and to become cynical of the Truth. Just as tall superstructures are built upon a solid foundation, we as believers must build an edification superstructure of truth that will stand the temptations of Satan, the world, and the flesh. This is a daily construction need until God calls us Home.
What a great need this is—praying in the Holy Spirit!! Just as building is present tense, so is this verb praying. If we are to accomplish God’s work, God’s way, and in God’s power at home, church, school, government, and work, we must habitually pray according to the Scriptures as the Spirit prompts us (Romans 8:26-27; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 6:18). There, we will find wisdom and direction in the face of this declension.
What does it mean to stay in the love of God when I know God loves me eternally and unconditionally (1 John 4:7-19)? You keep yourself in the love of God by walking in fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ (John 15:9-10). When you walk in His love, you will not be distracted by evil. Love combats the cold onslaught of Satan and apostasy and keeps your heart warm, tender, and zealous for God, His people and the Truth (2 Corinthians 5:14)!
Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life reminds us to keep looking ahead, to keep our attention fixed on the soon return of Christ! Mercy is me not getting what I deserve as a sinner (Romans 3:23), which is hell, because Christ is my substitute on the cross, the payment for my sins (1 John 2:1-2). Therefore, I am not saved by my good works (Ephesians 2:8-9) but by Christ’s perfect work. Therefore, I am secure in Christ and can look to eternity with great assurance (Ephesians 1-2).
So, in the midst of these last days of bad news, corrupt government, lawlessness, fear, pain, sorrow, apostasy and world upheaval, live out Jude 20-21. You will exchange your burdened heart for an encouraged one. Build, pray, love and look!
A winter storm is coming! Frigid temps, deep snow and ice are on their way. Quick, get to the store!! Gotta buy milk and bread! (Personally, I’ve never eaten a milk and bread sandwich, but when the snow flies, I guess it might be good.) Nevertheless, I am intrigued at how glued we are to the forecast when we receive a winter storm warning. That announcement has a controlling affect upon businesses, homes, churches, government, schools, highway crews and many others. Look at Facebook! Try to shop in the grocery store.
How many times in your life have you heard, “There’s a winter storm warning in effect for . . . ,” or something similar? And when you do, what is your response to such a predicted event? What kind of planning begins to take place in your life? Do you shrug your shoulders, run to the grocery story, look up in the skies, check your phone updates, begin to think of “Plan B,” and/or complain?
Seriously, there are two events that should grab our attention every day of our lives. We were reminded of these in our “I Love Missions” Conference this past weekend.
1) The promised return of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
2) The greatest tragedy of this life—a lost soul going to hell (Hebrews 9:27)
This most blessed event and the most tragic event could occur today!!! What’s your response? Are you moved more by the prediction of a weather forecast or the promises in God’s Word? Something more eventful than a winter storm is coming. Better be ready!
If you have never received Christ as your personal Savior and Lord; if you are not sure that heaven is your home, please go to the following link: The Exchange Message. Scroll down the page and watch the video entitled, “You Can Have a Relationship with God.”