Sunday Guidelines

Been thinking about all the preparations that have been made and are currently being made as churches open their doors to meet again.

Our first Sunday to be “shut-down” was March 22. (The Church was never closed; only the building was empty.) We have been using Zoom for Sunday morning, prayer meetings, and small group meetings. This past Sunday, just the leadership met in the auditorium while the service was Zoomed to everyone else. The purpose for our in-house meeting was to get a first-hand view of the guidelines we need in to have in place for opening our doors this Sunday.

On my way to church, I said to my wife, “Churches are making a lot of plans and preparations for next Sunday to protect folks from the virus. I wonder, how much planning and preparation goes on personally in the heart of man to be protected from the old sin nature so that our worship will be in spirit and in truth (John 4:24)?”

May I offer some suggested guidelines, not in a legalistic fashion, but simply to honor God and help us be ready to gather in His presence?

  1. Have the whole family pray together on Saturday night in heart preparation for gathering on Sunday.
  2. Have clothes and breakfast already planned out and prepared on Saturday night to lessen the stress of Sunday morning.
  3. Get to bed at a decent hour so you are not so tired on Sunday morning.
  4. Be prepared for opposition from the flesh and the devil on Sunday morning. Don’t be surprised. You are in a battle.
  5. Have a season of prayer as a family and listen to worship music on the way to church.
  6. Before you exit your vehicle in the church parking lot, pray and ask the Lord what pew you should sit in so you will be near the person God wants you to minister to that morning (even six-feet apart).
  7. Maybe take a different route to church to add some freshness to the journey.
  8. The trip to and from church should be a blessed, happy time of joy and singing and sharing because you are born again, and you were made to praise the Lord!

We have guidelines to protect from the virus. May we with a right heart follow some “guidelines” to protect us from ourselves. After all, this Sunday’s worship is not about us but about loving God and loving our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-39)!

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!” (Psalm 122:1)

Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Selah (Psalm 84:4)

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. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:16-17)

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Rejoicing or Railing?

The default setting of my sinful, depraved heart is to be critical and persistently complaining (railing). There is so much about the way life has been going in every direction due to this coronavirus that it breeds such contempt, gripping, anger, and fear. Even having a mask over my mouth doesn’t stop the verbal expression of what’s in my heart.

The greatest moment of my life was when as a five year old the Holy Spirit revealed to me my need of Christ. He also gave me the faith and the power to believe on His name (John 1:14; Romans 3:23; 6:23; 10:9-13; Titus 3:5; 2 Peter 1:3-4). Since then, I can’t explain it but Scripture verifies it, Christ and the Holy Spirit have been dwelling within me (John 16:15-25; Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 12:12-14; Colossians 1:27).

One of the rich blessings of this arrangement is that I cannot live the Christian life on my own(John 15:5). Jesus Christ is the Christian life (John 14:6) and at the point of salvation, I am brought into union with Christ, identified in Christ, and live life participating with Christ (John 15:1-9; Romans 6:1-14).

So what does all of this have to do with rejoicing in the midst of the coronavirus and its subsequent effects. Well, since the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in my life, I don’t have to follow the dictates of my heart. Moment-by-moment, I have the blessing of participating with Christ in His life empowered by the Spirit (Romans 8; 12:1-2; Philippians 3:10) as I surrender to His good and gracious authority in my life.

What will that look like? But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do (practice) such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:16-26)

Note the second word of the complete fruit of the Spirit—joy. No matter what is happening around me in this world or the circumstances of life, the Holy Spirit produces joy when I am surrendered to Him (Ephesians 5:15-21). The Spirit, not me, magnifies Christ through me (John 16:14-15).

I am speaking to my own heart here, but I must say that this world needs to see more joy-filled believers than cranky, whining, pessimistic, critical, gossiping, complaining, gripping Christians! Soak your soul in Romans 8:28-39. Sink your taproots into 2 Corinthians 2:14-16. Let Christ be seen in and through us and not us!! Folks, the tomb in empty! The back of the Book says “We win!” God will fulfill His plan to the very end (Revelation 19-22)!

Furthermore, Romans 8:21-29 has not be erased from the Word of God! How powerful are Christ’s words just hours before being crucified, I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart (be of good cheer); I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Last night, after our small group meeting, I sat in our porch swing and found the following song, I Rest My Case At the Cross. As I listened, my heart swelled, tears started down my cheek, and as we say in the South, “I just about had a shoutin’ fit!” (Now it won’t hurt you to have one of those. Trust me. Better yet, read the Psalms. Or ask Paul and Silas in the jail, Acts 16.)

1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 reminds us, Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit.

Rejoice! Pray (Praise and supplication)! Give thanks! And surrender moment-by-moment to the magnification of Christ in and through you as you participate in His life!! It’s all a supernatural work of the Spirit!!

Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be tenderhearted, be courteous (humble): 9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. 10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile (1 Peter 3:8-10).

Just Give Him Praise!

img_20180522_195203218

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

img_20180522_183545054

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!”

Calling Godly Men!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. . . . I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting (1 Timothy 2:1-2, 8).

Please note the following about this passage.

The Priority of Prayer (2:1)
The second chapter of 1 Timothy contains instructions for public worship. Paul has something urgent on his mind by using the word exhort as given under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-21). This urgency is directed to the need of giving preeminence to prayer in public worship, and may I add, to life in general (Luke 18:1). In other words, prayer is to be first in rank, to take first place in importance.

What place does prayer hold in your life or home or school or business or recreation or marriage?

What place does prayer hold in the life of your church? How about in the Sunday worship gatherings? Mid-week gatherings? Evangelism? Discipleship? Sunday School classes and small groups? Deacons’ Meetings? Awana’s? Small group meetings in homes? Men and Ladies’ gatherings? Etc.?

You can do more than pray after you have prayed; but you can never do more than pray until you have prayed (A.J. Gordon).

The greatest thing anyone can do for God or man is pray (S.D. Gordon).

The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray (Samuel Chadwick).

The Person in Prayer (2:8)
After acknowledging the only Meditator between God and man for salvation as well as prayer, the Lord Jesus Christ (2:4-6), Paul returns to public worship and the role of men (2:8).

Who are to be the leaders in prayer in our churches today?

How thankful I am for all the dear precious ladies who have given themselves to the ministry of prayer over the years! But, the church should be and must be known for the men who pray, not the ladies first. Quite frankly, the church is too feminine in many ways, and that is not a knock against ladies. Here, the exhortation is clearly laid upon men.

Men, it is time for us to be the prayer warriors, the prayer leaders, the prayer intercessors, the person in prayer!

Men are the ones to pray . . .

Everywhere – That’s exactly what it means, in every place.

With earnest desire – Lifting up hands in prayer is a natural response, a natural indication of earnest desire. Sometime take note of all the places in scripture that show the lifting up of hands as a part of praying (1 Kings 8:54; Nehemiah 8:6; Psalms 28:2; 141:2; 143:6)

With clean & committed lives – The word for holy hands refers to moral purity as well as a devoted life. Prayer is null and void if sin is unconfessed, and we not totally committed to Christ.

Without anger – Interesting that anger is mentioned here. If men are to be faithful prayer warriors, the sin of anger which so easily besets too many men must be overcome by the power the Holy Spirit and obedience to the Word of God (Galatians 5:17, 20, 22-26; Ephesians 4:26, 31-32; James 1:20). Anger is a major mental distraction to prayer. The best way to overcome anger is to pray.

Without doubting or dissension – Furthermore, when it comes to prayer there is to be unity and harmony and a proper mental attitude of faith-believing.

Men, our greatest example of prayer is the God-Man, the Lord Jesus Christ. See Him praying in Isaiah 53:12; Matthew 14:23; 19:13; 26:36-44; Mark 1:35; 6:46; Luke 11:1; Hebrews 7:25, to name a few.

At the very next prayer gathering in your church, men will you lead?

The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees. He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking Him the rest of the day. If God is not first in our thoughts and efforts in the morning, He will be in the last place the remainder of the day (E.M. Bounds).

God’s cause is committed to men; God commits Himself to men. Praying men are the vice-regents of God; they do His work and carry out His plans (E.M. Bounds).

Sunday Worship in Mzuzu

Africa 9

One the blessings of our journey to Africa was the opportunity to keep up my journal entries. These writings are very dear to me.  They recount my walk with Christ, my relationship with Denise, the grace blessings of every life as well as many, many other things that my mind would not recall.

Here’s a partial entry from Sunday, July 9

Africa 8 Collage.jpg

What a glorious day!! Sunday worship at Charity Baptist Church was a huge blessing.

  • God gave grace to preach the first service.
  • The congregational singing was powerful; watching Daniel and Mark Anton lead the congregation is fun to watch; then other men get come up to lead a song which they call a special; the choir of young folk was awesome.
  • The offering is received by folks going forward and putting their offering in a basket while the congregation sings.
  • Matt preached a powerful sermon from Ruth 2 on the subject of grace.
  • The service ended in a very touching way. Pastor Daniel had the whole USA mission team line up across the front.  Then he said, “I want our church to come up and greet you and place a love gift in the basket.  It won’t buy the team a car but it will buy you a Coke.  When you all drink it, think of us and pray for us.”  Wow!  These poor folks gave out of their poverty.  As we sang, hugged and swayed, what a special time it was!!!
  • Another brother stood and shared what a blessing it was to have blacks and whites worshiping together in the unity of Christ.

Love Offering

Youth Choir

Africa 11

From a pastor’s heart,

dale

Sabbatical Journey #4 – Away

Well, summer is over.  What did you do for your vacation with family or just your spouse or with some friends?  Disney?  The beach?  The mountains? Did you take any day trips?  How about a recreational excursion?  What planning went into your time away?   What was the result of your vacation?  Any take-aways?

Vacations can be a huge refreshment that can leave many wonderful memories, provide a break from your daily routine, and give some much needed rest. Interesting enough, sometimes when you return home, you need another week to just recoup from your vacation (Lol).

Question:  When was the last time you took a spiritual vacation?  No, I do not mean running away or taking a vacation from the Lord, but a planned set of days and location where you and/or family go to grow your relationship with Jesus Christ?  Have you ever taken such a trip?

This sabbatical was so extremely helpful spiritually.  My wife and I spent most of our mornings at home, on the front or back porch, reading, praying, studying, journaling, and listening.  Some days I would travel to the lake, or a secluded mountain top, or a quiet stream and spend my time letting God teach me and whittle away at my heart.

Perhaps you could spend one day a quarter at a place like Fairhaven Ministries, Roan Mountain, TN, and give that whole day to just meeting with the Lord.  Pack your lunch, take your books, and go hide away with the Lord. You, too, could find that lake, stream, mountain top or other secluded area.

Another great opportunity would be to attend Family Camp at a place like The Wilds in Brevard, NC.  There you would have time to get alone with the Lord; time for just you and your spouse to study and pray together; and opportunities to meet together as a family.  The preaching services, music, and workshops would draw you and your whole family closer to the Lord.  And a side note, I promise you would not spend as much on this vacation as you would for the same amount time, motel, and meals as you would at Disney.  And, your whole family will come home stronger in their walk with Christ than if they had spent a week at Disney. (By the way, I’m not hatin’ on Disney. Just sayin’. . .)

So, when you plan for your vacations and get-aways for the months ahead, how about planning some time to get alone with the Lord?  You will never regret it.

Mark 1:35 – And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.

Luke 6:12 – In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.

How’s Your Passion?

wp-1463711171520.jpg

Recently, I was asked this question by a dear friend.  We hadn’t seen each other for a couple of years, and after getting caught up, he asked, “How’s Your Passion?”  Passion for what?  Coffee?  UK Wildcats? Running?  Hiking?  Cars? Food?

Having known this person for many years, I knew what he meant.  He wanted to know how my passion for Christ was going?  He went on to say that recently two seminary students had ask him how they could keep their own passion going.  His answer, “You have to get up every day, early in the morning, and meet with God.”  His passion for Christ is on display every day and is so vital to him that he has even prepared a special place in his home to meet with God.  There you will find the fireplace, his chair, table, lamp, books, music, quiet and whatever else is necessary for him to pray, study and sit at Jesus feet.

Passion for Christ cannot be found doing ministry.  Passion for Christ cannot be gained from someone else.  Passion for Christ cannot be purchased at Lifeway Christian Bookstore. Passion for Christ comes by meeting daily with Him, alone, letting His Word read you, seeking His face, listening to His voice, and pouring out your heart to Him in prayer and worship.

Psalm 63 shows us another man, David, who was passionate about seeking God.

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.
So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.

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

Pastor Steven Cole puts it, “David expresses longing for God’s presence, praise, joy, fellowship with God, and confidence in God’s salvation. The psalm shows us that David’s priority was to seek the Lord. Seeking after God should be our most important priority.”

So, let me ask you like my friend did me, “How’s your passion?”

Friday’s Findings

Once again, here are a few links that I believe will be worth looking into.  As we move to the end of this week, and begin the new week on Sunday, prepare your heart through meeting with God in prayer and Bible reading to worship Him in a powerful way on the Lord’s Day!!

Jesus GeniePaul Tripp asks, “When you receive blessing, how do you define blessing? Be honest – what do you want from God? Or maybe this is a more provocative way of saying it: what kind of Messiah do you want Jesus to be?”

My Prayer Journal – My wife has said on numerous occasions, “If the house were on fire, besides my Bible, this is the one item that I would not want to leave behind!”  Here’s a great post on a way to lift the level of your prayer life, your relationship with God!

Earth’s Largest Water Reservoir Found Hidden Under the US  and Water Deep in Earth’s MantleGood information in reference to the Flood (Genesis 7:11).

The Joy of Running a 5K – How much I have missed running due to surgery recovery.  I understand this post completely!  Wearing my running shoes in the house even if I can’t hit the country roads yet!

I Will RiseWhat joy to know that Christ came to be born, to die, and rise from the tomb that we might live!!!  Watch, listen and give thanks with a grateful heart to our Awesome God!!  The best, indeed, is yet to come!!

Marmaduke Size Worship

One of my all-time favorite single cartoons has Billy Winslow standing at the drug store soda fountain watching the waitress load up his ice cream cone.  Just as she begins the process, Billy seizes the opportunity of perhaps frightening the server into put more on the cone than usual.  So he turns to his Great Dane pet and says, “Bark now, Marmaduke! Bark now!”  Billy didn’t want just a child-size portion, he wanted an overflow portion!  He wanted that ice cream to fill the cone and run over!

Question:  When you attended church yesterday, was your worship child-size portion or did you worship out of the overflow?  What I mean is, did you come to church expecting to meet with God?  Were you excited about joining with other believers in corporate praise?  Did you sing to Lord with all your heart, give to the Lord with all your heart, serve the Lord with all you heart? Did you hunger to hear the Word, and then respond to what God said to you?  Did you leave the service saying, “I have seen the Lord!  I met with Him today!  Here is what He said to me.”

Could much of Psalm 96 been written to describe your worship from yesterday?

O sing unto the Lord a new song: sing unto the Lord, all the earth.

Sing unto the Lord, bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day.

Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people.

For the Lord is great, and greatly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods.

For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the Lord made the heavens.

Honour and majesty are before him: strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Give unto the Lord, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the Lord glory and strength.

Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts.

O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.

10 Say among the heathen that the Lord reigneth: the world also shall be established that it shall not be moved: he shall judge the people righteously.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof.

12 Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice

13 Before the Lord: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.

My challenge to you today is to so spend time in the Word this week sitting at Jesus’ feet letting the Holy Spirit teach you (Matthew 11:28-30; John 16:13-15), listening to worship music though out the week, talking to others about your God and your Savior, meeting with Him on your knees, mediating and memorizing the Word so much that when you come to worship next Sunday, you don’t need Marmaduke to bark.  You are more than ready to worship out of the overflow.  You don’t need someone or some group to lead you into worship.  You have lived a life of worship all week that is so rich and God-glorifying that Christ will be magnified by your overflowing worship!!

See you next Sunday!  I’ll be ready to shout to the Lord, give Him praise, listen to His voice through the preached Word, and join you in preparation for that eternal day of worship and praise!  Let’s come with an “ice cream cone that is running over!”