A Little Bit of Heaven on Earth!

After eleven weeks of meeting through Zoom, the doors were opened yesterday at Boones Creek Bible Church to gather corporately. Wow! What an awesome experience of the grace of God! Indeed, as best as I can say, it was a little bit of heaven on earth (Revelation 4-5)!

Some of the highlights:

  • All the smiling, happy faces!! The laughter of children and adults! Even though many were reserved due to playing-it-safe, there was an atmosphere of joy-filled expectation. We had seen most folk on Zoom through the weeks, but nothing takes the place of being in person! You know, I get a glimpse of heaven through the precious Word of God, but one day, it will be in person! (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
  • Congregational singing!! Pastor Andrew directed us to consider our great God as we began the morning gathering singing, “Behold our God!” From there, we were exhorted to consider the only way to God and our position in Christ by singing “In Christ Alone.” Eleven weeks ago, the last song we sang corporately was “He Will Hold Me Fast.” Certainly, that is what God has done through these days of uncertainty. We finished with looking to the future by prayerfully singing, “Be Thou My Vision.” These songs came from asking our congregation to share a song that would sum up their personal testimony during COVID-19. Normally I sit on the front row and to hear the folks behind me singing was powerful!! Now I sing off-pitch at times, but in heaven, it will always be to God and in tune (Revelation 5)!
  • Visitors! How wonderful to see folks attending that our people had invited. I believe that this pandemic has awakened many to the issue of death. People want the Truth. What a joy to welcome new faces, to pray with them, to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to listen to their stories. The only sad note about today was those who refused to receive Christ as Savior. How wonderful it will be when see all our spiritual family in Glory, those who have received Christ alone for salvation (John 1:12). Visitors, no; family, yes!
  • Prayer! We saw God answer prayer today!! In Heaven, Christ is interceding for us (Hebrews 7:25) for us right now! We have continual access to the Throne through our Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Although our hearts are heavy for the current upheaval in the streets of America and the continual effect of COVID-19, the Church should be a little heaven on earth as it exalts the One Who can change everything, Who makes life worth living, who is worship — the Lord Jesus Christ!!

It’s Sunday!!!

Praise the Lord!

Praise, O servants of the Lord,
Praise the name of the Lord!
2 Blessed be the name of the Lord
From this time forth and forevermore!
3 From the rising of the sun to its going down
The Lord’s name is to be praised.

4 The Lord is high above all nations,
His glory above the heavens.
5 Who is like the Lord our God,
Who dwells on high,
6 Who humbles Himself to behold
The things that are in the heavens and in the earth?

7 He raises the poor out of the dust,
And lifts the needy out of the ash heap,
8 That He may seat him with princes—
With the princes of His people.
9 He grants the barren woman a home,
Like a joyful mother of children.

Praise the Lord! (Psalm 113)

Oh the joy of gathering on Sundays in the presence of the Lord to worship Him! What an awesome grace blessing is the Church, the body of Christ! And to think that every Sunday, we join with the multitude of saints around the world to magnify the name of the Lord Jesus Christ!! We, who have been brought out of the ash heap and seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6)!

Yesterday at Boones Creek Bible Church, we “practiced” for that glorious day when we are gathered around the Throne in Glory!! How graced we are to praise God, to proclaim His excellencies, to hear the Word read and preached, to pray corporately and one-on-one, to live out the Christ life, to pray for and encourage believers, and to seek the lost that they may come to Christ for salvation.

AM Gathering
Welcome and Introduction: Pastor C
Prayer: Hunter Addison
Call to Worship: Pastor Andrew (Romans 8:6)
Song: #111 And Can it Be (1,3,4)
Song: #529 It Well With My Soul (1,3,4)
Song: Forgiven
Offering Received/Offertory: Debbie Duncan and Alli Isbell (Abba Father)
Offertory Prayer: Andrew Newsome
Pastor’s Pals & Children Dismissed
Scripture Meditation: Clayton Van Huss (Isaiah 64; Romans 8:1, 6, 11, 15)
Preaching of God’s Word: Pastor C (Romans 8:3)
Invitation: Forgiven
Closing Prayer

PM Gathering
Call to Worship: Pastor Andrew

Sing to the LORD
Song: #327 He Lives (1,2)
Song: #98 My God is a Righteous God (1-3)

Offering to the Lord
Song: #13 Bow the Knee (1-2)
Prayer: Pastor Andrew
Song: #519 Spirit of the Living God

Testify of the Lord
Adopt-A-Missionary Presentation: Sams’ Family
Personal Testimonies

Hear from the Lord
Preaching of God’s Word: Pastor C (Romans 8:4)

Commune with the Lord
Corporate Prayer

O church, arise, and put your armor on;
Hear the call of Christ our captain.
For now the weak can say that they are strong
In the strength that God has given.
With shield of faith and belt of truth,
We’ll stand against the devil’s lies.
An army bold, whose battle cry is love,
Reaching out to those in darkness.

Chorus:
Arise, shine for your light has come
Arise, shine for the Risen Son
Lift your eyes, we are His radiant bride
Arise, o church arise!
(Keith & Kristen Getty)

Music. I said it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank the Lord He created music!  Sing!!

Just Give Him Praise!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God is eternally worthy of all our praise!

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

Watching the Body at Work

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As we entered the hospital room, we were greeted with the sin-curse of death.  Another child of God was soon to “drop this robe of flesh” and rise to meet the Lord.

With hearts touched by the reality in front of us, we surrounded the bed and read Scripture.  Then we broke into song.  “In the Sweet By and By,” “It is Well With My Soul,” “When We All Get to Heaven,”  “Blessed Assurance”  and a few more.

As we sang, one would be overcome by emotion for a bit and their voice would fade or quiver.  It was at that point that someone else would carry the lead.

After a song or two, some other folks dropped by and joined the bedside choir.

Standing there, I was reminded that this is how the Body of Christ operates.

First of all, we are to sing to one another. 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 whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him (Colossians 3:16-17).

Second, when a brother or sister is faltering, overcome by emotion, or in various situations of need, we do not criticize them, we just “take the lead” and help them bear their burden.  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).

Third, what a  blessing it is when others refuse to just stand back and intentionally join the choir! Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord (Romans 12:11).

May I also add that the lady in the room next to us heard our singing which opened a later door for her to hear the gospel the next day.

To be a member of the Body of Christ and serve with others in His Body is the greatest privilege on earth!!

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)

Good, Pleasant & Fitting

Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; For it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting (Psalm 147:1).

Psalms 146-150 are known as a Hallel (praise) collection of descriptive praise hymns.  These psalms were used daily in prayer and worship within the synagogue.  This particular psalm begins with a familiar tune (Psalms 104:35; 106:1; 113-118; 146:1) which is a call to praise God in song.

Music, a divine creation, is an awesome way to express grateful praise to our God!  In this passage we we learn that praise to God in song is:

Good because it is to God; it draws the heart from earth to heaven; and it declares the character of God.

Pleasant because God is pleased to hear it; the words agree with Who God is; and it always agrees with the heart of a born again believer.

Fitting because we were made to praise the Lord!

What a joy to gather with the saints of God on a Sunday morning or evening in congregational praise!  There is something special and awe-inspiring to sing a text that pulls the truth from your heart through your lips in praise and adoration of our God and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ!

Today, whether you are alone in the car, with your family at devotion time or gathered with believers in your small group or in assembly at church, Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; For it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting!!

Nothing Ever Can, Nothing Ever Will – This has become one of our favorites at BCBC since June 2014.  The song begins 1:10 into the video.  What a joy to be in the audience on that Sunday night in Lancaster, CA, to hear it for the first time!  Awesome truth, awesome song!!

Praise God For Music!

How grateful I am that God created music!  Since I can remember, music has been a big part of my family.  My mom was an excellent pianist having played since she was six years old and learned the style of Rudy Atwood.  My dad sang, which was a chore to him.  I will say that he learned to play the radio quite well. 🙂   I played the trumpet and treble clef baritone in the band, and my wife played the clarinet. My oldest daughter plays the piano and my youngest daughter is multi-gifted as she can play several  instruments.

Music has been a strong guiding force and source of encouragement as well as “setting the atmosphere” in our lives many times.  Music has shown up in so many venues of our life such as in the car, at church, around the table, at a concert, while washing the car, driving through the countryside, on a date, on the back deck, running early in the morning, etc.  Music has touched us in so many ways from excitement, tears, raising a hand or two accompanied with a shout of praise, exhortation, foot tappin’, and on and on.

Due to a year of many trials in all “shapes and sizes” (James 1:2), music has found a common resting place in our hearts to encourage, edify and strengthen us.  Here’s one song that I often hear as I run.  It is one that folks in our church have found to be a “song in the night.”  Let the words minister to you today, and thank God for music!

I’ll Never Forsake You

Job 35:10  But no one says, ‘Where is God my Maker, Who gives songs in the night.

Psalm 32:7  You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.

Psalm 119:54  Your statutes have been my songs In the house of my pilgrimage.