Decisions! Decisions!

Decision to Accept Christ

Life is full of decisions. We make them every day. We decide whether we want or need to get up in the morning. We decide whether we want to eat breakfast or grab something to snack on. We decide what we are going to wear today. These are just a few of the decisions we make each day. Suffice it to say we will make several decisions just today. In fact, you will decide whether to continue reading this post or you will dismiss it and go on about your business.

We began making decisions back when we were tiny little tots. We made some bad decisions too. Do we stick that toy with a point into that wall socket or not? Do we climb out of our crib or not? Do we use our crayon to write on the wall or not? I could go on and on about that too. We are just going to make decisions today. In fact, if you think about it, you have already made many decisions today.

We are tempted in every way to make decisions. Once again, we have been making those decisions all our life. And if you think about it, we often make the same decisions every day. As we mature, our decisions are often predicated on temptations. We are faced with many major temptations as we reach maturity.

There are just too many temptations out there for young people to say “yes” or “no” to. One decision they may have to make is to say “yes” or “no” to drugs and alcohol, just to name a couple. Many young get started because they just want to see what it’s like. To some, it will teach them that it tastes awful or it’s not too bad.

The second decision they make is will they remember what their parents told them about drugs and alcohol? Then they must decide to just say “NO” and walk away from it.

Another decision is whether they want to belong to a certain group. Many groups are really up to no good! If they follow that group, then they may end up in some trouble or even worse. Gangs are so prevalent today. Our young people really need to watch who they like and want to follow.

Proverbs 2:1-22 teaches that the pursuit of wisdom brings security. Very plainly it begins with the words, “…if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you.” There are several other “ifs” mentioned in the first four verses. Isn’t this what we try to teach our children? When there is the word “if” mentioned, there is most always the word “then” that follows. Verse five begins a series of “then’s” that follow.

The “if” represents a decision that every young person must make. He can either go in the way of Wisdom and find life, true love, and most importantly God, or he can turn his back on her and find only bitterness, isolation, and death. Here’s the important fact: one cannot opt out of making this decision or choose a little of one and a little of the other. If we fail to present this stark decision to young people, many will go in the wrong way and never even know they had a choice.

Here is the one decision every person must make in life. Will you admit you are a sinner and accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, or will you deny Him and spend eternity in the depths of hell? If you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then you will have eternal life with Him. If you refuse to accept Christ, then you will live in eternal punishment in hell. This is the decision only you can make. God gave you the ability to choose. This decision now belongs to you!

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The Pastor and Discouragement

Praying For Pastor

I’ve heard it said many times, “the pastor has the easiest job!” Well that depends on what you’re referring to as a job. As a retired pastor myself, I never looked at my position of pastor as a job, even though I was paid for doing it. The position of pastor is a calling. And that calling is to serve God when and wherever the Lord calls him. The calling of pastor is not something you seek but you accept.

Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; . .” (NASB). The Lord was telling Jeremiah that He had planned his life and it radically impacted him. Even the Apostle Paul was told that God had “. . . set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, . .” (Gal. 1:15 NASB).

Pastors are not super human nor are they exempt from sin or even discouragement or depression. A long time ago Job cried out in his despair in Job 3. 24“For my groaning comes at the sight of my food, and my cries pour out like water. 25For what I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me. 26I am not at ease, nor am I quiet, and I am not at rest, but turmoil comes” (NASB). In fact, no one is exempt from discouragement.

Tom Landry, former coach of the Dallas Cowboys said, “I spent the first thirty-five years of my life, like most men in our competitive American culture, thinking success, fulfillment, and happiness would result from what I could achieve. My feelings of self-worth and my identity as a person were dependent on what I could do—first as a professional athlete, then on the sideline as a coach.

I’ve spent the last thirty-five years learning that God is far less concerned about what we do than He is about what we are. So what truly matters most in life is not our professional achievement, but our personal relationships—first with God, second in our families, and then with others we work and live among.

I’ve known a lot of guys who have tried to prove themselves ‘a man’s man.’ But it’s so much more important to be ‘God’s man.’”

Even with the success Tom Landry had, he still faced discouragement when Jerry Jones bought the team and soon fired him.

Pastors can be immeasurably hurt by unfriendly, unwarranted criticism. He can fall into despair over the apathy, indifference and lack of cooperation on the part of his congregation.

Perhaps one of the most troubling things people don’t realize is that when the pastor enters into a private counseling session with a church member and listens to the member unveil the hardships or heartaches that member is experiencing. As pastor, that has to remain confidential and he must learn to leave it with the Lord. Otherwise, it will eat at his heart and mind and lead to depression.

After I retired and joined a local church I became quite pleased and so blessed by our pastor. He was such a tremendous teaching pastor and the Lord used him mightily.

My wife and I had been members for some time when out of the blue, one Saturday afternoon we received word that our beloved pastor had taken his life at a remote location. I had learned he had been suffering from depression, but we never knew it. This was not only devasting for our church but for his family.

Yes, pastors suffer discouragement and depression. I knew the repercussions of sitting and listening to church members unload their minds in confidence. I thank God for taking the private sessions off my mind and heart so that I would not have to deal with them alone.

Today, I was devastated to read of another pastor taking his own life in California.  The church there was devastated and so was his family. Yes, pastors do get discouraged and depressed!

Let me encourage you to pray for your pastor daily. You will not know how much it means to him and at the same time, he needs your support. I may not be pastoring a church now, but I serve a risen Savior and pray daily for my pastor.

May God bless you my pastor and my brother in Christ!

The Bible’s Surprise

THY-WORD-IS-TRUTH

While reading from a book entitled Devotional Doctrine by Aaron Armstrong, from the Gospel Project, I read about something that brought me back to an experience in my life as a young boy. I wanted to give credit to Aaron Armstrong for returning me to the following experience.

When I received my first Bible as a young boy I was very excited, not because I wanted to read it, but I wanted people to know I had one. My assumptions when I first began to read it were probably like most people. I assumed it would be a list of commands and moral platitudes that probably didn’t have much relevance to my day to day activities, especially to a young 8 or 9 year-old boy who had recently been baptized. I will openly admit it was very hard to read, much less understand. I found it much easier to just not attempt to read it and therefore, I laid it down and never picked it up again.

Then when I reached maturity and began reading my Bible again, I found moral proverbs and commands that made sense to me. But to my surprise I found something else too. I found a story of the world that made sense, a story of hope for broken people living in a broken world. Not only that, but I found it in a book I could understand. This is a book that rang true unlike any other book I had read.

After years of pretending to be a Christian, I realized at the age of 37 that I was not a Christian at all. I had only been playing the game. When I was faced with the reality of my lostness, I had to make it right as quickly as I could. With that thought in mind, I reached out to my pastor to explain my situation and that I wanted Jesus in my heart. As a great pastor that he was we got on our knees and I prayed that Jesus would come into my heart. Much to my surprise again, the calmness of God’s Holy Spirit opened my heart to allow Jesus to come in and take up His residence.

I believe I’m not the first person to have this experience. I remember early in my ministry when I was green behind the ears and doing some door to door visitation and evangelism. One man I encountered just couldn’t seem to get past the idea that the Bible really was God’s Word. Thanks again to Aaron Armstrong for stating the situation so plainly and nearly describing exactly this man’s case:

  • It was written by human beings. (True.)
  • Human beings are imperfect. (True again.)
  • Anything we’re involved with is going to be imperfect. (Yep.)
  • Therefore, the Bible must contain errors, which means it can’t be God’s Word. (False.)

 

So, here’s the question that presents itself: Why does true plus true plus true equal false? And the answer is really quite simple. It fails to take into account one more very vital truth: God’s involvement in writing the Scriptures, or what we as Christians refer to call inerrancy.

It is my opinion then that because God inspired the writing of Scriptures, He protected it from error by the human writers He inspired to write them in the first place. From the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Article XII, it is important to point out that every word they wrote was free from error, without a shred of falsehood or deceit to be found in it in any way. It was God’s supernatural involvement in its writing that protected the Scriptures from error. Every word is true! What the Bible says about everything is true.

Suffice it to say, God wants us to understand His Word. Let me say it this way: the Bible can be understood with many of the same basic principles of interpretation we use when we read any other book. We intuitively pay attention to context clues, verb tenses, and the literary forms in the text we’re reading.

I will agree that some parts are still hard to understand. Even I continue to struggle with some passages. The problem is that we are simply trying to comprehend the infinite God with finite minds. But since God wants us to know His Word, He helps us understand it. Today, the Holy Spirit illuminates the Scriptures in our hearts and minds (John 14:15-18; 16:7-15).

The man I was witnessing to still couldn’t see how God gives us the desire to be transformed by the truth of His Word. Before the Holy Spirit opened my eyes, I really didn’t understand it either. Aaron so eloquently put it this way: “The idea that God’s Word, the Bible, is true is a struggle for many to believe. But if the Scriptures contain the good news we say it does, let’s never be afraid to call it what it is. God’s Word is true, not because any human being declared it to be so but because God is trustworthy. And because He is trustworthy, we can trust the Word He inspired and helps us to understand (see Matt. 5:18; John 10:35; Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18). And as we trust the Word and move forward in sharing the message God has given, we can have confidence that many will come to know and believe.”

Hear the Word of the Lord!

Listening to God

I often hear people ask, “How do I know the Lord is speaking to me?” One of the greatest benefits to being a child of God is being able to hear God speak to us personally. There is no possibility of hearing God speak directly to us without a saving relationship with Him. Notice that I said being a child of God. There is no personal relationship with God without knowing Him as our heavenly Father. And that relationship is only possible through a personal relationship with His Son Jesus Christ.

When you receive a phone call from a friend, how do know if its not a friend or family member playing a joke on you? Very simply it’s because you know them. You know them because you’ve spent time with them. You know how they talk or you know their mannerisms. You know the expressions they use, the tone of their voice, their inflection. It all comes with knowing them over the years. That’s the way it is with God, You know Him by His character, His nature, His interests, His joys and His hurts. You know Him by the way He interacts with your life. God is always inviting you to know more than just His voice. In fact, He invites you to know Him. What an opportunity to be close to God!

I’m reminded of the opportunity the prophet Elijah had in his encounter with God. It happened to be the lowest time in his life. In the book of 1 Kings 19:9 Elijah had come to a cave and decided to hide there and the word of the Lord came to him and He said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Exhausted and feeling sad, he replied to the Lord in verse 10 that he had done his best to obey Him and said,“the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”

Elijah was ready to call it quits and the Lord gave him a command that blew him away! He said in verse 11, “. . . Go forth, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” As he obeyed what the Lord told him, the Lord was passing by. But before Elijah could step out of the cave a horrific wind hit the side of the mountain shattering the rocks. The Lord wasn’t in the wind or even the fire that rained from heaven after that. I’m sure Elijah wondered what would happen next, a volcanic explosion!

But, instead in the still silence, Elijah heard a gentle whisper. He knew it was the Lord. He got up and stood at the opening of the cave and hid his face with his coat. At the end of verse 13 the voice of the Lord came to Elijah again and asked, “What are you doing here Elijah?” Elijah responded the same as he had earlier and God gave him instructions in verses 15 -18 that he wasn’t the only one refusing to worship idols. There were 7,000 others who had not left God to follow Baal.

Notice that God whispered. To hear someone whisper, you need to be near him or her. Whispering doesn’t work very well if you’re speaking to someone who’s standing on the other side of the room. You see, God doesn’t want a long distance relationship; He wants a close, intimate one.

What you need to keep in mind is that God speaks in many different voices and if we have that close intimate relationship with Him, we know when it’s God speaking to us. The best way to hear God is to spend time reading His word, the Bible.

Do you have that kind of relationship with God? Do you want to have that intimate relationship with Him? You can and I can show you how. Just leave me a comment and I’ll be glad to tell you how.

Two Different Christs?

DiscipleshipBanner“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance.” (1 Peter 1:14)

A fellow student I worked with while attending Bible college was deep into evangelism and enjoyed sharing Christ regularly and at any opportunity that presented itself. Oftentimes he was quick to share with me the experience he had in sharing Christ with someone on the streets. It could have been the night before or a couple of days prior. Now, I enjoy sharing Christ also and love to hear testimonies about how someone came to know Jesus. However, my friend seemed to think it was rewarding to sort of brag about having led someone to Christ. I can understand his desire to share his evangelistic moments.

I have often wondered how many people have actually progressed from accepting Christ to discipleship. There is a misconception that we humans can choose to accept Christ only because we need Him as our Saviour and that we have the right to postpone our obedience to Him as Lord, as long as we want to!

I believe this misconception has sprung up naturally from a misunderstanding of what the Bible actually says about Christian discipleship and obedience. It is found in nearly all full gospel literature.

I think the following is a fair statement of what I was taught in my early Christian experience and it certainly needs a lot of modifying and a great many qualifiers to save us from being in error:

“We are saved by accepting Christs as our Saviour;

We are sanctified by accepting Christ as our Lord;

We may do the first without doing the second!”

The truth is that salvation apart from obedience is unknown in scripture. Peter makes it plain that we are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience.”

It is a tragedy that we hear, “Come to Jesus!” Then later we hear, “Take Jesus as Lord!” The fact that we hear this everywhere does not make it right. To urge men and women to believe in two Christs is bad teaching for no one can take either or one without the other. We’re not saved by believing in an office nor in a work.

I have heard well-meaning workers say, “Come and believe on the finished work.” That work is not going to save you. The Bible does not tell us to believe in an office or a work, but to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the Person who has done that work and holds those offices.

Peter’s emphasis is on obedience among the scattered and persecuted Christians of his day.

The important thing to me here is that Peter speaks of his fellow Christians as “obedient children.” He did not command them to be obedient. On the contrary, he is assuming that they are believers, and therefore they are also obedient. So, as obedient children, they would do what is necessary.

I submit that obedience is taught throughout the entire Bible and that true obedience is one of the toughest requirements of the Christian life. Apart from obedience, there can be no salvation, for salvation without obedience is a self-contradictory impossibility.

If God had made us humans to be mere machines we would not have the power of self-determination. But since He made us in His own image and made us to be moral creatures, He has given us that power of self-determination.

We do not have the right of self-determination because God has given us only the power to choose evil. Seeing that God is a holy God and we are moral creatures having the power but not the right to choose evil, no man has any right to lie.

Oh, we have the power to lie but no man has the right to lie. We have the power to steal—I could go out and get myself a better coat than the one I own. I could slip out through a side door and get away with the coat. I have that power, but I do not have that right!

More to the point, we only have the right to be good—we never have the right to be bad because God is good. We only have the right to be holy; we never have the right to be unholy. If we are unholy we are using a right that is not ours. Adam and Eve had no moral right to eat of that tree of good and evil, but they took it and usurped the right that was not theirs.

So how can we insist and teach that our Lord Jesus Christ can be our Saviour without being our Lord? How can we continue to teach that we can be saved without any thought of obedience to our Sovereign Lord?

Suppose I were to slip into a hospital and tell the staff, I need a blood transfusion or perhaps an X-ray of my gall bladder. After they have ministered to me and given me their services, do I just slip out of the hospital again with a cheery “Goodbye”—as though I owe them nothing and it was kind of them to help me in my time of need?

Now, that may sound like a grotesque concept to you, but it does pretty well draw the picture of those who have been taught that they can use Jesus as a Saviour in their time of need without owning Him as Sovereign and Lord and without owing Him obedience and allegiance.

The Bible never in any way gives us such a concept of salvation. Nowhere are we ever led to believe that we can use Jesus as a Saviour and not own Him as our Lord. He is the Lord and as the Lord He saves us, because He has all the offices of Saviour and Christ and High Priest and Wisdom and Righteousness and Sanctification and Redemption! He is all of these things and all of these are embodied in Him as Christ the Lord.

My friend, we are not allowed to come to Jesus Christ as shrewd, clever operators saying, “We will take this and this, but we won’t take that!” We don’t come to Him as one buying furniture for a house and declare, “I will take this table, but I don’t want that chair,” as though we are wanting one Christ over a different Christ.

Absolutely not! It is either all of Christ or none of Christ! To the world—a Christ who does not need our apologies, one Christ over another Christ, one Christ who will either be Lord of all or who will not be Lord at all!

Therefore, one who accepts Jesus as Saviour must also accept Him as Lord!

I Love You Mom!

This year Mother’s Day will be on Sunday May 13, 2018. Although my mother is no longer living with us and is at home with our Lord in Heaven, not a Mother’s Day goes by that I don’t think of her and also my wife. Even though my wife is not my mother, she is the mother of my children. So, with that being said, Happy Mother’s Day Mom and my dear sweet wife Deanna. I love you both so much.

Mothers-Day-ImageIn 1868, Ann Jarvis, mother of Anna Jarvis, developed ‘Mothers Friendship’s Day’ along with a committee in order to bring families together after they had been separated by the Civil War. Her daughter would push her agenda forward over the years in honor of the legacy she was leaving behind.

Over the next few decades, the holiday was not an official one but there were small celebrations of it. However, Ann Jarvis died on May 9, 1905, prompting Anna Jarvis to establish Mother’s Day along with the help of Philadelphia merchant John Wanamaker.

The first official celebration of the holiday was on May 10, 1908. The next year, the holiday was widely celebrated in New York and it continued to grow after that over the years.

Make an effort to call your mother, send her a letter or perhaps even get together this Mother’s Day. I am thrilled to be with my wife this Mother’s Day. Even though you are not my mom, I still love you as the mother that you are.

Much love and many hugs and kisses! emoji kisses

 

God Knows, Even Before We Ask!

Yes, you are right. God does know what we need, before we even ask. God tells us in Matthew 6:8, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” But in the next verses He tells us to pray for our needs. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 God commands us to pray continually. That means to pray a lot!

Praying Man

Prayer is God’s way for us to receive what we need from Him (Heb. 4:16). He tells us the reason we don’t have what we need is because we haven’t asked or because we are asking selfishly (James 4:2-4).

We also need to pray because we have an enemy, the devil, who wants to rob us of the good things God wants to give us. Prayer is God’s way to stand firm against the devil’s tricks (Eph. 6:18).

When we pray with thanksgiving  God chases away out worries and fills our hearts and minds with His peace (Phil. 4:6-7).

Isn’t it wonderful to know that God wants us to talk with Him and tell Him our needs? We all need to spend more time in prayer! I’m also glad that God knows what my needs are before I ask. That assures me that He is watching over me while at the same time knows what I need.

 

Do You Know the Time?

watch

While waiting for my flight in the airport one day, I was reading from a book and I noticed a gentleman sat down a couple of seats from me and within a few minutes he leaned over toward me and asked, “Pardon me sir, do you know the time?” Without giving it a second thought, I simply looked at my watch and said, “It is nearly time!”

Now, I know that wasn’t what the man wanted to know and I quickly grinned and gave him the correct time. He looked at me somewhat puzzled. I’m sure that the man had no idea what I was referring to. I was referring to the time our flight would begin to board.

But what if I had told the man that yes, it was nearing the time God would call us home. Now I would certainly be concerned if he had asked the question and given me the same answer. In this day and time, you never know what could happen. The man could have been a terrorist and was planning to bring destruction to the plane and everyone on board.

My point is very distinct. The psalmist says in Psalm 31:15, “My times are in Thy hand…” Oh how true that is! On the negative side, this certainly would be a disastrous situation if it was a terrorist. My time could nearly be up. On the positive side, the man could be looking for an opportunity to start a conversation leading up to sharing the gospel with me.

Honestly, time is critical. Acts 1:7 says, “. . .it is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority.” We never know when that time will happen. What we should know is whether we are prepared for that time when it comes. Are you ready to go, if God is calling you home? If you’re not ready, you can always ask me how you can be.

Good Friday?

Good Friday Image

As we approach this Easter Sunday, I hear the question, “So why do we recognize Good Friday if Sunday is the day Jesus rose from the grave?” And that is a great question. Friday was the day Christ was crucified. It is important because that is the day Jesus took our sins to the cross and He paid the price to redeem us. He was crucified on a hill called Golgotha just outside of Jerusalem. Not only did He go to the cross, but He was nailed to the cross at His wrists and His ankles with large spikes. He was given a crown of thorns as a means of mocking His kingship by the Romans. Jesus was tortured by whips and humiliation and made to carry His own cross to the hill. Suffice it to say, His death was a cruel death. And to make matters worse, He had done nothing wrong other than tell people how they could have eternal life.

The ‘Good’ in Good Friday comes from old English when Good meant Holy. So you could call Good Friday, ‘Holy Friday’. Many people in different countries celebrate the anniversary of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, and death on the Friday before Easter Sunday.  This is an observance that involves people fasting and praying.

We celebrate on Friday that Jesus died for us and then on Easter Sunday we celebrate the risen Christ. But on Monday it’s back to normal. The Apostle Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:21, “…Christ also suffered for you…”  Easter gets tucked away in our minds and we don’t think about it again until the following year at this time.

An old prominent African-American preacher named S. M. Lockridge (1913 – 2000) known for his dynamic passionate and fervent sermons preached a sermon entitled “He’s My King!” A few years later the author and speaker Tony Campolo continued the message with his own sermon called, “It’s Friday, But Sunday’s Coming.” The narrative of Jesus crucifixion is one of betrayal.  Denial. Cowardice. Envy.  Hate.  Brutality.  Suffering. Despair. Defeat.  Death.

Yet, Christians celebrate the cross because the story does not end on that fateful Friday. It does not end at the cross.  The irony of the cross was the very instrument Jesus’ enemies used to defeat Him, but it became His greatest victory.  Little did they know when Friday ended what would happen on Sunday to change the course of the world’s history. Regardless of today’s problems. Challenges.  Or defeats.  Just remember that Sunday’s coming!  And that you will enjoy the privilege of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.

I know it’s Friday.  But thanks be to God that Sunday’s coming!

From the S. M. Lockridge sermon, “It’s Friday. Jesus is buried. A soldier stands guard. And a rock is rolled into place.  But it’s  Friday. It is only Friday.  Sunday is a comin’!”

A View Into Heaven

Acts 7.56

I don’t think I’m alone when I often imagine what heaven actually looks like. I hear of people who have dreamed of heaven. I hear of people who have been on their death bed  and have had visions of heaven. Some talk about the streets of gold, while others talk of seeing their parents or grandparents who have gone on to be with the Lord. The older I get, the more I think about heaven.

Here is my happiest feeling, I know I will be in heaven when I die. How do I know that? Jesus clearly tells me in His Word in John 14:1-3: “Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

Stoning of Stephen as he envisions Jesus standing at the right hand of God

We all would love to get a peek into heaven. Go ahead and admit it, you know you would like to see into heaven. When Stephen was being stoned to death, God allowed him to see into heaven and what he saw was Jesus standing at the right hand of God. This is a simple confirmation of Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:18, “. . . All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Jesus has the power to allow Stephen to look into heaven. The Bible usually represents Jesus seated at the right hand of God after His work is finished on earth.

What a rush of strength Stephen must have had as it appeared Jesus rose to His feet as He saw His servant’s need and was preparing to come to his aid and welcome him into heaven.

That’s what I envision of Jesus too! He is standing there waiting to welcome me home. The wonderful part is this: He is standing there waiting for you also to welcome you home, if you know Him as Lord and Saviour. To God be the glory and praise!