Thursday, December 4, 2008
I am not a Calvinist, certainly not by today's standards. Nor, am I an Armenian. I refuse to be placed into a manmade camp, and hold to its tenets as my security blanket. I am a Biblicist. And as a Biblicist, I am totally committed to the tenet of the sovereignty of God, without being a Calvinist.
As I understand it, the sovereignty of God is a doctrine which very simply declares that God is in control, and governs the affairs of men. However, God can be sovereign and still allow His creation the freedom to choose. This freedom was first illustrated in the garden of Eden when God informed our initial parents that of every tree in the garden that could "freely eat." Thus, God's sovereignty in no way represents the fact that God is a Heavenly bully who forces us to do what He has already predetermined.
His sovereignty simply declares that He is God of Himself, in Himself, and all by Himself. Thus, being sovereign, He is in absolute control of His own creation. Of all the doctrines of the Bible, I don't know of any that is more comforting to my heart than sovereignty. It lets me know that God is not surprised, shocked, panicked, or alarmed by the events of my life. He is so sovereign that He possesses the right to either allow it or arrange it. If It gets to me, it first had to come through Him.
In the book, "America Out of the Ashes," Colonel Jeffrey O'Leary, of the USAF, gave an answer to the question, "Where was God on September 11th?" He answered the question by looking at what didn't happen that could have happened, and should have happened on that day. He began by looking at the flight manifests. He writes:
"On American Airlines Flight 77, 289 seats were available, only 64 people were aboard. On American Airlines Flight 11, 251 seats were available, only 92 people were aboard. On United Airlines Flight 175, 351 seats were available, only 65 people were aboard. On United Airlines Flight 93, 289 seats were available, only 45 people were aboard."
He continues, "Out of a minimum of 75,000 potential 'victims' that day, more than 93% survived or avoided these despicable acts. The buildings in New York City should have collapsed immediately. Who held them up until tens of thousands could make it out? The Pentago was hit at its strongest point, but it was nearly empty in those sections due to renovations. Why did the plane hit just those 2 sections?"
He concludes, "So, in answer to the question, 'Where was God on September 11th?' The answer is that He was the same place He was on September 10th, right where He was supposed to be: on His throne, and nothing out of His sight."
If the issue of God's sovereignty is something that alarms you, think how much more alarmed you would be if God wasn't sovereign, on His throne, in control, and right where He was supposed to be.
Calvinist, no; comforted, YES!
Thank God for God,
Friday, November 7, 2008
First of all, let me say that as I sat and watched the events of election night I was both amazed, as well as honored to watch history take place right before my very eyes. To think that in almost a generation and a half we have watched this country go from treating black men as slaves to electing them as the leader of the free world, is nothing short of astounding. I went out and bought a paper Wednesday morning so that I would have a piece of history not only for myself, for to pass down to my son. I told him, "Son, always remember this night, because you have watched history unfold before your very eyes."
Loving, and knowing history the way that I do, I can proudly say that I am proud to be a citizen of the United States of America. I applaud President-elect Barak Obama for his promotion to the highest office in the world. Although I DID NOT vote for him, not because of his race, but because of his political views, there is no doubt that he ran a masterful campaign down to the minutest of detail. Furthermore, while others played the "race card" throughout the campaign, I never heard or saw him play the race hand.
My concern is not from a political or racial standpoint. I do not have a prejudice bone in my body, and I do not cling to a party as a security blanket. If you were to track my voting record, you would find that I have voted more Republican than Democrat; however, I have several bones to pick with the Republican party for NOT doing the jobs they were elected to do. From President Bush all the way down to my local politicians, they have let me down, they have let my family down, and they have let my nation down.
The concern that I have is from a MORAL standpoint. One of the reason I did not vote for President Obama is because of his views regarding abortion and same sex marriage. If one were to study history, they would find that the success of a nation is not determined economically, militarily, or politically; but, it is determined MORALLY. Every great power that has risen and fallen, did so because their moral foundation crumbled beneath them; be it Persia, Assyria, Babylon, Rome, or the United States of America.
Our recent economic woes, while due in part to poor leadership and decisions, are the result of cracks in our moral foundation. For example, politicians talk about finding a way to fix Social Security, so here's a thought: ABOLISH ABORTION! Since 1973, we have murdered more than 65 million babies. Fast forward 35 years and most of those would have been involved in the work force and paid into Social Security for 17 to 18 years. There is your solution for Social Security.
Thus, everything is directly linked to morality. There is no way around it. Why? It is because that is the way God set things up. "Blessed in the nation whose God is the Lord." (Psalm 33:12) It's one thing to have the words, "In God We Trust" on our currency, but when our lifestyles contradict those words, our currency becomes worthless.
We cannot take God out of our school system and not expect guns, violence, illiteracy and drugs. We cannot take God out of our judicial system and not expect abortion, same sex marriage, and assisted suicides. We cannot God out of our economic system and not expect stock market crashes, foreclosures, and the possibility of another Depression.
So, to answer the question, "What do we do now?' I have only one answer. As God's people, we do what we should have been doing all along, and that is awake out of our sleep, stand for truth, be salt and light instead of sugar and spice, and with a backbone like a saw log we refuse to back down, back away or back up.
As Christians, we have a mandate to pray for the "powers that be" which are "ordained of God." (Romans 13:1) Although you may not have voted for him, you and I have a responsibility to pray for President Obama. We must pray that God will work in his heart, and open his eyes to truth. We must pray that his liberal agenda in the Senate does not follow him to the White House. We must pray that he will lead this nation morally, so that he may lead this nation economically, politically, militarily and judicially.
I have placed his name at the top of my personal prayer list, and I hope that you will do the same. As the blood-bought, born-again people of God, we can still stand for right and pray for those who are wrong. Because at the end of the day, we know that regardless of who is in the White House, Jesus is still on the throne, and "the king's heart is in the hand of the Lord; as the rivers of water, he turneth it whithsoever he will." (Proverbs 21:1)
May God bless President Barak Obama, may this nation turn back to God, and may God's people awake from their sleep and not only recognize their responsibility to live as citizens of this country, but as citizens of another country.
With Eyes to the Hills from whence Cometh My Help,
Thursday, October 30, 2008
1. PLAN It OUT! By that I mean, don't open up the Word and decide to preach on whatever your index finger lands. Have a systematic approach to preaching. I love to preach through books of the Bible. Truth is progressive; thus, by the time you are at the conclusion of the book, you have built upon the truth presented in the opening of the book. Also, sermon series are an excellent way to avoid the pitfall of random thoughts. Although I am not an avid fan of topical series, they do serve a purpose in the right setting. Whether it is a book or a series, plan toward it. Map it out. Know where you're going; how you're going to get there; and, how long it will take.
2. PLOW It IN! In other words, when God settles on your heart what to preach, allow the plow of the Holy Spirit to plant it deep within your soul. Allow the truth of the passage to sink in. Meditate upon it. Dwell upon it. Feast upon it. Fill yourself so full of it that it overflows when you give it to your people. God forbid that we, as preachers, take the most exciting Book of history and BORE PEOPLE WITH IT! However, you cannot properly give out what you have not personally taken in. Thus, may it never be said that we went to the pulpit unprepared. God honors the study of His Word. I believe the anointing of the Spirit begins in the study.
There are a variety of options, and preferences in this area. Some preachers are "note-free" preachers who take no notes with them to the pulpit. Other preachers, like myself, take a manuscript to the pulpit. To be honest, I wish I were more able to be "note free," but I have become so accustomed to having my notes, that I would be handicapped. However, I would say this, if you use notes in your preaching, don't let them sound like the script of a telemarketer. Make it flow. Know where you are. Know where you're going. Know how you're going to get there.
3. PRAY It THROUGH! This is the hardest part of sermon preparation. For me, I'm not often willing to take the time to pray over my sermon. But, I have found the difference to be eternal in the sermons that I have prayed over, and the ones I have not. Something that I have made a personal practice is, that once my study is complete, before I go to the pulpit to deliver the message; I take my sermon notes, I hold them up, and I offer them as a sacrifice to God. I ask Him to leave out what He wants to leave out, and to put it what He wants to put in. I give it back to its rightful owner, and say with Moses, "Lord, I don't want to go out there if you don't go with me." The BIG preacher can do far better than we little preachers.
Referring back to sermon notes, although many of my sermons will contain a number of pages, I am not totally dependent upon them in the pulpit. I have looked over them many, many times before I preach; and, when I pray, I ask God to brand them into my heart and mind. I don't want to limit God to my sermon notes. There have been many times, while preaching, when God has given me something not in my notes. This is often referred to as "pulpit inspiration." Whatever the case may be, I believe it is the direct result of prayer.
4. PREACH It FORTH! Once you have labored over a passage, and have allowed the Holy Spirit to cultivate it deep within your soul; and, once you have prayed God's blessing upon it; go forth into your pulpit with a backbone like a saw-log and PREACH, PREACHER, PREACH! I mean, LET IT RIP! Leave nothing in the pulpit, or on the platform. As Richard Baxter said, "Preach as a dying man to dying men." Spurgeon was right when he said, "The purpose of preaching is not to explain a subject but to acheive an object. Preachers have become so wrapped up in 'content' that we've forgotten about "intent."
I once heard Chuck Swindoll say that preaching is 4 simple things: PRESENTATION, APPLICATION, ILLUSTRATION, INVITATION. While every preaching must hone his own skills to develop his own plan, personality, and preparation; I believe there is one common denominator: little preachers cannot make it without the BIG preacher.
Holding Forth the Word of Life,
Friday, October 24, 2008
As I browsed around, I never really saw anything that struck my fancy. But, as I was walking out, I noticed a little shelf near the register. It was filled with different "religious" books, most of which would only serve as a good means of fireplace material. However, there was one book that jumped off the shelf at me. The book is entitled, "The Outward Focused Life: Becoming a Servant in a Serve Me World." The author is Dave Workman, senior pastor of Vineyard Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.
As always, I browsed through the table of contents to see if there was good reason to purchase the book. Some things I saw intrigued me, but I laid it down and said to myself, "If it's here when I come back to fly home, I'll pick it up." Well, guess what? When I arrived back at the airport, 6 days later, there was ONE copy of the book left. I don't know if it was divine intervention or not, but I purchased the book.
The book is filled with over 250 pages of life/church experiences of a pastor. By the time I landed back home in Jacksonville, 2 hours later, I had finished the entire book. To say that the book interested me would be a grave understatement. The book absolutely engulfed me. There was no great doctrinal, theological, or expostional content to the book, it is simply a book about being the greatest the kingdom of God. It is about being a SERVANT.
Pastor Workman and I would certainly disagree on several doctrinal issues, but there was one common denominator that we both share; and, that is, that one of the things greatly lost in the church today is servanthood. The average Christian, as well as the average church, has become so wrapped in themselves that they cannot see the need to reach, help, and love others. The lives of most Christians are governed by the unholy trinity of 'Me, Myself, and I."
But, when God saved us, He did much more than give us a little "fire insurance policy" to escape hell. When God saved us, He did much more than give us the "blessed hope" of a home in Heaven. When God saved us, He enlisted us in His army of saints, soldiers, and servants.
Pastor Dave told of a time he went to a fast-food restaurant. As he walked thru the door, he quickly noticed the cold temperature of the room. He ordered his food, paid the cashier, and as he waited on his food, he noticed that everyone in the dining area was eating their food with their coats on. He mentioned to the girl at the counter, "It's awfully cold in here, don't you think?" She replied, "It how we like it back here." He said, "Yes, but everyone is eating with their coats on." She looked at the dining area, looked back and him and said, "It's how we like it back here."
A great spiritual lesson is paralleled anytime a church or a Christian exists with the attitude, "It's how I like it back here." Many Christians fail to appropriate all of the resources of God's grace, and become everything God wants them to be, because they like it just where they are. They have reached the place of contentment; thus, they have purchased their tickets for the destination of complacency, callousness, and coldness.
Many churches fail to be the lighthouse of their communities, because they do things based on "how they like it in here." As a result, people fill our seats, and sit through our services every week WITH THEIR COATS ON! If this attitude continues, before long there will not be anyone in our church except those who think that it's NORMAL TO BE MISERABLE! All the while our cities, counties and communities remain unreached, unchurched and unsaved.
Now, please do not get me wrong, I am talking about watering down the gospel, or seeking to become like the world to win the world, because they would defeat the purpose. We have seen what the "purpose driven, seeker friendly church" produces; wormy, weak, and worldly believers. What I am talking about is that the church has become an expert in the field of having church and doing church, but has forgotten the mandate of BEING church. As R. G. Lee well said many years ago, "The church has become social clubhouses rather than spiritual lighthouses; museums that minister to the saints, rather than hospitals that minister to sinners; a group of political organizers, rather than a group of spiritual agonizers; keepers of the aquariam, rather than fishers of men."
We have forgotten that it is not about us, it has never been about us; nor, will it ever be about us. God has not called us to be high society, He has called us to be Heavenly Servants. When was the last time we reached out to help someone, not because of what we could get out of it; but, because we saw them through the eyes of Jesus? Remember, people are sitting in our church, and living in our communities with their coats on; so, let's go warm them up.
Glad to be a Servant,
Thursday, October 16, 2008
We are saved forever! We are POSITIONALLY saved. We are being PROGRESSIVELY saved. One day, we will be PERFECTLY saved. But, salvation does not negate sin. It is still a present force, because God saves our soul, not our flesh. Adrian Rogers, “If the devil doesn’t bother you, it’s because you’re both going in the same direction.”
Thus, knowing that we are saved forever, and our sins (past, present and future) have been atoned for once and for all, does that give us a license to sin, or does it give us the power not to have to? We must first remember, The REALITY of the BLIGHT of Sin!
Gratefully, we are not alone in our battle with sin, because the apostle Paul fought the same battle. He describes it in Romans 7: 15-17, “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.  If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.  Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.”
Then, in sheer agony he decries in verse 24, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Paul's words remind us of an infallible truth, we are not SINNERS BECAUSE WE SIN; we SIN BECAUSE WE ARE SINNERS! We are not first sinners by choice, but sinners by character. We are not just sinners by name, but by nature. Our sin is not just reflected by our behavior, it is revealed in our birth. We are BORN SINNERS!
Sin takes us back to the beginning, and we learn from Adam's sin that the result was Death of the SPIRIT IMMEDIATELY. When Adam sinned, immediately his spirit lost fellowship with God. God and Adam had walked together; but, once sin entered the picture, God had to come looking for Adam. “Adam, where art thou?”
It wasn’t that God did not know where Adam was, but Adam did not know where Adam was. When he realized what had happened, he immediately took cover. And, may I say that man has been covering up ever since. David describes the effects of sin's cover-up in Psalm 32: 3, “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. " In other words,
Sin DIRTIES the soul
Sin DOMINATES the mind
Sin DEPRESSES the heart
Sin DISEASES the body
Sin DEFILES the spirit
Sin DESTROYS the testimony
Sin DISGRACES the Lord
When we sin, immediately fellowship with God is broken. When we sin we can’t:
We can’t be RIGHT, when we are WRONG! Not only was there the death of the spirit immediately, but the Death of the SOUL PROGRESSIVELY. God has had 4 houses in Bible history. Adam: God’s PRIMARY House; Tabernacle: God’s PATTERN House; Jesus: God’s PERFECT House; and NT believer's are God’s PERMANENT House.
God cannot live in a dirty house, so when sin came in, God moved out. When sin entered the garden, the Lord moved out, the light went out, and the life slipped out. When the Lord moved out, there was depravity. When the light went out, there was darkness. When the life slipped out, there was deadness. As a result, we are “dead in trespasses and sin.” We are born sick—SIN SICK! Our soul is dead, defiled, dark, and depraved.
Because of the death of the spirit immediately, and the death of the soul progressively, there was the Death of the BODY ULTIMATELY. Adam did not physically die immediately after his sin. In fact, Adam lived to be 930 years old. However, the moment he sinned, the countdown on the clock of life began. Why?
Ezekiel 18:4 declares, "The soul that sinneth it shall die.” Romans 6:23 states that, “The wages of sin is death.” This body will be sown back to the ground from whence it came because of sin.
But, thanks be to God we need not stop at the reality of the blight of sin, because we also find the AUTHORITY with the BURDEN of Sin! This authority was LEGALLY LOST. The 1st act of God, after creation, was issued in Genesis 1:28. God gave Adam a direct order to "be fruitful, multiply, replenish the earth, subdue it, and have dominion" over it.
You could say that Adam possessed the 1st American Express card. He was given permission to be “fruitful, multiply, replenish.” He was COMMANDED to have “dominion,” or to rule. However, b/c of sin, Adam forfeited his God-given authority.
Adam could have kicked the serpent out of the garden. He could have cut off the head of the snake. Satan DID NOT steal the throne from Adam, Adam opened the door and invited Satan in. Ladies and gentlemen, there are a lot of people today who say, "We need to take back what the devil stole from us." What a foolish statement!
The devil has not, will not, because he CANNOT steal anything from us. If he could, he would prove more powerful than the One who indwells us. No, he cannot steal it, but we can give it to him. That is exactly what Adam did, and that is exactly what many Christians do; they open the door of their heart and invite the devil to come in and set up camp. As R. G. Lee said , “You can eat the devil’s corn, but you will choke on the cob.”
However, this authority that was legally lost was RIGHTEOUSLY REGAINED. What the 1st Adam threw away, the 2nd Adam took back. We read in Romans 5:19, “For as by one man's (1st Adam) disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one (2nd Adam) shall many be made righteous.”
Hallelujah to God, the 2nd Adam CLEANED UP what the 1st Adam MESSED UP. Jesus regained authority over the world, the flesh, the devil, death, hell and sin. When He arrived in Heaven, he showed up with the “keys of hell and death;” then, he handed those keys to the church.
[C. p. Matthew 16:19]
“I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
It’s time we stop being on the defensive, and start being on the OFFENSIVE! We have been made “more than conquerors through him that loved us.” We have God-given, Jesus-gained, Spirit-governed authority with the burden of sin. Because of that, we have the VICTORY over the BONDAGE of Sin!
During a conference with his demons, Satan was holding a strategy session on how he could impede the progress of the church. The options included convincing the church the Bible wasn’t true, Jesus wasn’t alive, and the end had not been settled. One demon spoke up and said, “None of these will work if Christians ever get a hold of the fact that we have already been defeated. If they ever realize it, exercise it, and utilize it, HELL HELP US, ALL OF HEAVEN WILL BREAK LOOSE!
The victory has already been won. Sadly enough, many Christians are not fighting a losing battle, but a WINNING battle. They are showing up at the wrong fight, because they have failed to utilize victory over the bondage of sin. How do we appropriate this victory over the bondage of sin?
First, we must CONFRONT It. We must understand who we are in Christ. WE DIED WITH JESUS ON THE CROSS. We died to our in sin/old man. Paul wonderfully describes it in Romans 6-11-12, “Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.”
We often use Corrective theology, but we should use PREVENTIVE THEOLOGY! By that I mean, WE DON’T HAVE TO SIN! We don’t have to be BOUND to sin. We don’t have to be BURDENED with sin. We don’t have to be BLINDED by sin.
Martin Luther tells how he overcame sin/devil. He said, “When the devil comes knocking on the door and asks, “Who lives here?” I get up to answer it, but Jesus goes to the door instead and says, “Martin Luther used to live here, but he has moved out. I live here now!” Then, the devil sees the nail prints in his hands and takes flight.
We must not only confront it, but we must CONFESS It. We are to take measures against sin, but there are many times when we give up, give out, and give in. We try to confront it, but it overtakes, overwhelms and overpowers us. We feel dirty. We feel despicable. We feel defeated. What do we do? We MUST confess it.
I love 1 John 2:1, "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
Before the work of Christ, whenever sin entered one of God’s houses, God moved out. However, now, when sin enters God’s permanent house of the believer, He doesn’t move out; HE JUST CLEANS HOUSE! Adrian Rogers was right, “You can’t confess to God why you won’t admit to yourself.”
Confession means agreement. We admit it to God, we agree with God, and we affirm to God our guilt and shame. Finally, once we confront it and confess it, we can CONQUER It. I know that may sound like 'heresy' in our fundamental churches today, but sin can be conquered because it HAS ALREADY BEEN conquered! The finished work of Christ conquered death, hell, the grave and sin once and for all.
We must simply learn to appropriate it in our daily lives. A good place to start conquering sin is to SEPARATE Ourselves from the WORLD. Too many Christian try to use fight, when every Christian ought to use FLIGHT!
We are to “come out from among” the world and “be separate.” We are in this world, but we are not OF this world. If there is something that poses a threat of temptation, you MUST GET AWAY FROM IT!
Once we separate ourselves from the world, we must SATURATE Ourselves with the WORD. The Psalmist gives prudent advice in Psalm 119, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word… Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee...Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.” (119:9, 11, 133)
Christians don’t need Will-power, because we’ve got WORD-Power. We must separate ourselves from the world, saturate ourselves with the Word and then SITUATE Ourselves by the WATER.
Water is a type/picture of the Holy Spirit. We know this because Jesus defined it in John 7: 38-39, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.  (But this spake he of the Spirit…”
In order to fully identify the picture, we must go back to the temple in Jesus' day at the time of holiday named 'Sukkot,' or the Feast of Tabernacles. The feast took place at the end of the dry season. Israel had 2 seasons, wet and dry. If they didn't get rain in the spring and fall, they didn't eat the next year. So a big part of the Sukkot was asking God for rain the next year. At the climax of the week, the last day of the feast, the crowds thronged the Temple in Jerusalem for the water ceremony. They would chant prayers for God to bring rain for the next year. When it came, a celebration took place.
In the same way, as Christians, we can experience 2 seasons: wet and dry. The dry season is when we attempt to live in our flesh. The wet season is when we are consistently, continuously, constantly and completely filled with the Holy Spirit.
Major Ian Thomas, "Through the Holy Spirit, man can make himself available to God, and God is prepared to make Himself available to man. The Spirit becomes the Agent of a mutual inter-availability. All there is of God is available to every human being who is available to all there is of God."
A tiger met a lion as they sat beside a pool.
Said the tiger to the lion, “Why are you roaring like a fool?”
That’s not foolish,” said the lion, with a twinkle in his eyes.
They call me the King of all beasts because I advertise.
A rabbit heard them talking, ran on like a streak.
He thought he would try the lion’s plan, but his roar was just a squeak.
A fox came to investigate and had his lunch there in the woods.
And, so my friend, when you advertise,
BE SURE YOU’VE GOT THE GOODS!
As believers, WE’VE GOT THE GOODS! We have:
The Word of God
The Truth of God
The Son of God
The Spirit of God
The Promises of God
The Presence of God
The Power of God
The Authority of Christ
The Blood of Christ
The Cross of Christ
The Name of Christ
The Provision of Christ
The Work of Christ
The Availability of the Spirit
The Born Witness of the Spirit
The Control of the Spirit
The Filling of the Spirit
The Fruit of the Spirit
The Indwelling of the Spirit
The Joy of the Spirit
My life once used to a sole proprietorship, but now it is a sweet partnership with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost! Blessed be His name!
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Yet, there are many, many, many Christians who live in a state of uncertainty regarding their salvation. I meet people all the time, many of whom have been serving God for years, who continue to live in doubt, defeat, and dismay as to whether or not they are truly saved. Dear friend, if we can know that we are saved; and, we can know that we are saved FOREVER, then, why would anyone want to continue to live in doubt?
The good, gospel news is that we CAN know, we SHOULD know, and we DO know that we are saved; not by feelings, because feelings come and go; not by faith, because our faith may weaken; but, by FACT!
I have the PROMISE of the SCRIPTURE that GETS Me In. 1 John 5: 13 records the words, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. “
The "know" is the Greek word 'oida.' It speaks of much more than mental assent, but knowledge by perception and experience. Thirty-eight times, in 5 chapters, John makes use of the word "know" or "knoweth." John is saying, "You can know that you are saved, and God has given His Word for you to know that you are saved."
Thus, to doubt your salvation is to call the Bible unbelievable, and call God unreliable. To doubt your salvation is to call God a liar! Again, salvation is not based on feelings, because feelings come and go. Salvation is not based on faith, because our faith may weaken. But, salvation is based on FACTS! The facts are that Christ died, giving His blood and water; Christ was buried and rose again for your Justification! PERIOD!
I have the PRESENCE of the SPIRIT that SEALS Me In. 1 John 5: 6-8 states that, “And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.  For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.  And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these THREE AGREE IN ONE.”
The Holy Spirit is a vital part of the work of cooperation with the Father and the Son. We could put it this way, the Father promises salvation, the Son provides salvation, but the Spirit proves salvation. He is come to make salvation real to our heart. He is the Heavenly Executive of the Trinity. He is the eyewitness that gives the first-hand account of our salvation. That's why Paul said in Romans 8: 16] “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”
Part of the Holy Spirit's work in proving salvation is that He convicts us and corrects us when we sin. A person who can claim to be saved, and yet continue to live in sin without the "chastening of the Lord;" is not a person who lost salvation, they are a person who NEVER HAD salvation.
I know that I'm saved because of the promise of the Scripture, because of the presence of the Spirit; and, because of the POWER of the SAVIOR that KEEPS Me In. 1 John 5: 9 says, "If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.” In other words, salvation does not depend on me, but on Him. It is His power that not only saved me, but is keeping me saved.
Think about it! The same power that created the world; the same power that hung the stars in space; the same power that shut up the rain of the Heavens; the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that KEEPS us in the circle of God’s family. When Jesus said in John 10:29 that, "NO MAN is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand." "No man" includes the internal (flesh), the external (world), and the infernal (devil).
Nothing in the world can take you out of His hand. Nothing the devil can do can take you out of His hand. Nothing you can do can take you out of His hand. At the moment of salvation, our life becomes "hid with Christ in God." He seals us "unto the day of redemption" "with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession." We are "seated in Heavenly places in Christ."
So, I ask you, where is Jesus? He's in Heaven seated at the right hand of the Father. Therefore, if my life is hid with Christ in God, where does that put me? It puts me as sure for Heaven as if I was already there. Hallelujah!
Because of the promise of the scripture, the presence of the Spirit, and the power of the Savior, I couldn't go to hell if I wanted to. If a mosquito bit me, he'd fly off singing,
There is power, power, wonder working power
In the blood of the Lamb.
If you have done what the Bible says must be done to be saved, and in repentance and faith you "confessed with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believed in your heart that God raised him from the dead," you are saved, safe, secure, sanctified; and, should be satisfied.
It doesn't matter if everything from Wall Street to Main Street to my street falls apart, I'm so saved it's pitiful!
His and Happy,
Thursday, October 2, 2008
I arrived home just in time to participate with our congregation in the opening weekend of "Fireproof." On Saturday nite, September 27th, we saw more than 350 people pack 2 theatres at Regency Cinema to watch Fireproof. Many were the recipients of free popcorn and soft drinks; others were the recipients of give aways from a weekend stay at Crowne Plaza downtown to a dozen red-stemmed roses.
However, everyone was blessed to watch God work through this powerful, action packed, Christ-honoring film. Souls were saved, re-commitments were made, and marriages were enriched. Decisions are still coming in each day, and perhaps only eternity will reveal the final tally.
One couple came to me Sunday morning after service and shared the miraculous work God did in their marriage as a result of Fireproof. A couple of weeks ago, they contacted a divorce attorney and had a copy of divorce papers drafted. They came to see the movie only as a favor to a long-time family friend who had invited them. Both testified that each wept during the movie, and after it was over, the husband walked out and said, "I know it's a film, but if there is any truth in it whatsoever, God can do for us the same thing he did for them."
They came to church Sunday morning, walked the aisle together, got up together and told me later, "We're going to give God a chance in our marriage." Once they arrived home, they destroyed the divorce papers; and, as of Wednesday night's service, they look like 2 love birds. Hallelujah! I can think of no more fitting words than those of Paul's to the believers at Ephesus, "Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think." (Eph. 3: 20)
As a follow-up to Fireproof, I began a series last Sunday entitled, "God's Great Masterpiece" focused on the description of marriage Jesus gave in Matthew 19: 5-6, "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."
Those words describe the great masterpiece of marriage that God designed. He designed a marriage Built to Love, Built to Live, and Built to Last. If you would like a copy of this series, you can contact our media department @ (904)768-9447 xt. 13.
Praying for Rain,
Thursday, September 11, 2008
I covet your prayer as I am on the road again for the next couple of weeks. I will be preaching at Hope Baptist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana this coming week; then, travel to Joy Baptist Church in Chilhowie, Virginia to preach the following week. Thus, I ask for your prayers regarding safety, travelling mercies; and, most of all, that the anointing of the Holy One might rest upon me to boldly "hold forth the Word of life." (Philippians 2: 16)
As I ponder that statement, "Holding forth the word of life," I am reminded of several things regarding my responsibility, as a preacher of the gospel, to do what I was called to do. I am to "hold forth the word of life," which means that:
1) The ORIGINATION of the Word is in Jesus!
He is the author of it. He is the creator of it. He is the originator of it. "In the beginning" He was "the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1: 1)
As the two walked on the Emmaus road, Jesus showed up and "...expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself." (Luke 24: 27) Think about that! It was the Word expounding the Word. It was the Lord of the Word unveiling the Word of the Lord. I believe you would agree, Jesus would be more than qualified to teach about Himself those things concerning Himself. Thus, for us, or our people, to take issue with the Word is to take issue with the author. He is solely responsible for its content.
2) The INFORMATION in the Word is about Jesus!
Paul says that it is the "word of life." Jesus said that He is the "...resurrection and the life." He is the "way, the truth, and the life." In other words, the "word of life" reminds us that star of the Bible show is none other than the Lord Jesus. The Bible is a "HIM-book;" it's all about HIM!
It's about Him historically.
In Adam, we see Him as the head and representative of his people. In Noah, we see Him as the restorer of the new world. In Isaac, we see Him as a victim laid upon the altar. In Joseph, we see Him as sufferer, and a Savior. In Moses, we see Him as a lawgiver. In Aaron, we see Him as a high priest. In Joshua, we see him as a captain and commander. In Boaz, we see Him as a kinsman redeemer. In Solomon, we see Him as the wisdom of the ages. In Isaiah, we see Him as a prince of peace. In Jonah, we see Him as buried and raised from the grave.
It's about Him ceremonially.
He is the body of every shadow. He is the reality of every type. He is the rock whose streams followed the Israel of God. He is the manna that came from Heaven. He is the city of refuge which gives us protection from judgment and justice. He is the lamb "slain from before the foundation of the world."
It's about Him doctrinally.
He is the "mystery of godliness." He was "God manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, and received up into glory." Every doctrine of the Gospel, as treated by the inspired authors, leads to Him, and is fufilled by Him. He is the "apostles' doctrine."
It's about Him practically.
"For me to live IS CHRIST." To be a Christian is to live not to ourselves, but to be "crucified with Christ." The Christian life is the Christ-life. It nothing more, nothing less than Jesus Christ Himself. The practicality of the Christian life is for death to give way to resurrection. I die, so that the Risen Christ can live. His example is the rule, His love is the motive, and His Spirit is the author. God's standard is perfection; and, since that disqualifies everyone of us, only Jesus can satisfy that standard.
3) The TRANSFORMATION from the Word is through Jesus!
It is not the "word of death," but it is the "word of life." It has power to "reconcile us unto God," and then to make us a "new creature" in Christ Jesus. It has the power to cause demons to fear, diseases to flee, depravity to fall, and difficulties to fail. It has the power to justify us, sanctify us, and glorify us. It has the power to pick us up, set us up, clean us up, tune us up, and hold us up.
Pastors, preachers, evangelists, teachers, and Christian, "hold forth the word of life." God has not called us to 'help it out,' we are called to HOLD IT FORTH! We do not have to defend it, we only have to declare it. It's origination, information, and transformation will do what we cannot do. That is my prayer as I stand behind the sacred desk, and it is my prayer for you as well.
Thank you for your prayers as I travel to preach. Pray for my congregation as I am away, and pray for the congregations that I will preach to. Pray that God will use me to courageously, compassionately, and convincingly "hold forth the word of life."
Your Friend in the Fight,
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Yet, storms are not isolated to just the natural arena, but they are a common part of the spiritual arena. In terms of weather, the Atlantic hurricane season is officially from June 1 to November 30; however, in terms of the Christian life, there is no "official" Heavenly hurricane season. It's not a matter of "if" they come; but, only a matter of "when" they come.
For some reason, all of this talk about hurricanes has directed my attention to Psalm 34. David was a man who had experienced his share of success, but he had also experienced his share of storms. Thus, in Psalm 34:19 he enlightens us as to the truth of what I call 'Heavenly hurricanes;' "Many are the afflictions of the righteous."
Whenever I come upon the word "many" in the Bible, I automatically want to pose the question, "How many?" Yet, there is no specific, definite answer as to how many "afflictions" the "righteous" will encounter. We are only left to our spiritual imagination, "many are the afflictions of the righteous."
I fear that as pastors/preachers, we have unintentionally misled people to believe that once they give their hearts to Jesus their pains, problems, and predicaments disappear forever. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, personally speaking, most of my most intense "afflictions" did not begin until I became a Christian. The feel good, pop-psychology, purpose driven theology may advocate a life free of trouble, but the Bible never does.
Billy Bray, the Welsh coal-miner who became a preacher of the gospel said, "The Lord has given me both vinegar and honey; but, He has given me honey by the teaspoon and vinegar by the ladel." In other words, the bitter times of life seem to far outnumber the sweet times of life. Why? "Many are the afflictions of the righteous."
Afflictions may be represented in pain, pressure, problems, predicaments, and perplexities. Afflictions come in all shapes, sizes and forms. It may be a financial affliction, a physical affliction, a marital affliction, an occupational affliction, or a spiritual affliction. "Many are the afflictions of the righteous."
However, with the pain, pressure, problems, predicaments, and perplexities comes the PROMISE..."but the Lord delivereth him out of them all!" Hallelujah! We may be unprepared when Hurricane Ike rolls into town, but we are not unprepared when Heavenly hurricanes come our way, because we have the promise of God, which is "Yea" and "Amen," that He will be all we need to endure the storm, as well as to escape the storm.
Is it wonder then that even before he described the "many" "afflictions" of the "righteous," that David could say, "I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth?" Even though the "many" "afflictions" are on their way, He's still the God of the Heavenly hurricanes, and He will use them for our good and His glory! Thus, come and "magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together."
He's Holding On to Me,
Saturday, August 30, 2008
When he got into the pulpit, he cleared his throat and said, "I have been told that President Andrew Jackson is in the congregation today. I have also been warned about saying anything that might be offensive to the President. Thus, I want to begin my sermon today by saying that if President Andrew Jackson doesn't turn to Jesus, repent of his sin, and get saved, he will go straight to hell." Needless to say, you could have heard a pin drop. Immediately after the service, President Andrew Jackson made a b-line to Peter Cartwright and said, "If I had a army of men like you, I could whip the world."
As pastors and preachers of the gospel, we have an unpopular job. In the day of political correctness and social acceptance, even many professing, born-again believers have no appetite for the truth of the Word of God. Rather, the culture has infiltrated the church and created a desire for "feel-good" theology. The average church member marches into our services, plops down in their seat, folds their arms, looks to the platform as if to say, "Okay, preacher man, give it your best shot."
I have been doing this for about half of my life and I still get butterflies as I step behind the sacred desk. I haven't been able to determine if it is nervousness or anxiety; but, I am certain that it is partly due to the great responsibility that has been placed upon my shoulders as a shepherd of His sheep.
Sadly enough, many pastors/preachers have succumbed to the pressure of the day and ceased to be men of God who boldly declare the truth of God. I believe the apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, knew this day would be upon us when he wrote to young Timothy, "Preach the Word....for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine: but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears. And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." (2 Timothy 4: 2-4)
However, as men of God, Paul did not leave us to fend for ourselves without knowing what to do in the midst of the day. Rather, he says that we are to, "...be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine...endure afflictions...make full proof of thy ministry." (4:2, 5)
Men of God, stand before your people with a backbone like a saw log and preach convicingly, courageously, compassionately, consistently, and compellingly. We are not professionals or CEO's; nor, are we in the running of a popularity contest. We have been called of God, to be men of God, anointed by the Spirit of God, to preach the whole counsel of God. Preach it strong and preach it straight and ask the Holy Spirit to "break up the fallow ground," then sow a little while, water a little while, and allow God to get the increase.
I'm praying for you as you preach tomorrow.
Your Friend in the Fight,
Saturday, August 23, 2008
From the moment my plane landed in Jackson Hole, WY, I saw the handiwork of God's creation manifested in the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. What a sight it was to behold. Upon arriving late Monday night, in Lander, WY, I already knew in my spirit that God had something great in store for the week. Well...I was right!
All totaled, I Got a Look at Grace by seeing 24 Shoshone/Arapaho's have their "robes washed white in the precious blood of the Lamb." Friday night was the volcano service of the week. We did not dismiss the service until MIDNIGHT!! That's right, MIDNIGHT! Amazingly enough, no one got up and left, and no one was looking at their watches. The power of God's Spirit broke the dam, and waters rushed forth in mighty power.
For the past couple of years, one of our biggest prayer request was for God to raise up Native Americans to preach the gospel. Truth be told, they can reach their own people much better, and much faster than we can. God heard our prayer and raised up 4 young men to preach the gospel! I Got a Look at Grace!
This blog does not afford me the space to describe to you what God is doing through EMI and Native American Ministries. But, allow me to suffice it to say that God is doing things we never dreamed possible. He is raising up native American preachers, He has provided a building to house RUI (Reformers Unanimous International) and we are leasing the building for $1/year. He is opening doors to new native American reservations in South Dakota, North Carolina, Washington, and the Yukon territory of Alaska.
I want to thank each of you who agreed with me in prayer for this endeavor. Please continue to pray that God will culitvate the soil of the hearts of these new Christians that they might tell their native American friends and family, what great things the Lord has done. If you would like to be a part of something special, I would recommend that you take a trip with me to one of these reservations so that you will be able to say with me, I Got a Look at Grace!
His and Happy,
Sunday, August 17, 2008
The Native Americans are some, if not the most neglected and overlooked people of history. Many of them hold feelings of deep resentment toward the "white man," because of how they feel they have been treated by the United States government. Thus, one of the first things that must take place, in order to reach them, is a relationship of trust. They must believe that we, the "white man," have not come to take anything from them; but, we have come to bring Jesus to them.
Last year, I had the privilege of preaching to the Jicarilla Apache Indians in Dulce, New Mexico, and we watched God do an amazing work during that week. Near the end of the meeting, we watched the walls of distrust begin to come down, and God knit our hearts together with some of the sweetest people you would ever meet.
I have been informed, however, that the Shoshone and Arapaho are much different than many other Indians. They are very "suspicious" and "clannish," and are not immediately open to outsiders. Bro. Richard Morgan established a great Baptist church and has been working with the Shoshone/Arapaho for several years. This week will be their annual campmeeting, and I have been asked to come and break the "bread of Life" to them.
I will fly out early in the morning (Monday), so please pray that God will grant me travelling mercies. Also, please partner in prayer with me that the Holy Spirit will begin, right now, to cultivate the soil of their hearts so that the "incorruptible seed of the Word of God" will fall on fertile ground, and God may reap a bountiful harvest of souls.
I'm not sure if there will be any internet capabilities on the reservation, but, if so, I will try to post a blog later in the week to give an update on the meeting. If not, I will most definitely post one upon my return. Until then, I am praying that God will grant you His peace, protection, provision, and power as you stand before His people and bodly declare "the unsearchable riches of Christ."
Your Partner in Prayer,
Thursday, August 14, 2008
In the late '80's, however, sales began to slow and advertising executives were grasping at any idea to re-establish the sports mogul. In 1988, the idea was found in just 3 simple words that promoted the idea that there were no more excuses in life. Those 3 words are: "JUST DO IT!"
As I look over our denomination, and the state of affairs of "religion" as a whole, I think it is time that we adopt the motto of NIKE and "Just Do It!" In other words, it seems that all we ever hear is what we need, or how we need to do this or that; and, yet I continue to ask the question, "Okay, for the most part, we as men of God and people of God know that we need revival, and we know what it takes to have revival. We know what we need to do, so when are we going to JUST DO IT?"
That's been the question that has challenged my heart, and I pose it to challenge your heart as well. Most of us know enough from scripture as to what God desires for our lives, our family, our churches, and our ministries. Thus, we cannot plead ignorance, only negligence. We have learned how to talk a good game, but when will our nouns be converted into verbs? When will our words be translated into actions?
I often hear people say, "Well, pastor, I'm just waiting on God." And while I understand what they're saying, because I've had to wait on God many, many times in my life and ministry. However, I have begun to develop the conviction that while we say that we are waiting on God; it may very well be that GOD IS WAITING ON US!
We know what God can do, will do, and wants to do for us; but, almost every promise is predicated with the preposition, "If." If we do something, God promises to do something. If we do our part, then God does His part. I once heard John Phillips say, "When you do all you can do; God does what you cannot do."
Ladies and gentlemen, we have become masters of passing the buck and blaming everything, and everyone else for the reason we don't see more of a move of God today. But, the truth of the matter is a move of God does not begin in the White House, but in God's House! It is what it is! You know it, I know it, we all know it; so, when are we going to "JUST DO IT!"
Excited and Expectant,
Friday, August 8, 2008
I believe that the Olympics represent a spiritual principle as well. It has been well said that the apostle Paul had to be a sports fan. If that is true, and he were alive today, I would be curious to know what would be his favorite sport; because he often referred to the Christian life as a fight or a race.
The Olympic athletes represent the best the world has to offer. Not only are they talented, but they have paid the price by giving their lives to their sport. While others party, they prepare; while others trifle, they train; and while others are concerned with having fun, they are concerned with staying focused.
Yet, that same level of dedication is required to be all God wants us to be, to do all God wants us to do, and to have all God wants us to have. In 1 Corinthians 9: 26-27, Paul gathers us around to give a pre-game speech. In so doing, he outlines our personal mission; "I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air. But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." If we are not careful, we will begin to allow things into our lives that will disqualify us from the game.
Our personal mission must then develop our passionate motive. We are confronted with an interested question in verse 24, "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize?" But, he admonishes us to "run, that ye may obtain." The Christian life is not a spectator sport; it is a CONTACT sport. If I'm not motivated to be the best Christian I can be, then I will sit on the couch and eat potato chips while others are out training with blood, sweat and tears.
Once our personal mission connects with our passionate motive, it will lead to our precious medal. Paul says in verse 25 that "they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible." The gold medals of the Olympic games, though inspiring, will one day fade away. However, one day there will be a medal ceremony in Heaven, and those medals will last for all of eternity.
Friend, don't get disqualified; but, run your race and fight your fight, because one day, we'll step onto the platform of Heaven's bright shore to receive our medals. There will be no need to hear "old glory," because we will be in the presence of glory, and just to hear Him say, "You fought a good fight, your finished your course, you kept the faith;" will be worth it all.
Your Friend in the Fight,
Thursday, August 7, 2008
I think that these blogs can serve an excellent purpose. First, the purpose of this blog will be to lift up Jesus. As Paul said in Colossians 3: 17, "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." Blogs qualify both as "word" and "deed;" thus, the #1 purpose of this blog will be to lift high the blood stained banner of the Cross.
Next, once a blog serves the purpose to lift up Jesus, it can then serve the purpose to build up others. Nothing on this blog will be done to demean, disgrace, or destroy the character or reputation of anyone. Granted, I will, from time to time, talk about hard topics, i. e. politics, religion, entertainment, and current events; but, these thoughts will only reflect my opinion. Furthermore, I will attempt to give my opinion in a tasteful, not a disgraceful way.
Finally, once a blog serves the purpose to lift up Jesus and build up others; then, there is room to pick up myself. I must admit that Mondays and Thursdays are the 2 roughest days of my week. Both of those days follow the previous days' worship services so, needless to say, I am drained and may say things that seem somewhat depressing. Thus, it will be good for me to type out my thoughts to pick myself up.
All in all, I pray that you will find this blog to be insightful, informative, and inspiring. And I hope you will offer feedback from time to time.
Until the next post,
It is What It Is!