“It’s just too good to be true. And besides, I was always told that if something is too good to be true, then it must not be true.” I understand. We live in a world filled with uncertainty and hopelessness. Indeed, as I write this, the COVID-19 virus is wreaking havoc around the world. Many are filled with fear. Just yesterday (March 17) I made the painful decision to cancel all church activities and services in light of the virus. In fact, in the minds of many, the only thing certain in this life is death and taxes. Our current circumstances do not offer encouragement.
But … Continue reading
“So, I’m saved. Now what? I was told that if I confess my sin and call on Jesus I am saved by faith. Further, I was told that because of what Jesus did on the cross I am justified before God, have peace with God, and am declared righteous. But I don’t feel righteous. I still struggle with sinful thoughts and impulses. I feel old urges coming to the surface. Preacher, was I Continue reading
As I was reaching for the remote to turn off the TV, a commercial from a famed chef caught my eye. He was holding up a cooking utensil and began telling how it changed his life. A cooking utensil changed his life? I chuckled as I turned the TV off. I wondered how many sales that would generate.
As I walked upstairs, I thought about something that changed my life. The gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ came into my life in August of 1994 and I have never been the same. Our lesson comes from Romans 1:1-17, and the apostle Paul is introducing himself to the church at Rome. What immediately stands out is that Paul had a great desire Continue reading
Do you think you have a kingdom heart? When Jesus began preaching, he said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Shortly before Jesus went to the cross, he said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). Speaking to the Colossian church, the apostle Paul wrote, “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13). And to church at Ephesus Paul wrote, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).
There are three important things to notice about those verses. First, the gospel is directly connected to Continue reading
I had an eye-opening experience last week. I was driving to Shaw AFB where I serve. The weather turned bad and the rain came down in sheets. As I approached the base there was flooding on the roads and surrounding areas. When I finally arrived at the front the gate, I handed my ID card to the MP and said, “I heard there was an ark here.” He looked up from my ID, squinted his eyes and shook his head indicating he didn’t understand the reference. So, I said, “Noah’s ark?” He looked at me with the same lack of recognition. I finally said, “Flood, big boat, saved people?” There were cars behind me. The MP still didn’t understand the reference. He shook his head and said with a nervous laugh, “I don’t know.” He handed back my ID, saluted, and said “Have a good night sir” as he looked to the car behind me.
As I made my way to lodging I was a bit stunned. This was a young man in his early twenties and had no clue about Noah’s Ark. Given the weather I expected a short laugh at a corny joke. Instead I got an embarrassed “I haven’t a clue about what you’re talking about.”
I have been a pastor for almost seventeen years. It is so easy to become insulated from the outside world. And to remind me of that reality Continue reading
“Did you really fast for me?” (Zechariah 7:5).
In the book of Zachariah, there is a tragic event that takes place. Sometime after the captives have returned home from their seventy-year exile, a group of men inquire of the priests and ask this question: “Should we mourn and fast in the fifth month as we have done these many years?” Apparently, the people fasted and prayed during this period while they were exiled in Babylon. On the surface both the fasting and the question seem legit. After all, they were in exile being punished for their sin. Responding with prayer and fasting seems the appropriate thing to do.
However, God’s response to the question reveals a startling fact of the human heart (both theirs and ours). God responds to the question with these penetrating words, Continue reading
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5).
There are many things that can be said about these verses, but I want to point out one area that we sometimes overlook. These verses, in a roundabout way, speak to the reality of God’s grace sinners receive when they come to Christ. We are not to stand in judgment of others lest we forget that we too are sinners who are guilty of sin. To not judge others does not mean we suspend our powers of spiritual discernment or ignore sin, but it does mean we recognize we are no better than others. Only a hypocrite can pass judgment on another without Continue reading
“They turn, but not to what is above” (Hosea 7:16).
Trying times came upon the children of Israel. They were threatened by foreign nations. They were facing a very real existential crisis. But, they did not know that turning away from God led to their problems – and the further they walked away from the Lord, the greater their problems became. Yet, when all seemed lost, they refused to come back to God. They refused to call upon Him. Instead they turned to false god’s. They turned to Ba’al, Marduk, Molech, and Ashtoreth, amongst others. They turned everywhere but to the one true God who was calling to them (Hosea 7:7, 10, 14). As they called to Ba’al they cut and mutilated themselves. As they called to Molech, they sacrificed their children. But, despite the intensity of their actions and the sincerity of their misguided beliefs, there would be no answer. They called, but silence is all they received. Yet, during all this, God was there watching them; and through His prophets calling them. The message was simple, “Seek me with all your hearts, and you will be found by me” (Jeremiah 29:12-13). God longed to save them, but they would not “cry to Him from their hearts.” Even in all their sin He was ready to save and protect them. How much sorrow do people bring upon themselves because they don’t “turn to what is above?” God never turns from people. People turn from God. God loves with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3) and will gladly receive anyone unto Himself. There is no sin that can carry one too far away from His reach. No one is too far gone for the Lord’s help. He comes – He always comes – to those who look to Him and cry out to Him from their heart. When we turn to Him, even in the depths of our sin, we will be met with compassion, kindness, love, and hope. All we have to do is, “Look to what is above.” When we do, we will discover that God is already looking at us.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:33-34).
God is the Lord of history. It has been said that history is His-Story. In Daniel chapter eight (verses 1-8), God gave Daniel a vision of things that would take place in the future. This vision came to pass two centuries later. It is an amazing thought that God can reveal in detail things that will not occur for centuries. No wonder Jesus told us not to be anxious. The gentiles, He said, are worried about the daily affairs of life. But, our Father not only knows our needs, He knows the events of the day long before the day arrives. Because He is our God, we can leave the worry to Him. He said, “Seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness” and all our needs will be provided for. In Christ we are free to let God be God – which releases us from all worry, anxiety, and fear. If God can direct the affairs of nations centuries before they occur, He is capable of meeting my meager needs. My eyes can only see to the horizon. But, my faith anchors me in the One who sees through the centuries and directs all of time.
One of the current needs of the church today is to recover the biblical concept of discipleship. Over the past generation the understanding of discipleship as being foundational to the mission and life of the church has been watered down. During the same period of time one can find many resources devoted to the topic. However, instead of being the foundational principle upon which the church should operate, discipleship has been relegated to just one ministry amongst many within the church. During this time, the church has unofficially adopted the strategy of running programs as being the necessary approach to building a healthy church. Hence churches have children’s programs, youth programs, evangelism programs, discipleship programs, and music and worship programs – amongst many others. This partitioning of programs has led people to see discipleship as just another program within the larger church with the effect that people see it as an option or preference. One person joins the choir, another goes to the discipleship class, but both are “active” in ministry. And while that may be so, as a result of partitioning the church into programs, the church is not fulfilling the great commission.
Before Jesus ascended to the Father he made clear the purpose of the church. Every gospel account and the book of Acts communicates some version of the Great Commission. The most explicit enunciation of the Great Commission is found is Matthews’s gospel. Their Jesus said,
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen” (Matthew 28:18-20, NKJV).
From this text it is clear that the Great Commission is not limited to evangelism. And while the church has always understood that the Great Commission is a command to lead people to Christ, it has not always embraced Continue reading