Not Just Good News — It’s GREAT News!

“But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is without foundation, and so is your faith.” (I Corinthians 15:13-14)

Death cannot keep his prey, Jesus, my Savior!

He tore the bars away, Jesus, my Lord!

Up from the grave He arose,

With a mighty triumph o’er His foes.

He arose a Victor from the dark domain,

And He lives forever with His saints to reign,

He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea is something far more than an isolated event of the ancient past that has no significance or meaning for today. Far from being a mere historical event removed from us by more than 2000 years, the resurrection of Jesus is a present reality in the light of which we must live and act today.

From the law of Moses, and the Prophets, and the Psalms, the Bible revealed that Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross had been in the plan of God from the very beginning. Jesus’ death was the supreme demonstration of the determination of God to redeem people from the waste of sin. The resurrection revealed the great price that was paid for our redemption. 

Jesus did not rise from the grave merely to give the church a new doctrine, although believing in the resurrection is at the very heart of our faith. He arose from the grave to assure us that He has not forsaken us and that He is with us in a very real and wonderful sense through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. 

The resurrection of Jesus Christ reminds me that He is able to save from sin’s penalty, which is death. The resurrection reminds me that Jesus is able to save me from the power of sin and that I can walk in victory. Jesus is able to bring the spirit of God’s holiness and happiness into my life NOW! It is truly because of the resurrection that I can sing, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.” And not only tomorrow but the day after that and after that and I can face the here and now — all because Jesus is alive!

That’s not just Good News — it is GREAT News! As you celebrate Easter this weekend, remember that every Sunday when we gather to worship our Lord, we are celebrating Easter. We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave every day — because apart from the resurrection, we have no hope and our message is without foundation. 

Do me a favor — would you? Invite someone to attend church with you this weekend. I know that we have many people from all over the world who read this blog. If each of us will invite and bring one person — just imagine how the Lord would work. I hope you will share with me the stories of how God is working in your life. It is such an encouragement for me to see and hear the wonderful things God is doing. Remember, you can email me at preacherkeith@nc.rr.com. I love to receive your emails and I love to rejoice with you at the work God is doing in your life.

Have a great Thursday and a happy and safe Easter weekend. See you on Monday.

Marbles or Grapes?

“Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord.” (Romans 12:10-11)

Well, we finally have a name for it! Insurance companies call it “sit-itus.” It affects millions of Americans. “Sit-itus” is a deadly disease whereby people are dying between the neck and waistline. It comes from sitting at home, riding in a car, or engaging in the same routine of sedentary activity at work.

Those of us in ministry have known about this disease for years. We have churches full of people who suffer from this malady. It usually manifests itself in those people who constantly say, “Let somebody else do it.” Our churches are full of people who come to church just once on Sunday, sit in a chair, fold their hands and say “Good luck preacher. Bless me if you can!” These people never participate in any other activity of their local church, they disrupt the service because they leave as the invitation is given (if your church even does that anymore — MINE DOES).  These folks are full of all kinds of excuses as to their lack of dedication and commitment. They are the first to complain when it is not done as they think it should be — but they are never the ones to volunteer to get it done.

From my study of the Scripture over the last 30 years, I have discovered that the local church is the sole place given the responsibility of spreading the Gospel to the lost world. I am thankful today for those faithful saints who never refuse to do the work of God in their churches. They are the first ones who are willing to teach the middle school boys or help direct traffic in the parking lot or help the ladies into the building Sunday after Sunday. These folks don’t suffer from “sit-itus.” They are willing to do anything and everything to make sure that the church carries out its mission of winning the lost to Christ. They sing in the choir, straighten out the chairs, dust the window sills and volunteer in children’s ministry. They are the people that pastors know they can count on regardless of the job needed.

Do you suffer today from “sit-itus? Are you that take-it-easy, never-have-time for the church folks or are you one who understands that God has called the church to minister in the lost world and you gladly submit yourself to the authority of your local church?

I found a little piece written by Anne Ortlund that started me to thinking about this subject. She wrote:

“Christians can be grouped into two categories — marbles and grapes. Marbles are ‘single units that don’t affect each other except in collision.’ Grapes, on the other hand, mingle juices: each one is a ‘part of the fragrance’ of the church body. The early Christians didn’t bounce around like loose marbles, ricocheting in all directions. Picture them as a cluster of ripe grapes, squeezed together by persecution, bleeding and mingling into one another.”

There you have it! Marbles and grapes. Which one are you?

Have a great Wednesday.

Who is Jesus TO YOU?

“But you,” He asked them, “who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15 HCSB)

Throughout Jesus’ ministry, there seems to be a constant question about His identity. In Matthew 8:27, the Bible says, “The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? — even the winds and the sea obey Him!” In Matthew 16, the question about Jesus identity reaches its climax. In this important encounter with His disciples, Jesus asked, “But YOU — who do YOU say that I am?” (emphasis mine)

As I have studied this part of Scripture through the years, one of the things I notice is what Jesus DIDN’T ask these disciples. He didn’t ask them who they thought He was, or why they believed He was. Instead, Jesus wanted to know who they said He was. I think that Jesus wanted to know that these disciples were ready to confess verbally that He was indeed the Messiah. If they were truly going to commit to following Him, they had to finally step over the line and be willing to say that Jesus is indeed the Christ.

How was Peter able to make the claim of verse 16 when he said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God”? He did it the same way you and I do it — God reveals Jesus’ identity to us in our hearts and minds. In the end, it doesn’t matter what others way about Christ — it matters what YOU say about Christ. Who is Jesus to YOU? Is He your Savior?

I think that question is a valid and fair question that should be asked of every person we meet. The answer to that question will have a profound effect on our ethics, our feelings and our responsibilities toward God and toward one another, and our feelings about our own purpose and destiny. Dr. E. Stanley Jones once said that the early Christians “out-loved, out-laughed, and out-died the people around them.” Why? Because they knew who Jesus was and it affected everything about them.

Is Jesus simply a good teacher? Is He an excellent moral example? Is He a spiritual guru in the same class with Mohammad and Buddha? OR is there is something more to Him?

I believe there is much more to Jesus than being just a good teacher or an excellent moral example. I believe (based on the revelation of Scripture) that Jesus is God. He is the revelation of the very nature of God. He is my Redeemer from the power of sin and death in my life. He is my Risen Lord who reigns victorious and is present with me in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. He is all that and more. He is my Savior.

John 14:6 says, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” With that statement, Jesus answered the question, “How can I be saved?” (I am the way). When He said, “I am the truth,” He answered the question “How can I be sure I am saved?” When He said, “I am the life,” He answered the question, “How can I be satisfied in this life and confident in the life to come?” Jesus struck a fatal blow to the demonic doctrine of universalism that says all roads lead to heaven — that one way is just as good as another.

Get this down bold and plain…Jesus is not a good way to heaven. He is not the better way to heaven. He’s not even the best way to heaven. He is the ONLY way to heaven. If Jesus is not THE way — then He is not A way because He is a liar and a deceiver.

“Who do YOU say that I am?” I pray you will settle this issue today in your heart and mind. With Simon Peter, let us boldly proclaim to the world — “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus is God. Jesus is my Savior!

Who is Jesus to YOU?

Personal Note

I continue to be grateful to God for the many people who are reading and blessed by this blog. I absolutely LOVE hearing from you with your comments and encouragement. You can either share through the comment section here or email me personally at preacherkeith@nc.rr.com. Thanks again for your continued support and your willingness to share these devotions with your family and friends. God bless you all.

Thanking God for What He DIDN’T Do

 

“He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve or repaid us according to our offenses.” (Psalm 103:10).

When was the last time you thanked God for something He DIDN’T do? Usually, we thank God for for the things He does for us. But here in Psalm 103, David says, “Thank you God for not dealing with me the way I deserve.”

Can we stop and think about that for just a minute? The Bible says in Romans 3:23 – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Every one of us has a heart problem — we are sinners. Not only that, but God KNOWS about every sin we commit. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He not only knows the origin of our sin, He knows what the outcome will be. It’s no wonder that God hates sin. He knows just how it will affect our lives.

When you read a few verses before our verse for today, you find this: “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and rich in faithful love.” II Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

Even though God knows both the origin and the outcome of our sin, He is very patient with us and His desire is that we come to know Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. God has every right to just wipe us off the face of the earth, BUT He loves us and wants a relationship with us. And rather than dealing with us the way we deserve, He deals with us in grace. We are able to come to Him and ask for forgiveness for any sin. As Dr. Adrian Rogers said, “No one has ever sinned themselves beyond the love of God.”

Don’t misunderstand this idea. Don’t think that because God deals with us in this way that it gives us the right to just live any way we choose. The Bible tells us not the tempt the Lord. We should hate sin as much as Go does and we should walk every day seeking to live our lives the way He wants us to live. Rather than being loose with sin, we should avoid it like a rattlesnake.

Today, stop and give thanks to God for not treating us the way we deserve. Thank Him that He deals with us in grace and love. 

Have a great Monday.

 

Are you CONVINCED?

“But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide; for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.'” (Acts 4:190-20)

Chuck Swindoll tells the following story…

“When I was overseas, I was working with a man who was under great stress and great pressure. He was a maverick sort of a missionary. He didn’t fit the pattern or the mold of what you think of as a missionary. His ministry was in great part to the soldiers, who happened to be on the island of Okinawa by the thousands — in fact, it might be safe to say tens of thousands.

I went to his home one evening to visit with him, and his wife said he wasn’t there but was probably down at the office. The office was downtown in a little alley area off the streets of Naha. It was a rainy night. And I decided that I would get on the bus and travel down to be with Bob. She’d mentioned his stress and pressure, so I expected to find the man folded up in despondency, discouragement, and depression, and just ready to finish it off.

I got of that little bus and I walked own the alley about a block and a half and I turned right, down a little smaller alley, to a little hut with a tatami mat inside. As I got away from the street noise, I heard singing, ‘Come, Thou fount of every blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace.’ And then that next stanza, ‘Prone to wander — Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.’

Quietly I eavesdropped on his private praise service. As I stood in the rain and looked through the walls of that little cheap hut, I saw a man on his knees with his hands toward heaven given God praise, with his Bible on one side and an InterVarsity Christian hymnal on the other side, his little spiral notebook, worn from use. And I saw him turn from page to page, where he would read it to God, then he would find a hymn and he would sing it to God.

And the remarkable thing is that that pressure that he was under did not leave for perhaps another two weeks, it seems. But that praise service alone before God absolutely revolutionized his life.”

That, my friends is the story of an effective testimony. I’m afraid that there is much going on in our churches and our lives today that is not effective. Oh, we get together and sing the songs — lifting hands and shedding tears. We tote (a good eastern North Carolina word that means “to carry”) a Bible under our arms as big as a New York City phone book, and we look spiritual. We engage in worship while others can see us, but often our testimony is ineffective because what we do in those public worship services simply doesn’t match what we do in the private times.

Oh, I’m sure most people are honest and sincere in those public worship services, but the truth of the matter is — you can’t really share what you have never really experienced. That’s what our verse today is all about. You can’t praise God if you don’t know God. You can’t talk about the wonderful grace of Jesus if you have never truly experienced it. But on the other hand — when you have truly come to know Christ in a personal way, people will be able to tell that you are not putting on a show. Instead, they are simply eavesdropping on your private praise service.

Too much of our worship today is unconvincing because we try to plan everything and leave the Holy Spirit out altogether. We can’t convince others of the goodness of God, because we haven’t been truly convinced of it ourselves. That makes us appear to be insincere. We allow pride and pettiness to keep us from serving God because we worry about our feelings and what people think about us more than we are convinced that God is God and we should praise Him.

So…before you lift your hands and cry your tears in public, you had better make sure you’ve done the private work that needs to be done. Only when you’ve become convinced of it in your own heart can you share it with others. But when you are truly convinced — NOTHING will stop you from serving, singing and sharing the love of Christ with others.

Are you CONVINCED? If so, get out there and truly live a life of praise and honor to Christ the King!

Have a great Thursday.

“It is Finished!”

The author of this blog, Bill has lived with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease since 1996. Most of you know of my connection with Jim “Catfish” Hunter who also had ALS. I’ve come to appreciate Bill and his writing, and today’s offering is especially inspiring as we approach Easter. Thanks Bill for allowing us to share “It is Finished!” with others. God bless you my friend. Bill’s blog is called Unshakable Faith. I encourage you to visit his blog and learn more about him.

Unshakable Hope


garden praying

Sweating drops of blood, in anguish I prayed,

asleep

While friends sleep in the cool of the night’s shade,

 betrayed

A crowd, a commotion; with a kiss I am betrayed,

crown

Scorn and ridicule; with a crown of thorns and a royal robe I am arrayed,

 stripes

With the shards of a crude whip my body is beaten and flayed,

crucify

“CRUCIFY HIM” came the verdict of the angry brigade,

jesus on cross

Hands and feet nailed to a cross, as a trophy I was displayed,

jesus tomb

“It is finished!” In a dark tomb my body was laid,

 risen jesus

Hell and death defeated; for you the price of sin I paid!

“God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

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Who or What are You Worshiping Today?

“I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them say: Blessing and honor and glory and dominion to the One seated on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13)

In John’s vision in Revelation 5, we find every creature involved in the worship of the Lord God and the Lamb, Jesus Christ. Look at the worship they offered. They ascribed praise, honor and glory to God. They acknowledge His great power. I believe that when TRUE worship takes place, God’s power is recognized. Let me explain by looking at four important words in this verse (Rev. 5:13)

BLESSING — This means praise. We bless/praise God when we recognize Him as the Creator and thank Him for all He has made. We bless God when we praise Him for the beautiful sunrise and for rainbows. We bless God when we thank Him for the beauty of flowers and trees.

Image

Take a look at the picture above. It was taken this morning by my friend Edward Leicester in Hertford, North Carolina. This is sunrise on the first day of spring in the most beautiful place on earth to me! Thanks Edward for letting me steal it and use it here today. AND I praise God for the beauty of His creation and His sunrise.

HONOR — We honor God when we give Him the credit He deserves. When you get a raise at work or when you get a good grade on a test — who gets bragged about? Do you brag about how hard YOU work or how smart YOU are or do you give God the credit for giving you a sharp mind?

GLORY — We glorify God when we magnify His name. When we tell others about Jesus and what He has done in our life by giving His life for us, we are glorifying Him. Who are you witnessing to — and what are you witnessing about? Just tell people the Gospel. Paul said in I Corinthians 15:3 — “For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” That’s the Gospel! Glorify God by telling people that Jesus Christ died for their sins. Tell them that He rose from the grave in order that you and I might be reconciled to God. Glory to God for His marvelous salvation!

DOMINION — This is POWER! We recognize God’s power when we acknowledge that He alone is able to meet our needs. For almost 30 years, I have been a pastor and throughout that time God has been faithful to powerfully provide everything Edna and I have ever needed. There have been times when I have failed miserably in my service to Him — but His power has always been faithfully demonstrated to me. I’m reminded of this powerful demonstration of God’s love — “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8) God’s power is demonstrated most perfectly in the fact that He has provided everything we need for salvation. Bless His Holy name!

Who or What are you worshiping today? In Psalm 135:15, we find these words: “The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.” The thing you work for, the thing you sacrifice for, and the thing you live for is your god. For some people, they worship money. Many people worship possessions. Still others worship people. But think about how foolish that is. And perhaps the saddest thing of all is that we become like the god we worship.

That’s why Revelation 5:13 is so very important. When we truly engage in the worship of the true God — we become more like Him. When we offer Him blessing, honor, and glory; when we acknowledge His dominion in our lives and over all the earth, then we recognize that He alone is worthy of worship. We are transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.

Be careful what you worship. Satan wants us to substitute many idols for the Lord. Let’s decide today that we will worship God and God alone. Get rid of any idols in your life that may prevent you from giving true worship to the Lord.

Have a great Wednesday.

Walking Carefully

“Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk — not as unwise people but as wise — making the most of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:18)

If you listen to Dr. David Jeremiah and the Turing Point broadcast, Dr. Jeremiah is currently doing a study in the book of Ecclesiastes. He has a book called Searching for Heaven on Earth and I highly recommend that book to you — it’s wonderful. If you visit http://www.davidjeremiah.org you will find that book and lots of other resources that will help you in your walk with the Lord. 

I was listening to Dr. Jeremiah teach on Ecclesiastes 3 (there is a time for everything) and I was reminded of our verse for today — Ephesians 5:15. Solomon tells us that there is a time for everything and Paul says, “Instead of counting the days, make sure your days count!” Paul reminds us to “make the most of the time, because the days are evil.”

The Bible frequently reminds me that I must be especially conscientious as to how I spend the measured hours I have here on this earth. I’m told that I should fill my life with praise to God and with loving service toward others. It doesn’t matter how much wealth you have or how educated you may be or what talents you possess. The common denominator is that every day, we are all allotted the same amount of time.

In one of his Bible studies, Dr. Chuck Swindoll used an illustration that makes this point. He said…

“Let’s play ‘Let’s pretend.’ Let’s pretend that your banker phoned you last Friday and said he had some very good news. He told you that an anonymous donor who loves you very much has decided to deposit 86,400 pennies into your account each morning, starting the following Monday morning. That’s $864 a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year.

But there is one stipulation…you must spend ALL the money that same day. No balance will be carried over to the next day. Each evening the bank must cancel whatever sum you failed to use.

With a big smile, you thank your banker and hang up. Over that weekend, you have time to plan. You grab a pencil and start figuring: $864 times seven equals over $6,000 a week…times fifty-two. That’s almost $315,000 a year that you have available to you if you are diligent to spend it all every day. Remember, whatever you don’t spend is forfeited.

So much for ‘Let’s Pretend.’

Now let’s play ‘Let’s Get Serious.’ Every morning someone who loves you very much deposits into your bank of time 86,400 seconds of time — which represents 1,440 minutes — which of course, equals 24 hours each day.”

How are you using the time God has given you? Are you walking carefully? Are you complaining that you don’t have enough? The poet said, “But once I pass this way, and then — no more. So while I may, with all my might I will assay sweet comfort and delight to all I meet upon the pilgrim way. For no man travels twice the great highway that climbs through darkness up to light — through night to day.” 

Instead of complaining about how much MORE time you need today — let’s ask God to help us make our day count for Him. Let’s be grateful for the gracious allotment of time God has given us not only today — but every single day we live. William Penn said, “Time is what we want most but what we use worst.”

Instead of counting your days — make your days count and walk carefully because the days are evil.

Have a great Tuesday.

Focus on Jesus

“For we are God’s coworkers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” (I Corinthians 3:9)

If you spend a few minutes in I Corinthians 3, you will quickly discover that the church at Corinth had a unity problem. It seems that dissension had grown in this church because there were members who simply didn’t understand the true role of the apostles and teachers. Paul says to them that the church is God’s field and we are just human instruments in that work. Specifically, Paul mentions himself and a fellow named Apollos (I Cor. 3:5). Paul reminds the Corinthians that he and Apollos were servants who played different roles in the introduction of Christ to the Corinthians.

The problem that plagued the church at Corinth is still real today. In every church there are Christians who are divided because they have a greater loyalty to one of God’s servants than to God. We’ve always struggled with the personality cult in politics, business, and education. But today it has crept into the church. When this happens in the church, it can become very divisive.

After almost 30 years serving as a pastor, I see this constant competition with one another growing more prevalent many times because of Christian TV, radio and the internet. Preachers are competing with preachers, churches are trying to outdo one another. If my pastor doesn’t preach like David Platt or John Piper, David Jeremiah or John MacArthur, then he isn’t as close to God as he should be. If our church doesn’t outdo the church down the road when it comes to music or their Easter egg hunt or whatever event they have planned, then we aren’t reaching out to the community the way we should. 

Can we just take a step back this morning and remember that we are all servants of God and we are all on the SAME TEAM? The field and the harvest belong to Him! We are simply servants in the field — not competitors in a game.

In the days when churches still had “opening assembly” before Sunday School, the story is told of a Sunday School director who was trying to conduct the assembly. He was having little success because nobody was paying attention to his program. The children were squirming in their seats and the teachers seemed to just be going through the motions.

The director stopped the proceedings and reprimanded the group. He said, “Remember, we have a high purpose to fulfill. Whose Sunday School is this anyway?” For a minute there was silence. Finally a little girl raised her hand. “I know,” she said. “Know what?” asked the director. “I know whose Sunday School this is” replied the little girl. “This is JESUS’ Sunday School!”

Her answer caused the teachers to sit up and take notice. Indeed it IS Jesus’ Sunday School. It is HIS field, HIS building — HIS EVERYTHING! You and I are able to do nothing apart from His power. We are “God’s coworkers.” We aren’t helping God — He is helping us!