Bringing in the Sheaves

“Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bring his sheaves with him.” (Psalm 126:5-6)

Marshall Craig was asked why he was always in a hurry, rushing here and there. “One reason is the urgency of the work to be done,” he answered. Leonard Sanderson says, “Spirit-born believers, who comprise churches of Christ, have the most urgent mission in the world. We must not allow ourselves to be forever involved in the parasitic entanglements of small things and secondary issues that sap our strength and occupy so much of our time. We must devote ourselves, under the power of the Spirit, to ‘the one thing needful,’ always careful that our practice matches our preaching.”

We might view Psalm 126:5-6 as the Old Testament commission to personal evangelism. We are reminded in these verses that when we devote ourselves to sowing the seed of God’s truth into the hearts of others — there will be precious fruit that is produced.

It seems that personal evangelism is the most neglected form of Christian service in churches today. We have attempted to turn the church into a consumer-driven commodity. We are more concerned about making sure people FEEL a certain way or have their NEEDS met than we are making sure we fulfill the command of God to go into the world and spread the Gospel. Somehow modern church growth “experts” think that we must prepare the soil and get the conditions “just right” so people can be properly led to the Lord — if that is even an objective in some of these churches.

As far as I know, the Bible never tells me that it is my job to prepare the hearts of people. That’s God’s business. What I am told is that as a believer, I am to be busy sowing and reaping. It is the business of God to prepare the hearts of people and it is my job to sow the seed of the Gospel message. 

In other words, the Holy Spirit will draw men and women, boys and girls to Christ whether you have a band or an organ — whether your pastor wears skinny jeans or a suit and tie — whether you sing the latest contemporary diddies or old hymns — whether you meet in a rented auditorium or an ornate sanctuary. Our job is not to prepare the soil — our job is to sow the seed.

All that being said, look back at the verse for today…do you notice something that is sorely missing in our churches today?

WHERE IS THE WEEPING?

When was the last time you attended a service anywhere when anybody actually shed tears because people are lost and going to hell? Our worship styles — our dress codes (or lack thereof) — our smoke and mirrors will NEVER draw people to faith and repentance. But the Bible promises that when we “sow in tears” we shall “reap in joy.”

I hear people today talk about what they believe the early church in Acts would do if they were placed in the 21st century. We can debate that and speculate on that until “the cows come home” — the only thing that I am absolutely sure the church of Acts would do today is the same thing they did in the first century — POINT PEOPLE TO JESUS — SOW THE SEED!

They didn’t rely on gimmicks, trends, surveys or business leadership techniques. They relied totally and completely on THE HOLY SPIRIT! They were filled with the Spirit, they operated in the Spirit, they depended on the Spirit and THEY SOWED THE SEED.

It seems popular and humorous today to talk about the fact that “you just had ONE JOB.” Well, Christian — you’ve got just ONE JOB. Sow the seed and reap the harvest. Water the seed with tears of compassion and concern. Depend on the Holy Spirit to speak through you so Jesus might be magnified. 

“He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”

Christian — get busy! SOW THE SEED and leave the rest to the Holy Spirit. He promises a great harvest when we depend on Him.

Have a great day.

A Bad Deal All Around…

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)

Everybody loves a good deal! I’m always on the lookout for a deal. I saw one recently…could hardly resist…

Image

Now who wouldn’t want a BACON BOWL!!!!!

The devil appeared to Jesus in the desert and offered to Him the greatest prize which was a this disposal to give. The devil had all of the kingdoms of the world with all of their glory to offer to Christ. He told Jesus that ALL THIS could be His IF He would simply fall down and worship his satanic majesty.

I think we fail to realize the potential appeal of that offer. Jesus had come to this earth to die on the cross. Satan was promising to deliver the entire world IF Christ would yield to the suggestion of sin. The devil was literally promising Jesus everything if He would simply bypass the cross. The devil was offering a shortcut to success.

It seems that many people in our world today are looking for shortcuts to success. We want all the benefits without any of the struggle. I’m thankful this morning that Jesus was unwilling to sell His soul for the devil’s shortcut.

The problem is — the devil is still trying to pull that trick on you and me today. He continues to promise the world to anyone who is willing to follow him and worship him. He promises whatever is necessary to secure and maintain our allegiance. But you and I need to remember this…

*The devil pays the lowest possible wages

*The devil promises much but delivers little

This is just a bad deal. According to I John 2:17, this world is perishing – “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” The world is dangerous. Instead of being your servant, the world becomes your master. And we all know that you can’t take this world with you when you die. When you sell your soul in order to win the world — you will quickly discover that when you die — you leave it all here.

Read our verse again (Mark 8:36) — do you recognize that we don’t get an answer to the question? There is no answer concerning what you will gain — BUT there is an answer concerning what you will lose. If you sell your soul and live for this world only…

You lose the privilege of being a child of God
You deprive yourself of peace with God
You miss out on abundant life here
You miss heaven!

If we lose our own souls — there is nobody to blame but ourself. God has done everything necessary for you and me to be saved. But He will not compel you — He invites you. Don’t make a bad deal with the devil. Repent of your sin today and surrender your life to Jesus. You will gain abundant life here AND the joy of heaven in the hereafter!

THAT is a GREAT DEAL — even better than a bacon bowl!!!

Have a great day.

 

The Eternal Love of God

“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (I John 4:8)

I’m convinced this morning that the message of I John 4:8 is one of the most needed messages in our world today. When I consider the events taking place around the world, I realize there is a need for Godly love. When I listen to national news, I see events unfolding that sadden me because of the lack of Godly love being shown. I hear of problems in churches — between pastors and people, between families in the church — and I observe a lack of understanding about the love of God.

I’m often asked how the Old Testament saints were saved. My answer is always the same — they were saved the same way you were saved — by grace through faith. Abraham, for example became a spiritual giant because he claimed the promises of God and moved forward in faith believing that Jehovah God was trustworthy and would keep all His promises. 

Romans 4:20-21 says, “He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.”

When you study the saints of the Scripture, you will quickly see that they faithfully believed that God would be faithful to every promise He ever made. If we are going to spiritually successful, we must also come to a point in our faith where we are “fully convinced” that God is able to perform everything He has promised.

“Pastor — what does this have to do with the need for Godly love in the world?”

Hang on…I’m getting there. I want to set a foundation for what I am about to say about God’s love. You see, I believe when John said that “God is love,” he was reminding us of the divine promise made by God of an eternal, undying love toward us. You should mark these verses in your Bible.

Jeremiah 31:3 — “The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.”

Isaiah 49:15 — “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you.”

Romans 8:35, 37-39 — “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

My question for you is this? How can you be sure that Jeremiah 31:3, Isaiah 49:15 and Romans 8:35-39 are believable? How can you have faith that those promises will be fulfilled? 

I JOHN 4:8 is the anchor for those promises of eternal love. GOD IS LOVE! That should cause us to rejoice regardless of our circumstances today. No matter what — God’s love is eternal. There is so much hatred in the world and so many things that certainly could discourage us today. I’ve asked God to help me be constantly aware of the fact that HE IS LOVE. When I think about that fact — I am able to rely upon His promises and am strengthened in my faith.

If you continue reading in I John 4, you see, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (I John 4:10)

Do you see it? It’s not that I loved God — HE LOVED ME! When I listen to people giving their testimony, I listen for who gets the credit. If the testimony is all about how I turned my life around or how this Christian or person helped me and I don’t hear that salvation is ALL about God’s love and God’s grace — I realize that person doesn’t fully understand what salvation is all about. When you give your testimony — POINT PEOPLE TO JESUS and away from yourself. You did nothing — GOD LOVED YOU FIRST!

To me that means that God’s love is as broad as the whole world. It includes people of all colors, countries and cultures. God’s love reaches to the furtherest point in God’s desire to redeem and forgive mankind. It reaches back into the past and extend into the future. God has always loved us and He always will love us. The love of God reaches down to you and me in our deepest need. There is NO SIN that can cover a person to the extent that the love of God is not able to reach down and save them.

I John 4:9 tells us how it happened. It says, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” It was the love of God that brought the Son of God down from on high to meet my deepest need. You and I are sinners with NO POWER to save ourselves. 

Write this down — God did for me what I was unable to do for myself!

I thank God for my parents, my Sunday school teachers and my pastors who pointed me to Jesus — but they didn’t save me. God, in His great love, sent His only Son to die in my place so I might live through Him. All glory goes to the grace and love of God.

In a sermon entitled “Herein Is Love” preached in 1896, the great preacher Charles Spurgeon said…

“God sent an ambassador of peace to us; we sent no embassage to him. Man turned his back on God, and went farther and farther from him, and never thought of turning his face toward his best Friend. It is not man that turns beggar to God for salvation; it is, if I may dare to say it, as though the Eternal God himself did beg of his creatures to be saved. Jesus Christ has not come into the world to be sought for, but to seek that which is lost. It all begins with him.”

“It all begins with him.” God is love and that love is eternal and because of that — you and I can trust every promise God has given us in His Word. Rejoice in that today! That’s Good News!!!

Have a great day.

Behold the Lamb of God

“The next day John saw Jesus coming tower him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

For hundreds of years, the people of Israel had been looking and longing for the promised Messiah to come. They had been told that this Messiah would redeem them from the curse of evil and from the inevitable consequences of sin.

When John the Baptizer showed up on the scene, many people thought surely he was this promised one. They came to John and asked if he was indeed the one about whom the prophets had spoken. Over and over, John said he was NOT the Messiah — he was simply a voice crying in the wilderness. John challenged people to repent to to turn from their sin. 

Our verse today (John 1:29) occurs after the baptism of Jesus and after He had spent 40 days in the wilderness being tempted by the devil. After overcoming those temptations, we find Jesus making his way back to John again. This time, when John saw Jesus, he boldly proclaimed that Jesus was indeed “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” That descriptive phrase used by John comes straight from the Old Testament. From Genesis, through the Psalms, and through the writing of the prophets, the Messiah is often called the “Lamb of God.”

In the Old Testament, the lamb was the animal of sacrifice. Everybody who heard John speak about Jesus that day, understood his terminology in a way that those of us in today’s world often miss. In one sentence, John stated the NEED of man and the PROVISION of God. Jesus came to this earth because of sin. SIN was and continues to be the greatest problem man has. No amount of education or sophistication can eliminate our need for Someone to save us from our sin. The heart of our problem is wrapped up in one simple word — SIN.

If I were to ask you what your greatest need today is — how would you respond? Maybe you think you need to finish your education. Maybe you think your greatest need is to find a husband or a wife. Maybe you think your greatest need is to find a better job or move into a bigger house or drive a newer car. Those things are NOT your greatest need. 

Every person needs to recognize that our greatest need if our need for a solution to the problem of sin in our lives. Only Jesus can solve that problem. John the Baptist understood this and therefore simply pointed people to “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” 

Jesus Christ went to the cross and suffered condemnation, isolation, agony, and death as a substitute for us. I Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.” Our ONLY HOPE of escaping a Christless, Godless, hopeless eternity is through the fact that Jesus Christ loved us to the extent that He died IN OUR PLACE on the cross. His death on the cross was not an accident — it was the plan of God. 

I challenge you today to do what John the Baptist did. Point people to Jesus. Let us “Behold! The Lamb of God…” I pray we will adore Him, worship Him, love Him, and most of all OBEY Him. I want to serve the One who paid MY DEBT and took away my sin. If you have not yet repented of your sins and placed your faith in Christ, I pray that you will “Behold! The Lamb of God…” No preacher can save you. No church and no religion will get you to heaven. You can’t be saved by riding the coattails of your momma or daddy. Your decision to receive Him as your Savior and Lord takes away your sin debt. 

Come to the Savior now,
He gently calleth thee;
In true repentance bow,
Before Him bend the knee;
He waiteth to bestow
Salvation, peace, and love,
True joy on earth below,
A home in Heav’n above.

Come to the Savior now,
Ye who have wandered far;
Renew your solemn vow,
For His by right you are;
Come, like poor wand’ring sheep
Returning to His fold;
His arm will safely keep,
His love will ne’er grow cold.

Come to the Savior, all,
Whate’er your burdens be;
Hear now His loving call,
Cast all your care on Me.
Come, and for ev’ry grief
In Jesus you will find
A sure and safe relief,
A loving Friend and kind.
(John M. Wigner)

I pray you KNOW Jesus as your Savior. I pray that as a Christian, I will never point to myself or my ministry but that my message will simply be “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

Have a great day.

REST? Yes Please…

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and  I will I’ve you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Of all the wonderful promises contained in God’s Word, this is one of the most precious to me. Jesus came into a world that was laboring and heavy laden. People were suffering and struggling under the burden of sin, fear, insecurity, and an empty, unsatisfying religion. To those people the Son of God extended a most wonderful invitation which is universal and inclusive. It is positive in what it promises and eternal in what it delivers.

“HEY Pastor Keith — the world Jesus came into sounds a whole lot like the world I live in! This is great!!! I need a promise like that TODAY!”

I know what you mean. Isn’t it great to know that the Savior of the world offers REST and that is exactly what every one of us needs in some way today.

To the person who is stuck in what they think is a dead-end job and they are weary in well-doing, Jesus says “Come to Me.” To the person who is burdened with empty religion and the constant effort to achieve their own salvation, Jesus says “Come to Me.” To the person who is seeking fulfillment in the promised pleasures of the world and its system, Jesus says “Come to Me.” This is the most extensive invitation ever offered in the Bible.

It is also the most exclusive invitation offered in the Bible. Innocent children are invited and the most vile sinner is included. The illiterate and the most educated are both invited to come. Whether your burden today is physical, mental or spiritual — Jesus said “Come to Me.” EVERYBODY is included. We all need what Jesus is offering.

“And what is that, Pastor?”

Jesus offers the promise of REST! And this rest is more wonderful than anything that comes from a good night’s sleep. The REST Jesus promises is a rest that comes to our souls when we stand in a right relationship with God. Just think about it…

*We are promised SONSHIP. John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” This is salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. No more struggling with legalistic methods seeking to achieve my position of acceptance by God. It is a GIFT!

*We are promised FORGIVENESS OF SIN. Luke 24:46-47 says, “Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” You and I are unable to merit the favor of God and the more we try — the worse it becomes. Jesus proclaimed forgiveness as the gift of God to EVERYONE who repents and believes!

*We are promised the POWER OF GOD. Matthew 10:1 says, “And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.” When we try and do things in OUR power — we fail and we get weary and are tempted to give up. BUT when we operate in the power given to us by GOD — we are able to do all manner of things that bring glory and honor to HIM and Him alone. Remember this…doing God’s Work, God’s Way always brings God’s Blessing!

*We are promised HEAVEN. For the Christian, death is not a tragedy. It is a doorway through which we walk from this earth into the presence of God where sin, suffering and separation are no more. It is the promise of ULTIMATE REST! Paul said in Colossians 1:4-5, “since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel.”

The invitation is given — “Come to Me.” The promises have been made — “I will give you rest.” By faith, we repent of our sins, enter into a right relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ and we receive all the benefits of this wonderful REST given to us by God Himself. Our relationship with Christ takes care of the past, provides for the present, and takes of the future all at the same time.

This is the greatest REST you can have — REST provided by God. It provides the satisfaction you are seeking and it is a wonderful gift provided solely by the GRACE OF GOD! Enjoy…

Have a great day.

 

The Rewards of Prayer

“But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:6)

I’m sure many others sang this song, but I specifically remember Tennessee Ernie Ford (http://youtu.be/YEXHT-QU3v4)

Ere you left you room this morning,
In the name of Christ our Savior,
Did you sure for loving favor
As a shield today?

When sore trials came upon you,
Did you think to pray?
When your soul was full of sorrow,
Balm of Gilead did you borrow
At the gates of day?

Oh, how praying rests the weary!
Prayer will change the night to day.
So, when life gets dark an dreary,
Don’t forget to pray.

In Hebrews 11:6, the Bible says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” From the beginning to the end, the Bible testifies that our God is a prayer-hearing and prayer-answering God!

Now, don’t misunderstand…

Prayer is NOT a blank check on which God’s signature appears guaranteeing us anything on which we set our hearts. That’s the heresy of the Prosperity Gospel movement. Many people want to use prayer the way they use a rabbit’s foot or some other charm warranted to preserve us from some misfortune. 

Prayer is NOT a parachute to be used in emergencies. Prayer is not our LAST RESORT. It should be our FIRST RESPONSE! Prayer is not a begging proposition in which we are seeking to secure the sympathy of God.

“Well, Pastor. if prayer is NOT those things — what does the Bible mean when it talks about the rewards of prayer?”

Thanks for asking. Let me share with you a few lessons I have learned as I have grown in my prayer life. 

First, prayer brings me into the presence of God! In prayer, I am surrendering my mind and my will to God. Prayer causes me to express gratitude to God for the many blessings I experience every day. It enables me to intercede for others. 

Prayer brings an immediate awareness of the sin which is in my life.

“Pastor — I don’t mean to complain, but that doesn’t seem like a REWARD to me. Why would I want to be reminded of my sin?”

When Isaiah went into the temple, you remember he was blessed with a vision of God. What was his first reaction to that vision? It was an awareness of his personal sin which led him immediately to confession. Isaiah said, “Woe is me, for I am undone. Because I am a man of unclean lips. And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5).

Write this down…

When you come into the presence of God — you don’t say WOW — you say WOE! When I meet God I realize that not only do I do wrong, I realize I AM wrong — I am a sinner. When I come to that realization, I can confess my sin and my dependence on God and I am rewarded with a blessed fellowship with God. When I confess my sin, God equips me with HIS ABILITY to serve others. Prayer gives me an awareness of cleansing and forgiveness that in turn provide me with spiritual power!

The third reward I receive when I pray is what Paul calls “the peace that passes all human understanding.” In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul said, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

There is a PEACE that I find in no other place but the presence of God. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”

There are some reading this right now who are struggling with some addiction. Maybe someone is dealing with family problems. Someone else is experiencing financial worries. Still others are facing health issues with more questions than answers. Today, you NEED God’s peace. That peace comes through prayer.

I don’t have any control over WHAT happens to me — but I can control HOW I respond to it. Today — I want to respond in PRAYER! I’m ushered into the very presence of God through PRAYER. I am confronted with my sin so I can confess it and receive forgiveness through PRAYER. I am given perfect peace through PRAYER.

Those are just three of the many rewards that come from our prayer life. 

Ere you left YOUR room this morning,
Did you think to pray?

Thank God for the rewards of prayer!

Have a great day.

All God’s Children Got Problems…

“To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” (Acts 10:43)

Everybody’s got something.

“Well Pastor — ain’t that the truth. Let me just tell you all the problems I’ve got.”

Ummmm…That won’t be necessary right this minute. I was just making a statement. We all have something that bothers us.

Some reading this today are dealing with health problems. Some have financial problems. Some people are facing employment problems. More people than we even realize are dealing with family problems. EVERYBODY has some kind of problem they are struggling with this morning. 

And then there is the problem we ALL deal with on a daily basis — SIN. All you have to do is watch the news or read the paper and you see the undeniable fact of original sin. Man has been and continues to be a sinner. We sin — first and foremost — against God. But we sin against ourselves and against our fellowman. We ALL stand guilty before God. 

It is a part of the wonder of the Gospel that forgiveness is even offered to us. This truth permeates the message of the Scripture. In the angel’s announcement to Joseph concerning the birth of the Lord Jesus, he was told that Jesus would “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

In the world in which we live, there are a great variety of attitudes toward sin. Many believe that sin is simply an illusion and they actually deny the fact of sin. Others have allowed their consciences to fall asleep and they simply ignore their sin. Many people attempt to hide their sin. ALL of us have sought to excuse and explain away our sin. But Numbers 32:23 reminds every one of us of a very important fact — “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).

In light of the fact that sin is problem we all deal with — let me offer a few simple statements that I believe will actually encourage us as we deal with this universal problem.

1. We ALL need forgiveness and only God can forgive in such a way to produce a sense of true joy in our lives.

2. The forgiveness we receive from God is absolutely adequate to remove our sin. By the grace of God, our sins (once confessed and repented of) are wiped away. Isaiah 43:25 says, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.”

3. God’s forgiveness is available to ALL! Again, the prophet Isaiah said, “Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as whir as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). No matter what sin plagues our lives — grace, mercy and forgiveness are offered when we come to Christ with our sin.

Here is a GREAT truth in the Scripture — “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (II Corinthians 5:19). When we proclaim the Gospel message of salvation by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ — we are telling people that their sins can be forgiven and they can have a personal relationship with God.

I don’t know what other problems you are dealing with today, but I know this. God forgives sinners who come to Him in faith and repentance. If I can trust Him to forgive my sin (AND I CERTAINLY CAN) — then I can also trust Him to deal with any other problem in my life in a way that is good, right and that will ultimately make me more like Christ and bring glory to God!

Erdmann Neumeister expressed it this way…

Sinners Jesus will receive; Sound this word of grace to all
Who the heavenly pathway leave, All who linger, all who fall.

Christ receiveth sinful men, Even me with all my sin;
Purged from every spot and stain, Heaven with Him I enter in.

Sing it o’er and o’er again; Christ receiveth sinful men;
Make the message clear and plain: Christ receiveth sinful men.

That’s Good News on this Monday morning and I’ll be singing that song all day long. I’m thankful today that Christ receives sinful men (and women, boys and girls)!!! Aren’t you?

Have a great day.

Standing on the Promises…

“He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.” (Romans 4:20-21)

Somebody has taken the time to go through the Bible and actually count the number of promises. This individual says that there are AT LEAST 30,000 promises in God’s Word! While that figure might appear to be a little extravagant, we need to remember that there are hundreds of promises made to us which we have failed to recognize and to claim.

Romans 4 tells us that the secret of Abraham’s spiritual achievement is found in his recognizing and clinging to the promises of God. He did not stagger back because of the mystery or miracle of God’s plan for his life. He was “fully convinced” that God was not only able BUT He was also willing to accomplish all that He had promised. 

Charles Spurgeon wrote a book entitled Faith’s Checkbook. This book is a series of daily devotionals based on one of the great promises of God. Speaking of these wonderful promises of God, Spurgeon said, “A promise from God may very instructively be compared to a check payable to order. It is given to the believer with the view of bestowing upon him some good thing. It is not meant that he should read it over comfortably, and then have done with it. No, he is to treat the promise as a reality, as a man treats a check.”

The great preacher, G. Campbell Morgan said, “I believe the promises of God enough to venture an eternity on them.”

Adoniram Judson worked for six years in Burma before he baptized a single convert! At the end of three years he was asked about what evidence he had of ultimate success. He said, “As much as there is a God who will fulfill all His promises.” A hundred churches and thousands of converts answered Judson’s faith in God.

R. Kelso Carter wrote one of my favorite hymns. Read these words today and apply them in your life.

Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
Through eternal ages let His praises ring;
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call,
Resting in my Savior as my all in all,
Standing on the promises of God.

I challenge you to put your faith in God’s promises and remember that as God promised to guide in the past, so He promises to guide in the present and the future if we will simply be sensitive to listen and willing to obey!

Have a great day.

Is CHRISTIAN Just a Title?

“So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” (Acts 11:26)

As I gaze out over the “Christian” community today, I frequently see CHAOS! Marriages are failing, singles are struggling to be content, many families are drowning in debt, and addictions of every kind are rampant. People are tired, lonely, miserable and frustrated. And when you talk to many of them, you will hear something like this…

“Pastor, I just don’t understand. My Christianity is just not working.”

Is that true? Of course NOT! For too many people in our world today — CHRISTIAN is nothing more than a title. Too many folks believe that being a “Christian” consists of going to church on Sunday and then “doing the best they can” for the remainder of the week. People in America classify themselves simply by using the title “Christian.” If they aren’t Muslim — they must be Christian. 

Listen…if you go to church because it is the religious thing to do rather than because you are motivated to spend time with God, learning about Him, worshiping Him and experiencing Him — you aren’t a Christian — you just have religion. Religion is ANYTHING you do for God that does not come from a heart connected to God in a relationship through Jesus Christ.

The term “Christian” today is often nothing more than an expression that covers a multitude of religious ideas, error as well as truth, paganism as well as the revelation of God’s divine truth. Today, “Christian” may include rationalistic modernism AND sentimentalism. You may see people who call themselves “Christian” who are grossly engaged in worldliness OR pharisaic self-righteousness. “Christian” is a term that refers to cold ritualism AND heated emotionalism. 

I believe that the reason we are failing in our efforts to impact the world is because of our failure to understand what it means to be a Christian. Being a Christian involves more than just having high moral standards or just believing in God. It’s more than just being a member of a church. Let me suggest a couple of things that are absolutely essential in order for you to call yourself a Christian.

1. To be a Christian — you MUST BE SAVED! It is absolutely impossible for you to be a Christian if you don’t have a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again” (John 3:7). A person must repent of sin and place his/her sincere faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of life. 

In baseball, if you miss first base, it doesn’t matter if you touch second, third and home. It doesn’t matter that everyone in the stands is cheering you or congratulating you as you round third and head to home. If you miss first base — nothing after that even counts. The same is true in our Christian faith — if we miss SALVATION by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone — nothing else matters.

Now remember this…Salvation is NOT the ultimate goal — that’s just the introduction to God’s ultimate goal. His desire is that when we are saved — we become growing mature disciples.

2. To be a Christian — you MUST BE GENUINELY SURRENDERED TO CHRIST. Jesus was completely surrendered to the will of His Father.  John 4:34 says, “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.'”  When we fully surrender ourselves to Christ — we will SERVE OTHERS. 

As we grow and mature in our Christian faith, we are becoming more and more like Jesus every day. We are disciples. Disciple simply means “learner.” We are students who follow the teachings and pattern of Christ SO CLOSELY that we become more and more like the teacher every day.  You see — it’s not enough to just say “I’m going to heaven when I die.” The real question is are you and I become more and more like the One who is taking us to heaven when we die? That’s discipleship — and that is a vital part of being a Christian.

Being saved is step 1. Growing and maturing in Christ and becoming more and more like Him is not only step 2 — it is the goal of our life for as long as we live on this earth. When we fail in following Christ as His disciple, we simply meander through a mediocre Christian life — never truly experiencing the JOY of God’s grace and love in our lives. 

Today — there are plenty of “inactive” CHURCH members — but there is absolutely NO SUCH THING as an “inactive” Christian. If we are going to wear the title of CHRISTIAN — remember that we are Christ’s representative on earth. We are His witness before men, women, boys and girls. Commitment to Christ in salvation will ALWAYS manifest itself and express itself in the way we live our lives.

Is CHRISTIAN just a title for you or do you truly KNOW Him as Savior and Lord?

Have a great day.

A True Friend of God

“I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:2-3)

I think most people would agree that the most highly revered man in the ancient world was Abraham. Arabs (descendants of Ishmael) venerate Abraham most highly. Multiplied millions of Muslims around the world hold Abraham in high honor as one of Allah’s greatest prophets. The Jews look upon Abraham as the founder of their religion. And Christians around the world recognize Abraham as the father of the faithful.  That’s pretty impressive. 

But there is something about Abraham that is even more impressive than his reputation among the religions of the world. Three times in the Bible, Abraham is called “the friend of God.” Wouldn’t that be the greatest thing that could be said of anyone — that he/she was a “friend of God”?

We know that Jesus came into this world to make it possible for us to become the children of God. I have great joy in my life because of the assurance that I have that because of what Jesus did on the cross and because of His resurrection — I AM a child of God. John wrote, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (I John 3:1-2).

Can you believe that? It almost seems too good to be true! Through our relationship with Jesus Christ, we have God as our Father and we are children of God! But it gets even better than that.

In John 15, Jesus said, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” Now follow my logic — IF Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (and we know He certainly is) THEN it is possible for us to be His friends! Just like Abraham — I am a child of God and a friend! That’s good news and is such an encouragement to me. 

Let me make two quick statements about this special relationship we share with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

First, God took the initiative in this friendship. You didn’t seek after God — He sought you! Henry Blackaby said, “There is no more crucial moment in a person’s life than when he is encountered by God. That moment sets in motion the rest of his life.” There is no reference in the Scripture to Abraham putting forth a great effort to FIND God. God FOUND Abraham! That’s why I object to the idea of “seeker sensitive” churches and worship. Left to my own desires, I would not seek God. The only time I seek Him is AFTER He has taken the initiative to have a relationship with me. 

Here is what Stephen said about the call of Abraham in Acts 7:2-3 — “Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.'”

The same God who “appeared” to Abraham still speaks and seeks to establish a relationship with people today. In Jesus Christ, God revealed to us that He desired to establish a personal and permanent relationship with anyone willing to walk by faith with Him. That’s GREAT NEWS — God takes the initiative and seeks lost people to have a relationship with Him.

Here’s the second thing I want you to think about…

This friendship with God must be nurtured in order for it to grow. God took the initiative to establish this relationship with us by sending Jesus Christ to die for our sins. We are not only to know Him in conversion — we must know Him in the fellowship of service (walking with the Lord) on a daily basis.  When we pray and study the Scriptures, we are able to hear God speak to us and reveal Himself even more clearly to us.

As I commune with Him — God gives me direction and He also rebukes me! Seldom do we have friends that are close enough so that we can receive criticism. We want to hear compliments from our friends. Nobody likes to hear about our faults and sins. Think about this…Simon Peter had no better friend than Jesus and yet He more often rebuked Peter  than any of the other disciples. 

I don’t like it — but I need friends who love me so much that they are able to give me the most painful of personal rebukes without my being offended. Jesus is THAT kind of friend. Again, Henry Blackaby says, “Godly counsel is never a substitute for a word from God! God may use our friends to speak His word to us, but mere counsel from godly family or friends is never a safe substitute for a word from God and obedience to Him.”

Because of my relationship with Jesus Christ — like Abraham — I AM A FRIEND OF GOD and He is the greatest friend I could ever have!

Have a great day.