Archive for November, 2017

The news around the church (Revelation 2)

November 30, 2017

 And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.  Rev. 2:23b

In our day of modern media communication it has become common for churches to get out the news of their activities through websites, Facebook, and many other media tools.  Question: “What is the news around your church?”

Certainly we know that most churches are very good at spreading the news of upcoming events, but when was the last time you heard of a church that was struggling or about to split?

The fact is, we do hear these stories through the tried and true method of word of mouth.  This morning we hear the news about seven specific churches in Revelation 2-3.  This day we will focus on the first four.  Here is what Jesus reports about these churches:

  • In Ephesus Jesus reports of the churches abandoning of their love of Him.

This church was serving but not worshipping Jesus.  They were busy but they were not busting at the seams in love with Jesus.  The way back was through turning away (repenting) from those other loves.  When they turned away they were also to turn back to the love they had for Jesus at the first.

  • In Smyrna Jesus reports of the churches willingness to suffer for the gospel.

This church was being slandered and they were facing the frontal attack of Satan.  Jesus encourages them to have no fear because they would be given eternal life.

  • In Pergamum Jesus reports of the churches various views.  The church had faithful members, compromising members, and carnal members.

This church was warned and this church was instructed to disciple those who were compromising and carnal.

  • In Thyatria Jesus reports of the churches tolerating sin in the church.

Again the church is told to repent and to disciple those who were unrepentant.

The key verse is verse 23 where Jesus says: “All the churches will know what I see.”

Brothers and sisters this is very sobering to me this day.  I realize we should never try to cover up the news of what is wrong in our churches.  We should do our best under God’s authority to seek repentance and restoration in those areas of sin.  We should do our best to see God’s refreshment in areas of apathy and we should seek God’s power to reach beyond the walls of our churches to the next city and the next county and the next country.

Father, may we each see what you see.  May we repent of what is wrong.  Lead us to be refreshed and lead us to remain faithful in our ever-present trials.  Direct up to reach beyond the walls for your glory.

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Refreshing words from heaven (Revelation 1)

November 29, 2017

and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail[b] on account of him. Even so. Amen. Revelation 1:5-7

Once again I have arrived at a familiar place where my heart smiles with the refreshment that awaits me in this place.  It is a place where I think I have covered every square inch and have turned over every rock, but each time I arrive I find that there is so much more to discover as I explore the depths and heights of this place.

You ask, “What place are you referring too?”  I am referring to the book of Revelation.  This book is truly my favorite in the New Testament.  Over the next 30 days we will explore together the richness of this place.

In chapter 1 I want to point you to three divisions in the chapter:

  • We have the honor of being reminded of the following:

The blessing that comes from reading this book, Vs: 1-3.  We are reminded of the greatness of the Trinity, Vs: 4-6.  We are also reminded of the joy of Jesus Second-Coming, Vs: 7-8.

  • We have the honor of seeing our glorified Savior.

The description of Jesus in verses 9-16 always fill me with awe and amazement.  I long to see Jesus as He is.  Take time to look at each aspect of what John sees.  Take some time and attempt, in the Spirit, to visualize Jesus.

  • We have honor of knowing our glorified Savior.

We know the true and living God who has victory over death and hell.  We know the sovereign God who has authority over time.  We serve the head of the church, Jesus Christ.

Brothers and sisters, we are only in chapter one and I have already turned over new rocks and walked in new territory as I see Jesus.  I pray that Gods Word is alive for you today.

I plead with you to take time to pray this day for God’s Word to be living in you!!!

What is in store? (II Peter 3)

November 27, 2017

 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. II Peter 3:7

For most of the United States today is the dreaded day of going back to work after a long holiday weekend.  But for most of the world it is just another day in a life filled with trials and work.

Question: “How many of us went to bed last light thinking, what is in store for my life?”

As Peter closes his second letter, he has on his mind the believers conduct (activity) and character(alignment with God).

Here are three statements from the text that help us to answer the above question:

  • You will encounter scoffers in life.

Each day there are people who believe life will go on forever and ever.  Such people do the following: they blindly reject Scripture; they willfully reject history; they ignorantly reject the patience of God; and they purposefully reject God.

  • We must engage in the study of God’s Word.

The Bible says, “God has stored up judgment that will be released at His word.”

The Bible says, “God’s timetable is different from ours.”

The Bible says, “God’s attributes are clear.”  He is patient; redemptive; honest; and fair in judgment.

  • We must engage in sanctification.

Peter asks the question: “How should we be living our lies in light of what we have discovered?”  We should focus on holiness (this is our personal lives).  We should focus on Godliness (this is our public life).

The Lord is going to return.  He could have returned while you were asleep. But He has chosen to give you and I another day to both personally and publically live for Him.  May we do so with a heart that says, this could be the day!

Thanksgiving blessings (II Peter 1)

November 23, 2017

 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,  II Peter 1:19

As you awake somewhere in the world, you are facing a world that is according to the Scriptures, “Getting worse and worse.”  In America we are waking up to Thanksgiving Day 2017.  As a church we are waking up to our daily reading plan, II Peter 1.

Peter is writing to fellow believers who each have an equal standing before God the Father because of the righteousness of Christ imputed to them individually.  Peter begins his letter by reminding fellow believers of the divine nature given to them by God.

The church is called by God to grow in the divine nature.  Peter lists 8 qualities of a person who is growing in the divine nature.

It is truly a blessing to be one who has been given the divine nature.

Peter’s desire is that after he dies people will always be reminded of the divine nature!!!  But his desire is also that people would understand that these words are not his but God’s.

The last part of this chapter reveal to be the thanksgiving blessing of God’s Word.

  1. God’s Word is sure (No errors, no private agenda of humanity).
  2. God’s Word is sinning in the darkness (Satan has to flee from God’s Word).
  3. God’s Word is stabilizing (we are reminded on every page of the hope that is coming).
  4. God’s Word is saving people (The Morning Star is arising in people’s lives).

Brothers and sisters, I wish you two thanksgiving blessings:

  1. God bless all who read this to know that Christ is the greatest gift to me.
  2. God bless all who read this to know how precious is Your Word in their hands.

In the trenches with Jesus (II Thessalonians 3)

November 22, 2017

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. II Thessalonians 3:5

One of the phrases that is often used to describe the day-to-day battles between nations during wartime is the phrase, “in the trenches.”  I think it is safe to say that more people have died in the trenches of warfare than in any other spot on the battlefield.

I think it is the same in the Christian’s life as well.  It is seldom that the believer looses the battle with Satan during Sunday morning worship or while on a short-term mission trip.  It is usually in the down time of resting in the trenches or lingering in the trenches when tragedy hits.  It is here when we slip away from God and slide into sin.

Paul was on the battlefield when he asked for prayer in Vs: 1, “Please pray that the Word would speed forward.”   He asked, “for deliverance from the evil and wickedness of men.”

Paul knew the Lord was faithful on the field of battle and in the trenches of life!!

Paul intercedes for the church in the trenches of life, Vs: 5

  • He prayed that we would have a heart that was connected to Christ’s love.
  • He prayed that our minds would be connected to the stability of Christ.

This is big for us in the trenches of life:  If we have our hearts filled with love for Christ and our minds focused on the truth of Christ, we will overcome the enemy in the trenches of life!

This is so amazing to me.  When we have the right heart and mind we are able to see correctly those who enter into our personal trenches.  Do you see them in Thessalonians?  They are the idle (disorderly and undisciplined) people who would lead you to useless life.  They are not your enemies but they are your weights that would pull you down.  Rebuke them in love.

God intends for us to imitate those who are at the wheel of the will of God.  Such people work for the glory of God in a disciplined way.  Such people are worthy to be in the trenches with you.

On this day before Thanksgiving I want to challenge each who read this to focus your heart on the love of God and your mind on the truth of God.  Next I want to challenge you to take inventory of who is in the trenches with you.  Finally I want to challenge you to build a team of brothers and sisters who will fight in the trenches with you for the glory of the Lord.

While we can (II Thessalonians 2)

November 21, 2017

 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out-of-the-way. II Thessalonians 2:7

Sadly, in life, there are many things we put off doing until the window of opportunity is gone.  Here are a few examples: visiting a friend, taking the mission trip, spending time with children, and above all sharing Christ with others.

Be honest, there are many moments we miss because we think there will be other moments when we can!

Consider Paul’s teaching in II Thessalonians 2.  The subject matter is the Second Coming.

  • Paul has taught this doctrine previously to this church, I Thessalonians 4:13-17. But once again he teaches he following, “Jesus is coming to gather His people to Himself.”
  • Paul has been informed that the church is shaken by the false assumption that the Lord has already returned.
  • Paul again teaches about the Second Coming.

Here is what he teaches:

  1. Men will become extremely lawless the world over.  This lawlessness will create the venue for the Antichrist to come.
  2. The Antichrist will seize the opportunity to rule.  He is Satan’s puppet.  He will proclaim himself to be God.
  3. The Holy Spirit will restrain evil until the time of the Great Tribulation, Vs: 6.

It is here where you and I must be aware that we are given the window of opportunity to share Jesus!!!  There is coming a day when we will no longer have the opportunity.  When the Holy Spirit is removed men will fully embrace the false gospel.

There is so much more in this chapter.  But I want to impress upon you the truth that you only have this day!!!  During the Great Tribulation Satan will exercise great power of deception and great power to destroy.  The entire world will go after him. Ours is the task of now.

So I challenge you to take that trip to see the friend while you can.  Take daily time to pour into your children and grandchildren.  They may face the Great Tribulation.  Take the mission trip, eternity is at stake.  Cancel your vacation plans.  You can rest with the Saints of God in heaven!!!  Remember, “While we can is slipping away as sands in the hour-glass.”

 

Thankful for God’s righteous judgment (II Thessalonians 1)

November 20, 2017

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering, II Thessalonians 1:5

As I sit here at four Am one question comes to mind, “Is God righteous in His judgement?”  Honestly, this is a fair question.  I am sitting here in my recliner, with a wonderful roof over my head and many luxuries that most of the world never experience.

Who am I that God would bless me so much.  Is God being righteous in allowing me to be born in America and in placing millions in places where each day is a struggle for survival?  I think about the Malawian pastor who will walk miles to his church with a stomach that is hungry.  He will stand to speak to people who are also suffering.  Is God righteous?

As Paul writes to the church we see this church growing (in faith) and increasing (in love).  We also see this church as being “steadfast in love” in the midst of persecution.  Paul wants this church to understand the righteous judgment of God.

Here is a big truth for today: “We look at judgment based only on earthly terms without realizing God is going to judge based on eternal terms.”

This is evidenced in this chapter:

  • We see the fire of God’s righteous judgment.

God will repay those who have afflicted his people, Vs: 6. God will take vengeance on those who reject Him, Vs: 8.  God will sentence such people to eternal destruction, Vs: 9.

  • We see the favor of God’s righteous judgment.

God will grant relief to the afflicted believer, Vs: 7.  God will be glorified by His people when they return, Vs: 10.

Brothers and sisters, when God returns He will judge and His judgment will be righteous.

As I read this chapter I came to understand that God is a righteous judge.  Each of us are born in different places (in the world) with different gifts (things of the world).  Some day God will return to judge us based on what we did with Jesus and He will judge us based upon what we have done with what He has given us.

The question that now comes to my mind is this: How does God’s righteous judgment change my attitude toward life?

“Father I thank you for all your blessings in my life.  This day I realize that my greatest blessing is Jesus.  I understand that you have blessed my life with resources so that I can be a blessing to the world.  This is why I must not waste what I have and this is why I must not hoard what I have.  Father lead me to be a leader in Your church to lead others to be righteous in our deeds before You.  Lead us to get the gospel to all men.”  

While we wait (I Thessalonians 5)

November 17, 2017

“Pray without ceasing,” I Thessalonians 5:18

As you read this blog, our team is somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean.  We are hopefully coming to the finish line of our mission trip.  I cannot put into words the joy of this trip.  God has sharpened my sights concerning local, national, and global missions for First Baptist of Jackson Ga.

I return knowing what God wants for us and I know that according to Paul’s writing in chapter 5, “the Lord’s Second-Coming could be today.”  But until He returns we wait.

The above statement is not a passive statement of anxiety but a powerful state of activity.  The Lord has work for us to do while we wait.  Paul gives the church no less than 15 action items to live out while we wait in Vs: 12-28.

Here they are:

  • Respect and honor the leaders of each church.
  • Seek unity in the body of Christ.
  • Disciple yourself to a productive life.
  • Correct those who are sinful and lazy.
  • Encourage the discouraged.
  • Be patient.
  • Do not hold a grudge.
  • Do good to others.
  • Have a joyous spirit.
  • Pray without ceasing.
  • Have a thankful spirit.
  • Submit to the direction of the Holy Spirit.
  • Listen to prophecy.
  • test everything with the Word of God.
  • Stay away from evil.

In this moment I realize while sitting on this plane.  God has given me a life of liberation filled with liberating activity.  I am ready to be home and ready to actively wait for the Lord’s Second coming.

Question:  “What are you doing with your life?”

God’s Instructions to a mission minded church (I Thessalonians 4)

November 16, 2017

Finally, then, brothers,[a] we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.  I Thessalonians 4:1

It was early Monday morning when I first read this chapter.  I had on my mind our day that was coming.  We were headed to the village of Mpyupya.  I have been there many times.  It is one of the darkest and driest places in Malawi.  But God has planted a church and an orphanage in that place. This is where FBC Jackson and Highland Park have invested themselves in adopting children.

I anticipated our visit knowing that you never know what to expect when you get to that village.  But praise be to God, we found once again a mission minded church.  The church was ready for us.  The local pastors had gathered, the children had gathered, and God was in the midst.

Question:  “Can we say our churches are mission minded?”  As Paul wrote to this church, we see his wonderful Spirit directed instruction:

  • He directs them concerning their Christian walk, Vs: 3-12.

There is the challenge to walk in the will of God.  God’s will is that we would do the following: we would love one another, we would live quietly, we would interfere in others lives, we would work hard for God.

There is the challenge to be a witness for the glory of God.  We are called to live out what God has liberated us for.

  • He directs them concerning the Second-coming, Vs: 13-18.

Because of Jesus resurrection believers will have life beyond the grace.  This is amplified by the glorious return of our Lord.  Because of Jesus Second-coming you and I can be bold in our faith.  This life is not all there is and it is not the end.  We have an eternal future.  We know that Satan will be destroyed and Jesus will rule forever.

Brothers and sisters, this must have been why the church at Mpyupu had so much joy.  Brothers and sisters as a church walks in the will of God for the glory of God, that church will be mission minded.  Brothers and sisters, when a church understands God’s Second-coming, that church will storm the gates of hell without fear!!!

I am honored to serve at First Baptist Church of Jackson Ga.  A mission minded church.

The heart of a church planter (I Thessalonians 3)

November 15, 2017

11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. I Thessalonians 3:11-13

Today we once again, for the last time on this trip, meet with the local pastors to engage in a time of teaching, encouragement, vision casting, and prayer.  I can still remember the first time I meet these pastors.   It was in 2013.  Some of those pastors have been called to heaven.  For others, this will be our last time this side of heaven.  The Malawian life is hard and demanding.  I see the weariness in the pastors bodies and I see the stain in their foreheads, but I also see the fire of God flaming in their eyes.

It must have been this way with Paul.  Paul understood that the church had a strong enemy, Vs: 5.  He knew Satan wanted to both stop the gospel and to destroy the gospel witness of the church.  So Paul sends his best (Timothy) to minister to the church.  Paul rejoices when he discovers the work going on in the church.  The last part of chapter 3 contains his wonderful prayer for the church.

As I sat in my chair and read and reread this prayer, I saw the heart of a church planter.  I also saw the need to pray for these warriors in Malawi that are simply called “Obusa” which is pastor.

Would you join me in praying Paul’s prayer for these pastors.  Would you join me in praying Paul’s prayer for American pastors.

As a personal note, Paul’s prayer led me to pray the following for my own ministry:

  • Lead me to send my very best instead of being selfish in holding onto the best for my own benefit.
  • May my love for all people in my church and world grow and grow.
  • May holiness be perfected in my heart and life.
  • Lord, I want to see you face to face.