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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Syracuse Mission Trip to Christ Is King Baptist Church

What a tremendous week I was able to experience. I would like to say that it was an absolute joy to work with Jon Speed this week. He was gracious, kind, encouraging, and I am so thankful to know a brother who gets it. We hiked together, prayed together, shared the gospel together, open-air preached together, and worshiped the living God together. I would go anywhere with Jon to preach the gospel. He truly understands the necessity of taking the gospel to the world and beseeching sinners to repent and believe in Jesus.

I would also like to offer a word of praise to the men who went with me. These men left families, jobs, and responsibilities in order to walk alongside their pastor for the sake of the gospel. We laughed, passed out tracts, preached, did one-on-one soul winning, prayed, worshiped, and encouraged each other. These men carried my amplifier, brought me coffee, were attentive to my preaching, and were some of the greatest servants that I have ever worked with. We never had one negative issue amongst us and there was absolutely NO drama. It was like a little taste of heaven to simply walk with these brothers for the cause of Christ. I am one truly blest pastor.  
I am tired as I am sitting on this plane making my way home. What a week that I have experienced. I have seen tremendous sights in the mountains, enjoyed remarkably cool weather, enjoyed running up a mountain twice, ate good food, and met people from all over the world (shared with a man who spoke Arabic, a man who was from Greece and spoke Greek fluently, talked to people from Canada, and had a wonderful conversation with a lady from Madagascar).

However, I have also experienced the tension of shining the light into the darkness. I have been cussed, mocked, screamed at, made fun of, ignored, told that I was unloving, told that I was prideful, told that I should not use the Bible so much, told not to talk about other religions, and to a certain degree I was lightly assaulted (a lady grabbed by amplifier and turned it face down to try to make me quit preaching). I have also experienced the joy of seeing people encouraged by the gospel, open to the gospel, and thinking about the gospel that was shared. I also saw the extreme hatred of the abortionist (his name is Mark and I ask that you pray for his conversion) and was reminded of just how hardened people can be. I saw a church encouraged by the gospel and some who only tolerated the gospel. I preached eight times in four days, passed out numerous gospel tracts, and had countless conversations about the gospel. It was a privilege, an honor, and I am so thankful to be allowed to work for such a great King. “He is the King of the world and He has commanded me to preach and preaching is my business”. 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Focus on Christ

Being Transformed by Vision

“As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness” (Psalms 17:15 ESV).

            Years ago I was a fairly active motocross racer.  I raced numerous weekend amateur races here in my area.  I heard of a race that was going to held at Lake Whitney Raceway about 100 miles south of where I live.  I had always wanted to race on that track, but the races were always on Sunday so I never went.  They were putting on a race called the “Ironman” one weekend, and it was to be held on a Saturday.  The race was in the month of July and the format was to race for 1 hour non-stop (except for refueling).  July and Texas means hot and it was very hot.  I entered the race and gave it all I had and it was brutal.  The heat, the dust, the sweat, the fatigue, and the danger were challenging.  When all was said and done I had won the event.  I was so happy.  Well, I was happy until they gave out the awards.  I received a medal that they hang around a person’s neck that looks similar to the medals people receive in the Olympics.  The difference was, my medal was plastic and probably cost them $2 to make.  The medal did not equal the effort that it took for me to win the event.  I was disappointed!

            In Christianity I am racing for a different reward.  I am not looking for money, trophies, or fame.  I have set my life upon the obtaining of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The race may be long or short, filled with afflictions or joys, walked in valleys or on mountaintops, and the only way to win will be to endure to the end.  The motive for this race is to be able to see the face of the One whom my soul loves and to see His face in righteousness.  Surely, there is nothing greater than to experience the eternal joy of being in His presence.   

            The great thing about this Christian race is that the end prize is full satisfaction.  There will be no $2 trinkets given out, no $2 trophies, and no temporal fan-fare.  The great prize of Christianity will be 100% satisfaction in being like Him.  Oh, to be like Christ is the heartbeat of my Christianity.  A day is on the horizon in which I will no longer be affected by sin, deterioration, age, sorrow, or tears.  A day is coming in which I will experience eternal dwelling with fullness of joy.  

            People ask questions like the following: “What have you been up to lately?”, “What did you do today?”, “What is your plan of the day?”, and “What are you doing tomorrow?”  I have an answer for all of these.  I am pressing on for the upward prize.  I am pitching my moving tent one day’s march nearer home (Lloyd-Jones quote).  Today, I am being transformed a little more into the image of Christ.  I am moving closer to heaven and I will not be fully satisfied until I arrive home. Yes, to live for Christ is all gain! I can only be satisfied with Him!    

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Psalms 73:25 ESV).

Friday, July 13, 2018

Evangelism 101 #non-cellular

Evangelism 101 #non-cellular

A great new way to do evangelism is to purposely travel without your phone.  We are told we need a phone in the case of emergencies.  We are told that the phone will allow people to help us if we have a problem.  I know this may sound offensive, but you do realize that the world functioned for around 8,000 years without phones.  

My son and I are working on a motorcycle project. It came time for the test drive. I was going to ride around the block (3.6 miles).  I am supposed to take my phone in case there is a problem.  I intentionally left the phone at home.  The motorcycle stopped running at 1.6 miles.  Stranded! Stuck on the side of the road! Oh no! I simply sat there for about 15 minutes counting the cars who would not stop and help me. I would hold my hand up like I was on a phone and motion for them to stop.  The 20thcar stopped.  They let me use their phone, no one answered my call.  They gave me a ride home.  His name was Tommy.  I told them I was the pastor at the church up the road and I invited them to church on Sunday.  

If I had taken my phone the gospel opportunity would never have happened.  Leave you phone at home on purpose every now and again for a real emergency.  People are going to hell and unless someone points them to the Savior they will be eternally lost under the wrath of God.  

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Incomprehensible Gospel

The Incomprehensible Gospel

            It was about the year 2002 when I stumbled into a conversation with a lady in our church.  The conversation took a turn towards the gospel and the response that she said has stuck with me until this day.  Right there before me was a woman who had only been on planet earth around 80 years and she told me, with a straight face, that she already knew the gospel. In the context of the conversation she was actually saying that she ‘knew’ the gospel.  It was like she knew all there was to know about the gospel.  I am not saying the lady was not saved and I am not judging her standing with God, but I am sure my facial expressions communicated a lot.  I honestly do not remember what I said in response to her statement, but I do remember what I was thinking.  

            The reason I was taken back and held speechless was that I simply could not believe her audacity.  There before my very eyes was a lady who had figured out the eternal gospel in about eighty years. Not only had she figured it out, but she wanted to move on to something else.  I on the other hand felt that everything that I had learned about the gospel made me realize how much I did not know.  

The following words are all words that give an aspect of the gospel and each word I am about to list have books written about them.  When looking from different angels of the gospel we use words like atonement, expiation, propitiation, reconciliation, redemption, regeneration, justification, sanctification, glorification, imputation, repentance, faith, adoption, perseverance, born from above, substitution, appeasement, righteousness, and etc.  I assure you that I do not know all that there is to know about any of these words individually and I certainly do not know the depth of all of them together.  The gospel is wider than the Grand Canyon, deeper than the Mariana Trench (36,070 to 36,201 feet deep), and higher than the heavens.  

            A man can spend the rest of eternity studying the gospel and never find the edges of it, the bottom of it, nor the height of it.  Looking at the gospel is more intimidating than standing at the foot of the Swiss Alps and looking towards the top.  The gospel is robust, authoritative, piercing, good news, freeing, pure, eternal, the source of praise, the reason of living, and it is the only hope for lost humanity.  The gospel is so good and right, that it is the only solution for the entire world.  The gospel is sufficient for those who are red, yellow, black, or white (as the old children song says).  It is sufficient for Jew, Greek, Barbarian, Scythian, slave, or free (as Paul says).  The gospel is the theme of my song, the content of my preaching, the reason for my life, the joy of my heart, the food for my soul, and the drink that quenches my thirst.  I am 100% satisfied with the gospel and yet I hunger and thirst every day.  What does that mean?  I am not looking anywhere else for satisfaction and the more I receive of the gospel the more I want.  What about you?  

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Optimism Resulting from Meditation

Optimism Resulting from Meditation

Every Christian battles against some type of sin. There is something in the life of the Christian that continually makes them aware of their deficiencies and their great need of grace.  I am a person who has battled with pessimism and negativity.  It is a strange thing for me and for years I just accepted that that is just the way the Lord made me.  However, as I was studying this summer through a few different studies, I made a discovery.  Pessimism and negativity are fruit sins in my life and the root of the problem is unbelief and selfishness.  I noticed that my unbelief caused me to have a low view of others, because at the heart of the matter I did not believe that God could accomplish certain things in some people’s lives.  I would then embrace the thought that it did not matter what I said or did that those people would not listen anyway.  I now see that my view was a fruit of unbelief.  I do not know whether a person will listen or not, but I know that God can make them listen and He can change their life through the means of His Word. Secondly, much of my complaining at home, church, and anywhere else was a result of me not getting my way.  The root of this sin is selfishness and now I see that I need to die to self and seek for God to get His way.  Lastly, instead of submitting to the thought that this is the way God made me, I decided to try something.  I decided to memorize and meditate upon the Word of God and ask Him to cut the root of my sins in order that the bad fruit would stop being produced. 

I put my mind and heart to Psalm 145:1-21 over the past month and the following are my abbreviated conclusions.

Here is what I am commanded to do:
1)   Extol and bless God
2)   Every day I must bless and praise God  
3)   I must search out the unsearchableness of God
4)   I must make known the acts of God to the next generation
5)   I must meditate on His character and works
6)   I must declare His greatness
7)   I must bless Him
8)   I must speak of His kingdom and tell of His power
9)   I must make known His deeds and the glorious splendor of His kingdom
10)I must look to Him (meaning trust Him fully)
11)I must call on Him in truth
12)I must fear Him
13)I must love Him
14)I must speak His praise

Here is the reason that I should continually do the above:
1)   He is worthy
2)   He is eternal
3)   He is BIG
4)   He is worthy (yes, this is twice)
5)   He is worthy (yes, this is three times)
6)   He is great
7)   He is famous, good, and righteous
8)   He is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love
9)   He is good to all and His mercy is over all
10)He is glorious
11)He is omnipotent
12)He acts and He possesses an eternal kingdom
13)He is eternal
14)He is compassionate
15)He is the God of providence
16)He is the God of providence (yes, 2ndtime)
17)He is perfect
18)He is attentive 
19)He is accessible
20)He protects and He is just
21)He is holy!

The actions/deeds/works of God are mentioned in Psalm 145:4 (2x), 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 (2x), 15, 16, 17, 19, and 20.

A month of meditation and memorization have had a profound affect upon my heart.  I do not know that I will be called an optimist anytime soon, but I know that my heart has been affected.  I feel that God has been chopping at the root of my sin and that bad fruit is falling off of the tree.  I am going to continue this process until I am convinced of victory. 

Whatever your sins may be.  Find a text that give clear revelation of the character of God and a text that speaks to the root of your sin and invest much time in meditation and memorization.  I know from experience now, that to complain while meditating on God’s Word that says, “Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever”, is very difficult to do.  The Psalmist says, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). I think he is right.  Put it to the test and see if he is speaking the truth. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

Gospel reflection of the week:

First, let me say that my illustration is not even close to what happened to Paul, but perhaps the principle is the same.  The apostle Paul had some injustices happen to him in Acts 21. I bring this up because it seems in my day that people are always fighting for their ‘rights’ and getting angry when people do them wrong.  Even confessing Christians fall into this category many times.  People get angry at their neighbor because of loud music, un-mowed grass, shooting fireworks late at night, and etc.  People today seem to have something within them that makes them think that the world revolves around them and that if something happens contrary to what they deem right, then they are filled with anger at the person who went contrary to them.

What did Paul do?  He was converted for sure.  He loved Jesus.  He was concerned about men’s souls.  He preached the gospel.  He went on missions to preach the gospel.  In Acts 21 he receives a negative response to his preaching.  They ‘seized Paul’ and ‘dragged’ him out of the temple.  They sought to kill him.  They commenced to ‘beating him’.  He was ‘arrested’.  He was ‘bound with two chains’.  How did Paul respond to these injustices?  Paul said, “I beg you, permit me to speak to the people”.  With all the injustice his only desire was to make them aware of the gospel.  After he shared his testimony they were even more angry. 

There is no record that Paul ever tried to get even or to be recompensed for the wrongs that were done to him.  Paul’s view of God, the gospel, the souls of men, and eternity was of far more importance than personal rights.  

I learned this lesson on Wednesday night after church.  I had a burden for my neighbor and wanted to share with him.  He likes to look at the stars and has a telescope so I went over to view the moon and Saturn with him at about 9:30pm.  I wanted to share Psalm 19 with him.  I mentioned that I would come over about that time and he said that would be great.  On my way over to his house his dogs came out and one of them bit me. 

It is at this point I had to determine whether I should defend my rights, get angry, or deflect things away from my pain for the greater cause of my neighbor’s soul.  By the grace of God, I was able to control my anger and ended up spending a bit of time with my neighbor looking through a telescope.  Once the viewing process was done I was able to relay Psalm 19 and talk about General Revelation and Special Revelation.  I pray that God uses this scenario to soften my neighbors heart and that ultimately he and his family will come to know and worship King Jesus. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Treasures Worth Hiding

Treasures Worth Hiding

            I suppose a definition of treasure should start our discussion.  Treasure – “Wealth (such as money, jewels, or precious metals) stored up or horded . . . something of great worth or value . . . a person esteemed as rare or precious . . . a collection of precious things” (Webster’s Dictionary).  I would add that a treasure is that which is valuable to the person, but it may not be a treasure to someone else.  

When a man discovers his treasure he is filled with joy.  It is not often that treasures are found, but when they are there is much celebration and an immediate concern over protection.  I think of the old days where men sought for gold and when they found it they certainly rejoiced.  As soon as the found it they staked their claim, defended their mine, and were even willing to kill to keep others from stealing what they had discovered.  

            There are all types of treasure across the world.  What is a treasure to one may be junk to another, but whatever the treasure is, when a man finds it, he is certainly happy.  Whether it is rubies, gold, dollars, spouse, vehicle, house, popularity, IPhone, computer, or etc., men love to obtain their treasure. Funny thing about what people treasure. The majority of what men treasure is temporal, deteriorating, unsatisfying, and worst of all it is worthless on judgment day.  Jesus said of men’s treasure, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul” (Matthew 16:26 ESV)?  The wisest of men said, “And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil” (Ecclesiastes 2:10 ESV).  Solomon’s conclusion was that it was all vanity. 

            There is a treasure worth hiding and there is a great reason to hide it in the right spot.  The Psalmist tells us of a great treasure worth hiding.  “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalms 119:11 ESV).  The word translated ‘stored up’ in the Septuagint is the word ‘to hide’.  In the Hebrew text the word is ‘to hide or to treasure’.  The Psalmist is saying that he has stored, hidden, or treasured God’s Word in his heart. This word is used the following ways in other text.  “I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasuredthe words of his mouth more than my portion of food” (Job 23:12 ESV).  “The wise lay upknowledge” (Proverbs 10:14 ESV).  “My son, if you receive my words and treasureup my commandments with you,” (Proverbs 2:1 ESV).  “My son, keep my words and treasure upmy commandments with you;” (Proverbs 7:1 ESV).  

            The Word of God is to be found and treasured in the heart.  If a man believes God’s Word to be a treasure he will meditate and memorize that which has brought him great joy.  No man is willing to leave his treasure lying around for someone else to steal.  No gold miner leaves his gold lying around in the open.  No lotto winner leaves a million dollars on the dash of his car. Treasures are hidden, kept, and defended.  Men go to great pains to guard their treasure.  They put things in banks, pay money for security systems, buy guard dogs and guns, and they seek out clever places to hide things.  The Psalmist found the best hiding place ever, his heart. You could steal the Psalmist scroll and lock him in prison, but you could not take his treasure.  
            Let’s ask some probing question before dealing with the last line of this verse.  If your Bible, phone, and computer was taken away from you and you were thrown in jail, how much Bible would you have?  Sitting there in your cell, how much treasure would you have?  Could you quote to yourself more than John 3:16?  If you had a cellmate could you communicate your treasure to his lost soul?  Could you say to him, “The Bible says” and actually quote what it says?  Let’s press a little further.  What can you tell someone about hunting, fishing, internet, Facebook, sports, automotive, or lines from movies, from memory?  It is a bit strange how much the mind can remember about the things we treasure.  It is a bit strange how well the mind works upon subjects that make us happy.  The mind is capable of great masses of memory over what the heart finds great pleasure in. The Psalmist found that his heart was most satisfied when it contained the most Scripture.  Have you ever memorized a verse, a passage, a chapter, or a book of the Bible?  People ask me how I can ride a bicycle 100 miles without stopping and I tell them that I started by riding one mile.  How can a man memorize a book of the Bible?  He does it one verse at a time!

            A host of Biblical reasons can be given for memorizing Scripture, but here the Psalmist gives us one very good one.  Scripture should be stored, hidden, or treasured in the heart so that you may not sin against God.  Sin is black, ugly, abominable, shameful, wicked, and anyone who loves what is good, hates what is evil.  Sin is at the foundation of why the Son of God was slaughtered on Calvary.  Sin is the very thing that separates men from God. Sin is the very thing that brought the curse and leads men to eternal hell.  Sin is offensive to God, hated by God, punished by God, and sin brings about the unmitigated wrath of God.  The Psalmist knew this about sin and that is why he was concerned about sin.  He wanted a way to prevent himself from sin. One of the ways that he discovered to prevent sin in his own life was to store, hide, or treasure God’s Word in His heart.  The Psalmist attributes Scripture memory to the prevention of sin.  

            If the root of your sin is pride, unbelief, or selfishness you could begin by asking God what He has to say about these sins.  You could memorize verses that say something like the following. “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proudbut gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5 ESV).  “So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19 ESV).  “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old selfwith its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:9–10 ESV).  Store verses like these in your heart and remind yourself that these are the types of things God has to say about these sins.  It becomes more difficult to be prideful when your heart keeps telling you that God opposes the proud.  

            The above examples were illustrations that deal with sinful areas, but I would also encourage you to memorize verses that bring comfort, encouragement, resolve, and most assuredly verses that clarify the gospel. Scripture memory ought to be a large part of your Christian life.  Scripture memory takes work, time, and discipline.  You will have to turn off the TV, phone, computer, and intentionally devote your time to meditation upon the Word of God.  I can give a long list of reasons that you ought to devote yourself to Scripture memory, but I will stay with the Psalmist and say in summary form, “If the Word is your treasure you will hide it your heart and you will do so because you do not want to sin against such a great and holy God.”