Thursday, 10/17/19 – Discipleship – Priorities

Stones of Help

For twenty long years the ark of God had remained at Keriath Jearim. It had been deposited there for safe-keeping after the boils-stricken Philistines returned it to Israel in an effort to break their plague. But now the straying Israelites had grown fearful of it. They had grown fearful because they had distanced themselves from God.

adult alone anxious black and white

Yet now they were returning to Him. They “mourned and sought after the Lord” (1 Sam. 7:2). They trashed their false idols and prayed once again that Jehovah would deliver them from the oppression of the Philistines. It all culminated in a showdown at Mizpah. What happened next is best left told by scripture itself:

While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar.” (1 Sam. 7:10-11).

Clearly, something unusual occurred. Something undoubtedly divine which threw the well-armed, battle-toughened Philistines into what sounds like a mass panic attack! They ran, the Israelites charged, and the Lord gave them victory!

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Inukshuk “we were here”

Such a happening demanded a memorial. So Samuel took what was handy… what was local… “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’” (v.12). Ebenezer means “Stone of help” and like the Inuit inukshuk these stones conveyed meaning.

Ebenezers are important in one’s life. Like height marks on a doorframe, old photos, wedding rings or a flag on the moon these all mark milestones. They remind us of commitments made, faithfulness shown, past accomplishments, or even defeats which warn us when passing by there again. Scars or medals. Both tell their stories.

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Ebenezers remind us of what is essentially important. Thus, they help us set and keep our priorities… God’s priorities.

What priorities do you need to establish / re-establish, or memorialize. Perhaps today is a good day for rededication – a rededication you can commit to and seal by God’s help with some Ebenezer to help keep you on track.

Do not clutter your faith, but confirm it. Mark it with a moment… an altar call, a cross.

Tomorrow marks a special landmark or two for me. Join me then and I’ll share it with you.

Press on…

20190522_065320Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of new life in Christ? Or, perhaps you would you like to know how to begin this journey and take the very first of the First Steps by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.

Thursday, 10/10/19 – Discipleship – Freedom!

Free for all…

“Jesus said, ‘… you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ They answered him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?’ Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. … So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’” (John 8:31-36).

woman in maroon shirt with black chain on her body

One reason more people do not flock to Jesus for salvation and freedom is they, like these folk, do not realize they are enslaved. “We… have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

But being under the dictates of a physical taskmaster is only one way a person might be enslaved. We can be enslaved by circumstances, living conditions, illness, memories and regrets, compulsions or obsessions, spiritual bondage, fears, a vengeful heart, guilt or other matters of conscience.

man in blue and brown plaid dress shirt touching his hair

Without Christ we are all “slaves to sin,” filled with worry, purposelessness and a fear of death.

Without Christ we are also slaves to the only nature within us, the carnal nature. Ultimately it produces actions (or “works”) such as these: “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” (Gal. 5:19, 20).

But Christ gives us a new “nature.” He gives us His very own!

photo of pathway surrounded by fir trees

The child of God has a choice! A new nature works within him “to will and to act” (Phil. 3:13) as God desires — in ways we were created to be, and do — ways which give us the greatest joy and fulfillment. Scripture calls these ways “fruit,” and like fruit they grow and develop effortlessly, are beautiful to see, and provide nourishment to others. You’ll find a starter list in Paul’s letter to the Galatians: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Gal. 5:22, 23).

The duty of the new or seasoned believer is to choose the new nature over the old nature at every crossroad of decision. We are called to swim against the current of this fallen world, our own depraved urges of the flesh, and the schemes, wiles and temptations of the devil – that old and desperate liar with a gripe against God.

The Christian’s freedom is in having this choice, and the enabling of God’s Spirit. Then the more he chooses rightly the more he will be transformed, desiring the good more than the evil.

Paul exhorts us to be strong in this,

Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery… / You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh… / …walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Gal. 5:1, 13, 16-18)

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’” (John 8:36).

Press on…

20190522_065320Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of new life in Christ? Or, perhaps you would you like to know how to begin this journey and take the very first of the First Steps by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.

Thursday, 10/3/19 – Discipleship – Assurance

Another OCD…

semi open white wooden door

One behaviour associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is the urge to continually check oneself. Did I really lock the door? … close the window? … turn off the tap? Sufferers are ‘compelled’ to return again and again to the door… the window… the faucet… to check, double-check and triple-check their actions.

This need for constant reassurance can be exhausting for the person with OCD, but even more troublesome is the believer who struggles with another sort of OCD — lets call it Obsessive Christian Doubting – one who seeks constant reassurance that he or she is indeed loved and saved by Christ.

What every believer young or old must firmly establish in their heart and thinking is that though their emotions will vary from day-to-day, one’s salvation is based on something far more stable and enduring: the eternal Word of God!

white and black anchor with chain at daytime

In Hebrews we read, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (Heb. 6:19) – and as any seaman will tell you, though a ship bob’s up and down sometimes even violently, an anchor does not move!

David rejoiced, “Your Word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” (Ps. 119:89).

Isaiah conveyed God’s Promise, “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isa. 55:11).

Paul reminded young Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” (2 Tim. 3:16).

photo of person flipping book page

Peter affirmed, “Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Pet. 1:20-21)

  • It is by the Word of God that we know our lost state: Rom. 3:23, Isa. 59:2…
  • And the consequence of it: Rom. 6:23, Rev. 21:8…
  • And it is by the Word of God that we know of Christ our Saviour: John 1:1-18, 1 John 1:1-10…
  • His Love and Gift: John 3:16, 1 John 4:10…
  • And how we are to receive Him: John 3:17-18, Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, 16:31, Rom. 10:9…

When I made a public profession of faith in Christ some fifty years ago a counselor told me this simple triplet: “God said it, I believe it, that settles it!”

Christ is our sacrifice once for all. We need not continually check and recheck if He still loves us… if we are still in the family of God. Like a baby learning to walk, when we fall we do not need to be born all over again! We need only admit we have fallen, get up, and press on.

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32).

Press on…

20190522_065320Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of new life in Christ? Or, perhaps you would you like to know how to begin this journey and take the very first of the First Steps by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.

Wednesday, 10/2/19 – Pressing on…

Seven steps on water…

beach dawn dusk ocean

The Bible does not tell us how many steps Peter took toward Jesus when he stepped out of the boat and onto the water that long-ago day (see Matt. 14:25-32). But he did take a few steps before his eyes left Jesus and looked again at the waves. And we know that together they both walked back to the boat. With each miraculous step Peter was putting his full weight upon something which his mind said was impossible to support him.

All “steps of faith” are like that: battlegrounds of divine faith and human reason.

blue water

In his message on Sunday Pastor Andrew referenced The Baptism with the Holy Spirit by R.A. Torrey. In chapter three of this book Torrey presents the following seven steps to fullness of the Holy Spirit. All are either stated or implied in Acts 2:38.

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38).

R. A. Torrey’s seven steps to fullness of the Spirit

1. Repent – Change your mind about Christ. – Acceptance
2. Repent – Change your mind about sin. – Renunciation.
3. Be Baptized – Make a public profession of faith in and obedience to Christ through water baptism.
4. Obey – Make a total surrender of your will to the will of God.
5. Desireintensely and in purity to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
6. Ask – Appropriate the Spirit by asking to be filled of Him. “…how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)
7. Believe – “’Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered… ‘I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.’” (Mark 11:22…24)

All of God’s gifts are good. We need not fear any of them. He is a Good, Good Father.

Someone once said, “We have as much of God as we want.” — How much of God do you want?

Press on…

To hear Pastor Andrew’s complete message, go to the Lincoln Baptist Church website and look under ‘Sermons Online’ for the Sept. 29 message.

Tuesday, 10/1/19 – Pressing on…

Weather… or Not

I have two weather apps on my tablet. Neither are terribly reliable beyond a day or two.

photo of thunderstorm

The more accurate app is boring to look at, but I consult it daily. The less accurate app is exciting in appearsnce. It has moving weather images in the background which reflect the weather for the day you are viewing, realistic images showing cycles of the moon, and numerous colorful ways to view the data. But, as I said, its forecasts are far less accurate. I seldom ask it anything because what it gives me can be damaging to my weather-dependent plans.

Thankfully, God does not give like that.

woman standing beside open door

In Luke 11 Jesus has just finished giving His disciples a template for prayer, “the Lord’s prayer,“ as we like to call it, though really it would be better called “the disciples prayer” for it was to us that He gave it as guide. Jesus then presents an illustration teaching that we must be persistent in our asking. When He sees our sincerity He will answer.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10)

He teaches us that God delights to give His children good things… just as we do… even the worst of us…

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13)

red fish

Interesting that Jesus connects this truth about God’s good giving to the gift of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps He knows we sometimes think of the Spirit as something wild and out of control, something that might bite like a serpent, or sting like a scorpion. Maybe to counter this misconception is why God chose to represent the Holy Spirit as a dove, the gentlest of all birds, and Jesus often called Him the ‘Comforter.’

In Greek this word ‘Comforter’ is παράκλητος (paraklētos). meaning One called alongside….a Helper… a Friend. “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother,” writes Solomon (Prov. 18:24). The Holy Spirit is the best such Friend of all… He is a gift from God, because of Christ. He is a good gift, a gift wrapped with you.

Solomon observed “Like clouds and wind without rain is one who boasts of gifts never given.” (Prov. 25:14) But the goodness of God’s giving is far more reliable than any man or man-made weather app.

Open your heart and mind and let Him flow out of your body to a desperate, dying, soul-starved world.

More tomorrow…

To hear Pastor Andrew’s complete message, go to the Lincoln Baptist Church website and look under ‘Sermons Online’ for the Sept. 29 message.

Thursday, 9/26/19 – Discipleship – Soon Return of Christ

Look up!

20190919_153831Over the summer my wife and I decided to revisit Kingsbrae Garden“a multi-award winning 27 acre horticultural masterpiece located in beautiful St. Andrews by-the-Sea, New Brunswick.” The vast garden area is truly an inspiring masterpiece with “over 50,000 perennials in themed gardens, ponds, streams, old-growth Acadian forest, various animals and birds.” For anyone venturing out this way I highly recommend it.

20190807_175901On the grounds there was also a Sculpture Garden displaying winning works of a bi-annual Canada-wide sculpture competition. One of these in particular drew my attention. The piece was simply called ‘Man looking up.’ No surprises. It was a sculpture of a man… looking up.

Turns out there have been several sculptures of people gazing heavenward, often with a look of yearning, of lostness, of striving… mankind looking up for something transcendent.

There is an innate inner angst in all of us, a sense that something is amiss within, an incompleteness… an expectation. Mortality seems unfair. We ache for the eternal.

Screenshot_20190808-123620The Christian knows the truth behind all these yearnings, the reason for the soul’s anxiety. The gospel is true. Sin has alienated us from our Maker. We are complete only in Him. Without Him we are lost yet still eternal. Christ has come to reunite us if we will. He has gone, yet will return… in the clouds… as he was seen to leave. The angels asked,

“…why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (see Acts 1 :11)

When He does it will be time, for the believer, to look up again, as He said,

they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:27-28).

Look up. See Jesus.

When you do, nothing will ever be the same again.

Press on…

20190522_065320Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of new life in Christ? Or, perhaps you would you like to know how to begin this journey and take the very first of the First Steps by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.

Tuesday, 9/24/19 – Pressing on…

Lifting Fog…

I looked out our patio window and was shocked at what I saw! I saw nothing! No road, No open field beside the tree cluster as I had become accustomed to seeing each morning. No descending roadway to the west, No elementary school to the east, No river and skyline on its far shore, No hill, church spire, hospital and water towers! All I saw was greyness everywhere!

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The fog was widespread this past Sunday morning. Elder Don, who lived some km to the east of us, also made mention of it as he shared God’s Word with us that morning. He had been driving in dense fog across the Princess Margaret Bridge from the north side of town to the south. As he neared the other side the fog abruptly dissipated.

His message to us emphasized a great truth from scripture, a “pearl” to his own walk, Don called it. A key which he graciously shared with us.

“I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.” (1 John 2:26-27].

Near the end of His earthly ministry Jesus told His disciples,

Unless I go away, the Advocate [Holy Spirit] will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you…. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (John 16:7, 13-15)

Later, Paul explained to the Corinthians,

“The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things…” (1 Cor. 2:14-15a)

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Without the Holy Spirit’s illumination the Truth of God is hidden from a man… like the dense fog which greeted us on Sunday morning. We just cant see the realities that are there. But Elder Don’s comment regarding Sunday’s fog was his amazement at just how quickly it all vanished upon nearing the end of the bridge.

Christ is our bridge to bring us to the Father. When we surrender to Him the Holy Spirit enters our being, He illumines our minds, transforms our hearts and enlivens our souls. The fog clears. We understand who we are, why we are here, and where we are going.

It’s amazing how quickly everything can change!

More tomorrow…

To hear Elder Don’s complete message, go to the NEW Lincoln Baptist Church website and look under ‘Sermons Online’ for the Sept. 22 message.