Wednesday, 8/21/19 – Pressing on…

“Lord save!”

Screenshot_20190820-174351The story is found in Matthew 14:22-32. You know it. The disciples are in a boat far from land. It is night and there is a storm. Jesus is not with them. Last they knew He was away praying. The men struggle through the night, then, near dawn they see Jesus… on the water… walking toward them! Terrified, they think it a ghost but Jesus calls out “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (v.27).

With the Lord’s permission Peter steps out… onto the water. It supports him! He begins to step toward Christ, eyes fixed upon Him. One step, two, three. Soon he is as far from the boat as he is to Jesus. He sees the waves, the storm, thinks for a second of the impossibility of what he is doing! He begins to sink.

20190818_151254Peter was “in over his head” and the only way out was to “lay hold” on Christ, to submit to His strength and His solution. Peter was “in over his head” and his only way out was to be “out under Christ’s Head.” Jesus was already reaching down, already responding to Peter’s two word shout. Peter had only to reach up, to grasp hold of, and present himself to be grasped by, Christ.

Paul’s new life ambition was similar. He wrote, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Phil. 3:12). Paul had learned he needed to “lay hold” of Christ not only for salvation, or when “in over his head,” but daily, moment by moment, as a way of life… as a way of self death. As he explained to the Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20).

20190820_065550We must “let go” of self to “lay hold” of Christ. Augustine once said, “God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full—there’s nowhere for Him to put it.”

It is a simple thing really. So simple a two-year-old can grasp it… grasp Him.

“Abide in Me,” said Jesus. That means live in Me. Stay living in Me. Live your life out of that abiding place. Saint Patrick put it like this:

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

The Christian (Christ-ian) has been “raised with Christ.” His sinful (sin-filled) self has no place in heaven. It is dead — and it is dying. Now your life is something new — is becoming something new. Now “…you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:3).

It is a simple thing: Grasp Jesus!

Press on…

Tuesday, 8/20/19 – Pressing on…

I am, therefore You are

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I am a father. I have one daughter and one son. That is what they are. They each possess certain traits or characteristics like mine because they are each partly the result of my genetic make-up. Because of who and what I am, so they each are — at least partly — who and what they are.

In his message this past Sunday Pastor Andrew referenced the seven “I am” statements of Jesus.

1. “I am the Bread of Life.” (John 6:35)
2. “I am the Light of the world.” (John 8:12; 9:5)
3. “I am the Gate.” (John 10:7)
4. “I am the Good Shepherd.” (John 10:11, 14)
5. “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” (John 11:25)
6. “I am the Way, Truth and the Life. (John 14:6)
7. “I am the True Vine.” (John 15:1, 5)

Jesus also made several “You are” statements about us. I found seven of these also. He said…

1. “You are the salt of the earth” (Matt. 5:13)
2. “You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14)
3. “You are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matt. 10:31; Luke 12:7)
4. “You are witnesses…” (Luke 24:48)
5. “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” (John 8:31); “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
6. “I am the vine; you are the branches. (John 15:5)
7. “You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:14)

light sunset people water

And just as Jesus did NOT say He was “the way to” the Bread of Life, the Light, the Gate, etc… so too with us. Jesus does NOT ask us if we would “like to be” salt, or light, or witnesses, etc. He simply says that we ARE these things. So, since we are these things, we had better see to it that we ARE them well.

So, how do we ensure that we will demonstrate these things? We “lay hold” of Jesus. We pursue Him, though He seems to be somewhat further ahead. We run on a bit, we “press on” though now there may be muck or storm or wind against us… even bullies — or bullets.

Others have done as valiantly

“…others who were tortured… Some faced j6eers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.” (Heb. 11:36-38).

photo of child reading holy bible

Aggressively pursue Jesus! It is a simple thing, so simple a child can do it… in fact a childlike trust is required. He said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:3)

Cry out to Jesus, “Abba… Father!” Bawl and shout as a child in distress calls to its parent. As Jesus did in the garden to His Father. “Lay hold” of Him. And once having laid hold, never let go. He will bring you safely through, and home.

You too, if you place your hope in Christ, whatever you currently feel like, you ARE a child of God.

More tomorrow…

To hear Pastor Andrew’s complete message, go to the Lincoln Baptist Church website and look under ‘Media’ for the Aug. 18 message.

Monday, 8/19/19 – Pressing on…

Aggressive Pursuit

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It was 25 years ago (June 17, 1994) the infamous white Bronco owned and driven by OJ’s friend Al Cowling sped along the Santa Ana Freeway. OJ Simpson hid in the back pointing a gun to his head while California Highway Patrol followed in pursuit. The chase lasted over 2 hours across 60 miles of three LA freeways. Above, seven TV news helicopters delivered the drama to over 95 million on live TV.

Click HERE to see a clip of the chase…

At 7:57 PM Simpson arrive at his home in Brentwood. He was finally taken into custody less than an hour later and subsequently charged with the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman.

20190818_164423While this may not have been the most aggressive pursuit, it must certainly rank among the largest and longest. I couldn’t locate the total number of police cruisers involved in the chase, but 14 appear in the photo above. I’d call that a pretty “aggressive pursuit,” wouldn’t you?

This past Sunday pastor Andrew Violette urged us toward an “aggressive pursuit” of Jesus… to “lay hold” upon Him, like a police constable might “lay hold” on a suspect to arrest him.

In fact, in the Old Testament, this is how the phrase is often used: The parents of a rebellious son would “lay hold” on him and bring him to the elders for punishment (Deut. 21:18-21). Jeroboam sought to “lay hold” on the prophet of God (1 Kings 13:4). Isaiah speaks of young lions which roar and “lay hold” of the prey (Isa. 5:29).

But in the New Testament we read such entreaties as “Lay hold” on eternal life (1 Tim. 6:12, 19), and “lay hold” of the hope God has promised us. We need to “lay hold” of Jesus and He will “lay hold” of us. James writes,

Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.” (Jas. 4:8 – NLT).

Hold tightly to Him. Let His Spirit flow through you. Surrender to say and do things that may surprise you.

More tomorrow…

Wednesday, 8/14/19 – Pressing on…

Never ending…

I am about to ruin your day…..

“This is the song that never ends,
yes it goes on and on my friend.
Some people started singing it, not knowing what it was,
and they’ll continue singing it forever just because…
This is the song that never ends,
yes it goes on and on my friend…”

Is it stuck in your head? Catchy at first, but then… !!!

group of people raising hands silhouette photography

Some people think of heaven like that. They say, “Eternally praising God! O that will be glorious!” But not too terribly deep down they may be wondering… Do I really want to worship God eternally?

These thoughts come into our heads because, like the Corinthians, we are “still worldly.” (1 Cor. 3:3). Paul called them “mere infants in Christ” (v.1) because they were not growing spiritually. He wanted to teach them deeper things but they refused. He wrote “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready” (v.2).

In the book of Hebrews we find a similar scolding,

…though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Heb. 5:12-14)

person holding opened book

How is it with you? Are you “grow[ing] in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:18a)? Peter was, and at the thought of this he adds, “To Him [Christ] be glory both now and forever!” (v. 18:b). The two just naturally go together: growth and giving God glory.

This past Sunday Elder Jim encouraged us to grow in God. He referenced the many personal spiritual disciplines and resources of God’s Church to aid us in this growth: Church membership, Discipleship, Journaling, Quiet Time (Word, Devotional reading, Prayer, Meditation, Journaling), Personal Spiritual Health & Care: Grief Recovery (personal loss), Celebrate Recovery (personal ‘baggage,’ hurts, habits, hang-ups).

Scripture urges us,

“…move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” (Heb. 6:1-2).

And God provides,

“Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants” (Eph. 4:11-14a).

light sunset people water

Thinking about eternity for us may now be like telling a young child they will one day become attracted to the opposite sex. The response is typically “Yuck! No way!” We smile knowingly and just let time and hormones do their work.

Right now we just cannot imagine our eternal lives, but that ought not surprise us or cause us distress. As Paul acknowledges:

“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” (1 Cor. 13:12 – NLT)

We know we have this wonderful gift, we know it’s going to be something good because we know Who it is from. But so far we have not yet opened it. When we do, that will change everything!

Press on…

Tuesday, 8/13/19 – Pressing on…

Splash!

water splash

It’s amazing how many thoughts and sensations can run through one’s mind in just the few brief seconds of baptism. One ‘splash’ and all goes momentarily silent, the sounds of the room, the music perhaps, the singing maybe, all are gone, or at least drowned to watery muffles. There is a great peace and relaxing. You’ve done the deed. You know you have obeyed the first clear command of Christ to all His followers: Repent, be baptized.

He said, “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26).

black and white cemetery christ church

Just before that Peter had identified Christ as the Messiah (v.20). In Matthew’s account Jesus concurs saying this insight had been revealed to Peter by revelation of God the Father (Matt. 16:16, 17). Jesus then went on to explain that He would “be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (v. 22). He said His disciples must “deny themselves and take up their cross daily” (v. 23).

He warned them just what that cost may mean:

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:24, 25).

Baptism tells the world to whom you have committed loyalty. In some parts of this globe such commitment surely means death – not only symbolically, but actually. Peter blurted “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you” and all the disciples agreed (Matt. 26:35).

art cathedral chapel christ

But flesh-fired they all fled initially, yet they regrouped and prayed. Once Holy Spirit empowered they became dynamos. Christ had said “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of…” Now they were no longer fearful, but bold. So bold that the people around them were amazed! (See Acts 4:13)

“I am not ashamed of the gospel,” Paul declared, “because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).

Baptism tells the world you feel the same.

Splash! –– one of the milestones Elder Jim shared with us on Sunday. If you’ve not yet taken that plunge I urge you to consider it. Use the Contact link or contact a Bible-believing church near you today. See what God will work in you!

More tomorrow…

To hear Elder Jim’s message, go to the Lincoln Baptist Church website and look under ‘Media’ for the Aug. 11 message.

Monday, 8/12/19 – Pressing on…

Simba and you…

20190811_173715An early scene in the film The Lion King has young Simba venturing off with a reluctant young Nala into the forbidden territory of the Elephant Graveyard. Simba had been enticed into this by the sinister “Scar” who, but for Simba, would be next in line as King.

The two cubs come close to becoming entrees in a savage hyena gorge but are rescued by the appearance of Mufasa, Simba’s father and reigning King of the Jungle.

20190811_175102The danger past, Mufasa now turns his attention to Simba. “I’ve got to teach my son a lesson,” he says.
“I’m very disappointed in you,” He tells Simba. “I told you not to go there. You and Nala could have been killed!” Mufasa admits to fearing for his son’s life and a repentant, yet proud of his father Simba, says “I bet those hyenas were even scareder!” “Nobody messes with your dad!” replies Mufasa.

The two wrestle playfully… the lesson has been learned… the Father-son relationship restored.

Simba pauses and says, “We’re pals, right?”

“Right.” Mufasa affirms.

Reconciliation with the Father. It’s the first step in a journey of amazing discovery, adventure, challenge and change.

food man person eating

This past Sunday Elder Jim Longworth brought us a message which began with an illustration of cookie snitching restoration and led us through the milestones of maturing in Christ. But it all begins with our coming into right relationship with the Father.

Young or old it makes no difference. An eternity spans before us all. You are neither too young nor too old to come to the Father through the invitation of the Son — to agree with His verdict and receive His provision.

20190811_175952Do you feel that discomforting conviction, that disharmony… that fearful aloneness of lostness?

Come to the Father. His only agenda with you is your restoration: He has come to rescue you from the hyenas, not to throw you to them. He will lead you out of forbidden areas… across the savannah, into a great and glorious new dawn!

“All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us. He has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.” (Rev. 1:5b-6 – NLT)

More tomorrow…

To hear Elder Jim’s message, go to the Lincoln Baptist Church website and look under ‘Media’ for the Aug. 11 message.

If you would like counsel or guidance in making this surrender to Jesus Christ, please use the Contact page and we’ll get in touch with you.

Wednesday, 8/7/19 – Pressing on…

Cold Noodles and Seaweed

20190804_152909As best I can figure the stuff our Sunday speaker referenced (see Monday’s blog) is “Soba Salad,” “Soba Salad & Seaweed” Is made with soba (buckwheat) noodles and wakame seaweed. The recipe I found also adds lightly blanched asparagus and sliced up raw cucumber. The mixture is then tossed in a lemon-soy vinaigrette with sesame oil, sesame seeds, and ginger. The wakeme seaweed brings a touch of sweetness, the asparagus gives the dish a just-right crispness, and the cucumber helps keep everything cool. Unlikely things tossed together and ending up something extraordinary.

abstract ancient antique area

Monday we applied this illustration to how God uses things often considered undesirable to deliver a surprisingly extraordinary thing. “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us,” wrote Paul (2 Cor. 4:7). And in an earlier letter he noted,

“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” (1 Cor. 1:26-29)

But I see another sermon in the salad…

white and red house near road

“Soba Salad and Seaweed” is an unlikely mixture, and perhaps because of that it brings to mind the mixture that composes the Church. It’s good to be in a church with folk who bring crisp new ideas or present old ones in a crisp new way… folk who can add a touch of sweetness when difficult “medicine” needs to be swallowed… and we can always benefit from those who help keep everything cool.

And Paul has words to bring to this application also,

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body… Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Cor. 12:12,13…27)

Like a salad… Like a body… all of these things are lessons to us about our Creator’s great designs and purposes. When you really begin to study it you see the unity and purposefulness of all things in Christ. Rejoice in your part in it! God loves us. He loves you… He needs you to bring your bit to the whole. When you do, you will understand that your ordinary is really something very extraordinary indeed.

Press on…

To hear Don Longworth’s complete message, go to the Lincoln Baptist Church website and look under ‘Media’ for the Aug. 4 message.