Wednesday, 4/14/21 – Pressing on… Something BIG? – Something “for”?

Something BIG? – Something “for”?

I mentioned yesterday how humankind wants to do something BIG for God. This is not a temptation of unbelievers. No, the temptation to “do something BIG for God” is one which snags many sincere believers. Indeed, some even determinedly dive into it!

You may even now be wondering “What’s wrong with doing something BIG for God?” I know. It sounds like something very good, doesn’t it? But therein lay the trap! It’s a fundamental trap too, one that lay in many a sin. That trap is Pride!

Ask yourself this when the notion to “do something BIG for God” pops into your head: Would I still want to do this thing if I never received any credit for it? — Even if someone else got the credit for it? — Even if someone else wrongly got the credit for it? This is the acid test. It reveals quickly if one’s motive is to glorify God or to glorify self.

Jeremiah is blunt: “Do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them.” (Jer. 45:5). Jesus taught “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Matt. 20:26). He warned His disciples  “…do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20).

More and more these days the tendency is toward spectacle. Attending some churches has become more like attending an emotionally charged rock concern than a selfless gathering of saints offering to God “sacrifices of praise.” (Heb. 13:15). In such settings is easy to confuse emotional hype with spiritual blessing.

Did Jesus do “great things?” Jesus did not build a great edifice, but spoke of the destruction of those built by men. Jesus did not do BIG things, but simple things which left great impression: providing wine, multiplying fish, washing feet and healing individuals. Jesus always ministered to people one at a time. There are no mass healings recorded in scripture. He met a single Pharisee at night, dined the home of a single tax collector, and shared His identity with a single despised Samaritan woman.

He said we would do “greater things” (John 14:12) but did He mean greater in spectacle or in number? There was one incarnate Jesus. He entrusted the gospel to twelve apostles. There has since been millions of Christians.

We can do nothing “for God” anyway, BIG or small. Jesus even stated of His own earthly ministry, “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing,” (John 5:19). All things are of God. If we seek to do His Will the way is by giving ourselves to Him as “living sacrifices,” walking in daily obedience, watching as He does His work through us.

I like very much how Mother Teresa put it: “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”

Press on…

To hear this past Sunday’s message, go to the Facebook page of Lincoln Baptist Church, or link to the livestream from the church website.

Tuesday, 4/13/21 – Pressing on… Church: Living Entity

Church: Living Entity

I mentioned in yesterday’s blog how I preferred the term “member” rather than “part” in describing committed church congregants. I said it ”sounds more like what the true Church is, a family… the family of God — not a business, an organization, or a mechanical device.”

Sadly however many folk outside the church think of the church in these business, or organizational, or mechanical terms. Sadder still is that a good number of “churches” do in fact operate as such. We find descriptive warnings to some of these in the book of Revelation, chapters two and three. These seven churches may well name seven existing assemblies contemporary to John’s time, but their warnings, consequences and sometimes good examples* serve also as timeless types to churches of all generations.

  • Ephesus, the church that had left its first love for Christ.
  • Smyrna,* the persecuted yet faithful church.
  • Pergamum, the worldly tolerant church.
  • Thyatira, the church with impure doctrine, idolatry, sexual sin and pagan traditions.
  • Sardis, the spiritually dead church.
  • Philadelphia,* the spiritually alive church.
  • Laodicea, the lukewarm church.

A new believer must weigh carefully the beliefs, teachings and practices of any church against the truth of God’s Word. He must foster an attentiveness to the guiding Voice of the Holy Spirit now dwelling within him and about Whom Jesus said “…He will guide you into all the truth… He will glorify me… will receive from me… will make known to you.” (John 16:13-15).

The Church Christ is building is the Church Christ is building. Any time fallen humankind tries to add something to it to enhance it, to make it more attractive, he in some way damages it. Man likes to build edifices, organizations, businesses and bureaucracies. He likes to seek out “professionals,” plan great projects, use the best materials, the most skilled personnel. He likes to do something BIG — something BIG for God!

But God cares for none of these things. He wants the man himself. He builds His Church with “living stones” (1 Pet. 2:5), everyday people, unlikely people… fishermen, tax collectors, rebels and doubters. God chooses “foolish things… weak things… lowly things… despised things… things that are not” Why? “so that no one may boast before him.” (1 Cor. 1:27-29).

God chooses You!

More tomorrow…

To hear this past Sunday’s message, go to the Facebook page of Lincoln Baptist Church, or link to the livestream from the church website.

Monday, 4/12/21 – Pressing on… “Members” vs “Parts”

“Members” vs “Parts”

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.” (1 Cor. 12:12)

Of the 60 English translations I consulted (which, with today’s technology, is nowhere near as daunting a task as it may sound), 30 use this word “members” in describing the individuals which comprise the Church, the Bride and Body of Christ. Most of the others use the word “parts.”

I rather prefer that word “members.” The term “members” lends itself more naturally to that dual meaning Paul has in mind. As the human body has “members,” so has the Church. We speak of taking professing believers into church membership, not church partnership. “Member” sounds more like what the true Church is, a family… the family of God — not a business, an organization, or a mechanical construction.

This past Sunday after hearing their testimonies three new “members” were received into our church.

Local church “membership” is important because it identifies those present among an assembly who are recognized as being in doctrinal agreement. In the book of Acts a distinction is implied between the curious and the committed. We read, how these early believers met frequently and joyfully together in the temple and in homes, “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:47). There was a distinction among the populace: those who were “added to the church,” and those who were not.

As it became clearer to the fledgling believers that Christ’s return was not as imminent as they first anticipated but that they must first bring the gospel to as many as would receive it, the young church began to appoint officers and leadership, record its history, and establish fundamental creeds and statements of faith.  

By these creeds (summaries of what true believers believed) heresies could more easily be identified and the “church” could more easily be kept pure. Perhaps the earliest if these recorded in scripture is found in Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve… ” (1 Cor. 15:3-5).

Defending and defining the truth of the gospel in time became known as apologetics, from the Greek apologia, meaning “to make a defense.” See Paul’s use of this word before Festus in Acts 26:6. See also in Philippians 1:7 and 1 Peter 3:15.

From its beginning then, one function of church “membership” was as a means of identifying and maintaining doctrinal purity among the body of believers, “God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” (1 Tim. 3:15).

More tomorrow…

To hear this past Sunday’s message, go to the Facebook page of Lincoln Baptist Church, or link to the livestream from the church website.

Wednesday, 4/7/21 – Pressing on… Resurrection Reverberations…

Resurrection Reverberations…

Easter is over. Chocolate bunnies are now a steal at ¼ price, and we’re sinking back into our workweek routines. Nice! We met together with family, ate our ham, shared some chocolate. Hopefully we attended a church service, or two, and gave at least some thought to a bloody crucifixion.

But if we took anything to heart from our brother Don’s exhortation this past Sunday the truth of that sacrifice should yet be reverberating. Easter is not just a long ago event and an annual commemoration. Easter must impact the believer daily.

What is your first thought each morning as you rise? You had been sleeping, but now you awaken. Perhaps it is to remind us mortals of our dependency upon resurrection that our Creator built sleep and waking into the necessities of His creatures. Jeremiah, the beleaguered and otherwise “weeping” prophet, still extolled “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Jer. 3:22-23).

Every breath you have taken, and all you yet will, are gifts of His grace, allowed by Him, for He has high hope for you. The resurrection of Christ shows that death need not be the end of us. There is another way. “I am that Way,” He said (John 14:6). Christ wants to make us something glorious! He wants to make YOU something glorious!

Though the devil and personal depression seek to destroy us, tell lies to us, and press us to despair, God is for us (Rom. 8:31)! Resurrection to newness is on our agenda! This world and its experiences of sin and failure are but temporary. The believer reaches out, smashes that shell of temporal limitation and believes in what is beyond, “as seeing Him Who is invisible” (Heb. 11:27).

Has Jesus appeared to you in that way? After Easter? In the everyday? While looking at the marked down bunnies and in the routine places of your workweek world? You are yet in this world for a reason… for a mission. You are yet in this world to share this great truth with others.

Even in the middle of the mundane, look up! He is Risen! And so shall you!

Press on…

To hear Don Longworth’s Sunday message, go to the Facebook page of Lincoln Baptist Church, or link to the livestream from the church website.

Tuesday, 4/6/21 – Pressing on… Hatch or go Bad!

Hatch or go Bad!

There’s another end result for eggs which yesterday I did not mention. In fact, it is an egg’s primary purpose. Don Longworth alluded to it in his message this past Sunday. The primary purpose and hoped for end result of every egg is to grow to become a living entity – a baby chick!

God plants this purpose in every egg. It is not a matter of chance. Consider the accuracy and patterning of God in His design for the hatching of these eggs…

  • potato bug eggs hatch in 7 days;
  • canary eggs hatch in 14 days;
  • barnyard hen eggs hatch in 21 days;
  • duck and geese eggs hatch in 28 days;
  • mallard eggs hatch in 35 days;
  • parrot and the ostrich eggs hatch in 42 days.

Each of these durations is divisible by seven. Is that an odd coincidence or is it evidence of design?

Scripture informs us that God has also a design for you and I! Fallen sinners though we may be, His intent is to make us – each one of us – holy like Himself, saints forever perfect. But we must accept that plan, acknowledge we are far less than holy now, and rely on His redemption in Christ — not merely content ourselves with becoming painted decorations slowly turning rotten on the inside. To be growing “eggs” we must break through all barriers, smash that shell, reach out and grasp hold of God, accepting His will in all He plans to make of us.

C.S. Lewis comments,

“When He said, ‘Be perfect,’ He meant it. He meant that we must go in for the full treatment. It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is harder—in fact, it is impossible. It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”- CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

God intends for you and I to fly! Impossible now, but inevitable then — for all who receive that Way made known to us and which we commemorated this past Easter.

The wise among us will work with Him to this end. We will peck away at that confining shell, smash a leg through its wall, struggle and twist… push and break… peck some more! We will glimpse through its opening… see the bright light… hear His familiar Voice… ever clearly… and one day break full through.

Paul describes his commitment. It has become mine also, and I pray too will becomes yours…

“…I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:12b-14).

All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things,” He adds.  Do not let your heart and mind be scrambled. Christ is “the Way, the Truth, the Life” (see John 14:6). Do not let your conscience be fried. Heed that “still, small entreating Voice” of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Kings 19:12). There is life, “abundant life,” (see John 10:10) outside the shell of this temporal place. You know it. You feel it already pushing outward from your soul. This cannot be all there is. This is not all there is!

Surrender! – Hatch! – Fly!

More tomorrow…

To hear Don Longworth’s Sunday message, go to the Facebook page of Lincoln Baptist Church, or link to the livestream from the church website.

Monday, 4/5/21 – Pressing on… Easter Weekend Observations from Earth…

Easter Weekend Observations from Earth…

Eggs were on sale this past weekend. But by late Saturday morning when I stopped to buy some they were all sold out! It was Easter weekend… that time when eggs both real and chocolate are in high demand for coloring, eating nutritionally, and eating for fun.

In the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke Paul Newman, as felon Lucas “Luke” Jackson, apparently downs 50 hard boiled eggs in one hour to prove himself good to his boast. Evidently that’s no record. In October, 2013 the first-ever World Hard Boiled Egg-Eating Championship was held and saw Joey Chestnut down 141 eggs in merely 8 minutes — that’s an egg in less than every 3 1/2 seconds! But I digress…

I got to wondering though, just how did eggs – and of course bunnies – usurp the Easter spotlight from the sacrificial suffering and death of our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ? The Grinch might have stolen Christmas, but the Bunny certainly got first dibs on Easter.

Well, I’m not going to delve into the long and gooey origins of bunnies, baskets and egg hunts,* but rather consider the wider-angle view of this season. I’ve called this little rant “Easter Weekend Observations from Earth” because the real picture is much bigger. The real picture includes all heaven and earth. The events of those three days so many years ago were in fact the culminating events of our Creator God Almighty’s plan of redemption for humankind, planned prior to His uttering of the first “Let there be…” Christ was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). He was “foreordained before the foundation of the world” and “manifest in these last times for you” (1 Pet. 1:20). None who trust Him need confront the fires of hell. Jesus took the heat.

Look in Awe at this gift! — Be silenced.

After ingesting the 50 eggs Newman is seen splayed out on a table, exhausted by his effort. One cannot miss the obvious image of a crucifix. I’m sure it is a difficult thing to down four dozen plus such products, but it pales to ludicrosity against the cosmic compass of the real event.

Paint your eggs, enjoy your chocolate, but never forget the reality this weekend signifies. Carry it with you. Think of yourself against the backdrop of eternity, in light of what God intends to make of you, that high calling for which He has redeemed you. Believer… you are eternal! — Because of Easter!

More tomorrow…

* If you really want to know here’s a fair summary.

Or here if you just want to see Paul Newman.

To hear Don Longworth’s Sunday message, go to the Facebook page of Lincoln Baptist Church, or link to the livestream from the church website.

Wednesday, 3/31/21 – Pressing on… Trappings only?

Trappings only?

A final point emphasized by our guest speaker last Sunday was the warning that it is entirely possible to be religious and not have a relationship with God. You see, there are a lot of trappings that go along with a new life in Christ, and it is quite possible indeed to enjoy the trappings yet miss entirely the central thing! This is indeed an utter tragedy, as if one invested a great deal in elaborate computer peripherals: speakers, headsets, cameras, laser and 3-D printers, modems, high speed connectivity, scanners, gaming and productivity software, antivirus kits, keyboards, mice, game controllers… but missed entirely the essential CPU, the computer itself which runs them all!

You can do this with Christ too. You can attend church services, Bible studies, pot-lucks and prayer meetings. You can enjoy the company of Christians, make them your friends, host them in your home, bare your soul to them and even go through the motions of prayer with them. But if the Holy Spirit has not entered your being through your recognition and confession of your innate sinfulness and helplessness before a just and pure God. If you have not stretched out your arm to Him alone for salvation, invited Him to be your Lord, listened to His still small voice and immediately obeyed it, you will not know Him. You will know only the trappings of His kingdom. You will be like one “window shopping,” seeing and enjoying fine and desirable things yet unable go touch and obtain them because of the barrier between.

But you need not languish outside, “Come and dine,” He calls. Only leave all behind, on the worldly streets, come as you are, stripped and ready to be re-clothed. Trusting totally that He will do so. No longer will you use Christianity, but now you give yourself to Christ allowing Him to live through you!

It is a seeming backward thing, this Christian salvation. But it is no less the truth, the way to life is death, and that Truth, that Way, that Life is Christ.

“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).

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).

Press on…

To hear this past Sunday’s message, go to the Facebook page of Lincoln Baptist Church, or link to the livestream from the church website.

And here’s the answer to yesterday’s quiz:

Tuesday, 3/30/21 – Pressing on… Secret Agents

Secret Agents

Wanna be a secret agent?

Not an agent for C.S.I.S. or the C.I.A., or the F.B.I., not an agent for M16, I.M.F. or S.H.I.E.L.D. Not even a secret agent for C.O.N.T.R.O.L. or U.N.C.L.E.  But you can be a secret agent all the same, an agent for good, an agent for change – change in this world, and change that reaches to eternity!

In fact, every believer is called to be such an agent.., a secret agent… serving the King, the Creator, our Lord. Jesus gives three specific missions to each Christian… to you… should you decide to accept them:

GIVE

We are commanded to give: “Give to everyone who asks you,” He says (Luke 6:30). “Freely you have received; freely give.” (Matt. 10:8). But this is not to be done flamboyantly, but, as it were, under cover. In secret. Lest you and not He receive glory! “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.” (Matt. 6:3-4). There will be a reward, but you must think nothing of it. If you make reward your goal, you fall from your agency.

PRAY

Men ought always to pray,” taught the Saviour (Luke 18:1). “Pray without ceasing,” wrote the Apostle (1 Thess. 5:17). Yet again such praying must not be as a hypocrite — not in display before others, however subtly hidden. A mask is not acting secretly. Rather, “…when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen…” (Matt. 6:6). And yes, a reward is promised, but the true agent expects nothing. The privilege of service is sufficient.

FAST

To deny oneself for the greater good, that is what makes the legendary agent. The self-sacrificing agent. The one willing “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). And to do so though no one may notice. “Put oil on your head and wash your face” (Matt. 6:17). A good agent will cover his tracks lest pride catch up with him.

“Significant works of God do not begin with public praise,” said our guest speaker, Neville Gosman. No, they begin in secret. Where no one is watching…. No one but God.

Become a Secret Agent today! (This world will self-destruct in – ? –)

More tomorrow…

To hear this past Sunday’s message, go to the Facebook page of Lincoln Baptist Church, or link to the livestream from the church website.

Monday, 3/29/21 – Pressing on… Donkey lessons…

Donkey lessons…

This past Sunday we were blessed to have the ministry of our brother Neville Gosman. During his message he referenced how Jesus instructed two of His disciples to enter the village ahead where they would find a donkey and colt and were to bring these to Him. Mark and Luke add that this was a colt upon which “no one has ever ridden.” (Mark 11:2; Luke 19:30). This fact is significant because in Jesus’ day only “unused” or “untouched” animals were appropriate for sacrifice. In this animal’s humble and willing offering of itself to the Master we see a lesson for us, that we likewise ought keep ourselves “untouched” by a sin-filled world and “offer [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.” (Rom. 12:1)

In the scriptures donkeys are used to teach us many lessons. Balaam’s talking donkey shows us how God can use any willing and available means to do His will or to get our attention (Num. 22:28-31)! Samson’s use of a dead donkey’s jawbone shows that not even death can prevent great victory where God wills it (Judges 15:15-17).

The donkey upon which Christ rode, did not apply for this job. No… this donkey only kept itself humble, knowing its place of non-specialness, and it was because of that lack of any sense of specialness or entitlement that this donkey was chosen. Its heart was in just the right place for God to act mightily. “Behold, your King is coming to you… mounted on a donkey” (Zech. 9:9; Matt. 21:5).

The rich and elite in Deborah’s day rode on “white,” that is, bright-coloured or dappled donkeys, the more valued kinds, but Christ chooses the lowly… the poor… shepherds… mangers… barns… and unproven donkeys. Folk like you and I.

Though the task God calls you to may seem daunting our Lord will equip you as you step out in faith… whether you have two feet, four feet, or none! God is all about fairness: “You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.” (Deut. 22:10), and empowerment “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt. 11:29). And God does give rest… even to oxen and donkeys. (Exod. 23:12).

So, be a good donkey and step out for Christ. Perhaps He is asking you to do something brave and new. Don’t fear change. As even Shrek has said, “Change is good, Donkey.”

More tomorrow…

To hear this past Sunday’s message, go to the Facebook page of Lincoln Baptist Church, or link to the livestream from the church website.

Wednesday, 3/24/21 – Pressing on… God is ever Present with us – Omnipresent (Everywhere)

God is ever Present with us – Omnipresent (Everywhere)

If God is ever a fortress to the troubled, then He is always a fortress to the troubled. If God is ever a strength to the weak, then He is always a strength to the weak. If God is ever near to us, then He is always a near to us.

Our God is Immutable (Unchanging), Omnipotent (Almighty), and Omnipresent (Everywhere).

The psalmist David knew God as Refuge to the righteous not only by his experience of God in his generation but also by historical record. He testifies, “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.” (Ps. 90:1). He knew too the certainty of God’s Strength: “One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: Power belongs to you, God.” (Ps. 62:11). And the ubiquity of His Presence:

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” (Ps. 139:7-12).

He is also Omniscient (All-knowing) and He is Eternal (Without beginning or end) Truly our God is an Awesome God!

Contemporary usage has cheapened that word… Awesome! Today you may hear it in response to almost any statement: “I took out the trash.” /”Awesome!”; “It’s three-o-clock,. /”Awesome!”; “Would you like some tea?”/”Oh, that’d be Awesome!”; It’s a descriptor of almost any object. a new pair of shoes, a hamburger, a haircut or hockey play. It has been stolen from the One Who merits it most: Almighty God.

Awesome means that which fills one with awe — an overwhelming sense of reverence, admiration and fear! It’s kin are terms such as fearsome (that which fills one with fear), adventuresome, bothersome, lonesome, tiresome, or troublesome. In each case one is overwhelmed with that word’s prefix.

But truly, Awesome, like Holy, ought rightly be reserved solely for God…

You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.” (Ps. 68:35).

“He was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.’” (Gen. 28:17).

Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Exod. 15:11).

This is our God, the Christian God, the God of the Bible, the God Who became flesh and walked awhile among us, the God Who Loves us and wants us to be with Him forever. This is the God Who will care for His Church… our church… you!

Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.” (Ps. 62:8).

Press on…

To hear Pastor John’s Sunday message, go to the Facebook page of Lincoln Baptist Church, or link to the livestream from the church website.