Tuesday, 11/30/21 – Pressing on… Knowing and being Known

Knowing and being Known

In Psalm 139 David marvels at the Lord’s intimate knowledge of him. He writes,

“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.” (Psalm 139:1-4, NIV).

In awe of the scope of such Divine interest and scrutiny David confesses, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” (v. 6). I rather like how The Message puts this verse: “This is too much, too wonderful— I can’t take it all in!”

But such intimate knowledge ought not surprise us. We have been fully informed of it in scripture. How minute is God’s knowledge of every individual? “Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered,” records Matthew (Matt. 10:30), a tax collector familiar with numerical precision.

In the depth of great trial a bewildered Job affirms “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10). Despite his troubles Job knew the Almighty knew Him, and in Him he would yet trust.

David knew his Lord was everywhere: “in the heavens… in the depths… on the wings of the dawn… on the far side of the sea… [in] the darkness … and the light.” (Psalm 139: 7-12, NIV)

Job felt the Lord was nowhere: “But if I go to the east, He is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find Him. When He is at work in the north, I do not see Him; when He turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of Him.” (Job. 23:7-9).

But both knew, whether God was hidden or revealed, whether they presently experienced His presence or not, the one most important fact remained: God knew them!

“You know me,” sang David to the Almighty’s Face. “He knows the way that I take,” declared Job to the silent darkness on all sides. Both were men of great faith… men of “that same spirit of faith,” available to you and I today. Whether we shout praise from the mountaintop or reach out through darkness. “…we do not lose heart,” knowing this: “…our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:13, 16-18).

This too is our HOPE, in which we rest —  this present week of Advent, and beyond.

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, 11/29/21 – Pressing on… 1st candle: “Hope”

1st candle: “Hope”

The first candle of Advent represents Hope. It is called “the prophet’s candle” for it was the hope in the coming Messiah which characterized much of their messages. Christmas celebrates that coming for in Christ the approximate 456 scriptures referencing this Messiah are fulfilled.

A hoax, you say? Let’s consider a very few points an alleged “imposter” infant would have had to manipulate…

To fulfill just a few of these prophecies he must be born to a virgin (Isa. 7:14), born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2), yet spend time in Egypt (Hos. 11:1). He must be a descendant of King David (Ezek. 37:24). He must begin his ministry in Galilee (Isa. 9:1-2), teaching “hidden things, things from of old” (Ps. 78:1-2), he would need to live a completely holy life, become a rock over which many would stumble (Isa. 8:14), yet one worthy of the names “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). God would speak from heaven and call him “My Son” (2 Sam. 7:14) (Ps. 2:1-9) and in time he would gather his people together again (Isa. 11:12).

Let’s not forget the astrological manipulation this child would, from the womb, need to accomplish: signs in the heavens, observable by Magi, the star which heralded his birth and led the shepherds, the darkness which some 33 years later accompanied his death upon the cross. The miracles he performed and his storm stilling, fish drawing power over nature. I could go on and on…

But of course this child is no hoax. Rather, as we sing, “This, this is Christ the King..” He is Lord of all lord’s and King of all kings, our HOPE and Deliverer!

Do you have this Hope? When all else fails is there yet something… Someone… within you… to sustain you… to cry to… cling to… Someone to Whom you can abandon…. Yes, entrust, your soul?

This first candle of Advent represents such a One…. Our Hope, and Deliverer.

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, 11/24/21 – Pressing on… You’ve Got a Friend

You’ve Got a Friend

Who are you going to call when you need help in the middle of the night? Chances are it’ll be someone you know well, perhaps a relative or close friend. Someone who most likely knows you very well too.

It’s a horrible thing to not have a friend. Songwriter/artist James Taylor sang it out in His hit “Fire and Rain” with the lyrics “I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend.” Interestingly it was this song and these lyrics which inspired Carole King to write the 1971 hit “You’ve Got a Friend.” Taylor liked the song so much that he too recorded it catapulting the song to the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100.

The Bible tells us Jesus wants to be our Friend. Jesus said to His disciples and He says to us, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:13-14). One of His commands is that we agree with Him about our sin… that we have strayed far from the holiness that His kingdom requires and we are unworthy of a holy place like Heaven. We must be willing with His help to live in a different way, to give Him our lives and minds and hearts and allow His Spirit to come into us and to live through us. In short, we, must surrender.

When we do we find in Jesus that “Friend Who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24), that Friend on Whom we can call in the middle of the night, that perfect  all powerful, loving Friend – like the one about whom Carole King sang…

You’ve Got a Friend – song by Carole King

When you’re down and troubled / And you need some lovin’ care / And nothin’, nothin’ is goin’ right

Close your eyes and think of me / And soon I will be there / To brighten up even your darkest night

You just call out my name / And you know, wherever I am / I’ll come runnin’ / To see you again

Winter, spring, summer or fall / All you have to do is call / And I’ll be there / You’ve got a friend…”

You don’t have to make yourself holy first before you can call upon this Friend. Jesus wants to be your Friend now. “A friend of tax collectors and sinners,” they called Him (Matt. 11:19).  All you need do is believe Him… that He is Who He says He is, trust in Him and follow Him. “Abraham believed God…” reminds James, “and he was called God’s friend.” (James 2:23). You can become God’s Friend too!

Now, ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend.”

Press on…

Listen to Carole King sing “You’ve Got a Friend” here!

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, 11/23/21 – Pressing on… The Discipline of Prayer

The Discipline of Prayer

You don’t want to read this, do you? — Already the title has turned you off.  I know, because it contains two words from which most humans run: discipline, and prayer.

Yes, yes… I know… Prayer can be enervating, draining of one’s energy and vitality… a prolonged, arduous task. But prayer can also be exhilarating, a lifting of soul and spirits heavenward, above earthbound trials, worries, or fears – a true meeting of the I AM and clay.

However, like a soldier on the battlefield the “prayer warrior” never knows into which each tryst will transmute: a moment of great victory, or a strenuous dry run.

In Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference?, author Philip Yancey writes, “As with physical exercise, much of the benefits of prayer comes as a result of consistency, the simple act of showing up.” Yancey tells how he “needed the discipline of regularity to make possible those exceptional times of free communication with God.” He notes how that often his prayers “seem like a kind of rehearsal,” a getting ready for a very real and dynamic encounter with God. “Mainly,” he says, “ I show up.”*

Showing up and slogging it out. All new and wholesome disciplines begin that way. Running began like that for me. I began because I sought battle against the cholesterol which had lopped off every branch of my family tree. At first it was a half-block slog… then a full mile jog, then two, then five, then ultimately marathon lengths and more. Running had left off being a slog long ago, cholesterol had been long since defeated. The discipline had become delight… a delight I would never have known had I turned back at first slog.

Some prayers are like sowing seed… as brother James shared regarding George Meuller who for 52 years faithfully prayed daily for five souls… five eternal souls… and in the end all were saved. Other prayers seem efficacious immediately – answered in such short order that we echo with the prophet the words of our Lord “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.” (Isa. 65:24). But the one who prays never knows which will result.

Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle,” urges Solomon, “for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.” (Eccl. 11:6).

One thing however is certain. Seed not sown are never harvested, and prayers not made are never answered.

More tomorrow…

*Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference?, pp 165-66

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, 11/22/21 – Pressing on… What’s in You?

What’s in You?

The Norwegian Proverb states, “In every woman there is a Queen. Speak to the Queen and the Queen will answer.” It speaks not only to women, but to that inner part of each one of us that longs for actualization of the person they really know themselves to be, or wish to become.

“In every believer there is a King,” our speaker paraphrased. And he was quite accurate. As Scripture declares of those in Christ Jesus… “[He] has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Rev. 1:6; 5:10).

Kings… and Priests. But that’s just the beginning!

In every believer there is also a child of God (John 1:12), a disciple and friend of Jesus (John 15:15), a soul declared righteous, justified before God (Rom. 5:1), a ‘bought and paid for’ possession of God (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

In every believer there is a member of Christ’s body (1 Cor. 12:27), a chosen and adopted child of God (Eph. 1:3-8), one with direct access to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:14-16).

In every believer there is a citizen of heaven (Phil. 3:20), one who has been given a spirit of power, love and a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7), one born of God whom the evil one cannot touch (1 John 5:18). In every believer there is a branch of Christ, the true vine, a channel of His life (John 15:5), appointed to bear fruit (John 15:16), God’s temple (1 Cor. 3:16), a minister of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:17-21), seated in heaven with Christ (Eph. 2:6), God’s workmanship (Eph. 2:10).

The Norwegian proverb reminds us that we must remind each other of these things… of who we truly are, or are becoming. One powerful way to do this is by us treating one another as the Saints and kings we are becoming.

The German poet, playwright, novelist, scientist, and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe observed… “When we treat man as he is we make him worse than he is. When we treat him as if he already was what he potentially could be we make him what he should be.” Adds Charles Noble: “You must have a long-range vision to keep you from being frustrated by short-range failures.”

Our Lord has that “long-range vision” for each of His children. In fact, its a super long-range vision – an eternal one. And He invites you and I to reach for that vision… to reach for it in Him, to reach for it in oneself, and to reach for it in others.

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, 11/17/21 – Pressing on… Big Head, Small Body…

Big Head, Small Body…

This past Sunday our brother James Harrison spoke on “How to be the Perfect Church Member.” He shared with us Four characteristics of maturing church members:

  1. Put up with one another. (Eph. 4:13)
  2. Put leadership in its place. (Eph. 4:11,12)
  3. Put your personal grace to work. (Eph. 4:7,12,14)
  4. Put on Truth – up close and personal. (Eph. 4:15,16)

I loved the analogy given of how a newborn’s head seems disproportionate to its body. Their head is quite large in comparison to their body, but with time and nourishment the body grows to become balanced with it. “Humans grow into their heads,” said our speaker.

What a wonderful God Who builds into our physical experiences such spiritual lessons to guide us. In Ephesians 4 Paul expresses his great desire that the believers “may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ”.

It is interesting to note the run-up to this statement. To what is Paul directing his readers that ends in this climactic statement of God’s desire that we all “may grow up into Him”?

Paul is talking about the structure of Christ’s church. Back in vs 11 he states that Christ gave… He gifted… or called… or provided… persons to serve a variety of functions: “the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers.” What were they to do? They were “to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (v.12). They were to help believers to grown in their faith, to use their giftedness and serve others too. And these offices, or functions, or callings were to manage His Church until His return… “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..” (v. 13). They were to help the Body of Christ to grow up into its Head… “to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (v. 15).

“Humans grow into their heads,” James told us. Who is your Head? Is it Christ, or has your ego swollen your own head? Are you growing up into Christ? Are you being built up to become more in proportion to Him?

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, 11/16/21 – Pressing on… Unity of Spirit – Abiding in Christ

Unity of Spirit – Abiding in Christ

So much disunity in this sad and broken world. It’s enough to cause one to throw up one’s hands and simply surrender – and that is exactly what our Maker has longed we would do all these many maimed years of human history!

Unity is like ministry. It kinda flows along. One can’t say, “Today I’m going to go and do some unity” just as one can’t really say “Today I’m going to go and do some ministry.” Unity and ministry are both by-products. They are by products just as the fruits of the Spirit are by-products. By-products of what? They are by-products of doing that one simple thing Christ asked of us: they are by-products of abiding in Him.

For the past few days now I have been contemplating much these insights of Oswald Chambers:

“If we are in fellowship and oneness with God and recognize that He is taking us into His purposes, then we will no longer strive to find out what His purposes are. As we grow in the Christian life, it becomes simpler to us, because we are less inclined to say, “I wonder why God allowed this or that?” And we begin to see that the compelling purpose of God lies behind everything in life, and that God is divinely shaping us into oneness with that purpose.”

God is divinely shaping us into oneness,” Chambers writes. You see, the purposes of God have much more to do with changing us into the image of Christ – “until Christ is formed in you” (Gal. 4:19) — than they do with the surface purposes we imagine. That abrasive brother who sits beside you every Sunday may be there in the purposes of God not as your evangelism target, but to teach you longsuffering. Your loss of your job may not be so that God will lead you to a better job, but that you may grow in your faith in God’s provision. Those in your circle of friends who believe differently on some disputable matter may in God’s purposes not be there for you to persuade to your views but for you to develop respect of another’s conviction.

This kind of “resting in God,” of “abiding in Him,” requires the abandonment of trying to scrutinize His purposes — lest we find ourselves maneuvering to manipulate His purposes for Him. It requires complete trust in Him… a simple, daily walk of faith. How long? “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.” (Eph. 4:13).

Chambers concludes…

“A Christian is someone who trusts in the knowledge and the wisdom of God, not in his own abilities. If we have a purpose of our own, it destroys the simplicity and the calm, relaxed pace which should be characteristic of the children of God.”

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, 11/15/21 – Pressing on… Bridge-buildin’ and Walls-tearin’

Bridge-buildin’ and Walls-tearin’

We’ve got a lot of bridge-buildin’ and walls-tearin’ down to do if we’re ever gonna get to that unity Christ desires. The high rise latte lovers garbed in Gucci gotta sit in the gutter with the soiled and the sullen, and the waifs and wanderers without fixed shelter must shoulder up to those they call snobs. The red, and yellow, black and white gotta clasp hands and hold tight and really believe they are all and equally precious in His sight. The French and English, Arabs and Jews, Irish and English…  redeemed one’s of all races, nationalities, languages, cultures and tribes must all realize they are equal souls only temporarily inhabiting their times and places. The beautiful and proportioned must embrace the plain and disproportionate. The scholar must learn from the simple-minded. The lame and the athlete must walk together. The blind, the deaf, the limbless and the frail must be valued alongside the hardy and the keen.

Jesus knows His children in all these sorts. He sees beyond any and all our carnal distinctions. He looks upon the hearts, speaks to the souls, and woos us all to come near Him… to be in Him, and He in us. This is the only enduring reality. Everything else is but a “test.” Jesus is wondering what will we do? Will we, like He, see past these things too?

He prayed then for them and prays now for us, and “… also for those who will believe…”

that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one— I in them and You in Me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.” (John 17:20-23).

Paul takes up the plea in Ephesians… the heart of God… that we be drawn together in Him.

I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received…. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Eph. 4:1-6).

Believer, let me ask you this: 1,000 years from now… 10,000 years from now… long situated in your eternal home… what actions taken now will prove really to have mattered?

that the world may believe that You have sent Me.” (John 4:21).

More tomorrow…

Link to Francis Chan video: Until Unity.

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, 11/10/21 – Pressing on… Enemies!

Enemies!

Enemies are why people go to war. Enemies seek to plunder their targets, to take them or take from them all for spite, sport, or personal gain. Enemies come to steal and to kill and to destroy. You do not want to sleep when you see an enemy coming.

Every Christian has at least one enemy. He is the primary enemy, and he comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. He speaks lies… only lies. He is an infiltrator and a master of disguise. He has studied human nature for centuries and he knows you very well. He has been watching you, knows your triggers, your weaknesses, what buttons to push, and when.

Jesus gave us full forewarning…

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” (John 10:10). “…there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44). ”Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (2 Cor. 11:14). “…false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matt. 7:15).

Peter knew what is was to fall… to allow rashness  and passion to predominate. Minutes after his great profession of faith, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” (Matt. 16:16) Peter’s rashness earned him Christ’s rebuke, “…he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (v. 23).

He fell again, far worse… he denied knowing his Lord three times. He wept bitterly (Luke 2:62). But, upheld by the prayers of Christ Himself (Luke 22:32), filled and emboldened by the Spirit of God (Act 2), now he spoke, he testified, he wrote…

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith …” (1 Pet. 5:8-9). / “…I will always remind you of these things,” he wrote… I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body… And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.” (2 Pet. 1:12-13, 15).

Every Christian must remember that he is in a war, and must realize who is the true enemy, “[We wrestle]… against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12). Each must accept one’s share of suffering, must exercise discipline to duty, and seek to please the Lord. “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus,” wrote Paul. “No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.” (2 Tim. 2:3-4).

He has taught us how to fight: “…He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4). “…the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19). “…give no opportunity [foothold] to the devil.” (Eph. 4:27). “…Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7). And ultimate victory is assured: “And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years” (Rev. 20:2).

Know you have an enemy; know who he is; know how in Christ to do battle against him, and…

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, 11/9/21 – Pressing on… Former things and Ancient paths…

Former things and Ancient paths…

“I’m going to get the mail,” I said to my wife as I zipped up my jacket. But in far too few minutes I was back. “Forgot the mail key,” I confessed with a hint of self annoyance. “Ding!” rang the microwave. “Your tea’s ready,” I called out to her again later that afternoon, no matter that it was I who only seconds earlier had pressed the “reheat” button to warm my cooled coffee. Returning to my work I picked up my tablet then paused. “Just what was it on which moments ago I had been working?”

Forgetting! — If it’s not hounding you now, just wait. Along with arthritis, indigestion and low energy you’ll eventually discover it too has uninvitedly moved into your temporal temple. Aging aside, you’re probably already encountering it — you just don’t remember! Fast-paced attention grabbing and self-thinking technologies urge human heads to be continually pushing forward… seldom looking back. The “new and improved” shouts louder than the “tried and true.” A forward reaching reflex replaces any contemplative reflection.

Forgetting our frailness… our dependency upon God, we soon begin to believe we can do or become anything – we may even begin to believe we are our own god! Yet still the prophet warns,

“Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’” (Isa. 46:9-10).

We must habituate healthy remembering if we will avoid the pitfalls of forgetting. “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth,” a rueful king concluded (Eccl. 12:1).

Jeremiah cried out to the forward-only looking people of his day,

Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jer. 6:16).

Tragically, the verse ends “But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’” Though he runs the wrong route, the runner hates to break stride.

What we forget, we no longer remember. Thus, self-assessment is impossible. Someone… something…. from outside ourselves must call us to remember: a note, a friend, a scripture, the Holy Spirit — a poppy?… a communion cup? As we remember our military this Thursday, and as we remember our Lord in His Supper, let us remember also our first love for Him… childlike faith… and the simplicities of surrender.

To these I call you this day.

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.