Tuesday, 6/4/19 – Pressing on…

black and silver cassette playerI was listening to the CBC Radio program “Ideas” early yesterday morning. Philosopher Mark Kingwell, political theorist Emma Planinc and actor Jonathan Goad discussed to topic “Public Morality in the Ages of Caesar and Trump.” I found it an interesting discussion juxtaposed against the backdrop of Pastor Andrew’s Sunday message the day previous.

In the Shakespearean play Julius Caesar Brutus is faced with a dire moral conflict: his love for his friend Caesar and his love for his country Rome. In the end, he slays Caesar for what he believes to be the betterment of Rome. As he states, “Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.” (Act 3, Scene 2).

people on sidewalk selective focal photo

The question with which these minds wrestled asked “In an age of diverse opinion how can we define the idea of a common public morality, and public good. Indeed, how much common ground can we actually find?” As Philosopher Mark Kingswell stated the issue:

“We have large, diverse populations where we have different conceptions of what’s good. And that, on the whole, is a healthy condition to be in. But it means that the political struggle and whatever local morality might possibly mean among citizens or leaders is always a question mark.” – Mark Kingwell

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard

But his statement reveals his own moral bias. “Different conceptions of what’s good” is most definitely NOT “a healthy condition to be in.” The “question mark” exists because we have abandoned God!

Listen here to this one-minute clip as Emma Planinc, historian of political thought at the University of Notre Dame weighs in. Essentially she is saying each individual must decide if they think there is such a thing as an ultimate standard of Right…

“It depends on whether or not you think there is something that is capital R ‘Right,’ that morality is set in stone. …then you have to figure whether or not you think that is compatible with democratic politics…” – Emma Planinc

The Christian knows there most certainly IS an Ultimate Standard of Right–and His Name is Jesus! “No one is good—except God alone,” said Jesus (Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19). “I and the Father are One” (John 10:30), and “I am… the Truth.” (John 14:6). But the onus is not on God to adapt to human democracy, but on mankind to fall before its Creator and acknowledge His Supremacy.

slatted wood pathway between trees

Yet we know not many will…

Enter through the narrow gate,” urged Jesus. “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matt. 7:13,14).

I am reminded also of the narrative toward the end of the book of Joshua: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” (Joshua 21:25). When a society has “different conceptions of what’s good” that society is lost.

This is exactly what happened to Israel and Judah… they had strayed from Jehovah, set up their substitutes and lost their way. This is exactly what happens to you too when you try to run from the Gospel. As Emma Planinc even concedes, “There are many political theorists throughout history who will assert that a maximal political ideal would be one in which the government was structured around what is ‘good.’”

Without God we no longer know what is Good. God is Good. He is our King. His is that Good Government.

Have you strayed in any way? He calls us to return. He can yet make all things new. “A cry is heard on the barren heights, the weeping and pleading of the people of Israel, because they have perverted their ways and have forgotten the Lord their God. Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.” (Jer. 3:21, 22)

Hallowed (Holy) be His Name… His Kingdom come… Amen!

More tomorrow…

Note: To hear Pastor Andrew’s full message go to the Lincoln Baptist Church website; look under ‘Media’ for the June 2 message.

Monday, 6/3/19 – Pressing on…

group of people raise their hands on stadium‘Mercy’ and ‘Grace’ are great sounding church words. Hymns and songs and poems and prose are always thanking God for His Nature and Gifts of Mercy and Grace. But I’m afraid many Christians sing along not fully understanding what on earth these things are– they’re church things, and that is all… like pews and altars and pulpits and prayers.

selective focus photography of person holding passport with ticket

Some Christians understand about Grace. Grace is good stuff, like being ‘chosen’ people of God…. Part of the ‘elect’ … free ticket to Heaven and all. Grace is about blessings, prosperity, answered prayers just the way we like. These people tend to lump ‘Mercy and Grace’ together as if they were all one thing, and when they think of that ‘one thing,’ they think only of the good stuff.

Israel kind of fell into that thinking – in an Old Testament sort of way. They had known themselves to be ‘Jehovah’s chosen people.’ They had gotten smug about it… began to grant concessions to the commands He had given them. They soon thought themselves entitled… they began worshipping other gods, allowing more sinister sins…

close up photography hindu deity

“Have you seen what faithless Israel has done?” God asks Jeremiah (Jer. 3:6). Then Judah joined in, but granting a tad more smugness, a few further concessions, almost as if in competition with Israel. “Return, faithless people… for I am your husband,” pleads Jehovah (v.14).

You see we should all be condemned – Israel… Judah… you… me… We are not holy people. We are guilty people. We’ve earned the death penalty. You know, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Your death… my death. Separation forever from a God Who is and will remain Holy. He cannot compromise Himself. Therefore He cannot contaminate Himself.

Be holy, because I am holy.” reiterated Christ (1 Peter 1:16; Lev. 11:44,45; 19:2). “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Heb. 12:14).

We can make no plea to innocence. We are guilty. We are stained. We must be condemned.

Herein is our desperate need for Mercy!

But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’” (Luke 18:13).

Grace happens when God sees that sincerity of heart, that loathing of sin, that longing for Him… and God replies.

Mercy is not getting what we deserve!
Grace is getting what we do not deserve!

The wisest man ever has said “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Prov. 9:10). This fear will drive us to plead for Mercy… to surrender all… for by it we see the reality of the flames, the brevity of a lifetime, and the never-endingness of eternity.

O Christian, fear sin. Run from it. Keep short accounts with your Creator! Do not grow lax in these latter days.

Thank God evermore for His ‘Mercy’ and ‘Grace.’

More tomorrow…

Wednesday, 5/29/19 – Pressing on…

person riding road bike on the roadRiding a bicycle is all about constantly counteracting forces. Push forward only with the right foot and the bike will topple to the right. Push forward only on the left and it will topple left. But… keep it going… right push, then left push, then right, and it doesn’t fall: constantly counteracting forces.

With each push you are ‘on the edge’ of tipping over, but your confidence is secure in the principles of centrifuge and constantly counteracting forces.

This past Sunday Don asked, “At what point are you ‘on the edge’ for God?” At what points in your life is your confidence in God made evident? What could “pushing forward” in faith look like in your world?

Ask yourself,

What if…

photo of men smiling

God acted through me among the people I know. Right there in the middle of my every-day day. What if I said to Ned. “Ned, can I pray with you right now, right here, out loud, even while there are others who might hear me, others who might laugh. Ned, can I ask God to step into our relationship and work in this thing that’s troubling you?” What if I really did that? What would be the effects?

What if…

photograph of person holding black leather wallet with money

I gave money and time that wasn’t extra money and time, but money and time I needed, but what if I gave it to help someone who needed it more…. even someone unlike me… someone undeserving… unlikable. What then?

What if…
20190528_134019I told Duke to forget about paying me the damages he owed for the snowblower of mine he broke last February? I had told him to first add oil, but he didn’t. I had said you’ll need to pay. But what if I told him to forget it. Let’s just be friends. What if I said that?

What if I acted like Jesus… or Peter… or one other of the disciples? Would miracles happen? Would people of my world be shaken?

What if I just really started to live like…. like…. Well, OK, I’ll say it – like it is all really true?

You know that’s the real question. You know that to ask it tastes bad on one’s lips. You know too that what we’ve been saying all week is very true: “Faith is not faith until faith is in motion.”

Well, what if you put your faith in motion? What then?

What if that’s what God intended all along?

Press on…

To hear Don Longworth’s full message, “Where is the God of Elijah,” go to the Lincoln Baptist Church website, and look under ‘Media’ for the May 26 message.

Tuesday, 5/28/19 – Pressing on…

20190527_084709In light of yesterday’s blog and the faith journey ahead for our church and the challenge we face as individuals, I thought it appropriate to give today’s blog over to an unknown traveller… a fellow cyclist with Christ.

Some of you will recognize this writing immediately. I have shared it several times before and it has struck an endearing chord in many hearts.

A Tandem Ride With God

I used to think of God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was out there, sort of like a president. I recognized His picture when I saw it, but I didn’t really know Him.

But later on, when I met Jesus, it seemed as though life was rather like a bike, but it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that Jesus was in the back helping me pedal. I didn’t know just when it was He suggested we change, but life has not been the same since I took the back-seat to Jesus, my Lord. He makes life exciting. When I had control, I thought I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable. It was the shortest distance between two points.

But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places and at break-through speeds; it was all I could do to hang on! Even though it often looked like madness, He said, “Pedal!” I was worried and anxious and asked, “Where are you taking me?” He laughed and didn’t answer and I started to learn to trust. I forgot my boring life and entered into adventure. And when I’d say, “I’m scared”, He’d lean back and touch my hand.

He took me to people with gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance and joy. They gave me their gifts to take on my journey, our journey, my Lord’s and mine. And we were off again. He said, “Give the gifts away; they’re extra baggage, too much weight.” So I did, to the people we met, and I found in giving I received, and still our burden was light.

I did not trust Him, at first, in control of my life. I thought He’d wreck it, but He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, jump to clear high rocks, fly to shorten scary passages. And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places, and I’m beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful constant companion, Jesus.

And when I’m sure I just can’t do any more, He just smiles and says… “Pedal.”

20190527_084754(Author unknown)

Remember, “Faith is not faith until faith is in motion.”

More tomorrow…

Monday, 5/27/19 – Pressing on…

toddler s pink bike near wall

It takes a lot of faith for a five-year-old to ride a bicycle… especially when they learn sans training wheels. By now they’ve seen a lot of cyclists…. They’ve seen bicycles in action and know the device actually works. But will it prove reliable for them?

The young child straddles her bike and places her right foot it on the right pedal. The bike wobbles as she tries to keep it upright. “Wait,” shouts dad, and He rotates the right pedal upwards to a good push-off degree. “There! Now put your foot back on it.” This, the preschooler finds, is much more awkward… much more unstable. “Now, push off,” says dad.

Cautiously, the young child pushes the pedal forward. It rotates a half turn, her left foot drags slightly ahead, she loses balance and the bike topples.

20190526_172906“Waaa… It doesn’t work,” she cries.

“Sure it does,” says dad. “You’ve just got to push harder and keep peddling. Push right, left, right, left keep it going. And keep the front wheel straight!” Dad demonstrates on his big dad bike.

But it’s a big step to commit with more forceful abandon to an act of such knee scraping potential. “Here, I’ll run beside you,” announces dad. The young child steels herself, raises the right pedal to push-off position and glares down the threatening path ahead. Dad lightly cradles the handlebars and then she’s off…. The bike wobbles right, wobbles left, but steadys each time against the father’s following palms.

boy wearing blue t shirt and beige shorts outfit riding on black bicycle at daytime

Her confidence builds… By mid-afternoon she’s sailing!

“Look at me, dad. I’m riding! I’m riding a bike!”

“Faith is not faith until faith is in motion.”

Just one of the lessons from our message yesterday from S.I.M. missionary and LBC elder, Don Longworth. As we and our retiring pastor Steve Ranni and his wife Denise look down uncertain and threatening paths ahead, our Father challenges us, push forward… trust… I am right beside you…

“Faith is not faith until faith is in motion.” Is your faith in motion? “At what point are you ‘on the edge’ for God?”

More tomorrow…

To hear Don Longworth’s full message, “Where is the God of Elijah,” go to the Lincoln Baptist Church website, and look under ‘Media’ for the May 26 message.

Wednesday, 5/22/19 – Pressing on…

So church… we move forward… we move forward as the Lord gave command to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous.Three times this God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses spoke to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous” (Josh. 1:6,7,9). In the short passage of just five verses God also twice promised “I will be with you.” He said “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (v.5). And again, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (v.9).

photo of woman walking barefoot on seashore

This God, this Great and Mighty God, is our God. This God took on flesh to speak clearly to us, to you and I, and He makes to us the same promise, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18). The author of Hebrews reminds us that the promise in Deuteronomy 31:6 is still God’s promise to us today, “…because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” (Heb. 13:5). And Paul rejoices in the truth that Nothing can separate us from the Love God has for us (Rom. 8:38-39).

fire wallpaper

So as we move forward we turn to the Holy Spirit for strength and for courage, just as Jesus directed (Luke 24:49), and the first disciples obeyed (Acts 2… and all through! In fact some say the book should more properly be called The Acts of the Holy Spirit, rather that The Acts of the Apostles.)

In this marching forward we rely upon God, but we also must defend against the tactics of the enemy. I shared with those in our Adult Bible class last Sunday an empowering ‘Warrior’s Prayer’ referencing the armour of God (Eph. 6:10-20). I thought I would share it with you here today as well…

A Warrior’s Prayer

Heavenly Father,
Your warrior prepares for battle.
Today I claim victory over Satan by putting on
the whole armor of God!

I put on the Girdle of Truth!
May I stand firm in the truth of Your Word so
I will not be a victim of Satan’s lies.

I put on the Breastplate of Righteousness!
May it guard my heart from evil so I will
remain pure and holy, protected under
the blood of Jesus Christ.

I put on the Shoes of Peace!
May I stand firm in the Good News of the
Gospel so Your peace will shine through me
and be a light to all I encounter.

I take the Shield of Faith!
May I be ready for Satan’s fiery darts of
doubt, denial, and deceit so I will not be
vulnerable to spiritual defeat.

I put on the Helmet of Salvation!
May I keep my mind focused on You so Satan
will not have a stronghold on my thoughts.

I take the Sword of the Spirit!
May the two-edged sword of Your Word
be ready in my hands so I can expose
the tempting words of Satan.

By faith your warrior has
put on the whole armor of God!
I am prepared to live this day in
spiritual victory! Amen.

Press on…

Note: ‘The Warrior’s Prayer’ is available in several lovely formats from Dr. David Jeremiah.

Tuesday, 5/21/19 – Pressing on…

bible blur christ christianityThe message Pastor Steve brought us this past Sunday will be remembered as his last sermon message to us as pastor of Lincoln Baptist Church. Though we hope to see him return as a special speaker now and then, the thoughts he shared with us this past Sunday formed a complete set of bookends defining ten years of faithful ministry.

This fact got me thinking about “last messages.” It got me thinking about life summaries…. Other “bookends” of faithful saints… and of those who lived only for personal pleasures.

The final words of dying folk often reveal their life summaries. Here are a few,

“I don’t care if I live or die. Go ahead and kill me.” – Jeffrey Dahmer, serial killer.

“G_ _d_ _ _ the whole f_ _ _ ing world and everyone in it except you, Carlotta.” – W.C. Fields, American Actor and Comedian. (Carlotta Monti, was Fields’ mistress.)

“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!” – Joan of Arc

“It’s complete surrender.” – Eric Liddell, Olympic Gold Medalist runner and Christian missionary.

“What do you think is gonna happen when I die?” – Charles Manson, American cult leader and musician

“I give my soul to God, my body to the earth, and my worldly possessions to my nearest of kin, charging them to remember the sufferings of Jesus Christ.” – Michelangelo

“O Allah, the highest companions. O Allah, the highest companions.”- Muhammad

“F_ _ k!” – Lee Harvey Oswald

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.” – Paul the Apostle

“My God, what’s happened?” – Lady Diana Spencer (after being mortally wounded in a car accident)

“Crito, we ought to offer a cock to Asclepius. See to it, and don’t forget.” – Socrates, quoted by Plato in Phaedo

“I am finished. I don’t even trust myself.” – Joseph Stalin (as his paranoia grew ever stronger.)

“I’m going to go be with Gloria now.” – Jimmy Stewart (speaking of his late wife)

“I’m going to kill you!” – Carl Switzer (during a brawl over money: after screaming this, he was shot in the groin.)

“Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you.” – Mother Teresa

“Go away. I’m all right.” – H. G. Wells (Wells did not realize he was dying.)

“The best of all is: God is with us.” – John Wesley

“Joseph! Joseph! Joseph!” – Brigham Young (Referring to his predecessor as LDS Church president)

calm blue sea during golden hour

Some knew they were dying, some had no idea. Some called out to the Living Lord, while others cried out to what was no God at all.

Those whose faith rested in Christ died at peace, rejoicing — even worshipping. These were the sort of whom Peter commented, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Pet. 1:8-9).

These last messages summarized lives lived for God… and lives lived for self. What will you grasp at the brink of eternity? What will be your last message?

More tomorrow…

Listen to Pastor Steve’s message online at the Lincoln Baptist Church website. Click on ‘Media’ and select the May 19 message.