Tuesday, 5/19/20 – Pressing on…

Mirror Christianity

20200322_073341As we’ve been utilizing online services and teaching these days I recall how my first venture into a video upload brought a surprise. I looked SO OLD!

Of course there’s a perfectly good reason for this: I’m old. — Old happens, doesn’t it?

Then I noticed all the other little unconscious bits that a soul misses as it tries to express itself from the inside through a body which is all that is seen by others from the outside. My hair was untidy, I could have shaved better, I had a home-made bandaid on an index finger, I should have smiled more — and, despite being well aware of all the exhortations not to, I continually and unconsciously kept touching my face!

20200322_054608Yes, it can be disappointing to see oneself as one truly is. I remember my mother often citing with mock Scottish accent* this line from a peom by Robert Burns

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us

Roughly translated he says, What a wonderful power and gift it would be if God enabled us to see ourselves as others see us! It would prevent us from making many social blunders.

sky earth space working

We’re all seeing ourselves in new ways these days as we live in social distancing and self-isolation. Like astronauts in training we are forced to live with ourselves… in some cases with ourselves only.

There’s an old Seinfeld episode where Jerry thinks he’s met the girl of his dreams; they have so many things in common! When it gets to the point of the similarities being so minute as to be ridiculous Jerry realizes the relationship just can’t work. “I’m in love with myself,” he sputters. “I can’t live with myself! I’d go crazy!”

James writes about a man who looks at himself in a mirror. He says,

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” (James 1:23-24).

woman in black shirt facing mirror

It does no good looking at yourself periodically, straightening up this or that bit. Sooner or later you will end your looking and go right back to living from the habits you’ve built into yourself.

But real change is possible as we “put on Christ,” as we surrender to Him and obey Him as we ought. Then, the Holy Spirit of God transforms us from the inside out.

James continues…

But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (v. 25)

He goes on to tell us what that sort of living looks like. He states two points (v.27):

  1. Look after orphans and widows in their distress.
  2. Keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

What is it that God is calling you to do today? It is in just such very practical aspects of daily living that “The Fire of God” seeks entry into your being! What is God calling you to do today? As also one of our SermonIndex conference speakers challenged us: go now and do it. It may even make living with yourself a lot easier!

More tomorrow…

* Though my mother truly was of Scottish ancestry she did not naturally speak with Scottish brogue.

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

 

 

Monday, 5/18/20 – Pressing on…

Blowtorches and Birthday Candles

fire orange emergency burning

The term “Fire of God” strikes a chord of fearful apprehension in the minds of some Christians. On one level this is a very good thing indeed. The “Fire of God” actually is a dreadful and awesome thing. But on another level the wrong kind of apprehension can be a very bad thing indeed.

For some, perhaps several, the term conjures up in their thinking those turn of the century revivalist preachers coercing and sputtering late into the night in massive tents or open fields. Yet, this too is not a bad thing. All of this was most certainly a true move of God’s Spirit. It becomes a bad thing when a believer does not see himself as a part of that picture.

background burn burnt close up

When a believer hears of “The Fire of God” and thinks it an emotional thing… thinks it only as a public display thing, a bombastic, miracle-working thing best-suited for extroverts or exhibitionists — when a believer thinks that and does not see himself or herself as fitting that image, that believer may back away from the power of the Holy Spirit.

This is a most tragic thing.

Such believers must realize that the Holy Spirit is a gentleman… “ a dove,” remember? Like the bush observed by Moses the Fire of God does not consume you; It does not destroy you, but it empowers you to bring light with power and energy in a much greater way… the way for which you were designed.

Consider for example the Tabernacle architects. In Exodus 31 the Lord says to Moses,

“See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given ability to all the skilled workers to make everything I have commanded you” (Exod. 31:2-6).

The “Fire of God” came upon these men, they were “filled with the Spirit of God,” and how did that Fire manifest? They built great stuff! The “Fire of God” took them as they were and enhanced their output. “The Fire of God” wants to burn in and through you too, and when it does… let me tell you, you’ll be loving it!

red lighted candle

But then perhaps you are that fiery revivalist sort. Well then go for that Fire all the same. This world needs Billy Grahams and Mother Theresas alike. It needs prayer warriors anointed and called with fervor in their faith. Didn’t Moses even say, “I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Num. 11:29). This world needs Blowtorches as much as it needs birthday candles, and neither does its job best until lit.

The question is, do you have a passion for it? Do you want God to ignite you in your own special way, or do you want to stay in your own shadows? Remember, you are not a piece of kindling, you are a candle. Being set ablaze is exactly the purpose for which you were created. Only when a believer is set ablaze will he or she best bring warmth and light to a cold and dark world.

More tomorrow…

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

Wednesday, 5/13/20 – Pressing on…

How much is enough?

photo of pathway surrounded by fir trees

This daily dying, this constant choosing between desires of flesh and constraints of spirit – how much denial of self is enough?

If you are asking that, you have missed the point entirely! The point is not how close to selfish flesh can I get, but how far away from it I can stay! The point is to be so changed within ourselves that His desires now become our desires. The psalmist sang “I delight to do thy will, O my God” (Ps. 40:8). We wake and die daily (see yesterday’s blog) not just as to the plans of our day, but also as to the desires of our heart. Whom today do I desire to obey?

banking business checklist commerce

Jesus said, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:13-14). So we ask for a fast sports car, a million dollars, a miraculous healing, or to pass a test. But nothing happens. Why? James explains, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:3). Even some things we deem very good indeed may not be the best things in the unfolding plan of God.

Daily we must not merely set our alarm clocks, but we must set our hearts… set our minds… set our hope… set them on nothing less than holiness.

“…set your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God...” (1 Chron. 22:19)

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God… Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature…” (Col. 3:2-3,5)

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Pet. 1:13-16).

woman walking on pathway under the sun

This is a God-made holiness, not a man-made counterfeit. Our job is to not get in the way, not be stubborn clay, not be plastic fruit, but to allow His Spirit reign in us, to produce in us not the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-20) but the true fruit of His Spirit. (Gal. 5:22-23).

Press on…

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

Tuesday, 5/12/20 – Pressing on…

Rise and Die

photo of person holding alarm clock

What’s the first thing you do upon arising every morning? Do you snap into action ready for the day, or do you hit the “snooze” button several times and remain in a haze ‘til that first morning coffee? Do you start with some exercises, get dressed right away or throw on a housecoat ‘til sometime mid-morning?

What’s the first thought on your mind upon waking? Is it your “to-do” list for the day? Is it “What?—Where am I?” as you pull yourself from some dream you were having and into the real world? Or is it “Good morning Lord! Thank You for another day!”

alone bed bedroom blur

Do you begin your day with a prayer? …a radio blare? … a baby cry? …a wet lick from your puppy pet?

We all start our days uniquely, and any one of the above combinations is valid. But at some point at the start of our day we should do as Paul did: We should begin our day by dying.

lion roaring inside cager
“If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus…” (v.32)

Paul wrote to the Corinthians (as the King James Version has it) “I die daily.” Some preachers have expounded this verse to mean Paul daily subdued his fleshly desires and nurtured instead the will of God for him each day. Yet to be fair to Paul in the context of this letter he meant “I face death every day.” (1 Cor. 15:31). He was defending his belief in the resurrection by saying “Why do you think we are willing to put our lives on the line over this gospel if there is no gain from it beyond this life?” “Why endanger ourselves?” “Why place our lives in jeopardy?” (see v.30).

grayscale photography of man sitting on grass field

But isn’t that saying much the same thing. For surely to endanger one’s life like this is to have set oneself apart for God’s service each day! It means just as much to subdue the desires of the flesh and embrace instead the Will of the Lord. Truly, to “Rise and Shine” one must indeed very early each day “Rise and Die.”

And how can any of us do this? We can do this because the Spirit of Christ indwells us as those whose lives are given to Christ. Because of Christ we can “die daily.” It is as Paul confessed elsewhere,

“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).

Rise and die. It’s the only way to abundant life.

More tomorrow…

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

Monday, 5/11/20 – Pressing on…

Rotten Meat!

20200510_183849The story is told of when computer driven language translators were first being developed researchers fed into one prototype the phrase, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41b). They asked it to translate the statement first into Russian and then back into English. What they got was “The wine is good, but the meat is rotten.” Evidently, something was rotten as well in the programming!

But the “flesh” indeed is rotten – through and through rotten. Good for nothing!

man and woman wearing brown leather jackets

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” wrote Jeremiah (Jer. 17:9). And it is from such hearts that flow our deeds: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” (Matt. 15:19). “Above all else, guard your heart,” warned Solomon, “for everything you do flows from it.” (Prov. 4:23).

Some of us may think themself rather righteous, but even gray looks white against a backdrop of blackness. Jesus pointed out “If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matt. 6:23b).

person with blue green and red paint on hand

The truth is uttered by Isaiah, “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6). Paul had learned that he dare not trust even his own sense of clear conscience; He confessed “My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” (1 Cor. 4:4). Though he may have looked pretty good stacked up beside his peers, Paul knew the folly of those who made that kind of comparison. “When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” (2 Cor. 10:12). God’s standard is holiness; He measures our goodness against His own! Clearly, against the brilliance of that backdrop our gray deeds must look like sunspots!

What are we to do about this dilemma! Surely we are doomed if measured against that which is Holy… has always been Holy… and ever will be Holy… surely we are as Isaiah cried, “undone!”

“Then said I, ‘Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.’” (Isa. 6:5).

person reading book

But as was the case with Isaiah, there is hope! “…thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” (v.7) said the seraphim. The secret is in one’s confession that they are sinful… one’s looking God-wards for intervention — and that solution is Christ.

Christ puts a new nature within the believer making choice between sin and true righteousness possible. This is the ‘Good News’ of the Gospel. Christ within us.

Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).

His righteousness becoming ours; our filthiness laid upon Him — and atoned… erased. Our job now is to “feed the right dog” – to yield to His Spirit, ‘til “Christ is formed” in us (Gal. 4:19). This is every Christian’s daily challenge!

More tomorrow…

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

Wednesday, 5/6/20 – Pressing on…

Dirt Cheap?

close up photo of person holding sand

Yesterday my wife mentioned she wanted to stop by a nearby hardware chain because dirt was on sale there and she needed some for her plants. Bottled water may soon be on sale too as running season gets into swing and the warmer months approach. Who would have imagined 100 years ago that the day would come when we would actually buy dirt and water!?

It is important that we not put out trust in anything but Christ. Things we think unchangeable today… things we take for granted as enduring baselines… may indeed not be. COVID-19 is currently and clearly shouting this message at us as well.

sakura tree

But human sinfulness has not changed. Mankind’s need for food and water has not changed. God’s covenant of “seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter” (Gen. 8:22) have not failed. And God’s remedy for our alienation from Him has ever endured unchanged. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”(Heb. 13:8). “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12).

fire wallpaper

Technologies come and go. The fashions of this world fade away. “The rich,” writes James, “…will pass away like a wild flower… will fade away even while they go about their business.” (James 1:10, 11). Good and enduring things come only from God. “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:16-17). Peter concurs: “The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.” (2 Peter 3:10). And Paul: “This world in its present form is passing away.” (1 Cor. 7:31).

20200505_080841The author of Hebrews names “two immutable things”: God’s promise and His oath (Heb. 6:18). And God has promised this world will end, He has given testimony that salvation is found only in Christ, and He has promised He will turn none away who call on Him in repentance and trust.

Though the price of dirt and water may rise, the gift of salvation has been paid for all who repent, believe, and make Christ their Lord. It costs you nothing and it costs you your life! You were formed from the dust of this earth and will return to it. Your life is a dirt cheap price to secure your soul for eternity.

Press on…

To view Elder Jim’s Sunday message, go to the Facebook page of Lincoln Baptist Church, or link to the page from the church website. –

Tuesday, 5/5/20 – Pressing on…

Proclaiming Christ’s Death

“For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Cor. 11:26).

20200504_091523Following our service this past Sunday Pastor Andrew led us in commemoration of the Lord’s Supper. He was eager to share with us a deeper insight into the above verse.

Why do Christians do this thing anyway? To “commemorate” as Merriam Webster defines is “to call to remembrance, to mark by ceremony or observation, or serve as a memorial.” All of these definitions describe a looking back at something… a bringing back to remembrance.

But to the believer this “remembrance” ought also to spark a looking forward. The whole act is symbolic of something much deeper…. something most personal.

couple with a shopping cart buying groceries

Just as our physical bodies need food and drink for sustenance, Jesus here reminds us that our spiritual selves require fundamental nourishment. Spiritual survival depends upon our drawing from Christ as our most fundamental fuel. Just as physical food and drink becomes us as it repairs and builds our physical tissues and empowers us as calories burn and are transformed into energy, so also the Christian soul is healed and transformed to further Christlikeness — empowered by Holy Spirit unction, insight, compassion or giftedness. As nourishment by food and drink = physical life, so nourishment by Christ = spiritual life.

This spiritual transformation, healing and growth becomes a testimony to the world of the power of the resurrected Christ. Like Pharaoh’s baffled magicians the world cannot reproduce it.

happy man sitting with laptop and juice in park

Just as the person who eats healthily, shuns sweets, stays hydrated and exercises appropriately proclaims by his or her good health and countenance the efficacy of healthy eating, so the believer who makes Christ his or her spiritual sustenance proclaims by their character, grace, agapé love and endurance, etc the efficacy of Christ. S/he “proclaims the Lord’s death until He comes.”

Christians ought to remind themselves of this each time they take communion. Indeed it would be wise if believers were mindful of this dependency each time they took food or drink in any context. Paul cited, “In Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28). Indeed, Christ Himself replied to His inquiring disciples, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” (John 4:32).

More tomorrow…

To view Elder Jim’s Sunday message, go to the Facebook page of Lincoln Baptist Church, or link to the page from the church website.