Monday, 6/17/19 – Pressing on…

This past Sunday God’s people gathered at our church to fellowship, to pray, to worship and to hear from God. After an opening song Elder Jim began our service with prayer, scripture and some announcements. The worship team led us in praise, folk looked to the Lord in prayers, and Pastor Andrew mounted the platform.

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“I have no message for you this morning,” he announced. “I sought the Lord all week for a word, asking Him what He wanted me to bring to His people, but He gave me none. I can only assume He has something different in mind for this morning’s service. Perhaps one of you has a word from our Lord?”

It takes a brave believer to shun second best. To refuse to be a scratcher of “itching ears” as Paul cautioned Timothy.

“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Tim. 4:3).

We want none of that. We want to hear from God.

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One by one folk spoke. Some had prayers… some testimonies… one had a song. We shared what we had each received from our One True Lord. We heard from each other, and we heard from God.

We read in 1 Corinthians 14 the pattern for exactly this sort of meeting together. We find it is not odd at all.

“…When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up… in a fitting and orderly way.” (1 Cor. 14:26, 40)

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Elder Don referred us to what he regarded the most chilling passage in scripture: Exodus 33:3. Here, God Almighty is fed-up with the stubbornness of His people. “Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey.” He says, But I will not go with you…” The people repented, Moses plead with the Lord… and the Lord reconsidered: ”My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Moses responded, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” (v.14,15). How essential it is that we hear from God, not man.

Brothers and sisters, we are the Church. Be the Church today.

More tomorrow…

Wednesday, 6/12/19 – Pressing on…

selective focus photography of a telescopeWhy is it that we are to seek the Kingdom of God above our own self-interests? Why is God so opposed to our own selfishness?

Selfish people often justify it saying “Let me be. I’m not hurting anyone!” But why is that argument found insufficient by God? Does He deny us our selfishness because He wants all attention on Him. Is He Himself selfish?

One reason I think, though there are many, is that God desires our best happiness. He desires our best happiness because of course He is not selfish. And He knows that our greatest happiness comes in blessing others.

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Selfish people do not know this. They think happiness is found in things, or in prestige, or wealth, or fame. It does not matter if they have any of these things, only that they think happiness can be found in them. Even having the things or the fame or whatever is not wherein they think dwells happiness, but in having the things, the fame, the whatever when others around them do not.

C.S. Lewis writes elegantly on this,

Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

So, when Christ commands us, “Seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness,” (Matt. 6:33) He does so knowing our greatest happiness is to be found in Him.

He is s very good, good God indeed.

Press on…

Tuesday, 6/11/19 – Pressing on…

selective focus photography of three disney princesses figurines on brown surfaceA dad watched as his five year old son struggled to twist open a new jar of play-doh. “Use all your strength,” encouraged the father. “I’m trying,” said the child. The dad watched and waited a while longer. Clearly the child was too weak to meet the task. “You’re not using ALL your strength,” said the father. “But I am!” the child protested. “I’m trying with all my strength!”

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The dad leaned in low, looked the child in the eyes and lovingly said, “No… You’re not using ALL your strength, because you haven’t asked me to help you.” The dad took the jar and in one effortless twist opened it.

How often, and how seemingly easy, it is for us to forget that God is our Strength, our ever-present Help in time of need. We love Him. We know He is right there with us, and we want to please Him. We want to serve Him. But we find our Strength to do so is limited. In frustration, we double down, grit our teeth and try harder. But we forget to turn to Him and surrender the task into His Hands, for He too – and above all — is our Strength and our Shield.

20190609_222155This past Sunday Shant Manuel reminded us of the boy who surrendered his lunch to Jesus. In Jesus’ hands that small offering fed thousands – with leftovers to spare…. leftovers greater than the initial surrendered supply.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” – Psalm 46:1

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” – Psalm 28:7

“When they had all had enough to eat… they… filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.” – John 6:12, 13

Do you remember what God asked Moses?

child holding clear glass jar with yellow light

“Then the Lord said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’” – Exod. 4:2

What is in your hand today? Give it to the Father and watch Him do wonders!

More tomorrow…

To hear Shant Manuel’s complete message, go to the Lincoln Baptist Church website and look under ‘Media’ for the June 9 message.
To learn more about Shant Manuel and Far Corners Ministry, click here.

Monday, 6/10/19 – Pressing on…

20190609_154625Shant Manuel of Far Corners Ministry was our guest speaker this past Sunday. He shared with us about the significant work being done in Nepal, India. (To learn more about or to support this ministry, click on the “Far Corners” link above.)

Shant then brought us an excellent message from John 6, Jesus miracle of feeding over five thousand people with only five loaves and two small fish. We learn here several lessons which should challenge our faith and obedience.

It was just before Passover and Jerusalem was no doubt teeming with visitors in town for the celebrations. They had heard about this man Jesus too… this man said to do miracles… the one many called ‘Teacher.’ And so multitudes clamoured behind Jesus and His disciples as they crossed the Sea of Galilee… as they climbed up on a mountainside.

Scripture tells us that when Jesus looked up and saw them He turned to Phillip and asked “Where should we buy bread for these people to eat?” (John 6:5). It was a test. Scripture tells us it was a test. Jesus already knew how He was going to meet this need (v.6). But He asked Philip anyway. He wanted Philip to think. As if to ask, “Look Around You Phillip… What resources are available to you? Where would you go to solve this problem?”

people enjoying the concert

Phillips did look around. Perhaps he thought of a few merchants yet so far away – but before he even thought of the merchants he realize the impossible cost. He replied, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite.” (v.7). An astute observation of fact. Phillip turned to his own resources and thinking and found them lacking. But another disciple, unnamed in John’s gospel, saw some meager resources. “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish,” he reported, then added “but how far will they go among so many?” (v.9)

20190609_160246There was some small strength among their human selves but woefully not enough. Still this disciple willingly brought it to Jesus. He knew Jesus was also a resource among them.

If you have been listening to the Spirit speaking these past several Sundays, and not just listening to His messengers, you will recall the emphases on prayer… you will recall also this morning’s Bible class video — one man’s testimony of God answering bigly. You will note too Don Longworth’s captivation for weeks now with the promise “You may ask Me for anything in My Name, and I will do it.” (John 14:13,14).

It seems our God is calling us to BIG belief.

What BIG belief is He asking of you today? To what resources will you turn?

More tomorrow…

Wednesday, 6/5/19 – Pressing on…

black and white book business close upAccording to the Cambridge Dictionary the idiom “a broken man” refers to a person who has suffered emotional pain to the point that it has changed the way the person lives. A “broken” person has come to the end of their coping abilities. Broken persons cannot “fix” themselves; they cannot even imagine that things could get better. Outside assistance is necessary.

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“Breaking” a horse is the process of training the horse to be ridden. The animal must be taught to accept a saddle and bridle and become accustomed to carrying the weight of a rider. A new pair of shoes will rub against your toes and cause blisters until they are “broken in.” Warming the shoe or applying various oils are techniques used to accomplish this until, as one source put it, “shoe and foot find a way to conform to each other in harmony.”

The gospels of Matthew and Luke both record Jesus’ parable of the vineyard tenants. Time and time again the owner of the vineyard sends servants to collect his fruit but each is killed by the cruel tenants. Finally the owner sends his own son. “Surely they will respect him,” thinks the owner. But they do not. Even the son is slain.

20190604_083056Jesus then summarises the parable by quoting from the Psalms. “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Ps.118:22). He is saying the Gospel, having been rejected by the Jews, will now go to the Gentiles, the non-Jewish races around them. He then adds this curious statement,

“Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces;
anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” (Matt. 21:44).

Commentators vary on their understanding of the first half of this statement. Is Jesus here twice speaking of the judgement that will fall upon those who refuse Him, or does the first part of His statement refer to the breaking of one’s own will in their submission to Christ? I tend to believe He means the latter.

Jesus has also just told a parable about two sons. One says “No” to his father’s wishes, but then obeys; the other says “Yes,” but in fact disobeys. Jesus asks, “Which one did the will of the father?” (see Matt. 21:28-32). It is the first son who has truly obeyed; he has obeyed by “breaking” his stiff will to bow to the will of the father.

The Psalmist also wrote,

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

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To fall upon Christ, allowing our stiff wills to surrender to His does not bring captivity, but freedom! We come to the end of our-selves, but find new Life in Christ. He leads us out of our troubles. He sees just how better things will be… things we cannot now imagine.

Fall on Him. He will take you where without Him you could never go.

Press on…

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).

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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

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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.

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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.

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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…

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“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…