Tuesday, 9/10/19 – Pressing on…

SomeTHING or SomeONE?

Screenshot_20190909-171748Home Improvement was a highly popular TV sitcom which ran from September 1991 to May 1999. The show starred Tim Allen as inept and over-confident Tim Taylor, host of ‘Tool Time,’ a dubiously helpful do-it-yourself TV show. ‘Tool Time’ co-host Al Borland constantly tried to redirect Tim’s on-air blunders and popularized the phrase, “I don’t think so Tim.”

Tim Taylor always believed he could ‘do it himself,’ no need to call in a costly professional. Problem was, when Tim’s attempts failed, as they always did, the end cost of undoing his damage and redoing the job right were always far, far, more costly!

This past Sunday Elder Don Longworth focussed our attention on this interesting truth of human nature: When we are faced with a problem we believe we can solve we go looking for something, perhaps a tool or a part, but when we encounter a difficulty we know we cannot fix we seek out someone.

20190909_182229We do this all the time not even noticing the equation. When our forced air furnace filter began to get dirty a few months back I tracked down a new one, but when the solar-geothermal controller began flashing a warning light last summer we sought out a professional. When the ‘add oil’ light popped up in our car, we looked for some 5W-30, but when the engine began to rattle and the exhaust sputtered we booked a mechanic!

Think I can = look for SomeTHING
Know I can’t = look for SomeONE

A problem emerges however when, like Tim, we think we can, but we actually can’t – when we look to ourselves but should instead look to another.

And when it comes to matters spiritual and eternal the stakes are infinitely higher!

backlit cemetery christianity clouds

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). If we want to get past the problem of sin, if we want to come to the Father… if we want life eternal… we need to call on the One and only One Who can deal with the sin problem which separates us. Do-it-yourself ‘righteousness’ doesn’t cut it, ‘self-improvement’ is useless. We need ‘self’-replacement. We need SomeOne to help us, and that SomeOne is Christ.

More tomorrow…

To hear Elder Don’s complete message, go to the Lincoln Baptist Church website and look under ‘Media’ for the Sept. 8 message.

Monday, 9/9/19 – Pressing on…

Picture Perfect!

When our kids were very little we, like many parents, wanted to get that perfect, professionally done toddler photograph. So, we booked an appointment.

men in black and grey plaid dress shirt

I had expected that getting that perfect, professionally done toddler photograph would involve a lot of professional things—things like adjusting lights, focussing lenses, multiple snapshots at varying apertures and several other such “perfect” and “professional” things. In fact it involved none of that. Most of the session was about getting the child in position, making funny sounds and faces, and attracting the child’s gaze to some specific doll or hand puppet the photographer selected from a big box of many such items and held high for the child to see.

All the child had to do was sit still and look at the object. Simple, right?

toddler in yellow top and hat holding fruit

Well all I know is that in our many years of child rearing getting the child to do this one simple thing was never a task I was very good at! In fact it turns out that getting the child to do exactly this is the photographer’s real skill.

Sitting still is not much easier for fully grown Christian believers either! But sitting still and focussing on God is the one thing God asks us very seriously to do.

The shepherd psalmist David has Jehovah say in verse, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10). And Christ entreats us all “Abide in Me.” (John 15:4). Or as some translations have it, “Remain in Me.” Having gotten us into position He says, “Now just stay that way and live out the rest of your life in this world.” It’s the only thing we need to do. Abiding in Him makes all other decisions right and easy. But it’s the one thing we keep squirming away from continuing.

Jesus made this ever so clear: “Abide in Me,” He said (John 15:4). And in the following seven verses He repeats the verb a further nine times!

purple grapes

Abide in Me,” He says. As a branch must abide in the vine in order to be productive, so must we abide in Him. The one who so abides will indeed produce MUCH fruit. Failing to abide in Him results only in self-destruction, but when one abides in Him, and His words abide in that person, miracles can occur bringing glory to God the Father and affirmation to the disciple. “Abide in My Love,” He adds. Keeping His commandments is the way to abide in His Love just as Jesus exemplified, saying “…I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” His reason in urging this upon us He also made clear, “…so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” (see John 15:4-11).

Apart from Me you can do nothing.” He reminds us.

So, don’t be a “toddler” Christian. Sit still. Look upon Him. Don’t move! He is making of you a “perfect, professional picture” — not of you, but of Himself in you!

More tomorrow…

Wednesday, 9/4/19 – Pressing on…

Back to School: homework!

selective focus photo of person holding book

At the close of our service last Sunday Elder Don Longworth led in a prayer right out of scripture: Paul’s prayer for the believers in Ephesus and indeed for all believers. He prayed,

“That [God] would grant
[You] be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith
That [you] be rooted and grounded in love,
[That you would] be able to comprehend the breadth, and length, and depth, and height [of Christ]
[That you would] know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge
[That you would] be filled with all the fullness of God.

He reminds his audience that our God “is able to do far, far more than anything we could possibly ask or think…” And that He will do so “according to the power [His Power] that is at work within us” (see Eph. 3:16-21)

abc books chalk chalkboard

Fittingly, this week being the start of “back-to-school” week, Don asked that we make this prayer our ‘homework assignment’ this week. He challenged each of us to go to the Lord in prayer substituting our own name for each of the pronouns in the prayer, then contemplate what that prayer fulfilled would look like in our individual lives.

Paul reminds us in Philippians that each of us must “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). God does not just plop virtues or spiritual growth into our lives and ‘poof’ suddenly we are super Christians! No, we must work in cooperation with God if we are to grow more in Christ-likeness. There is ‘homework’ for each of us to do with the lessons God gives us. Solomon noted, “correction and instruction are the way to life” (Prov. 6:23)

person hands woman girl

So, what is your part in strengthening your inner man? How can you grant Christ more freedom to dwell in your heart? What can you do to make sure that love is not just an occasional activity, but something “rooted and grounded” in your heart? How can you add more to your comprehension of the very Being, Love and Fullness of Christ?

So, before you go out to play today, do your homework. Pray about these things. Ask God to show you your part in at least one of these areas today.

Press on…

Tuesday, 9/3/19 – Pressing on…

Glad Tidings!

“’Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger,” the angel messenger announced. “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’” (Luke 2:12b–14).

Glory to God… and Good will toward men.

woman holding a bitcoin

From the start these two go hand on hand. Actually, the two are wed even closer than that, more like front and back of a single coin. It’s not so much that God has a two-fold mission as it is that He knows we are best fulfilled, most happy, most ‘blessed’ as we are in worship of Him.

Now, in our fallen state this often sounds unappealing. Our sinful self-interest fights against this. We presume God to be as wicked as us and that His interest in receiving worship must be motivated by supreme egotism. But it is not.

bee on a plant

Think for a moment of His Creation. Look at the mutual relationship between flowers and bees. Bees draw the nectar they need to make honey by traveling from flower to flower and in doing so brings pollen to the flower.

Or consider the relationship between plants and people. We need the oxygen which plants produce and the plant needs the carbon dioxide which we expel. Neither can survive without the other.

Now of course God is not dependent upon us in any way, but we are totally dependent upon Him… and totally fulfilled in Him. As Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) so aptly summarized,

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.”

Westminster Conference

Not only do we find our rest in God but also our purpose and our joy. The Westminster Shorter Catechism (1646-47) grappled to express this in the doctrinal statement “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.”

As in the bee finds its fulfillment and sustenance and dare we say joy in the flower, so we also will only find these in God, in obeying His commands and in seeking first those things which please Him and bring Him Glory.

Let us love one another,” writes John (1 John 4:7). When we do we play our part to bring ‘Glory to God… and Good will toward men. ‘

My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.” (Ps. 145:21)

More tomorrow…

To hear Pastor Andrew’s complete message, go to the Lincoln Baptist Church website and look under ‘Media’ for the Sept. 1 message.

Monday, 9/2/19 – Pressing on…

Have God = Have Love

close up of milk against blue background

In 1993 the California Milk Processor Board ran a series of ads featuring a slogan which simply asked, “Got milk?” The ads were later licensed for use by milk processors and dairy farmers nationwide. Each ad portrayed a desperate outcome of not having milk: dry cereal, tasteless coffee, nothing in which to dip one’s Oreo or to wash down peanut butter. The equation the advertisers wanted to place in consumers minds was that when you have milk, you have many other good things as well.

This past Sunday Pastor Andrew reminded us of another equation, one much more important and far-reaching:

“Have God = Have Love.”

Love one another,” urged Christ. (John 13:34)

20190901_195729If any of the Apostles knew about God’s Love it was John. He was called the beloved disciple, he leaned on Jesus at their final supper as Jesus revealed the traitor among them. It was to John that from the cross Jesus entrusted the care of Mary, and John was the disciple first to arrive at the opened tomb. He was the one to whom Christ revealed end-time visions, and he was the only disciple to die of natural causes.

In his gospel account he made sure to mention Christ’s parting plea:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35).

In his epistle he picks up the theme and reveals his more intimate insight…

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:7-12).

“God is love,” he writes. “Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” In essence, “Have God = Have Love.” This love, this Agapé Love of God sort of love, is never “turned off.” It is always active, always giving… to the evil as well as to the good. It is, as Pastor Andrew pointed out, “an unreciprocated love.”

And so Christ’s new command is that we display the same, regardless of reciprocation, regardless of recipient’s attitude toward us. Just as did Jesus, “…While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8)

artistic blossom bright clouds

You can do this.

How do I know? Because of the equation: “Have God = Have Love.” God is love.

Yes, it is a world full of hate and sin, but what is His promise? Again, from John, “You… are from God…. the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4).

Agapé Love is a unique love. It distinguishes itself from all others. That is why it is also a love of testimony. As Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35).

Agapé Love is within the child of God. We can release it. We must. It is a command.

More tomorrow…

Wednesday, 8/28/19 – Pressing on…

Who’s leading your way?

20190826_182650It’s a five kilometer hike up Mount Carleton. On level land at a steady stride about an hour long journey. But climbing 820 meters over a stony trail, then rocks, then boulders, the trek takes much longer. At first the way is marked by tidy blue markers pinned to tree trunks, but then the trees thin, the trunks narrow. Eventually you are guided by the occasional slap of blue paint on a boulder.

20190826_182732It’s good to travel this way the first time with someone who has traversed the way before. Someone who has done so knows the way with greater confidence. They can quicken their pace, not needing to double-check the markers. Their footfall has become accustomed to the uneven way, their muscles more developed for scaling the boulders, lungs more efficient, eyesight more keen.

20190826_182811Yes it’s good to scale the rugged heights with one who knows the way.

But it can be daunting as your leader presses on so assuredly — sometimes advancing faster than your confidence has grown. Courage is needed to the more quickly move forward across spots where you would rather have hesitated… rather have paused till boldness arose.

20190826_183008Yet the thought of dropping pace, of losing sight of the leader, is more fearful than the present moment. Having no other option you uncomfortably press on, praying that soon the difficulty, the relentless advance, might ease.

Habbakuk was familiar with this angst. He wrote,

I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled…
The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. (Hab. 3:16-19)

Yes, the way to the Kingdom may be rocky, but a sure Guide goes before us. He says to us, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32). He will make our way sure as well. All we need do is follow Him.

20190826_182902From the summit of Mount Carleton the view is spectacular. On a clear day turning a full 360 degrees they estimate your view falls upon 10 million trees! Looking westward you can see clear to Maine. To the north, Quebec.

Ahead for the faithful lay wonders none can now fathom! “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror,” reminds Paul, “then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Cor. 13:12). But there is only One Guide who can bring us there.

I ask you, “Who’s leading your way?”

Press on…

Tuesday, 8/27/19 – Pressing on…

A body to offer

In Galatians Paul records, “But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.” (Gal. 4:4-5 – NLT) This plan was in God the Father’s mind from the beginning. Revelation makes reference to Christ as “…the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.” (Rev. 13:8). God had a mission for Jesus, and Jesus obediently received it.

20190826_075644In Hebrews we read, “…when Christ came into the world, he said to God, ‘You have given me a body to offer… Look, I have come to do your will, O God…’” (Heb. 10:4-7). In declaring this Christ knew the full extent of what lay ahead for Him. Twice He told His disciples about it (Matt. 8:31, 10:33-34). Still He said, “You have given me a body to offer” and willfully accepted the assignment. He offered His back to those who beat Him, His cheeks to those who pulled out His beard. He received the mockery and spitting. He “set His face like a stone, determined to do God the Father’s will.” (see Isa. 50:5-7, NLT)

20190826_060228And the assignment was not easy. At Gethsemane He confided to Peter, James and John, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death…” Three times He prayed to the Father, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” (see Mark 14:34-39, Matt. 26:37-39, Luke 22:41-43) None of us have experienced the depth of His agony — “And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.” (Luke 22:44 – NASB)

Screenshot_20190826-062038Why did He endure this? Because He had a mission, an assignment from God the Father. As He told His disciples, “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38 – NASB)

You too, as a believer in our Lord Jesus Christ, have a mission… an assignment from God the Father. You too have been given a body… a time… a geographic location in which to obey the will of God.

To the Romans Paul writes,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Rom. 12:1-2).

You too are a sacrifice, “a living sacrifice” as Paul states above. Not a sacrifice of redemption, but a sacrifice of praise to God. The troubles you face today are not pointless, but are opportunities for faith – courageous faith — flint-faced faith. They are opportunities for you to give God something He can receive no other way: your joyful testimony of your life willfully given.. your life lived for God!

More tomorrow…

To hear Pastor John’s complete message, go to the Lincoln Baptist Church website and look under ‘Media’ for the Aug. 25 message.