Friday, 7/31/20 – Question: “How can I understand my spiritual journey?”

How can I understand my spiritual journey?

girl in yellow and white dress

One of the things our granddaughter enjoys when she comes for a sleepover at Grammy and Grampy’s is when Grampy has prepared for her a ‘Treasure Hunt.’

Hidden clues lead her to further clues hidden around the house. Sometimes a small treat accompanies a clue, sometimes not. But our granddaughter knows these little “perks” along the way are not the real purpose of her quest – that prize awaits at the end of her persistent pursuit.

Grammy goes with this little treasure seeker and can be a help in deciphering some clues, but neither does Grammy know where the next clue is hidden, when the journey will end, where the treasure is hidden or what exactly it contains.

woman in white t shirt

Our granddaughter is free to make her own decisions, some rightly discerned, some not. But Grampy knows where all the clues are hidden and where their seeking journey will end up. He knows exactly all the good contents in the treasure that will ultimately be hers. He knows, because he has been preparing it a very long time.

Grampy also goes with her as she seeks… not always right there at her side, but nearby… aware… Sometimes he watches from the shadows, sometimes he stands in the sunlight. And when she just can’t get it he is always there to offer more guidance.

It occurred to me that this is a parable. How like our Heavenly Father grand-folk and parents are!

God has prepared for each of us a quest. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” He says to us (Matt. 6:33). Along the way He may grant us little blessings, “showers of blessing” the hymn writer called them, but the true seeker knows these are not that ultimate reward… he knows, and keeps questing. Paul wrote, “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14).

The Holy Spirit goes with us on our quest, and God the Heavenly Father intently watches over all. We may call upon them at any time. We work out the steps together. Paul writes, “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you…” (Phil. 2:12,13).

Before His departure Jesus gave us this promise,

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:1-4).

Christian, your life and quest have purpose… there is a great prize ahead, and all the resources of heaven intend to help get you there. Keep questing… keep seeking…

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Thursday, 7/30/20 – Discipleship – God’s Will

God’s Will

20200729_195834Homo-sapiens do not like rules. Ironic when You consider what the Latin derived name of our species means: homo = human being, + sapien = wise! Wise men? Yet, give a homo sapien a rule and right away he wants to break it.

Consider how we’ve responded the protective protocols of the current Covid-19 pandemic. Three simple rules: 1. Maintain physical distance. 2. Wear a face mask in public. 3. Wash hands often. Yet we’ve all seen the mass gatherings at beaches, rallies, protests – and some protests are protesting the three rules! Indeed, we are bent on insisting upon our own free will in all things. We do not like to follow the will of another.

apple apple tree apples branch

Long ago God gave homo sapiens our first rule. “Don’t eat that one!” What did we do? Well, you know what we did and what resulted was a very hard lesson indeed! We are reminded of it every time a woman gives birth or a man weeds his garden!

Some centuries later God gave us a few more rules — rules made necessary by our breaking the first rule. He kept the list short as possible: ten. But we did not do well with those either!

beige sand with heart engrave

So God sent His Son and His Son kept all the rules. He paid the penalty for all the broken rules and said instead “Follow Me!” Those who do, come to love Him. “If you love me, keep my commands,” Jesus said. “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.” (John 14:15, 23). Jesus made possible a whole new way to do God’s Will. Paul called it “the most excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31).

And God’s Will is not difficult to discern. We simply start from obedience to what we know and then He teaches us more… The more we obey Him the more He proves Himself to us. “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” said Jesus.

What we will not do by rules from above we can and will do by the rule of love… Agapé Love… “God’s love… poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Rom. 5:5).

Love God… Do His Will…

Press on…

Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of new life in Christ? Or, perhaps you would you like to begin this journey by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.

Wednesday, 7/29/20 – Pressing on… “Gouge and Cut”

Gouge and Cut…

adult animal care clinic

Gouge and Cut. These are violent words. You do neither tenderly. Gouging and cutting intend damage, aye destruction, to their objects.

This past Sunday Elder Don stated that in dealing with known sin in our hearts we must “do violence” to it.

Jesus put it like this:

“If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matt. 5:29-30).

action axe blur chop

One of the “keeper” books in my personal library is Born Crucified by L. E. Maxwell. In it, he warns “Unless we die to self, we shall die of self.” He explains…

“…denial of self is no mere severing of this or that indulgence, but putting the axe of the Cross to the very root of the tree of self….To trim it back only means that the very life of self is thrown back into other more rugged roots to develop the Pharisee into a more vigorous tree.”

When the gospel moved hearts to repentance in Acts 19, the Ephesians were “seized with fear.” The Name of Christ became highly honored and, as Luke records, their response was decisive…

“Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.” (Acts 19:18-20).

black cross on top of mountain

Pruning a tree – a sin – does not diminish it in any way. Though it may appear beaten back somewhat you have only made it fight back more vigorously. To get rid of the thing you must destroy it at its root. As Maxwell reminds us by quoting C.M. Slow,

“The symbol of the Christian Church is not a burning bush, nor a dove, nor an open book, nor a halo round a submissive head, nor a crown of splendid honour. It is a cross.” – C.M. Clow

The cross speaks of death… of willing self-crucifixion. Only then is resurrection possible.

Press on…

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

Tuesday, 7/28/20 – Pressing on… “House Guest”

20200727_123252“House Guest”

On Nov. 8, 1962 an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour TV series aired entitled “House Guest.”

As the story opens, a young boy swims too far from shore and begins to drown. Fortunately, he is rescued by a nearby unemployed drifter, Ray Roscoe. Grateful, his parents invite Ray into their home to stay a few days. Days become weeks as Ray begins to reveal his true colors. After flirting with their maid, wrecking the family car, and assaulting the boy’s mother, Ray unashamedly demands twenty thousand dollars before he will leave.

20200727_103542At first, the family yields to Ray’s demands out of sense of obligation for him having saved of their child’s life. But in the end it becomes blatant blackmail. After all, wasn’t their son worth twenty thousand dollars? Ray reasons. Or would they prefer to keep their money while Ray re-drowned their boy? The plot thickens and ends with a twist that only Hitchcock could have imagined.

The hour-long episode forces the viewer to ask just what is a saved life’s worth anyway? What is a “reasonable exchange” in gratitude?

jesus christ crucifixion

Ray was a wicked and deceptive taskmaster… a devil in his own right. But the Christian knows another “House Guest,” a kinder, most loving Saviour who saves not only the body but also the soul. He gives not only earthly life, but eternal life… life unending. What is one’s “reasonable exchange” in gratitude for that!?

Paul writes, “…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.” (Rom. 12:1). Or, as the King James has it, “…present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”

Paul is saying the only reasonable response to so great a gift is to turn from sin, surrender to this Saviour, and give over one’s life to His purposes and plans. Not by blackmail, not by unwilling constraint, but by grateful consent… by a renewing of how we think about sin, this world, the unmerited favour bestowed upon us, and the heavenly kingdom which awaits.

One’s response is a true and proper worship, and one’s offering is oneself.

More tomorrow…

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

Monday, 7/27/20 – Pressing on: Catching Foxes

Catching Foxes…

grapes vineyard vine purple grapes

The Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries and Water, located in Hobart, Tasmania reported in Sept. 2008 that since the red fox was introduced into Australia for recreational hunting in the 1870’s their rapid spread had resulted in an environmental and agricultural damage of over $200 million dollars annually!

Vineyards and orchards experienced fruit loss by foxes by the fruit either being eaten directly or being damaged to the point of being unsaleable. The foxes also chewed on irrigation devices further upping the cost by thousands.

fox on brown wooden plank

Little foxes are nocturnal. “The foxes have holes,” said Jesus (Matt. 8:20). These burrows are often located under the vine root systems, weakening the vines, and malnourishing the grapes. Little foxes must be eradicated if one’s vineyard is to be saved.

This past Sunday Elder Don reminded us of the passage in Song of Solomon 2:15, “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards.” Foxes are always nasty critters in the Bible. Jesus once called Herod a “fox” (Luke 13:32).

women s brown and green floral dress

Foxes, “spiritual foxes,” sin, hypocrisy, idolatry, get into our “vineyards,” our lives, easy enough. They get in, just as they did in Tasmania, by personal invitation — and often for “recreational” purposes. They dig into us too… they chew at the roots, in the dark, out of sight. But their presence can be known by the condition of our fruit.

As Elder Don asked, Are you growing in Christ-like graces or diminishing in them? You know where your foxes are, the Holy Spirit has been pointing them out to you, perhaps for a very long time. He will help you do what must be done but it is you who must do the deed of eliminating them.

muscular athletic man exercising with dumbbell in sports center

There was one very good fox catcher in the Bible and he too had the Spirit of God empowering him. Yet, like you, it was up to him to do the deed of catching them. His name was Samson, and he once caught 300 of them (Read about it in Judges 15:4).

Once you rid your vineyard of foxes you must take steps to see they do not return. Jeremiah lamented, “Because of the mountain of Zion, which is desolate, the foxes walk upon it.” (Lam. 5:18). Don’t let your vineyard — your life, your spiritual life — grow desolate. Catch and remove those foxes today! Fill your vineyard with Christ!

More tomorrow…

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

Friday, 7/24/20 – BLOG 500! (My “Ebenezer”)

BLOG 500!

kindle technology amazon tablet

During our decade under the ministry of Pastor Steve Ranni the Board of Elders of our church were gifted yearly with a book from Steve on some area of personal spiritual growth or ministry. In 2018 the book was a daily devotional for persons in Christian leadership. The elders used this book daily and commented via group email their thoughts and insights.

When we were done the book the elders encouraged me to continue writing and I felt the Lord was urging me likewise. So, on Monday, Sept. 3, 2018 this WordPress blogsite launched. Today’s blog marks Blog 500! It is for me a kind of “Ebenezer.”

20200722_191410Perhaps the first thing you think of when you hear the name “Ebenezer” is Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol, and the character of Ebenezer Scrooge. But “Ebenezer” is also a very important name in the history of God’s people.

In 1 Samuel 7:12 we read how, after a great victory over the Philistines, Samuel erected a great stone as a reminder to the Israelites that it was God Who had brought them this far. He named the stone “Ebenezer,” which means “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

The second stanza of the 1748 hymn, “Come Thou Fount,” by Robert Robinson echoes and makes personal this moment…

Here I raise my Ebenezer
Here there by Thy great help I’ve come
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home

So today, this Blog 500 is my “Ebenezer.” By God’s grace and enablement we have come this far, and by His grace and enablement I hope with you to raise another Ebenezer some 500 blogs from now.

20200721_180036

As of 5:00 pm yesterday this blog has received 7,724 views by 3,323 visitors across 58 countries – facts which continually amaze me.

I have counted it my great privilege and endeavored to be faithful both to the Lord and to you my readers to provide meaningful, practical comment and clarity “where the rubber meets the road” as we press on together to that Heavenly prize.

I thank you all for your faithfulness, shares, likes, comments and encouragement.

See you Monday!

yellow smiley balloon with white background

Press on…

Want to read some past blogs? CLICK HERE for a chronological listing of them all. (Or click on “All Blogs” from the Menu on the Home page.)

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Thursday, 7/23/20 – Discipleship – No Evangelism in Heaven!

No Evangelism in Heaven!

20200722_084608This past Sunday I spoke regarding how in this life only is it possible for us to demonstrate courage and virtue… patience and hope… see the trials we face as opportunities which will only be possible in a world where opposition, evil and hatred may exist. I also stated that this brief lifetime (when contrasted with eternity) is the only window of opportunity we will have in all eternity to evangelize! In eternity there are no second chances at salvation.

20200722_085333Recently my wife and I took a day trip to St. Martin’s, NB. We did not learn till it was much too late that the route we had chosen involved a short section of closed highway. The detour we took was for awhile confusing and the road we eventually followed was rougher than the highway we might have chosen. But we did get to St. Martin’s and we did enjoy our time there. But once we were in St. Martin’s there was nothing we could do about the journey there that had robbed us of about an hour of our day. We could not then re-choose our poorly chosen route. That time had passed.

20200722_085307So too, in Heaven. We cannot then undo our failures to share Christ during our lifetime. We cannot re-choose. We cannot make up for it and evangelize anew in Heaven, for there are no lost souls in Heaven. What we may have failed to do during our lifetime will forever remain failed to have been done by us.

I know it’s scary. The first disciples – the first evangels – were scared initially too. Jesus knew they would be, so He gave them first, before the great commission to evangelize (Matt.28:18-20), these instructions:

Stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49).

And when the Holy Spirit filled these men everyone was astounded at their boldness!

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13 – See also vss.29, 31)

So pray… pray now… press in to God and invite His boldness… then go… speak… evangelize those the Lord has brought into your sphere… your world… and by all means…

Press on…

Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of new life in Christ? Or, perhaps you would you like to begin this journey by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.

Wednesday, 7/22/20 – Pressing on…

Day and Night

battle black blur board game
Unlikely Queen

Surprising and unplanned circumstances had placed Esther, a cousin and ward of Mordecai, himself a Jew taken captive under Nebuchadnezzar, into the Queenship with King Xerxes. (See Esther, chaps 1 & 2). When Mordecai got wind of a plot to destroy the Jews he urged Esther to utilize her privileged position and intervene. He said to her,

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

battle board game castle challenge
God’s Placement

Mordecai saw the hand of the Lord in bringing Esther to this precise time and place. The great trial that had fallen upon the Jews mixed with Esther’s time and placement from God. The challenge which now faced Esther became her opportunity to demonstrate before God her commitment to His purposes for her life and the lives of His (and her) people. It was all for “such a time as this.” She acted, and she shone.

A good friend of mine recently brought to my attention this comment by missionary Nancy Cockrell:

“It was God’s plan all along to bring you here to serve Him, by using your gifts to minister to others – for such a time as this. He has given you the grace to reflect the love and character of Christ, to be a light in a darkened world – for such a time as this. You have a unique place of service in God’s Kingdom, touching lives as only you can do – for such a time as this.”

Because you are right where you are supposed to be your trials too are opportunities — opportunities to remain faithful, endure, respond courageously, speak for Christ, serve the Church, Christ’s Body.

1. Your gifts are needed by those in your area of contacts and influence.
2. Your needs can be met by the people and resources you can access.
3. You play an integral role in the building of your local church, and the Universal Church of God.
4. You have an essential influence on the lost around you. Visible / invisible.
5. The Lord does not want you to seek an alternative.
6. There are things for you to learn right where you are!

architecture bar buildings city
Open Door

You have been created to inhabit this moment. Whatever you may at times think or question you are strategic to this time and place. Now is your hour of opportunity, the doors are open to you. Soon the clocks stop, time is ended, the doors are shut, eternity is your only reality.

“I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.” (Jesus, in John 9:4).

What must you do or be before it is no longer possible?

Press on…

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

Tuesday, 7/21/20 – Pressing on…

Right time, Right place!

parthenon greece landmark

While debating the philosophers of Athens (see Acts 17) Paul makes an innocent enough sounding statement almost in passing yet when considered more deeply we find it to be very profound and impactful  indeed!

Paul and Silas had recently preached the gospel in Thessalonica. While some came to faith in Christ as Messiah an upstart mob staunchly opposed their message and stirred up the populace against them. Consequently, and under cover of night, the Thessalonian believers sent Paul and Silas off to nearby Berea. The Bereans received the gospel very well, but some of the Thessalonian rowdies also came to Berea and again stirred up trouble so that Paul had to leave there also.

photo of a statue

Paul now found himself in Athens awaiting Silas and also Timothy to join him. While he waited he noticed the abundance of idols in that city and preached and debated Christ in the synagogue and marketplace. A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with Paul and soon invited him to present his ideas to others at the Areopagus, a rock hill were high governmental councils met.

In part, he told them,

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands… He Himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.” (Acts 17:24-26)

Of course he said much more, but this is the bit that relates to our message this past Sunday… a message about seeing our trials from a new perspective.

Paul has said that God, our Creator, has

• made all the nations…
• marked out their appointed times in history…
• [established] the boundaries of their lands.

earth space universe globe

This means God has created you. He has appointed you to live in this current era and established the place of your birth! None of these happened by chance or accident. God has a purpose and a plan for your existence… nowhere.

When we realize God also allows or disallows all the uncontrollable [by us] events that come into our lives, that He has all power and authority over the devil, and that He orchestrates all things according to His infinite Wisdom, we have great reason to take confidence in Him. Our trials are no surprise to God. Our part is to seek Him for the strength and the courage we need day by day.

More tomorrow…

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

Monday, 7/20/20 – Pressing on…

Tough role to play

20200719_142202Toward the close of my message this past Sunday morning I related the experience of actor Jim Caviezel who played Christ in the 2004 movie, “The Passion of the Christ.” The film was “birthed in pain,” he said in an interview. From the get-go there were difficulties: Director Mel Gibson was being accused of being anti-Semitic, and there were challenges of language and climate, but these were merely the beginning.

20200719_141019While filming a cross-carrying scene Caviezel suffered a shoulder separation. Early on he became ill and as fluid filled his lungs he was eventually diagnosed with pneumonia. During takes of the scourging of Christ a misplaced whip missed the protective hidden-from-camera metal plate behind him, wrapping the bladed scourge around him, tearing his flesh and leaving a 14” gash on his back! Later, as Caviezel lugged the cross up the mountainside Caviezel felt an evil presence. A dark and troubling storm had been brewing when, Caviezel said, all went silent. Astonished onlookers said his body glowed — he had been struck by lightning!

On the cross, shoulder dislocated, lungs fluid-filled, chest and back whip-scarred, and body shaken by lightning filming paused as the set doctor examined him.
Mel… he can die!” He said.
No film is worth anyone dying,” said Gibson and he asked Caviezel what He wanted to do.
This was between me and God,” Caviezel later reflected. ”I was ready to die making this movie.” Silently he prayed, “It’s OK if I die here… Bring it on!”

20200719_140942Caviezel knew his talent was from God. He felt very much called to take this part and so took his role very seriously. He remained in character between shots and continued in prayer throughout the filming. He was also very conscious of own sin. His normal 210 lb bodyweight had diminished to 168 lb and he later required heart surgery. But Caviezel had remained faithful. He had stayed the course, he had completed the task he had been called to do.

Everyone wants the resurrection but suffering goes with resurrection,” he later commented.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Cor. 4:16-17).

What tough role has God given you to play? Now is your moment of opportunity.

More tomorrow…

To view the Jim Caviezel interview cited above, see below or CLICK HERE.

 

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