Friday, August 28, 2015

37 Years ago Today

1 Timothy 1:11  According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust. 12  And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; 13  Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14  And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 15  This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 16  Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy…

Today, August 28, 2015, marks 37 years since I loaded all my worldly goods into my beige ’73 Nova and headed from SW Colorado to San Dimas, CA, where you get the “most on the coast.”

37 years ago today, I sat in the gym of Pacific Coast Baptist Bible College, filling out my class schedule. Rhonda Shook, of the Singing Shook Family, kindly introduced me to Pastor Tom McCrary of Riverside’s Faith Baptist Church.

Pastor Tom needed a good music director and door knocker to hire full time - $50 a week. In me, he found a fair music director and the world’s worst door knocker. We shook hands and struck a deal and I got my first full time ministry position. 

Where does the time go? How many times have I beat out 4/4 time since then? How many solos, duets, trios, quartettes, ensemble and choir numbers have I sung? How many have groaned at my preacher jokes? My goodness, almost 10 thousand messages thus far:

1750 Sunday school lessons
2600 Sermons 
4375 Bible College classes taught
1050 Bible Studies
9775 Messages

Before I left home, my dad had these words for me concerning ministry: “It’ll never last!”

Oh, how many times those words, that challenge, kept me going when I was looking for a towel to knot and toss.

I praise God on high for calling me, placing me and keeping me in ministry all these years. There is no better life, no higher calling, no greater reward than ministry. I am the least of His servants.

Friday, August 21, 2015

My name is on the list

So, I have to confess, you're going to find out eventually anyway. I've been outed. My name is, indeed, on the list.
I am coming clean, my heart and mind have wandered away from hearth and home.
My wife understands. As wonderful as she is, a guys gotta dream now and then. She has decided that my decision to have my name and personal information in that data base is not going to mean the end of our marriage. In fact, she says it's okay if another takes first place in my heart. She is amazingly understanding.
As for you my friends, if you feel the need to dump me as a friend because of my choices, I understand. People all over the world, people much better than me, have been unfriended as their names were revealed to be on the list. They've lost jobs, family, homes and even their lives. They have borne the shame with confidence that everything will be okay in the end.
Is your name on the list too? If it is, I guess we are in the same boat. We should form some sort of club. We could get together once a week for a sort of support group. How's that sound? Let's do it.
Okay, I've delivered my soul, I've come clean. I hope you won't be embarrassed to have known me.
There's a new name written down in glory, and it's mine, oh yes, it's mine.
And the white-robed angels sing the story, a sinner has come home.
There's a new name written down in glory, and it's mine, oh yes, it's mine.
With my sins forgiven I am bound for heaven, never more to roam.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

We Need Conversion

Jesus to Peter, "When thou art converted strengthen thy brethren."

Huh? Was Peter saved during his time of ministry with the Lord? Why was his conversion called into question? Could it be that a person can be saved, yet not converted?


Contrast the last of the gospels with the Acts of the Apostles, a time span of mere days!

Jesus knew what was in Peter when He called him. He also knew what needed to be infused and developed within him. He knew that Peter's natural bents, empowered with Holy Ghost unction, would be a catalyst for turning the world up-side-down.

Cephas, the pebble, was destined to become Peter, the rock. Pebbles are small, shifting and an irritation underfoot. Rocks are sure, solid and dependable. Jesus specializes in making rocks out of pebbles.

Along with nearly drowning in Galilee, in the end of the gospels, we find the fickle, faltering disciple cutting off ears, denying the Lord, claiming he would never forsake the Lord, skipping the crucifixion, cowering with fear in the upper room, and proclaiming, "I go a fishing" when he thought it was all over. 

Fast forward a month and a half...

We come to Acts chapters 2, 3 and following. Here's a powerhouse preacher proclaiming Christ, pricking hearts, quoting prophecy, fulfilling prophecy and baptizing thousands. Who is this guy? It seems as if he had a brain transplant. Or, was it a heart transplant? He is a new man, a completely different person. Bold, brash and brilliant! He has been converted. 

His understanding of theology, prophecy and the power of God went from dull to distinct. He has transformed from pathetic to passionate. His leadership is in full bloom. His focus went from the preservation of self to the salvation of the world.

What made the difference, how was he now converted?

The resurrection of the Lord changed everything!

For Peter, the resurrection put everything into perspective. It opened his heart, enlightened his mind and quickened his spirit.

From henceforth, no more denial for this disciple turned apostle. Now he is willing to die rather than deny. In the gospels, he said it. In Acts, he means it.

It is evident a vast majority of Christianity needs a Peter-esque conversion. We need a Holy Ghost infusion of the power like that which came upon Peter, making him a witness to the uttermost parts of the earth.

Peter entered in to the fellowship of Christ's sufferings and subsequently partook of the power of His resurrection.

Have we partaken in this power? Have I?

When you get converted, strengthen your brethren. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

True Believers

John 10:42  And many believed on him there.

Where are all these believers when Jesus is crucified?

Mary, Mary and Mary are there, John too. A Centurion confesses, "Truly, this was the Son of God!" A thief dies and goes to Paradise. The rest of the Apostles are cowering in fear, but will get over it. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea are standing in the wings, prepared to care for His body.

But where are all of these believers? Where are the crowds that thronged Him? Where's Bartemaeus? Where is the woman taken in adultery? Where's the woman whose son was raised from the dead. Weren't they all from the Jerusalem area? Couldn't they have at least been there to support Him in His hours or trial, mistreatment and torment? Why weren't they praying for Him, crying out, "Let Him go, take Barabbas instead."?

People are fickle! When the going gets tough, they are outta there! The goats are separated from the sheep He spoke of throughout the earlier part of chapter ten. They are separated by disgust, disgrace, disappointment and disagreeable circumstances.

I think the belief that some express is a head belief rather than a heart belief. It is a belief born of convenience, popularity, and pragmatism. It is non-committal, non-binding and mercurial.

Let us make sure our belief is pure, sincere and born of faith. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

More Than a Brother

John 7:5 For neither did his brethren believe in him.

Imagine, growing up in the same household with Jesus, witnessing a perfect sibling, never disobedient, never mean, never unkind, intolerant of sin and mischief and yet forgiving, obedient to parents, helpful to others, skilled in carpentry, proficient in the Scriptures, loving to all, respectful of others, deeply spiritual, constant in prayer, happy in spirit, content in life, joyful in setbacks, victorious in spirit, and yet, two of His brothers never bothered to believe in Him!

Messiahs show up in other families. You never expect them to sleep in your bedroom or eat your mother's matzah. You don't suspect that God in the flesh changed your diaper or wiped your snotty nose. You can't believe, like your sisters have, or a couple of your brothers did, that your babysitter, though He never left you, nor forsook you, is the Almighty.

I mean, how can you expect to be wearing Hand-me-downs from the One Who wore robes of righteousness?

God is good, God is great! But really, how could these two boys suspect that they were thanking their own brother for their food when they bowed at the supper table?

And so, they went on throughout their lives rejecting the notion that their Brother could double as their Savior. They were so close to the Tree of Life, the Branch, the True Vine, that they couldn't see the forest of His divinity.
And that reminds me of kids who grow up in church, teething on the back of the pew in front of them, turning their Sunday school classrooms into chaos, occupying the van's back seat on the way to youth camps and teen activities. And they never come into a personal, vital relationship with the One they have casually known all their life.

It makes me think of the seminary student whose Bible has become his textbook. The wonderful words of life are, at worst mere mistranslations, or spiritualized allegories or, at best, memory verses.

I also consider the minister who serves the Lord via Bible study, sermon prep, hospital and shut in visitation, but ceases to grow in his relationship with his Redeemer.

As with His siblings, Jesus is our elder Brother. He is always there for us, caring for us, loving us, wishing for a deeper relationship than blood siblings. He desires that we be best friends, sticking closer than brothers. He offers to be our fortress, our sanctuary, our advocate, our prayer-hearing, miracle-working, saving, healing, encouraging God.

Can you look beyond the familiarity of a familial relationship and believe that the God of glory is in your home, your room and wants to dwell in your heart by faith?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Rev. Victorious Comes to Christ

John 3:1-21

Nicodemus - "Victorious among his people."

Indeed, Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews.

But, true victory came for him when:

1. He bucked the trend - rather than hate on Jesus, as his croneys did, he came to Jesus to personally seek His truth.

2. He had sincere words of praise for the Lord - You are a teacher, you come from God, Your miracles are confirmation of this. This I know!

3. He sought salvation.

4. He was born again. This is indicated by the concern he raised to the San Hedrin at the trial of Jesus and by his complicity with Joseph in claiming the body of the Lord.

His journey shows us that we are not ultimately victorious by our position with people, but by our possession of Christ. We don't win because of our station at birth, but by our being born again.

The occasion of Nicodemus' coming to Jesus gave us the most beloved verse in the Bible:  16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.