Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My One Thing: Save the Lost

Recently several preachers were asked to share their "one thing." This was the one thing that we as preachers who have been around for a few years would share with younger preachers. I submitted my one thing, and I would like to share it with you. I hope you know that this applies not just to preachers, but to all Christians, who are supposed to preach in some capacity (Acts 8:4).

I know a man who started preaching in the late 1940’s. By 1958 he moved with his young family across the world to give people the gospel in a land he had never visited. He can still tell stories about the first converts in several countries during that period and how the church reached them. When he came back to the states his local work consisted of all the things preachers do plus something only a few preachers do anymore – personal evangelism.  This same man retired from doing any pulpit preaching after 63 years because of macular degeneration and the challenges of Alzheimers . He recently moved across the country to be closer to his daughter, and now lives with his wife in their home in a new town and in a new culture. The first thing he did when they moved in was walk down his street to see if he could get anybody in his neighborhood to study the Bible with him.

The one thing every preacher needs to know is that preaching is about soul-winning.  Immaculate sermons and writing articles and books and getting your doctorate will mean very little to the billions of people who will be lost on Judgment Day. Unfortunately, the culture of the 21st century church has migrated from the mission field to the church directory. Programs and keeping supposedly mature Christians happy has replaced the ultimate goal of spreading the precious news of the gospel of Christ.

What occupies your mind on a regular basis? When you are mowing your lawn or taking a shower or when you are anywhere where you are on your own with a chance to think clearly, what concerns do you have? What best qualifies a man to spend his life preaching the gospel is a love for souls.  This is what you should be thinking about. You should be worried about their lost state. You should be brainstorming new angles and ways to reach them. Your contemplations about your actual sermon delivery should be driven by your desire to change eternity.

The pulpit is in trouble. Too many men are hiding behind it. Get out of the building. Get out of the office. Hit the streets and knock on a door! Renew the plea of the church for which you preach. Make the plea the great commission! How many Bible studies have you conducted in the last year? How many people have you baptized who weren’t already in your building first? It does not matter how many people are already attending where you preach. It does not matter how many great works your congregation may have going. What matters is that people are dying every day in your community who are outside of Christ. You cannot save the whole world, but Jesus died trying so you would die trying.

From the elders down the line, the local church needs to understand its mission. You are the preacher, and your job involves giving spiritual direction to your congregation. If the church takes on the personality of the preacher, as some suggest, is the church where you preach evangelistic? If not, either you are not evangelistic or you are not using your influence for the right things.

A love for souls cannot be taught. You can’t take a seminar or read an article that will make you love souls. A love for souls comes when the word of God takes root in your heart. A love for souls happens when you understand the saving power of the blood of Christ. A love for souls overcomes you when you realize that your soul was loved first. Why? Why did somebody love your soul? When you understand who God is you will know why and you will love souls, too.

There was a time in the history of our world when the Bible was literally chained to the pulpit. If we are honest we would admit that many weeks have gone by when we have chained it ourselves. Preachers, rip that Bible from its moorings and take into somebody’s living room. Take it to the church library or a classroom and share it with someone outside of office hours. Go across the world with it for a few weeks and renew your commitment to the greatest story ever told. Do whatever it takes. Remember why you preach!

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Monumental Decision for the Boy Scouts

Today the local leaders of the Boy Scouts of America have decided by 61% majority vote to include openly gay scouts into their program. This has been a hot topic in our nation and for good reason. It is another example of a fundamental change in an American institution which has for decades been representative of our nation's core values.

Consider the assocation's motto and marks: http://usscouts.org/advance/boyscout/bsoathlaw.asp:

Boy Scout Oath or Promise

On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

Note that the Boy Scout Oath has traditionally been considered to have three promises. Those three promises are delineated by the semicolons in the Oath, which divide it into three clauses. The three promises of the Scout Oath are, therefore:
  • Duty to God and country,
  • Duty to other people, and
  • Duty to self
DUTY TO GOD AND COUNTRY: Your family and religious leaders teach you to know and serve God. By following these teachings, you do your duty to God.
Men and women of the past worked to make America great, and many gave their lives for their country. By being a good family member and a good citizen, by working for your country's good and obeying its laws, you do your duty to your country. Obeying the Scout Law means living by its 12 points.
DUTY TO OTHER PEOPLE: Many people need help. A cheery smile and a helping hand make life easier for others. By doing a Good Turn daily and helping when you're needed, you prove yourself a Scout and do your part to make this a better world.
DUTY TO SELF: Keeping yourself physically strong means taking care of your body. Eat the right foods and build your strength. Staying mentally awake means learn all you can, be curious, and ask questions. Being morally straight means to live your life with honesty, to be clean in your speech and actions, and to be a person of strong character.

Boy Scout Law

A Scout is:
  • Trustworthy,
  • Loyal,
  • Helpful,
  • Friendly,
  • Courteous,
  • Kind,
  • Obedient,
  • Cheerful,
  • Thrifty,
  • Brave,
  • Clean,
  • and Reverent.

Boy Scout Motto

Be Prepared!

Boy Scout Slogan

Do a Good Turn Daily!

The Outdoor Code

As an American, I will do my best to -
  • Be clean in my outdoor manners
  • Be careful with fire
  • Be considerate in the outdoors, and
  • Be conservation minded.
I will not comment on all that you just read, except to say - what is the standard for morality? If it is popular opinion, then the decision made today is just fine. If it is the Word of God, then there is a problem, chiefly that the Bible condemns homosexuality, period.

But there is a strange twist in all of this that makes the truth completely plain. While the ban for gay boy scouts has been lifted, the ban on gay adults being involved in scouts remains. (But be assured that will also be gone, too, after the lawsuits begin).

Here is the scenario: An openly gay, participating boy scout at age 17 will no longer be allowed to participate in the program when he turns 18. As one gay boy scout has already commented, "Will I turn into a bad person when I have my 18th birthday?" So what is the message? The message is that we know that this is wrong but we have decided to compromise! If it is wrong for an 18 year-old then is it not wrong for a child? The Boy Scouts of America have actually made a statement unwittingly that brings the truth to light (as if it weren't already shining brightly). Homosexuality is a sin. It is a choice. And just like the decision made today by the organization, it is the wrong choice.

"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." - 1 Cor. 6:9-11

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

How Big is God?

Perhaps you have seen the devastation this week in Moore, Oklahoma. Words cannot describe it. They are calling this latest tornado the storm of storms. Adults and children have died and they are still sifting through the rubble. Prayers and thoughts are extended to everyone who has suffered from this powerful and destructive piece of weather.

When you look at the results of this storm from the cameras in the helicopters, you cannot help but be in awe of what has taken place. It makes human beings seem so insignificant. It reminds us that we are so feeble. Safety? Maybe it was available on some level, but even some who hid from the storms were killed. We are not as strong as we think. All of the technology and advancement we have achieved still cannot save us completely from the power of the natural world that God created.

Today we had a huge and very old white oak tree cut down in our back yard. The tree was dead and we had to have it removed for fear of the limbs coming down on our home or perhaps on our children while they might be playing. As the heavy limbs came down the force of gravity and the weight of the oak pierced the soft earth underneath. I have limbs in my yard buried several feet into the ground. They are virtually immovable. The trunk itself was not removed as we have left it for decoration. If we do ever move it, it is going to be a great deal of work.

After four hours of removing limbs, my yard still looks like the tree has just fallen. Even a simple backyard project is humbling sometimes. This is just one tree in one yard on the earth in which we live. We are but one planet in a universe that is so large we cannot come up with a number that would explain its size. And yet God spoke it into existence with a word. So how big is God?

It is important for us to remember how awesome and powerful God truly is. It will keep us humble and it will cause us to wonder at the marvelous Creator of every material thing. When I watch news reports of devastating storms like the ones we have witnessed this week, in my mind I hit my knees and ask God for forgiveness for not respecting His greatness. A proper view of God will lead us to the only true refuge that mankind has been given. Our Rock is Christ, our hope is heaven, and our God is sitting on His eternal throne. We are living here temporarily, held by the power of the same word that created everything we see.

Put your faith in God. Allow yourself to elevate God as much as you can in your limited capacity. Fear the Lord and tremble at His commandments. This is the beginning of wisdom and the key to everlasting life.

"Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.' For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." - 2 Peter 3:3-7

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Advantages of a Child-like Faith

Jesus let His disciples know that unless they were converted and became as little children they could not enter the kingdom of God (Matt. 18:3). The innocence of children, coupled with their humility to accept the truth, is what separates the type of heart that can belong to God from the heart that is willfull and skeptical. For those of you who are adults, listen up! Consider the advantages of a child-like faith:

1. My son, Daniel, who is almost nine, will read Revelation 21:8 and respond - "Dad, we have to tell the truth. The Bible says that liars go to hell." The fact of the matter is that my son is willing to accept the Bible just as it is. There are so many "educated" adults out there, who will not only say that we can't say anybody is going to hell - they will say that there is no hell! If I am preaching the true gospel, then I am preaching that there are people who are going to hell. Being politically correct and being Biblically correct are two different things. A child-like faith is interested in what is Biblically correct.

2. One of our young ladies here at Willow, Brooklyn Crouch, recently responded to the gospel by running to the front pew as soon as the invitation song began. What an awesome sight that was! I have never seen anything like that before. She was so ready to become a Christian that she ran. This is child-like faith. How many adults have held tight to the back of a pew to keep from coming up? How many adults have talked themselves out of going forward during the invitation song? Satan cannot win when a person has child-like faith. Adults give Satan  room. Children hate Satan and don't want anything to do with him.

3. In one of my recent studies which is currently ongoing, I have been priveleged to study with a young lady who simply wants to learn what the Bible actually teaches. Her religious background is different than mine. Neither of us had a choice concerning our religious past. But now we have a choice as adults to be responsible with the text. We are studying together, learning together what God's will is for our lives. A child-like faith will not bring preconceived ideas into Bible study. Child-like faith seeks, searches, and even begs for truth. It does not concern itself with the consequences - it simply learns and obeys. I am confident that every person who takes a child-like approach to the examination of the doctrine of Christ will receive the truth and through obedience to it they will be set free (John 8:31-32).

What kind of faith do you have? Do you need to humble yourself and start learning again like a child? If you are not a Christian, I pray that you will honestly approach God's Word and allow it to change your life. If you are a Christian, I pray that you will remember you are a child of God. He is still your Father and He knows what's best. Come to Him as a child.

"Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it." ~ Mark 10:15

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Some Thoughts on Mother's Day

I am writing this article from my office on a Wednesday morning. (I am usually finished with the weekly article long before this, but I have been out sick for the last two days). I have some random thoughts about Mother's Day I would like to express with you today. (I have many random thoughts on many subjects - but I am sure you think about some of these things, too). I hope you are blessed by what you read.

1. Mothers may be the most influential people in the world. We have all heard the phrase "the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world." I believe this is true. Nobody has more impact on the next generation than today's mothers. If you are a mother, please understand the importance of your job. Make sure that you are raising Christian children. Your example is what they are learning from the most. I hope you are getting plenty of help from your husband to instill a healthy fear and respect for God in your children.

2. Mother's Day is one of the high marks for worship attendance each year. I have been keeping notes on this for years. Easter Sunday is first, Mother's Day is usually second, and the Sunday before Christmas is third. Why is this? I am glad to see so many at worship on any occasion, but the problem is priorities. People will come to church to worship mom once a year, rather than worship God every Sunday as the early Christians did. It is also true that the Sunday night after Mother's Day is typically the low in Sunday evening attendance each year (again, next to Easter). Many leave morning services, go to mom's house, and then spend the rest of the evening there while a few faithful brethren return on Sunday night. (I am not being cynical here, I am just stating the facts). Why not make a family decision to honor God and fellowship with the brethren on Sunday evening this year?

3. If you have had a wonderful Christian mother who loved you, give thanks and praise to God while you honor her. I got a call this week from a man who listens to our radio program. He was not raised in a loving family and he admitted to me that he cannot forgive his mother. After we talked for a while and I gave him some passages I thought might be helpful, as I hung up the phone I stopped and said a prayer of thanks to God for my parents. So many people are growing up in this world without parents who love them as God intended. Imagine it being Mother's Day and you are not inclined to say "Thank you" to your mother!

4. It is okay to be partial about some things. This Sunday my mom and my mother's mother are supposed to be with us for worship. I am very excited. I have not gotten to spend Mother's Day with both of them for about 20 years. I think I have the best mother and the best two grandmothers of all time (not to mention my wife, and my mother-in-law, who are right there with them). I respect your own opinion to feel the same way about yours. We should love our physical families with a special love. "Storge" love (a Greek term) is a natural affection for family that is found in the pages of Scripture. Understand that your family is special. Make it even more special by your love and commitment to the family in which God has placed you..

I have about 20 more "random thoughts" about Mother's Day I wish I could share. But I would like to end by telling my mom, "I love you." No other mother can ever take my mom's place. If you have seen the perfect and unconditional love of your mother than you have come as close as you can to seeing the face of God.

"For I too was a son to my father, still tender, and cherished by my mother." ~ Proverbs 4:3