Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Looking the Other Way

Children play games. Looking back to childhood I remember one game in particular where a person would point and say something ridiculous in order to try and get the other person to cast their eyes in a certain direction. For example, someone might say (pointing into the air), "Is that an ostrich?" When the other person looked up in the air (not thinking about what was being said, but just following the hand gesture), the other person would reply, "Ha, ha, made you look!" My own children still play this game more often then I would like to mention.

It occurs to me that people play this game every day in the religious realm as well. Some people lead others down a false path by their activity and motions. They point into the heavens, while telling a lie. Go into any city of size here in the "Bible belt," and you will find churches that have all the appearances of spritiuality, but their religion is false. Churches are popping up everywhere offering "exciting worship", coffee bars, children's play areas, and something for everyone. But do they teach the truth about salvation? Do they hold to the doctrine of the New Testament with regard to marriage, the church, or daily Christian living?

And what of those who play the game on the other end? When an honest and loving Christian tries to point them to the Scriptures, they refuse to look. That is the object of their game. They think by not looking they won't be tricked. I am amazed when people try to predict the time of Christ's return. They refuse to read what the Scriptures say (Matt. 24:36, 44). This is just one example. A person could spend all day examining doctrines that exist in our world simply because there are so many who refuse to accept what the Bible teaches on certain matters.

If we truly love God and His word, religion is not a game. We will not try to deceive people in order to fill pews. We will not reject the pure teaching of the Bible, in order to hold to our own views and sinful practices. Those who love the Lord love His word also. They will obey His commandments with joy and thankfulness for His guidance and care.

Behold He cometh with clouds...and when that day comes, rest assured, there will be no looking the other way.

"...looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith..." ~ Hebrews 12:2

Friday, February 24, 2012

Why We Preach

In the movie series, "Band of Brothers", episode 9 is entitled "Why We Fight." This series follows Easy Company, a group of young men who served our country during WWII in a remarkable way. "Why We Fight" is the title used to explain the discovery of a concentration camp in Germany, filled with hundreds of dead Jews and many more who were near death. Until that moment, though near the end of the war, the soldiers did not know of the existence of such camps. For the first time, late in the battle, they realized what they were fighting for.

Sometimes preachers find out late in the game, facts that prove the purpose of their preaching. I was given some such information this evening.

About 8 years ago, while in Lawrenceburg, TN, preaching for the Pulaski St. church, I came upon a family in need of benevolence. A single mother had just given birth to twins. She had two children already, a girl, age 8, and a boy age 6. They were very poor. The mother had these children by different men. She was working all the time and the children just needed care.

Along with what the church could do to help them with some bills and food, I asked the mother if I could take the older children to services every Sunday. She agreed to Sunday mornings, including Bible class. So we made extra room in the van and we began to bring these children to worship. They were like adopted kids to us. They sat with us every service. Over a 6 month period we also brought them to VBS. I found out that their grandmother was a member of the church, and although she was estranged from the mother (her daughter-in-law), sometimes the kids were able to come to worship with her also. As time went on, bad choices by their mother eventually led them away from us. The kids wanted to know Christ, but the mother continued to put obstacles in their way. I remember getting the two older children a Bible with their names engraved on it. I inscribed Proverbs 3:5-6 on the inside cover.

Years have passed and the children are now teenagers. I have wondered about them from time to time. I was sure that it was likely their lives were very troubled based on their situation. I was told tonight that the mother of these two kids and the twins continued to go through boyfriend after boyfriend. Her problems escalated, and I learned that she had told some false things about her oldest daughter, who is now 16. This child was placed in a facility run by the state. She was rejected by her own mother and now is doing what she can to make her way in life.

A lady my mother studies with happens to be a cousin to this young lady that has been institutionalized. She told my mom, that now that she is in this facility, her mainstay has been her Bible, the Bible she received from the church when she was 8. Some of the workers at the facility have testified of her kindness, and how she is using her Bible to reach other children in the facility. I don't understand why these things happen. I trust that the Lord knows these things, and I am certain He knows hearts. I pray for this young lady, and her brother, and every child who deserves a chance.

I am thankful to know that there is a reason why we preach. Most of the time we already know the reason. We preach because souls deserve to hear about the last best hope on earth. We preach because God loves people. We preach because there is nothing else better that we can do.

"Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me." ~ Mark 9:37

Monday, February 20, 2012

To Our Deacons:

This Sunday at Willow Avenue we are installing seven men as deacons. This is a very important day for our spiritual family. Many prayers have been said on behalf of the elders, these new men, and those who currently serve as deacons. Our supreme desire is that we as a church are honoring and glorifying God. We trust that this process has been according to the examples set forth for us in the Bible.

To the church, I ask that you continue to pray for our deacons. I also ask that you will stay and listen during this process, as the elders will be informing us of the work that has been delegated to each of our deacons. You need to know who you should go to in certain sitatuions if there is a need. You also need to know what these men are doing so that you can support and help them in their efforts. Finally, church, accept them as deacons according to God's will. Give them the honor and respect they deserve as special servants in the kingdom.

To the deacons and their families: I want you to know that I love you with the love of the Lord. Even though I know that you know this is not about you, but about God, for those of you who are serving for the first time, it is an important day in your spiritual lives. It is hard not to be stirred with emotion as I see you take your rightful place in the church of Christ. This is happening because you and your spouses have humbled yourselves in your lives so as to follow Christ and show the proper dedication we should see in every Christian. I cannot express to you the depth of my feelings. But I want to say, from the bottom of my heart, thank you, and may God be with you and keep you.

What a wonderful day! May God be glorified! I am excited and thankful to be a part of the Willow Avenue church. May we all continue to grow in the love, and in the grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

"For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus." ~ 1 Timothy 3:13

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Our Greatest Mission Field

If you are going into mission work, one of the most important things you will want to know about the people in the country you will work is, "How receptive are the people to the gospel?" Some areas of the world are not very receptive. In those places it might take months just to find a handful of people who would be willing to study the Bible with you.

In Tennessee, people are very receptive. So receptive that nearly any form of religion will do. There is not a single day that goes by that I am not trying to get somebody to come to worship with us, or to study, and so this counts for a lot of spiritual conversations. I am finding more and more that people do not know very much about the Bible, even though they would consider themselves to be religious. I am also finding that most people are interested in Bible study, but a large number of those people have already formed their denominational or philiosphical conclusions about what the Bible teaches.

Sunday evening, as I was working with my kids for Lads to Leaders, it dawned on me that the most receptive people to the gospel I want so desperately to spread are my own children. They are like sponges, soaking up Bible verses and historical accounts of events and places and people. They have no preconceived notions. They have no filter. They just want to learn and their hearts are pure and they are willing to be shaped by the will of God.

This being the case, I said a prayer of repentance for all the times I may have neglected to teach my own children, because I was trying to teach somebody else. I am going to rededicate myself to them. Since children are so innocent and receptive, what a great responsibility we have to teach them what the Bible says! I don't want my kids to be shaped by modern philosophy and theology and the current world view. They deserve to know what is in the mind of God. They deserve to have an understadning of the only book that will bring them joy, peace, comfort, hope, and eternal life.

Here I am, wanting to go to all the world, just as Jesus instructed...and yet my greatest mission field is right in my own home.

"And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up." ~ Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Thursday, February 9, 2012

"My Preacher"

This week I have been enjoying the FHU lectures. Personally it is the most encouraging week of my year. My life changed by coming to Freed-Hardeman. My mentors and Bible teachers are mostly still here.

The lectures this year were dedicated to brother Clarence DeLoach. Brother DeLoach now attends with the church where he retired from local work (Willow Ave. in Cookeville, TN), where I currently preach. I can say without hesitation that brother DeLoach has been my biggest supporter since I followed him there. He is a great man. He is a princely man. He is a Christian, a gentleman, and one of the greatest preachers of our time.

On an occasion or two, since coming to Cookeville, brother DeLoach has introduced me to people in town by saying, "This is my preacher." The first time he said that, my mind went back in time to the FHU lectureships from years ago. I was attending a lecture by brother William Woodson. As I walked into the auditorium brother Woodson saw me and smiled and said, "There's my preacher." William Woodson was one of our members when I preached at Pulaski St. in Lawrenceburg, TN. I feel about brother Woodson as I do about brother DeLoach. Two of the greatest preachers, and men, that I have ever known.

It is extremely hard for me to write this article. But it has been on my mind and heart and I want to express these feelings. I do not want anyone who reads this to think that I am "name-dropping." I don't want anyone who reads this to think that I am a good preacher just because of my association these men. The fact is, I just happened to be so fortunate and blessed to preach for congregations where they have been. This week at FHU is just a reminder to me about how unworthy I am of all of the work and knowledge of men who I believe are the greatest bible students and evangelists in the world.

For William Woodson or Clarence DeLoach to say that I am their preacher reminds me that the preacher is nothing. When I compare my life to them - I know just how far below them I stand. But I can be their preacher, because I preach the gospel. The power is all in the message. The Bible is the life-giving, spirit-transforming, eternity-changing power of our Almighty God. The smallest man can preach its truth to the greatest, and it can change both of their lives.

I want to say to those of you who are preachers, that many people say to others about you, "This is my preacher." Whether they are presidents of companies, Bible department faculty, governors, public officials, or just the people who come in off the street who need a physical meal as much as they do a spiritual one, you represent something to them that is very important. They all equally depend on you to preach to them the truth of the loving message of God's saving gospel. We should take as much care in teaching it to the heathen or infidel as we do to the greatest and strongest Christian we know.

I am thankful for all the people whom I have been able to call, "My preacher." I am thankful for all of those who have given me the honor of that same title in their lives. Anyone can preach the gospel, because the gospel is the message of the true Teacher and Preacher and Savior of the world, Jesus Christ.

"...How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" ~ Romans 10:15

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

If I Had a Hammer

Pete Seeger and Lee Hays wrote a song in 1949 entitled, "If I Had a Hammer." This song was originally a part of the progressive movement, and later became an anthem of the American Civil Rights movement.

Consider the lyrics:
If I had a hammer
I'd hammer in the morning
I'd hammer in the evening
All over this land
I'd hammer out danger
I'd hammer out a warning
I'd hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land

If I had a bell
I'd ring it in the morning
I'd ring it in the evening
All over this land
I'd ring out danger
I'd ring out a warning
I'd ring out love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land

If I had a song
I'd sing it in the morning
I'd sing it in the evening
All over this land
I'd sing out danger
I'd sing out a warning
I'd sing out love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land

Well I've got a hammer
And I've got a bell
And I've got a song to sing
All over this land
It's the hammer of justice
It's the bell of freedom
It's the song about love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land

I can relate to the sentiment of this song - but in a different way. I have always wanted to have a hammer that would break the hearts of sinful men. I have always wanted to have a bell that everyone could hear at once, that would call them to feast upon the word of God. I have always wanted a song to reside in the souls of men, because of the love they have with God and with one another because of the saving blood of Jesus Christ.

But wait - we do have a hammer, we just aren't hammerning! We do have a bell, we just aren't ringing! We do have a song, we just aren't singing!

"Is not My word like a fire?" says the Lord, "And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? ~ Jeremiah 23:29