A Decision for and a Protest Against

Charles Spurgeon, the “Prince of Preachers,” once said to  a 19th century congregation, “Learn to say no! It will be more use to you than to be able to speak Latin.” Spurgeon, pastor to thousands, whose sermons were published worldwide, also said, “Neither when we have chosen our way can we keep company with those who go the other way. There must come with the decision to stand for truth a corresponding protest against error.”

He was talking about the importance of having convictions and being able to stand up for what you believe in, even if it means that uncomfortably you must at times say, “No!”

As believers, we are called upon to maintain a testimony for our Lord and Savior in a world of which the Apostle John spake when he wrote: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world…for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passeth away…but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” (I John 2:15-17)

To do so will require convictions. Some may be “ordinary” mundane things about what to eat or what not to eat; others may be extraordinary—matters of faith and practice that to bend upon would sorely wound one’s conscience: “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23b)  “Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth.” (Eph.6:14) Believers today and throughout history have “gone to the stake,” as it were, because they have been unwilling to bend on what they hold as a Biblical conviction.  History is tinted red with the blood of martyrs who have been beheaded, burned at the stake, beaten to death, or drowned because they would neither bow nor bend. Here is a brief list of core Biblical convictions that are principles upon which every believer would, I believe, rightly stand firm upon today:

(1) Whatever the Bible says is so. It is our final authority of faith and practice, and “all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Tim.3:16) “To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no truth in them.” (Isa.8:20)

(2) The main purpose in living my life is to bring glory to God. It is not to make a name for myself, nor to “do my own thing,” nor to “enjoy myself while I do it my way.” God’s Word says, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou has created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Rev.4:11)

(3) My body is the temple of God’s Holy Spirit, and therefore I should glorify God in my body and not defile it by what I do with it, or by where I take it. I cannot justify wrongdoing in this temple by saying, “I am only hurting myself.” In sinning with, to, and through our body, we grieve God’s Holy Spirit, hurt our loved ones, our teachers, and those who have looked to us as examples. “For ye are bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (I Cor.6:20)

(4) The local church is the organism through which God is fulfilling His divine purposes today, and I will, therefore, be actively involved in the ministry of a local, New Testament assembly of believers: one that preaches the whole counsel of God and is engaged in obeying the Great Commission as given by our Lord in Matt.28:18-20—a church that I can support with my presence, prayers and pocketbook. A church that is unashamed of the preaching of the Book, the Blood, and the Blessed Hope of His soon return. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another: and so much the more as ye see the day approaching.” (Heb.10:25)

(5) Children are an heritage of the Lord, and as a parent it is my responsibility (and privilege!) to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord and the fruit of the womb is His reward.” (Ps.127:3) “Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov.22:6) “And these words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently to thy children..” (Deut.6:6,7) It is not the responsibility of the school, nor of the church, nor of the state to train up our children. It is our God-given task, and we must hold to the conviction that nothing on our calendar from day to day is more important than this training.

“Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity.” (I Cor.16:13,14)

(To be continued)

“The Old Rugged Cross”

A missionary was visiting with Mahatma Gandhi, and at the close of their visit Gandhi said, “Before you leave, would you sing one of your hymns?” When asked what hymn he would like to hear, Gandhi replied, “Please sing a hymn that expresses all that is deepest in your faith.” After a few moments, the missionary broke out in

“When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of glory died;
My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.
Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

Often, we who have been redeemed from the curse of the law ought to go back to where, for us, life began. “Lead me to Calvary” should be our constant prayer: “Lest I forget Gethsemane, lest I forget Thine agony, lest I forget Thy love for me, lead me to Calvary.”

Come back with me for a few moments today as we kneel at the cross.

Paul, the Apostle, in his epistle to the Galatian saints, made three references to the cross. In each of these we can find something significant about the cross—the emblem of suffering and shame, and of the Christian’s faith.

(1) The Offense of the Cross: “And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offense of the cross ceased.” (Gal. 5:11) The cross is the source of shame: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” (Gal. 3:13) In Deut. 21: 22,23 Moses gave instruction that if a man committed a crime worthy of death, and he was put to death by hanging on a tree, his body should not remain all night upon the tree, “but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day, for he that is hanged on a tree is cursed of God.” Cicero, a Roman statesman and orator, said of the cross and crucifixion: “The very name should be excluded from the thought, eyes and ears of a Roman citizen: no word can adequately describe such a nefarious thing.”

The cross was also a source of stumbling. (I Cor. 1:23) To the Jews, looking for a Messiah, it was a stumbling block since they were awaiting the appearance of their King. Pilate, interrogating Jesus, asked, “Art Thou the King of the Jews?” He would later have the superscription written on the cross, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” And, while the cross was a stumbling block to the Jew, it was just plain foolishness to Greeks—lovers of wisdom, beauty, and bodies. The cross, to the Gentile, was not wise; nor was there beauty in a body that was beaten, bloodied and bruised. “Human nature, whether of the philosophic mind of the Greek, the religious mind of the Jew or the analytic mind of the Roman, or the intellectual mind of modern man, recoils from the thought of seeking salvation from a crucified messiah.” (MacArthur)

Contrast what Harry A. Ironside—the 20th-century Bible commentator and one-time pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago—said about Isa. 53:6, a verse which paints the picture of our suffering Savior as he pays the price for sin at Calvary: “To me verse six (‘All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all’) is the most wonderful text in the whole Bible. I have been trying to preach for sixty years and that is the first text I ever preached on. I was just a boy 14 years old, and out on the streets of Los Angeles with the Salvation Army. I started speaking on that verse, meaning to take 5 minutes, but a half hour later the captain leaned over and said, ‘Son, we should have been in the Hall twenty minutes ago; you’ll have to tell us the rest some other time.’ I have been trying to tell the rest all through these years since, but it is a text I never get beyond.”

(2) The Persecution of the Cross, Phil.3:18: “I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ.” Lucifer, of course, is the ancient and age-old enemy of the cross of Christ. He has been—and is to this hour—joined by unbelievers, modern religion, false prophets, and the masses of the world who are simply indifferent to the Cross. Rembrandt, the famous Dutch artist, in painting the scene of the crucifixion of Christ, painted himself in a corner scene, suggesting that he himself was just another interested but indifferent part of the crowd that crucified the Christ. “When Jesus came to Golgotha, they hanged Him on a tree…when Jesus came to Birmingham, they simply passed Him by.” (Studdert Kennedy)

(3) The Glory of the Cross, Gal.6:14: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Our Lord, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, “and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2) We can and should then “glory” in the cross, as did Paul. “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses. Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers He made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” (Col. 3:13-15)

When Portuguese traders, following the trail of the explorer Vasco da Gama, settled on the south coast of China, they built a massive cathedral on a hillcrest overlooking the harbor. In time, though, typhoons and three centuries wreaked havoc on the structure, leaving only the front façade. That part of the cathedral stood long after most of the structure had crumbled to dust. Left “high on its triangular top, clean cut against the sky, and defying rain, lightning and typhoons, is a great bronze cross. When Sir John Bowring, Governor of Hong Kong, visited Macao in 1825, he was so impressed by the scene that he wrote the famous hymn, ‘In the Cross of Christ I glory; towering o’er the wrecks of time; all the light of sacred story, gathers round it head sublime.’” (Samuel Zwermer, The Glory of the Cross, 1928)

Think of hamburgers and you might think of a golden arch; think of the Olympics and a burning torch might come to mind; think of freedom and the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island may loom large in your thinking; think of politics and a donkey or an elephant might be the physical emblems of what you have in mind. We do not have a golden arch or a burning torch or a Statue of Liberty or an elephant or donkey; BUT we have an “old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame.” May we ever glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!

“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32)

The Light of God’s Word

The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding to the simple.” (Ps. 119:130)

The young person asks: “How do I know whether what I have always been taught is right…which church can I trust?  Enter the light of God’s Word: “And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)

The believer whose body is assaulted by pain daily asks, “Why does God make me suffer like this?” Enter the light of God’s Word: “For our light affliction which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” (2 Cor. 4:17)

The missionary who labors faithfully year after year with few visible results wonders whether it is really worth the sacrifices he and his family have made. Enter the light of God’s Word: “For God is not unfaithful to forget your work and labor of love.” (Hebs. 6:10)

The businessman who struggles to keep his small business afloat is tempted to cut a shady deal in order to get ahead—like so many others are doing, with apparent success.  Enter the light of God’s Word: “Provide things honest in the sight of all men.” (Romans 12:17b)

The high school junior who becomes pregnant through a relationship with a boy who, learning of her plight, disclaims any responsibility and distances himself from her. Her high school counsellor advises her to proceed quickly and quietly to abort the baby—even though the girl and her parents are committed Christians, and they have always believed abortion to be an unbiblical choice.  The counsellor assures the girl that no one needs to know, and that she will give her all the help needed going forward. What to do?  Enter the light of God’s Word: “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Ps.119:105) “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Ps. 139:13,14)

The middle-aged lady who believes she has internal physical problems for which there is no medical cure. Whether real or imagined, these problems fill her with constant fear. Enter the light of God’s Word: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim. 1:7)

The young person who faces the uncertain future with a big question mark in his mind: “What shall I do with my life?  Shall I go to college? If so, where?” Enter the light of God’s Word: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” (Provs. 3:5,6)

The lady who is suddenly left without a husband through death and who wonders how she will ever cope without her longtime, loving mate. Enter the light of God’s Word: “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, ‘The Lord is my helper.’” (Hebs. 13:5,6)

The couple who just cannot seem to find happiness in their strained marriage, and whose friends and family urge them to give it up as a lost cause.  Enter the light of God’s Word: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (I Cor. 10:13)

The teen who feels the pull of peer pressure and wonders if it would be all right to attend a school event that might compromise her Christian testimony. Enter the light of God’s Word: “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” (I Thess. 5:22) “…for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Rom. 14:23b)

The single lady who feels she has fallen in love with the man of her dreams—a man who meets every criterion she has ever had for a husband except for one: he is not saved, never having accepted Christ as his Savior. Enter the light of God’s Word: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” (2 Cor. 6:14)

The church member who has so many debts he just cannot see his way clear to giving a tithe of his income to God through his local church, even though he believes it is right to do so. So he gives a few dollars each week hoping that God will understand, reasoning that we are not under the law anyway, and that tithing was for the Old Testament believer.  Enter the light of God’s Word: “Honor the Lord with thy substance and with the first fruits of thy increase.” (Provs. 3:10)

The person who suddenly faces death and is afraid to die, but is not afraid of what will happen to him after death. Enter the light of God’s Word: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for Thou art with me.” (Ps. 23:4)

The person who feels he has committed such awful sins that God would never forgive him. Enter the light of God’s Word: “Come now and let us reason together saith the Lord: ‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.’” (Isa. 1:18)

 “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:14,16)

How to Become a Son of God

Two great battles have been recorded as turning points in history: the battle of Waterloo (1805), sealing Napoleon’s doom and destiny; and the battle of Trafalgar (1815), which was masterfully won by the British Navy and established its global naval supremacy for more than a century.

The year 1809, about midway between those battles, is not known for a great historical event. But, quietly, a sovereign God was doing something on earth that would have far greater impact than either of the aforementioned battles: the statesman William Gladstone was born in Liverpool, England; the physician and writer Oliver Wendell Holmes was born in Boston; the musician Felix Mendelsohn was born in Hamburg, Germany; and Abraham Lincoln made his entrance into the world in Hodgenville, Kentucky. Just four births—but the effect they would have upon the world far eclipsed the impact of those great battles!

The most important day in your life, and the day that will make the eternal impact upon your destiny, is not your natural birthday but the day you were born into the kingdom of God—the day you became a child of God.

Maybe you have never experienced that birthday yet. It would be the saddest thing in the world to have been born naturally, lived on the earth, died, and gone into eternity never having been born again! “Better never to have been born, than to never have been born again!”

Who would not want to be a child of God?

To those who had put their faith in Christ, the Apostle John wrote, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God.” (I John 3:2)

None of us is worthy, but God’s infinite grace, His matchless love, and His inexhaustible mercy have provided for us sonship!  “Beloved, now are we the sons of God.” How does one become a son of God? Very simple.  Two things:

First, BELIEVE on His name. It is something you do by faith. Suppose you were to receive in today’s mail a check drawn upon, say, Chase Bank of New York City, signed by Bill Gates. You would doubtless take it to your bank and deposit it into your checking or savings account, not questioning whether Mr. Gates could and would make good on the draft. If God draws on the Bank of Heaven a promise made out to you and signed by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, why then would you not “cash in” on it by faith.

The only reason one would not do that, by faith, is unbelief, which is the only thing that can keep a person out of heaven. Jesus plainly said to the Pharisees of His day: “Ye will not come to me that ye might have life…How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? For had ye believed Moses ye would have believed me:  for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (John 5:40-47)

Jesus, stirred in his soul by the unbelief that kept men in His day upon the earth from become “sons” of God, agonized: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! How often would I have gathered thy children together even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.” (Matt. 23:37)

Believe ON HIS NAME. He is the Word, the Light, the Lamb, the Door, the Way, the Truth and the Life; He is Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah, Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, Alpha and Omega. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

One evening, Charles Lamb and friends were talking about people they would have liked to have met—Chaucer, Sir Thomas Brown, and William Shakespeare, to mention a few. At length, the sacred name of Jesus was mentioned, the name which is above every name. There was a pause, then Lamb said, “If Shakespeare were to come into this room, we should all stand up: but if He (Jesus) came into the room, we should all kneel.” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” (Acts 16:31)

Second, RECEIVE HIM! As the Bible says, “As many as (i.e., whosoever will!) received Him, to them gave He the power.” (John 1:12) It is personal, simple, powerful.

Sir James Simpson, the famous Scottish surgeon who developed the modern use of anesthetics, was once asked what was his greatest discovery.  The eminent scientist and surgeon simply said, “My greatest discovery is that I am a great sinner; and that Jesus is a great Savior.” Paul, God’s chosen apostle to the Gentiles, said, “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.” (I Tim. 1:12)

Won’t you believe and receive Jesus today and become one of His sons? Josephus, a historian who lived at the time that Jesus was walking the shores of Galilee, healing the sick and saving the penitent, said this of our Lord and Savior:

“Now there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call Him a man, for He was a doer of wonderful works—a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to Him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned Him to the cross, those that loved Him at the first did not forsake Him, for He appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning Him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from Him, are not extinct at this day.”

Sounds like Josephus might have believed and received. But the question today is, Have you?  Will you?

But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” (John 1:12)

Seventeen Inches, Now and Always!

John Scolinos, baseball coach at Pepperdine University and for three decades at Cal State Polytech U., became well known for a speech he once delivered at the Opryland Hotel in 1996 to 4,000 baseball coaches who were meeting in Nashville for the annual American Baseball Coaches Association. Wearing a home plate around his neck, he queried of the Little League coaches present “How many inches is home plate.” Several in the audience responded “Seventeen inches.” He then asked all the Babe Ruth League coaches present “How many inches is home plate?” The same answer was echoed, “Seventeen inches.” He continued asking high school coaches, college coaches, minor league and major league coaches the same question, “How many inches is home plate?” The same response came back from every group present, “Seventeen inches.” He then made his point that it never changes and that some things should never change, things having to do with time-tested character standards, whether in sports, in the home, in the church, in the nation. His conclusion: “Coaches, keep your players, no matter how good they are-your own children and most of all yourself at seventeen inches!” Scolinos applied his principle to the nation, to the schools and the dumbing down of educational norms that were at one time designed to build character, and, finally to the Church. One coach who heard Scolinos speak that day said, “I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curveballs and bunting…I learned something far more valuable. From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself accountable to that which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.”

It’s a matter of character, which is the subject of what I want to share with you today. You will not find the word character in the Bible, but you will note that it bleeds through every person on every page of the Bible.  It is not defined but it is depicted, from the fall of Lucifer to the fall of mankind, from the beginning in the garden to the ending in the New Jerusalem.  Men and women whose lives wrote a story, depicting a character for good or for bad, for time and for eternity. Every person possesses character, some bent, some beautiful, some honest, some crooked; it cannot be camouflaged indefinitely, for at some time or other, in life or in death, it will be on center stage and one’s true character will be on display for a watching world.

Oscar Wilde, Irish poet and playwright, arrived for a visit in the United States in 1882. Asked by officials what he had to declare, he replied “Only my genius.” Fifteen years later, alone and broken in prison, Wilde reflected on his life (character): “I have been a spendthrift of my genius; I forgot that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character.” (Hillsdale College, Imprimus)

Character’s core:  the inner person that men do not see but that God looks upon: “But the Lord said unto Samuel, look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature, because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” (I Sam.16:7)

Character’s crux: 19th century evangelist D.L. Moody said that character was “what a man is in the dark.” When no one can see you and no one can know what you are doing or thinking, then the crux of your character, known only to God and to you, will be revealed, Moody opined. What a man is in the dark will depend upon what there is inside of him to command and compel him to do right or to fail to answer to the commands of his conscience and of his creator.

Character’s consistency: A scorpion, being a very poor swimmer, asked a turtle to carry him on his back across the river. “Are you mad?” exclaimed the turtle. “You’ll sting me while I’m swimming and I’ll drown.” “My dear turtle,” laughed the scorpion, “if I were to sting you, you would drown and I would go down with you. Now, where is the logic in that?”

“You’re right,” said the turtle. “Hop on!” The scorpion climbed aboard and halfway across the river gave the turtle a mighty sting. As they both sank to the bottom, the turtle resignedly said, “Do you mind if I ask you something? You said there’d be no logic in stinging me. Why did you do it?”

“It has nothing to do with logic,” the drowning scorpion sadly replied. It’s just my character.” (Copied, Horizon)

Character’s course: When James Garfield was president of Hiram College a father brought his son to the school requesting that he be given a shortened course of studies, affirming that his boy could never take in all the required assignments. Garfield, a minister/educator said, “Oh, yes. He can take a shorter course: it all depends upon what you want to make of him. When God wants to make an oak, He takes a hundred years, but when He makes a squash, it only takes a matter of a couple of months.”

Character’s constancy: Charles Lindbergh spoke to the enduring aspect of character when he said that “short-term survival may depend upon the knowledge of nuclear physicists and the performance of supersonic aircraft, but long-term survival depends alone upon the character of man. We must remember that it was not the outer grandeur of the Roman but the inner simplicity of the Christian that lived on through the ages.”

Character’s crumbling: David Brooks in “Road to Character” wrote that our culture, technological and meritocratic, had not made a race of depraved barbarians of us but it “has made us less morally articulate. Many of us have no clear idea how to build character, no rigorous way to think about such things. We are clear about external, professional things, but unclear about internal, moral ones.”

Character’s components: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest…just…pure…lovely…of good report…virtue…praise….” (Phil.4:8)

Character’s conversion: “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are past away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17)

“Nothing Could Be Finer”

The church in the “holler”.

That’s the way I remember an old song out of the past which goes on to say “than to be in Carolina in the morning.” Well, Ellen and I experienced that for a couple of weeks recently, and I’d like, on a personal note in this post, to share with you a few of our experiences.

First, we attended a Gospel Fellowship Association Conference in Greenville, South Carolina, that was planned and designed for the Interim Pastors branch of GFA.  Marshall Fant heads this program up and I have been a part of it since I stepped back from the senior pastorate in 2019.  There were a handful of men active then as interim pastors, and it has grown to 20 pastors that are now serving or ready to serve local churches who are in need of an experienced, qualified pastor to assist them, to shepherd them in the interim period as the church seeks God’s direction about the man of God they will eventually call as their pastor.  The men and their wives that we met are “top drawer,” Godly men with seasoned experience, most of them decades as under shepherds of local churches, and any church needing assistance in an interim period would be well served by the GFA Interim Pastor ministry.  Marsh Fant has timely podcasts that are also highly instructive and inspirational.  In a recent “You and God” I quoted some stunning statistics about the number of pastors leaving the ministry every month, hundreds and some estimate thousands!  That was a credible source that shared this information, and that was before Covid-19 made its ugly appearance in 2020, so one might guess the number to be even higher now. Many, many churches are now without pastors to lead and feed them.  If you are a member of one of these congregations or know of such a local church that would want a sound, Biblicist pastor, fully-vetted as to his theology and practical experience, I would encourage you to give to that church the following contact information: mfant@gfamissions.org.  The conference we attended was a spiritual shot in the arm for both the pastors and their wives. This GFA interim pastor ministry that God, through this sound mission board, has raised up for such time as this as a service of helps to local churches, is extraordinary.

The rest of our two weeks in the Carolinas was spent visiting family that we had intended to see in the spring of 2020, but the day we planned to drive from Maranatha Village, an exceptional retirement community for believers of like precious faith located in Sebring, FL., everything shut down over-night due to Covid-19, and it was impossible to find even a McDonald’s open for a cup of coffee or a rest room break. So, our delayed trip to visit family in the Carolinas was put on hold for a couple of years. We enjoyed a brief visit with a grandson who lives and works in Greenville, SC, Parker Nye. He graduated from Bob Jones University and is working in the business field.  He is single, smart and handsome and loves the Lord and works actively in a local church there. He loves Greenville and has chosen, for the present time at least, to make that his home.

Then, we traveled to King’s Mountain, NC, where Eddie and June Bridges have lived all of their married life (50 years plus). June is one of Ellen’s sisters.  We were only able to spend a couple of nights there, but thoroughly enjoyed that time.  King’s Mountain is an historic place where the local mountaineers, during the Revolutionary War, soundly defeated a well-equipped British brigade in a battle that played a significant role in turning the tide of the war against Great Britain.

Our next stop was in North Wilkesboro, NC, where Ellen was born and where she lived until she enrolled in Bob Jones University as a freshman in 1963.  That is where we met when I was a junior in the ministerial class. In those days we were assigned tables in the McKenzie dinning common, and attendance was required three meals a day, beginning at 6:45 a.m. and men had to have their ties on and women their appropriate dress attire for the day.  As I remember, the table assignments were changed every six weeks.  It was at table T-1 that I met the girl I fell in love with and would marry in 1965, 57 years ago, and counting by God’s grace. Ellen has a sister, Brenda (Terry), and a brother, Greg (Deborah), who live outside of North Wilkesboro, each of them having built houses on mountain tops adjacent to the Blue Ridge Mountains Parkway.  We stayed a week and a couple of days with Brenda and Terry, and our bedroom was on the 2nd floor and we could look out each morning at a beautiful sunrise with pink and blue streaks above the tree tops over which we were looking.  It was a totally different world with no sirens or busy traffic to hear, nothing but peaceful quiet. We were able to see and to visit with some of Ellen’s relatives in the area, and also to attend a couple of different churches. It was amazing that almost every church you would drive by, either in the town or in the rural, mountain areas, was a Baptist Church. Many of them were probably Southern Baptists but in recent years there have been more independent Baptist Churches established.  We first visited the church that Brenda and Terry attend, and to get to it one has to leave the paved road, driving on gravel and eventually dirt, thinking that there is no way a church would be located at the end of the road. But there was and it was full of people and the preacher delivered a Bible message that any sound Baptist Church member would have been blessed by–we certainly were.  It was a great experience. The following Sunday we attended a church where Terry and Brenda’s son and grandson attend.  It was even further into a “holler” than the first church and it was hard to believe that a church of any size would be at the end of that road which wound three or more miles up and down a mountain path before, wouldn’t you know, in a beautiful clearing the nicest white church building with a steeple, and a cemetery located behind the church building, appeared.  A cousin of Ellen’s preached a stirring Biblical message and we left rejoicing for having had the opportunity of worshipping there with those folk, who, by the way, were families, mostly younger, with children. It was a truly amazing experience and we were reminded that God has a faithful remnant and they are located everywhere.  These communities are not far from Boone, NC, and it is beautiful Blue Ridge Mountain terrain and we love it!

Our trip home August 1 was eventful also.  The airline flight that we were on from Charlotte to Indy had to navigate through some turbulence and we discovered that, amidst screams, one could hit the ceiling of an airplane cabin and at the same time have his seat belt securely fastened!  We arrived safely and were glad to be home again.

You and Your Pastor

Russell Blowers offered up the following description of what most of us would recognize as a pastor: “Somewhere between the call of God and the heart ward of the local hospital there exists a specialist in everything, variously called a ‘minister,’ a ‘pastor’ a ‘clergyman.’ He is a hero to his wife, a stranger to his children, a fine boy to his mother, an easy touch to some down and outers, a name on the mailing list of hundreds of agencies and organizations, an example to his flock.  To some he’s a fuddy-duddy, to some a stuffed shirt, to some he’s a character that never lived it up, to some he’s ‘Reverend.’ To others he’s ‘Johnny on the spot’ when death’s angel hovers over a loved one; he’s the one who is called when medics have done all that they can do; he’s the man who can mend marriages, but can’t fix his wife’s toaster. He’s the one who marries young lovers, prays with the sick, and buries the dead. He’s a financial expert, a public orator, janitor, errand boy, typist, file clerk, writer, public relations expert, poor golfer, professional tea-sipper, journalist, reformer, evangelist, pastor, business executive, counselor, prophet, book-worm, diplomat, human being, sinner, very poor golfer, bass, tenor, planner and terrible golfer!”

In his concluding chapter of the very exhortative book of Hebrews, the New Testament writer begins his concluding remarks with: “Let brotherly love continue.” In the remaining 21 verses, he mentions our relationship to those whose ministry we sit under, spiritually, with three admonitions: “Remember them which have the rule over you”; “Obey them that have the rule over you”; and, “Salute all them that have the rule over you.” (Hebs. 13:7,17,24)

In a podcast, Pastor Darrin Patrick reported these sobering findings from a Focus on the Family study: “1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, contention in churches or spiritual burnout; 50% of pastors will be divorced before the time they leave the ministry; 80% of pastors feel discouraged or unqualified in their roles as pastor; 50% of pastors are so discouraged they would leave the ministry if they had another way to make a living; four out of five of Bible School and/or seminary graduates will leave ministry in the first five years after graduation; 80% of spouses feel over-worked and 80% of them wish their husbands were not in ministry; 70% of ministers fight depression; 40% have had an extramarital affair, and 70% of pastors say that the only time studying the Word of God is when they are preparing a message.”

No doubt the situation has not improved. If those findings—reported and recorded before Covid-19 hit the world in 2020!—are anywhere close to reality, we should all give careful and prayerful consideration to those admonitions concerning “those who have the rule over us,” as inspired by the Holy Spirit and inscripturated in Hebrews 13.  Look at them again, briefly, with me:

  1. Remember them which have the rule over you (v. 7): This means that we must “keep in mind, think of, retain in memory.” The word translated “rule” has the connotation of “leading with authority.” Those men in the early church who were leaders—such as the half-brother of Jesus, James, who led the mother church in Jerusalem (Acts 15)—were sometimes called “elders ” (I Peter 5:1, 2) and “bishops” (I Tim. 3:1) and “pastors” (Eph. 4:11). These were men who would feed the flock and yet were responsible for “taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.” (I Pet. 5:1, 2) His readers were to “remember them” by following their faith and by considering the end of their way of life (v. 7). In so doing, they would not be carried away with strange doctrines. They would find themselves “outside the camp” and would be able to keep the right focus between the temporal and eternal. They would exude a right attitude of praise, and they would communicate spiritually (vss. 9-16). A lady who wanted to remember her pastor sent this note of appreciation: “I never really sat down and thanked you for everything you have done. L is in heaven because of you. You got out in the cold to hold my dying mother’s hand. Sat with my husband during my surgeries. Preached my dad’s funeral and my mom’s. I will work on being a better sheep, and thank you for looking out for our souls.”
  2.  Obey them that have the rule over you (v. 17): This means we are to be persuaded and convinced; we are to depend upon and trust their spiritual leadership. It means to submit to one’s authority. The result will be that those who lead will have joy in leading, not grief. And, consequently, it will go better for the ones who obey. It should be noted that pastors do have differing leadership styles—from the extreme of being an “autocratic” leader to the opposite of “passive” leadership. Biblical models portray both of those leadership methods as dangerous and damaging.  Pastors are not called to be spiritual dictators, nor will they find a “laisse-faire” model in the New Testament. Instead, they are to take the “oversight.” James, the pastor of the Jerusalem church, provides a good example of Scriptural, pastoral leadership in his handling a major problem (as recorded in Acts 15). When a pastor executes the office of a bishop, led of the Spirit and filled with wisdom from above (James 3), the church will be a healthy flock and the leadership will function with joy, not grief. Horror stories of churches led by autocrats or by pastors in abstentia are far too numerous.  Nothing in the New Testament gives any credence for “Deacon Boards” assuming the role and responsibilities for what should be pastoral oversight.
  3. Salute all them that have the rule over you (v. 24): This means that we are to “greet, welcome and respect” these men for their office and for their sacrificial service.  We do this by praying for them (II Thess. 3:1; 5:25) and encouraging them in their faithfulness. Obedience to the Word of God, and faithfulness in serving the God of the Word, is the best way to encourage your pastor. Deut.3:28 is insightful here. Moses, soon to pass the leadership baton to Joshua, exhorted the Israelites to “charge Joshua and encourage him and strengthen him: for he shall go over before this people.” Every pastor needs a good word of encouragement, as did Joshua. So do not hesitate to be forthcoming with a kind note or word of appreciation shared at the right time.

When I was a young pastor in the first church God placed me in to lead, I hit a pretty low spot on one particular occasion; in fact, it would eventually result in my resignation from that six-year stint. At my most difficult day, I found a note under a windshield wiper, left there by young Air-Force couple (young being 20 and 19 years of age, stationed at McConnell Air Force base and members of our church, the husband having been reared in a staunch Catholic home). The note was written as a poem, and it read: “We are thankful for a pastor like you, who will always stand for what is true; who is a man of convictions, and not contradictions; we hope that you keep preaching real strong, so that we may know the right from the wrong; feel free to preach and step on our toes, because when you do our spirit grows. So please don’t teach the ‘gospel’ of another, just keep on keeping on and ‘preach it, brother!’” I did not feel worthy of that admiration then, nor do I now. But at that moment, it did surely encourage a young pastor and his wife. Every pastor has received many such notes through the course of his ministry, as God moves the flock to remember, obey, and salute the ones who are leading them.

Disciplined or Disqualified?

Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman, a late 19th century evangelist and associate of evangelist D.L. Moody, once spoke about what he called “my rule for Christian living.” It was: “Anything that dims my vision of Christ, or takes away my taste for Bible study, or cramps my prayer life, or makes Christian work difficult, is wrong for me, and I must, as a Christian, turn away from it.”

The Apostle Paul was concerned, too, about anything that would detract him from finishing the course set before him.  He wanted to finish well, and so he testified that “I keep under my body and bring it into subjection.” (I Cor. 9:27)

The Christian life, if lived as modeled for us by Christ and mandated through His Word, is ideally a life of discipline. Christ is our coach. The goal of winning is an incorruptible crown that is set before us. (I Cor. 9:25) The fact that victory is possible has been established in the exhortation, “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebs. 12: 1,2) Paul used the language of an Olympian when he urged the Corinthian Christians to “run that ye may obtain” the prize. (I Cor. 9:24). He himself was running: “I therefore so run, not as uncertainty; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body.” (Cor. 9:27)

Are you running to win? If the Apostle Paul wanted to obtain an incorruptible crown of righteousness by fighting a good fight, finishing the course and keeping the faith to win, ought not we? (2 Tim. 4:7, 8) It will, however, require some measure of personal discipline, as it did for Paul—who said that he had disciplined his body in the running of the race, lest he himself would become a castaway.

We should accept Paul’s challenge for many reasons, the first being that to do so evidences that we are trusting God, His wisdom, His Word, and His way.  He is the One who has set before us our course, just as He did in the life of Paul, who referred to “my course.” We each have a God-planned course set before us to the finish line. We are trusting God when we run that course with patience.  We cannot see the twists and turns, nor do we need to. But we can know that God does see well ahead of where we are each moment, and we can trust Him to provide and to guide.  Knute Rockne, the famous Notre Dame football coach, said to his players that if they would not keep the rules that he had set before them, they could not play on his team.  “I will put you on the bench…Remember this, I can see further ahead than you, and there is good reason for my insistence.” (From “Riches in Romans” by Earl Edwards) So it is with each believer: God sees the future and has promised to guide us to glory. We must commit ourselves to keeping His rules and running the course with discipline until we cross the finish line. Disqualification will bring disgrace to His cause and kingdom. 

Paul spoke of a crown “laid up for me.” (2 Tim.4:8) It was a crown of righteousness. He spoke of this just having said that he had fought a good fight, finished his course and kept the faith. We ought also to strive to finish our course so that we will look forward to receiving that crown, which “the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give…unto all them also that love His appearing.” (2 Tim.4:8) If we choose to be undisciplined in our Christian walk and work, we will not “love His appearing.” We will be ashamed at the thought of standing before “the righteous judge.”

Chuck Swindoll, Chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary, told of a time when he was serving the Dallas Cowboys as Chaplain and the legendary Tom Landry was coach. During a break in practice, the pastor/educator asked the coach how he was able to forge a group of individuals into a winning team year after year.  The coach replied that he made it his job to get the men to do what they did not want to do in order to achieve what they’d always wanted to achieve: a Super Bowl ring. Swindoll made the apparent application: the players did not want to engage in grueling work but were willing to submit to the discipline required to achieve what they had always wanted. So it is with followers of our Lord and Savior. Denying self; making one’s self a “servant unto all” (I Cor.9:19); being made “all things to all men” (I Cor. 9:22)—these things do not appeal to the flesh. But submitting as Paul did—“that ye may obtain”—is worth the sacrifice, the denial, the discipline required so that, as with Paul, we might say “that I might by all means, save some.”

Discipline: it does not sound appealing, but seen in the light of eternity, it attracts earnest followers of the Lord Jesus who desire to not only cross the finish line for our heavenly Coach; and to not only receive a victor’s wreath for having finished well without being disqualified or becoming another “castaway,” but to hear those welcomed words, “well done, good and faithful.”

It will require discipline of body, mind, and spirit. Discipline, physically and spiritually. Discipline as a way of life, not merely as a spiritual fad. Discipline to the end of the race, or until life’s final flight.

A plane, some years ago, crashed on its approach near Charlotte, North Carolina, killing scores people.  The recovered flight recorder revealed that the pilot was chatting about various mundane matters and likely was distracted at a crucial moment, resulting in the crash. In the language of the profession there had been, that day, a “cockpit breakdown.” May there not be, in our home-bound journey, a breakdown between us and our “Air Traffic Controller.” Let us be faithful. Dutiful. Disciplined. All the way to and across the finish line.

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil.3:14)

The Devil’s Highest Reward

The late “Sword of the Lord” editor Curtis Hutson once used the following illustration: “A Sunday School teacher was teaching about the Devil. Looking at a small boy who had come to Sunday School on a church bus, he asked, ‘You’re not afraid of the Devil, are you?’ The little fellow paused a moment and answered, ‘Well, I  wouldn’t be afraid of a little devil like me, but I’d be afraid of a big devil like you!’”

The Christian’s final authority on matters of “faith and practice” is the Bible, the Word of God. Without question, the Bible presents the Devil—originally created as an angel of light—as a personal, powerful being that, at present, wears the title “god of this world.” (2 Cor.4:4) So, in other words, there is a real Devil and he is a created being, active in the affairs of this present world. He rules over a kingdom of darkness, and myriad “principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world” answer to his diabolical demands. 

Lewis Sperry Chafer, in his classic volumes on Systematic Theology, enumerated 33 things attributable to the Devil.  I will remind us of a few of those devilish activities—primarily those directed to believers, aka the sons of God or the children of God through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.

  1. Satan is a deceiver, and he has practiced his lies from the time in the Garden when he said to Eve, “Ye shall not surely die.” (Gen.3:7) He has lied to mankind about the way of salvation, about the person and work of Jesus Christ, about what will happen after death, about how man came to be, and about the future rule and reign of Jesus Christ.  He entered into Judas (John 13:27), and Judas left the Upper Room and went out to betray Jesus. He lied to the nation of Israel, to whom Jesus came as Messiah, convincing its leaders that what Jesus did, He did by the power of Beelzebub (Matt.12).  He is “a liar and the father of it,” as Jesus said in John 8:44.
  2. He preys upon the weak, filling them with fear. False religions are steeped in rituals and human activities done to appease their (false) gods.  Man will go to any lengths to make peace with a god they have created in their minds or with their hands—even to the extreme of offering up their own flesh and blood, children, to Molech, the Canaanite god of fire.  Paul exhorted all believers that we have not been given the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Tim.1:7)
  3. He hurls “fiery darts” at his victims. (Eph.5:16) Those darts are pride, discouragement, hurt, doubts, losses, suffering, opposition, confusion, and any number of other afflictions that rattle the faith of the child of God. When the subject of Satan is brought into focus, such words as lies, kills, blasphemy, buffets, resists, persecutes, sifts, accuses, destroys, steals, beguiles, seduces and tempts come to mind. His arsenal is endless. Paul admonishes us to be equipped with the “shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked (one).” (Eph. 6:16)
  4. He solicits believers to practice evil. Via the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life,” (I John 2:16) the Devil mounts continual attacks upon those who name Christ as their Lord. In I Cor. 7:5, Paul instructed couples in the Corinthian Church who had been “defrauding” one another by abstaining from any physical relationship for a period of time that they should “come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” Satan will attack believers at what he perceives to be their point of greatest vulnerability. He thought he could bring Jesus down, knowing that Jesus had fasted for 40 days and nights in the wilderness. Satan tempted the Son of God through each avenue: the lust of the flesh (turn a stone to bread and eat if you are really the Son of God); the lust of the eyes (look at all those glorious kingdoms of the world…they are mine now but can be yours now if you will but worship me); and the pride of life (jump from this pinnacle and watch your Heavenly Father send angels down to rescue you from hurt if you are really God’s Son). Jesus answered every devilish dart with a biblical citation, the Old Testament Word of God, in answer to these Satanic temptations. And so must we today!
  5. Our adversary stalks us!  Peter warns that, “as a roaring lion,” the evil one continually seeks whom he may devour. (I Pet. 5:8) Our defense strategy must be to “be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith.” (I Pet. 5:8,9)
  6. He throws up roadblocks in an attempt to discourage, distract or defeat us. Paul, an apostle who was a missionary sent out by his local (Antioch) church to carry the gospel to the world of his day, met continually with Satanic hindrances: “Wherefore, we would have come to you, even I Paul, once and again, but Satan hindered us.” (I Th.2:18) Those who are engaged in taking the gospel to the world today find the same age-old hindrances with which to deal.  Satan has what appears to be unlimited resources, incalculable power, and devoted emissaries through whom he works in his never-ending hindrances to those who are obeying Christ’s last command to His followers: “Go ye, therefore, and teach (disciple) all nations.” (Matt. 28:20)

To the above list of diabolical methods that this real, on the loose, active Devil employs to counter the advances of God’s kingdom today, we could add many more: He exploits our handicaps as he did with Paul, who alluded to “the messenger of Satan to buffet me” (2 Cor.12:7); he sifts believers, as Jesus told Peter in the garden: “Satan hath desired to sift thee “(Luke 22:32); he transforms himself into an “angel of light” (2 Cor.11:14) in his deceptive attempts to negate God’s truth. Many, many avenues of approach are employed by this Devil, all in his attempt to draw people away from Christ. (I Tim.5:15) Believer, beware! And, unbeliever, be warned! The stakes are eternal. As with Jesus, Satan will promise you the world in return for your allegiance. He cannot produce that, but he will still promise it. Billy Sunday, the early20th century American evangelist, sounded this pertinent alarm: “Hell is the highest reward the Devil can offer you for serving him.” Don’t be deceived. Measure every message that purports to be from God by the Word of God.

There is at work in the world today a personal Devil. His sole mission is to take as many souls as possible to an eternal Hell that, according to Jesus, was prepared for this once angel of light who was lifted up in pride and attempted to dethrone God. His coup failed, he was “demoted,” and he has spent the rest of his time deceiving anyone who would believe God and obey His Word. Satan’s eternal abode, the Lake of Fire, originally prepared for Satan and those angels who followed him in his unsuccessful coup against God, will be populated by people who bought into his lie and rejected God and God’s Son, the Savior of the world.

Then shall He say unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the Devil and his angels.” (Matt.25:41)

At the Feet of Jesus

Jesus, at the onset of His public ministry, chose twelve men “that they should be with Him.” From Him, they “caught” and were taught lessons on discipleship, future world end-time events, doctrinal matters concerning the Church-age, and the future phases of His kingdom on earth and beyond.  We marvel—as we walk with them from page to page, place to place, through scriptures—at the rare opportunities these chosen disciples experienced up close, first-hand. But then we listen in on that Upper Room discourse of Jesus, when He explained to these men that it was expedient for them that He should soon be departing (i.e., the cross, entombment, resurrection, and ascension back to Heaven) because, after He departed, He would send the Holy Spirit to be “with them and in them.” We read in Acts 2 how that promise was fulfilled and learn through the book of Acts—and then the epistles—that every believer in this age is in dwelt by the Holy Spirit of God.

What an incredible privilege—even greater than the Twelve had known as they followed Jesus during His public ministry on earth! To be ever indwelt by God’s Holy Spirit, the second member of the triune Godhead!  There is never a moment that He is not with you as a Comforter, Teacher, Guide. It is through and by the Holy Spirit that we have access to God the Father and His Son, our Intercessor, Jesus Christ. We can and should, therefore, experience daily fellowship with our Lord and Savior.

Andrew Murray, in “God’s Best Secrets,” wrote: “There is one lesson that all young Christians should learn, namely this—the absolute necessity of fellowship with Jesus each day…Many Christians backslide because this truth is not clearly taught.”

Mary Helen Anderson put it this way: “We mutter and sputter; we fume and we spurt; We mumble and grumble, our feelings get hurt; We can’t understand things, our vision grows dim—when all that we need is a moment with Him!”

Some who read this may remember, from decades ago, the “Haven of Rest” hour that originated from California. Remember First Mate Bob? Well, here is his admonition concerning the believer’s need for fellowship daily with the Lord Jesus: “If we could learn this lesson, that it isn’t what we do, but Jesus longs for fellowship with even me and you. Oh, let us not be turned away, from this communion sweet, and never get too busy just to sit at Jesus’ feet.” Good counsel, First Mate Bob!

Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., once shared this: “I remember one time, when my son was just a little fellow and I had been away from home, Mrs. Jones said to me, ‘I can’t control him. He is just unmanageable. When bedtime comes, you must not kiss him good night.’ ‘All right,’ I said. So, I played with him all I could during the day. That night he put on his nighties and stuck his little cherub face through a crack in the door. He said, ‘Good night, Mother; good night, Daddy.’ We said, ‘Good night.’ Then I heard him crying in there as he said his prayers. I never shall forget it. He said, ‘I’m sorry I was a bad boy, Jesus. I don’t know what makes me bad. I am sorry I didn’t mind Mother.  Daddy is just home, and I was a bad boy the first day he was here. I am sorry!’ I sat there and cried. I couldn’t go to sleep to save my life.

“About two o’clock in the morning I eased out of our room (Mrs. Jones was sound asleep) and eased into his room. His little bed was near the window and the moonlight was shining on his face. I got down by his bed and watched him. Every once in a while he would sob. After a while I reached over and kissed him all I wanted to. As I knelt there that night, I looked through my blinding tears to the sky toward God. I said, ‘God, you are my Father. Does it hurt You like this when I am out of fellowship? Do You feel bad like I do? My son can sleep, but I cannot sleep.’”

David declared, “My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord, in the morning I will direct it to You.” (Ps.5:3) That is a holy habit that it would be well to cultivate—if not in the morning, then at some regularly appointed time during the day. In the 19th century, a young Christian man determined to do just that, writing, “I do promise God that I will rise early every morning to have a few minutes—not less than five—in private prayer. I will endeavor to conduct myself as a humble, meek and zealous follower of Jesus, and by serious witness and warning I will try to lead others to think of the needs of their immortal souls. I hereby vow to read no less than four chapters in God’s Word every day. I will cultivate a spirit of self-denial, and will yield myself a prisoner of love to the Redeemer of the world.” (William Booth, Founder of the Salvation Army)

Mark, in his Gospel, notes that Jesus “ordained twelve, that they should be with Him.” (Mark 3:14) It was as Mark would explain, “that He might send them forth to preach.” He has a job for each of us to do, and, as a member of His Body we are to exercise the spiritual gift that each of us has received from the Holy Spirit. (I Pet.4:10) Also, like the Twelve, we have been commissioned to “Go…teach all nations.” (Matt.28:20) What an assignment!  We can only succeed if we prioritize our daily devotion with our Lord. We must have His guidance, His wisdom, His power (Acts 1:8), His enabling and sustaining grace. We are engaged in spiritual warfare. We are men and women who, though our inner man is “renewed from day to day,” (2 Cor.4:16) are not yet fully conformed to His image, nor will we be until we “shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (I John 3:1,2) So, beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, let us retreat daily into His blessed presence, one on One, with Him, being changed as we do “into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor. 3:18)

“I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1,2)