Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Boy Who Loved Jesus

Long long ago in a land far far away, there was a young married couple who had a little boy. We’ll call him Nicky. His mom and dad loved him very much and took him to church with them and told them the stories about Jesus in the Bible. In fact when he was 5 years old he could tell the stories and he learned that to be like Jesus meant that you did good things for people and helped people. I think his folks really must have loved Jesus and taught little Nicky to love Jesus, too.

But then something bad happened. Well Nicky was a little older, like a teenager maybe, when his mom and dad died in a bad accident. I don’t know what happened to them, but Nicky’s uncle took him in and Nicky found out something about his mom and dad. They had been very wealthy and now all of that money and land and houses belonged to Nicky!

Well, Nicky had a lot more than he needed to live on, so he started to do what his mom and dad had taught him to do. He started to help people. But he didn’t want lots of people to make a big fuss about it so he decided to do it secretly.
First, he heard about a man who had lost all his money. Maybe his barn and burned down and all of his corn and grain that he had stored for the winter. And now here this man was with no money and he had three daughters and he was running out of food too. He didn’t know what to do.
And the man with the 3 daughters had another problem, there were people he owed money too and they wanted their money. They took his land but that wasn’t enough. Then they said, we’re going to take your little daughters away and sell them as slaves!
They could do that back in those days. It was a terrible thing.
So, on the night before the oldest daughter was going to be taken away and sold, she washed her only pair of socks and hung them by the fireplace overnight to dry and be warm for in the morning. When she got up the next day and went to get her socks she found a lump inside. In fact, several lumps. And when she reached in she found out it was coins, Gold coins!
She was so excite she ran to tell daddy and he was amazed and said now we can buy food and have enough to keep you from becoming a slave!
Guess what. The next morning there was another small bag on the floor with money in it to buy more food and keep the next daughter from becoming a slave.
Then the daddy said, I’m going to stay awake tonight so if they leave something else I can find out who it is. So he sat up and waited and waited and waited. Then he fell asleep. A little later there was a thump! He looked and there was a little bag on the floor under and open window. He jumped up and ran outside just in time to see… do you know who he saw? Yep, it was young Nicky.
The father said, “Nicky, is that you?” Nicky turned and came back and the father said, “How can I ever thank you for these wonderful gifts? You have saved my family.” Nicky said, “Just give thanks to Jesus Christ for hearing your prayers, and please don’t tell anybody I am the one who did this.” The father agreed and kept his secret a long time.

Over the years Nicky did many things to help people out secretly and he told people all over about Jesus. He talked about Jesus so much and lived such a good life that one day the town asked him to be their preacher. Mr. Nick was almost out of money himself, because he had given almost all of his money away, and he said yes and became not little Nicky, or even Mr. Nick. He became Pastor Nicholas.
And he became quite well known as a pastor. But then something really bad happened. When pastor Nicky was starting to get old, a mean and evil King came to the throne. He was emperor of all of Europe and his name was Diocletian. He didn’t like Christians and he didn’t like Jesus and he started beating Christians and throwing them in prison.
Some of the people would ‘recant.” They would say “OK I won’t worship or talk about Jesus anymore.” So they wouldn’t be beaten or put in prison. But pastor Nicholas wouldn’t do this. He kept on talking about Jesus and telling others and so Diocletian had him put in prison for a long time.
Then one day Diocletian died and a new King came into power. The new King was Constantine. He was good to the Christians. In fact, his mother was a Christian. So he let all the Christians out of prison.
Well when pastor Nicholas got home his town treated him like a hero. Now they called him something new; not little Nicky or pastor Nicholas, they called him Nicholas the Confessor. Because no matter what happened to him he confessed Jesus as the Lord. He became so well know that over 400 churches all over Europe were name after Nicholas. But these folks began to call him something else. They didn’t call him Nicholas the Confessor, they called him Saint Nicholas. They called him a saint because he was such a good Christian and loved Jesus! 

Well way up in the country of Holland where the Dutch people live, they didn’t say Saitn Nicholas like we do, in their language he was called Sinter Klass. Which, over the years, became Santa Claus. So little Nicky grew up to be Santa Claus. All because he loved Jesus and tried to be like Him!
You see Santa Claus knew that Christmas was all about Jesus, not about him. He wanted people to know about Jesus not about him. He wanted people to thank Jesus for answering their prayers not to thank him for anything. That’s the kind of man Saint Nicholas becme.
And that’s why we celebrate Jesus, not Santa Claus, at Christmas!

Just thought you'd like to know Santa Claus fits in to all of this!

Brother Clark

PS. By the way, among all the stories that grew up about Nicky in later years comes the story that after Nick got out of prison, he contended with the Arian controversy. Arius had claimed that Jesus was not truly divine like God the father. It is said that Nick traveled to Nicea for the council of 307 and argued with Arius there. He got so upset he slapped Arius across the face. The other Bishops were so outraged that they defrocked him. Then Mary and Jesus appeared next to him so they recanted and reinstated him as a Bishop. So, you don’t want to get on Santa’s Naughty List!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Household of God

Here's a little of what I've been learning in my studies for Sunday's sermon. Some "overflow" if you will...

God refers to those who are part of His church as members of His family. And it's part of the Gospel - the Good News - that we are "accepted in the beloved."(Eph 1:6)

There was a time when we were not members of the household of God, but strangers, aliens.

Eph_2:19  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

As “fellow citizens” we are a part of God’s Kingdom, but as Members of His household what are we? We could be servants and be part of the household, but more explicitly we are Children of God.

Rom_8:17  And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

And how did we become Heirs and children of God?

Tit_3:7  That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

And as heirs we are all on the same footing with Christ.

1Pe_3:7  Likewise, husbands, dwell with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor  to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life;

How can we know that we are God’s Children?
One way is:

Rom 8:16  The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that
we are the children of God: 17 And if children,
then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ;

So, the Household of God is also the New Testament Church of God.

 1Ti_3:15  you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.

Jesus also portrayed the church as a family.
To His Disciples early in His ministry:

Mat_5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Teaching them to pray:
Mat_6:9  Pray then like this: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

After the resurrection:
Joh_20:17  Jesus said … "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"

Jesus promises His disciples a Family of God.
Mar 10:29 Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, there’s no one who has left house or brothers, sisters or mother, father or children or lands, for my sake and the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.

The Apostle Paul Explains the Family of God is part of one of God’s great mysteries.

Eph_3:6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Paul portrays How and Who He chose to be part of His Family!

 Jas_2:5 … my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he promised to those who love him?

Paul also explains how we ought to live as members of the Household of God.
1Ti_3:15  you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, 

1Pe_4:17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who don't obey the gospel of God?

Gal_5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only don’t use freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Gal_6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in sin, you who are spiritual restore him in a spirit of gentleness.

1Th_5:12 We ask you, brothers, respect those who labor among you, are over you in the Lord and admonish you,

1Th_5:14 we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.

1Th_5:25 Brothers, pray for us.

2Th_2:15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught by us, 

2Th_3:6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition you received from us.

Jas_1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,

Jas_1:16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.

Jas_1:19 …my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
Jas_2:1 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the
faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.

1Jn_3:16 … he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

1Ti 5:1 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothersolder women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. 

 While there are many other Scriptures that describe how we ought to live as followers of Jesus Christ, a significant part of those instructions reflect how members of a family ought to behave. 
We don't have the luxury of saying "It's none of my business" when it is a brother or sister in Christ who needs, prayer, comfort, recognition, admonishment, rebuke, restoration, help, encouragement, service and respect. Why? Because we are members of the same family. The family of Jesus Christ and the Household of God.

So may I encourage you all in the Holiday Season that has so much to do with family visits, don't forget your "Other" family; the one God brought you into.
I'm glad I'm in your family!


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Invitations and Altar Calls

Invitations and Altar Calls

Invitations are ancient, altar calls are relatively recent.

Houston, We have a problem.” Those have come to be favorite words to describe something of great concern in a soft, non-panicked way.
Well we in Christendom, and as Baptists, have a problem. There are many people calling themselves Christians who are not living as disciples of Christ. Now surely, at any given time, they are true believers struggling with some part of their life. They do not want to give up something that God requires, or perhaps they have a blind spot and are not behaving in a way that honors Christ. But they are still true believers and God will bring them through this time of difficulty.
But for many who name the name of Christ and show no devotion to Him there is another answer. They are not truly born again Christians. Jesus said there would be those who called Him Lord whom He never knew.

Is this problem worse now than in other times in history? I think so. It is easy to be called a Christian in our society. There’s little persecution, certainly not what believers in other countries experience. There are instant friends when you go to church. There may even be instant consumers for whatever one is selling.
But chief of all, it’s so easy. You walk down the church aisle, say you want to be a Christian, you repeat a prayer the pastor leads you in, word by word, and Voila! It’s done. They even tell you, “Congratulations you are a born again child of God now!”

Are they? Are they really? Yes, some may have been saved in a very similar scenario to that one, but there were other things at work if they were.
There was the conviction of sin that the Holy Spirit brings to impress upon us we need forgiveness. There is the awareness that Jesus Christ is Lord that leads us to repent from sin and place our faith in Christ. There was the awakening of faith in our hearts and minds, the sense of relief from knowing that our sins are washed away. Without this sort of a work of God, repeating prayers till we are blue in the face do not save.

This does not mean it is drenched in emotion, though it may be. But it does mean there is a desire for salvation, and the understanding that it only will happen through faith in Christ, and there is the placing of one’s faith in Christ, at the very least.

Not wanting to give someone a false hope is why I am wary of how one conducts an invitation to Christ. Some have ceased to offer an invitation with accompanying invitation hymn. I always call them ‘hymns of commitment’ by the way; for believers to commit themselves to Christ as well as unbelievers.

So the main Question we should always ask in situations such as this is “Is it Biblical?”

Isaiah the prophet said, “Come now and let us reason together; though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as wool...” Jesus said, “Come unto me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” These are invitations from God to come to him and find forgiveness and rest from trying to earn His forgiveness.

The altar call however is an early 1800’s invention. It was called an anxious seat or mourner’s bench, and people were called to come to the front of the meeting room and sit on this bench, or kneel at it to be made right with God.  It seemed like a good idea, to get all those needing to be saved in one place, but why? There are many moves of God in which this ‘altar call’ was never used and many were truly saved. I would even go so far as to say it was more effective that way than with the bench.[i]

You see, helping someone get saved is not in scripture. Telling them the good news and inviting them to repent and believe is; but a sinners prayer which, if repeated, magically saves one’s soul is really heresy. And unfortunately, that is what the anxious bench became and still is in many churches today that employ the altar call.

Many who come are saved, true, and I would say many were saved before they got to the front. God has already called them to Himself and they had already responded in faith before they whispered in the pastor’s ear, “I need to be saved.”

Even though I still issue an invitation at the end of a preaching service some pastors and preachers won’t do an altar call. Listen to what Jonathan Leeman, the editorial director at 9Marks[ii] and a PhD candidate researching ecclesiology[iii], says about a conversation he had with a man in the church where he served as an interim pastor:

“I told this brother and the rest of the elders that I wouldn't do an altar call. Why not?

Because I think altar calls are wrong? No, I think a pastor is free to give one. It's not a sin.

Because I don't believe that people must make a decision for Christ? No, I think people must decide to repent and believe in order to be saved.

Because I don't think Jesus calls us to make a public profession? No, people must publicly profess their faith, which is why Jesus instituted baptism.

Because I think inviting sinners to repent is inherently manipulative? No, I believe preachers should invite non-Christians to repent and believe throughout their sermons. I did this during the interim pastorate, and I did it just last Sunday when guest preaching at another church. I very clearly invited non-Christians to repent and believe in the middle of my sermon, and then told them to speak with me afterwards, or the pastor, or the Christian friend who brought them.

So why wouldn't I give an altar call? In short, I believe that this particular man-made practice, this 19th-century innovation, has produced more bad than good for Christian churches in the West. The altar call relies on the powers of emotion, rhetorical persuasion, and social pressure to induce people to make a hasty and premature decision. And producing professions is not the same thing as making disciples. Surely a number of factors are responsible for the many nominal Christians that typify Christianity in the West, but I believe that the altar call is one of them.

How many people in the last century walked an aisle, and spent the rest of their days convinced that they were a Christian, never considering how they lived!”

The alternative to giving altar calls is sticking with the practices we see modeled in Scripture:

1.      Invite people throughout your sermon to "repent and be baptized" like Peter did in Jerusalem (Acts 2:38). But when you do, don't just stand there waiting with emotionally charged music playing, staring them down until they relent. Rather, make several suggestions about how and where to discuss the matter further.

2.      Ask people what they believe when they present themselves for baptism, just like Jesus made sure the disciples knew who he was (Matt. 16:13-17; also, 1 John 4:1-3).

3.      Make sure they understand what following Jesus entails (Matt. 16:24f; John 6:53-60).

4.      Explain that the fruit of their lives and persevering to the end will indicate whether or not they really believe (Matt. 7:24f; 10:22).

5.      You might even explain that Jesus has commanded your church to remove them from its fellowship if their life moving forward does not match their profession (Matt. 18:15-17).

Yes, let's pray hard for conversions. But then let's do every thing Scripture requires of us in the long work of making disciples---a work that generally requires lots of teaching, lots of time, lots of invitations, lots of meals together, and finally the commitment of an entire church body. –
Jonathan Leeman

I take a both/and approach. I think inviting someone to Christ at the end of the sermon reinforces the idea that something must be happen in order to be saved. But I steer away from emotional appeals, long extended invitations, and any kind of social pressure to get someone to “make a decision.” I’m not interested in decisions; I’m interested in conversions, changed lives, and making disciples.

So while I do offer the possibility of someone coming to the front who needs counsel or assistance in surrendering their life to Christ, I fully recognize it is the Holy Spirit who does the work or nothing truly happens. Repeating a prayer does not save. No matter how many times you repeat it. Only faith in Christ accompanied by repentance from sin can do that; and only God can do that in a sinner’s heart so that they may be saved.

[i] It may have been more difficult to keep records of names and the number of how many made ‘professions’ of faith.
[ii] This is a ministry of Dr. Mark Dever and Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C.

[iii] Ecclesiology is the study of the Doctrine of the Church.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Sinner or Saint? Which One are You?

     Twice in the last few months I've heard a preacher/pastor scold (gently of course) believers for thinking of themselves as sinners. Even as sinners forgiven, or sinners saved by grace. I hadn't heard that in years. I used to hear it all the time back in my charismatic days. But I don't like it! I don't like it at all. It gets my goat and sticks in my craw and I'm not even sure what a craw is or what my goat has to do with it!
I'm NOT saying they're wrong, I'm just saying... you know, I don't like it.
     But "Why?" you ask?
     Because, while YES, we are saints, that is not the whole picture. I mean, how many folks do you know who don't sin anymore? We have been completely forgiven if we have been born again by the sheer Grace of God the Father, through our faith in Christ. And, we have not only had the debt against us cancelled by God, but we have been given Christ's own robes of righteousness, a new heart, a quickened spirit, and new destination. Yes, we are declared saints, Holy, wholly set apart unto God, His own vessels for service in the temple not made with hands. I GET THAT! Its just that the language of talking about ourselves as saints seems to be all about us. But when we see ourselves as sinners, we turn to Christ as Savior and talk of all he has done for us.
     Right now, as the saved in this world, we live in the Kingdom which has come but is not yet made manifest in all the earth. This Kingdom is God's rule and reign. It is the essence of the Good News that Christ came preaching. (Mk 1:14-15) In this Kingdom the Gospel of Jesus Christ rules! That means that Grace Rules, because Grace is the heart of the Good News and of the Kingdom. Grace! Total and complete and free for sinners. Costly to God through Christ, but free for us who have been redeemed.
     This wonderful Amazing Grace reminds me that I am a sinner, poor and needy, lost and greedy, but saved and loved. I'm a sinner, with a conscience enlivened by a Holy god above. I need the Gospel everyday! Everyday I need to know my success as a member of God's Kingdom depends on GRACE!
     Paul asked an important question to the Galatians. "Having begun in the Spirit, did you think you'd be made perfect in the flesh?" One way to look at that question is to say, "Having begun by Grace, did you think you could do the rest all on your own?" We can't. We can't conform to the image of Jesus without grace. We can't be happy by clapping our hands but by grace. We can't be witnesses for Christ but by His grace. WHAT? Are you thinking that I just gave you an out for not witnessing? Do you think you can say, "I just don't have the grace for witnessing, someone else should do that." No, I'm not saying that. I'm saying we should do what we need to do, by the grace and power of God and trusting in His grace and power to take our feeble, lame, good works, and make them powerful through God.
     Some people look at Jesus as if He's a "kinder gentler" Moses. Like He brought in the "Law Lite." Actually , it's the opposite. Jesus raised the bar. The law said don't kill your neighbor, Jesus said don't even hate him. Jesus said to love everyone. Jesus said to go and make disciples. I would submit to you the last three things I said are impossible. we can't do them, yet we are commanded. How does that work?
     We do them In Christ. As sinners forgiven, as sinners saved by grace, as sinners who need the power of god every moment everyday, in order to do the things He has commanded. When we learn to live in that constant state of grace (which is impossible for us, too) then we come to know that His yoke is easy and His burden is light!

Oh Lord, help us to know the same grace that saved us is at work in our hearts to change us and make us what you want us to be. Let us not chafe against the prod, but turn, everyday, and put our head in the yoke of Christ.

Clark D.

PS I really am glad I'm a saint, set apart unto God, for the glory of Christ. just sayin...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Signs, Church Signs, Dumb Signs

We have a church sign! It’s about 12 feet tall and it has three lines for messages. We like to put coming events or general info up there, but we also put the occasional inspirational message. But you have to be very careful with that.
Why, you ask? I hope you asked that anyway; if not go ahead and do that now...I’ll wait....
OK, Thanks.

Frankly, some churches make themselves just look silly, or ignorant, or even offensive at times with their signs.
People look at signs differently than church folks do. They can appreciate humor as good as the next guy usually, but some signs are just a little looney.

Among the humorous I’ve seen:
        Who ever is praying for snow, Please Stop!
        Come in and pray today. Beat the Christmas rush!
        When the restaurant next to a Church put out a big sign with red letters that said, “Open Sundays,” the church reciprocated with its own message: “We are open on Sundays, too."
        Walk-ins Welcome  (that’s on our sign-thanks Dave)
        Have trouble sleeping? We have sermons—come hear one!
Now that last one is a little curious. Did they intend to say the pastor is boring? Or that if you get right with God you’ll sleep better?

You see some signs maybe cute for members, maybe even inspirational. But to the unchurched they get a response like “HUH?”
        Honk if you love Jesus, Text while driving if you wanna meet Him
        Free Trip to heaven. Details Inside!
        Try our Sundays. They are better than Baskin-Robbins.
        Sign broken. Message inside this Sunday. Dusty Bibles lead to Dirty Lives
        Come work for the Lord. The work is hard, the hours are long and the pay is low. But the retirement benefits are out of this world.
        It is unlikely there’ll be a reduction in the wages of sin.
        Do not wait for the hearse to take you to church.
        Forbidden fruit creates many jams.
        In the dark? Follow the Son.
        Running low on faith? Stop in for a fill-up.
        When down in the mouth, remember Jonah. He came out all right.

You have to consider what the unchurched think when they see it. Down in the mouth? Jonah? I don’t think they’ll get it. Of course, if you WANT to have them think less of you and of Christ; But most people don’t want that. So some try to be “Trendy.” I’ve been guilty of that myself.
        Get off of Facebook and Get in the Good Book
        You have a friend request from -Jesus:
         Confirm                            Ignore
        God’s got an app for that
        If you don’t like the way you were born, try being born again.

First, people don’t like being told what to do, as if there is something morally wrong with being on Facebook.
Secondly, A friend request from Jesus? Really? A statement like “You sinned, Jesus has blocked you.” Would be more accurate, but NO, don’t put that on the sign!
Third, Actually Jesus doesn’t have an app for everything. This is one of those false promises like, “Come to Jesus He’ll make everything better.”
And these days there are folks who’ve never heard of being born again.

Upcoming events are a good thing to put on a sign, and they’re usually pretty safe.
But even then you should be careful:
        A singing group called “The Resurrection” was scheduled to sing at a church. When a big snowstorm postponed the performance, the pastor fixed the outside sign to read, "Resurrection postponed."

Then there are those pithy sayings, but think twice, will your neighbors think you’re rehashing old sayings because you are not real bright?
        People are like tea bags—you have to put them in hot water before you know how strong they are.
        God so loved the world that He did not send a committee.
        Fight truth decay—study the Bible daily.
        If you’re headed in the wrong direction, God allows U-turns.
        Looking at the way some people live, they ought to obtain eternal fire insurance soon.
        This is a ch_ _ ch. What is missing? -----> (U R)
        If you can’t sleep, don’t count sheep. Talk to the Shepherd.

Then there are the serious issues dealt with in a silly way.
        How will you spend eternity—Smoking or Non-smoking?

We always need to go beyond “What do the unchurched ‘drive-bys’ think?” And ask ourselves, “What does God think?”
Is God pithy? Is he ‘selling something’? I hope you answered No to both of those.

Now some of you thought while reading this, “But I don’t DO church signs.” Very true. But do you do bumper stickers? Do you email cute little things to a large group of people? (With, perhaps, lost and unchurched people in the bunch?) Or Tweet? Or do status updates?
Do you live your life giving off simplistic ideas of what you find important?

We need to be real; honest; and deeper than a bumper sticker. We need to live our lives among those who don’t know Jesus the way He did. He took their pains to heart. He didn’t sin with them, but he didn’t judge them. He did judge Pharisees because they wouldn’t judge themselves. But for some reason sinners – who knew they were sinners – like to be around him. Why is that? Maybe He just loved them.

Oh, Lord Jesus, it’s really hard to love some people. But I know you loved me in spite of myself, so it’s the least I can do, to love others for you.

That’s my prayer, what’s yours?

Clark D

PS Remember - "This is a ch_ _ ch. What is missing? -----(U R)"
Once I put on the sign:
“Its almost T__key Day!
What is missing? U R “

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A 9th Inning Blast

You know I'm not one that thinks that God favors one sports team over another. Right? You know I don't really think God hates Oklahoma Football. He never said, "Texas have I loved but OU have I hated."

Now I know there are some who are such big Albert Pujols* fans that they might think God favors the St. Louis Cardinals. Well I'm a Pujols fan AND a Josh Hamilton** fan, but, and trust me on this, God isn't favoring either team based on favoritism. (I am open to the possibility that God may have a hand in winners and losers as part of His overall rulership over the universe.)

So what I want to point out really has nothing to do with these teams but with 9th inning saves in general. Thursday night of this week, the Rangers were behind 1-0 going into the last (9th) inning, in the World Series, or "Fall Classic" if you prefer. (I won't confuse you with the top or bottom of the 9th, that really confuses some people-I have No Idea Why.)
But in the 9th inning, at their last chance 'at bat,' they score two runs and won the game!

There were three Hebrews, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were their Persian names, who were going into the 9th inning behind, but instead of facing fastballs coming in high and hot they were facing Flames of fire high and hot. They didn't give up, they stepped up!

Job probably felt like he was behind 1000 to 1 in the 9th inning after losing his children, his wealth and having to listen to three so-called friends preach at him about how rotten he was day after day. But, he didn't give up like his wife told him to do.

And, of course, Esther and Mordecai, were behind by thousands or even millions when in the 9th inning she stepped up and swang for the fences. She needed to knock the stuffing out of it, go downtown with it, blast it into oblivion in order to win the day. What she didn't know of course was that God was giving her the perfect pitch, the perfect bat, and all the strength she needed to get the job done.

How do you know when you're in the 9th inning? When you know its all about over.
Either you're going to quit, or someone else is going to take you out of the game, or your going to die trying; but you know things can't keep on the way they are.
Well as Christians we know that even our death, in God's timing, and for His glory, is a victory. But we also know that now and then we get a victory this side of Heaven.
We see a soul saved, a person on death's door come back, a B+ on a final exam, and we know God has heard our prayers. He may have been silent for a long time but remember, even in the 9th inning, He is always saying Trust Me!

Keep trusting,
Clark D

*Albert Pujols, pro baseball player extroardinaire for the St.Louis cardinals; first baseman, slugger, all around good guy.
** Josh Hamilton,
pro baseball player extroardinaire for the Texas Rangers; slugger etc. etc.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Don't Think I Can't Communicate With You

Having been through the exciting yet often subjective world of Charismatic churches, I've grown leery (and weary) of people who have frequent leadings from God; especially when they appear contrary to scripture or just plain "out of someone's creative imagination."

However, I never want to sell God short on what He can do to impress Himself on mere humans. Even Charles Spurgeon once said that all the teachings or ordinances of the church can't replace the presence of God. They become like a sundial on a cloudy day. In other words, useless. Pretty strong speech for a strong reformed Baptist like C H Spurgeon. 

So with this mind-set I set myself up for God to move in my world and rock my consciousness!
And He did.

It was last night. At a Lord's Supper service out in the country in a camp setting. I and many other ministers and pastors worshiped together and then someone besides us administered the Supper.
It was a warm, blessed atmosphere, and I was pleasantly surprised how blessed I was to be a part of it.
I went forward picked a piece of motzah and a small cup of juice and headed back to my seat.

I ate the bread while climbing a couple rows up in this outdoor rock amphitheater, where people were spread out and few were sitting very close to another. As I sat I raised the cup to drink and  stopped short as a strangled cry rose up though my throat. I got a grip, got in control, telling myself that this service was more for the three young men who had joined our ranks in this learning group we were all part of. I was afraid if I made any noise I would become the center of attention, drawing focus away from Christ and these new inductees.

As I started to drink it happened again only this time it turned into a sob. It lingered and my shoulders and whole body seemed to be weeping.
I didn't know why.
Then I remember a story of Luther, when he was a young Catholic minister, saying his very first Mass. When he got to the words "This is my body", where the wine, that he held up in a chalice, would turn into the actual blood of Christ, he stopped and was immobile for sometime until he mumbled himself through the rest of the the Mass.
Later when asked what happened he said at that moment when the wine would be turned to blood he realised his inadequacy to hold the perfect innocent blood of Christ. That his dirty, sinful hands would hold the cup of God was overwhelming to him.

But there I was holding grape juice, knowing it was only grape juice and weeping because of my unworthiness to hold even that; much less handle God's word everyday. Or, to use my sinful brain to contemplate scripture and to use my sinful lips to proclaim it. I was just sobbing before the Lord.

Then it was as if the Lord was pushing me slowly but firmly down to my knees to worship before Him. I didn't see Jesus, I didn't feel His hand on my shoulder. I was just aware than in my heart I was weeping for mercy and grace had set me free. A burden seemed lifted. A sin removed. An oppression evaporated into thin air.

Then, as I was kneeling in my heart before the Lord, it was as if He said, "So, you don't think I can communicate with you?"
Part of me thought, "I never said tha!." But another part of me just said "Yes Lord, you can."

We don't decide when God will show up. We can plan, but God keeps His own counsel. Man proposes, God disposes.

Blessed Be His Name.

One other note, before the burden lifted off my shoulders, two sweet sisters came and prayed for me. Not to counsel or ask questions, just to pray as God did His business with me. Thanks!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A 9-1-1 Remembrance

It’s been said that Ministers are called on to say something when no-one else knows what to say (Al Mohler I think). It’s not a fun position to be in. At the home of a family who have just lost a child or when something terrible like 911 happens, people look to ministers for wisdom and help for their hurt.
Sometimes we’re speechless. Sometimes we’re hurting, too. We can’t make any more sense of a wicked evil terrorist attack than anyone else. But we try and sometimes we don’t do a very good job.
Some people will say, “Remember, God didn’t do this, men did.” But everybody knows if God is all powerful He could have stopped it and He didn’t.
Or we can answer like Jesus did when they asked him about the tower that fell in Jerusalem and killed some folks. He said, “And if you don’t repent, you will likewise perish.” It’s interesting that Jesus didn’t always say comforting words.

In our country we debate whether we should be at war. When we aren’t at war some people think we should be.
We debate whether to show the planes hitting the towers on TV. Some say show it, some say don’t.
We debate how much our children should know about this evil world we live in.
But as horrible as those pictures are that show people dying on 911, there is another picture just as horrible.
We like to say that the people who were killed on 911 were innocent. Where they? The Bible says for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Now I don’t think they deserved to die that day!  They were not enemy combatants! Only grossly evil cowards attack those unarmed!
But, compared to Jesus, there wasn’t an innocent one in the whole group! And yet innocent Jesus died a slow bloody death.
Jesus didn’t endure the wrath of terrorists; He endured the wrath of His own Father. Why? For those who would be saved!
SO, we mourn those that died that day. 
We honor those that gave their lives trying to rescue the victims. 
We give thanks for those who came after the fact to treat them medically and spiritually. 
And, we are very grateful that 40% of the Baptist Churches in Manhattan NY have been started in the last 10 years!
Brig. Gen J. Spivey-Chaplain
And while we promise to never forget the 911 tragedy, we cannot possibly forget the Passover tragedy, when Jesus our Savior died in our place.
And we need to remember, Muslims are not our enemies. They need Jesus. Even the radicals.

1Co 15:51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.