” That Incredible Christian or That Incredible Shrinking Christian”.

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Jul 142019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: ” That Incredible Christian or That Incredible Shrinking Christian”.  By:  Ron Woodrum

  Back in 1964 A.W. Tozer wrote a book called That Incredible Christian. In his book he enumerated the characteristics of a true Christian that often made him an enigma to the rest of the world, and yet that enigma was an unexplainable difference that often had a magnetic draw of curiosity that caused non-Christians to investigate the genuineness of our faith, and often would lead them to choose that fascinating relationship with God, through Christ for themselves. Listen to a brief description that Tozer shares-“The Christian believes that in Christ he has died, (to his old self), yet he is more alive than ever…and he fully expects to live forever! He walks on earth, but is seated in heaven! He is like the Nighthawk, which is so graceful in flight in the air, but is so awkward and ugly on the ground…to be a victorious son of heaven he must not follow the pattern of earth. To be safe-he must put himself in jeopardy! He loses his life-to save it. When he tries to preserve it, he is in danger of losing it! He goes down-to go up! If he refuses to go down, he is already down! He is strong when he is weakest…and weakest when he sees himself strong. He has the most when he has given the most away! He is most sinless when he is most conscious of his sin! Most sinful when he feels he has little or no sin! He is wisest when he knows that he knows little! Knows least when he thinks he knows much! Sometimes he does the most, by doing nothing! -Goes furthest when he is standing still! He fears God-yet is not afraid of Him. When he is in God’s presence, he feels overwhelmed and undone! Yet there is no other place he desires to be more! He loves supremely One he has never seen! He fully expects to go and see Him one day soon, but is in no hurry to get there! In this world he is a confirmed pessimist, but expecting Christ soon, he is a restful optimist! THAT INCREDIBLE CHRISTIAN!” That kind of incredible Christian lived with a conviction that God had brought something into their lives through Christ that was an enigma to the world, but something they desperately needed to share. That led them to pray for their non-Christian friends; be there for them in the difficult days of their lives; and always ready to share the Gospel with them and encourage them to give their lives to Christ. Always it seemed that the Incredible Christian had a burden to see their friends and loved ones share in this Incredible Christian life!

But those days seem like a mirage in the cold hard reality of this New Millennium! I am not sure why but most Christians do not even seem to be familiar with all the Incredibility they have in Christ Jesus. Losing the wonder of it all has evaporated the ever-present desire to share that incredible faith with those who have never met or known our Lord. It seems that many Christians are not even sure how incredible the Christian life is-why would it be something you would want to convince others to embrace it! IT SEEMS THAT INCREDIBLE CHRISTIAN HAS BECOME THAT INCREDIBLE SHRINKING CHRISTIAN! Eight years before Tozer wrote his book, That Incredible Christian, another author, a science fiction author, Richard Matheson, wrote a novel called The Incredible Shrinking Man. It was made into a movie in 1957. In the book/movie Scott Carey is exposed to a cloud of radioactive spray. This radioactivity causes him to shrink 1/7 of an inch per day. As he shrinks, he is detrimentally affected in his success on his job; with his family; and in all of his relationships! As he shrinks to 7 inches he engages in battles with sparrows and spiders who would normally run away from him. This fiction was fantastically entertaining for an earlier generation. Truth be known-it speaks to our generation-to the Christians in our generation. For the last several decades Christians have been shrinking in stature. It used to be that we had a strong influence on our culture and in our community. But as we have grown less and less in being Incredible Christians-we have become as Martin Lloyd Jones has said-“irrelevant”. Instead of the world looking to the Church and the Christian for direction, they have chosen to ignore us. The tragedy of it all is we have become comfortable with that! We seldom take a stand on the issues of our day. We seldom hold up the Cross and the Christ as the only answer to the problems that confront our society today. We have embraced the philosophy “I’m Ok-Your Ok!” and from a Biblical point of view-“That is Not Ok!” Instead of being “That Incredible Christian” we have become “That Incredible Shrinking Christian!” That is the tragedy for the Gospel in this new millennium!

There was another Carey. His name was William Carey. He and some fellow Baptist pastors in England began to pray for the lost, in their country, and in the world as a whole. They began to discuss the destiny of those who had not received Christ. They prayed that God would bring the good news of the gospel to them. They became the answer to their own prayers. Carey came to the conviction “Expect Great Things from God-Attempt Great Things for God!” That lead to the birth of modern missions. William Carey gave his life to taking the good news of the Gospel to Burma. He embraced all the challenges of learning the languages and customs-of loving the unlovable…Of patiently giving all his possessions, energy and life in winning them to Christ. He even engaged his 8-year-old son Felix in the work. Felix excelled in learning the language and translating the Bible into the language of the Burmese people. Felix was a co-laborer with his father William in a “Great work for God”. When he was 21 Felix married. He and his wife had a son. The hardships of the missionary life took the life of his wife and son. In his weariness he grew discouraged. Felix not only was gifted in language translation but had medical abilities as well. The King of Burma offered Felix a position as Ambassador to the governor-general in Calcutta. The weary Felix accepted, resigning his mission activities in 1814, Felix lived in affluence as a Burmese Government official now. His father William was crushed. He wrote to fellow Christians back in England-“pray for Felix-he is shriveled from a missionary to an ambassador!” Felix’s wealth and position in the world led him to overspending and alcoholism. He had to resign in disgrace. He disappeared into the province of Assam, wandering and homeless for three years! The good news is he recovered. He returned to being a missionary. He finished well and had an impact for the gospel. Perhaps we need to write a letter to ourselves. “Pray for the 21st century Christian. He has shriveled from being a witness to a wanderer! From that Incredible Christian to that Incredible Shrinking Christian!” Unless we draw near unto our Lord; Unless we get our credible stature back in the eyes of the world-our Gospel will fall on deaf ears in these last days! Today’s message is about Understanding the Gospel in a Nutshell and striving together in applying the essentials needed for Impacting the World with the Gospel of Christ…and stop the shrinking!

 Posted by at 9:20 pm

“Call it a loan-on a debt that you owe”

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Jul 072019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Call it a loan-on a debt that you owe”  By:  Ron Woodrum

  In the 33 years that our Lord sojourned upon this earth, He never once demonstrated a single shred of materialistic desire. I doubt seriously that He ever scanned the Jerusalem Daily News to see whether the stock market was up or down, or called His bank to see how His investments were doing, He never worried one second that inflation might be eating away at His little “nest egg” tucked away in some corner of His humble abode. He never had an abode. He told those who would follow Him that the “foxes have holes, and the birds have nests, but the Son of Man hath nowhere to lay His head!” (Matthew 8:20). He told His disciples to “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth”. (Matt. 6:19). He lived that message before them. He said, “a man’s life consisteth not in the things he possesses!” (Luke 121:15). When we had United Voice in concert, their lead singer, Jeremy reminded us that all during the days of His flesh Jesus had to often borrow the things that He needed. Stop and think about that! The day He was born- He had a borrowed room-in a stable. He had no baby crib-He had a borrowed manger-i.e. “a feeding trough” borrowed from the cattle. He borrowed a coin from the fish’s mouth to pay taxes. He borrowed 5 loaves and 2 fishes to feed the 5,000. He often borrowed a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee, or to use as a pulpit to preach from. When He made His entrance, in fulfillment of Scripture, on Palm Sunday, it was on a borrowed donkey. You remember Jesus told them to go into the city, find a donkey tied at a certain location, take it and tell the owners-“The Lord hath need of him” (Mark 11:2-3). Someone has said that the only thing that was his was His Cross. The poem goes like this:

         

They borrowed a bed to lay His head

When Christ the Lord came down;

They borrowed the ass, in the mountain pass

For Him to ride into town;

 

But the crown that He wore

And the cross that He bore

Were his own-The cross was His own.

  

He borrowed the bread when the crowd He fed

On the grassy mountainside;

He borrowed the dish of the broken fish

With which He satisfied;

  

But the crown that He wore,

And the cross that He bore,

Were His own, the cross was His own.

  

He borrowed a room, on the way to the tomb

The Passover Lamb to eat;

They borrowed the cave, to use as His grave;

They borrowed the winding sheet

They covered in spikenard so sweet

   

But the crown that He wore,

And the cross that He bore,

Were His own, the cross was His own.

  

  A great poem-but not accurate. Even His cross was a borrowed cross. It belonged to Jesus Barabbas. Jesus borrowed his cross on which to die- in his place and in ours too. He had a borrowed tomb, that He only needed for three nights and days. All His life He borrowed necessities in order to impact our world for God. Do you know He still is? Would you let the Lord borrow from you? You say “what do I have that the Lord has need of?” Anne Johnson Flint tells us clearly what the Lord needs to borrow from us. Listen to her words-

 

Christ has no hands but our hands

To do His work today

He has no feet but our feet

To lead men in His way

He has no tongue but our tongues

To tell men how He died

He has no help but our help

To bring them to His side

   

What if our hands are busy

With work other than His?

What if our feet are walking

Where sin’s allurement is?

What if our tongues are speaking

Of things His lips would spurn?

Oh how we need to help him

And hasten His soon return?

 

  Would you let Jesus borrow your hands, your feet, your tongue? Several years ago, there was a pop song entitled-“Call It A Loan”- The lyrics stated-“Call it a loan-on a debt that I owed!” That sounds like a tune we could definitely learn from our Lord! Just keep telling yourself-“The Lord has need of you!” He really does!

 Posted by at 9:10 pm

FIRST-PERSON: Making a connection

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Jun 302019
 

FIRST-PERSON: Making a connection by Doug Munton

O’FALLON, Ill. (BP) — I moved several times as a boy and it wasn’t much fun

Each time I had to overcome old fears, break down unseen barriers and make new friends. I never liked that feeling of being an outsider. I haven’t forgotten how it felt to my tender young soul.

But it taught me some valuable lessons in helping to connect with guests at church.

Visiting a church can be awkward for a first-time guest. They don’t know the people, the customs or the expectations. They can feel nervous, intimidated or ignored. They might not even yet know the message of the Gospel.

Here are some tips to help church members purposely connect with guests that can make a real and lasting difference:

1. Talk to people you don’t know.

Church member, this is the simplest thing that you can do for guests. If you don’t know someone, say hello. Tell them you are glad to see them. I ask almost every Sunday, “Have I met you before?” If I have met them before, I apologize for forgetting and work to get to know them better.

In connecting with guests, just speak to them. Look them in the eye and say a simple greeting. Welcome them. Care about them. A surprising number of church members never do this.

2. Be friendly to people who aren’t yet your friends.

Every church in America thinks they are friendly because they are friendly to their friends. But being friendly to your friends does not make your church friendly to guests.

I love that our members have church friends with whom they can talk and laugh and visit. But I want them to choose to meet some new people. One of my dearest college friends was the very last guy I met of all the guys on my dorm hall.

Make some new friends at church this week. Maybe they will become lifelong friends. But even if not, you will help a new person connect with your church.  

3. Learn their names.

Introductions usually involve us telling each other our names. But if we aren’t careful, we quickly forget. It isn’t that we aren’t good with names but that we didn’t really pay careful attention when they told us their name to begin with.

Our small groups have come up with a simple solution for this. We are starting to wear name tags. You can’t easily ask the name of a couple in your small group who have been coming for months. It is embarrassing that you forgot. But name tags help us remember. And they are especially helpful for connecting with guests.

4. Read body language.

If someone looks confused, they probably are confused. A simple, “Can I help you find something?” is helpful. With a little practice, you can begin to understand what people are feeling and thinking from their body language.

Guests often look a bit apprehensive because they are. Learning to read this allows you as a church member to do something about this. A friendly face and kind word goes a long way toward lowering that nervousness.

Some of our guests want to remain fairly anonymous. They typically appreciate a friendly greeting but don’t always want deep conversation until they know if they can trust us. You may be able to read that. Perhaps you could say, “If I can help you with anything, just let me know.”

Other guests would really like to have someone offer to have them sit with them. Or they might enjoy some friendly conversation. Body language is a language that communicates volumes when we begin to understand it.

5. Invite them to take the next connection steps.

It is entirely appropriate to tell a departing guest that you hope they come back. There is nothing wrong with letting them know about your small groups, an upcoming special event or membership class, or the classes for their children.

Welcoming a first-time guest is just the start of the assimilation process. A warm welcome goes a long way. But we want more than that for our guests. We want them to consider and trust the claims of Christ. We want them to join us on this discipleship journey. We want them to fellowship with other believers and worship with the church family and serve as God has gifted them. We want them to join us in welcoming other guests and helping them to follow the Lord as well.

Consider how it must feel to attend your church as a first-time guest. Have empathy for the awkwardness that can come with a new experience in a new place.

And choose to be that friendly face this week who offers that kind word.

Doug Munton, online at dougmunton.com, is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in O’Fallon, Ill., and a former first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

 Posted by at 12:16 pm

“That Scar-Even that is no sacrifice!”

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Jun 232019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “That Scar-Even that is no sacrifice!”  By Ron Woodrum

        Doctor David Livingstone was one of the greatest missionaries to give his life for spreading the gospel. After war broke out in China, he had to change his plans for missionary work. His father-in-law, Robert Moffat challenged him to come and challenge the Dark Continent for Christ. He accepted the challenge and spent the years of 1852-1873 exploring and evangelizing Africa. Early on, while trying to show the natives how to defend their livestock from the lions, he shot and wounded a lion, who attacked him while reloading, and for all practical purposes destroyed his left arm. He spent 22 years of tireless exploration and evangelization. He pushed himself to the limit for his Savior and the people of Africa. His life verse was Matthew 28:20 “Lo I am with you always even unto the end of the world”. His life motto and prayer was-“God send me anywhere-only go with me. Lay any burden on me-only sustain me. Sever any tie on my heart except the tie that binds my heart to Thee!” He is known for discovering Victoria Falls. A statue of him there is inscribed with his motto: “CHRISTIANITY, COMMERCE, AND CIVILIZATION”. He was criticized by the London Missionary Society for additional activities than evangelizing; but he felt the other two activities supported his priority of spreading Christianity. He was attacked over 30 times; He often had his supplies and medicine stolen; He battled pneumonia, ulcers, dysentery, and malaria, which eventually killed him in 1873. He suffered greatly to share the gospel where it had never been before. Stories were written about him how that he made so many sacrifices and suffered so much for the Gospel’s sake. When he came back to England to speak, before going back to Africa for the final time, he spoke these words: “For my own part I have never ceased to rejoice that God has appointed me to such an office. People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Is that a sacrifice that brings its own blest reward? Is it a sacrifice in doing what is good? Is it a sacrifice to have the peace of God that you are safe in His will? Is it a sacrifice to have a bright hope of a glorious hereafter? Away with the word sacrifice! IT IS A PRIVILEGE! Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger now and then, with a foregoing of common convenience and charities of life, may make us pause, or waiver, or our soul to sink a bit; but only for a moment. All of these are nothing when compared to the glory that shall be revealed in and for us! I NEVER MADE A SACRIFICE!” (He gave that message as he stood at the pulpit thin and gaunt; bearing the marks of illness and attack all over his body; his left arm hanging limp and useless at his side). The people of Africa loved him so much that they demanded his heart be buried with them in Africa. It is there with a monument in Zambia. They also loved him so much that they carried his body hundreds of miles, against their customs and superstitions to enable his body to be transported back to his native England and to be buried in Westminster Abby.

How I hang my head in shame when I think about myself. When I think about Christianity in America that will make little or no effort to evangelize our friends and neighbors without endangering ourselves in any way. We don’t even have to inconvenience ourselves at all. He did so much with so little. We do so little with so much. It makes me think of Amy Carmichael convicting poem NO SCAR?

She asks us: Hast thou no scar?

No hidden scar on foot, or side or hand?

I hear thee sung as mighty in the land.

I hear thy bright ascendant star.

Hast thou no scar?

 

Hast thou no wound?

Yet I was wounded by the archers spent

Leaned against a tree to die, and rent

By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned

Hast thou no wound?

 

No wound? No scar?

Yet as Master, shall servant be,

And pierced are the feet that follow me

But thine are whole; can he have followed me far

Who has no wound-who has no scar?

 

The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ was purchased through great suffering. It was proclaimed in New Testament times through great suffering. What makes us think that we can follow our Lord and proclaim His Gospel without it being a Gospel of Suffering? Our Lord promised to be with us with His presence and power as we suffer in proclaiming His Gospel. Wounds and Scars accompany His Gospel. But all that said, with Livingstone, our testimony should be-“We never made a sacrifice!” When we look at what Jesus did to save the world, we cannot help but be satisfied with His finished work on the cross. When He looks at our work in spreading that Good News Gospel is He satisfied with us? B.B. McKinney wrote a convicting hymn that asks that question.

Satisfied With Jesus

 

  I am satisfied with Jesus

He has done so much for me

He has suffered to redeem me

He has died to set me free

  

  He is with me in my trials

Best of friends of all is He

I can always count on Jesus

Can He always count on me?

  

  I can hear the voice of Jesus

Calling out so pleadingly

Go and win the lost and straying

Is He satisfied with me?

  

  And when my work on earth is ended

And I cross the Mystic sea

Oh that I could hear Him saying

I am satisfied with thee.

  

  I am satisfied with Jesus

I am satisfied with Jesus

But the question comes to me

When I think of Calvary

Is my Master satisfied with me?

 Posted by at 11:58 am

“Laser-Light Gospel Evangelism”

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Jun 162019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Laser-Light Gospel Evangelism”.  By:  Ron Woodrum

 

I was led to Christ by Pastor Russell Pittman, of the Salem Baptist Church of Decatur, Illinois in early September 1968. The next year, after growing in Christ, I felt God calling me to give up plans to go to the University of Illinois and be a Physical Education major, with the goal of being a coach. My second choice was to be a disk-jockey on a radio station! I know-I was setting my goals extremely high! But God had other plans! I was licensed to the ministry in March of 1969, and began an itinerant ministry of Youth revivals all over the state of Illinois. But I remember an event that affirmed that call in a very emphatic way. It was the Illinois Baptist State Association’s Youth Encounter of 1969. It was held on Dec. 26-27 at the Springfield, Illinois Holiday Inn. Kids from all over Illinois traveled through the snow to attend the conference. There were three main personalities giving testimony and speaking at the Encounter. The first was Debra Barnes. She was Miss America 1968. She was Miss Kansas, and was elected Miss America. She was a devout Christian, and made that plain in her acceptance speech. While she was speaking protesters from the New York Radical Women were waving sheets promoting Women’s Lib, and “No More Miss America Pageants!” Debra was a gifted Pianist and played and gave her testimony. She gave God the glory, and told how holding that honor opened doors for her to share Christ with the world! (Boy how times have changed!). Debra has lived faithfully to the Lord, and currently is Associate Professor of Piano studies at Missouri Southern State University, in Joplin, Mo., and Worship leader for nearly 20 years at The Faithlife Worship Center in Carthage, Mo. The second personality was Terry Bradshaw. Terry was a football star whose father was retired military and a Vice President of a manufacturing company in Shreveport, La. They were strong Southern Baptists, and Terry grew up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. In High School Terry led his football team to record setting years. He also set a national record for throwing the Javelin-throwing it 245 ft! (a record that stood for years, but was recently eclipsed by 10 feet). That feat earned him a spot in Sports Illustrated, where he would appear on the cover three times after winning the Super Bowl in 1974, 1975, and 1979. At the time he spoke to us he was star quarterback for Louisiana Tech University, having been back up to Phil (Duck Dynasty) Robertson in his first two years. Phil choose not to play in 1968. He told Terry, (he now says-“I am going for the ducks, you go for the bucks!”). In 1969 Terry was the Most Outstanding College Quarterback. He broke records in his last two collegiate years! Terry came to the Youth Encounter as a spokesman for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Of course, he went on to be the #1 draft pick of the Pittsburg Steelers, for whom he won 4 Super Bowls (’74, ’75, ’78,’79). Terry unashamedly declared his love and commitment to Jesus Christ as the most important thing in his life, and gave God all the glory for the accomplishments he had been blessed to attain. The third personality at the conference was Ron Hutchcraft. He was a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and leader in the Youth for Christ movement. Since that time Ron has been active for over 55 years in RHM Ministries. He has a radio program entitled A Word With You, and a ministry to native Americans called On Eagles Wings. He was so different! He spoke casually, sitting on a stool, not behind a podium. Every word he spoke went straight to the heart. He clearly held Jesus up as the only way of salvation. But more than that, he challenged these many young people to give their life to something that would matter for time and eternity -“following Jesus with all your heart-wherever He calls you!” He insisted that Jesus wanted us to be “all in” and give ourselves 100% No holding back! I have never forgotten the last service. As the instrumentalists played and sang, I have decided to follow Jesus, he challenged each of us, if we were serious about it, to stand up, in front of all our peers around us, and declare publically-“I HAVE DECIDED TO FOLLOW JESUS-NO TURNING BACK!” I have never forgotten the decision I made that day- almost 50 years ago! What an Encounter! The theme was “STAND UP AND STAND OUT FOR JESUS”. He probably doesn’t even remember that day. I have never forgotten it.

But I remember an event that affirmed that call in a very emphatic way. It was the Illinois Baptist State Association’s Youth Encounter of 1969. It was held on Dec. 26-27 at the Springfield, Illinois Holiday Inn. Kids from all over Illinois traveled through the snow to attend the conference. There were three main personalities giving testimony and speaking at the Encounter. The first was Debra Barnes. She was Miss America 1968. She was Miss Kansas, and was elected Miss America. She was a devout Christian, and made that plain in her acceptance speech. While she was speaking protesters from the New York Radical Women were waving sheets promoting Women’s Lib, and “No More Miss America Pageants!” Debra was a gifted Pianist and played and gave her testimony. She gave God the glory, and told how holding that honor opened doors for her to share Christ with the world! (Boy how times have changed!). Debra has lived faithfully to the Lord, and currently is Associate Professor of Piano studies at Missouri Southern State University, in Joplin, Mo., and Worship leader for nearly 20 years at The Faithlife Worship Center in Carthage, Mo. The second personality was Terry Bradshaw. Terry was a football star whose father was retired military and a Vice President of a manufacturing company in Shreveport, La. They were strong Southern Baptists, and Terry grew up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. In High School Terry led his football team to record setting years. He also set a national record for throwing the Javelin-throwing it 245 ft! (a record that stood for years, but was recently eclipsed by 10 feet). That feat earned him a spot in Sports Illustrated, where he would appear on the cover three times after winning the Super Bowl in 1974, 1975, and 1979. At the time he spoke to us he was star quarterback for Louisiana Tech University, having been back up to Phil (Duck Dynasty) Robertson in his first two years. Phil choose not to play in 1968. He told Terry, (he now says-“I am going for the ducks, you go for the bucks!”). In 1969 Terry was the Most Outstanding College Quarterback. He broke records in his last two collegiate years! Terry came to the Youth Encounter as a spokesman for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Of course, he went on to be the #1 draft pick of the Pittsburg Steelers, for whom he won 4 Super Bowls (’74, ’75, ’78,’79). Terry unashamedly declared his love and commitment to Jesus Christ as the most important thing in his life, and gave God all the glory for the accomplishments he had been blessed to attain. The third personality at the conference was Ron Hutchcraft. He was a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and leader in the Youth for Christ movement. Since that time Ron has been active for over 55 years in RHM Ministries. He has a radio program entitled A Word With You, and a ministry to native Americans called On Eagles Wings. He was so different! He spoke casually, sitting on a stool, not behind a podium. Every word he spoke went straight to the heart. He clearly held Jesus up as the only way of salvation. But more than that, he challenged these many young people to give their life to something that would matter for time and eternity -“following Jesus with all your heart-wherever He calls you!” He insisted that Jesus wanted us to be “all in” and give ourselves 100% No holding back! I have never forgotten the last service. As the instrumentalists played and sang, I have decided to follow Jesus, he challenged each of us, if we were serious about it, to stand up, in front of all our peers around us, and declare publically-“I HAVE DECIDED TO FOLLOW JESUS-NO TURNING BACK!” I have never forgotten the decision I made that day- almost 50 years ago! What an Encounter! The theme was “STAND UP AND STAND OUT FOR JESUS”. He probably doesn’t even remember that day. I have never forgotten it.

  Recently I heard Ron on the radio. It was his program-A WORD WITH YOU. He titled his program-“A mission with a name on it!” Let me briefly share part of it with you. Maybe God will use him to impact your life like he did mine!

    Ron said, “My friend Dave got tired of wearing glasses. But if he didn’t, he was dangerous. After consulting with a specialist, he determined he was a candidate for Lasik surgery. During the procedure, a laser beam was aimed at the parts of his eyes that had limited his vision and the carefully aimed light of that laser changed everything! Guess who doesn’t need glasses anymore! All because of the power of focused light. My Word With You is ‘A mission with a name on it!’ For someone you know, for someone you love, their only hope of ever seeing Jesus may be the power of focused light. You are God’s laser light to their life. Were not talking about single-handedly reaching everyone in your town, your school, your workplace, or your neighborhood for Christ. Were talking about focusing your love, prayer, and efforts on one person you want to have in heaven with you. Someone who, if they died today, probably would not go there. I call it a mission with a name on it. Not just non-specific concern for the ‘lost’. We’re talking about a burden with a name. Andrew met Jesus. The first concern of his was to go and tell his brother Peter. We know the results of that mission (See John 1:40-42). We know Jesus had a heart for just one sheep. He left the 99, to go search diligently for the one lost sheep. A mission with a name on it. (Palestinian Shepherds named their sheep). That doesn’t mean you ignore all the other lost people around you! But you start with one person. God lays that person on your heart. You pray for that person every day. You pray that you, or someone of God’s leading, will cross paths with them, and share the Gospel. You look for ways to love them, in their language of love, demonstrating Jesus’ love for them, in practical ways. You focus the light of Jesus and your efforts like a laser beam on that one life!

In a previous generation, a man named John Wannamaker, one of the most looked to and successful businessmen in America, and founder of one of the first famous department stores in America, was also a lover of Jesus Christ, and a Sunday School teacher. One day he wrote a hand copied letter to each member of his large class. What he said touched my heart. He wrote, ‘If you are saved, humbly trusting in what Jesus did for you in His love on the cross, think of others who are not saved. Be burdened that they will be spending eternity in darkness-separated from God forever! That’s your friend, your relative, your neighbor-Do Something! Settle your mind and heart on some particular person. Pray and work and do not give up til that person comes to Christ. Your help comes from God. It is an undying soul you are laboring for. What a pleasure it will be to have some newborn soul with you in heaven! Do not put it off for a single hour. Hearts grow harder and eternity is close”. He signed his letter to his class-‘Yours in the hope of heaven, and to win our friends to go with us’.” That’s your mission with a name on it! That is your laser beam of Gospel proclamation! Imagine the joy of someone coming up to you in heaven and saying “Thank you-I would not be here if not for you!” Thank God your mission with a name on it had their name!

 Posted by at 2:57 am

“A Brand Plucked From the Fire-with the World His Gospel Parish”

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Jun 092019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “A Brand Plucked From the Fire-with the World His Gospel Parish”.  By:  Ron Woodrum

  One of the most interesting and impacting Christian influences of the 18th Century was John Wesley. Historians feel that he, and possibly George Whitefield, are the reason that England escaped the Revolutionary tragedy and turmoil that plagued France during this same time in history. His spiritual influence brought such a revival to England that created an entirely different culture than the one that nearly destroyed France, John Wesley was born June 28, 1703, to an Anglican minister Samuel Wesley, and his wife Susannah. John was the 15th, of 19 children! His mother was the 25th child of 25! One would think that John was mostly influenced by his minister father, but we are told that all of the Wesley children were impacted most by their godly mother. Somehow, she had time to spend individual time with each one of them, (a challenge when there is only 24 hours in a day). She taught them the Word of God, to pray, and to live by very strict Christian behavior toward each other and those in the outside world. John would be ingrained with these Christian methods so much that he would carry them with him the rest of his life! Many historians refer to Susannah Wesley as the Mother of Modern-day Methodism! Even after he left home for his college education, he turned to his mother asking her to define sin for him. She responded, “whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, takes off your relish for spiritual things, whatever increases the authority of the body over the mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may seem in itself”. She not only taught them the Scriptures, but taught them to study it in its original language, from the Greek New Testament. An incident that occurred while John was quite young, shaped him the rest of his life. The Wesley home caught fire. All of the family escaped the flames, except John. He was trapped on the second floor. There was no way of escape. Neighbors recognizing the emergency of the situation, formed a human ladder, (standing on each other’s shoulders), to reach up and out to rescue young John. For the rest of his life he referred to himself as “a brand plucked from the fire”-quoting what God said of Joshua the High Priest in Zechariah 3:2.

John and his brother Charles went to Oxford. While there they formed, with two other students, the Holy Club, where they emphasized practical methods and rules for living the practical Christian life. Again, this was from the influence of his godly mother who tried to make the commandments of Scripture every day exercises in holiness for her children. John had an insatiable appetite to know and please God. James Oglethorpe had founded a colony in Georgia where many from debtor’s prison in England were sent. He asked John and Charles to go to this parish and minister to these prisoners, and also to evangelize the Indians. In October of 1735 they sailed on the Simmonds ship to the Province of Georgia, in the American colonies. It was on this trip that he met and was greatly influenced by the Moravian missionaries that were on the same trip. On the way to the New World, the ship encountered a life-threatening storm, and it was clear the ship was going to sink. The Moravians sang hymns and rejoiced calmly. John Wesley was terrified of death. The Moravian pastor asked John why he was so terrified. He asked him “don’t you know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior?” John would write of the incident later in his journals, that he immediately responded “Of course I do!”, but admitted that his confession even sounded hollow to his own ears! He spent two years ministering to prisoners and Indians in Georgia. He and Charles were not well received! They decided to return home. John was returning a broken and disillusioned man. He wrote in his journals-“I went to Georgia to convert the heathen and the Indians. Who will convert me?” Upon returning to England he continued to meet with the Moravians. At one of their Bible studies, at Aldersgate Street London, May 24, 1738, they were studying the Book of Romans from Martin Luther’s commentary on Romans. When the leader read the preface to the commentary that described Luther opening his heart to the salvation of the Lord that was received by faith alone-John Wesley would later write in his journal-“I felt my heart strangely warmed, and at that point, instead of trusting my methods of Christian living for my salvation, I do believe I trusted in Jesus Christ alone as my Savior and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death”. That was a turning point in his life indeed! He was not received well in the Anglican Church, rejected by the Bishops and clergy, He followed the example of George Whitefield, beginning an itinerant ministry. He turned to preaching the Gospel of Grace in the open fields. His motto became-“the world is my parish”. He became adept at open-air preaching. He began to draw crowds into the thousands at his services. He was a small man, 5 foot 6 inches 120 pounds. When he preached, he had to stand on a chair, or a rock, or a hill, or man-made platform. He preached on an average 15 sermons a week, He continued to preach to this Gospel parish for the next 50 years! Over that time, he preached over 40,000 sermons. He traveled on horseback the length and breadth of England-altogether more than 250,000 miles on horseback. He would be seen traveling on horseback, reading his Greek New Testament, and preparing messages. He said, “He destroyed his sermons every seven years, and wrote new ones”. He felt that he was a failure if he could not write better sermons as he went along! They say that the miles he traveled, could have circled the world 10 times! He did so often in the face of hostile crowds, on roads that were often only muddy ruts. A contemporary described him as “the last word…in neatness and dress” and “his eye was the brightest and most piercing that can be conceived”. Once a wild bull was turned loose on him and an audience he was addressing. He was attacked, and sometimes robbed, but none of these things deterred him. His ministry was greatly anointed by the Holy Spirit and the crowds responded in powerful conversions everywhere he went. His converts quickly numbered into the thousands!

He was a powerful preacher and author. He wrote, “Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? Oh be not weary in well-doing!” Wesley was strongly Arminian in his theology. He opposed strong Calvinism. But in spite of that he did so with a sweet spirit. He coined the phrase, “we can agree to disagree, agreeably!” He wrote, “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. here in all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences”. Everywhere he went he reminded other Christians “You have one business on earth-to save souls!” He gave himself to that ministry tirelessly! His prayer was “may I never be useless for the work of God!” He felt strongly about living the Christian life as well. He wrote, “By salvation I mean not barely according to the vulgar notion deliverance from hell or going to heaven only, but a deliverance from sin, a restoration of the soul to its primitive health, its original purity, a recovery of the divine nature…after the image of God in righteousness and true holiness”. He believed in giving generously to the Lord’s work. He said, “When I earn any money, after taking care of my needs, I give it all away in His work lest it find a way into my heart, as an idol!” “When a man becomes a Christian, he becomes industrious, trustworthy, and prosperous. Now if that man when he gets all he can, and does not five all he can, I have no more hope for Judas Iscariot than for that man!” He also said, “Cleanliness is next to godliness”, and wrote a Medical journal that became famous, and catalogued many popular and home remedies of his day. He was known for saying, “Untold millions are still untold, until we tell them!” “though I am always in haste, I am never in a hurry!” He also said, “I set myself on fire and people come to watch me burn!” (Charles Spurgeon followed his example!). He was a humble servant of the Lord. He and George Whitefield often disagreed on theology. Wesley did not fully embrace eternal security. George Whitefield did. People asked Wesley if he thought he would see Whitefield in heaven? He quickly responded, “No!” They thought his response was unfair, until he explained-“George will be so close to the throne of God, and I so far away that it will be quite unlikely I will even be able to see him!” Let me share two of my favorite quotes from Wesley. One is about the Bible. He wrote, “it could not be the invention of good men or angels; they neither would nor could make a book, and tell lies all the time they were writing it, saying ‘Thus says the Lord’ when it was their own invention. It could not be the invention of bad men or devils; for they could not make a book which commands all duty, forbids all sin, and condemns their souls to hell to all eternity, without Christ! Therefore, I draw this conclusion that the Bible must be of Divine Inspiration. I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God and returning to God. Just hovering over the great gulf; til a few moments hence, I am no longer seen. I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing-the way to heaven. How to land safe on that happy shore. God has condescended to teach the way. For this very end he came from heaven. he hath written it down in a book. Oh, give me that book! At any price give me that book! Give me the Book of God! I have it. Here is knowledge enough for me! Let me be Homo Unius Libri-a man of one book!” The other quote I admire is the one he said, “Give me 100 men, who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, I care not a whit whether they be clergy or layperson, and I shall shake the very gates of hell!”. That was his life’s goal. He led the way for far more than 100 men and women! He did so for nearly fifty years of incessant itinerary witnessing and ministry!

On June 28, 1790, one year before his death he wrote, “This day I enter into my eighty-eighth year. For above eighty-six years, I found none of the infirmities of old age: my eyes did not wax dim, neither was my natural strength abated. But last August, I found almost a sudden change. My eyes were so dim that no glasses would help me. My strength likewise now quite forsook me and probably will not return in this world!” He died on March 2, 1791, at an age of 87. As he lay dying, his friends and family gathered around him. Wesley grasped their hands and said repeatedly, “Farewell, Farewell! The best of all is, God is with us” he lifted his arms and raised his feeble voice again, repeating the words “The best of all is God is with us!” His biographer writes, “He witnessed in the hearts and lives of many thousands and saw God’s provision for his work to last for future generations!” If you visit his tomb, in London, England, you will be touched by his epitaph-“To the memory of the venerable John Wesley, late fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford-This great light arose to enlighten…and revive, enforce, and defend the pure apostolic doctrines and practices of the primitive Church, which he continued to do both with his writings and labors for more than half a century…Reader if thou art constrained to bless the instrument-give God the glory. After languishing a few days, he finished his course and life together, gloriously triumphing over death, March 2nd, 1791 in his eighty-eighth year of his life.” He was a brand plucked from the fire, who spent all the days of his life, in the world that was his Gospel parish, plucking others from the fire with all of his strength-and good method to follow! No pun intended!

 Posted by at 2:44 am

“The Mastery of That One Essential Thing”

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Jun 022019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE; “The Mastery of That One Essential Thing”.   By:  Ron Woodrum

  Maybe you have seen the movie City Slickers starring Billy Crystal and Jack Palance. Billy Crystal plays a white-collar guy named Mitch. He is married with children and is questioning whether anything in his life really matters! He and his two friends take a vacation out West in order to take part in a cattle drive. Jack Palance plays a mysterious and intimidating cowboy named Curly, who wears a black hat and a red bandana. He leads this bunch of city slickers with gruff reluctance. In one scene Mitch and Curly are riding together. Mitch, having occasionally stood up to Curly, has caused Curly to warm up to him. Curly says, ‘A cowboy leads a different kind of life…when there were cowboys. We are a dying breed. A couple of days we will lead this herd across the river, through the valley…there’s nothing like bringing in the herd!” Mitch responds, “That’s great-your life makes sense to you!” Curly laughs. Mitch asks, “What’s so funny?” Curly looks right into Mitch’s eyes and says, ‘You city folk…worry about a lot of stuff! How old are you? Thirty-eight?” (Mitch answers “thirty-nine!”). “Yeah, you all come out here the same age with the same problems” Curly tells him. “You spend a whole year getting knots in your rope, and you think two weeks out here will untie them for you! None of you get it! Do you know what the secret of life is?” Mitch shakes his head “no”. “This” Curly says, raising up his index finger. Mitch jokes, ‘Your finger?” Curly clearly states, “One thing-just one thing! You stick to it, and everything else don’t mean squat!” Mitch says, “That’s great! What is the one thing?” Curly smiles, riding away, says “that’s what you’ve got to figure out!” Most Christians need to head Curly’s advice. They need to figure out the one thing that is the secret of life!

In his book Mr. Bridge, novelist Evan Cornell describes a moment in the life of a Kansas City lawyer in the 1930’s. Outwardly he is seen as the epitome of success. He is wealthy; his family seems strong; he is highly respected. That’s life, we say, above the waterline. At soul level-below the waterline-Mr. Bridge is a bundle of fears. Awake at night staring out the window of his bedroom, he watches a storm, as he ponders the direction of his life. Cornell writes: “A leaf flattens against the window beside his head. Then it suddenly vanishes away into the darkness! Suddenly a feeling of profound despair overwhelms him because everything he has done in his life seems useless. All that he attempted seemed meager, and his life seemed wasted!” There are a lot of Mr. Bridges struggling with those feeling of futility in their Christian lives…perhaps for good reason. They are missing that “one thing that is the secret to life!” How do we lose that direction? In his landmark book The Fifth Discipline, Peter Serge quotes Bill O’Brien, CEO of Hanoever Insurance: “People enter business as bright well-educated, high energy people and desire to make a difference. By the time they reach 30, a few are on the fast track, and the rest put in their time and do what matters to them in the weekend. They lose the commitment, their sense of mission, and the excitement with which they started their careers. We get…little of their energy, and almost none of their spirit.” You would think he was describing the loss of mission many Christians have today…and their loss of energy to the Church. Serge goes on to say: “Surprisingly few adults work rigorously to develop their own personal mastery. When you ask them what they want from life-they talk about what they would get rid of…not the disciplines of personal mastery. The things that really matter have been lost. They are not living lives of highest aspirations any longer!” He is talking about us Church! E. Stanley Jones speaks relevantly about that same issue…”Man needs nothing so much as he needs something to bring life together in total meaning and total good…instead of his fragmented life. He is confused-the most confused yet intelligent person that has ever existed. He knows everything about life-except HOW TO LIVE!” Even the agnostic philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche recognized this. He wrote in Beyond Good and Evil: “The essential thing in heaven and earth is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living”. That is what we are missing!

That one thing…that secret of life…that discipline of personal mastery…that life of highest aspirations…that long obedience in the same direction that makes life worth living…is having a passionate grateful love for our Living Lord, and continued commitment to put Him first in our lives come what may. Seeking first the Kingdom and God, and singing the old song “I shall not be moved!” That kind of link of love to our Lord opens us up to His presence and power to Incarnate Him into our lives through the presence of the Holy Spirit. Helmut Thielicke illustrates that beautifully in his book I Believe, I Believe. He writes: “Many churches have stained glass windows. Those windows recount the mighty acts of God by means of pictures. The venerable figures of the prophets and apostles look down on us, and perhaps there are scenes from the life of Jesus or symbols of the Holy Trinity. These windows are not intended-or at least not primarily-to provide an ornamental border for the place of worship, nor to generate a meditative atmosphere. They are meant to deliver a message. They are the Word illustrated, and they preach through pictures the way the organ preaches through music. Now if I see the Church from the outside, If I just walk around it, these windows appear as lifeless gray-on-gray. They are mute and have nothing to say. However, as soon as I go on the inside, (with the sun shining brightly through them) all the colors blaze out, and the pictures come to life, and begin to speak the message!” So it is with our lives. The presence and power of the Light of the World illuminating our lives with His glory will show and share the message with those that most of time only see us as gray on gray! Seeking His Presence, Power, and Glory should be the all-consuming Passion of our lives. Everything else should pale in light of that one thing! Then we will live the secret of the Christian life.

T.S. Eliot, one of the great figures of English literature, expressed that truth in his poetry, after he became a Christian. In the fourth poem, of his Christian writing Four Quartets, entitled Little Gidding, he addresses the need for that very Passionate Fire. He writes:

 

The dove descending breaks the air

With flame of incandescent terror

Of which the tongues declare

The one discharge from sin and error.

The only hope, or else despair

Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre-

To be redeemed from fire by fire.

 

Who then devised the torment? Love

Love is the unfamiliar Name

Behind the hands that wove

The intolerable shirt of flame

Which human power cannot remove.

We only live, only suspire

Consumed by either fire or fire.

 

What fire is going to consume you? How about a passionate fire that burns deep inside to light up your life with the glory of the Lord as you give your all to glorify Him with all you say or do. That is the one thing…that one essential thing…the secret to life that reaches the highest of aspirations. That kind of life crowns Him with many Crowns.

 Posted by at 1:31 am

“Our Permanent Halfway Spiritual Condition-lives of silent mediocrity!”

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May 262019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Our Permanent Halfway Spiritual Condition-lives of silent mediocrity!”  BY:  Ron Woodrum

  One of the greatest Christians I have ever met was Howard G. Hendricks, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. I was introduced to his ministry by my college room mate Dennis Suhling. Some of my most treasured moments were the times I got to sit under his ministry. The one thing that Dr. Hendricks, (known to his students as “prof” and his colleagues and friends as “Howie”), was to always strive for excellence and never settle for mediocrity. He saw mediocrity as the greatest blight on the contemporary Evangelical Church. He said, “I have never met a Christian who admitted that they intended to live a mediocre Christian life…but I have met a myriad of mediocre Christians!” One of the most influential prophets of my day, A.W. Tozer spoke to this issue in a very convicting way. He admitted, “Personally I have carried a heavy burden of sorrow for Evangelical Christians of our day who have somewhere in their past compromised with their heart’s longings and settled down to a lukewarm and mediocre kind of Christianity that is utterly unworthy of themselves and the Lord they claim to serve!” (That Incredible Christian). John Mason put Christian mediocrity in context when he said, “Mediocrity is a region bound on the North by compromise, on the South by indecision, on the East by past thinking, and on the West by lack of vision”. Eugene Petersen, (Author of the paraphrase The Message), sought to identify why Christians settle for such a low level of discipleship and maturity, he defines as mediocrity instead of excellence, when he writes “One aspect of the world that is harmful to Christians is the assumption that anything worthwhile can be acquired at once…our attention span has been conditioned by thirty-second commercials. Our sense of reality has been flattened by the thirty-page abridgement. It is not difficult in out world to get a person interested in the message of the Gospel-but it is terrifically difficult to sustain that interest! Millions make a decision for Christ but there is a dreadful attrition rate…evidence for mature Christian discipleship is slim…when it loses its novelty it goes on the garbage heap!” He feels that is why so many Christians find themselves in what A.W. Tozer called “Our permanent half-way spiritual condition”. Jen Sincero, making a play on Thoreau’s “‘lives of quiet desperation”, says “so many people live lives of silent mediocrity!” That is so true of the greater number of rank and file Christians in our churches today. Mediocrity is an attitude of the world that has permeated the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ! Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, “most of the world’s wisdom is accepted by mediocre people to discourage them from ambitious attempts and console them in their mediocrity”. Eric Hoffer is even more confrontational. He warns “The real Antichrist is he who turns the wine of excellence into the water of mediocrity!” Andrew Carnegie agrees. “People who are unable to motivate themselves MUST be content with mediocrity”. Anne Rice warns us “the world doesn’t need anymore mediocrity”. We must affirm “neither does the Church!”. My favorite quote on this subject is Isaac D’Israel when he says, “It is a wretched taste to be gratified with mediocrity…I am never content sitting comfortable in a mediocrity chair!” Robert Baldwin sums up what our attitude should be…”I have a horror of not rising above mediocrity!”

How do we define mediocrity? Webster defines it as “the quality of being not very good”. The idea is inferred that we “settle for less than the best, or the good”. The etymology of the word says it all. It comes to English from the French and Latin. The root word is Latin and comes from “medius”-meaning “halfway” and “ocris”-meaning “mountain”. The idea is we settle for climbing halfway up the mountain instead expending all energies to scale the mountain to its summit and reach the top. That is the tragedy of mediocrity in the Christian ranks. Our Lord desires so much more for us, and we stop before we reach the top. We settle for so little when He wants us to experience the best. A.W. Tozer again hits the nail on the head! He writes “God is not honored by our arrested spiritual development-our permanent halfway spiritual condition. We all know that we honor God by going on to full maturity…but instead of following toward the heights, we bargained with the Lord like a street huckster…we bicker and bargain with God about his expectations for spiritual attainments”. Of course, we settle for far less. Worship-we only go halfway. Bible study-that is too much time and effort to “study to show ourselves approved rightly dividing the word of truth”. Praying? We never give Him the best time of the day-only leftovers-even if that! When it comes to witnessing and fishing for men…we fail to win one soul to Christ in a year…many of us in our entire Christian life. That is less that mediocrity. That is a crime!

James Russell Lowell, the great American poet spoke so eloquently on this subject. He wrote:

 

“Life is a leaf of paper white

Whereupon each one of us may write

His word or two, and then comes night.

Greatly begin! Though Thou have time

But for a line, be that sublime-

NOT FAILURE, BUT LOW AIM, IS THE CRIME!

 

Mediocrity in the Christian life is a crime! It is turning the Wine of Excellence into the Water of low aim and mediocrity. It is only going halfway up the mountain. It is quitting too soon. It is sitting down in the comfy chair of little effort. The crime of living the silent life of mediocrity. Our Lord deserves so much more. The world deserves to see so much more of us. We deserve so much more for ourselves! Paul said, “this one thing I do, forgetting those things behind, I keep on reaching for the things that are before, I keep on pressing toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-16). Paul’s goal was anything but mediocrity. He aimed to “reach the top”. At the end of his life he could say-“I have fought the good fight…I have finished the course!” Anything but mediocrity. I recently heard Anne Graham Lott, daughter of Billy Graham, in her message on devotion and commitment refer to an African Christian who was martyred for his faith. He had written in his journal his determination to reach the top for Christ, by giving everything in his commitment to Jesus. This is what he wrote, “I am part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit’s power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made-I am a Disciple of His. I won’t look back, let up, or slow down, back away or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I am finished and done with low-living, sight-walking, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals. I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean in His Presence, walk by patience, and am uplifted by prayer. My face is set. My gait is fast. My goal is heaven. My road is narrow. My way is rough. My companions are few, My Guide is reliable. My mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, hired away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the enemy, pander at the pool of popularity, OR MEANDER IN THE MAZE OF MEDIOCRITY! I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preach till all know, and work until He stops me. And when He comes my banner will be clear!” THAT KIND OF CHRISTIANITY is the heights the Lord intends for us to aim for. We may not reach it. But aiming for anything less, and stopping half-way home is mediocrity! A common Christian crime! Don’t aim so low!

 Posted by at 1:30 pm

“The Christian Witness-Bears a Bull’s Eye for a Birthmark of the New Birth”.

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May 192019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The Christian Witness-Bears a Bull’s Eye for a Birthmark of the New Birth”.  BY:  Ron Woodrum

  In his book, Waking the Dead, John Eldredge finds an historical parallel to the jealousy that the Devil has about Christ, and the believers who bear his image. This parallel is found in the jealousy that the Court Composer, Antonia Salieri, had of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Eldredge writes, “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a glorious man. An image bearer. You remember from your youth the song-‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’? Mozart wrote that melody when he was three years old! He composed his first symphony when he was twelve years old. Mozart’s music has endured, enchanting the world for centuries. He is probably played more often than any other classical composer. Yet this brilliant man died very young-we really do not know how or why. Impoverished, alone, his body was dumped into a common grave. In his 1984 movie, Amadeus, Peter Shaffer attempts to tell the tale of what happened to this musical genius, and the jealous rivalry and conflict that went on between Mozart and Salieri. It is a story of genius and jealousy, leading to murder. Shafer presents Salieri as a villain worthy of the devil himself. Salieri is a musician of lesser note. Once he discovers the greatness of Mozart, and sees how he is appreciated and loved by all, he is tormented by a jealousy that has only one goal-to destroy this music who is the Incarnation of God’s gift of music. He embodies what must have been Lucifer’s jealousy of God’s glory, which brought the angel to his ruin. There is a remarkable scene in the film. Mozart’s wife brings a sample of his music to Salieri, in hopes of getting her husband a job. She does not know that he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Glancing through the pages of Mozart’s portfolio, Salieri is captivated by the work of his rival’s hand. He asks Mrs. Mozart-‘are these originals?’ She responds, ‘yes-he never makes copies’. Salieri is amazed. ‘How can this be? There are no corrections of any kind. He writes his music down-a finished product-from his head-page after page-as if it is dictation…finished like no music is ever finished. Displace one note and there would be diminishment. Displace one phrase and the structure would fall. The sound I heard of him playing in the Archbishop’s palace was no accident. His music is the very voice of God…absolute beauty. It is miraculous!'” Eldredge then describes the defining scene of the movie. “(Salieri leaves the room sullen. He goes into his private chambers. He takes his crucifix down from the wall. He places it in the fire. Then Salieri addresses God and says, ‘From now on we are enemies. You and I! Because you have chosen for your Instrument this boastful, lustful, infantile boy…and give me only the ability to recognize this Incarnation! Because you are unjust…unfair…and unkind! I will block you. I swear it! I will hinder and harm Your gifted creature here on earth as far as I am able. [shaking his fist in the air]. I will ruin your Incarnation!” In Eldredge’s mind Salieri illustrates for every Christian, how Lucifer resents Jesus, and all who have embraced Him as their Savior. He especially feels that Satan has marked all Christians, who have made winning the lost their priority, and has declared an all-out war on them to destroy them and their attempt to follow their Lord in “seeking and saving those who are lost and perishing”.

One of my favorite cartoonists is Gary Larson, who ran the Far Side in syndication from January 1, 1980 until he retired it on January 1, 1995. One of my favorite cartoons showed two deer standing near a wood. One of them has a large bulls-eye on its side. The other deer looks at it and responds, “Bummer of a birth-mark Hal!” Lol. John Eldredge is saying that any Christian who takes seriously the mandate of our Lord to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” has a new birth mark. It is a bulls-eye target. Satan has them in his cross-hairs! He, like Salieri, has declared all out war, with the intention of destroying them and any witness they might have. In his trilogy Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien has one of his characters, Théoden say-“I will not risk open war”. Aragon replies to him, “Open war is upon you, whether you risk it or not!” William Gurnall writes “It is the image of God reflected in you that so enrages hell; ot os tjos at which the demons hurl their mightiest weapons!” Thomas Cosmades reminds us-“Anyone one who witnesses to the Grace of God in Christ is undertaking direct assault against Satan’s dominion”. Satan will not let that happen without retaliation. John of the Cross told his followers-“The devil fears a soul united to God as he does God Himself”. Ambrose of Milan said that as Christians we are “athletes in preparation for a spiritual wrestling match-to the death!” Florence Nightingale said, “The Christian life is a hard fight, a wrestling with evil, hand to hand, foot to foot. Every inch of the way is disputed!” One of the very best books I have ever read on witnessing is by Mark Cahill. It is titled One Thing You Can’t Do In Heaven. The book is filled with quotes of motivation on witnessing from the great Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The first quote sets the tone-“Every Christian is either a missionary, (a witness), or an imposter!” You can only imagine the rest! Edifying reading. As Christians we must go all out in these last days giving our lives and lips to sharing Jesus with those who need him while there is still time. When we do that, we must brace ourselves for an ALL OUT ASSAULT ON THE GOSPEL OF GRACE. Today’s message describes the methodology that Satan uses in that all out assault. He that hath ears-Let him hear what the Spirit says to those who Testify to the Gospel of Grace.

 Posted by at 1:23 pm

“LAST DAY FAITH-LASTING OR LAPSING?”

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May 122019
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “LAST DAY FAITH-LASTING OR LAPSING?”  BY:  Ron Woodrum

        I remember hearing Adrian Rogers, who passed away in November 2005, said in a sermon, “In the last days people will be deserting the Church like rats deserting a sinking ship!” He was basing it on what Paul said in I Timothy 4:1 “The Spirit expressly says, in the latter days many will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits, and doctrines of demons”.  Jesus, Himself inferred that, when He asked, “When the Son of Man Comes again, will He find faith, (people practicing their faith), on earth?” (Luke 18:8). Are we seeing the evidence of that? Since 2012 The Annual Church Profile of the Southern Baptist Convention denominationally wide has consistently shown that baptisms and Church membership and attendance are declining. Steve Gaines, Past President of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Pastor of the Belleview Baptist Church of Cordova, (Memphis), Tennessee said, “we are not growing anywhere near a rate comparable to the population increase”. The SBC is not the only ones experiencing this decline. According to Pew Research “every major branch of Christianity has lost significant numbers-the biggest being the Catholics and the mainline Protestants”. Churches of all denominations are closing or consolidating in record numbers! According to Barna 73% of Americans say they are Christians, but only 31% feel Church attendance is important, and that explains why that same percent usually attend less than once a month! Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Kentucky says “this is a new age, a secular spirit of our age, with headwinds blowing right in our face!” Apologist Pastor Voddie Baucham, speaking at the G3 Conference last year, emphasizing the importance of the local Church, said “if we don’t understand the magnitude of the local Church, then what’s the difference between us and the Rotary Club? If all of this is entertainment then why bother? God has a plan. It is the local Church. It is Plan A. There is no Plan B!” As the experts try to explain the cause of the decline, we cannot wave the white flag of surrender! I think part of the problem lies in the quality of faith that marks the maturity of the believers, or the lack there of, that has caused them to be overwhelmed by the spirit of this secular age, and demonic winds of change blowing on the rank and file of our members. There is an interesting passage of Scripture that talks about this very issue. II Peter 2:7-8 says, “God delivered Righteous Lot, vexed by the conduct of those around him”. The word vex here is the word-“kataponeo“to completely wear down and exhaust by repeated involvement”. Then verse 8 says, “that righteous man, dwelling among them day after day, kept on vexing his righteous soul with their lawless deeds. The second word vex is “basanidzo“- “to buffet, to torment, to beat against, as waves crashing upon a shore!” The idea is a picture a structure standing on the shore, being battered by the waves and storm of the sea. Even if it survives, there is usually great damage sustained. Many times, the structure does not survive the battering! Think of a lighthouse, standing in the storm to guide lost ships in the storm and darkness, being battered by the winds and waves of the storm. That is the Lot Complex! That may be the cause of Christians departing the ranks of the Church in these last days. That may be the blight of our generation! Jesus also said, “In the last days, iniquity shall abound, and the love of many shall wax cold!” The word “wax cold” is “psucho” “to blow on with chilling air”. Listen to how Martin Vincent, the Greek scholar translates this verse-“the fervent love of many will be blighted of its spiritual energy by a malignant poisonous wind of evil”. The question we have to ask and answer is how do we insulate our rank and file to protect their faith from such a last day onslaught, to guarantee they will survive faithful to meet the Lord when He comes? Jesus was trying to prepare us to get ready for such an onslaught and build up a faith that can stand on the shores of this evil age, and withstand the day by day battering without a total eclipse of our faith. How do we do that?

Without offering a pat answer, I believe that the writer of Hebrews, in his great chapter on faith, pointed to the lives men and woman of faith, to show us how they withstood the challenges that battered them in their day, and yet ran their race victoriously. We cannot look at all he said to emulate from them, but I would like to point out three things he stated will fortify us against those diabolical winds that blow on us continuously in these last days. First of all, in the face of great evil, he points out that Abel was able to withstand the onslaught by his exemplary WORSHIP OF GOD. “By faith Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice (act of faithful worship) to God.” The word “offer” is “proskuneo” “act of worship”. “God therefore testified that he was a righteous man…and even after his death…his life keeps on speaking as an example to others”. The first ingredient to bring a strong faith is worship. Faithful worship. In these last days there is nothing more important. The Church has believed the devil’s demonic lie that worship is not all that important. Someone has said, “seven days without worship makes one weak!” That is an incontrovertible truth! If we neglect worship, we are setting ourselves up for failure in these last days! That is why the author of Hebrews exhorted “Stop forsaking the assembling of yourselves together as the habit of some have become, in so much as you see the day approaching!” (Heb. 10:25). The very best definition of worship I have ever read is from William Temple. He says, “Worship is the submission of all of our nature to God. It is the quickening of the conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of our mind with His Truth; the purifying of our imagination with His beauty (perfection); the opening of our heart to His Love; the surrender of our will to His purpose-and all gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which we are capable”. A life that is fortified with that kind of daily experience will be able to stand strong in the face of the winds of evil. A.W. Tozer tells us that worship, that kind of worship is imperative and primary! He says, “We are to be worshippers first and workers second. We take a convert and immediately make a worker out of him. God never meant it to be so. God meant that a convert should first learn to be a worshipper, after that he can learn to be a worker. Then the work we do will have eternity in it. When we give God what He is worth, (all our love and all that we are), we become more of who He wants us to become…all the rest will follow. I am tired of being whipped into line, being urged to work harder, pray harder, give more, without being shown who Jesus is, and how much He deserves all of me, for giving me all of Him”. Maybe when we deprive our faith of worship, we find ourselves distracted from the very one that makes us invincible!

The second person of faith that is held up to us in Hebrews 11 is Enoch. It says-“Enoch walked with God”. Don’t rush over that statement of faith. The name Enoch-(Chanokh) means “dedicated”. Enoch was committed to walking daily in the presence of God, when everyone else was walking away, going their own way. That has become the habit of most Christians in this last day. Instead of rushing into the presence of God, when feeling the onslaught of the winds of evil from our generation, we let those winds beat us down, or blow us farther away from His presence. He is the Rock of our Stability. Every step you take in these evil days should be in close proximity with God. The further you stray from His presence the more of a sitting duck you become. Adam and Eve walked with God in the cool of each evening. It was by His design. They learned of life from Him…not independently from Him. Walking with God moment by moment throughout all the experiences of our day is the only way to survive in these last days. We must start each day in His presence and we will soon learn to complete our days having walked with Him every step of the way. C.S. Lewis warned us that that must be done at the start of each day. He writes, “It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. The first job each morning consists of simply shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussing’s and fretting’s; coming in out of the wind!” (Mere Christianity). That is daily walking with God. That fortifies our faith for these last days! Enoch did it daily until the day he was raptured. What an example for us!

The third example of faith is Noah. Listen to what it says about him. “By faith, having been instructed by God, concerning things not seen, but soon to come, moved with reverential fear, built an ark of salvation”. (Heb. 11:7). II Peter 2:5 says that Noah proclaimed the righteousness of God, and the coming flood for 120 years. The word flood is the Greek word “kataklusmon”-cataclysm. In the last days before the flood, while the world continued on in their wicked rebellion against God, Noah worked every day building the ark of salvation according to the instructions of God. When asked what he was building he warned of the flood and pointed to the ark as the only way of salvation. He worked and witnessed daily to everyone who would listen. He did that faithfully for 120 years. The demonic spirit of the age prevailed. But Noah withstood the winds of the evil age till the day the flood came and took them all away in destruction. What an example of how we too can be strong in the faith in these last days. Noah withstood ridicule. He declared the truth though he could not prove it! His faith helped him work and witness and God kept him strong! He will do the same for us if we commit to that same activity as we see the day of His coming approaching. How do we keep our faith from lapsing in these last days? Worshipping God with a whole heart. Walking with God-Practicing His Presence. Working for Him-letting our lights shine in the darkness around us. Witnessing by “holding forth the Word of Life” to all that might have ears to hear. That kind of faith can withstand the frightful forceful winds of this evil age. That is the kind of faith that Jesus is looking to find in us when He returns again. Keep the faith! That kind of faith!

 Posted by at 1:13 pm