Jul 312016


By: Ron Woodrum


Several years ago the New York Herald Tribune told the story of a tragedy involving a Long Island man who began digging his own well, of all days on his birthday! He had rigged up quite an operation with his shovel, rope, and bucket routine. He had gotten down some thirty-five feet when his wife called him to come in and get cleaned up for his birthday dinner. As he began to climb out, the walls caved in and he was buried under tons of dirt. Was he perhaps cowering underground in an air pocket beside the ladder? Ambulance and rescue crews, fire departments and derrick operators worked feverishly through the long night digging a nearby well; people roosted in trees and watched through the night. News crews carried the story. Periodic cave-ins hampered the rescue effort. Everyone was wondering what it was like inside that tomb-whether it was an endlessly approaching death or had it already come to that man. When the breakthrough came, sad to say, he had died. What a tragedy! His birthday turned into a burial.

When it came to Jesus Christ, the opposite was true-His burial turned into a Birthday on the day Jesus “became the first-begotten from the dead”. On the very day of his burial his disciples were huddling together, behind locked doors, for fear of the Jews, and the Romans, fearing if they continued on following in Jesus footsteps, soon 11 more crosses would be raised between heaven and earth, on the hill of the skull, and most of their bodies would not end up in a rich man’s tomb, but likely in the fires of the Valley of Hinnom. Their fears were not ill-founded, for after all the Romans were known for crucifying so many revolutionary Jews that trees in the Jerusalem area were almost extinct! But Jesus’ burial, and subsequent rising from the dead, turned his burial into a birthday for the Church. The book of Acts tells us that it was the risen Christ, and the Church’s faith in the infallible evidence of His resurrection, that turned their world upside down, and caused the gospel message to triumphantly conquer the Roman world from Jerusalem to Rome, and beyond!

The truth of the matter is that these days the Church spends her time again locked up, behind the four walls of the Church, if not fearing the world, certainly ignoring it, and their ministry to it. One denominational worker, in the Methodist faith said, “There are 15 churches in my district; 12 could close down, and the communities would not even miss them!” Believe me the same could be said about Baptists! Southern Baptists too! We huddle behind the four walls of our Church “talking about how the Great Commission just cannot be done today!” willing to make our mandate more relevant to another day, an earlier time. Our days are the days of the Great Apostasy after all! Our predicament reminds me of another tragic incident that occurred just off New York City on Long Island. A crew aboard a heavily loaded scow suddenly sensed that it was taking water and was sinking. They tried desperately to save it, but it was a losing battle; suddenly the crew noticed some piling thrusting out of the freezing icy waters, they decided to jump overboard, abandoning the sinking merchant vessel. All through the night they clung for life to the piling and cried out for help toward the blinking lights along the shore for help. In the morning some early fishermen saw them clinging to the piling, fingers, hands, bodies nearly frozen to death, despairing for life. In the ensuing rescue the terrible irony of their experience became clear: all through the freezing night the men had clung to the piling in water that was only four feet deep! At any moment they could have walked safely to shore! What an image of our modern Church! Hemmed in by our past failures; our irrelevancy; our inhibitions and anxieties…we are clinging for dear life in the cold and freezing waters of a modern culture, when right around us is the steps we can take to victory. Carl F.H. Henry, one of the most brilliant men I have ever had the privilege to meet, and to sit in one of his classes, before he passed away, put it very succinctly. He said, “So it was with the early disciples who huddled behind locked doors for fear of the outside world. The risen Lord appeared to them, and He knew what power need to be applied and where in their situation. He not only gave them the Great Commission-He breathed the Holy Spirit of power upon them, and He transformed his burial into their birthday! We live with slammed doors, shut doors, sealed doors, and we need nothing so much but to hear the voice of Him who calls…’I am He that liveth, and was dead…I…have the keys of hell and death’ (Rev. 1:18)” (New Strides of Faith p. 106).

That key is Prayer. Albert Einstein was fascinated by the power and paradox of prayer. So was C.S. Lewis. On one occasion Lewis responded to an objection about prayer by Kurt Vonnegut. The objection went something like this: “I don’t think it all likely that God requires the ill-informed (and contradictory), advice of us humans to run the world. If He is all-wise, as it is said He is, doesn’t He know already what is best? And if He is all-good won’t He do it whether we pray or not?” In reply, Lewis said that you could use the same argument against any human activity, not just prayer. “Why wash your hands? If God intends them to be clean, they’ll come clean without your washing them…Why ask for salt? Why put on your boots? Why do anything?” God could have arranged things so that our bodies nourished themselves miraculously without food, knowledge entered our brains without studying, and umbrellas magically appeared to protect us from rainstorms. But God chose a different way of governing the world. He chose a partnership which also relies on human agency and choice. Our involvement and prayers help change what happens. He says so in His word. Lewis borrowed a term from Blaise Paschal to describe what happens when we pray, and God answers by His power. He called that the “dignity of causality”. We partner with God in causing things to come to pass! Carl F.H. Henry says, that kind of activity of prayer, and enduement of the Holy Spirit, can “change our vexing burden into a blessed victory!” Oh how we need to join Jesus in the Ministry of Prayer. Remember “without Him we can’t! Without us-He won’t!”   Pray-Pray-Pray!


 Posted by at 1:58 pm


 Uncategorized  Comments Off on “THE PRAYINGEST PRAYER I EVER PRAYED”.
Jul 242016


By: Ron Woodrum


Several years ago, in the 1920’s, when Albert Einstein was teaching at Princeton University, a student asked, “What is there left in the world for original doctoral dissertation research?” Einstein replied, “Find out about prayer. Somebody MUST find out about PRAYER!” Prayer-when it comes to prayer most people, Christian or not, admit that prayer plays a vital role in their lives. Patricia Hampl, in her book Virgin Time: In Search of the Contemplative Life, wrote “For prayer exists, no question about that. It is the peculiarly human response to the fact of this endless mystery of bliss and brutality, impersonal might and lyric intimacy that compases the experience of life.” I had never quite heard prayer defined that way-“the peculiarly human response to mystery of bliss and brutality…of life”. The more I think about that the more accurate I think it may be. Psychiatrist Gerald C. May observed, “After twenty years of listening to the yearnings of people’s hearts, I am convinced that human beings have an inborn desire for God. Whether we are consciously religious or not, this desire is our deepest longing and most precious treasure.” When you talk with ordinary people about prayer their responses seem to verify both statements above. When asked “is prayer important to you?” Most replied, “Oh yes!” “How often do you pray?” “Every day!” “How long?” “Five minutes-well maybe seven”. “Do you find prayer satisfying?” “Not really!” “Do you sense the presence of God when you pray?” “Occasionally-not often”.   Those responses seem to confirm what Martin Lloyd Jones, the British Pastor, used to say about prayer. He said, “Of all the activities in which the Christian engages, and which are part of the Christian life, there is surely none which causes so much perplexity, and raises so many problems, as the activity we call prayer.” And yet, it is true what Thomas Merton had to say-“Prayer is an expression of who we are…We are a living incompleteness. We are a gap, an emptiness that calls for fulfillment”. Yet some Christians struggle with the real benefit of prayer. George Buttrick expressed his doubts by calling prayer-“casting a spasm of words into a cosmic indifference”. Many Christians are like the nasal-voiced Ernestdine, the telephone operator, played by Lily Tomlin, who used to ask, “Have I reached the party to whom I am speaking?”

All that being said, Jesus did not take long to communicate to His disciples just how important prayer was to Him, and getting them to finally see how important it should be to them! Jesus never once told his disciples that prayer was important. He never once gave them lectures on prayer-driving home the theological priority of prayer. Instead, as they walked with him. .. As they followed Him through the days and nights of discipleship…every time He came up missing, (which was often), when they found Him, they found Him praying and in intimate communion with His Heavenly Father. Finally, after so many encounters they entreated Him to teach them to pray. He taught prayer more by practice than precept! The precepts were simple. The practice-a struggle! Jesus practiced prayer with such simplicity and constancy as He did breathing. Jonathan Edwards found it to be so as well. He said, “Prayer is as natural an expression of faith as breathing is an expression of life”. Martin Luther did as well, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Rowland Hill agreed-“Prayer is the breath of the newborn soul and there can be no Christian life without it”. If those statements reflect the normal Christian life-then we might conclude some Christians can really hold their breath a long long time! Most seem to be in danger of suffocating-if prayer is to the spiritual world, what breathing is to the physical world!

But the disciples who followed closely in the steps of Jesus soon learned some vital lessons about prayer. First and foremost they learned that prayer was an expression of love. Augustine said, “True, whole prayer is nothing but love”. Samuel Coleridge declared, in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner-“He prayeth well, who loveth well”. Jesus demonstrated that! Jesus missed His Father. Prayer was not some exercise that was demanded of Him by the Father. It was love calling out to love. It was Heart reaching out for Heart. Real prayer does not come from gritting our teeth but from falling in love! That is why Charles Wesley could write, “Jesus Lover of My Soul-Let me to thy bosom fly!”. Richard J. Foster, in his book on Prayer, writes “God has graciously allowed me to catch a glimpse of His heart…He is inviting you and me to come home…where we belong. His arms are stretched out wide to receive us. His heart is enlarged to take us in…Prayer is nothing more than an ongoing and growing love relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.” Madame Guyon, the French Mystic wrote, “This is the way of prayer, this simple relationship to your Lord…so suited for everyone…it has as its end totally abandoned love to the Lord. One thing is required-LOVE!” Prayer is a precious privilege.

Secondly, prayer is progressive. C.S. Lewis counsels us to “lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us!” The model prayer Jesus taught us is simple. It is also profound. It is indeed simply profound. But it is not words to be recited. It is a pattern to be developed. The Bible is filled with the prayers of God’s children who were growing as they prayed. Moses chided the Lord for saddling him with a rebellious people that he did not give birth to. But in the process of prayer he interceded for the forgiveness of their sin. If God blotted them out of his book of life, Moses pleaded for the same fate for himself. Prayer had been a real source of growth for him. The Psalmist prayed some very terrible prays pleading for the dashing of infants of enemies on the rocks…but before the prayer was over understood the mercy and love of God that even reached out to the enemies who would turn to Him. (See Numbers 11 and Psalm 137).

Thirdly prayer is powerful. John Wesley always said, “God works ONLY in answer to prayer!” Donald Grey Barnhouse said, “I am not sure I believe in the power of prayer…but I do believe in the power of God who answers prayer!” So did Jesus. He taught His disciples to put their faith in a Big God who answers Big Prayers!   Though the Bible teaches a lot about the priority, the position, the practice, and the precepts of prayer…the most important thing for us to learn is to pray. Pray anytime. Pray all the time. Pray about everything. We might find out what Cyrus Brown found out. The



Prayer of Cyrus Brown

By Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911)




“THE PROPER way for a man to pray,”

Said Deacon Lemuel Keyes,

“And the only proper attitude,

Is down upon his knees.”


“No, I should say the way to pray,”

Said Reverend Doctor Wise,

“Is standing straight, with outstretched arms,

And rapt and upturned eyes.”


“Oh no; no, no,” said Elder Slow,

“Such posture is too proud:

A man should pray with eyes fast closed

And head contritely bowed.”


“It seems to me his hands should be

Austerely clasped in front,

With both thumbs pointing toward the ground,”

Said Reverend Doctor Blunt.


“Las’ year I fell in Hodgkin’s well

Head first,” said Cyrus Brown,

“With both my heels a-stickin’ up,

My head a-p’inting down;


“An’ I made a prayer right then an’ there—

Best prayer I ever said,

The prayingest prayer I ever prayed,

A-standing on my head.”


I love what Frederick Buechner always said-“let your best prayer take you as far as you can go!”


 Posted by at 12:27 pm


 Uncategorized  Comments Off on PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE
Jul 102016


By:  Ron Woodrum


In the Greek Islands, one can seek out the home of Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine. In the area, one can also find an olive tree, supposedly dating from his time. If this is so, this tree would then be some 2400 years old. The trunk of this tree is very large but completely hollow. The tree is little more than thick bark. There are a few long, straggling branches, but they are supported by sturdy wooden poles every few feet. It has an occasional leaf here and there and might produce a few olives each year. In the fields around, however, are olive groves in many directions. The strong, healthy, young trees with narrow trunks are covered with a thick canopy of leaves, under which masses of olives can be found each year. The tree of Hippocrates can still be called an olive tree by nature, in that it still shows the essential unique characteristics, but it has long since ceased to fulfill an olive tree’s function. Tourists file up to inspect this ancient relic, having some link to a dim history, but the job of the olive tree passed long ago to many successions of replanted trees.


Do you know any churches (or even people) like the tree of Hippocrates? The form is there, but the function is not. They have stopped reproducing and are satisfied just being who they have been, or having a noble history. It reminds me of the dilemma we find the Church in, during these “last days”. Jesus warned us that in the last days “the love of many would wax cold” (Matt. 10:42). The word “wax” is the word psucho-meaning “to blow”. The image is that there will be external winds blowing that will not “fan the flame”, but “extinguish” the zeal, the love, the passion, the fervor, and sincerity of Christians, and the Church. The idea is that the overwhelming trend of the day would be that Christians would become “hollow, empty, and powerless”. Jesus spoke, in warning to the Church of Ephesus, that “losing their first love”, uncorrected, would result in losing their impactful witness to the world. (Rev. 2:4-5). Paul spoke of the last day trend being a time when many would “depart from the faith” (I Tim. 4:1). Years ago, I heard Dr. Adrian Rogers warn that in the last days Christians would “desert the Church like rats swimming away from a sinking ship!” That is what Churches all over the United States are seeing. There are some growing mega-churches, who have capitulated to the world’s desires, becoming all that the world wants in a Church, and thus are attracting them. But in order to do that the Church has paid a very high price! Woodrow Krull, on Back to the Bible Broadcast has spoken to this issue. “When the Church becomes an entertainment center, Bible literacy is usually an early casualty. People go away from the event with a smile on their face… but a void in their life!” (Back to the Bible: Turning Your Life Around with God’s Word p.134).

We “old timers” remember Francis Schaeffer warning us years ago, “Here is the great Evangelical Disaster-the failure of the evangelical world to stand for the truth as truth. There is only one word for this-namely, accommodation: the evangelical church has accommodated to the world spirit of the age”

(The Great Evangelical Disaster, 1984, p.37).

If Rip Van Winkle were a Christian, and if he had fallen asleep during the last 25years, then awakened last week, he would have been stunned. He would have never dreamed the Church would have changed so much. The Church has become a hollow shell of what she used to be. What caused it? Steven Lawson explains:

“As the Church advances into the twenty-first century, the stress to   produce booming ministries has never been greater. Influenced by corporate mergers, towering skyscrapers, and expanding economics, bigger is perceived as better. The church has taken on a “Wall Street” mentality. A new way of “doing” church is emerging. Bible exposition is being replaced by entertainment, preaching with performances, doctrine with drama, theology with theatrics. The pulpit is being replaced with trendy worship styles, glitzy presentations, and vaudeville-like pageantries. We are re-inventing the Church, and re-packaging the gospel as a product pleasing to the consumer. In a strange twist, the preaching of the cross is now foolishness, not only to the world, but also to the contemporary Church” (Steven Lawson, “The Priority of Biblical Preaching: Bibliotheca Sacra 2001. p.198-199).


Eugene Petersen, author of the Message, had also lamented this condition. He writes:


“American pastors are abandoning their posts, left and right, and at an alarming rate. They are not leaving their churches and getting other jobs. Congregations are still paying their salaries. Their names still appear on Church stationary. They continue to make appearances in the pulpit on Sundays…but they are abandoning their calling. They have metamorphosed into a company of shopkeepers, and the shops they keep are the churches. They are preoccupied with shopkeepers concerns-how to keep the customers satisfied and happy. How to lure customers away from competitors down the street, how to package the goods so that the customer will lay out more money. It is shopkeeping. Religious shopkeeping…but shopkeeping none-the-less” (Eugene Petersen, Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Ministry Today p.1-2).


Another writer has put it succinctly: “In our day there is a focus on the “seeker-sensitive” service that will present the gospel in a way that will be attractive to…people. The task of the Church is not to assemble seekers, but to make disciples…the seriousness of the message must never be obscured by the desire to make the medium more attractive. The preacher’s task is not to entertain or inform but to plead passionately with men and women to flee the wrath to come on account of sin” (Ian M. Duguid The NIV Application Commentary: Ezekiel p.389).

This kind of weak, enemic, powerless Church is not the kind of “power-house” Jesus intended to be “turning the world upside down” in these last days. What are we to do? What are we to say? We sit back, hiding behind the locked doors, and the four walls of our fortified bastion, trembling, as we listen to the likes of atheistic bullies like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris, and others threaten to stomp us out of existence! Not for a minute. God help us to rise up, stand up, speak up, refuse to back up, with the power of the Church, infused with the Holy Spirit, as in the Book of Acts, until we are taken up.


As a Pastor I try to show my love for you all by praying for you. Visiting you as time allows. Visiting you when you are in the hospital. Being there to share your joy as you, or your children, or grandchildren marry. Be there when you go through the tragedy of loss and bereavement. That is all areas where God has given me a Pastor’s heart and has called me to show His presence by my presence. But the primary call on my life is to do what God has called me do do-what His Spirit has anointed me to do-to be a Pastor-Teacher (Eph. 411). Jesus asked Peter “do you love me?” and indicated that the way he should show it was by “feeding my sheep” “tending my lambs” and “feeding my sheep”. Since I have been your Pastor I have given more energy that I have at any other time in my life to study and prepare and preach and teach the Word of God to you. We have covered many books of the Bible, Old and New Testaments. We have studied major doctrines and preached many series of messages. We have taught January Bible Study every year. You keep praying for me that I will continue to challenge you to “hear the Word and heed the Word”. God has called me to call you to join me in being faithful followers of Jesus. That is one calling I do not plan to abandon. Only a strong and healthy Church can stand the test of these last days!


I love the story that Gregory P. Elder tells:


Growing up on the Atlantic Coast, I spent long hours working on intricate sand castles; whole cities would appear beneath my hands. One year, for several days in a row, I was accosted by bullies who smashed my creations. Finally I tried an experiment: I placed cinder blocks, rocks, and chunks of concrete in the base of my castles. Then I built the sand kingdoms on top of the rocks. When the local toughs appeared (and I disappeared), their bare feet suddenly met their match. Many people see the church in grave peril from a variety of dangers: secularism, politics, heresies, or plain old sin. They forget that the church is built upon a Rock (Mt. 16:16), over which the gates of hell itself shall not prevail.


Josh is bringing a message today on following Jesus onto the battlefield. His message is how to put on the whole armor of God and stand in the evil day. I know that he has been preparing to share his heart. Please pray and listen as he shares this morning.


 Posted by at 2:37 am


 Uncategorized  Comments Off on “WATCH OUT FOR SATAN’S INNOCULATION!”
Jul 032016


By: Ron Woodrum


I remember playing football my freshman year of High School at Decatur MacArthur High School. Our Coach Jerry Curtis told us something important. It had to do with playing in such a way to “give your all”. Now, as a good football coach prepares his high school players for the season, he’s going to bring up the dangers of what he will call playing tentatively. I know no one’s anxious to get hurt, and so there’s a natural tendency to hold back a little in a contact sport; to hold back when you hit, when you block, when you tackle. But the coach is going to tell you that “the best way to get hurt is to play tentatively, half-heartedly. Either give it all you’ve got or don’t play”

The verse I chose for the Pastor’s Perspective today is from Ecclesiastes 9:10; a verse that could be one of those life-principle verses like maybe a good wall plaque. It’s almost a motto that you could repeat to yourself at work, and in sports, or while you’re doing your homework, while you’re doing dirty work, while you’re listening to someone, or you’re trying to finish a job. It’s one of those repeat over and over statements. Ecclesiastes 9:10, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”

Well, that’s consistent with four words that appear over and over in the Bible, “with all your heart.” Whatever you do, do it with all your heart, or in this case with all your might. One of my personal heroes is Jim Elliott, who was a missionary that in the 1950s was one of five American missionaries martyred as they went to a tribe that had never even heard the name of God. And out of that martyrdom came a flow of missionaries and people in Christian service. Well, one of Jim Elliott’s mottos went like this (you ready?), “Wherever you are, be all there.” Somebody may have said to you, “You’re not all there.”   Perhaps that’s true! Have you checked? Well, yes, wherever you are, be all there. If you’ve got something to do anyway, why not do it with all you’ve got? If you’ve got to be there, why not be there with all your heart?

There’s a little wisdom I saw on a plaque in a kitchen years ago. It said, “Lord, help me do with a smile the things I have to do anyway.” Got to do them anyway, might as well really do them. A Christian should be known as a “hundred percenter” in everything he or she does. You listen with all your might. When it’s time to work, you work with all your might. When you pray, you pray with all your might. When you play, you play with all your might. When you goof off, you goof off with all your might. When you help somebody, you help with all your might. When you study, oh yeah, you know by now, yeah, you do it with all your might.

I think that is a major problem with our Christianity these days! Even in Tri Valley Baptist Church! Yes, even in our Church. We need to ask ourselves the question-could it be that we are not having the impact that God wants us to have on our community because we are not “hundred percenters”? Listen to what Chad Walsh had to say about that in his very convicting book about Christianity in the 21st century. In his book, Early Christians of the Twenty-first Century, Chad Walsh wrote:

Millions of Christians live in a sentimental haze of vague piety, with soft organ music trembling in the lovely light from the stained glass windows. Their religion is a thing of pleasant emotional quivers divorced from the intellect, divorced from the will, and demanding little except lip service to a few harmless platitudes. I suspect that Satan has called off the attempt to convert people to agnosticism. If a man travels far enough away from Christianity, he is always in danger of seeing it in perspective and deciding that it is true. It is much safer from Satan’s point of view to vaccinate a man with a case of mild Christianity so as to protect him from the real thing.

Inoculation is the introducing of a micro-organism into the human bodies’ blood stream to prevent the contracting of a disease. This is commonly known as a vaccine! In other words, they take the dead virus (such as small pox) and inject it into your body in the form of a serum. Since the virus is dead, it doesn’t hurt you. The dead virus cells cause your body’s healthy cells to build up immunity to that particular virus. Now you are safe from the virus. We should be thankful to the Lord for such medical advancements. Fifty years ago, many children died because of small pox, or polio. Today those diseases are rare in this country, if not non-existent!

Is that what the problem is? Satan has vaccinated us with a “mild strain” of Christianity to keep us from showing the “real thing” to the world? We must face that question honestly, and repent if we are going to make any impact in these “last days”. I remember hearing Howard Hendricks, at the Second Baptist Church of Houston, Texas tell a class full of us students, “Gentleman, if we want them (our Churches and the lost in the world) to bleed, we are going to have to hemorrhage! If we want them to have the real disease, we are going to have to infect them with more than a dead virus, that will only inoculate them from the real thing!” A young man came up to Charles Spurgeon and asked him how he could make his Church grow like Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Chapel had. Spurgeon said, “It is quite simple young man. Next Sunday, when you go into your pulpit, pour kerosene over your head, light a match, and people will come to watch you burn!” That is what Spurgeon did! Not literally of course! But he was a “hundred percenter”! He gave his all. He hemorrhaged! He had the “real disease” of which there is no cure! Some people just seem like they “can’t live for the Lord” and others see like they “can’t help but live for the Lord”, The Lord is looking for the latter! Surrender yourself today to “be there” but “be all there”! If you’re going to be “in the game” don’t play tentatively-“play all out, or don’t play!” Amen? God is counting on us! We dare not let him down!

 Posted by at 12:58 pm