Saturday, May 28, 2011
As Americans pause this weekend to honor those who have given their "last full measure of devotion" to the cause of liberty, we are humbled and deeply grateful for their sacrifice.
Yet, words of gratitude, elegant floral wreaths in cemetaries, and patriotic music are painfully inadequate. Writing in this weekend's Wall Street Journal, Mark Helprin reminds us that "the only fitting memorials to the long ranks of the dead" is for our generation to rise up with "resolution, vigilance, and sacrifice," to protect and to preserve the nation we are so blessed to call home.
Several weeks ago I came across a video history of the Second World War. I watched the footage of Americans landing on the beaches of Normandy amidst a hail of bullets and canon fire. I saw Americans soldiering forward with abandonment. These were the men "who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life."
But establishing a toehold on the beaches was only the first step. There was literally a thousand miles between them and the head of the Nazi beast. Onward!
When their comrades fell, they reorganized and pressed forward. 120,000 Americans died in that dreadful and glorious march to victory. Eisenhower I know. Patton, Marshall, Bradley are names I recognize. These were the Generals who led our troops to triumph.
But who really won the day? Who was it that secured the victory? Who was it that finally tightened the noose around the neck of Hitler's monstrous Third Reich?
The nameless, the unknown, the unrecognized hundreds of thousands of soldiers who kissed their mothers and wives and children farewell, who left their family farms, walked away from small businesses, put their college education on hold, and enlisted in the great crusade of their generation. These were the true heroes.
Walk onto the hallowed grounds of the American military cemetaries and the rows upon rows of crosses are a touching reminder of their great sacrifice.
I remember my father talking about seeing Blue Stars in the windows of those homes that had sent soldiers. As a Jr. High student, he recounted walking down the streets of Lomax, Illinois and seeing what had been Blue Stars replaced with Gold Stars. Another casualty. Nameless. Unknown. But without their sacrifice there would have been no V-Day.
And then I felt a tear course down my cheek. I felt reproved.
You see, I have wanted to be a General in the Lord's Army--a John Wesley, a William Booth, a Charles Cowman. I've wanted to be known. I've wanted to be a leader. I've wanted to be successful. I chafe at my reality--unknown, unspectacular, and unsuccessful. I complain to God. He glances up from washing my feet, engages my eyes and says, "I have given you an example..."
He then reminds me that in the great conflict that rages between Heaven and hell, between Truth and error, between Holiness and sinfulness, HE is the General--the Commander in Chief. I am serving at His command. "Who am I?" "Without Him I would be nothing." God forgive me for wanting to share the glory that belongs only to Him.
He whispers, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." Oh yes! That is what I long to hear.
I grab my jacket, find the key, and head out to drive the Sunday School Bus. Onward.
Monday, May 23, 2011
While the spiritual rejoice in deliverance from all condemnation, those who are yet in their sins too often lack conviction and an awareness that they are sinners who will one day stand condemned before a holy God.
They have no condemnation, and that's not good!
Many are ignorant of God's law. They don't know what God requires of them, and often they don't care to know either. Until men are confronted with the demands of God's law they will not awaken to their desperate spiritual plight. The Apostle Paul said, "I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet." Romans 7:7.
Others refuse to believe that their disobedience to God's Law is deadly. The Enemy has come to inject doubt in them as he did to Eve in the Garden of Eden, "Hath God said? ... Ye shall not surely die..." But God's Word warns, "Your iniquities have separated between you and your God and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear." (Isaiah 59:2); "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." (Psalm 66:18); "The soul that sinneth it shall die." (Ezekiel 18:4); "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).
There are those who reject God's Authority. They are like the fool of the 14th Psalm who says, "No God for me!" They deny God's claim on their lives. They distort God's Word and His law. They are a law unto themselves and brazenly declare their innocence. But God's Word declares that one day "every knee shall bow" and "every tongue confess" that "Jesus Christ is Lord!"
When confronted with the claims of the Gospel those who are stubborn are determined to ignore the God's truth. They don't want to believe that sin is fatal and so they don't. Like the famous sculpture they "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil." They are like the Sanhedrin, (the Jewish Council) before whom Stephen testified, "You are stiffnecked...always resisting the Holy Ghost." (Acts 7:51)
Some are insensitive to God's Spirit. They have sinned so often, and sinned so much that their souls are callused. My Father used to tell of two lads who had a contest staring at the sun. The boy who stared the longest went blind. Indeed, light is made to be "walked in" not "stared at." If we stare at the light we will finally be blinded to the truth of God's demand.
When people judge themselves by others, they rationalize their sin and throw off any sense of condemnation they may have felt for disobedience to God's law. "We're all sinners" so why feel guilty about sinning? Jesus said, "when the blind lead the blind, they both fall into the ditch together." The songwriter was right, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus!"
Lastly, our generation has only begun to feel the baneful influence of modern psychology that blames condemnation on our heredity or on our environment. If it's heredity--we have a pill that will anesthetize our brains and numb that nagging conviction we call condemnation.
If it's environment--we are taught to avoid those places and people who make us uncomfortable in our sins and to blame our condemnation on the society around us, not on the sin that is within us. (It is our considered opinion that the vast majority--not all but most-- of the psychological woes we are treating today are actually at their root spiritual in nature.)
THE KNOWLEDGE THAT WE ARE
CONDEMNED IN OUR SINS,
THAT WE STAND GUILTY
BEFORE A HOLY GOD, AND
THAT APART FROM SALVATION BY GRACE
WE ARE CERTAIN FOR HELL
IS THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM.
The sooner we face that fact, repent of our sins, and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the sooner we will be forgiven, and born again into the family of God.
The Apostle's testimony of "No Condemnation" would have meant nothing, had he not first been keenly aware of his desperate need for salvation. Only after he lamented, "Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death," could he discover the power of Jesus Christ to deliver him from the guilt, the penalty, yes even the condemnation of sin!
If you are not saved, and you are not condemned, pray God would awaken your lost soul.
If you are not saved, and you wrestle with condemnation, thank God you are awakened to your need.
If you are not saved, and you are sick and tired of sin's condemnation, repent! Turn to the Lord confessing your need for God's forgiveness through the bleeding sacrifice of Christ. And begin at once "walking in the Light," "loving God with all your heart," and "keeping His commandments."
Then you too will sing with Charles Wesley:
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Amazing Love! How can it be,
That Thou my God, should'st die for me!
Friday, May 20, 2011
How people handle predictions of impending disaster is really interesting. Our most common reaction is disbelief. Consider this.
How many of us really expected that the Good Friday tornado warnings here in St. Louis would end in disaster? I expected a storm would blow through but the thought that an actual tornado would hit, especially only 1 mile away, didn’t really seem very likely. The tornado warnings were howling. The sirens of emergency equipment were blaring up and down Lindbergh Avenue. Still I didn’t really think we were in danger. We were safe in the basement of the church and never heard the storm’s fury.
Several years ago, just before the Great Recession hit, there were some savvy investors that could see that the housing price bubble was unsustainable. Though these professionals warned us that we were in a very risky market, millions of people thought that it would be others who would be affected. The market crashed and billions of dollars were lost. Two years of foreclosures and unemployment are painful reminders that we were (and are yet) at risk.
Or how about the public health warnings that we hear of from time to time? Do you really think that you are going to catch one of those contagions that are life-threatening? Sure others will be infected, but you? If the doctor tells us we are seriously ill, don’t we just assume we will beat the odds?
Even in the midst of an actual crisis we are slow to believe that what we are experiencing is really happening! Remember 9-1-1. Passengers on the ill-fated planes were slow to come to grips with the truth of their situation. Todd Beamer’s call to for his fellow passengers to take action--“Let’s Roll!” was remarkable not only because it was courageous but because he grasped the situation.
I can remember seeing the sight of the first plane crashing into the twin towers in New York City and thinking that this was just an amazingly horrible accident. Who would have thought we were under attack? In a previous generation, those responsible to defend Pearl Harbor couldn’t believe their radar screens that indicated an imminent attack.
Whether it is severe weather warnings, dire financial predictions, fatal health scares, threats of military attack , or even dangerous political and cultural trends, we are slow to understand our plight and take action.
Truthfully, I believe there are a few more events on the prophetic calendar that must happen before Christ returns. But I am absolutely convinced that He is coming. AND I AM ABSOLUTELY CONVINCED THAT THERE WILL BE A LAST DAY ON EARTH.
IN LIGHT OF THAT TRUTH…AND ASSUMING THAT CHRIST HASN’T COME FOR US…I HOPE TO MEET YOU IN THE LORD’S HOUSE THIS SUNDAY!
If this is our last day I hope that the Lord will find us doing what He would have us do, loving as He would have us love, and being who He would have us to be.
Bible reading, soul-searching, praying, living for Christ, and reaching as many others as we can with the great news of Salvation through Sanctification is a great way to live not only your last day, but your everyday!
Monday, May 16, 2011
The "feeling" that God is with us, or the "fact" that I have decided that I want Jesus to be my Savior, is considered to be the ultimate evidence of salvation.
But I wonder: if God's law is so good and perfect, and His Will is so wonderful, why are Christians so desperate to run from it? The Apostle Paul said, "The law is holy, and the commandment is holy, and just, and good." (Romans 7:12). Listening to Christians today you'd think the laws and commandments of God are relics at best and spiritually lethal at worst.
We had a Parent remove his son from our Sunday School because we taught him to sing, "If you're saved and you know it, then your life will surely show it." Heresy he thought. "Whether or not your life shows it, you're still saved" he argued.
WHAT VALUE ARE RULES?
Reason and experience teach us that rules are necessary to preserve order and to prevent anarchy and chaos. Imagine our roads if there were no well-thought out rules. Games would be impossible to score fairly without rules.
Rules not only provide needed boundaries, they also teach expectations. Several years ago when I was working to strengthen the obscenity laws in the State of Illinois, I was confronted by opponents who argued, "people are still going to get obscenity so why make it a matter of law?" One might ask if laws against murder are worthwhile since people still murder, or if laws against theft are good since people still steal. The fact is our laws are expressions of our values and virtues.
Our finite minds need the instruction and guidelines of Infinite wisdom. The laws, the commandments, the rules that God has given us, were given not only for our protection but for our instruction.
Rules reveal our rebellion to the Rule-Maker. The Apostle Paul testified that he was unaware that he had evil desire in his heart until the law of God said, "Thou shalt not covet." He said that the knowledge of what God expected revealed his own carnal, rebellious heart. Read Romans 7. "The good that I would I do not...The evil that I would not, that I do...Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me?"
Finally, Rules are an objective evidence of our loyalty to the Rule-Maker. To the extent that we are committed to living in harmony with the law of God, we love God. Jesus said, "If you love me keep my commandments." (John 14:15). John said, "This is the love of God that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not grievous." (1 John 5:3).
WHAT RULES ARE VALUABLE?
All of the moral commandments are valuable.
The TEN COMMANDMENTS are valuable. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me... Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image... Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain... Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy... Honor thy father and thy mother... Thou shalt not kill... Thou shalt not commit adultery... Thou shalt not steal... Thou shalt not bear false witness... Thou shalt not covet..." (Exodus 20)
When Jesus was asked about the Commandments He summed them up into two: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind, and strength. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." (Mark 12:28ff).
All of the rules for Christian living that are found in the the New Testament (especially in the concluding chapters of Paul's Epistles i. e. let him that stole steal no more ...let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth... Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you... Ephesians 4:28ff) all flow from the Great Commandments ennuciated by our Lord.
Every rule laid down in the New Testament is valuable! They are infallible, inerrant, and all written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
If you don't enjoy learning and doing what God expects today, why do you think you would someday enjoy heaven, where God's will is always done?
CAN GOD'S RULE BECOME OUR RULE?
Dr. Richard Taylor's book "Understanding Ourselves" answers the question this way:
"The natural self-willfulness of the carnal mind will feel profoundly that if God’s demands are accepted unconditionally, if this or that is to be given up or undertaken or altered, true happiness will never again be possible."
"It is when the Christian faces this parting of the ways, and with deliberate decision, seeing fully the painful cost, makes up his mind that he wants Christ unconditionally, that he wants holiness more than happiness, and that he is willing to say good-by to happiness forever if only he can please God, and in complete abandonment of all further selfish plans tells God so, …that the Christian will be able to say with the Apostle Paul, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20).
"When the battle of wills is settled, something wonderful happens. When we would rather be holy than happy we discover that we have happiness also—but on a higher and purer level than was ever before known. When we abandon our freedom and self-rights for total obedience, we discover that we are freer than ever before. When our fundamental inner being has been so restructured that Christ-pleasing is now the governing motive of life, we discover that pleasing Christ is pleasing self. And what a delightful, comfortable, pleasing self it proves to be." (Richard Taylor, Understanding Ourselves, pp.93-97.)
My father used to quote, "That man is truly free who is conscious that he is the author of the law he obeys." Indeed when our will is at one with God's will, then pleasing God is our highest joy, and peace with God our greatest aim.
The songwriter testified,
My stubborn will at last hath yielded;
I would be Thine, and Thine alone;
And this the prayer my lips are bringing,
Lord, let in me Thy will be done.
Sweet will of God, still fold me closer;
Till I am wholly lost in Thee;
Sweet will of God, still fold me closer,
Till I am wholly lost in Thee.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
P a u l ‘ s E p i s t l e t o t h e G a l a t i a n s , C h a p t e r 5 : 2 5
Greetings in the Strong Name of Jesus,
THANK YOU for being a part of this family of God we call Faith Community!
It was 15 years ago this month that the Lord directed us to launch FCC. We had been prayerfully considering and looking for opportunities to minister in greater Chicago, but it was here in St. Louis that the doors were opening.
The next month, on June the 21st, Vickie and I were married. I certainly chose a wonderful FIRST LADY for FCC! (Can I get an AMEN?) (You better say AMEN!)
In July of that year we brought a group of young people from our home church to hand out invitations, and locate interested families. We knocked on 1000 doors in one day and located 75 interested families. We followed up with letters of introduction and personal calls.
In August Vickie and I moved to Edwards Place Condominiums in Maryland Heights. We lived on the 3rd floor. That was good exercise. As we drove across the Mississippi River we had an anxious feeling in our stomachs (what if we failed?), a passion in our hearts (how can we reach this city with the Gospel?), and $1,000 in our pockets (a precious gift from an older couple who are now both in arms of Jesus).
On the third Sunday of September, (the 15th) we opened the doors of FCC for the first time. We welcomed 27 souls from the St. Louis area to the Knights of Columbus hall on Aide Road in St. Ann, (the rent was $50.00 a Sunday). Besides your Pastor and his wife, Sister Daisy Eisfelder Goodrich , Sister Beverly Nelson, and Christy Matlock were among those who came that first week and who still come today. We had other great friends who helped us in those early years.
Looking back over these 15 years in St. Louis my greatest joys have been as I walked in the Spirit.
My greatest regrets have been those times that I failed to hear and to heed the Spirit’s call.
And my greatest blessing has been the realization that “it is not by might [my own ability], nor by power [the authority of others], but by My Spirit [the Holy Spirit’s providence, power, and energy] saith the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6), that God has brought us to the Kingdom for such a time as this.
WHY DO SO MANY CHRISTIAN’S STRUGGLE SPIRITUALLY?
When a man or a woman comes to Christ to be saved they are truly sorry for their sins, they confess their sins to the Lord in prayer, and they repent (literally “change their mind” about sin—they begin to hate disobedience to God and they begin to love the will of God.) In 2 Corinthians 7:10 we read, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation .”
Repentance always brings saving faith. This is more than simply believing that Jesus existed, died, and rose again. Saving faith believes in Christ and it is absolutely convinced that Christ is right—always! Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”
This true repentance and living faith ignite a passionate love for God in the hearts of believers. Jesus said, “If ye love me…,” and sincere believers testify, “Oh! How I love Jesus!”
YET ANYONE WHO HAS SERVED THE LORD FOR ANY LENGTH OF TIME BECOMES AWARE OF AN INNER STRUGGLE WHEN CONFRONTED WITH THE DEMANDS OF TOTAL COMMITMENT TO CHRIST.
I like the way Dr. Richard Taylor explains it:
At first the Christian life is seen as one of unlimited receiving—joy, peace, forgiveness, new hope, new directions, new friends, easy prayer answers, blessings right and left. Now all of the sudden comes this talk about CROSS BEARING, (Jesus said, “If any man will come after me let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24).
Didn’t Jesus die on the cross so I wouldn’t have to? Hasn’t He set me free to do my own thing?
When God begins to press on this convert’s self-perceived rights, and make claims that they never anticipated, they begin to squirm. Their old self-assertion rises up in a spontaneous impulse to defend their vaunted freedoms. When born again they sincerely surrendered to the Lordship of Christ, as far as they understood the implications of that. But the idea that Christ would claim them at the fine print level of everyday life—their money, time, associates, and everyday practices—never entered their head.
At least the hard reality of it never really registered. Subconsciously we supposed that we could go on buying and selling, moving here or moving there, choosing a spouse (if single), deciding on a career, or a change in career, totally on our own—and that of course now that we were Christian, God would just keep on blessing, and answer all our prayers. To discover that God wants to control as well as own, and that God now wants to make us an honest and submissive effort to find out what His will is, comes as a jolt.
Whatever the issues may be, all these discoveries of God’s claims superimposed on His blessings, soon unsettle our ecstasy, and begin to mix joy with uncertainty and inner conflict. Then when God asks for something which is to us, we think, dearer than life—our Isaac—we are plunged into darkness, and are tempted to wonder if after all we really want to go through with this.
This is the most crucial moment in the Christian life. And this point many converts begin to withdraw. They get quiet. Their testimony loses its exuberance. Their attendance and participation begins to be fitful.
The natural self-willfulness of the carnal mind will feel profoundly that if God’s demands are accepted unconditionally, if this or that is to be given up or undertaken or altered, true happiness will never again be possible.
It is when the Christian faces this parting of the ways, and with deliberate decision, seeing fully the painful cost, makes up his mind that he wants Christ unconditionally, that he wants holiness more than happiness, and that he is willing to say good-by to happiness forever if only he can please God, and in complete abandonment of all further selfish plans tells God so, …that the Christian will be able to say with the Apostle Paul, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20).
When the battle of wills is settled, something wonderful happens. When we would rather be holy than happy we discover that we have happiness also—but on a higher and purer level than was ever before known. When we abandon our freedom and self-rights for total obedience, we discover that we are freer than ever before. When our fundamental inner being has been so restructured that Christ-pleasing is now the governing motive of life, we discover that pleasing Christ is pleasing self. And what a delightful, comfortable, pleasing self it proves to be.
(Richard Taylor, Understanding Ourselves, pp.93-97.)
Dr. Taylor is right. IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING THAT BATTLE IN YOUR HEART – THE CONFLICT BETWEEN GOD’S WILL AND YOUR DIVIDED WILL –THERE IS VICTORY!
IT WILL COME AT THE PRICE OF TOTAL SURRENDER! But like the man who sold all that he had to purchase the treasure hidden in the field (Matthew 13:44), or the merchant who sold everything to buy that one pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45, 46), the cost pales by comparison to the treasure – pure love, great joy, and wonderful peace!
GREAT EXPECTATIONS OF GREAT DAYS TO COME!
MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND, Sun, May 29
PENTECOST SUNDAY, June 12 – Hear the ALLEGHENY WESLEYAN COLLEGE Quartet AM
GREAT COMMISSION Indy, June 13-17
MEN’S STEAK-OUT, Saturday, June 18 6 PM
FATHERS DAY, Sunday, June 19 – Hear the HOBE SOUND BIBLE COLLEGE QuartetAM
VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL & GREAT COMMISSION STL - St. Louis, July 11-15
FOUNDERS WEEK Urbana, July 24-31
FCC’S 15th ANNIVERSARY REVIVAL, September 14-18
Evangelist P. L. Liddell, Evangelist Ben Crawford
FCC’S 15th ANNIVERSARY, September 18
If we can help you in any way please let us know!