April 7, 2020

Judging by the way religion in general and Christianity in particular is portrayed in popular media, it might lead you to believe spirituality has fallen on hard times - even when faced with a pandemic. You would be wrong.  Currently there are over 1.8 billion Muslims (and growing), and 2.3 billion Christians in the world. The "non-religious" crowd make up only 15% of the earth's population - and most of these are not true atheists.  This fact squares with the Bible, when it says, The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God (Psalm 14:1).  The Word of God teaches mankind knows intuitively God exists: They know the truth about God because He has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities - His eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God (Rom. 1:19-20).  The numbers don't lie: Most people believe in God...or in some form of deity. Nevertheless, just because a person believes in God doesn't mean they have weighed the evidence of His appearance in human flesh 2,020 years ago, embraced His infallible message of salvation through Jesus Christ and relish a personal relationship with Him through the Holy Spirit.  It is important to remember, even though there are many "brands" of religion, from God's perspective every human being falls into one of two designations: Just or Unjust.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matt. 5:44-45). We see clearly that with God there is no "middle class", no sub-set or identity group who are "almost" saved or barely saved or partially saved. When it comes to how you deal with your hope of Heaven you need to know - at this very moment - you are either IN or OUT.  Do you know which one it is? Do you know why you think so? It is hard to tell sometimes based on how God blesses or withholds blessings from an individual (or a nation).  One may say, "I don't believe in God, and look at me; I am healthy, well-educated and financially set." Another responds, "I too am quite blessed, and I most definitely believe Jesus is God's Son."  Mere circumstantial evidence, frankly, isn't enough to go on. Look closely and you'll see sunshine and rain in the lives of the Just and Unjust.  Sunshine in all its forms: health, talents, attractiveness, cash, etc., as well as rain in all its variety: divorce, bankruptcy, substance abuse, cancer, etc. So, how can you tell the difference? The short answer would be: "Only God knows."  But the Bible also says, By their fruits you shall know them. In the few lines remaining I will add a little more to the discussion. When Jesus Christ lives in you it means LOVE has taken up residence in your heart. Jesus said, Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. A tall order you say? No! It is impossible unless the One who is love reigns in your heart. God knows how to love and pursue His enemies. That is exactly how you and I came to know Him - enemies of God though we were. Dear Reader, don't ever forget everyone you know is either lost or saved. Only the fool believes there is no God.  Let the living Christ rekindle the fires of a Savior's love in your soul. Tell someone how much they matter to the Lord Jesus, how much He matters to you and, therefore, how much they mean to you.   I Love You, Pastor David  

March 31, 2020

Christians often voice the desire to see God move in a powerful way.  What would such an experience mean to you?  If God manifested in your life in some undeniable fashion, what would that look like? If, for example, you were stranded on a deserted island (which might sound attractive during a pandemic), in time your prayer to God would most likely include a plea for rescue.  Some passing ship or airplane would become synonymous with what we call a "divine appointment" - the answer to our prayer.  A more practical line of questioning would be: What if you lost your job and asked God to bare His strong arm on your behalf?  In this case God's deliverance would certainly involve a new opportunity, successful job interview and offer, starting date, etc. Would you understand the new development as an answer to your prayer - or a mere coincidence? To God's credit, He often rescues people whether they ask for His help or not.  We read a story about a little girl lost in the forest for days - found shivering, thirsty, but safe. Yes, in some cases things turn out alright; something miraculous happens, a life is spared.  A tornado rips through a town with minimal loss of life.  If you ask the Lord to act in a powerful way during this present Covid19 crisis - how would you word your request? Perhaps you aren't thinking so much in terms of a miracle drug or vaccine; instead you would ask that the great power of God would transform the hearts and minds of a nation who has lost its way. When we pray for Him to move we are actually asking for God to send a great outpouring of His Holy Spirit. When God takes action, when He reveals Himself, lost people receive the new-birth and believers experience a break-through to holy living. Sin loses its grip on our lives, old habits are broken and the higher, nobler virtues replace them.  I believe this is definitely a prayer worth praying. You might ask, "Why, Lord, why does this not happen?" God answers, "If My people which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land" (2 Chron. 7:14).  In this verse we recognize the parts we've "mastered". When we're in trouble we pray and when trials come, we seek His face.  But the "humility" part? ...that's a tough one! The opposite of humility is pride. Pride loves to prioritize selfish ambition, money, good health, pleasures and prosperity. Pride gets offended over even minor hindrances. Pride feeds itself on carrying grudges and is resistant to forgiveness and reconciliation. The proud person waits for others to make the first move when there is a misunderstanding or conflict in the relationship. Prideful people want God to move in a powerful way, because they are sure "other people" desperately need a "Divine Makeover."  Sadly, the proud person seldom (if ever) turns from his/her "wicked ways", which means God refuses to "hear from heaven" , "forgive their sin" and "heal their land."  Truly, "God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble" (1 Peter 5:5).  Dear Reader, these are hard words to write, and I am sure they are difficult words to read.  Remember, the Bible says, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free" (John 8:32). Whatever we are going through now - we deserve worse. Furthermore, whatever we're going through will only get worse if we refuse to humble ourselves before God. I pray we won't be guilty of blaming God for things - I pray we will stop blaming other people for the problems we face, and that we will stop making excuses for the way we live. IF God were to move in a powerful way in YOUR life, what would it look like?

 
I Love You,
Pastor David 

 

March 24, 2020

During this time when we are tempted to be afraid, and nerves can be on edge, allow me to offer this as perhaps a distraction - and I pray - an encouragement.  The English language never ceases to amaze me. There are so many words that, to one who is trying to learn our language, could be down-right confusing. For example, to immigrate means to “enter a country to live”, and to emigrate means to “exit your current homeland.”  “Flout” means to disregard, and “flaunt” means to show off. Even our common expressions would be hard to translate into, for example, Bulgarian. How would you explain this sentence to your friend from Estonia: “I could hardly bear the burden of walking my bear, in my bare feet on the rocks and decided to bear the news of this unbearable burden to the bear keeper.”  In Arkansas this would require a translator even for English speakers: “I could hardly bar the burdin uh walkin muh bar in muh bar fa-eet an dessited-tuh bar thuh nuze uv diss unbarrable burdin to thuh bar kayeeper.” It’s hard to say things like giss and like gat. Many of these linguistic twists of meaning are called “Puns.” Samples: 1. “The soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.” 2. “I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.”  3. She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.” 4. “No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationary.” and 5. “Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.” On a more serious note, and perhaps closer to my reason for this article, is the result of having looked closer at the word: “Curse”. In McGehee the word is often pronounced “Cuss”...but I digress. It isn’t in reference to four-letter words we’ve learned and used that captures my attention, but the word “cur-sed” as opposed to “cursed”. Diving deeper into the contrast of meanings, it led me to the very first chapters of the Bible, and to a very profound truth lifting my spirit.  “Cur-sed” is an adjective, and “cursed”, according to the Cambridge English Dictionary is, “the past tense and past participle of “to curse” - which is a verb. Please stay with me. Using our ability to spin a pun, try out this sentence: “He cursed the cursed horse-fly because it left a cursed whelp on the back of his neck.” Now, this is where reading in the third chapter of Genesis became the source of my meditation and joy. The consequences of our parents’ disobedience brought a curse on Satan and the world that God created. God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly shall you go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life” (Gen. 3:14).  It was in this declaration of condemnation that we find God’s first reference to the virgin birth and the triumphant sacrifice of Jesus: “the seed of the woman shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (3:15).  God also said, “...cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field” (3:17b-18).  Now, the physical vessel the devil used (the serpent) was cursed; Satan himself was cursed, and the ground was cursed. What about Adam and Eve?  To be cursed by God is to be eternally consigned to suffer the fate of the damned. My joy came, however, when I learned that our Father in Heaven did NOT curse our parents: Adam and Eve.  Yes, they were punished. This is where the Grace of God shines. God cursed the serpent, He cursed the devil, and He cursed the ground. But He didn’t curse me! Quite the contrary! The Bible says, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree” (Gal. 3:13).  Adam and Eve “sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves” (Gen. 3:7) .  Perhaps you’ve never heard of “fig-leaf righteousness?”  It refers to those who try to make peace with God, who try to remove themselves from the Law’s Curse, by walking down an aisle, getting dunked in the creek or baptistry, completing a catechism or submitting to any number of rituals or sacraments.  How I pray the awesome reality of having the curse removed by the Cross of Jesus Christ has set you free from the chains of guilt and shame. Don’t settle for a life of sin/purge/sin/purge. Our sins have been forgiven: past, present and future when we “call upon the name of the Lord” (Rom. 10:13).  You may ask: “Yeah, but what about the sins I commit each day?”  Yes, what about them? If you do not have a relationship with Jesus, you are lost, and sinning is not so much what you do - it is who you are - and that is your shame! Even now, as you read this, you are under the curse of the Law.  As a believer, when you sin, guilt is the natural response - no! ...the “supernatural” response to sin. Shame says, “You sin because that is what you ARE, a cursed rebel.” Guilt says, “You sin because your old nature has managed to lead you into behavior making you feel like the cursed rebel, though you are not a cursed rebel any more.  Shame speaks to what a person is - guilt speaks to what a person does. Praise the Lord Jesus today, for He would not allow us to remain in the garments of religious or non-religious shame. He clothed our parents in the skins of animals - and that meant the death of an innocent creature to cover their humiliation. Likewise, Jesus would not allow us to cover our lostness with religion.  Instead, He covers us in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Because of the Cross, and the gift of Faith, we will one day soon be presented before God “in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing...holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27).   Don’t ya jest luv plane Inglish?

 

I Love You,

Pastor David

 

 

March 21, 2020

Anxiety and panic do not find their source in God.

 
Obviously if it’s expressing God-given fear of imminent danger, this is necessary for human survival. The influence of our Living Savior stimulates hope and resolve.  It isn’t merely possible, but expected of us to face life’s most traumatic events in the power of the Holy Spirit. Our feet are standing on the Rock - and that Rock is Jesus.  In times like these, we would do well to think of those who have gone before. Acquaint yourself with the stories of the martyrs who “...stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were
made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated - of whom the world was not worthy - wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in the caves of the earth” (Heb. 11:33-38, emphasis mine.)  Dear faint-hearted believer, we are made of the same stuff! This will be our legacy come what may.  It isn’t only ancient “saints” who have discovered the power of God during a crisis. You may have heard the story of Pastor John Harper. He had pastored churches in Glasgow and London.  He and his six-year-old daughter boarded the Titanic, traveling to Chicago to accept the position as new pastor of the famous Moody Bible Church. After the ship struck the iceberg, Harper began sharing Christ with everyone he could.  As the ship began to sink, he was heard shouting, “women, children, and the unsaved into the lifeboats!” One man mocked him, and Harper took off his life vest, saying, “You need this more than I do.” One person testifying at a survivor’s meeting four years after the accident told how Pastor Harper clung to debris from the ship, and swam around telling others, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”  The man said, “After refusing him the first time, he swam away. But he came back a few minutes later, and I accepted the Lord Jesus in those frigid waters.” Minutes later, as the pastor sank into the Atlantic, the newly saved man was rescued. We all know the cold abyss did not have the last word in Bro. Harper’s experience. Covid19 won’t have the last word in ours either. Such accounts of how God’s servants handle calamity speaks volumes to hearts like ours - pampered, soft and spoiled by years of chasing the American Dream.  Dear Reader, don’t allow the cold icy fingers of Satan spook you - causing you to loosen your moorings. Tighten your grip even tighter to the hand of Living and Present Lord Jesus. There is nothing enjoyable, helpful or redeeming in yielding to our society’s gnawing anxiety or paranoia. It has been said anxiety only “saddens a person and multiplies obstacles.” So true. Panic is the twin sister of Confusion. Spend more time in the Word of God. It is full of stories the Holy Spirit will use to cleanse and strengthen your physical and spiritual vitality.  God uses His Word to build the muscles of your faith, causing you to fight on your knees - and stand upon your feet - with an upward gaze. Listen to the familiar words of Jesus, “Fear not,” “Let not your heart be troubled,” and “Do not be afraid.” I don’t want us to merely “survive” this calamity, but “overcome” and “conquer” it through Jesus Christ our Lord. Yes, listen to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Take note of sound advice from our doctors and medical professionals. The Bible admonishes us: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment” (Rom. 13:1-2).  Finally, May God grant us obedience to be “as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16).  There is perfect balance in this directive. When the bravado of a snake might tempt us to become proud or cavalier when it comes to discerning media-hype or globalist agendas, we can balance that out with a gentleness and tender heart toward others who are truly stressed out without lecturing or scolding them.  Become a bright star in the sky of someone else’s dark night of testing. The victory is already ours, and right now we are proving that “...our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! (2 Cor. 4:17).
I Love You, Pastor David