25 August 2009

No Greater Love – 8.25.09

John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

John 15. The setting is the upper room. It's the night just before Christ's crucifixion. Jesus is preparing His disciples for what lies ahead. Prior to His prayer of intercession in chapter 17 and the garden scene of chapter 18, in chapters 13-16 Jesus makes it clear to His disciples that He is leaving; that He'll return in the future; that in the meantime they'll face trouble and persecution from a world that hated Him before it hated them; but that He'll send them "another Comforter," the Holy Spirit. He also continually reminds them of the importance of their love not just for Him, but for one another.

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

John 15:9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.

John 15:17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.

John 15:13 is a great and well-loved passage of scripture. It is an undeniable and marvelous truth that Jesus Christ set the example for the greatest love when He gave His love for the sin of all mankind the very next day. But when you look at the verse in its context, you realize that it's not so much about the love Jesus has for us as it is about the love He wants us to have for one another.

Verse 12 says, This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

What John 15 (and the rest of the NT) is saying is that if we are going to make it through this world that has forsaken our God and hates His word and stand strong and let our light shine, we must, through the power of the Holy Spirit, have this kind of love for one another – that a man lay down his life for his friends.

1 John 3:16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

Philippians 2:4-5 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

As carnal creatures, it's so easy for us to get wrapped up in ourselves and forget about everybody else. But God would have us live our lives seeking to be a blessing to our brothers and sisters in Christ; doing things intentionally just to be of benefit to others; giving of ourselves on purpose just to help somebody else out, with the expectation of nothing in return.

That's the greatest love. It's the example that Jesus set, and it's the commandment that He gave.

21 August 2009

Honesty In Prayer 2 – 8.21.09

Psalm 38:9 Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee.

Just like Jeremiah (Jeremiah 12:1), David here provides a good example of being honest with the Lord in prayer. The passage states that ALL of his desire was presented before the Lord. Question: is yours? Do you go to GOD with your plans, your dreams, your goals, your desires, your ambitions? Your needs, your wants, your requests, your wishes? Your problems, your worries, your hurts, your disappointments? Do you lay it all before the Lord?

Some people tend to keep all that inside. Others tend to talk about all those things with their friends, and maybe even their parents and/or pastors, teachers, counselors, mentors – and we ought to do that – but let's not forget to be open and honest and pour out our hearts to the Lord (Psalm 62:8).

For one, that's what friends do (John 15:13-15). They share those things with each other. And prayer is about communing with God. How do we expect to grow closer to the Lord without spending time in His word (to learn of His desires) and spending time in prayer (to thank Him, praise Him, and take Him our desires).

But more importantly, the Bible says in Psalm 37:4 Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

Now, this verse does not say that when we go to God with our desires, all those desires are automatically and immediately fulfilled. Nor does it say that if I delight myself in the Lord, He'll give me everything that I want. What this passage emphatically states is that if I delight myself in the Lord, then GOD will give me my desires – that is, He will be the source of my desires. My desires will come from Him. His desires will become my desires.

And that's what prayer is about. It's about aligning our will with the will of God. It's about pouring out our heart before the Lord and allowing Him to fill it with what is good and what is right. "Our business in prayer is not to prescribe but to subscribe to the wisdom and will of God; to refer our case to Him, and then leave it with Him.

Philippians 4:6-7 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

19 August 2009

Ye Would Not – 8.19.09

Matthew 23:37-38 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.

In Matthew 23, Jesus Christ foretold the doom and destruction of Jerusalem and its temple (not to be confused with Matthew 24, dealing with prophetic matters concerning "the end of the world"). But as He closes the sermon, He reminds the people that it doesn't have to be this way.

Way back in the book of Genesis, God called out a people unto Himself. It was His desire and His intention that through this family all nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3). But down through history, this nation forsook the Lord, rebelled against His law, and served other gods. Even still it was God's desire to gather them together and restore them to proper fellowship with Him. But they despised His word, ignored His messengers, and martyred His prophets.

There is coming a day when the Lord will set all this straight and bring blessing to all nations of the earth, but in the meantime that Jewish nation has sure missed out on the blessings God intended for them and has and will suffer much for being so hard-hearted, stiff-necked, and disobedient.

There are a couple of important lessons for us to take from this verse.

First of all, notice that God does not force His will on any of us. One of the tenets of Calvinism is this idea of "irresistible grace," but according to the Bible, no such thing exists. Here God had blessings He desired to give to Israel, but Israel refused them – ye would not. Acts 7:51 says that they always resisted the Holy Ghost. Likewise, He desires to give eternal life to all men (2 Peter 3:9), but so many refuse to repent. He has life more abundant to give His children (John 10:10), but so few lay down their lives on the altar of sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2) and submit to His perfect will. So while it is God's will to bless, He does not force His blessing on those who for whatever reason are not willing to receive it.

What follows from this is the fact that our failure to get in on all the grace and blessings God has for us is our fault, not His. If I'm not living my life under the power of the Holy Spirit, it's not because God has not made it available to me, it is that I have failed to avail myself of it. If I lack boldness or wisdom, it's not that God is intentionally withholding those things from me, but rather that I have in some way refused to receive them. If my life is not full of the blessings of God's joy and peace and comfort and rest, it's not His fault. It's mine.

Praise God that His love and His mercy continue forever. Regardless of the mess I've made in the past, His desire is still to bless, and the requirement is still the same. All it takes is a willing heart that is yielded unto Him. May He find such a heart in each of us today.

Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Verse for the Week

A quick thought on Proverbs 13:10. If only by pride cometh contention, would it not follow that only by humility comes reconciliation.

I'm Back

I apologize for the lack of posts over the past couple weeks. We had a great time traveling around the panhandle of FL and southwest GA with the boys on August 2-7, then through the mountains of NC with girls on August 9-15. We praise the Lord for the opportunity to spend some time with these young people and for the people of THE BIBLE Baptist Church who make it possible for us to devote our lives to ministering to them.

A couple items I'd ask you to keep in prayer if you could:

1. A group of 9 will be flying out next Wednesday (August 26) to spend 5 days with Matthew Moris in Hinckley, MN. Matthew was the first graduate of the DeLand School of the Bible and is faithfully pastoring a small church in a small town relatively near where he grew up. We'll stay busy on the streets and door-to-door with the gospel. Please pray for a safe journey, open doors for ministry, and that we could be an encouragement and a blessing to Bro. Matthew and the congregation in Hinckley.

2. I'll be flying to Guyana on September 21st to preach at a Wednesday-Sunday youth meeting hosted by our missionary Dean Runyon. I'm very excited, and very nervous. What a great opportunity to have a life-changing impact for the cause of our Savior on some young people down in the jungle. Pray that many will be saved and that many would surrender their lives to God's will.

3. Fall is always an exciting time here at THE BIBLE Baptist Church. Bible school will be starting back up the first Sunday of September. The Lord has blessed us with 3 new students, 2 of which have already moved their families to DeLand. Pray for good health for the students and teachers; for many of those students who are seeking employment; for dedication and perserverance throughout the course of the semester; and for application of the truths taught and learned. We're also gearing up for some special evangelistic activities, including public preaching and tract distribution at the football games of University of Florida in Gainesville and the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Pray for God's blessings on these endeavors.

4. Lastly, a rare personal note. My wife and I have recently learned that she is pregnant with out first child. Praise God! The baby is due the first week of April. Needless to say, we are VERY excited. Please pray for the health and safety of mother and baby throughout the pregnancy and delivery. And please pray that God will enable us with the wisdom to be godly parents and raise this child for His glory.

Thanks for your prayers. May the Lord richly bless your service in His name.