Focus on the Cross

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Great word from Pastor David Stone of Lakeway Bapitst Church. His “Morning Mana” thought today called us to focus on the cross. That is a focus we must always keep. Pastor Stone’s thoughts:

John Piper wrote:”Christ is the glory of God. His blood-soaked cross is the blazing center of that glory. By it He bought for us every blessing–temporal and eternal. And we don’t deserve any. He bought them all.—- Because of His cross all guilt is removed, and sins are forgiven, and perfect righteousness is imputed to us, and the love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Spirit, and we are being conformed to the image of Christ.

Therefore, every enjoyment in this life and the next that is not idolatry is a tribute to the infinite value of the cross of Christ–the burning center of the glory of God. And thus a cross-centered, cross-exalting, cross-saturated life is a God-glorifying life–the only God-glorifying life. All others are wasted.”

That being true, how is it that we are so occupied with the vain things of this sinful world, rather than always looking unto Jesus? Successful living demands that we continually consider Christ and the cross(Heb. 12:1-3). Paul David Tripp wrote:

“Focus on Christ will always result in focus on the cross. You cannot be Christ-centered without becoming cross-centered. The crucified Christ is to be the center of everything I know about myself and my world.

You cannot have any real hope for flawed people in a fallen world unless there is a Redeemer to rescue us from the evil that resides both inside and outside of us. Real restoration to God’s created design requires the cross. It is the cross of Christ that alone will restore my allegiance to Christ and his rightful place at the center of everything in my life.”

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Jesus Christ was Dead, BUT Now He is ALIVE!

Jesus Christ was dead. He had, in fact, been murdered. Betrayed by one of His close associates and brought before the rulers of His day, He should have received a fair trial and justice according to the law and customs of the Jews. Instead, He was immediately put on trial in the middle of the night and was faced with trumped up charges and bribed witnesses. The entire trial was a mockery of justice; one which was illegal and produced an unjust verdict.

Long before this immoral death sentence was announced, the religious rulers had begun to plot this very moment. After healing a man with a maimed hand in a synagogue on the Sabbath we read in Mark’s gospel: “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him,” (3:6).

That wicked plot had intensified when, just a little over a week before His crucifixion, Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. This undeniable miracle led some to naturally and rightfully believe that Jesus was the Christ; their Savior and King. This same miracle caused the willfully ignorant hearts of others to be hardened. So we read in John 11:53 that, “from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.”

Put Him to death they did. Wrongfully convicted by His enemies, the Roman authorities  sentenced Him to death for the sake of political expediency. Jesus Christ was mercilessly mocked, brutally tortured and crucified by hardened Roman soldiers, and then, while He hung on the cross, was taunted by those same people who had plotted against Him. Mark’s gospel records their sadistic jeers: (15:29-32)

“And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest [it] in three days, Save thyself, and come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save. Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.”

These men so hated Jesus, and they felt victorious because their plans had finally come together. Jesus was about to die; defeated by their cunning maneuvers and manipulations. That is what they thought. They were mistaken.

We know from sacred scripture that Jesus made seven statements from the cross during the six hours of His crucifixion. The final two statements were made in quick succession. The penultimate statement from the cross was made with a loud voice. Jesus shouted, “It is finished!”

This was no final whimper from a man tired of being tortured. This was a triumphant victory shout of the God-Man. Christ’s life was over because His work was finished. He was not the pathetic victim He appeared to be as He hung on that cruel tree. His work was accomplished; redemption for sinners was complete, and He was triumphant. Therefore, He finally uttered, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus he gave up the ghost,” Luke 23:46.

Jesus Christ was dead. He died as no other man has ever died. In one sense, He was murdered. In another sense, it was God the Father who sent God the Son to the cross. “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief,” Isaiah 53:10a (c.f. Acts 2:23). In still another sense no one took Jesus’ life. He willingly offered it for those whom He loved. As He said in John 10:17b-18a:

“I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”

Mankind’s sin required a perfect, sinless, blood sacrifice. God’s eternal plan of redemption, to satisfy His righteous justice and pay the penalty for man’s sins was for Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb of God to be scarified. Jesus Christ, who is God the Son, was the willing sacrifice who freely offered Himself as the Substitute who made atonement for our sin. The cross is where that all took place, and the gruesome sacrifice of Jesus on the cross seemed to all who loved Him to be a supreme tragedy.

Jesus Christ was dead, but death had not conquered Him! What appeared to be a tragedy to all who loved Him was actually the greatest moment of victory in the history of redemption; a history that began when Adam and Eve were clothed – covered – by the skins of an innocent sacrifice; a history that was pictured by every blood sacrifice offered by God’s people until this moment. Christ would make that victory gloriously clear when, on the first day of the week and the third day after His substitutionary sacrifice, He burst forth triumphantly from the grave!

Following His passion the resurrected Jesus showed Himself alive by many infallible proofs (Acts 1:3). He appeared to the faithful women who had arrived that morning at His now empty tomb. He appeared to Peter and to the other apostles. He walked with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and talked with them “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). He would be seen by over 500 people at once. He was seen by his half-brother James, and by the Apostle Paul. The tomb which had been sealed and guarded by the Romans was empty. A body could not be produced because the glorified, resurrected body of Christ was busy appearing to and interacting with others for forty days. After which, in the presence of His disciples, He ascended into Heaven. Now He is at the Father’s right hand, making intercession for the saints, and awaiting the time for His second coming.

On the cross Jesus atoned for our sins. In the Resurrection He demonstrated His victory over death. As Paul put it, this victory “is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,” (2 Timothy 1:10). To celebrate the Resurrection, we must first understand the crucifixion.

Jesus Christ was dead. Now He is alive! He has risen, just like He said. Death could not keep Him in the ground. The tomb could not hold Him. The weak explanations fabricated in an attempt to disprove His resurrection were proven to be false then, just as their modern formulations have been today. The blessed fact of Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection confronts each of us in this life. Try to roll the stone of philosophy or science or unbelief or any other excuse in front of the tomb. No stone will keep Him away from you. He said to Martha, and says to all of us: (John 11:25-26)

“I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

Posted in Christianity, Death, Easter, Faith, Gospel, Hope, Jesus Christ, Life, Resurrection, Revival, The Cross | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Questions and Answers about Forgiveness

I am blessed to be the Associate Pastor of the Rodgers Baptist Church in Garland, TX. That congregation is a blessing and joy to serve. One of the duties that I’m joyfully obligated to perform is the writing and procuring of Sunday school material for our adult classes. Our current study was written by me and is an examination of the seven sayings that Christ made from the Cross. You can find that series on a PDF by clicking here.

The first saying from the Cross is Christ’s prayer requesting forgiveness for those who were crucifying Him. Praise God for the amazing forgiveness that is available through Christ and Christ alone.

Forgiveness is awesome to receive, but sometimes tough to grant. Still, we who are forgiven are called to forgive. Because we have been forgiven much, and, more importantly, because greater is He that is in us that He that is in the world, we can and must forgive others. That does not make forgiveness any easier. It also leaves some questions about forgiveness unanswered.

Forgiveness Q and A

Here are a few common but important questions concerning forgiveness, and, I trust, Biblical answers for those questions:

  1. Are some sins unpardonable?

Jesus said in Mark 3:28-29, “Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.” (see also Matthew 12:31-32; Luke 12:10). This chilling warning from Christ’s lips needs careful consideration. And we will consider it by first defining what the unpardonable sin is not. The unforgivable sin is not: cursing the Holy Spirit, taking the Lord’s name in vain, adultery, fornication, homicide, genocide, infanticide, suicide, etc. Yes, all of those are despicable sins. (What sins aren’t?) But they are all forgivable. Even blasphemy is forgivable. To blaspheme is to be defiantly irreverent; to openly denigrate and disdain God. At least two apostles were guilty of this sin. Both Paul and Peter had blasphemed. Paul said, in writing about his pre-conversion self, “Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief,” (1 Timothy 1:13). Likewise, Peter openly displayed disdain for God when he “Began to curse and to swear, saying, ‘I know not this man of whom you speak,’” (Mark 14:71). Both these men were forgiven and restored, because they acknowledged, repented, and confessed their sin.

Then what is this sin that is beyond forgiveness? Christ called it “blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.” But what exactly is that? It is the determined rejection of the Holy Spirit’s witness to the deity and Messiahship of Jesus Christ; the refusal to believe Christ in spite of the evidence. It is the perversion of the heart that, according to Isaiah 5:20, calls good evil and evil good or light darkness and darkness light. It is a decided rejection of the Holy Spirit’s witness, whether that is a quiet witness in the conscience, the rational witness of the Word, or even miracles and wonders such as witnessed by the Pharisees – who were Jesus’ original audience when He made this statement.

This continual rejection of the Spirit’s witness, this refusal to believe, will result in a loss of opportunity to believe. Christ said such a one “never has forgiveness” (Mark 3:29) and “will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Mathew 12:32).

This sin is unpardonable because they will not bow before Christ to seek pardon. The Pharisees to whom Christ originally spoke, and all others who blaspheme the Holy Spirit, cut themselves off from God’s mercy, not because it wasn’t offered but because it was abundantly offered yet rebelliously and permanently rejected. What a terrifying thought that people can so totally turn their backs on God’s revelation to the point that He withdraws forever His convicting power.

The warning is severe. It should bring us to our knees, either for our own need of salvation or for the need of others to turn to Christ. But let us not leave on the warning. Listen once more to the offer of grace from Mark 3:28, “All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme.” May we all, in the name of Christ and by the grace of God, acknowledge our sin, confess and repent of our sin before it is too late.

2.     Should we pray for those who do not ask for our forgiveness? Yes! Christ taught that we should (Matthew 5:44) and He modeled that teaching (Luke 23:34).

3.     Should we forgive those who don’t ask for it? Let’s begin to answer this question by recognizing that God’s offer of forgiveness is unconditional (therefore, ours should be as well), but forgiveness itself is conditioned upon repentance. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” This also means that whosoever does not call upon the name of the Lord will not be saved. 1 John 1:9 reminds us that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It is right to emphasize the If we confess. God does not forgive those who refuse to ask for it.

But apart from God’s forgiveness of sins, what about personal offenses against us? Should we forgive someone who has offended us even if they have not asked for it? Once again we must turn to scripture to rightly answer our questions. In Luke 17:3-4, Christ said, “If thy brother trepass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” If he sins against you seven times in a day and repents seven times, you must forgive him seven times. Well, then, just seven times? Try seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22).

I believe it is important for us to understand that forgiveness is not just a unilateral, internal effort to get our emotions under control. By that I mean we must always be open and, by God’s grace, eager to extend forgiveness. We must not harbor hatred or malice in our hearts towards our offender. Neither can we treat that person as if he/she had done no wrong, because that is to condone the sin; something we must never do. Understand that forgiveness involves two parties not only one, but we can only control ourselves. By God’s grace and power we can and must overcome anger and resentment. We must release our bitterness to God, commit our adversaries to Him, and always be ready and willing to forgive, and we must always be ready and hopeful for reconciliation. Therefore, when the offender does request forgiveness we can immediately say, “Forgiven!” There is no deliberation because we have been ready and eager to grant them forgiveness. I believe the story of Judy Lawson and Richard Wine is a good illustration of this. If you’re unfamiliar with that story, follow this link. You’ll be glad you did!

Before we move forward it should be said that not every offense requires repentance. Let’s not be so thin-skinned and self-focused that every time someone says or does something that offends us (or fails to say or do something we think they should have) that we require repentance from them. Many offenses are unintentional, and instead of becoming offended and requiring repentance we should follow my Momaw’s advice and not make a mountain out of a mole-hill. Just as God’s Word tells to rebuke a friend who has transgressed against us, and if he repents to forgive him, it also tells us that “The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression,” (Proverbs 19:11). It takes a wise heart to know when to rebuke and when to defer.

4. What about justice? It is hard to surrender the anger that seeks for compensation or revenge, but in this, as in every good thing, Christ is our example. 1 Peter 2:23-24 indicates that we must leave justice up to God (see also Romans 12:17-19). He can and will handle it much better than we ever could.

Praise God for forgiveness! The best way to offer that praise is to provide forgiveness to others at all times. Easy? No. Right and good for us? Absolutely!

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The Power of the Resurrection

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Jesus Christ defeated death. He has made a way for you and I to defeat it as well. That way was made possible because of the Resurrection. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave is the single greatest event in world history. It is the hinge upon which the Christian faith swings. Without it, Christianity is just another in a long line of world religions. There is no hope of heaven, of present and eternal blessing and joy, and no hope of victory over sin and death without the Resurrection.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has set “the world” or eternity in the heart of every person. Something inside of every man and woman reaches out for immortality. There is no satisfaction with life on a temporary level only. The multitude of religions and philosophies throughout mankind’s history reflects this. Christ’s Resurrection is the key to that desire. Jesus said, “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19), and He also said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26) The Bible is clear. Had Jesus not risen, we would have no hope. But he did, so we have hope! (1 Corinthians 15:17-20)

Because of the Resurrection there is not only hope for the future but power for living in the present. The Resurrection radically changed the way the disciples lived. No longer depressed and despairing of life, no longer clinging to the shadows and cowering in fear. After the Resurrection there is a joyful, radical obedience to their risen Lord. This had a powerful impact not only on their lives, but it affected the lives around them. By what power were they transformed? It was not the power of persuasion, or human eloquence and logic. It was not the power of patriotism or the effects of some narcotic. What made the difference in their lives? The reality of the Resurrection (Acts 4:13).

It is Christ’s Resurrection power that enables believers to defeat temptation, overcome trials, lead a holy and joyful life, and boldly proclaim the Gospel. There is hope for the future and power for today because Christ lives. May our prayer continually be that of the Apostle Paul, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:10). Challenge your faith, not just this week leading up to “Resurrection Sunday”, but for your entire life, through the power of the Resurrection.

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See What a Morning (Resurrection Hymn)

by Stuart Townend

See what a morning, gloriously bright,
With the dawning of hope in Jerusalem;
Folded the grave-clothes,
Tomb filled with light,
As the angels announce Christ is risen!
See God’s salvation plan, wrought in love, Borne in pain, paid in sacrifice,
Fulfilled in Christ, the Man, for He lives:
Christ is risen from the dead!

See Mary weeping, ‘Where is He laid?’
As in sorrow she turns from the empty tomb;
Hears a voice speaking, calling her name;
It’s the Master, the Lord raised to life again!
The voice that spans the years,
Speaking life, stirring hope,
Bringing peace to us,
Will sound till He appears,
For He lives, Christ is risen from the dead!

One with the Father, Ancient of Days,
Through the Spirit
Who clothes faith with certainty,
Honour and blessing, glory and praise
To the King crowned
With power and authority!
And we are raised with Him,
Death is dead, love has won,
Christ has conquered;
And we shall reign with Him,
For He lives, Christ is risen from the dead!

Posted in Christianity, Easter, Jesus Christ, Resurrection | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Remarkable Forgiveness

forgiveness key to freedom

I came across the amazing story of Judy Lawson and Richard Wine by reading Art Lindsley’s book Love: the Ultimate Apologetic published by InterVarsity Press. What follows is a lengthy excerpt from pages 108-110. This is truly a remarkable story, and one that is only possible because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

“I met Richard Wine when I visited a prison in southern Florida. His story is unique. He came to believe in Christ because of the mother of the man he murdered!

You can imagine Judy Lawson’s anger and bitterness toward this man who murdered her son. Judy was a Christian and even involved in prison ministry, but she was consumed by her anger toward Richard. Finally one day she knelt down and gave her anger to God. She prayed that Richard, the killer of her son, would come to believe in Jesus. That was a major victory.

But Judy didn’t stop there. She decided to write to Richard in the maximum-security prison where he was serving a life sentence. She wrote something to the effect that she was praying for him and that if he asked for forgiveness for his sins, including the murder of her son, Christ would forgive him.

When Richard got Judy’s first letter, he threw it away, thinking she was crazy. But Judy persisted. Over the next five years she wrote occasional letters to the same effect. It started to get under Richard’s skin and really bothered him. While he spent two weeks in solitary confinement, he decided to read through the Bible. When he got to the book of Isaiah, something started to happen in his heart. By the time he had finished the New Testament, he had committed his life to Christ.

The first thing Richard did when he got out of the “hole” was to write Judy and tell her that he had made the commitment to follow Christ. He wanted her to be the first to know.

Judy decided to visit him in that prison. You can imagine their first meeting, when Richard asked Judy for forgiveness for the murder of her son, and she granted it!

Richard knew that he needed to grow in Christ, so he enrolled in a Bible correspondence course. He didn’t know how to type, so Judy would occasionally type his papers. Their relationship developed to the point where she would regularly worship at her church and then drive down to worship with Richard in the prison chapel. As I spoke in the chapel one Sunday morning, the two were sitting together, a visible witness to the power of Christ to reconcile even the worst bitterness.

Just before I arrived at the prison, Judy Lawson had presented a Bible to Richard Wine.  Inside the front cover she had inscribed, “To Richard, my beloved adopted son, from your adopted mother.”

Only the grace and forgiveness of Christ can do that! When people hear this story, they often say, “I couldn’t do that.” I don’t know if I could either. It took Judy about ten years to get to that point. All I know is that Judy loved Richard as Christ loved her and forgave him as Christ forgave her. After we have done all the things that sent Christ to the cross, he not only forgives us when we ask but he adopts us into his family.”

Posted in Forgiveness, Freedom, Reconciliation | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Tebow, First Baptist Dallas, and Christianity in America

I like Tim Tebow.Tim Tebow

The young man has displayed a ton of integrity over the course of his public life, first as QB of the Florida Gators (who I despise), and then as an NFL QB with the Denver Broncos and the NY JETS. I have always appreciated his willingness to publicly live his faith in a humble, consistent manner. I admire how he has handled personal attacks and criticisms that range from his playing ability to his Christianity.

Because of his commitment to Christ, Tebow has long been a lightening rod, earning accolades from the faithful and, if not condemnation, at least condescension from those hostile to the faith. From every quarter, however, he has won praise as an, honest, humble, just all around good guy. Of course, for any believer who will be faithful to the gospel, hostility from the world is inevitable (John 15:18).

This leads to the developments of the last few days. Tim Tebow was scheduled to speak at First Baptist Dallas’ 9:15am service on Sunday, April 28. When news of this engagement became public, many news outlets immediately began to post attack pieces on Pastor Jeffress directly and First Baptist Dallas indirectly. Tebow’s scheduled appearance at the “virulently anti-gay, anti-semitic” church was virulently questioned.

Hypocrisy is a funny thing. Take as an example Gregg Doyel’s CBSsports.com post. He “despises” Pastor Jeffress as a hate-filled preacher whose theology is unChristian. Doyel is even sure that Jeffress would have stoned Mary Magdalene. (Perhaps Doyel is asserting that the woman of John 8 is Mary Magdalene, or maybe he is just trying to make a point.) He condemns Jeffress’ “hate” in a bile-spewing column, and then responds later by saying that hating haters is ok.

The problem here is that Jeffress’ theology is very much Christian and not at all hate-filled. Love, not hate, motivates one to call sinners to repent and believe the gospel. Love, not hate, points out that false religion – including the “Christian” variety – is an ancient device used by the enemy to blind people to the good news of grace. Love does that; not hate.

It is hateful to insist that every belief is valid and that, like in antiquity all roads led to Rome, so do all religious roads lead to God. They do not. To be sure, the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord is an all-inclusive one. “Whosoever” believes in Him – that is in God’s only Son – shall receive eternal life. But the inclusivity of the Gospel does not include every faith system. Any who will repent and believe may come, but they may only come through Jesus Christ our Lord. To proclaim anything us is to participate in hate-speech.

This brings us back to Tebow’s cancellation on First Baptist of Dallas. He stated:

While I was looking forward to sharing a message of hope and Christ’s unconditional love with the faithful members of the historic First Baptist Church of Dallas in April, due to new information that has been brought to my attention, I have decided to cancel my upcoming appearance. I will continue to use the platform God has blessed me with to bring Faith, Hope and Love to all those needing a brighter day. Thank you for all of your love and support. God Bless!

The most charitable observation I can make of this milquetoast statement is that Tebow wanted to avoid controversy. Here is the problem. Controversy is unavoidable for the believer who will not compromise biblical beliefs, especially for one who is in the public’s eye. Backing out of his commitment, and in issuing this statement, makes it look like Jeffress and First Baptist Dallas are guilty of being a hate-filled organization just as the media has painted them. That is exactly what Paul Raushenbush of the Huffington Post wrote yesterday:

I believe that Tim Tebow was listening to the Holy Spirit when he made the decision to not associate himself with Jeffress and his worldview. Tim Tebow has joined the ranks of many Christians who are refusing to be associated with a particular strain of religious faith that is publicly connected with an anti-gay stance and flagrantly hostile to other faith traditions.

Like many evangelical young people, Tebow seems to care more about loving and being loved by Jesus than the politics that too many automatically associate with Him.

In his press release Tebow mentions that he was looking forward to sharing “Christ’s unconditional love” at First Baptist Dallas. Apparently Tebow, like so many of his evangelical brothers and sisters, now feels that the religious right is no longer a place where that can be done.

Tebow hasn’t averted a public relations problem. He hasn’t skirted controversy. He has stoked the flames! Riding the fence is never a good thing, and Tim Tebow will have to publicly announce, sooner or later, that his position is either in line with scripture, or is best described by Raushenbush. But more statements announcing his desire to “brighten people’s day” just won’t do.

God has given all believers – not just famous QBs – a commission to proclaim the gospel (see here and here). God has uniquely blessed Tebow with a public platform to do that. I’m thankful that Tebow has used that platform for that purpose. I pray that he will continue to do so.

The easiest thing to do right now is steamroll Tebow. That is not my intention. It is not what I’m doing. And I encourage other believers to avoid eviscerating the young man,Steamrolled

Instead, I encourage all believers to pray for Tebow. I have shown a lack of courage many times in my walk with Christ. The difference between me and Tebow is exposure. I have the privilege of making mistakes outside the considerable glare of public scrutiny – at least on a national level. Tebow does not. Pray for Tebow to hold firm to the faith and to be a strong voice of the faith, and then do so likewise in your own, much less public life.

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Happy Birthday, Dianna!

On January 28 my sweet wife celebrated her birthday. She is as beautiful today as she was in August of 1990 when we went out on our first date. Her true beauty, much like Ruth, is in her desire to seek shelter under the wings of God. I dearly love Dianna and am blessed to be raising three boys with her. Life is always a fun experience because I get to spend everyday with Dianna Renee!

Happy birthday, darlin’!

(Just to calm any fears you may have, I didn’t forget her birthday. The post is just three days late. Better the post than the actual celebration!)

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Posted in Family, Happiness, Joy, Life, Love, Relationships | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

We Are Blessed

Bro. and Sis. Ron Thomas at RBC's 80thThe Rodgers Baptist Church is an exceedingly blessed congregation. In an era when many churches have been shuttered rather than sustained, this one has celebrated 80 years of gospel ministry. One reason why this church has been able to join the octogenarian club is because of dedicated, godly leadership; pastors who love the Lord, His church, and hold to a long view of ministry. We live in period of time when the average pastorate of Baptist churches is 3 – 4 years. Nothing long view about that! Thankfully, for a long while now, the Rodgers Baptist Church has not fallen into that statistical slag pile.

That is why the Rodgers Baptist Church gathered together on Saturday evening, January 12, because for the last 25 years our church has been well-served by the pastoral leadership of Brother Thomas, as well as the support and leadership provided by his dear wife Sister Brenda. For the past 25 years they have, as our pastor and pastor’s wife, selflessly, consistently, and joyfully, provided us with Biblical examples to follow. Their sacrificial, fruitful, and faithful service to our Lord and His church was worthy of a celebration and thanks to God.

Two years ago we studied the book of Joshua in Sunday school. I could not help but think of Pastor Thomas as we began that study. Joshua followed a long-tenured and much loved leader; just as Bro. Thomas did 25 years ago. The same promise God made to Joshua, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee…” is a promise we can claim today, or, in this case, 25 years ago.

“As I was with Bro. Charles, so I will be with you: I will not fail you, nor forsake you only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest propser whitersoever thou goest. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:5, 7-8).

One thing I love and appreciate about Brother Thomas is his love of the truth. Right away I recognized and was blessed by his God-given ability to communicate the truth. You see, I met him 17 years ago this April because he was preaching a revival at the church where I was a member. Dianna and I had only been home from active duty in the Army for six months, and I was a backslidden believer; not serving the Lord.

But for those six months God had been working on my hard heart, little by little, through Bro. Sparks’ – my pastor at the time – faithful exposition of the scriptures, through the prayers of the members of my church and my family, and finally through the preaching of a Texas pastor. God used Bro. Thomas’ preaching during that revival as the hammer blow that finally busted up my hard heart. Less than a year from that revival meeting I surrendered to the gospel ministry.

It doesn’t take long to realize that Bro. Thomas is a good preacher, that he can clearly and powerfully preach the truth. What I’ve come to appreciate even more than his commitment to preach the truth from the pulpit is that he is equally committed to living the truth every day, in every way. That is something you cannot appreciate unless you walk with a man, and it’s been my privilege to do that these last three years. Many members – current and former – of Rodgers Baptist Church, and many believers around the world, who have been blessed to walk with Brother and Sister Thomas for much longer than I have, are also able to attest to having been blessed by their commitment to the Truth.

Other than his commitment to preaching and living the truth, the other aspect of Bro. Thomas that I have come to value, and could only experience by laboring together with him, is that he is a great leader. Great leaders are always learning, and part of that process is developing the appropriate leadership vocabulary. I’m incredibly impressed with Bro. Thomas’ vocabulary.  Let me share a short vocabulary list so you know what I mean. This is just a tithe of what Brother Thomas will often say…

  1. “Yes” more than “No”…
  2. “Why not” more than “How come”….
  3. “We” more than “I”…
  4. “Thank you” more than “I wish you hadn’t”….
  5. “Let’s do it” more than “We’ve never done it”…
  6. “Go for it” more than “Stop that”….
  7. “I encourage you to” more than “I command you to”…
  8. “What do you think” more than “Here’s what I think”…
  9. “Find the good and praise it!”
  10. “Preach the gospel to others AND to yourself!”

Great leaders understand the power of their language. They choose their words carefully. In Brother and Sister Thomas we have a pastor and pastor’s wife who are committed to teaching and living the truth, and who are great leaders.

So thank you, Brother and Sister Thomas, for your faithful, fruitful, and Biblical commitment to each other, the Lord, and His church. We rejoice in God’s goodness to us these past twenty-five years, and we look forward to doing this again twenty-five years from now!

 

Posted in Christianity, Church, Culture, Leadership, Legacy, Love, Wisdom, Work | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Thoughts on the Upcoming Election

I have not posted on this blog since January. Please, stop your applause now, because my plan is to resume posting, on a somewhat regular basis. This is the inaugural post of the Coffee House’s re-launch, and to ensure that it is worthy of such an occasion I will not be writing it! Instead, the author is Philip Rogers; a veteran missionary, having been raised on the mission field, and now, with his wonderful family, faithfully proclaiming the Gospel  in Chile. He recently wrote an open letter to all on his emailing list some thoughts concerning the upcoming Presidential election. After reading his letter I quickly asked for permission to re-post it at the Coffee House. He graciously agreed. I appreciate his thoughtful and biblically convinced argument. I believe you will also. So sit back, grab a cup of coffee, and enjoy this blog’s relaunch with this guest post from Philip Rogers.

Dear Friends,

When a cousin by marriage asked if I had “a prepared message/Word for our next election in the US,” the truth was that I did not.  My frustration with politics and the absolute freefall of the USA had me pretty pessimistic about the future of our nation.  At one point, I had even told my wife, Wendy, that I was not going to vote in this election.  Those who have known me over the years know that that is a pretty big statement for me—I have always been fascinated by politics and current affairs; furthermore, I have not missed voting in a presidential election since 1988 (when I registered to vote as a college student).  I will, of course, end up casting a vote in this election cycle.

Perhaps I tend toward pessimism.  I recall a conversation I held as a teenager with my oldest brother (19 years my senior).  At one point, he declared, “You’re a pessimist.”  I replied, “I am not.  I am a realist.”  To which he responded, “That’s what all pessimists say!”  Well, if I am a pessimist, from a purely human standpoint there is plenty about which to be pessimistic.  Thankfully, however, we do not function from a purely human standpoint, since we know that someday Jesus Christ will return and put right all that is wrong with the universe!  May we be found justified through his grace and by his blood at that day.

When pondering whether or not I should contribute my two cents’ worth to all that has been said and written about this election, I thought about economics, about the rule of law and disregard for our Constitution, about government encroachment on individual liberties, and countless other things.  I settled on another issue, however.

In the history of our nation, there have been at least two great national sins to which many/most citizens seemed to have contributed through either activity or passivity.  The first was/is slavery and racism.  Few things have placed such a blot on our country as that hideous sin.  We are all sons and daughters of Adam and Eve.  We are all of “one blood” (Acts 17:26).  Thus, even though I did not vote for Barack Obama in 2008 (and will not vote for him in 2012), a certain optimism sprang up in me at his election—for the first time in the history of the world a predominantly white nation had elected a black man as president!  What a historic moment!  Perhaps racial divisions could be healed and reconciliation could begin in earnest!  Alas, it was not to be.  Our country appears to be much more divided than it was four years ago.

The second great sin of the USA is abortion.  Since the barbaric Roe v. Wade decision in 1972, over 50 million—yes that is 50,000,000—babies have been aborted.  Murdered is the right term and it is time to speak clearly and truthfully, without euphemisms.  I am a missionary in the country of Chile, whose total population is around 17,000,000.  That means that enough preborn babies’ lives have been taken in the last 40 years in the USA as to have populated Chile three times over.  An entire generation or two has been literally flushed down the sewers of America!

The Bible declares the following in Proverbs 6:16-19: “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”

As a preacher, I would like to take time to exegete that passage and see its complete application to our nation at this point in history, but I will refrain from doing so at this point.  I would like to, however highlight this phrase: the Lord hates “hands that shed innocent blood.”  It is an incredibly, indescribably dangerous thing to be on God’s hate list.  Yes, God is love but he is much more than that—he is holy.  Those beings that have been in God’s presence for millennia are still overwhelmed by his holiness (Isaiah chapter 6).  Familiarity breeds contempt, so they say.  For those who are most familiar with God, however, that familiarity breeds awe, humility, love and worship.  Those who are ignorant and far from God are the most casual toward him.

Back to “hands that shed innocent blood”—I can think of no blood more innocent than that of a baby in his or her mother’s womb.  The violent snuffing out of those millions of innocent lives has not gone unnoticed by the omnipresent God of the universe—and all who have been a part of the butchering (whether, once more, through activity or passivity) in any way, should understand they have placed themselves squarely in the path of the wrath of a holy God.

President Obama defends abortion.  He defends it to such an extreme that, as an Illinois state senator, he fought against legislation that would have protected babies who survive abortions.  He supports partial-birth abortion.  As our nation’s first black president, he must know that among African-American women, the ratio of abortions and live births is about 472 to 1,000—now that is truly genocide.

Abortion preys on the defenseless.  How long can a nation stand that slaughters the weakest in its midst?  We are not a civilized nation—we are a country of unspeakable barbarism.  We have sunk to such a point that women from elsewhere, such as Great Britain, fly to the USA in order to have gender-selection abortions (which are illegal in the United Kingdom).

So, will I vote in 2012?  Yes, I will.  For whom?  For Mitt Romney (even though I do so somewhat half-heartedly, for several reasons).  Why?  By allowing the Democrat and Republican platforms to speak for themselves, I will reveal the “why.”

Democrat Platform: “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion [Let us please stop using euphemisms—it is called “murder.”], regardless of ability to pay.  We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.”

Republican Platform: “Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.  We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.  We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage.  We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.”

So, am I a one-issue voter?  Absolutely not.  The issue, however, of choosing between a culture of death that defends and promotes the shedding of innocent blood and a culture of life that defends human beings from the womb on does play an extraordinarily large part in my choice of candidates.

Elections have consequences.  Please vote this year.  Please vote, above all, in light of God’s holiness.  Please vote with eternity in mind.  Please vote remembering Proverbs 14:34: “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.”

Allow me to close with these words from the Republican Platform: “The principles written in the Constitution are secured by the character of the American people.  President George Washington said in his first inaugural address: ‘The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.’  Values matter.  Character counts. . . .  May God continue to shed his grace on the United States of America.”  And we say “amen” to that.

Sincerely,

Philip Rogers

Posted in Abortion, America, Citizenship, Culture, Current Events, DEMS, GOP, Government, Politics, Presidential Campaign | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

What to Do On Dr. King’s Birthday

It’s Martin Luther King’s birthday. In the past, that never meant much to me at all, but a few years ago I was introduced to King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. If you’ve never read it, today is a great opportunity to make the time. Here is an excerpt of the letter, but I encourage you to follow the link above and read the entire thing.

Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dart of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six- year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness” then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

Posted in Discrimination, Race | Tagged , | 1 Comment