Archive for July, 2015

Jonathan Edwards, pastor of the prestigious Congregational Church in Northampton, Massachusetts, was a leading figure of the eighteenth century First Great Awakening. Religious leaders, like the famous preacher George Whitefield (pronounce “Whit – field”), traveled great distances to meet with him and discuss theological matters.

At age 14, Edwards, already a student at Yale University, treasured the spiritual qualities that directed his life and ministry. At age 17, after a period of distress, he said holiness was revealed to him as ravishing, divine beauty. His heart panted “to lie low before God, as in the dust; that I might be nothing, and that God might be all, that I might become as a little child.” So the rare blend of spiritual passion and searching intellect characterized his life. By the age of 26, he became the sole pastor of the Northampton Church. Five years later his preaching on justification by faith sparked an awakening.

Yet even a man of Edwards’s credentials was not exempt from criticism. When Edwards sought assurance that those in his congregation had experienced genuine conversion, a group of discontented church members took exception. They launched a slanderous campaign against him that ultimately led to his dismissal from the church he had made famous. One of the greatest theological minds and most devout pastors in American history had been forced out of his church by malicious detractors. Edwards then assumed a modest pastorate in the small town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and ministered to native Americans.

Eventually Jonathan Edwards was vindicated before his critics. Some of his most vocal opponents publicly confessed their sinfulness in attacking their godly pastor. Ultimately, the College of New Jersey, which later became Princeton, called his as president in 1758. To its great loss and to that of the American church, Edwards died soon after his arrival at the age of 55. Some consider Edwards to be the finest theologian America has produced.

I offer this short biography of Edwards to remind us that God uses faithful believers who have solid commitments to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and to His Word. I am reminded of the call that God issued twice to Jonah, “Get up, go to Nineveh, and preach the Word.” The first time, Jonah ran in the opposite direction of Nineveh. He went down Joppa, down into the ship, down into the sea, and ultimately down into the belly of a great fish. The second time God issued the call, Jonah was more than ready to listen and obey. When he arrived in Nineveh, he preached the word that God had given to him — and God brought about a supernatural movement, and the people repented.

I am praying that God will “do it again.” A few Sundays ago, we dedicated both services to prayer and to seeking God’s divine intervention. We believe that God still wants to do a great work in America and to the ends of the earth. However, He will only do so on His terms. We cannot tell God how He must move. We cannot require Him to submit to our bidding. Rather, we must humble ourselves, pray and seek His face, and turn from our wickedness. Then He will hear from heaven and forgive our sin and heal our land.

Wednesday afternoon I viewed the disturbing video released for the first time on Tuesday which showed the senior medical director of Planned Parenthood casually discussing over lunch the sale of intact organs from aborted babies. It sickened me to the core of my being. The graphic nature of the subject prevents me from writing about it here.

Of course, Planned Parenthood struck back immediately, claiming that the video misrepresented Dr. Deborah Nucatola as she described the procurement process of fetal organs. However, it appears that the only thing misrepresented is Planned Parenthood’s own messy response.

In his blog this week, Dr. Al Mohler wrote:

“I have no reason to believe that the video is anything less than totally credible. But, even if Planned Parenthood somehow finds a way to evade justice in terms of criminal activity, the part of the video that Planned Parenthood does not and cannot deny reveals their senior medical director (Dr. Nucatola) enjoying a conversation over a meal in which she describes tearing apart the bodies of unborn human beings in order to get the desired organ….

“When the Allied forces liberated the concentration camps of the Nazi regime, General Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the ordinary German citizens of nearby towns and villages to walk through the camps and to see what they had allowed and facilitated. Eisenhower’s point was all too clear — you allowed this to happen, and you share the guilt.”

We all share in the guilt of the holocaust of abortion. Just a couple of weeks ago our church dedicated a Sunday morning to prayer for revival and spiritual awakening. We prayed for our nation in the spirit of 2 Chronicles 7:14 to be stirred from its spiritual slumber and spiritual stupor. As a nation we have called good evil and evil good for so long that we are confused. Many spurn the Word of God as irrelevant.

I’m praying that the release of this video will stir more people; although, those who support abortion will likely “keep their ears stopped and their eyes closed” to the atrocities of abortion because they enjoy the profits from this horrific industry. Will you join me in praying that this video will mark an important turning point in our nation’s conscience? Mohler concluded his blog with, “The horrifying images of harvested baby hearts must lead us to our own broken hearts. A nation that allow this, will allow anything.”

The Barkley Marathons at Frozen Head State Park; all photos are a little small. 3x2

The Barkley Marathons at Frozen Head State Park

Known as the world’s hardest race, the 100-mile Barkley Marathons in the mountains of eastern Tennessee provide a grueling test for the most-in-shape athletes. In this year’s race, none of the 40 runners completed the race. “The mountains won,” said Gary Cantrell, who created the even in 1986. “I was pleased with the outcome. It’s a competition between the humans and the mountains.”

In the 30 years of the race, only fourteen out of about 1,100 runners have completed the race. With a finisher rate of about one percent, the Barkley has been labeled by many as the world’s hardest race.

Along with a handout that includes race directions, participants are only allowed to use a map and compass to find their way. There are no medical aid stations on the course, which covers more than twice eh elevation gain of Mount Everest over the full 100 miles (or five 20-mile treks around the course).

Nicki Rehn, a 40-year-old Australian who is an assistant professor of education in Canada, completed one and a half of the five 20-mile laps this year before succumbing. “You don’t come here to be victorious. You come here to be humiliated,” she said. “It’s lonely out there. It’s eerie. You have to be comfortable being inside your own head. Everyone comes back pretty broken.”

It’s easy to get lost, confused, or weary in the Christian life—and the length of it can break us down. With such a race, we must run with perseverance with our eyes fixed on Jesus, who successfully completed the course.

Last Sunday we had a wonderful time in prayer and worship. About three months ago, when I began putting the service plans together for the summer, the Lord led me to set aside the Sunday nearest Independence Day for a “different kind of service.” At the time, I did not know exactly what it would entail. All I sensed at the time was that the service would be built around Psalm 130 and would include an observance of the Lord’s Supper.

While at the Southern Baptist Convention last month, it became clearer to me what that “different kind of service” would be. The week prior to the July 5 service, I had an emergency eye procedure. At first, I thought this would prevent me from participating in the service. However, what occurred was that the Lord used my time of convalescence to prepare my heart to lead the service. I must admit that I was not sure how our congregation would respond, but there’s little doubt that God spoke to us in an unexpected way! And yes, we will be seeking the Lord for His timing for another service during which we can pray individually and corporately for revival and spiritual awakening. We will do so until He brings an awakening.

For the past several months, someone from our pastoral staff opened the Sunday services with what we call “the service introduction.” We’ve used this opening to set the stage for the service. Sometimes we use a short story or anecdote, and sometimes we simply call attention to the subject matter or theme of the service. Last Sunday (June 26, 2015) I opened the services with how we should respond to the U.S. Supreme Court’s announcement of its 5-4 decision that makes same-sex marriage legal. To ensure that I am clear, I am repeating that response in writing.

1. God is still sovereign. We do not need to panic. Jesus Christ remains completely and totally in charge. God is eternally sovereign and nothing can change that. This means that we should not make wild declarations about how everything is lost. In reality, not many of us were surprised that the court ruled the way it did. Our response should be that of complete trust in the Lord and that He will one day bring all things together in perfect order.

2. Marriage and sexuality has not changed. The Word is very clear. What I mean by this is that God created marriage; therefore, God alone defines marriage. No legislative body, no president, and no court can change this fact. We must continue to stand for marriage and what the Bible says about marriage. As we do so, we must be careful not to jump to conclusions as to what will happen next. Some have already concluded that pastors and priests will be forced to conduct ceremonies for same-sex couples under the threat of fines or jail time and that churches will lost their federal tax exempt status if they refuse same-sex couples to use their facilities for ceremonies. Jumping into such discussions accomplishes little and should not be the main focus of our conversations. Such conversations actually keep us offtrack and away from our main responsibility—to bring people who are far from God near to Him through the gospel so that all people might love Him.

3. We must lovingly demonstrate the love of Christ to all people — no matter how they have responded to the court’s decision. It would be very easy for us to get into a war mode. To do so actually does much disservice to the Lord and to the cause of the gospel. Make sure that the people who disagree with us do not think that we hate them. Remember, Paul of Tarsus live and served in a world completely hostile to Christ and the gospel. Obviously the government in his time offered no accommodations for Christianity. To be sure, the Roman government permitted pagan religions and, to some extent, allowed the synagogues to exists. However, when it targeted Christians for persecution, they had no place to hide. Even in such circumstances, the gospel prospered. Therefore, we must continue to communicate the gospel and not do or say anything that suggests that we are going to retreat from the world and from sharing the Good News.

4. I am calling for a service during which time we will spend time praying as we plead with God to send revival. Both services on July 5 will dedicated to this purpose. This experience will be unlike any we have had on a Sunday morning. We will have times for hearing from God’s Word, times for personal intercession, times for corporate prayers, and times for singing hymns and praises to the Lord. We know that God alone is sovereign and He alone can bring about revival and a spiritual awakening. What we can do is to position ourselves according to scripture so that He might bring about such a revival. “[I]f my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV).