Faithful In A Pinch
In my reading this week, I was struck by the question posed by Pastor Mark Adams, “What makes a Church RICH? Have you ever thought about that? If the word ‘rich’ gives you too much of a negative impression—try these words instead: What makes a Church ‘healthy’ or ‘productive’? I mean, what is that ’asset’ which contributes MOST to making a Church FRUITFUL in that it consistently churns our believers who are serious about their walk with God?” One of the huge “assets” that the early Church had was its unwillingness to compromise the truth - even in the midst of poverty and persecution.
During his reign from A.D. 81-96, Emperor Domitian made Caesar worship compulsory. Those who refused to comply - John, Simeon, the Bishop of Jerusalem, and others - were persecuted or killed. Once a year, every person was required to burn a pinch of incense and say three words, “Caesar is lord,” out loud. When they did this, they received a certificate—a certificate that was required to get a job and make a living. According to W.A. Criswell, “When the Christians were invited just to bow down before the Roman image, their lives could be spared if they would merely take a pinch of incense and put it on the fire that burned in the presence of the image of the Roman Caesar. The Christian died rather than compromise with a pinch of incense.” If they refused to participate in this seemingly simple ritual, they were committed to ridicule, persecution, and trying to survive as outcasts. The trade guilds would not hire them because they refused to worship Caesar and insisted on following Jesus alone.
In Acts 19:25-26, Paul incurred this kind of wrath at Ephesus when the idol-making silversmiths of Diana/Artemis rose up against him saying, “Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade . . . Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands.” We see a similar situation in Revelation 2:8-11, with the persecuted Church at Smyrna. Extrapolating this environment to the modern Church, Vance Havener writes, “It is not easy to preach on Smyrna now-a-days. The average American congregation is in no mood to appreciate such a Church. In a day of quick prosperity, it is not easy to interest a well-fed, well-clothed, well-housed Sunday morning crowd in the ‘Smyrna brand’ of loyalty. We are not interested in what it costs to be a Christian, but in what we GET by being one. In a day of ‘Health, Wealth, and Happiness in Ten Easy Lessons or Money Refunded,’ for many, Christianity has become simply a better way to get rich or have a big time.” On a daily basis, we are asked to make choices to stand up for what we believe while the world presses us with the words of the Roman Proconsul, “What harm can it do? Revile Christ and you will go free.” Scott Molebean concludes, “Most of the time we are given the choice of a pinch of incense, not in a public forum, but almost casually. How easy to just throw that pinch of incense on the altar of this society. Who would know anyway?”
We must be willing to stand for the truth, no matter the cost. There was no condemnation in the words of Jesus to the Church at Smyrna because they were unwilling to compromise the truth, knowing the reward was far greater than anything the world could offer them. By emulating their example, we will also be healthy, productive, and fruitful for Christ.
- Asst. Pastor Darbyshire
The Macedonian Call
As we approach the month of May, it is already apparent that it will be a very busy month for many people. Schedules are packed with holidays (May Day, National Day of Prayer, Mother’s Day, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day), graduations, finals, and special events. Many will be traveling, attending multiple events, taking lots of pictures, and celebrating all of these wonderful and worthwhile things. We’ll be busy; there’s no doubt. It seems like we always are, regardless of the time of year. It’s easy to lose track of why we do some of these things in the first place. Consequently - in the midst of all the hustle and bustle - we lose track of our purpose for being the body of Christ and spreading the Good News to people who really need it.
In a recent survey by Church growth expert Thom Rainer concerning the reasons the Churches in America are much less evangelistic today than in the recent past, the top seven results were: 1. Christians have no sense of urgency to reach lost people. 2. Many Christians and Church members do not befriend and spend time with lost persons. 3. Many Christians and Church members are lazy and apathetic. 4. We are more known for what we are against than what we are for. 5. Our Churches have an ineffective evangelistic strategy of “you come” rather than “we go”. 6. Many Church members think that evangelism is the role of the Pastor and paid staff. 7. Church membership today is more about getting my needs met rather than reaching the lost.
As a response to the alarming trend of negative Church growth and the need to mobilize the army of God’s sheep, FBC Executive Director Tommy Green has declared a “Macedonian Call” (Acts 16:9-10) in southern Florida, where it is estimated that 98 percent of the population is unchurched. He makes the clarion statement, “What is taking place in South Florida will stretch further north in migration of people and population . . . If we as a State do not have a strategy and commitment for South Florida, we are going to wake up and realize that for half of our State we’ve become pretty much irrelevant.” We must take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them because statistics say the majority of them are not going to come to us.
Paul heard the call and was available to present the simple Gospel message when the Philippian jailer asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved” (Acts 16:30)? Following Peter’s sermon in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, the people were “cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do’” (Acts 2:37)? As a result, three thousand souls were added to the Church.
How did this happen? What did they do with such a tremendous and drastic influx of new believers? Let’s examine the Church members’ responses to the Gospel message. 1. They boldly declared the Good News. 2. They called for the hearers to repent and be baptized. 3. They continued steadfastly in doctrine, fellowship, and prayer. 4. They maintained a healthy fear and reverence for the Lord. 5. They shared with those in need. 6. They focused on remaining in one accord with each other through visiting, praising God, and attending services together. 7. They were known by their community and maintained a favorable reputation. “And the Lord added to the Church daily (emphasis mine) those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).
These are the tried and true answers to the challenges we face in today’s environment. If we are to remain relevant in our culture and in our own neighborhoods, we need to trust God for the results and be available to answer the Macedonian call to go and help.
- Asst. Pastor Darbyshire
Either We Die or He Dies
“God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
The Scriptures are very clear that the wrath of God is visited upon sinners or else that the Son of God dies for them. Either sinners are punished for their sins or else there takes place a substitution. Either the sinner dies or the substitute dies.
When Jesus Christ became “a curse for us” according to Galatians 3:13-14, He bore the full consequences of our sin. When God made Him sin that we might become “the righteousness of God,” then in some way He took upon Himself our sin and we bear it no more (2 Corinthians 5:21).
God made Jesus die as our substitute that death which is the wages of sin.
Christ died for us; He died that death of ours which is the wages of sin. In the death of Christ, God condemned our sins once and for all. All of God's condemnation fell in one fatal blow upon Christ. It was a divine sentence executed by God upon all sin.
The Christian method of justification is one that is substitutionary. It is based on the substitutionary aspect of the atonement. The sinner is acquitted through the substituted bloodshedding of Christ. He suffers what God does to sin. Jesus’ death makes visible what happens when man has God against him. Christ bore our condemnation so that we bear it no more. We are justified by a substitutionary process.
Our salvation depends completely on what God has done in Christ. Redemption points us to a price paid (1 Peter 1:18-19). Substitution tells us how much was paid and by whom and for whom it was paid. It was purchased at great cost, at the price of His own blood. Christ paid the price that bought our salvation. The Son of God died once for all for the sinner and thus put away his sin. There is therefore no room for human activity.
As our substitute, Jesus Christ made Himself one with those for whom He suffered. He stands in the closest relationship with those for whom He died. Moreover, since the wages of sin was borne by our Substitute, our salvation reaches its consummation only when the sinner has become one with his Substitute and views his sin and Christ’s righteousness with the same mind as his Substitute.
That is why the Scriptures demand a personal response of faith in the finished atoning work of Christ.
Our salvation is totally dependent upon our divine substitute who took our place on the cross. Jesus Christ bore what we should have borne; He is our substitute. Christ paid the price of our redemption. “Christ died for our sins.”
Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. . . I lay down My life for the sheep” (John 10:11, 15b). “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
The Bible insists that we put our faith and trust in that finished work of Christ on the cross in order to be justified before God. “Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified” (Galatians 2:16).
Justification means that God declares the believing sinner righteous in His sight, which is a declaration of peace, made possible by Christ’s death on the cross (Rom. 5:1). No sinner can merit that right relationship with God. It cannot be earned by our virtue because we are sinners. The love of God is “poured out into our hearts” (literal translation). Before we were saved, God proved His love by sending Christ to die for us.
Have you responded by faith to God’s divine Substitute who died for you? Either He dies, or you will die. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.
- Pastor Kleiser
Earth: Our Unique, Watery Planet
Earth is uniquely designed for us to live, with a platform where we can observe both our world and the universe. One thing that makes earth so special is water. Secular and creation scientists agree that, for a planet to sustain life, it must contain liquid water in sufficient amounts and of the right composition.
Evolutionists say that the earth has been here 4.5 billion years. However, the Bible says that God created the earth and the waters only a few thousand years ago. “And God said, Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters. And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day” (Gen. 1:6-8).
70% of the earth’s surface is covered in water. If the surface of the terrestrial earth was flat, the waters would cover it 1½ miles deep. However, in the evolutionary model, water could not have condensed this close to the sun as the planets were forming. In fact, in their model, the earth would have had to form with virtually no water. So how did all of this water get here? The Bible tells us clearly that God made the heavens and the earth. “For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (He is God!), who formed the earth and made it (He established it; He did not create it empty, He formed it to be inhabited!): I am the LORD, and there is no other” (Is. 45:18).
While we know that God created the waters on the second day when He divided them from the firmament/heavens, secularists have to come up with a different answer that - no matter how outlandish and unreasonable it seems - must remove God and creationism from the equation. Two examples are that the earth was bombarded by icy comets and asteroids. The problem with these assumptions is that the earth’s water is not the same chemical composition as comet or asteroid ice. Based on the limited amount of ice that could have come from these sources, Science News states that “probably less than 15 percent of earth’s water could have been added from space.”
Our earth also has a magnetic field that acts as a force field to shield us from harmful solar radiation. Magnetic fields are produced by liquid metals moving inside the core of planets as they rotate. The magnetic field of the earth is decaying at a rate of 50% every 1400 years. With that rate of reduction - assuming that the rate remains constant - the maximum age of the earth’s magnetic field would be about 20,000 years old. After 400 years of research in magnetism, evolutionary scientist still cannot figure out how a supposedly 4.5 billion year old planet can still have a magnetic field. In fact, the National Geomagnetic Initiative Commission on Geosciences, Environment and Resources has proclaimed, “The mechanism for generating the geomagnetic field remains one of the central unsolved problems in geoscience.” Why is this important? Magnetic fields indicate that planets are young. Without our magnetic field, our earth would have been uninhabitable and liquid water would not exist in the necessary quantities to sustain life as we know it.
While there are many other factors that make our planet unique and remarkably well-suited to sustain life, determined evolutionists will continue to seek for answers outside of acknowledging the lordship of Jesus Christ. It would be better to draw the obvious conclusions from within the data that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:1-4).
- Asst. Pastor Darbyshire
Nothing draws from a preacher the desire to be faithful in his pulpit ministry quite like the appetite of the people for the Word he is charged to proclaim. It is this appetite for the Bible that gives fuel "for the journey." In our part of Jackson County, there are gospel opportunities on every side. Our task in this year is to clearly identify our focused evangelistic efforts and then to develop creative strategies to let loose the Word of God outside of our four walls, that it may do “out there” what it has been doing among us “in here”. Our calling, remember, is not to provide a certain ‘flavor’ of church for those who like that sort of thing. No, the call of God is to “go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in” as we share the good news about Jesus with them (Luke 14:23).
Author John Piper has said that, “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever.” (John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions, 3rd ed., [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010] .
Jesus reminds us that “the Father is seeking true worshipers” (John 4:23). Making true worshipers is God’s mission. Christians for generations have agreed that our chief end is “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Being true worshipers is the purpose of all people everywhere. But, since there is no other way to make true worshipers out of rebellious idolaters than to proclaim the good news about Jesus, then we had better get busy about the mission of reaching the world with the gospel, starting right where we are! Worship is the goal and the motive behind our evangelism. It is the purpose for the existence of the church of Jesus Christ. Making more worshipers who will join us before the throne of King Jesus this year is our great purpose, and we must resolve together to go after it with renewed determination.
One great test of how far the Word of God has had its way in a church is to ask how far that church loves the things God loves, and to what degree its mission mirrors the mission of God himself. As we move deeper into 2017 together, will you join me in praying that the Word of God might have its way in our hearts, so that our mission might more fully mirror the mission of the Father in sending the Son to “seek and save the lost”?
- Pastor Kleiser
Resolve to Know
According to a recent surveys conducted by the University of Scranton and the Journal of Clinical Psychology, the Top 10 New Year's Resolutions for 2015 were: Lose weight, get organized, spend less and save more, enjoy life, stay fit and healthy, learn something exciting, quit smoking, help others, fall in love, and spend more time with family. According to their research, 45% of Americans usually make New Year's Resolutions, but only 8% are actually successful in achieving them. In fact, 24% say that they never succeed in their resolutions. Despite our best efforts of drumming up the willpower to accomplish things in our lives that would benefit ourselves, others, or fill our bucket lists, many of us fall short of the goals we set for ourselves and wonder how we could ever succeed at the goals God wants to accomplish in our lives.
The psalmist, Asaph, understood this point when he wrote, "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Ps. 73:26). While he was considering the prosperity of the wicked and becoming discouraged at their apparent success and his lack, he wisely "went into the sanctuary of God (Ps. 73:17). With his focus now in the right place, he had a different perspective on his situation because he understood that God's plans never fail. In fact, we "can do all things through Him who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13).
While all of the top 10 resolutions have good intentions, you will notice that they all take a humanistic approach to resolving only issues in this life and lack any eternal perspective. Mark Cahill speaks to the heart of this issue when he writes, "What are you doing of significance today that will matter three-hundred-million years from now?
Here's a New Year's Resolution that we can all ascribe to keep in our hearts as Job did: "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me (Job 19:25-27)!
Let's resolve to make resolutions that encourage everyone we meet to know the God who created heaven and earth and to spend all eternity with Him, rather than separated from Him. That's a plan that's guaranteed to succeed because "it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). Have a blessed 2017.
- Asst. Pastor Darbyshire
Many today think that humans exist merely because of a freak cosmic accident that had no cause or purpose. As Oxford University professor Peter Atkins said, 'We are just a bit of slime on the planet'. Even many who say that they 'believe in God' have been 'educated' in this new 'enlightened' way of thinking. Thus they now think that the Bible, which claims to be the Word of God, is merely the words of fallible men. Consequently, they see themselves as free to invent their own ideas about God, rather than submitting to what God has revealed in the Bible. This naturalistic philosophy [evolution] removes any clear source of authority in our lives. If there is no Creator-God who rules over us, then there is no ultimate basis for morality. We take seriously the example of the Apostle Paul in refuting arguments that stand against the knowledge of God [2 Corinthians 10:5] and the commandment of Jesus Christ that we have a duty to love God with all our hearts, soul and mind [Matthew 22:37]. We must apply intellectual rigor to our faith if we are to be faithful to our Lord and Savior's instruction. It is for this reason [and others] that we encourage you to visit an excellent website by going to creation.com. You can use the search window to find thousands of articles on the subject of creation. It is all free.
- C.D. Kleiser
Perhaps you’ve heard we have a newly discovered ancestor - found in a South African cave - named Homo naledi that is being lauded as the latest in a string of “intermediate species” or missing links. Despite its small size, sloped face, brain the size of an orange, ape-like shoulder joints, curved finger and toe bones, flared hips, and small teeth, which all resemble australopithecine apes, paleoanthropologists have labeled it a new species of human ancestor. However, the data does not support this notion any more than it supported the previous missing link misinterpretations and hoaxes.
There was “Lucy” or Australopithecus, a 3 1/2 foot tall chimpanzee with a knee replacement from a mile away; Ramapithecus, which turned out to be an orangutan; Java Man or Homo Erectus, a Gibbon monkey skull combined with a human leg bone found 50 feet away; Piltdown Man, a human skull combined with the jaw of an orangutan whose teeth were filed down; Nebraska Man, who was artistically drawn along with his family based off of the tooth of an extinct pig; Orce Man, whose skull was found to be a young donkey; and the ancestor of many Europeans, Neanderthal Man, a true human who was quite intelligent and scientifically advanced yet suffered from arthritis and rickets, causing him to stoop.
The truth is no undisputed missing links of any kind have ever been found in the billions of fossil samples. Percentages alone would be in favor of finding many by now if Darwinian macro-evolution were true. What we find is creatures suddenly appearing and reproducing “after their kind,” just as God said in Genesis chapter one. In fact, no archaeological discovery has ever disproven the Bible, rather they testify to God’s magnificent order and design. He created humans and land animals on the same day. Therefore, one could not have changed into the other because they both existed from the beginning.
One must abandon true science and the scientific method in order to force pre-conceived conclusions on the evidence. In other words, when the results are predetermined and the end justifies the means, this is not true science but contrived hyperbole and propaganda.
Paul warned Timothy about this type of gnōseōs (knowledge) that uses false assumptions to achieve misleading conclusions when he said, “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge (science, in the KJV), for by professing it some have swerved from the faith” (1 Tim. 6:20-21). God always stands behind His Word and pours out His Spirit upon His children to affirm and testify to reality and truth (Rom. 8:16).
Don’t be fooled by abstract, circular reasoning theories that can never be proven (Rom. 1:18-23), but trust in the God who made heaven and earth. True wisdom and knowledge come from God alone (Prov. 1:7; 9:10) and we can trust His Word when we examine the evidence.
- Asst. Pastor Darbyshire