How often do you weep for the lost?
|South Hickory Hill Christian Church||
Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. NASB, Philippians 3:17-19
How often do you weep for the lost?
Psalm 121, Verses 1 & 2-
“I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.”
The background for this psalm runs akin to our situation today. Humans from all over were replacing worship of the true God with worship of false gods (idols). Sound familiar? Some of the gods they worshipped include the god of fertility, god of insects, god of frogs, etc. Some of the gods worshipped today include money, sex, power, etc. Some of their so-called gods required infant sacrifices, some form of prostitution, and many other rituals limited only to the creativity of depraved mankind. Some idolatrous practices today include various forms of self-absorption, greed, self-centered ascension, deception, all forms of depravity, etc. We may compare their idol worship with that of today and say, “At least we don’t participate in infant sacrifice.” Not so fast! The infant sacrifice in this day-and-age is made manifest through abortion. Many of their idols were erected in areas referred to as high places. These idolaters would ascend on hilltops so as to get closer to their worthless gods. While today’s idol worshippers don’t necessarily go to high places, many choose to get high on drugs as a way of escape. They hide in dark corners to feed their lustful minds with various forms of pornography. They neglect their families in their quest for wealth, etc. As I give away my position on the matter by referring to them as worthless idols, the psalmist has quite a lot to teach us even while using very few words. The idolaters were ascending to these high places in order to receive “help” from these gods, which were made of wood or stone, by manipulating them with whatever sacrifice was required. The psalmist, however, is acknowledging that our only help comes from the one true God who is not found in the high places of idol worship. Rather, He is the one who created the mountains, the seas, and the universe in all of its glory and splendor. Therefore, let us participate in the true call for worship of God Most High by proclaiming the message of the gospel to all who will listen.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” Jeremiah 29:11.
Those words bring solace to many people. Whether it’s bad news across the globe or whether it’s a personal crisis, we all want to know that everything is going to be all right. When our present is disastrous, we need the assurance that our future will be realigned with excellence. We wish that we could skip all this bad stuff- all the evil in this world- but reality dictates that we must endure the present trials and suffering. We try to claim Jeremiah 29:11 in the here-and-now, but we have to realize that context is important in every situation of life. While God said “I know the plans I have for you,” in the verses following, God tells them that they must enter into a time of exile.
I know this question is deeply personal, but it is of eternal significance. Where are you in this context of life? Do you find yourself lost in the chaos and sinfulness of this world? Are you walking in exile- in the discipline of God? Only Jesus can bridge this path of destruction with the life that is realized in Jeremiah 29:11. Please believe me when I tell you… better yet, please believe God’s Gospel where He tells you that He loves you so very much, that the plans that He has made for our good includes the atoning death of His own Son so that we are released from sin and death, living in the promise of having right relationship with God.
I am excited about our spring revival and I want to invite all of you to come because it’s gonna be great. Get this- Ben Merold is our speaker. If you have heard him before, you’ve gotta come and hear him again, and if you haven’t heard him before, you’ve got to come and hear him. You won’t want to miss this special weekend. So please save these dates: April 12th, 13th, & 14th. We’re going to have a wonderful time of singing and hearing Ben preach God’s word on Friday & Saturday at 7 P.M. and again on Sunday at 9:30 A.M. Ben is also going to be leading us in an Elder’s Clinic on Saturday from 10 A.M. to 1 P.M. This will be a great time of learning for all who are elders and all who hope to become elders. Lunch will be provided but if you wish to contribute, donations will be accepted for our youth group. In order that we may know how much food to prepare, in the near future, we’ll set up a Facebook event so we can get an accurate count of everyone who’s coming. So please mark your calendars for April 12th-14th and make plans to come to South Hickory Hill Christian Church.
No matter your political persuasion, I think we can all agree that our nation—our world has become so complacent concerning that which is eternal. I am often reminded of words of wisdom spoken by President Tom McGee. He stated these words of wisdom often during my four years as a student at St. Louis Christian College. “We must keep the main thing the main thing.” While that saying may seem simplistic, it conveys a deep message that we, as Christians, should not be distracted by things that are “shiny”, rather, we must always be focused on that which is eternal.
A decade later, I taught numerous courses over a period of 16 years as an adjunct professor at St. Louis Christian College. In my preparation for teaching these courses, I came across the following prayer, which I’d like to share with you. I believe that if we would pray these thought-provoking words, all of us could gain renewed focus concerning what is of eternal significance.
“Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves,
when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little,
when we arrive safely because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess,
we have lost our thirst for the waters of life, having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity, and in our efforts to build a new earth,
we have allowed our vision of the new heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas, where storms will show your mastery, where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. We ask you to push back the horizon of our hopes, and to push us into the future in strength, courage, hope, and love. This we ask in the name of our Captain, who is Jesus Christ.”
― Sir Francis Drake
It was 1983. Our church had invited George and Lois Poston to come and share their work with Northwest Haitian Christian Mission. Back then, technology was a slideshow, and a mission presentation was not one, but at least two trays of slides. For some, one tray of pictures, along with the corresponding stories, is plenty, but I was hungry for missions. I was ready for that second slide tray to be locked and loaded. After the service and into the night, all I could think about was how I could go to Haiti on a mission trip. I knew that at my age, my parents would be hesitant to let me go. As I thought and prayed, I decided to ask my dad to take me. I was overjoyed when he said, “Yes.” And so, we made our plans to travel with a group in August 1983. We exited the commercial plane going down the stairs onto the tarmac. It was so hot that you could literally feel a wall of heat surround you, and there was a smell of burning that was permeating the air. After we had gone through Immigration and Customs, we were greeted by the Postons and others that would be part of our group during this mission trip. Having stayed the first night in Port-au-Prince, we embarked on our journey to Port-de-Paix. We spent the next week and a half pouring a concrete roof, running electricity for an orphanage, stuccoing the exterior of a church, digging a latrine, singing and preaching in revival, and singing and preaching on the radio. For the most part, the Haitian people welcomed us and demonstrated extreme curiosity concerning who we were and why we had come. There was, however, a group who practiced voodoo who saw us as a threat to their religion and way of life. We never let them scare us or stop us from completing our task of sharing the love and gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord. We also experienced deep, broken hearts when we saw little girls, whose legs had been broken and sat crooked, sitting in the side of the road, begging for money. We learned that we could not give these little girls money, because in doing so, their fathers would do even more harm to them so that we and others would have even greater pity on them. We also witnessed little boys running home after fishing for shiners in the ocean. Even though shiners had very little meat, the boys’ faces shined with bright smiles. After 10 days of working hard, long days, and preaching and teaching every evening, Dad and I returned home feeling blessed to serve God in Haiti and blessed to return home to our family. Shortly after our return, we had our slides and our newly-purchased slide projector and we shared our mission trip with our church family at West Long Prairie Christian Church. Having shared our images with their corresponding stories, it was time for tray #2.
Another Christmas has come and gone. All of the shopping, all of the rushing, and all of the stressing, is behind us, and now we’re gearing up for New Year’s Eve, which includes the choosing of New Year’s resolutions. While these resolutions can be good for us, they rarely make into February, let alone the second week of January. Our resolutions may die too quickly because our approach needs improvement and better focus. I submit to you that we should keep our focus on Jesus and how He grew using the Luke 2:52 formula. Luke 2:52 reveals that Jesus grew in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man. So, let’s follow his example. Let’s grow in wisdom by reading His word, allowing the truth to shape our thinking and ideology. In doing so, our minds, perspectives, and life will be brought to a Christ-like focus. Developing this quality of wisdom will take patience and determination but when accomplished, life is transformed. Then, Jesus grew in stature. As adults, we might already think, “Aw, I’ve already completed this portion,” but growing in stature could also include taking care of one’s body. We should never take our health for granted. While we shouldn’t obsess over beauty to the point of vanity, taking care of ourselves is indeed necessary. Then, we see that Jesus grew in favor with God and man. These last two focus on integrity and relationship. It’s about being a Christian even when no one is looking. As such, we grow in favor with God through a prayerful relationship with Him. Through prayer, we communicate with God, opening our hearts before Him. By doing so, not only are we getting to know Him through His word, but we’re also building relationship with Him through our time spent in prayer. In doing so, we find ourselves loving God with our entire being. This is what also helps us to love our neighbor as ourself, which allows us to grow in favor with men. People want to see authenticity in our lives. In addition to Luke 2:52, this authenticity can also be developed by following in Jesus’s examples, found in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. Before Jesus began His ministry, He prayed for 40 days and 40 nights. Through His example, we learn to begin any action by praying first. In other words, spending time with God strengthens us for the task at hand. This is also evidenced when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46) on the night He was betrayed, leading to Calvary the next morning. So if you are grappling with your choice for resolution in 2019, may I suggest the process demonstrated by Jesus Himself. When we make this our ambition, even while we still may have hiccups along the way, our lives and our relationships will be greatly improved.
From our family to yours, may you have a very happy New Year.
Christmas is upon us yet again. We find ourselves rushing around, trying to find those perfect gifts we want to give to our family and friends. We want everything to be just perfect. We can’t wait to see the look in their eyes when they open their presents. We want the decorations to be full of splendor. We want the table to be filled with Christmas goodies that will be remembered and talked about next July. Yet we feel like there’s something missing. “Could I have forgotten to buy a gift? Did I forget the dry-cleaning?” And we continue to wonder, “What could it be?” It will continue to nag at us until we either forget about it or we stumble upon it.
But for others, this time of the year is lonely and depressing. We attribute these negative feelings with bad memories, a death in the family, or some other event which has caused us to alienate ourselves from others. “What is so great about Christmas anyway? Why do we have office Christmas parties? What’s so great about exchanging gifts, getting something I don’t want and will never use?” We just want Christmas to go away. The hurt, the pain, and the depressing thoughts are too painful to bear.
Then there are others who can “take it or leave it” when it comes to Christmas and all of the holiday festivities. Using this vein of thought, we will attend the Christmas parties to which we are invited, but we don’t really care if no invitation is extended.
Finally, we who are in Christ reflect on the true meaning of Christmas even while we are able to enjoy the Christmas decorations, parties, goodies, and gift exchanges. While we may have struggles with bad memories from the past, we don’t let those memories get us down. Rather, we focus on what’s important, because Christmas is a big deal to us. For instance, throughout the Old Testament, God promises to send the Messiah to save us (Genesis 3:15; 12:1-3; and on). That’s a big deal. (For more information, read Walter C. Kaiser, JR. Toward an Old Testament Theology.) These promises were given through God’s prophets, priests, angels, and a few kings along the way. Then, at the beginning of the New Testament, God sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for the Messiah to come (Matthew 3; Luke 1, 3; John 1:6-8, 19-34). All of this is a big deal. And then, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Angels proclaimed His birth. Shepherds (Luke 2) came to worship Him at His birth and Magi from the east, traveling a great distance, came and offered gifts to our God and King (Matthew 2). Knowing all of these events to be true, we can’t help but think that our God came to us, being born in a manger, so that He might teach us, die for us, rise again on the 3rd day, thereby redeeming us from our sin so that one day we can be with Him for all of eternity (Please read all four Gospels.). THAT IS A HUGE DEAL!
So please allow me to encourage you during this Christmas season. Jesus loves you. The reason He came was to save you, therefore He is our reason to live. That is a big deal. From my South Hickory Hill Christian Church family to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
I received a two-part question from Greg that I think you will find intriguing. While I must admit with all humility that I don’t know all the answers, I am happy to share what I believe the Bible teaches. So here are the questions: 1. Did Satan and the demons ever have free will? 2. Is there redemption available for Satan and the demons?
First of all, thank you for your thought-provoking questions. I believe it’s good for us to challenge ourselves with fresh study. Scripture indicates that Lucifer, in cryptic tandem with the king of Tyre, were “the seal of perfection, “full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (see Ezekiel 27:3; 28:11-19). Then Isaiah affirms our understanding of Lucifer’s decision by speaking with authority that Lucifer’s goal was to replace God (see Isaiah 14:12-15). Further, Isaiah refers to Lucifer as the Morning Star (ibid), which translated to literal Hebrew is “brightness”. This imagery is further depicted in Revelation 12:4, 7 and 8, wherein the dragon (Satan) is rebelling against God and is followed by one third of the angels. From these passages we see that the bright morning star, who was created in perfection and beauty, chose to rebel against God thereby was cast from heaven to roam the earth as a lion, ultimately to be defeated and thrown into the eternal lake of fire. Even Jesus tells us that He saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven (Luke 10:16-18). Jack Cottrell underscores these truths in his book The Faith Once For All (170).
Now concerning the second question, I affirm that scripture teaches there is no redemption for Satan and his demons. The strongest evidence is found in the teaching of Jesus Christ. For example, in Mark 1:21-28, while Jesus was authoritatively teaching the truth of scripture a demon afflicted man cried out to Jesus affirming that Jesus was the son of the Most High God and Jesus told him to be quiet. Forgiveness was not an option for the demon, nor was the proclaiming of the gospel. Again, in Mark 5:6-13 the demon afflicted man ran and threw himself down at the feet of Jesus but salvation was only afforded to the man, not to the demons named Legion. While there are countless other passages, I will close with one final quote. While the gospel is God’s salvation for mankind, hell was “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). Only one conclusion can be drawn from this verse of scripture (indeed the entire word of God), there is no redemption for Satan and his demons.
I received the following question from Carrie a short while ago and I know that you will find it intriguing.
“We know that in the Book of John that Jesus tells us that He must leave so that the Spirit can come to us. That would lead us to believe that the Son and the Spirit cannot be here at the same time. However, there are at least 3 occasions where Jesus and the Spirit are both here at the same time. One example is when Mary visited Elizabeth during their pregnancies. Another is when Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple, and Simeon was filled with the Spirit. The final count is when Jesus was baptized and the Spirit came upon Him like a dove. So then, how do we reconcile these examples with Christ’s words in John?”
First, thank you for submitting such an insightful question. While there are seeming contradictions, the context of John 16 will help us to understand fully when He said that He must go so that the Father will send the Spirit to them. So, let’s briefly consider the rest of Scripture in order to determine whether Jesus and the Spirit can be present at the same time. You have provided three excellent examples: Mary visits Elizabeth, Jesus is presented at the temple and Simeon is full of the Holy Spirit, and at Jesus’s baptism, the Spirit descends on Him like a dove. These accounts are found in Luke 1, Luke 2, and Luke 3 respectively. Then, there’s also a major account where Jesus and the Holy Spirit were together at the same time: at the Creation found in Genesis 1. Now we know that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (John 14:6) Scripture also teaches us that it is impossible for God to lie. (Hebrews 6:18) Therefore, I submit that if we believe Scripture ever contradicts itself, we are completely mistaken. So, that brings us back to the context of Jesus’s statement in John 16. Now let’s ask a few questions of this text. Why is it better for Jesus to go? What does He mean? I’ve heard all my life that people wished they could have walked the earth during the time of Jesus. While that may sound good, the fact remains that by the time we reach John 16, Jesus’s earthly ministry is nearing completion. In this context, when Jesus says that it is better that He goes, He is nonchalantly referring to the cross. The cross changes everything. Through the cross, we have the opportunity for forgiveness; therefore, through the cross, we have the opportunity for renewed relationship with God. You see, before the cross we were still in our sin and all sacrifices under the Levitical code were simply rolled forward and the Holy Spirit simply worked among people. So in our right relationship with God, we are now able to have the Holy Spirit dwell within us. This outpouring was prophesied in Joel 2 and it came into fruition in Acts 2 and following.
So, let me conclude with this following summary. Jesus said it is better for Him to go, because through His death, burial, and resurrection we receive forgiveness of sin, at which time God sends His Spirit to dwell within us. (Acts 2 38-39) So then, there is no contradiction. Before the cross, Jesus and the Spirit could be together, but our relationship with God was still damaged through our sin. After the cross, our relationship with God has been reconciled and therefore God’s Spirit dwells within us, and yet Jesus tells us that He remains with us in Matthew 28:20.
Stacy accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior at the age of seven, at which time he also dedicated himself to full-time Christian ministries in the future. He has served as a preaching minister for a total 27 years. He has served in cross-cultural missions for a total of 17 years to 10 countries. He has also taught as an adjunct professor for a total of 16 years.