Monday, October 31, 2016

An Introduction To Soil Conditioning

I have always wanted a vegetable garden, but gardens are work. When they say, "He's out working in the garden," they're telling the truth. It takes a lot of work to till, plant, water, thin, fertilize and weed in such a way that a crop is produced; especially if you're going to go organic and not use artificial fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. There's nothing more frustrating than doing all that work and then getting no vegetables.

We bought a little house in Abilene several years after we were married. The yard was small, and we started working on it. I tilled up a section of the backyard for my garden. This was the first garden I had planted in many years. The soil was terrible, composed entirely of red clay that turned to brick when it dried out. I tilled, planted, watered, then watched the garden (and the grass) grow. Then guess what? Nothing. I got a few tomatoes, but mostly I just got disappointed.

I studied, talked to successful gardeners, and went to work again. I found out that I needed to condition the soil in order for the garden to grow. So, I bought a truckload of sandy-loam, bags and bags of organic material, and went to work again. Later that summer my tomatoes were so huge that I turned them into a kind of arbor that arched over onto itself so that I could walk in the shade picking buckets of the juicy things. 

Some of us who are concerned about the church are working extremely hard. As attendance becomes more and more spotty, conversions decrease, and spiritual affections cool, we work even harder. Jesus and the Apostles often used farming illustrations to teach spiritual truths. I believe there was a reason beyond the agrarian culture into which the message of the Word was first delivered. I believe our hearts and churches are very much like soil. What God intends to do in us requires hard work, but very often more hard work is not what's needed. We simply need to enrich the soil.

So, for the next few posts, I'll be sharing some things I've learned about spiritual soil conditioner. If you're a regular reader, let me ask you a couple of questions to get you thinking. Have you ever worn yourself out trying to make something spiritual happen?  Have you ever become disappointed, or even angry with someone who wasn't working as hard as you are to do things at church?

(Part 1 - Spiritual Soil Conditioning)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

God On The Throne, The USA Down The Drain?

Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God.
Romans 13:1

First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayer, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
1 Timothy 2:1-4

Barring any hanging chads or other "election rigging," we will have a new president on November 9th. Well, it won't be official until the Monday after the second Wednesday in December when the electoral college makes it so, but we'll have a pretty good idea who will sit in the big chair for the next four years.

Thank God there is a throne far above that big chair, and thank God He is on it.  His throne is over all the kingdoms of the earth - elected, appointed, and otherwise. He is rightly called King of kings and the Lord of lords. It is comforting to know He is sovereign. It was comforting for those who first read this letter from Paul to the Roman church.

In those days, Nero was sitting in the big chair. Some say there are similarities, but neither Hillary nor Donald have yet reached his level of depravity. We have lost much and will probably lose much more of our religious freedom, but nothing like what those Roman believers faced. Nero was the instigator of the systematic and brutal persecution of Christians that would ebb and flow for the next 300 years.

It's interesting that Roman believers probably received Paul's letter just a few years before all of that started. So, in His sovereignty, God lovingly prepared them for it all by reminding them that He was still on His throne.

You've heard it said, "No matter what happens on November 8th, God will still be on His throne on November 9th." That's true, but I believe it's also true that America may well be on its way down the drain.  We who follow Christ and believe the Gospel should be preached and lived outloud have already been threatened. We know that our nation is declining morally. This election could be the final straw that breaks us.

I have two thoughts about God's sovereignty? First, God's sovereignty does not dismiss our responsibility. That is clear by what Paul wrote to Timothy. God is on His throne, but we are to respond to that sovereignty with obedience. We are to pray for our leaders. A peaceful society that is open to the Gospel appears dependent upon the prayers of the church.

Second, God's sovereignty is not tied to America's success. If the next president turns against God and our nation continues it's downward moral spiral, He is still on His throne, the Gospel is still the power of God unto salvation, and we are still responsible to live it and preach it to all people. Even if it costs us everything, it is our responsibility. God has often used the judgment of a nation to wake His people up. Maybe that is what is happening right now. Whatever happens, God will use this for His glory. The question is whether we will be part of that glorious kingdom.

Will you seek His wisdom and abide by His precepts as you enter the voting booth? Just as important, will you and your church be on your knees for current and future leaders?

The prayer meeting is the least attended meeting of the church. I have talked to many pastors, and with few exceptions they confirm that. We are all alarmed at what is happening in our nation and in this election. Why, then, are we not filling up the prayer meeting? Why are we not calling out to our Sovereign God? Can we claim the assurance of "God is on the throne" if we do not follow the commands of that same God?

Our church prays at all its meetings, but our church-wide meeting is Wednesday at 6:00 pm. You are welcome at that meeting. If your church has a prayer meeting, be there. If it doesn't, start one.  God is on His throne, so pray.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

He Knelt In Protest - Will We Kneel In Prayer?



It's his right, but I think he's wrong. You have the right to burn the American flag, but I think it's wrong. The nation for which the Star Spangled Banner waves gives you the right to kneel, to even desecrate the emblem itself, and that's why I think it's wrong. When the flag is raised and the anthem played, I place my hand over my heart and I sing the song, not just because I'm an American but because God put me in a nation that has preserved these rights, the freedom of expression and religion. So, yes, I think he's wrong.

I am a patriot. The flag flies at my home 365 days a year, but I believe the only hope for our nation is not an increase in patriotism. So, don't lose your mind over this next statement, but what if Christians had knelt during the anthem? What if, given the grievous moral and spiritual condition of our nation, we all took a knee, bowed our heads, and cried out to God for deliverance and mercy as the emblem of our home was raised and praised? Our courts have outlawed our right to pray together in Jesus' name when we gather in the public square. We've been reduced to a "moment of silence." Some, in spiritual protest, still mouth the Lord's Prayer during those moments, but when the moment is over most of our prayer ends. What if it didn't end?

I'm not suggesting a mass, public protest of prayer. Though I would probably join it if it occurred. I'm suggesting that we may have been stirred up in the wrong direction. Rather than being stirred up over those who take a knee in protest, what if we were stirred up in prayer?  James 5:16 says "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." or in another translation "The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful."  While the Bible warns us against public prayer for the sake of being seen, and vain repetitious prayer for the sake of being heard, it never tells us to pray short, quiet, ineffective, milktoast kinds of prayers. The Bible encourages us to get worked up over the greatness of our God, worked up over the sinfulness of our own hearts, worked up over the desperate conditions we see around us and then worked up in prayer.

What's more serious; a football player kneeling during the National Anthem or the church failing to kneel in prayer? 

What's more powerful; a football player kneeling in protest, or the church kneeling in fervent prayer? I believe the only hope we have is in the humble, repentant prayers of God's people, crying out for God's mercy and forgiveness as they seek God's face. Our only hope is when we believe and obey God.

I'm writing this on a Wednesday. Calvary, it's time to pray, tonight at 6:00pm in the worship center.   


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Candidates, Admissions, Confessions & True Repentance


Repentance is a discovery of the evil of sin, a mourning that we have committed it, a resolution to forsake it. It is, in fact, a change of mind of a very deep and practical character, which makes the man love what once he hated, and hate what once he loved.
Charles Spurgeon

Unless you've been living on a deserted island, you know that a tape was released of lewd comments Donald Trump made in a conversation in 2005. His comments have changed the minds of many, including many Bible-believing Christians. Some have questioned the sincerity of his apology, and the sincerity of his Christian faith.

In a prepared statement dated October 7, Mr. Trump responded, "This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course - not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended."  He expanded that in a video apology saying, "I've never said I'm a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I'm not. I've said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them. anyone who knows me knows these words don't reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize. . . I've said some foolish things, but there's a big difference between the words and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women, and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims."

I don't have an inside track on the true condition of Trump's, the President's, or Hillary's hearts. I don't hold the moral high ground. Before believing in and following Jesus, I was an immoral man who had sinful conversations in locker rooms and board rooms with other sinners. And, if I choose not to work out my salvation with fear and trembling, I could easily slide back into the cesspool or moral mediocrity. I seem to remember Jesus saying that when we who follow Him pray, we should say, "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

I am not writing to judge Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton, but this very public debate brings out the preacher/teacher in me. It raises this question. What is true repentance? Is it an apology, admitting to a mistake, confessing to a sin, or is it something else?

Many admit they've made mistakes. Fewer admit they've sinned. Admitting we are sinners is a good thing, since God only saves sinners. Those who think they have no sin will die in their sin. Confessing that we have sinned is also good thing. Only those who admit their sin and confess it can be forgiven and cleansed by God. Repenting of sin is a very good thing. Repentance offers no excuses, no defense and no self-justification. Instead, repentance admits its full guilt and throws itself upon the mercy of God, trusting in His righteousness and grace. When we confess, we admit we have sinned. When we repent, we admit our sin and turn from it. Proverbs 28:13 says, "Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy."

It is good to admit our mistakes. It is better to confess our specific sins. It is best to confess and forsake them. That's when we find mercy. As Spurgeon said, "When we discover the evil of sin, mourn over having committed it, resolve to forsake it, and surrender all we know to God," we find ourselves living in the freedom of a repentant life. So for the glory of God and the freedom we desire, let's take our eyes off the politicians, face the man in the mirror and ask, "Have I truly repented of my sin?"

(Please know that these are my personal views and not necessarily those of Calvary Baptist Church.)


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Don't Be An Ignorant Voter


Don't be a duh!  There are thirteen candidates for President on the ballot in Louisiana. There are twenty-four for the office of Senator and nine for the 4th Congressional District. Unless you get informed you won't have a clue who you're voting for. You can't even vote straight party because there are so many from each party. By the way, there are also six amendments.

Don't be an ignorant voter. Get informed. Here's how.

Go to the Louisiana Secretary Of State Voter Portal, click on the Search By Voter button, enter your name and Zip code, and you will be able to download a sample ballot. Then use the internet and get informed.

I know, this is a crazy year and we don't trust government, but that's no excuse not to vote. Don't be a duh! Get informed.

Monday, October 3, 2016

A Word Spoken In Due Season


A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it! (Proverbs 15:12)

Sometimes people come up after preachers have preached and say something like this, "That was exactly what I needed to hear." That kind of comment can be a real ego booster. While we need encouragement, we don't really need any boosting of ego. So maybe that's why preachers occasionally hear something like, "Well, preacher, at least we don't have to worry about getting a seat at the restaurant." Ok, back to "that's exactly what I needed to hear."

When humility is exercised by the preacher, when he has planted his confidence in the help of the Holy Spirit and the power of the God's Holy Word, and when he hears that what he has preached has been used by God to make an eternal change in another human being's life, he has reason to rejoice. A preacher can preach, but only God can guide His word in such a way that another can say, "how good is it!" How good it is to be used by God!

Last week my wife and I attended a national renewal conference Denver, Colorado. We had been blessed to spend a few days prior in a cabin owned by my aunt and uncle in Creede, Colorado. After unwinding in the majestic Rocky Mountains, seeing the Aspen in full Fall color, and enjoying the quietness of the place, I was tempted to stay in Creede. I am so glad we didn't.

I have enjoyed many conferences, but seldom has one been so personal. Seldom has God spoken to me through so many with such clarity and with such accuracy. So, to all the preachers who preached to me last week, I believe you have given God glory and I hope you found great joy in the preaching. It was a word in due season for me and my wife. How good is that?

(For a short time, you can see these sermons online at: http://livestream.com/64streaming/national/. These are the sermons from the 2016 National Renewal Conference at Harvest Bible Chapel, Denver, Co.  The preachers, in order, were H. B. Charles, Jr., Jeff Schwarzentraub, John S. Dickerson, Al Toledo, Don Whitney, Robbie Symons, and Paul David Tripp.)