The Church is Essential

In every generation since Jesus walked on earth, there has been a spiritual battle surrounding the church of Jesus Christ. satan hates the work of the church because it is a work that directly opposes his purposes. satan wants nothing more than to seduce as many people into thinking they can live life as they please and apart from Jesus Christ and yet spend eternity in the presence of God. satan desire for people to be convinced that sin is not that bad, hell is not real and there is no real judgment day coming.

The work of the church is simply the continuation of the work of Christ while He was here on earth. Mark 1:38 says,  “And he [Jesus] said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth.”

After Jesus arose and before He returned to Heaven, He instructed believers to preach the Gospel everywhere. Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

Contrary to what some in high offices are saying, the church, the preaching of the Gospel and the salvation of souls is essential work. Whether that happens in a safe drive-in service, over livestream, via video, via text, letters, phone calls, Zoom or FaceTime, the church (believers) must preach the Gospel in our day. Why? Jesus told us in Mark 8:36 “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” What good is your achievements (status, health, financial) in this life if you spend your eternity apart from Christ in hell.

In the book of Acts, the church began to get comfortable. Rather than taking the Gospel into all the world, they stayed in Jerusalem. They were not motivated. The were had become stagnant. God allowed persecution to scatter them and the Bible tell us in Acts 8:4 “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.

This is not a time for the church to wring its hands, to be silent or to draw back in fear. While we must honor those who are in authority over us, we must continue the work of Christ—preaching the Gospel. We must be faithful to deliver the Good News in every way available.

satan thinks he has slowed the spread of the Gospel through COVID-19. Jesus has promised that in every season that the church of Christ will continue to be built by Christ and upon the deity of Christ in face of opposition and persecution. Matthew 16:18  “And I [Jesus] say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

There is no doubt in my mind that more opposition to the work of Christ will come in our day. 2 Timothy 3:12 assures us, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” However, because we are on the side of Christ, nothing will prevail against the church of Christ…we have His promise. satan thought he had won the victory over Christ at Calvary, yet on Sunday morning our Savior stepped out of the tomb in divine demonstration of His overwhelming power over sin, death, hell and satan.

May the church of the living God take courage. Our Savior is risen and we partner with Him in His essential work in the world today.

Easter Journey

As we approach this Easter, it is my desire to take a special online journey with you through the passion week of Christ beginning with the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. That will be the subject of my Palm Sunday message. You can join us for that message at watchGBC.com at 10:30am (EST). Monday through Friday, I will post a video right here on my blog, at watchGBC.com and at our Facebook page. These videos will track the events of the passion week and give a brief devotional thought. I hope this journey will encourage you and motivate your love for Jesus Christ.

Growing in 2020

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Those who garden know that growth requires a plan along with consistent care and effort. Spiritual growth is no different. As you prepare for 2020, may I encourage you to  plan for spiritual growth. Remember, growth will not come easy. However, with some care and effort, it will come! Let me suggest some resources that you might find helpful for your spiritual growth in the New Year.

Digital Bible Reading Plan on the YouVersion App

  1. One Year Bible Group Plan
  2. My Utmost for His Highest 30 Day Group Plan

Daily Reading Bibles & Study Bibles

  1. One Year Bible
  2. Life Application Study Bible
  3. Thompson Chain Study Bible
  4. Ryrie Study Bible
  5. Kids Study Bible

Daily Devotionals

  1. Trust and Obey
  2. Rooted in Christ
  3. A Daily Word
  4. A Word to the Wise
  5. Disciple
  6. Revival Today
  7. Journey
  8. Daily in the Word in your Email Inbox
  9. My Utmost for His Highest—Oswald Chambers
  10. Morning and Evening—C.H. Spurgeon

Prayer App

Echo Prayer App

Something Came Up…

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We have all gotten that message before. It happens sometimes in the moments before a plan to get together. “I am so, so sorry, but something came up. I will not be able to meet you.” My wife and I recently had one of those as we were picking up a purchase from Facebook Marketplace. We were at the meeting place at the time agreed, but five, then ten minutes had passed, and we got the message. “I’m sorry I can’t meet you. Something came up.” 

Whether it is a meeting like that, a dinner engagement or appointment to work on a project, this message brings up a variety of questions in our minds. Is everything alright? Was there an emergency? How can I help? What could have “come up” that was more important than what we had planned? Could what came up have been dealt with later? 

You are not the only one that gets that message. Did you know that God gets that message from His children all the time? In fact, He gets it weekly. “I am so, so sorry, but something came up, God. I will not be able to make it to church today.” I wonder what questions come up in God’s mind when He gets that message from us? Is everything alright? Was there an emergency? How can I help? What could have “come up” that was more important than what we had planned? Could what came up have been dealt with later? 

Hebrews 10:23–25 “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

Here in this verse, God commanded us to assemble together. However, He wants us to assemble out of love, not duty. Yet the growing trend among His children today is that assembling with their church once a week or even once a month is good enough. Many of God’s children have become all too comfortable messaging God, “I am so, so sorry God, but something came up.” Certainly there are emergencies, health issues and “ox in the ditch” scenarios, but many things could be, and ought be, put aside so that we, as children of God, can assemble together. 

Before you press send on that message to God this Sunday, Wednesday or other time when your church family is assembling together, ask yourself, “What is more important than obeying God?“ He told me to assemble with my fellow believers. He told me to do so all the more as we get closer to Christ’s return. If I choose to do something else when I my church family is assembling, can I expect the blessing of God on what I am doing? Am I pleasing my Heavenly Father by not assembling with my church family?

Galatians 6:7 “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

Let’s sow obedience and reap a blessing. Let’s be committed to assemble with our church family every time the doors are open.

Why? Why? Why?

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In the days following a weekend of horrible acts of murder in El Paso, Texas and my own city of Dayton, Ohio, the common question everywhere is “Why?” “What is the motive?” “Why did the two murderers do what they did?” “What are the specifics?”

While most of the specifics will eventually come out in the investigations as the fantastic men and women in our law enforcement communities wade through the evidence, likely there will be some questions that still remain. Questions like: “How could they let themselves do this?” “Why would someone kill his own sister?”

To get some answers, consider the very first murder that was ever recorded for us in human history. We find the story in Genesis chapter four. Remember, this is before there were fatherless homes, a culture of glorifying violence in video games and movies, guns or weapons of any kind. Before this murderous act, a murder had never been witnessed. We find two brothers named Cain and Abel. Abel had a heart to obey God and worship Him by obeying God’s instructions. Cain went through the motions of worshipping God but did not listen to God’s instructions.  Cain’s actions revealed a heart that had rejected the authority of God in his life. His actions were rebellious toward God because his heart was rebellions toward God.

Cain did not appreciate God’s blessing on Abel’s obedience, and so in jealousy, he murdered his brother. Genesis 4:8 tells us, “And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.”

Remember, Cain had never seen a murder before. Where did that idea come from? In order to understand, we must go back one chapter to read about how sin entered into the world. Adam and Eve were created by God and placed into the Garden of Eden. They lived in a world that we have never experienced, a completely perfect world. They enjoyed daily interaction and conversation with God, their Creator. God had created them for relationship. He did not force a relationship but gave them a free will to choose to fellowship with Him. God gave ONE instruction to them that they needed to obey. In Genesis 3, Eve and Adam chose to disobey, and by that single act of disobedience, sin entered into the world. Romans 5:12 comments on this, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” This meant that the relationship between the holy God and man would now be severed and separated.

There would be many consequences of this separation from God. Sin of every kind imaginable would now be thought of in the human heart and carried out in actions. Sin of any kind always has its root in the heart. Jesus talked about this in Mark 7:21–23,  “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness [unrestrained sinful behavior], an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” 

That is quite a list that Jesus gives us, and it is so true. So as we look at the murders that have taken place in these two cities and ask why, let us remember that it is the sinfulness of man’s heart that makes him capable of doing such wicked things. As long as man lives in rebellion against his Creator, sins like this and more will continue to be committed.

There is HOPE! Jesus Christ came into the world to reconcile us (mankind) to our Creator. John 3:16–17 tells us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” Every man and woman alive needs to be saved from their sin and the consequences of it. The only hope of changing our actions is dealing with the problem of the heart. It is sinful and needs to be reconciled to God. Have you been reconciled to God? Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? You can today!

Yes! I want to know more!—Salvation Explained

 

Related message preached on Sunday, August 11, 2019

Guest Post: Five Big No No’s in Communication

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This post was written by Pastor Harley Snode and posted at his website. I appreciate him agreeing to allow me to guest post this thought provoking article. 


Would you agree that our communication skills are slipping at an alarming rate toward the grammatical gutter?  The trends of the “Communication Age” are not just concerning on an academic or social level but also on a moral and spiritual level.  I recently read, “Your thumbs are your new tongue. Guard them carefully. When they are used a lot, trouble is sure to follow.” 

Jesus, our Savior and Lord who still makes the verbal rules, admonishes us, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (Jn. 6:63)

May I provide you with five never-valid modes of profitless communication with your thumbs, lips, or even non-verbal communication:

Exaggeration-a statement that represents something as better or worse than it really is.

Pathology: Frequently employs one hundred percent statements (“always, never”); Distorts the positive/negative attributes without including the offsetting characteristics or clarifying context of other data points; Driven with one-upmanship toward peers at home, work, church, etc.; Comparison is king

Consequences: Loss of credibility; Doing ministry and spiritual activity for the wrong motivations; Breaking with reality; Deceived into doing the opposite with personal sin-diminishing/excusing it away; Not allowing Christ alone to be the source of identity, acceptance, success (Do you know that it is impossible to exaggerate when speaking exclusively of Christ?!?!)

This exploding expression in our post-modern culture has led to a proclivity to propagate and accept “fake news” that fits our predisposed bias.  (We not only widely accept grammatical errors in our texting; we also tolerate and embrace fudged figures and skewed facts more readily than ever before.)

Pessimism-a tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen; a lack of hope or confidence in the future.

Pathology: Savors and shares any juicy story that reveals the underbelly of a celebrity, politician, or organization; Remains aloof and “analytical” where one should be engaged and participatory; Deflects from own weaknesses by redirecting the spotlight to the shortcomings of others; Trolling for “gotcha” content online

Consequences: Constantly living in a reactionary mode; Consumed with fear; Constantly possessing a critical, cynical spirit; Inability to share meaningful, intimate connection with other people; Lost opportunities to edify others; A dim, despondent view of the future that leaves God out of the equation

This verbal trend leads to our default, valid position always being negative instead of the peace-giving bias toward a “good report” (Ph. 4:6-8).

Sarcasm-the use of irony to mock or convey contempt.

Pathology: Using so-called humor to communicate caustic truth; Indifference to the backstory of other’s mistakes/failures; Jumping to conclusions or assumptions in a reckless manner; A pervasive focus upon making others feel stupid; Thriving on “awkward”

Consequences: Inability to hold a serious conversation or consider serious subject matter; Squandering verbal ability with meaningless banter; Immaturity in tone and pace of conversation; Digressing into a person with zero influence (Reasonable people ultimately tune this tone out.)

The bottom line is, as my high school English teacher Mrs. Donough repeatedly put it, “Sarcasm is not an effective means of communication.” (This is especially true for those of us who possess a God-given “pulpit” of public influence.)

Passive Aggression-indirect resistance to the demands of others and an avoidance of direct confrontation, as in procrastinating, pouting, or misplacing important materials.

(Before we go on, I must clarify that I have NOBODY as the mental profile picture beside each or all of these on the list.  Therefore this is not a passive-aggressive post toward someone indirectly.)

Pathology: Speaks to everybody except the person with whom there is a problem; Posts vague references of criticism on online hoping for third-party sympathy and goaded retaliation from the person being indirectly attacked; Studies to be adept at “pushing the buttons” that evoke strong, negative emotions in others

Consequences: Squandering excessive amounts of time hoping to garner sympathy or drama that rarely materializes; Never addressing/resolving conflicts; A growing inability to have direct dialogue with other people; Shrinking numbers of people to whom you can still approach in real time and space and have sweet fellowship; Can only focus on the loud chinks in the armor of others

This is a blight upon the local church today…especially through the enabling of social media where everyone has a voice-a voice to attack issues and people for which they have no responsibility or influence.  (If you cannot be a part of the solution, you have no business speaking on the problem!)

Stream of Consciousness-a literary style in which a character’s thoughts, feelings, and reactions are depicted in a continuous flow uninterrupted by objective description or conventional dialogue.

Obviously social media has unleashed this verbal tendency into a constant temptation with instantaneous access to the world.  (This trend is especially embodied by many of our leaders today in politics, entertainment, sports, etc.)

Pathology: Unfiltered emotions spewing out; Immediate, reactionary thoughts online or in person (“thinking out loud”); Discussing in public forums what should be reserved for private reflection; Unwillingness to be still and quiet; Way to much volume (in amount and decibel levels) of talk,talk, talk

Consequences: Regret about words that can never be taken back; Unnecessary/unproductive drama with complete strangers or expired relationships from the past; Expression of underdeveloped, immature content that discourages or misleads others; Flippant interaction/sharing with crude or inappropriate content

The most sobering reality of “just speaking my mind” is that it eliminates any sacred space for the Word of Christ to dwell in us richly or the Spirit of God to saturate our soul-all that is left is carnal consciousness!

You can like or dislike this post, agree or disagree but…listen to what Jesus has to say:

Mt 12:32-33 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

And we honestly think they’re “only words” and “don’t matter?”  Nothing God-honoring was or ever will be built with exaggeration, pessimism, sarcasm, passive-aggression, or stream of consciousness!  Ever!  (They will always be faulty building materials no matter how normalized they become.)  I give you permission to confront me if you hear a single syllable online or in person where my communication wanders into one of these five no nos.  Will you grant that same permission to the Lord, your spouse, your pastor, your mentor, even your children/grandchildren?  It is time to elevate our God-given ability from the world’s pig pen of meaningless chatter to the propagation of the grace and truth that is found only in Jesus Christ!

What other verbal tendencies do you observe that we need to nix in our progressive sanctification?