Two men, who had incredible religious status in Jerusalem, chose to step out and identify with Jesus. After Jesus died, one of them requested of Pilot the body of Jesus so that He might honor Him with a proper burial. Pilot agreed to the request and these men respectfully brought Jesus to the grave. Their act of love would cost them their standing among their peers and leaves us a wonderful reminder of our need to identify with Jesus at home, at work and in our community.
Join us for our final part of the journey on Easter Sunday at 10:30am at watchGBC.com.
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.
Sheila and I have arrived back from an extraordinary trip to India. Our hearts are full with all that God did and taught us during our short time there. We are so thankful for the opportunity we had to travel with WorldView Ministries and to have a part in the Pastor’s Conference on the campus of South India Baptist Bible College. This Bible College is the home of the WorldView Institute of India where men and women are trained to translate the Bible. Here are a few thoughts and pictures I would like to share from the trip.
Prayer is an essential part of all effective ministry.
We are so thankful for the prayer support from our church family and others! They were felt and are deeply appreciated. It was evident that God gave His strength and power to minister. Many of the Indian pastors and Christian leaders are serving the Lord in incredibly difficult circumstances. Nearly every one of them that we talked with had a story of being persecuted or facing persecution. They spoke of the sacrifices they and their families were making to preach the Gospel. For me, the thought of preaching God’s Word to them, as an American who has never faced persecution, was overwhelming. I remarked to one of the other American pastors on the first morning of the conference, “I have never had such a sense of inadequacy.” Our team’s prayer was that the Spirit of God working in and through us would ignite the working of the Spirit of God in and through them. We believe God answered that prayer. For those that prayed for us, thank you for supporting us in prayer. Your prayers were essential!
God is actively working to advance His kingdom in ways and places unknown to us.
Before this trip, I had no real knowledge of what God was doing in India. India is predominantly Hindu and Muslim. Those two religions make up 97% out of 1.3 billion people. All the rest of the religions, including Christianity, make up just 3% of the population. This makes India a very spiritually dark land. You can see it in the eyes of the people. It is truly amazing to me how in the midst of such darkness, the light of the Gospel is shining. Being on the campus of the South India Baptist Bible College and in the Pastor’s Conference was like a spiritual oasis. The difference was as stark as midnight and noonday. Every believer I spoke with described their present efforts to take the Gospel to their people. It did not matter if they were young or old, they were passionate about taking the light of the Gospel into the darkness. I spoke with a ten-year-old young man whose desire was to be a pastor. I spoke with three young men who were working together to preach the gospel in every village. Many gave testimony of where they were preaching the Gospel, pastoring people and training others to do the same. In reality, it is hard for me to put it into words. God is not dead. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not jeopardized by the threats of rulers and religions. The church of Jesus Christ is being built by Jesus and the gates of hell are not prevailing against it.
The spiritual sacrifice of one generation provides stepping stones for the next generation.
This is the lesson that seems to be dominating all the other lessons that God taught me and I am trying to absorb. An oasis is a fertile spot in a desert, where water is found. In 1983, Dr. P. D. Cherian and his wife, Thankamma, founded the South India Baptist Bible College. The piece of land they purchased was undesirable, dry and infested with snakes. Before going, a pastor friend of mine, who teaches often at the college, told me that it would be like going to the Garden of Eden. I found this to be true. The campus is an oasis both physically and spiritually. As I heard the stories of faith and God’s provision, I was struck by this thought. What I am seeing and enjoying, along with the students and pastors, is the product of great spiritual sacrifice. This sacrifice provides wonderful stepping stones to take the Gospel further into the darkness. This is a reality in every generation. The spiritual sacrifices I make today for Jesus and the Gospel enable my children and others to go further tomorrow. This reminds me of the truth found in Galatians 6:9, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
This trip was worth all the expense and effort! God taught me more than I feel I can absorb. Sheila and I are prayerfully reflecting on this incredible opportunity knowing God is using this experience shape and grow us for the work He has called us to do.
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.
￼“For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.”
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.