Armed Forces Reflections

ad_2009_armed_forces_small_blogAll I can say about last Sunday’s Armed Forces Appreciation Sunday is WOW!  It was more than I can find words to express.  Instead of rambling, maybe I will just list some “WOW’s” that stand out to me:

1.  The video of Ronald Reagan’s Veteran’s Day speech…WOW!  I was caught off guard by that.  I had not seen it though I knew we were doing a video.  The line that has gone through my brain dozens of time since then is when he said that a soldier that dies gives two lives, “the one he was living, and the one he would have lived.”  Those are stunning words of sacrifice.  Dr. Brooks leaned over to me after the video and said, “How can I beat that?”

2.  The looks on people’s faces during different events of the service…WOW.  I have never served in the military so the depth and content of my thoughts during a service like we had are much different.  I saw deep concentration on faces and people whose memories were going way back.  I saw faces with obvious pride in serving, and tears of memories and emotions so deep they could not be explained in words.

3.  All the music…WOW!  The Armed Forces Medley of songs is always a WOW!  To see men and woman stand enthusiastically when their song is sung is awesome.  Finishing with singing the National Anthem is the epitome of patriotic spirit.  The song before the message was stirring and emotional, “A Patriot’s Honor.”  Inspiring is a word not enough to describe it all.

4.  Dr. Ron Brooks, his preaching, his presence, his service for our country, his genuineness…its all a WOW!  Seeing a Vietnam Veteran in uniform preaching about “Heroes” and Christ’s sacrifice for us is a privilege most countries of the world cannot experience like we Americans can.  I am thankful that Dr. Brooks came to our church and for his friendship.

5.  Talking to Veteran’s after the service…WOW!  I talked with some WWII veterans in their mid and upper 80’s.  As a preacher I am able to open God’s Word freely every Sunday and throughout the week without fear.  It is sobering to think that God used these veterans to help keep our country free so God’s Word can can be unhindered.

Monday Morning Wrap-Up

Just As I Am, Without One Plea…

ad_2009_blog_revivalI can hear my pastor’s voice as clear now as I heard it many years ago quoting the first stanza of “Just As I Am” at the end of a service.  He would inevitably add before the piano began to play, “Won’t you come, now? You come.”

Oh, so many times God was working on my heart those years growing up in Canton, Ohio, and God stirred my soul during those invitations.  I remember the nervousness of deciding if I should move.  I remember edging through a row of people to make my way down that long aisle to kneel at the front and let God have His way with me.  That altar holds some sacred memories for me that are forever attached to my heart.

I realize that an invitation is a methodology to call for a decision.  I also believe it is a good way, while the Spirit is working, to help the seed of the Word to find a more secure lodging in the heart.  Transparency, obedience, humility, urgency, choice, encouragement, and the accountability of fellow believers in the local church are all part of an invitation time.

If you missed the message last Sunday night, you can listen here or watch here. “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven” (Mt.10:32).

After The Resurrection

ad_2009_blog_monday_wrapupAs I write this entry, it is the afternoon following a great Easter Sunday at Bethel.  There was such a good spirit in both services.  Reflecting on yesterday, my mind has been thrown back to the days and weeks immediately following the Lord’s resurrection.  There must have been some real highs and lows during that time.  The rush of exhilaration when the angel said, “He is not here, for He is risen,” and then the doubts of wondering if it were really so.  The uncertainties of whether the news was reliable and then hearing Him say, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands…be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:27). Then there is that scene when the disciples were gathered in a room together with the door shut “for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19).  So many questions, so much fear, and so much overwhelming proof that He was alive.

We are not much different.  His Word is filled with so many “exceeding great and precious promises,” yet we wonder privately if God could use our lives like our heroes in the Bible.  I am so thankful to have the hope found in the resurrection.  The hope that He is alive and is the same “yesterday, today, and forever.”  The hope that He will never leave me nor forsake me.  I want to encourage you to let last Sunday linger long in your mind.  It was so encouraging yesterday to see so many guests here–guests that folks in our church invited to come.  What a privilege to present the Gospel to people in need.  What a blessing to “Consider His Victory” and to think of all the riches we have been given in Christ.  As we look forward to our revival meetings coming up soon, and in light of Easter Sunday, let’s hold on to Paul’s words and make them our own, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection” (Phil. 3:10a).

Watch or listen to this week’s sermon.

I’m Proud…Period.

I’m proud.  Period.  End of discussion.  No argument.  I am giving just a little Monday wrap-up to last Sunday at church and specifically the morning message.  Most preachers would say that they are the ones that benefit most from the message because they have been studying and thinking all week long about the passage.  Paul even tells Timothy that the farmer who labors needs to be the “first partaker of the fruits” (2 Timothy 2:6).

I don’t know about you, but I feel that I have tasted of some pretty sobering “fruit” these past couple of weeks in 1 Corinthians 5 and 6.  When I sit each week at my little desk in the corner of my bedroom with a cup of coffee nearby, Bible flipped open, I investigate the passage from all sides and work to find out what God is saying in those verses.  So I am being totally honest in saying that when I come to a passage on incest and lawsuits I am really working hard to figure out how to make appropriate applications (even knowing there will be children sitting in the pews).

But as I continued to study I began to realize quickly that Paul is really going deeper into the inner recesses of the heart to find something more sinister and grotesque lurking: pride.  The issues in Corinth were the manifestations of an even greater problem under the surface.  I feel heavy and sobered preaching these messages, not primarily thinking about your pride, but mine!  To know that my heart right now can generate the most degenerate thoughts is scary and fills me with horror.  Is this what Paul was thinking when he said in Romans 7:24, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

Let us be sensitive to pride.  It is so subtle.  It dresses up and sprays on great cologne and perfume.  It can look great and be respectable.  It is so bad.  It put Jesus on the Cross.  It can go to church and sing “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and give in the offering.  One thing pride cannot tolerate is humility.  Let us dress ourselves in humility of mind, heart and action this week (1 Peter 5:5) that we would not be blinded by our arrogance and pride.

Watch or listen to this week’s sermon.