Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Sneak-Peek at Tomorrow's Lesson

Ever known professing believers who were always negative?  Who never had a good word to say about anyone or anything?  Ever wondered, "What causes that?"  Ever been forced to ask yourself, "Am I that way?"

Tomorrow morning in our continuing series in The Gospel According to Mark, we will discover at least one of the main reasons for this spiritual malady.  It's called P-R-I-D-E.  And the Pharisees were steeped in it.

I am really enjoying this new series in Mark.  Each lesson has brought me face to face with the Lord Jesus and face to face with myself.  Tomorrow's lesson will reveal that if we are full-time, professional critics, we should resign and find a new line of work. 

By the way, I am blessed that the wonderful congregation I serve does not need this sermon as a corrective Word.  But we can all receive it as a Word of caution.  If you are in the area, drop in to visit us at either 9am or 10:30am.  We've got a great SS class just for you and your family at either 9:15am or 10:30am.  The music is going to be great and the fellowship of the folks at Emmanuel is always sweet.

Tomorrow morning Christ will overturn the apple cart of religion and show us that the only cure for our spiritual malady is His cross.  I hope you can make it!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pure Joy Really is...Pure Joy

When LifeWay Christian Resources was looking for a musical group to sing at the 2011 National Conference for Ministry Assistants at First Baptist Sevierville, TN, they didn't have to look any further than Emmanuel Baptist in Blackshear, GA.  So at their request, the ladies of Pure Joy pulled out this afternoon headed for the volunteer state.

Brother Rhon Carter has done a tremendous job preparing this musical group.  They have sung at a lot of different events and conferences over the years since we formed the group over a decade ago.  But this week will be their first opportunity to be on a truly national stage.  And it's well-deserved.

They sound great.  But that's not what makes them a pure joy to this pastor's heart.  You see, I know these girls.  They are all dear and devoted women of God.  They love their Savior, their church, their families, and their pastor.  And Andrea and I sure do love them.

Please join me in praying for Jamie Daniels, Samantha Hall, Michelle Kirkland, Brie Long, Sherri Robson, and Donna Wallace as they travel and lead this event.  By my count, they've left 11 kids at home between them...so pray for their husbands too!

Seriously, I am thankful for their husbands and parents who will be shuffling responsibilities with home, jobs, and kids for the next few days.  Your sacrifice has helped make this trip possible.  I pray our Lord will bless you for your efforts.

If you are anywhere near the 2011 National Conference for Ministry Assistants then you are in for a real treat and a great delight.  In fact, by this pastor's estimation, you are in for some pure joy.

http://www.nasbs.net/2011%20National%20Conference

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dr. Jesus, HD

Tonight our sermon series through Mark continued with a message on “Dr. Jesus, HD.” At the conclusion of the message from Mark 2:13-17, I posed a series of questions. They are listed here for your consideration.

1. How do I view people that are lost without Christ? Am I burdened or am I boastful?

When I encounter people who are not followers of Christ, do I look down on them with a “holier-than-thou” attitude? Or is my heart grieved by their lost condition? In other words, which bothers me more: the idea that they are not meeting my standard or that they are in danger of dying under the just condemnation of God against their sin?

The example I used in the service tonight was this. Imagine I am at a restaurant and the person in the next booth has a foul mouth. Do I look down my religious nose, criticize them for “taking my Lord’s name in vain” and walk away? Or do I acknowledge, “There but by the grace of God go I?” Does their ungodly lifestyle lead me to criticize them or pray for them and seek to befriend them?

2. How much time do I spend around lost people for the purpose of showing the love of Christ?

Too often I am not only insulated but isolated. Christ spent time with sinners. It was not for the purpose of becoming like them. He spent time so they could become like Him. In our context, we don’t need people to become like us. We all need to become like Christ.

3. Do I have a critical spirit? In other words, do I enjoy correcting and chastening other people?

Some believers seem as if they were baptized in pickle juice. They’ve been weaned on persimmons and appear to be sucking on lemons. They’ve never seen a glass that was not half empty. And they spill their critical spirit on others at every turn.

Granted, there is a time to correct, for sure. And there certainly is a time to chasten. But it should be the least enjoyable part of our Christian walk. I realize that some spiritual gifts (teaching, for example) cause some of us to recognize doctrinal error more easily than others. And we do find a sense of fulfillment in bringing a word of correction through God’s Word. But that’s not really what I am referencing.

I’m talking about the spirit in which it is done. If you actually enjoy rebuking people, something is desperately wrong with your heart. Don’t attribute it to having the spirit of a prophet or being some spiritual watchdog. If you enjoy putting folks in their place, it’s probably because you are just plain mean.

We have some dear friends who once met a sister in Christ who seemed to enjoy putting others “in their place.” Her actual name was Rebecca. People who knew her best gave her the nickname, “Rebukah” because she loved rebuking people.

By the way, a good diagnostic question to ask is this, “When is the last time I found something commendable in my spouse…my kids…my pastor…and my church?”

It is always easy to find something commendable in someone else’s spouse. I don’t have to live with them.

It is always easy to find something commendable in someone else’s kids. They didn’t break your 5th generation family heirloom china.

It is always easy to find something commendable in someone else’s pastor. I don’t know him like I think I do. If I did, I’d see he has feet of clay too.

It is always easy to find something commendable in someone else’s church. I need to remember that everybody in that other town doesn’t go to that other church. There’s a reason for that. It’s not the perfect church that I think it is.

So if the only people I can commend are people that, in reality, I don’t actually know then it may be a sign I have a critical and sour spirit.

4. Do I consider myself to be a doctor or a patient when it comes to spiritual matters?

If I am never a doctor, I can never help others. God certainly wants us to grow up and mature to the point we can help others. That’s a fact. But how often do I see myself in need of a touch from the Great Physician? If I am always the one doing the correcting but I am never able to be corrected, something is woefully wrong.

John MacArthur comments this way on our text, “So our Lord's gospel ministry as any gospel ministry since is concentrated on those who know they are sinners, admit they are sinners, desire forgiveness and turn to Christ, the only source of forgiveness, the only one who has the right to forgive. Well in apostate Judaism in the first century where you earned your salvation, this kind of grace, this friendship with sinners was an outrage and threatened, really, to bring their whole system down, it was so opposed to it. So they hated Jesus and they're already early in His ministry formulating a way to get rid of Him before He brings the collapse of their system down on their heads.”

And thus, the saddest part of this story in Mark 2 is that the Pharisees thought they were so spiritually healthy they did not need a Physician. And their self-inflicted misdiagnosis prevented Jesus from helping them. They were, in fact, dead men walking. And the Resurrection and the Life stood in their midst and they did not recognize Him. Their strict adherence to their religious system did not help them. It actually hindered from seeing who Christ was. In the end, their flawed perception of their spiritual health sent them to hell.

I pray God will help me maintain a regular appointment with Dr. Jesus, Heart Doctor. And may I be more faithful in telling others about the One who alone can transform their hearts.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Well Done, Ladies

In the next few weeks it is our joy to celebrate together with three outstanding members of our leadership team. Each of these ladies is making a transition in her life and ministry. I pray you will join me in expressing your gratitude to the Lord and to them for their service at Emmanuel.

Mrs. Kay Allen is stepping down as the principal of Southeast Christian Academy in order to spend a little more time enjoying retirement. When EBC first launched SCA, we immediately saw the hand of heaven through the procurement of Mrs. Allen. A veteran educator and curriculum expert, she has been used mightily by God in the birthing of SCA.

Recently, SCA applied for accreditation through a major, DOE-approved agency. By the end of the first day, our accreditation advisor gave rave reviews about the work being done at SCA. This man is a retired teacher, coach, principal, and superintendent from the public schools. In other words, he knows his stuff! While we are still awaiting official action, he has already recommended to his board that SCA be “accredited with quality.” That is the highest level of official accreditation that a school can receive. He was so blessed by his observations that he has even recommended that the accreditation be made retroactive.

That news is shared in this context because it is a testament to the work performed by Mrs. Allen and her faculty. The SCA board, faculty, parents, and church members have long witnessed numerous examples of her competence and commitment. Now we are on the verge of having an official state-sanctioned affirmation of the incredible job she has performed. We know that God is the One who has been shaping and molding these young hearts and minds. But we’ve been blessed that He has chosen Mrs. Kay Allen as one of His instruments. Congratulations Mrs. Kay! And we pray God’s richest blessings on this next season in your life.

Mrs. Christi Jones has ably served as our nursery director since December of 2003. She and her late husband Kelly were actually two of the first people we met in Sunday School when we came to EBC in the Fall of 1996. On May 15th, Christi is scheduled to become the bride of Mr. Brian Cowart. They will be making their new home in the Stilson area, southeast of Statesboro.

All 3 of our children have been a recipient of Christi’s service overseeing our ministry to birth-2 year olds and their families. We will miss Christi around Blackshear, around EBC, and around our family. We pray the Lord’s favor on your marriage and your transition to a new town. Your church family will miss you and your children.

Mrs. Brandy Ricketson joined our support staff in January of 2008. She brought her skills in accounting and bookkeeping to our finance office. Although her ministry has been “behind the scenes” for most members, her service has touched the lives of every member of this congregation. With the birth of their 3rd child, she and Rick sense the call of God for her to become a full-time, stay-at-home mom and we rejoice in that decision. Rick, Brandy, Tatum, Sam, and Layne are a vibrant part of our ministry here at EBC. We will still see them around the church but we’ll sure miss her around the office. Thanks Brandy for a job well-done!

During the next few weeks, please take an opportunity to share your thanks with these dear ladies. They have been an integral part of what the Lord has done at EBC in recent years. As I consider their contribution here I am reminded of Paul’s words to the Philippians, “I thank my God on every remembrance of you.”

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

From John MacArthur

This past Sunday evening I dealt with the Biblical reality that God desires to forgive sinners.  He takes no pleasure in the death of the unregenerate.  His desire is to forgive.

I took as one Biblical support for this truth the writing of the prophet in Ezekiel 33:11a – “Say unto them, as I live saith the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked but that the wicked turn from his way and live.’”

An exact quote from my pulpit notes is, "We have no right to develop a theological construct in which God is seen as delighting in, pleasuring in, glorying in the death of the unregenerate."

99% of my congregation was looking at me like a calf at a new gate, joyfully unaware that there are people who actually believe God delights in sending sinners to eternal destruction.

This morning in studying for this Sunday's sermon in Mark 2, I came across a sermon from John MacArthur.  I had actually forgotten that his sermon manuscripts are available at http://www.gty.org/.  It's a great resource for pastors, teachers, and Bible students.  I don't agree with everything John MacArthur has ever said...but then...I don't agree with everything I've ever said either :)

From the introduction to his sermon on Mark 2:1-12, Brother John writes,

But what is man's greatest need? The greatest need of man simply put is to escape the wrath of God poured out on sinners eternally in hell. The greatest need of man is to escape the wrath of God poured out eternally on sinners in hell. Only Christianity, only the Christian gospel offers the benefit that meets that need. Only through the Christian gospel can anyone escape the wrath of God poured out on sinners eternally in hell.

What sends people to hell? You say sin. No. It's not sin alone that sends people to hell. It is unforgiven sin...it is unforgiven sin that sends people to hell. Hell is only occupied by people whose sins have never been and will never be forgiven. Heaven, on the other hand, is occupied by people whose sins have all been forgiven, therefore what causes people to escape the wrath of God in eternal hell is the forgiveness of their sins. That is man's greatest need, to move him from hell to heaven. Christianity alone offers that very benefit, the forgiveness of sins. The greatest need of every soul is divine forgiveness of all sin and the greatest benefit of Christianity then is the provision of that complete forgiveness.

God uniquely presents Himself in Scripture as a God who is willing to forgive, who is eager to forgive, who is by nature compassionate, kind, loving, merciful and seeks to save sinners from His own wrath. This is the message of the Christian gospel. [If] You have been assuming that the Christian church, or the Christian gospel, or the Christian religion has any other message than that, you've been wrong. That is the message. (emphasis mine)

In Acts chapter 13 and verse 38 we read, “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you and it is granted to all those who believe.” When you believe the gospel, you receive forgiveness of sins.

In Ephesians chapter 1, that familiar statement in verse 7, “In Him,” that is in Christ, “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.” That is the message of Christianity, God will forgive your sins. It is God's desire to forgive your sins. Forgiveness is consistent with His nature. (emphasis mine)

Not just in the New Testament, but in the Old as well. Back in Exodus 34 verses 6 and 7, God introduces Himself...this is God speaking about Himself and He says, “The Lord, the Lord God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness and truth, who keeps loving kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin.” That is God introducing Himself.

What a great word.  Jesus is not only Lord of the Leper but the Savior of the Sinner.  Amen, amen, and amen.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Our Study in Mark Continues...

I am really enjoying our study of the gospel of Mark.  We are only into the second week.  In fact, tomorrow I am prepared to deliver the 3rd and 4th sermons from this dynamic book.

Tomorrow's messages will bring us face-to-face with a couple of interesting questions.  They will be hinted at in the morning message but addressed more directly in the evening sermon, "Lord of the Leper."

My sermon title for the 6pm message is borrowed from a commentary on this text by Dr. Jerry Vines.  I do not often use other preachers' sermon titles but this one sounded so clear and succint I though I'd make an exception.  And if you're going to make an exception, why not for Jerry Vines :)

Now for the questions we will confront:

First, why would Jesus not want people to know exactly who He was?  At least not in the early part of His ministry?  Often called The Messianic Secret of Mark, Jesus clearly rebukes demons for announcing His identity (Mark 1:25, 34) and tells a newly-cleansed leper to keep silent as well (Mark 1:43-44).  The question before us is, "Why?"

Secondly, we will have to answer the question, "Upon whom does the Lord Jesus wish to bestow His mercy?"  You might be surprised that the answer given by the "evangelical community" is not nearly as unanimous as you might think.

To understand its implications you must keep in mind that leprosy is a picture or prototype of sin.  The leper, having been confronted by God's Word approaches the Lord with a telling statement and a profoundly important question.  Though most Bible translations render it as statement, we do no injustice to phrase it as a statement and a question.

"I know that You can make me clean.  Are You willing to do so?"

The answer from the Lord strikes to the heart of the gospel message.  "I am willing.  Be made clean."

We will look at that question a bit more fully Sunday night.  Bring your Bibles.  Bring your thinking-caps.  We will cover 2/3rds of chapter 1 of Mark between the morning and evening services.