FWB Convention Sermon: God Is Faithful To the Persecuted

ImageOn Tuesday, 17 July I received the greatest honor and privilege in my ministry – preaching in our evening worship service at our NAFWB 2012 Convention.  Let me begin by saying, “Thank you!”  I was so very honored and humbled to be able to speak.  There are many people I would like to thank.

  • First of all, thanks to my wife Debbie, and my children Tyler and Kristen.  You guys have supported me 100% throughout my/our entire ministry and a simple ‘thank you’ will never be enough. I love you guys.
  • I would also like to thank our NAFWB Executive Secretary, Dr. Keith Burden and the Executive Committee for inviting me to preach.
  • I must also thank my Victory Church family for their prayer and support.  Many of them gathered at the church on Tuesday evening to pray for me and to watch the service, which was streaming live on the internet.  (Thanks also to the FWB Media Commission!)

It’s been said that we do not stand alone, that we stand on the shoulders of others.  I believe that is true and there were several shoulders I stand on. Here are just a few on the great men who have invested in my life and ministry over the years, in which I’m grateful:

  • Rev. Leonard Lindsey, pastor of Calvary FWB Church in Rutherford College, NC. Pastor Lindsey has been my pastor for many years.  He shared his pulpit and gave me my first opportunity to preach! He also has encouraged and counseled me throughout my pastoral ministry. As Dr. David Crowe would say, “Pastor Lindsey is one of my balcony people!”
  • Rev. Milton Hollifield, retired FWB pastor. Pastor Hollifield took my under his arm and introduced me to the North Carolina FWB Association. The very first person I met, at the very first NC State Convention I attended, was Brother Hollifield.  From that day forward He “shepherded” me through our NC State Denomination. Thank you Brother Hollifield.
  • Rev. Wendall Walley, President of California Christian College.  Before Brother Wendall became the president of California Christian College he was the pastor of Zepher Hills FWB Church in Asheville, NC. Just as Brother Hollifield introduced me to the NCFWB, it was Brother Walley who introduced me to our denomination of the national level. Thank you Brother Wendall.

My assigned text was 1 Peter 4:12-19, and my topic was “God Is Faithful to the Persecuted.” Many of you have requested a copy of my outline, therefore, I’ve placed a PDF doc of my notes on my podcast page. Simply visit my podcast, then click on the PDF or Adobe icons to download a copy of the sermon.

Click here to be directed to my podcast.

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Thank God for Music

20120123-072458.jpg When the trumpeters and singers were as one, . . . the glory of the Lord filled the house of God. —2 Chronicles 5:13-14

Music plays a big part in the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation, God enlists musicians to work on His behalf. He uses music to call people to worship and to send them to war, to soothe ragged emotions and to ignite spiritual passion, to celebrate victories and to mourn losses. Music is an all-occasion, all-inclusive art form. There are followers and leaders, simple songs and complex songs, easy instruments and difficult instruments, melodies and harmonies, fast rhythms and slow rhythms, high notes and low notes.

Music is a wonderful metaphor for the church because everyone participates by doing what he or she does best. We all sing or play different notes at different times, but we all perform the same song. The better we know our parts, and the better we follow the conductor, the more beautiful the music.

One of the best uses for music is praise. When Solomon’s temple was completed, the musicians praised and thanked God. As they did, “the glory of the Lord filled the house of God” (2 Chron. 5:14).

We thank God for beautiful music, for it’s like a preview of heaven, where the glory of God will dwell forever and where praise for Him will never cease.
Bless the Lord and sing His praises,

Bless the Lord now, O my soul;
Join the song all heaven raises,
Let the anthem loudly roll! —Peterson

Those who praise God on earth will feel at home in heaven.

How To Draw Near To God

Hebrews 7:19 (NLT) For the law never made anything perfect. But now we have confidence in a better hope, through which we draw near to God.20120120-072421.jpg

How can you draw near to God? The Bible makes it clear that your own body is God’s temple. Your spirit needs and wants closeness to God. You want to know the living God personally, not as an idea or concept, not as a distant monarch.

You can draw near to God through prayer, worship, and Bible meditation. You need not live like a monk, but you probably need more prayer in your life, more quiet time before the Lord.

The habit of worship has become a convenience to be wedged between sports, and other recreations. Instead, make worship your top priority. Bible meditation may include verse memory, songs, and quiet personal reading.

The Bible is the Word of God for you. Use it every day and you will draw nearer to God.

 

Look for God’s Purpose In Your Interruptions

“The Lord . . . makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. The counsel of the Lord stands forever.” —Psalm 33:10-11

If your life is anything like mine, it’s pretty well planned out. I have everything in my calendar that reminds me of appointments, meetings, and other “to-do” items. Inevitably, interruptions change my day dramatically; and while they can be frustrating, they also can be productive.

Some of the great advances in God’s plans have come through “interruptions” to the normal routine. Take Mary, for example. An angel interrupted her life with the announcement that she would have a son named Jesus. Since she was a virgin and engaged to be married, this news was undoubtedly shocking and deeply troubling (Luke 1:26-31). And Saul, the Jewish zealot who persecuted early Christians, was on his way to Damascus to arrest more followers of “the Way” when he was blinded by Jesus Himself (Acts 9:1-9). This life-changing interruption had huge implications for the future of Christianity.

The psalmist reminds us that the Lord can make “the plans of the peoples of no effect” (Ps. 33:10). Yet all too often we respond to the interruptions of our well-ordered lives with attitudes like frustration, irritation, fear, and doubt. God’s surprises in our day are full of opportunities. Let’s welcome them as a new “to-do list” from Him.

Lord, if I’m feeling rushed today,
I need Your eyes to help me see
That when an interruption comes,
It is an opportunity. —Sper

Application: Look for God’s purpose in your next interruption. (Our Daily Bread)

The Gift of Encouragement

But I considered it necessary to send you Epaphroditus—my brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier, as well as your messenger and minister to my need.  (Philippians 2:25)

Some people know just what to say and do to encourage others who are going through difficult times. Their words give strength to those who are discouraged and comfort to those who are grieving.

These people are sensitive to God’s voice. They are not self-centered or unaware of the struggles of those around them. They are the ones we immediately seek when we enter a crisis. They are welcome visitors when we are in distress, for their presence sustains us.

Scripture testifies of many whom God enabled to encourage others.

  • When Moses was overwhelmed by his work, Jethro went to him and encouraged him. Jethro gave Moses wise counsel that eased his strain (Exod. 18:1–27).
  • When Paul was imprisoned far from those who loved him, Epaphroditus risked his health and safety in order to go to Paul and minister to him (Phil. 2:25–30).
  • Later, Paul urged Timothy to come and visit him, for Paul found strength and encouragement in Timothy (2 Tim. 4:9; Phil. 2:19–20).
  • Paul asked Timothy to bring Mark also. Mark was the kind of friend Paul needed when he was enduring hardship (2 Tim. 4:11; Philem. 24).
  • Paul also relied on Luke for encouragement. When everyone else was absent or preoccupied, Luke could be found with Paul (2 Tim. 4:11).

Paul experienced trials throughout his life, but God sustained him by placing godly friends around him who provided support in practical and sacrificial ways. God wants to develop you into the kind of friend who can strengthen others. The words you share and the things you do can bring comfort and encouragement to your family, your friends, your neighbors, and your coworkers.

I am thankful, because I have been encouraged this week by family and friends.  Think of someone in your circle of influence and search for a way to encourage them during this Christmas season.

Defining Your Mission Statement

Disregarding the command of God, you keep the tradition of men. (Mark 7:8)

Effective leaders see beyond the traditional way of doing things and look for better ways.  They do this, however, realizing that some things are so sacred they are untouchable, and they always keep the ultimate goal in mind.

This is why it is so important to have a well-thought out, closely defined, easily understood mission statement.  Without this, even the most compelling and charismatic leaders get off track and go astray.  A mission statement is essential to quality leadership.  Otherwise, personality, pride, and the demands of the moment will be diverting.

For Jesus, “the command of God,” doing His Father’s will, constituted His mission statement. And the “tradition of men” was never going to sidetrack Him from His goal.  He was not to be diverted.

Again, the point to notice in Mark 7:8 is not that the Pharisees were holding on to the traditions of men.  We all do that to some extent becasue tradition helps to take the best of the past as a guide while we walk into the future.  Jesus might be wrongly seen here as attacking all tradition.  Instead, He criticized the Pharisees for having let go of the commands of God. When you place your own traditions underneath God’s will, they will serve as a positive guide, but, when the order is reversed, you will end up exactly like the Pharisees – abandoning God’s will for your own personal agenda.

Note the specific example Jesus gave in the following passage, verses 9-13. Continue reading