Forget Not His Benefits

This week, millions of Americans will gather together with family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving.  For many, it is a time to catch up with those we haven’t seen all year as we gorge ourselves on turkey and honey ham, and then enter into a coma while the Detroit Lions take their annual shellacking.  Far more than it being a holiday, however, thanksgiving is an attitude that ought to characterize the disciples of Jesus year round.  We are to give thanks to our God who has loaded us down with gracious benefits.  What are some of those benefits?  In Psalm 103:1-5, David writes, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name!  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

To begin with, we ought to give thanks to God because He forgives all our sins.  I have been completely and freely forgiven of my sin because Christ died in my place.  The backlog of sins that condemned me to death has been erased, and I now stand clothed in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.  I have been accepted and welcomed as a son.  There will be a lot of estranged children that will not make it to the dinner table on Thanksgiving this year, but those who trust in Christ are always welcomed as sons at the Father’s table.

Second, we ought to give thanks to God because He heals all our diseases.  He is the Great Physician who heals the sin sickness of our souls.  Sin is the reason that there is sickness and death in the world.  The cross and empty tomb of Jesus, however, is the believer’s victory.  As our loved ones grow old and eventually pass away into eternity, we are reminded that death for the Christian is merely a shadow that we pass through.  The sickness of the body and the coldness of grave has no hold on the child of God.

Third, we ought to give thanks to God because He has redeemed our life from the pit.  If you are like me, you find it easy to complain when things don’t go your way or when you become disappointed.  Pride often leads us to believe we deserve something.  The only thing that a sinful person deserves is destruction.  If I received my just desserts, I’d be under the judgment of God.  Yet Christ has redeemed my life from the pit!  He has given me hope and a bright future.

Fourth, we ought to give thanks to God because He crowns us with steadfast love and mercy.  When I should have been condemned, I have instead been given a crown.  That God’s love is steadfast means that it endures and never wanes.  God will never love me more than He does right now, and He will never love me less.  His love endures forever!

Last of all, we ought to give thanks to God because He satisfies us with good and renews our spirit day by day.  True and lasting satisfaction belongs to the one who loves God.  Only God can satisfy the longings of the human heart.  Jesus said that the one who drinks from the well of living water will find that they are never thirsty again.  In fact, the water that He gives will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.  That is why Christ’s disciples can lose their possessions and be persecuted in the world and yet still remain most joyful and triumphant.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my family and friends.  I am thankful for my wife and children.  But most of all, I am thankful for the Lord’s benefits.  How about you?

Sunday Preview

Last week, I began a brand new sermon series from the second half of the book of Nehemiah that I have entitled, “Returning to What Matters Most.”  The book of Nehemiah begins by telling us that Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the Persian king Artaxerxes. In 445 B.C., he heard troubling news from one of his countrymen about the conditions of the city of Jerusalem. For many years, the walls and gates of the city had been in shambles. The exiles who had begun returning were living in shame and reproach. Nehemiah became burdened and sensed the call of God upon his life to make the long journey to Jerusalem and launch a massive rebuilding project.  The project would not be easy, and he would face his share of criticism and opposition. He had to overcome great adversity and conflict. When it was all said and done, the work was completed in just 52 days and the enemy perceived that it was a supernatural work of God.

The first half of the book of Nehemiah pertains to rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem; the second half deals with a revival of worship among the citizens living behind it.  What good is a rebuilt city if the spiritual fervor and devotion of the people is lacking?  God is more interested in being glorified in the lives of His people than He is mere brick and mortar.  By the time we get to chapter 7, there was somewhat of a spiritual vacuum in the city.  The wall had been built and the people were living in their own dwellings, and chapter 7 records the organizational structure of the city that Nehemiah had put into place. Chapter 7 reveals how the people had become well organized, well defended, and well governed. You can have organization and still be hollow.  Something was still lacking, and chapter 8 addresses it.

Within these final chapters of Nehemiah, I believe that we find a blueprint for revival and spiritual awakening. Organization will only get you so far. The people of God are known for the presence of God in their midst and the power of God in their lives.

What Jerusalem needed was a revival!

Join us at Green Street this Sunday as we begin looking at the necessary components for a God-sent revival in the hearts and lives of God’s people.

He Makes No Mistakes

One of the lessons we learn from the life of Job is that we must always trust God, even when we find ourselves in the midst of confusing circumstances.  Job didn’t know why he was allowed to suffer, but we know that God had allowed the enemy to attack his faith.  Satan tried his hardest to get Job to curse God.  The reason this was allowed was for God’s glory, and Job didn’t buckle under the pressure.  He worshiped God and did not charge God with wrongdoing.  Job came to the realization that no matter what we face in life, our God makes no mistakes.

I recently read the story of a Mississippi pastor named A.M. Overton who lived in the early 1900’s. In 1932, he had a wife, three small children, and a fourth child on the way. At the time of delivery, there were serious complications, and Overton’s wife and infant died. During the funeral, the officiating preacher noticed the grieving young pastor writing something on a piece of paper. After the service, the minister asked him about it and was handed a poem entitled, “He Maketh No Mistake.”

The poem that Overton wrote at his wife and baby’s funeral became a song, and the lyrics are a powerful reminder of God’s faithfulness in dark times:

My Father’s way may twist and turn,
My heart may throb and ache,
But in my soul I’m glad to know,
He maketh no mistake.
My cherished plans may go awry,
My hopes may fade away,
But still I’ll trust my Lord to lead,
For He doth know the way.
Though the night be dark and it may seem,
That day will never break,
I’ll pin my faith, my all in Him,
He maketh no mistake.
There’s so much now I cannot see,
My eyesight’s far too dim,
But come what may, I’ll simply trust,
And leave it all to Him.
For by and by the mist will lift,
And plain it all He’ll make,
Through all the way, though dark to me,
He made not one mistake.

Expect Great Things, Attempt Great Things

On August 26, 1768, one of the most remarkable men in the history of the British Navy set sail for the Pacific Ocean.  His name was Captain James Cook, and his voyage aboard a sturdy refitted coal ship named the Endeavor would change the course of history in many ways.  The purpose of Cook’s expedition was to explore and chart as much of the vast Pacific Ocean as he could.  His patient and methodical approach would give the world a long sought after treasure: a comprehensive map of the Pacific.  Cook’s voyages were followed with much interest back home in England.  His daring exploits would leave a lasting imprint on thousands of English schoolboys.  His rise from sailor to captain, coupled with his bold and courageous accomplishments, would give English ambitions new fuel and wider scope.

One of those schoolboys who was thrilled by the tales of Captain Cook was William Carey.  His imagination was fired and his ambitions were set in motion by reading Cook’s journals.  However, Carey’s own personal ambitions took a different turn when he bowed the knee to the kingship of Jesus Christ and took Christ’s yoke upon himself.  Once he combined his understanding of the spiritual needs of the natives who lived in these distant lands with the Great Commission to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, Carey’s ambitions were cast in the same direction as those of the Apostle Paul.  By the spring of 1792, Carey had published these convictions in a world-changing pamphlet, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens.

On Wednesday, May 30, 1792, at Friar Lane Baptist Chapel, in Nottingham, England, William Carey put this challenge into one of the most influential sermons ever preached in church history.  Speaking to the Northamptonshire Baptist Association, Carey passionately exhorted his Baptist colleagues to, in his words, “Expect great things from God, and attempt great things for God.”  This slogan became the catchphrase of the modern missions movement, of which William Carey is said to be the father.  The idea was simple and powerful: God’s eternal plan concerning the worldwide spread of the gospel cannot be thwarted, and therefore determines that energetic effort will succeed in accomplishing it.  In other words, just because God has determined before the foundation of the world that “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations” (Matt. 24:14), doesn’t mean that the church should do nothing, and just let God do everything.  On the contrary, the church will succeed in this mission precisely because God has determined it.  Therefore, the church should be confident and bold in all her evangelistic attempts.  We can expect great things from God because great things are both promised and required for the immense task of worldwide evangelization.  We can attempt great things for God because great things will be rewarded by God with success, since they are required for the accomplishment of the mission.

(Excerpt taken from, An Infinite Journey: Growing Toward Christlikeness, by Andrew M. Davis, p. 24-26)

2016 Bible Reading Plan

imagesWe all set goals and come up with resolutions every January.  Of course, the most important goal you can have as a believer in 2016 is to read God’s Word with regularity and devotion.  In a world that view absolute truth as subject to individual interpretation, the Bible’s claims and stories seems obsolete to many modern minds. However, the Bible has not changed and is as relevant now as it ever has been. What has changed is the number of people who consult it. Now more than ever, the need to read and study the Bible, to understand the big picture of its storyline, and to grasp the relevance it has for your life is critical.

The reading plan that I am promoting this year is the M’Cheyne Reading plan that has been around for more than 150 years. Robert Murray M’Cheyne was a 19th century pastor and preacher who lived in Scotland. Among his legacy is this well-known plan for reading the Bible. His plan takes the reader through the the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice per year. I am also using a companion guide by D.A. Carson entitled, “For the Love of God.” This volume is a devotional based on the M’Cheyne Bible reading schedule, and I am sure the interested reader will find it very helpful and thought provoking. To order a copy, visit the online store where you can purchase either a paperback copy or a Kindle version.

Also, I have included a link below where you can download a free PDF file of Dr. Carson’s book.

Here’s a free Copy of “For the Love of God” to accompany the M’Cheyne Bible Reading plan for 2016.  The reading plan will be available on my website all year long for your convenience.

M’Cheyne Reading Plan PDF

What Lies Ahead

Terrorism.  TWhat Lies Aheadhreat of war.  Collapse of the home.  Natural disasters of epic proportions.  These are some of the subjects that frequently dominate the headlines of our day.  In fact, watching the evening news is like reading a page right out of biblical prophecy.  With the rise of ISIS and other militant groups, people are looking with keen interest at what is happening in the Middle East and all throughout the world.  What can the church anticipate in the days ahead?  Jesus said more about the future than anyone else.  In a section of Scripture known as the Olivet Discourse, the Lord was veryspecific about what His disciples could anticipate in the days that precede His return to earth.  Are we living in those days?  Join us at Green Street for the first Sunday in 2016 as we begin a new teaching series from Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, where we will hear from Jesus about “What Lies Ahead.”

Why I Love My Church

I have heard it said that when it comes to reaching the world and making disciples, God has no plan B.  The church is God’s plan for declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations.  The New Testament teaches that the church is both local and universal, visible and invisible.  We can often get so caught up in the ministry of our own local church that we forget we are part of God’s universal church.  My local church is but one tiny part of God’s greater church!  As a pastor, not only am I privileged to be a part of the church, but He has also called me to shepherd His flock.

I love my church, and let me tell you why.

To begin with, Jesus Himself is building it.  He has promised to build His church, the dwelling place of His Spirit.  The church is more than just an organization with systems and structures.  The church is the temple of the living God.  The church is a people in whom the Holy Spirit dwells.  She is a worshiping community of believers who bring glory to Christ.  The local church that I am a part of is not perfect by any stretch, but she is special because she is the dwelling place of God.  Jesus builds His church through the simple proclamation of His gospel.  The responsibility of making disciples is ours, and the job of building the church is His.

Second, I love the church because she is the most precious thing on earth to God.  The church is the bride of Christ, having been purchased with His life blood.  1 Corinthians 6:20 says, “You have been bought with a price.”  The church is so precious that the Son of God was willing to suffer the pain and agony of the cross in obedience to the Father.  He became poor so that we might be made rich.  This tells me that though the church is not perfect, she is very special indeed.

Next, I love my church because it reminds me that I am a part of something that is much bigger than me.  To belong to the church is to be involved in God’s eternal plan and purposes.  Those who have been saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ have been given a special calling, and have been brought together and adopted into the family of God.  We were in the mind of God before time began!  Our society promotes individualism and personal autonomy to such a degree that self is elevated above others.  The church is designed to function in the opposite way, promoting others before self.

Last, I love my church because it gives me a glimpse of heaven on earth.  Think of it as a dress rehearsal for the rest of eternity.  This may be hard for us to do when we consider all the imperfections of the church, both of her people and her leaders.  Yet we must not forget that Jesus is washing His church through the water of His Word, and He Himself is ironing out all the wrinkles.  The local church is the place where we learn to love God’s Word and God’s people.  Rather than making it all about myself, I am to make it all about Jesus and other people.  This goes against the way we normally approach the church, asking the question, “What can my church offer me?”  Perhaps we should ask ourselves the question, “What can I offer my church?”  Here’s a start–Find someone and somewhere to serve.  Pray often for your pastor.  Invite others to come.  Thank God for your church, for she is very special.

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