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 Amazon.com 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.

The Joy of Forgiveness

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your steadfast love; according to Your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.”  (Psalm 51:1)

This psalm was written by David after Nathan the prophet rebuked him of his sin.  He had committed adultery with another man’s wife, had the man killed in cold blood, and then tried to cover his tracks.  Even though David was a man after God’s own heart, his heart was deceitful.  Psalm 51 is a confession of his sin.  He asks God to be merciful and to blot out his transgressions.  He acknowledges the fact that sin is ultimately rebellion against God. It is no small matter.

There is a difference in remorse over getting caught and genuine repentance that understands the seriousness of sin.  All too often we are sorry because of sin’s consequences and not the sin itself.  David knew that he had done evil in the sight of the Lord.  He didn’t try to justify himself or make excuses for his behavior.  He was guilty of sin, and only the Lord could cleanse his life.  Only the Lord could restore to him the joy of his salvation.  God wasn’t looking for David to give sacrifice, nor would He be pleased with a burnt offering.  He knew that man doesn’t make deals with God.  Instead, God was looking for a humble spirit and a repentant attitude.  God gives grace to the humble, but He keeps the proud at a distance.

Do you know the joy of forgiveness?  A lot of depression in life can be traced back to guilt that is associated with unconfessed sin, wounds that have been allowed to fester rather than heal.  God doesn’t just gloss over the sin in our lives, nor does He turn a blind eye to it.  He convicts us, exposes our sin, and takes us to the cross of Jesus Christ.  Forgiveness can only be found at the cross.  We can’t bargain with God and resolve to merely do better, nor can we appease God through service.  It is only the death of God’s Son that appeases His wrath.  Christ’s sacrifice is the only sacrifice that God accepts.  When we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  Now as believers, we can embrace the joy of forgiveness because Christ embraced the pain of the cross.

Are You Being Transformed?

The gospel is a transforming message!  It is the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection that transforms the lives of those who receive it in faith and obedience.  The person who turns from sin and trusts Jesus is changed from the inside out.  This transformation is both instant and ongoing.  Conversion is but the first step of a lifetime journey of discipleship.  Old loves are replaced with new loves.  Old habits give way to new habits.  As we follow Jesus, God’s Spirit conforms us more and more into His image.  What does this involve?  There are five key areas of transformation.

To begin with, disciples have a transformed mind.  They believe what Jesus believed.  Romans 12:1-2 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  The Word of God washes and transforms our thinking.  At conversion, we are given a new heart.  What you love and think about and dwell upon will largely determine the direction of your life.  For example, if money and possessions is what dominates your mind, it will be what you live for.  Or, if being liked by others and admired is what you crave, popularity is what you will live for.  The gospel transforms our minds.

Next, disciples have a transformed character.  They live like Jesus lived.  Because their minds and affections have been changed, their character is changed and their life resembles Christ’s life.  I have discovered that it is all too easy to compare ourselves to each other.  All of us have people whom we admire and desire to be like, and to an extent, this is a good thing.  However, we must not lose sight of the goal of the Christian life–Christlikeness.  Jesus is our ultimate example, and those who are believers desire to be like Him.

Third, disciples have transformed relationships.  They love like Jesus loved.  The person whose mind and heart has been transformed, who possesses the character of Christ, he or she will also have transformed relationships with other people.  The love of God will be characteristic of the disciple’s life.  Rather than seeing other people as obstacles, those who have been transformed will see other people as opportunities.  Jesus said that love for our brothers and sisters is a distinguishing trait of His disciples.  He said in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  In other words, the way that Christ’s followers love and relate to one another will be a witness of His grace to the world.

Fourth, disciples have a transformed service.  They serve others like Jesus served.  Jesus said that His purpose for coming into the world was not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.  The person who has been transformed in their heart, in their character, and in the way that they view others, will also be transformed in the way that he or she selflessly serves others.  All of this is extremely counter-cultural.  Our day is one that is characterized by rampant selfishness and self-centeredness.  A consumer mindset has slowly crept into the church, one in which people desire to be served rather than to serve, and to receive a product rather than give of themselves.  The gospel confronts this type of attitude head on.  The non-discipleship Christianity that is on display in much of the church today is shallow and superficial at best.  It is not the sacrificial, kingdom advancing faith that we read about in Acts.  Many have falsely assumed that they can be a Christian without becoming Christlike, and no such faith exists in the New Testament.

Last, disciples have a transformed influence.  They lead like Jesus led.  The person whose heart has been changed by the gospel, who possesses Christ’s character, who loves and serves others, will also embrace the mission of Jesus.  Their life will impact those around them for the gospel’s sake.  Jesus Christ will be on display through the life of His transformed disciple.  Paul understood this when he wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  Every single person who has been saved by God’s grace has also been given God’s mission.  The gospel came to you because it was headed to someone else.  Discipleship is a life of surrender to Christ and participation in His mission of proclaiming the gospel to others and making disciples.  This is the fruit of transformation.

What about you–are you personally being transformed?  Do you believe what Jesus believed, live like Jesus lived, love like Jesus loved, serve like Jesus served, and lead like Jesus led?  The real test of the sincerity of our faith is not what we say.  The real test is obedience and a life that has been transformed.

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