THE FORM OF GODLINESS – A TRUTH FOR FIRST AND SECOND GENERATION CHRISTIANS

Image result for kid bored at churchWhen describing the character and actions of people in the “perilous times” that will come (and which are here now), Paul made a fascinating observation. He said that these who are proud, lovers of pleasure more than God, covetous, boastful, disobedient to parents, unthankful and unholy, among other things, will also be marked by this characteristic:

2 Timothy 3:5  Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

Outwardly, there will be a semblance of godliness – but inwardly, there will not be any evidence of the transforming power of Christ. In fact, these will “deny” the power of true godliness, which is to know Christ as Saviour.

In this verse we can find a truth that illustrates a major difference between first generation Christians and their children or grandchildren. By a first generation Christian, I mean someone who got saved, got into church, and then raised their children in church. Unfortunately, the faith of the parent does not always become that of the child; too often, we see kids grow up in church and then run off to the world when they reach adulthood. Why does this happen?

Allow me to point out three different scenarios:

  1. The first generation Christian who experiences the true power of godliness on the inside. He got SAVED. This was a radical decision at the time, and it led to radical changes in his life. Because of what took place on the inside, his life began to take on the “form of godliness” on the outside. He began to practice principles of Christian living. He turned from sinful things and embraced godly activities. He began to live by wise and scriptural standards, to protect the fellowship that he had with God and to live righteously in this world. The power and godliness came FIRST – the FORM came after.
  2. The second or third generation Christian who has “grown up in church.” His parents took him every service. Nursery roll, Sunday School, youth group, camps, revivals, etc. Perhaps there was a decision for Christ made at an early age. But there was no real, radical change necessary in his life because it was the only life he knew. BUT, some of these never really got saved – or, if they did, somehow they never really began to have a personal walk with Christ. The “form” was by compulsion – his parents had the standards, and he had to live by them, but there was nothing INSIDE, and no real desire on his part to live the way his parents lived. For a while, this person only has a FORM – they look okay, but inside it’s empty, or all wrong. Then, the form is tossed aside and what is inside becomes what is outside.
  3. I should add that there is another kind of first generation Christian – the kind that gets saved and adopts the form of godliness, and then lets his spiritual walk and growth deteriorate until there is nothing left but the form. This Christian has good outward standards but may have a rotten life. Some may wear modest clothes but maintain a rebellious and critical spirit, or a filthy imagination, or dirty habits, or a lousy attitude, or a prideful disdain of others. This sort of shallow Christian living is too common among those who have been in church for years – but stopped growing on the inside, and stopped cleansing their spirit (2 Cor. 7:1). Such Christians often raise the kind we mentioned in point 2 – but then say about their prodigal children, “Well, we raised them in church. I don’t know where THEY went wrong.” Maybe they were turned away by the carnal – but “separated!” – lives of their parents.

Everyone needs a personal salvation experience. God doesn’t have grandchildren – only children, each of whom was born again by the grace of God, individually. Salvation is not inherited or genetic – it must come from God to the individual sinner.

Every Christian needs a personal fellowship with God – a personal walk with Christ. We need more than a “form” of standards, rules and practices. Such a form is fine when there is real godliness – but without it, we have only a shallow Phariseeism that denies the power of God to transform us from within.

Scriptural standards are necessary things – we are called to live sober, godly, righteous lives in a corrupt world.

But standards alone are not godliness.

As a parent who is a first generation Christian, I have prayed for all of our kids to have a personal knowledge of Christ as Saviour and a personal walk with Him. When they were small, we read the Bible to them. When they got older, we emphasized reading the Bible for themselves. We have had high standards for our family – but no standards without reason, or without scriptural basis. They have been in church unless sick or providentially hindered since before they were born. They go soulwinning, sing in the choir, play instruments, go to all the youth activities – but it is the heart that matters most! Not the form!

Parents should not take it for granted that their children will grow up to love God. They must be pointed in that direction, and led consistently in that direction. Love is a matter of the heart, not a matter of FORM. Love will bring about a form. My wife and I love each other. The love came first. We have a relationship, and standards protect our relationship. But standards alone do not make for a great marriage! There must be love in the marriage.

The important thing is not that our children mimic our form when they are teenagers, but that they LOVE the same God that we love. When they love Him, they will obey Him (Jn. 14:21).

Do you know Christ personally or have you just been wearing the form? Have you experienced the power of the gospel? Do YOU love Jesus – or are you being dragged behind others who love Jesus?

Do you still have godliness within? Or has that withered away until there’s nothing left but the FORM around a carnal and worldly excuse for a Christian on the inside? Do bitterness, jealousy, lust, laziness, filth, or a mean spirit indwell a life full of outward standards?

Good things for us to consider.

Thank you for reading. God bless.

 

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Grow without Changing

planted-by-the-water2Psalms 1:3  And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

A 63-year study found that our personalities change drastically over our lifetimes. It “revealed that our personality changes so much from youth to old age, on paper, you might look like a completely different person from when you were 14 and 77 years old.” Most of us probably understood this without a study to back it up – we all expect to change as we grow older. Some get better – others get worse. We know this from our own experiences.

The Christian life is all about change. We are changed from sinners to saints, from death to life, from lost to found. We are made new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). We are to “grow in grace” (2 Peter 3:18). We are to become more and more like our Master (2 Cor. 3:18).

Yet not all changes are positive as we grow older. Sometimes, good qualities fade away and are replaced by lukewarmness, compromise, or error. Zeal and courage dissipate. Convictions wane and then are sold at garage sale prices, to be replaced by new beliefs and practices. Fundamentalists become moderates, and moderates become liberals. In the words of one preacher now in heaven, “Some of you haven’t mellowed – you’ve yellowed!”

The blessed man is like a tree PLANTED. A tree grows where it is planted. It changes but does not move from its position. It grows UPWARD and OUTWARD but stays where it is ROOTED.

Yes, opinions can change as we get older and wiser. One preacher, who had a long ministry of over 50 years, was reprimanded by a younger man. “Thirty years ago you said _______!” As though he was a pope who had spoken ex cathedra! The older preacher said, “Well, son, some people grow and some don’t!”

Personalities change and often should. Rough edges are worn away, people skills grow, and the gentler aspects of the Christian life become more developed. An increasing knowledge and experience should help to make us better people.

However, Bible convictions do not change because the Bible does not change. The convictions you once found there are still there. They may not be comfortable today, but they are still there. They may hurt your church growth in a lukewarm age but they are still there. They may make you seem to be an “oddball” but they are still there.

Grow UP and OUT but keep your roots in the Word of God.

The preacher should always seek to grow and improve as God’s messenger and the pastor of God’s flock – there is always room for growth! But if our ministries are radically different from one decade to the next, going from staunchly conservative to liberally contemporary, we must ask – were we planted in Bible truth, or just tumbling along with the winds of an ever changing culture? Were we anchored to truth or just bobbing along in the currents?

Parents have to battle change. Too often, we are strong when our children are small and then begin to waffle and waver when they get older. We hold to strong beliefs when our children are little and easily led, and begin changing everything when they become teenagers. We are scared of our kids! Young people need consistent parents – parents who grow, who are rooted to something solid and eternal, not parents who give in when pushed by their teens.

It is a constant battle to grow without changing – to stay in one place, growing upward and outward while staying firmly rooted to the scriptures. Yet this is the place of blessing, security, and fruitfulness.

Thank you for reading. God bless.

 

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Who Are Your Heroes?

super-heroes-trivia-category-comic-trivia-nightWhen you hear the name Epaphroditus, you may not think of a superhero – but Paul did. He told the Philippian church:

Philippians 2:29-30 Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: (30) Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.

Epaphroditus had traveled over 800 miles from Philippi to Rome, most of which he probably covered on foot, to deliver a care package to the apostle Paul, who at that time was a prisoner of the Roman Empire. At some point he became sick, languishing almost to the point of death. Paul believed that only a divine intervention spared his life. The apostle then sent Epaphroditus back bearing the inspired Epistle to the Philippians, and gave him three special terms of endearment – “my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier.” 

Paul then told the Philippian church to give Epaphroditus a hero’s welcome – to hold such in reputation, because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life. Here was a selfless man, a consecrated Christian, a godly person who was willing to endure hardness and sacrifice for the cause of Jesus Christ. “Hold such in reputation.”

Who are your heroes? Are they real people or fictional characters? Are they godly or ungodly? Are they spiritual or carnal? Do they live for Christ or live for themselves? Are they consecrated or worldly? Are they flesh and blood humans or cartoon characters? Are they active, dedicated servants of God or active, dedicated servants of selfish pursuits?

Some Christians will wear the jersey of their favorite athlete in public, but are ashamed to wear a t-shirt advertising their church or Saviour. Some Christians will read comic books by the hour, but sleep through a missionary presentation. What does this say about us?

Not-All-Super-Heroes-Wear-Capes-Kids--ShirtsNot all superheroes wear capes. In our churches, there are some who wear inexpensive suits and hand-me down dresses. All heroes aren’t on TV or the radio. But some do teach Sunday School or visit poor kids on bus routes. Some work long hours to provide for their family and still make the time to serve the Lord. Some work through sickness and physical infirmities that will never change this side of heaven. No, they don’t all wear capes – in fact, none of the real ones do!

I am thankful for the Christian heroes who have made an impression on my life. In studying this passage I was reminded of my youth pastor when I was a very young Christian. Our youth pastor worked full time for a freight company, but they would not give him the week off he needed to take us to youth camp. The morning we left for camp, he gathered our group and announced that he had quit his job in order to take us, and that we needed to pray for him to find work when we returned from camp.

I was a teenager and didn’t understand that sacrifice then like I do now. This was a young man in his twenties with a wife and two little daughters, and yet he had quit a good paying job because he believed it was God’s will to do so. It made an impression on me. (And God did provide another job and over the 20+ years since has used him greatly).

Who are your heroes? Why not look around your house? You might be surprised what you find. What about around your church? What about on the mission field? There are still Epaphroditus’ out there, those that we should hold in reputation, people we should look up to and whose examples are worth following.

Thank you for reading. God bless.

 

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Parenting – It Takes More Than Good Intentions

Being a parent is hard work. It’s not easy and doing it right takes more than good intentions. It takes years and years of unrelenting effort to train up a child in the way he should go.

Manoah and Mrs. Manoah wanted a child more than anything in this world – but for many years they were unable to have a baby. When an angel from God told Mrs. Manoah that she would have a son, they were overjoyed. Notice Manoah’s prayer and desire to know how to be a good father: Judges 13:8 Then Manoah intreated the LORD, and said, O my Lord, let the man of God which thou didst send come again unto us, and teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born.

When the angel returned, they asked: Judges 13:12 And Manoah said, Now let thy words come to pass. How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?

Samson means “sunshine” and it is obvious that he was the sunshine of their lives. They began to train him up, and in his youth God began to work in his life.

Judges 13:24-25 And the woman bare a son, and called his name Samson: and the child grew, and the LORD blessed him. (25) And the Spirit of the LORD began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.

Unfortunately, it was mostly downhill from there. In Judges 14-16, we find a young man with deep character flaws that led him into an unwise marriage with a Philistine woman, into the arms of a harlot and finally into the home of Delilah. Like all the judges, Samson was a deeply flawed individual that God used despite his shortcomings. Unfortunately, the life that began as a beam of sunshine in a little cradle in Manoah’s house ended under a pile of rubble in the land of the enemies of God.

Samson’s parents had good intentions. Most parents do. But raising kids is hard work and too many parents quit when things get hard.

Young parents should be humble. It is easy to be an expert on child rearing when your children are all under the age of seven. It is easy to be judgmental of parents whose kids (all older than yours) haven’t turned out quite right. Many sermons and blog posts have been preached and written with great authority and harsh denunciations by those who still strap their own kids into car seats and dress them for church.

Of course, the Bible is true no matter how old the preacher or teacher is, and so by all means preach what the Bible says about parenting – but be humble, hard as it is when we are young.

One of the great dangers of parenting is to give up when the kids turn 12 or 13. It’s easy to dress our girls up in their frilly church dresses with their shiny little church shoes when they are four years old; it gets harder when they become teenagers and dress themselves. Some give up and change their standards and even change their churches because their teenagers push back against those standards. That’s when the parent has to be the parent and do what is right.

When our kids are little the biggest problems we face are pretty small compared with the big issues to come – the teen years, keeping our kids away from bad influences, dealing with modesty and the opposite sex, dating or courting, going off to college, first jobs, driving, etc, etc, etc. The etc. is all the stuff you never expected.

Parenting is hard work. We need more than a 5 year plan. We need to keep working and praying and parenting all the way through. Good intentions aren’t enough. Big ideas aren’t enough. Determination to be better than those other parents is not enough. We’ve got to see them through the three big conversions of life:

  • Sinner to saint (salvation)
  • Child to adult (maturity)
  • Single to married (family).

And it’s not easy. And it doesn’t get easier. It’s hard work and we’ve got to stay on the job.

Good intentions are the beginning of the journey. Along the way, you’ve got to avoid a lot of wrong turns, go around a lot of curves, endure a lot of problems, fix a few flats, and keep pressing on.

Thank you for reading. God bless.

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“Won’t Work – Don’t Eat!” Paul’s Command Concerning Welfare Christianity

getajob2 Thessalonians 3:6-12 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. (7) For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; (8) Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: (9) Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. (10) For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. (11) For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. (12) Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

God’s people tend to be a generous, gracious and compassionate people, following in the footsteps of a generous, gracious and compassionate Saviour. I have seen, time and time again, people in church go above and beyond in helping to meet the financial and physical needs of others, both inside and outside the church membership. Christianity makes us generous, and I love giving to help others, especially when done anonymously.

Such a generous and compassionate spirit will of course make the Christian susceptible to con artists and others who find him an “easy touch.” And, sometimes people in the church will take advantage of the church, seeing it as a source of income instead of a place or worship and service to Christ.

Apparently this problem existed in Thessalonica. Paul reminded the church that he had set an example for them, working with his own hands as a tent-maker to provide for his basic necessities. This required him to work “night and day,” probably doing his missionary work during daylight hours and burning midnight oil for his income. He then warned the church to step away from those who walked “disorderly,” not working, but busybodies, busy here and there, going from person to person, begging and imposing themselves on others for their bread.

Paul’s COMMANDMENT was that those who did not work did not eat!

No doubt, some would consider Paul to be hard-hearted in this matter. But Paul was more interested in the glory of God, the name of Jesus Christ, and the good of the brethren, than in his own reputation for “compassion.” He knew that Christians who did not work, who begged and were leeches on society and on the church would not have a good testimony with their hard-working lost relatives and neighbors, would not bring glory to God, and would not be doing the right thing for themselves or their families.

Tough times come and I for one am glad to help. I understand, because almost my entire pastoral ministry has been during a recession. I know many have it rough, and frankly, we’ve had it rough in the Rasbeary family a few times ourselves.

main-pigpenBut I have learned that there are people with problems, and then there are problem people. All of us will have problems. But problems follow some people like the cloud of dust around Pigpen in Peanuts. Sometimes, problems are beyond anyone’s control – they are disasters or tragedies. Often, however, problems are just the product of foolish living, bad decisions, and disobedience to scripture.

Let me share with you some things that cause me to “cool off” when it comes to financially helping people:

  • When someone can work, but won’t.
  • When people do not tithe or honor God with what they have (Mal 3).
  • When someone keeps getting fired or keeps quitting jobs because of poor character.
  • When people are broke but manage to eat out. Eating out is a treat, not a necessity.
  • When people are broke but can still find money for their addictions (cigarettes, liquor, etc).
  • When people are broke but can still find money to gamble or buy lottery tickets.
  • When people are broke but still manage multiple smart phone plans, satellite TV, etc.
  • When people are broke but refuse to work second jobs. Someone has said, “Every time I prayed for money, God gave me work to do.”
  • When people are broke but refuse to sell things to pay off their debts.
  • When people are broke because they squandered all their money foolishly – and have no intention of changing their ways.

Hard hearted? Paul did not think so. He gave commandments to the church about it. Let us be givers but let us not subsidize a welfare mentality that expects something for nothing. It’s wrong on a national scale and it’s wrong on a local scale and it’s wrong in the church.

Thank you for reading. God bless.

 

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What If You Don’t Want To Do What God Called You To Do?

ezkeile1Almost 600 years before Christ, God called a priest named Ezekiel to be His prophet, His watchman on the wall, over the Israelites that were carried into Babylonian Captivity. His calling did not come with the most encouraging words:

Ezekiel 2:3-7 And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day. (4) For they are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD. (5) And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them. (6) And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house. (7) And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear: for they are most rebellious.

Furthermore, Ezekiel was told:

Ezekiel 3:7 But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted.

Then, we find this interesting verse:

Ezekiel 3:14-15 So the spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the LORD was strong upon me. (15) Then I came to them of the captivity at Telabib, that dwelt by the river of Chebar, and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days.

Ezekiel does not appear very enthusiastic about his calling into the ministry. In fact, he was bitter about it – even angry. It wasn’t his plan for his life, and not what he would have chosen for himself. He didn’t particularly want to be a prophet, especially not then and there, knowing that preaching the truth would fill his life with briers, thorns and scorpions, not to mention some “hard looks.”

This passage reminded me of others who did not exactly jump on God’s calling for their lives. Moses tried every excuse he could think of, even basically saying, “Here am I – send Aaron!” Jonah disliked his assignment so much that he ran away. Jeremiah tried to say that he was too young for what God had called him to do.

What did Ezekiel do? He sat among the men of Telabib and didn’t say anything for seven days, until God told him – “You are the watchman on the wall. If you don’t tell them what I say, they’re going to die – but I will hold you accountable. Sit here if you want to. But their blood will be on your hands” (Ezekiel 3:17-21).

ezekielI believe that it is important to understand that God doesn’t just call those who WANT to preach, go to the mission field, or serve in some capacity. Sometimes He calls us to do things that maybe we would NOT choose for ourselves. Sometimes, He calls people who have to die to their plans, wants, wishes and dreams to fulfill His will for their lives. Sometimes, He calls us to do the last thing we would choose.

  • Maybe you’ve been called to a mission field and you’d rather be somewhere else.
  • Maybe you’ve been called to a church but the situation is difficult.
  • Maybe you’re trying to start a church and things are even harder than expected.
  • Maybe you’d really rather not be a preacher’s kid or a missionary kid, and maybe you’d rather not go on another deputation.
  • Maybe being the preacher’s wife comes with more problems than you expected.
  • Maybe you’ve been at one church for a long time and you’re feeling restless.
  • Maybe you’d rather not serve in the nursery anymore.
  • Maybe you’re tired of teaching a difficult class in Sunday School.
  • Maybe you’re not looking forward to another hot summer on a church bus.
  • Maybe you’d rather be in a church that is bigger/smaller/younger/older and which has a bigger/smaller/cooler/less cool youth department.

Maybe you’d rather just be an exiled priest and make the best of it in Babylon, and not have to deal with the problems of being a prophet.

Hold on – you’ve been bought with a price, and you’re not your own. We’ve been called to be good soldiers, and good soldiers go to their assignments and do their jobs. Of course, we know that God does sometimes lead us away from certain things or to new places or works. Just make sure it is God that is leading.

If it’s God’s will, then embrace it – even it if is uncomfortable and difficult and not exactly what you’d always dreamed of doing.

Be sure of this – God will hold you accountable for what you are supposed to do. Blood will be on your hands.

But also know this – the best place for any child of God is in the will of God.

Thank you for reading. God bless.

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The Bus Ministry And This Preacher’s Family

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Becky the Bus Captain and her sub driver.

I suppose that the bus ministry has gone out of style in many places. It’s a hard ministry to operate, with special licenses, insurance, vehicles, costs, etc. It’s hard to find drivers, captains, helpers, and teachers willing to put up with kids who may not always behave so well. There are certainly always reasons NOT to have a bus ministry.

And I’m not writing to criticize at all, but simply to share our own testimony in regards to the Sunday School bus ministry. Perhaps it will encourage someone already in this ministry or someone who is thinking about it.

I love the bus ministry, not just for scriptural reasons, but for personal ones. For almost 25 years, someone from the Rasbeary family has been in a bus or van on almost any given Sunday, and sometimes it was all of us.

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Our oldest daughter, now in Bible college; we were a little short on drivers at the time.

My wife was a teenager when a bus worker invited her to church. She rode an old white bus with holes in the floor to church, and it’s there she got saved. The bus workers came back and brought her to church in their car for the evening services. Her life was absolutely and totally changed for good. Her whole life trajectory was changed because a bus worker came by.

Since then, we’ve served as captains, helpers and drivers on and off in three different churches including LBC. As pastor, I’ve also driven the bus and served as a bus captain when needed; and, as pastor’s wife, my wife started a bus route and built it up before passing it on to our daughter. Maybe not the best way to do things but we did it anyway.

Which brings me to this post, because today I had the privilege of being a substitute driver again, and watched my daughter lead singing and love on the bus kids during the ride home. She had 25 kids despite Spring Break and several of them got saved today. And it got me to thinking about how the bus ministry has benefited our kids:

  1. It has provided an area of real, personal, active service to the Lord. The bus ministry is one of the rare ministries that kids can be actively and constructively a part of on a weekly basis. Helping, running doors, serving as secretary, etc. All ofbus our kids have done it, gladly and willingly. For them, serving the Lord is more than going and sitting in church. It is doing something for God and others.
  2. It has helped them have real compassion on others who are often less fortunate.
  3. It has allowed them to enjoy the excitement of seeing a ministry grow and to see people saved.
  4. It has taught them to tough out the times when attendance has lagged, and to be faithful.
  5. It has illustrated for them what they often hear preached about  – the hidden price tag of sin, seen in people’s lives.
  6. It has taught them that serving God is something we do when it’s hot, cold, or rainy.
  7. It has helped them to actively care about all people, regardless of their skin color, ethnicity, or financial standing.

This is just our testimony. We love the bus ministry and trust that God will continue to provide the means to operate it until Jesus comes. If I had a young family all over again, I’d ask for a bus and work it ourselves. I’ve seen it do too much good in our home and church.

Just some thoughts! Thanks for reading. God bless.

 

 

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Free Tract Design Downloads

SmileyTract FrontBelow is a tract design which we have found useful. We call it the Smiley Face Tract, and it was inspired by a similar design made by my good friend Pastor Robb Foreman in Midland, TX. They found, as we have, that almost no one turns down a tract with a big yellow smiley face on the front. Pictured is the tract designed for Providence Baptist Church in Anna.

We’ve customized it for a few churches but decided just to put this out there for any independent Baptists who would like to use it for their church. It is a 3×5.5 flat card that fits perfectly in a front pocket.

We order ours through Uprinting.com. They do good work and it is very easy to use their site. Of course, you can order from anyone like you.

SmileyTract BackDownload the “front” file, then add your own information to it in Microsoft Word. Save it as a PDF. You will need both files, front and back (the back file is already a PDF). At Uprinting.com, select “flat invitations,” the 3×5.5″ size, and upload the files. With these files, you can order as many as you want, whenever you want, without a middle man.

Here are the links to the files:

  1. Front
  2. Back

We are making these free for all to be used by churches. Hope that they are a help to someone. God bless!

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Appearances Can Be Deceiving

download-5Genesis 42:36 And Jacob their father said unto them, Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me.

Jacob had no idea what God was doing.

Twenty years earlier, Joseph had disappeared from Jacob’s life; his sons deceived him into believing that his beloved son had been eaten by a wild beast. Twenty years later, a famine gripped the land, and in desperation he sent ten of his remaining sons to Egypt to buy bread, keeping Benjamin behind for safekeeping. Then, only nine of his sons returned, leaving Simeon in Egypt, and with the fearful pronouncement that they would not see Simeon again unless they returned with Jacob’s youngest son, Benjamin. And, they were terrified to find stolen goods inside the sacks of food that they had brought home.

In frustration, Jacob declared, “All these things are against me!”

That was the situation from Jacob’s perspective. But what was really happening?

Over the last twenty years, Joseph had gone through his trials and come out the Vice Pharaoh of Egypt. Through his God-given wisdom, he had guided Egypt through the seven years of plenty so that they had enough stored away to survive the years of drought. When Jacob’s sons arrived to buy bread, it was Joseph that they appeared before; they did not recognize him. It was his plan to get them to return with Benjamin, no doubt to make sure a similar fate had not befallen him in Joseph’s absence. He had commanded his servants to place the “stolen goods” in their sacks of food.

Jacob said, “All these things are against me!” But nothing was further from the truth. In God’s providence, all things were working together for the glory of God and the good of His people. Certainly, some things in Jacob’s life were the result of the law of sowing and reaping; but there is no denying the work of God’s superintending providence in his life as well.

God had placed Joseph in the position of power to save their family. And through these events, Jacob was going to see his son again!

Sometimes, appearances are deceiving. We do not know what God is doing. His hand of providence works in ways beyond our understanding. How would YOU have taken Joseph and made him Vice Pharaoh of Egypt? Probably not the way that God did it – through a pit, Potiphar’s house, and prison. But God has His ways and they are not ours:

Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. (9) For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Trust God! Appearances can be deceiving. What may seem to be AGAINST you may actually be God working FOR your good.

Thank you for reading. God bless.

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Dear Jacob – You Reap What You Sow.

jacobGenesis 31:4-7 And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock, (5) And said unto them… (7) And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me.

In reading once again the life of Jacob, I am reminded that God has established an unswerving law in both the natural and spiritual realms – the law of the harvest, or the law of sowing and reaping. The unbelieving world calls it karma – what goes around comes around. Paul described the true nature of this unchanging law:

Galatians 6:7-8 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. (8) For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

The law of the harvest has three aspects:

  1. We reap what we sow. The law is the same whether we sow good seed or bad. If you want a good harvest, sow good seed; if you sow bad seed, don’t be surprised when a bad harvest comes up!
  2. We always reap later than we sow. It takes time for the harvest to grow.
  3. We always reap more than we sow. Jesus told us that one seed could return thirty-fold, or sixty-fold, or a hundred-fold (Mt. 13:23).

In Jacob’s early life, he was a deceiver, a trickster. His twin brother Esau was carnal and worldly, but seems to have at least been upfront in his actions, bad as they were. Jacob, though, was not above stooping to take advantage of situations (like selling a bowl of soup for the birthright instead of simply feeding his brother – how many of us would charge our relatives for a bowl of soup if they were hungry?) or lying and deceiving his father to steal a blessing.

In Genesis 27, it is a sad story. Instigated by his mother (it was her manipulative plan from beginning to end), Jacob dressed up in goat skins and did his best to sound like Esau, and lied to his father, even bringing the Lord’s name into his deception (vs. 20). In the Continue reading

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Christian Parents – But Lost Children!

Carlson-Family_Sitting-in-Church_Mac-CoB-3297One of the saddest thoughts in the world is that Christian parents, who have been genuinely born again and are on their way to heaven, will raise children who will end up dying and going to hell.

Is this possible? Of course it is. Salvation is not hereditary. We are not saved because our parents or grandparents are saved. It is not something we inherit. We are not Christians because our family members are Christians. Salvation is entirely personal. God does not have any grandchildren – only children, those who have personally received Jesus Christ as their own Saviour. Without that personal faith, there has been no regeneration, no salvation, no giving or receiving of eternal life.

  • John 1:12-13 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: (13) Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

It is foolish and unbiblical for the Christian parent to believe that his or her child will go to heaven (of course!) without a personal salvation experience. My children were born sinners and needed the same salvation as every other sinner who has ever lived; the only thing they inherited from me was a sinful nature (Romans 5:12). The reason my kids are saved today is, first of all, by the grace of God; but humanly speaking, it is because they were taught the scriptures, kept in an environment that emphasized salvation, and when they understood the gospel each one made the decision to receive Jesus personally and individually.

Sadly, however, many parents do not show much concern for the eternal well-being of their children (and even their grandchildren to come). The parents are saved, but they are out of church. The parents heard the gospel, but the kids never do. Oh, maybe they drop in somewhere for Easter or Christmas – but this often only serves to harden the heart, equating religiosity with repentance and regeneration.

  • 2 Timothy 1:5 When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.
  • 2 Timothy 3:14-15 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; (15) And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Timothy was saved because his mother and grandmother kept him in the scriptures, which made him wise unto salvation. His mother and grandmother took responsibility for his eternal well-being, and made the difference.

How can we raise up our children so that they will be wise unto salvation?

I.TAKE YOUR CHILDREN TO CHURCH.

Start this Sunday. Put them in Sunday School. Put them under the influence of godly people and a constant gospel message.

II. KEEP YOUR CHILDREN IN CHURCH.

I believe in childhood conversions. I also believe that some childhood conversions are as worthless as monopoly money at Walmart (frankly, some adult “conversions” are as well). I know this because many times these kids, as teenagers, while at youth camp or in a revival, suddenly get convicted and saved, and then say that sometimes they can’t even remember what happened when they were little kids.

The sad thing is that some young parents stay around church just long enough for their five year old to make a profession of faith – and then they drop out of church.

My children have grown up in church and all made early professions of faith – but I kept praying for them as they got older – just in case! I prayed that if their childhood professions were not real that they would come to a place where they truly exercised repentance and faith. I know that goes against the philosophies of some, but when it comes to my own child’s eternal destiny, I wanted them to BE SURE. And to know it, and not spend years doubting it. Or worse, to not get saved at all, and just grow up to be an unsaved Baptist. I believe some of the prodigals we pray for are not really prodigals – they are not saved. We ought to be praying for their salvation, but instead we are trying to pray lost people back into our church memberships.

I have seen teenagers come under conviction, say that they were not saved and needed to be saved, and get genuinely saved – only to hear the parent say, “Oh no, he got saved when he was four – I have the baptism certificate to prove it!” Oh, we must be careful when it comes to the souls of our children!

Keep your kids in church. Keep them under gospel preaching, and take them to revivals, and send them to youth camp. I want my kids to hear as much Bible preaching and as many gospel invitations as possible.

III. HAVE A CHRIST-HONORING AND GODLY HOME.

It’s not just going to church. Just going to church produces hypocrites, if we aren’t practicing anything at home. Set the example for your kids.

IV. KEEP PRAYING FOR YOUR CHILDREN.

Never, never, never get so lukewarm and backslidden that you cannot or do not pray for your children.

How awful to be a born again Christian, and not to be concerned about the eternal welfare of our own children! If you are out of church, I encourage you to get back into a good Bible-preaching church immediately. Get in and stay in. Make the difference for your children and grandchildren, like Timothy’s mother and grandmother.

Thank you for reading. God bless.

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Divine Arithmetic In The Church

arithmeticIn a recent message, we touched on some of the different ways in which the Holy Spirit works in the local church. We make a mistake when we think that God only grows the church in one direction. Many grow discouraged when they do not see that one dimension of growth. In the church of Jerusalem, often the model of church growth, we see the Holy Spirit working in four different ways, which we call His “divine arithmetic.” Consider:

I. ADDITION.

  • Acts 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
  • Acts 2:47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
  • Acts 5:14 And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.

This is an exciting time in any church – when people are getting saved, baptized and added to the church. It is always a blessing to see people added to the Lord, being saved from their sins and born into God’s family. It is also exciting to see people joining the church and increasing the membership. If a church doesn’t grow, it will die or at least become stagnant.

II. SUBTRACTION.

  • Acts 5:5-10 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. (6) And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. (7) And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in…(10) Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.

Here, we have a situation in which God subtracted two from the church membership – by death! It certainly caused quite a stir. A righteous fear of God filled the church. We know of other situations in the New Testament in which members were excluded because of sin (such as the young adulterer in 1 Corinthians 5).

But not all subtractions are negative. God can remove people from a church for various reasons. Sometimes, people move away, and it is the will of God.  Perhaps God wants to use them in another church. Sometimes it is the best thing for the church (if the person is a bad influence), sometimes it is the best thing for the member being moved (if the current situation is not healthy for them), and sometimes it is to be a blessing in another church (where they are “added”). As a pastor, I have always enjoyed people moving to my church more than people moving away, but sometimes God does work by subtraction. (Of course, so does the devil, and many people simply backslide out of God’s will for their lives, or are mislead by others.)

Sometimes, preachers and church members get discouraged when the attendance trends downward for a time (“it ain’t what it used to be!”) – but we should understand that such times happen in churches and we should trust God and work harder to see addition.

III. MULTIPLICATION.

  • Acts 6:1 And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied…
  • Acts 6:7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.

When a church goes from simply adding people here and there, to actually doubling and tripling in size, it is an amazing time. God can still do it!

IV. DIVISION.

  • Acts 8:1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

For six chapters, the church of Jerusalem was added to, subtracted from, and then multiplied – and then God split it and scattered the members abroad. This resulted in many new churches being started in Judea, Samaria, and many other areas. In another example, in the great church of Antioch, the Holy Spirit divided Paul and Barnabas from the church and sent them to the mission field.

Certainly, Satan is also in the church dividing business – but his divisions come from heresy, hard hearts or the works of the flesh. When God divides a church, it is for the furtherance of the gospel.

What is our part in all of this? To seek to carry out the Lord’s Great Commission, to be His witnesses, to preach the Bible and do all we can to win souls, baptize believers, and train disciples. The Holy Spirit, the Administer of the churches, will do His work – adding to, sometimes taking from, sometimes multiplying, and sometimes dividing.

After 15 years at LBC, we’ve seen all of the above. We have seen constant additions (not every day, or every Sunday perhaps, but constantly and consistently over the years, including this year). Every year, our church directory includes new names. We have seen subtractions. Every year, our directory takes a few names off. There have been times when our church has doubled or more than doubled in a short amount of time. And we have seen times of division, including recently, when the Holy Spirit divided a good family from our church to start a new church in a growing area.

Don’t be discouraged. Keep on pressing on and trust God! God wants to grow His churches, although His ways are not always the ways we might choose for ourselves.

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DO RIGHT – AND THEN LEAVE IT IN GOD’S HANDS

186There is an old and admittedly cynical saying that “no good deed goes unpunished.” Though it is certainly not absolute truth (many good deeds certainly are rewarded), it certainly feels true sometimes.

Joseph-in-the-pitSuch a thought may have entered Joseph’s mind during his 13 years of trials and hardships, from the Pit to Potiphar to Prison and finally to Pharaoh’s throne. Had Joseph done wrong by being the good son in a family of reprobates? No, but his good deeds led him to be betrayed by his brethren and sold into slavery.

Had Joseph done wrong when he steadfastly refused to commit adultery with Potiphar’s wife? No – but his refusal led to a false charge of attempted rape and a prison sentence.

Did Joseph do wrong when he cared about the butler and sought to encourage him by interpreting his dream? No, but the butler forgot his promise for twenty four more months. Joseph may have scratched 728 more marks on his cell wall, one for each day from the time that the butler forgot him to the day that he was suddenly called to Pharaoh’s office. The next day, he was Vice Pharaoh over all Egypt!

David did right, and behaved prudently (1 Sam 18:14) – and yet was hated by jealous Saul, who even sought to have him murdered. Seven years of David’s life were spent in the wilderness, as a fugitive, simply because he had done right. Twice, he could have killed Saul and refused to do so. Doing right may have prolonged his situation – but God worked it out for the best in the end.

Jesus went about doing good – but people still hated Him Continue reading

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It’s More Fun To Give To The Grateful

teaching-gratitudeLuke 17:11-19 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. (12) And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: (13) And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. (14) And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. (15) And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, (16) And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. (17) And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? (18) There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. (19) And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

In this familiar story, the Lord was very gracious to heal this group of ten lepers, but was very disappointed when only one bothered to return and give thanks; the other nine went on their way, healed – but apparently ungrateful. All received the same blessing, but only one was a blessing back to the Lord Jesus through the return gift of gratitude.

Paul reminded us of what has been called “the forgotten beatitude” –  “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive,” (Acts 20:35). It is more blessed to be the giver than the receiver.

When I was a child, I looked forward to Christmas, primarily for what I hoped to receive. As an adult and a father, I look forward to Christmas primarily for the joy of watching my children receive their gifts. It is more blessed to be on the giving end. It is a real joy to see my kids enjoying their present – and I sure do like it when they give me a hug and say “thank you!”

However, when there is no gratitude rendered, much of the joy of giving is lost. Jesus should have received thanks from ten men, but only got a tithe of what He deserved – one man’s gratitude.

It’s more fun to give to those who express gratitude. To be sure, we should give whether people are grateful or not (Jesus DID heal the nine), but it is much more enjoyable when people express gratitude. It makes you want to give them more! Conversely, when people are not grateful, it makes us want to give them less!

Is there not a spiritual lesson here for us? God loads us daily with benefits – but do we give Him thanks? Are we grateful – and do we express it? The nine healed lepers may have felt gratitude for their sudden good fortune, but they did not express it to Jesus. Gratitude must be expressed personally, and not just on Thanksgiving Day as we rush to eat our turkey and dressing.

Do we rob God the Father of some of the blessing of giving to us when we do not give thanks daily and for all His blessings? Do we miss out on blessings simply because we are not more grateful? Only the one leper who returned gave glory to God and received the extra word of assurance – “Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.”

Gratitude is not just an attitude – it is a duty, an obligation, a sign of good character. It is something to be expressed. Do you say “Thank you?” Are you fun to bless?

Just a thought. Thank you for reading and MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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21 Lessons From 21 Years Of Marriage (And Ministry)

img009Proverbs 18:22 Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.

This Thursday, Mrs. Raz and I will celebrate 21 years of marriage. We were 19 years old. We got married in the church we were saved at, and immediately began serving the Lord in that church, teaching Sunday School and working a van route. 15 years ago, we started Lighthouse Baptist Church together. We have four wonderful kids, the oldest of which will soon be enrolling at Heartland Baptist Bible College, and the youngest of which just entered our youth group. Our whole adult life has been spend together, serving the Lord, and I can testify that it is a great way to live – and has the best benefits.

So, to celebrate 21 years of marriage and almost 15 years as pastor and wife, Continue reading

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Dear Churches – Don’t Close The Doors, Give Them Away!

church saleRecent statistics show that approximately 3500 churches close down every year in the United States, for many different reasons. Churches grow old and towns die off. Poor leadership, splits, and other problems have caused many churches to decline to the point of bare survival. Too often, these churches close their doors and then sell them – to bars, coffee shops, mosques, bargain stores, or to be bulldozed for commercial use.

Perhaps you are in this situation yourself and do not know what to do. Last year, we had the privilege of meeting with a deacon in a rural church south of our city. His son attends our church, and through him we learned of the church’s situation. It had dwindled down to 2-3 people, and had a bad name in the community. They did not know what to do, but they were considering selling their property to a lumber yard. At a meeting to discuss their future, another pastor and I emphasized that the property was good property, and had been bought with God’s money for God’s work, and ought to be used for God’s purpose. Long story short, that church called a friend of mine to be their pastor – they reorganized, got a new name and some good leadership, and they are now doing well. A new church was born in the old location.

auctionA friend of mine down in Florida has been meeting in a community center while starting a new church in an expensive city. Just this week, a struggling church gave them their property, 100% free. Now, the Word of God will continue to be preached from the pulpit, souls will be saved, and a new church will prosper and grow.

I recently read of a new church in California that was given a beautiful property from a church in its last days. This property would have sold for a lot of money, but the remaining members of that church obviously had deeper spiritual priorities.

Before closing the doors, why not consider giving them away? Is there a new church in the area that could use the property for the glory of God? What if you have a mortgage? Can the new church take over payments, or buy it outright? That is what we did here in Wylie, purchasing this property from a Church of God that was relocating to the country. The pastor then told me, “We just feel that God’s money was used to build this place and it ought to continue on being used for God.”

Why not pray about it? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see the empty pews filled with new people – to know a man of God is preaching the gospel in the pulpit, and that the Bible is being taught in the Sunday School classrooms again?

Thanks for reading. God bless.

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So, You’ve Graduated from Bible College – Now What?

College-GraduationMay means Bible college graduation across America, and it is an exciting time. I remember when I graduated from the Norris Bible Baptist Institute in 1997; I was 22 years old and ready to attack hell with a squirt gun. After years of 7 am classes and all-night work shifts in warehouses and freight docks, and then squeezing a couple of hours of sleep in during the afternoon (and maybe some in class), I was ready to be in “the ministry.” I wanted to pastor or serve on staff somewhere, and start putting my all that knowledge to work.

However, no staff positions came my way, and churches weren’t looking for 22 year old pastors (at least, none called me). Anyway, it was my goal to start a church, Continue reading

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Helping Our Children With Ministerial Loneliness

lonely_0Proverbs 17:17 A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
Loneliness is not confined to the ministry. Many are lonely today, and many children grow up in lonely situations, for many different reasons. The purpose of this post, however, is to give some insights into helping children deal with “ministerial loneliness” – ie, the kind of loneliness that comes because their parents are in the ministry (pastoral, missionary, evangelistic, etc) – though I believe that many of these suggestions would benefit any child.

In 1993, I surrendered to the ministry. Amanda Hudson married me in 1994, knowing that I was called to be a preacher. Therefore, it’s her own fault that she is a preacher’s wife (she actually loves being a preacher’s wife). Our first child came along in 1997, and now we have 4, the oldest of which will be heading off to Bible college at the end of the summer. None of them surrendered to be preacher’s kids; they were just born into a preacher’s household. Yet, we have never seen any unhappiness about it, and all four surrendered their lives to God at an early age and, as far as we can tell, are Continue reading

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Article: Issues of Forgiveness – How To Handle Offenses

the-prodigal-son (1)In a previous article, we discussed the importance of repentance in regards to reconciliation and forgiveness. In this post, we are going to discuss how the Christian can scripturally handle offenses when they come. And they will come. Jesus told us so:

Luke 17:1 Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!

In a world full of sinners (including ourselves), all sorts of issues and stumbling blocks will be cast in our way. Some stumble over those offenses and end up out of church, out of the ministry, out of God’s will. Others stumble into a bitterness that poisons their lives. Some stumble into the dungeon of unforgiveness (see Mt. 18:34).

When we are offended, what scriptural options do we have?

I. We can PASS OVER IT. 

Proverbs 19:11 The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.

Some people live with a chip on their shoulder. And if no one knocks it off, they will do it themselves, and blame whoever happens to be nearby at the time. They are the stars of their own soap operas; drama queens who are constantly stirring up arguments, Continue reading

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Article: Why The Fire Just Won’t Go Out

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAJeremiah 20:7-10 O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived: thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me. (8) For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily. (9) Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay. (10) For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side. Report, say they, and we will report it. All my familiars watched for my halting, saying, Peradventure he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him.

The prophet Jeremiah had a tough, fifty-year ministry. Over the years, he saw the great spiritual reforms of Josiah disappear under the ungodly leadership of his successors, and then sat and wept as the nation was destroyed and carried off into Babylon. At one point – weary from being derided daily, mocked, persecuted, reproached, and defamed – the prophet decided to quit preaching. He determined that he would no longer make mention of the Lord or speak in His name.

But there was something in Jeremiah that would not allow him to be silent. There was a fire deep within that would not allow him to quit. This unquenchable fire was Continue reading

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