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Indebted

Like many, I was surprised and saddened to learn of Billy Graham’s death yesterday. Since he was 99 years old, it was expected, but it was still a surprise.

As I reflect on a life well lived, I acknowledge my debt of gratitude to Billy Graham. He impacted my life in a number of ways.

  • My mother-in-law came to faith in Christ during one of Billy Graham’s first crusades in Los Angeles.
  • As a junior higher, my parents and my brother and I sang in the choir during a crusade in Anaheim Stadium. I recall going forward and rededicating my life to Christ during that crusade. I benefited from the follow up material afterwards as it helped strengthen my faith.
  • I attended the counselor training when a crusade was held in the Seattle-Tacoma area.
  • Our church participated in phone counseling after several of the Graham crusades.
  • Billy Graham’s practice of financial integrity and avoiding temptation with the opposite sex provided models to follow.
  • Our church participated in the My Hope campaign four years ago. It provided one more tool of how to share your faith.
  • A couple of articles I wrote were published in Decision Magazine.
  • My wife and I visited The Cove and The Billy Graham Library two years ago and were greatly impressed and encouraged.

Salvation, discipleship, equipping, resources, examples, tools, models, encouragement, ministry opprotunites … I am indebted to Dr. Graham in many, many ways.

Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2018 in Funerals, Heaven, News stories

 

Life Lessons from Football

Book Review: Always Fall Forward: Life lessons I’ll never forget from “The Coach”, by Todd Gerelds

“Outwork your opponent.” “Your stance is critical.” “Leave it all on the field.” “A proper handshake.” These principles and 48 others are among the 52 life lessons described by Todd Gerelds in his devotional book, Always Fall Forward: Life lessons I’ll never forget from “The Coach.”

The author has penned a 52-week devotional book using key lessons he learned from his father, the head football coach at Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, Alabama. Each devotional thought is based on a verse of Scripture. The author begins with a story from his high school playing days, a principle that his father employed in coaching, or an account from personal experience. He then weaves a biblical principle into the story and follows it with another illustration from business or family life. Each devotional thought concludes with another Scripture passage and a few questions to think about during the following week.

The book is aimed at encouraging men to live the way Coach Gerelds lived—grounded in faith and willing to stand up for what he believed—no matter the cost.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Tyndale Blog Network http://tyndaleblognetwork.com/ book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2018 in Books, Men

 

First Central Bible Church is sending one of our own into missions in Spain

First Central Bible Church has the unique opportunity and privilege to send one of our staff members to Spain as a missionary with SEND Int’l. Below is a letter sent to the congregation describing the opportunity.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2018 in First Central Bible Church, Ministry, Missions

 

Is there a “fast pass” to heaven?

The world was horrified last week to learn of another school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In the midst of the tragedy, there were also acts of heroism as teachers shepherded students to safety. In particular, assistant football coach and security guard Aaron Feis used his own body as a shield to protect students. Taking a bullet and giving his life to save a student was a noble, heroic, sacrificial action.

Aaron’s action prompted one editorial cartoonist to suggest it was an automatic ticket into heaven.

 

It God grades on a curve, a sacrificial death would certainly rank higher than helping an elderly person cross the street. It would undoubtedly gain more points than donating blood, telling the truth, digging a well in Saharan Africa, curing malaria, or giving up your seat on a bus to someone with a broken leg.

But does God grade on a curve? Can one earn their way into heaven by performing good deeds? Do some actions guarantee one’s entrance into heaven?

In order to answer that question, we need to examine what Scripture says. Jesus told his own disciples that the path to God runs through himself.

John 14:6 – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

In an interview with a Jewish leader, Jesus said that eternal life is directly related to one’s faith in Christ.

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

The apostle John reiterated the same point years later when he wrote his first letter.

1 John 5:13 – I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.

The apostle Paul explained that one needs to believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Only then can we be saved and enter heaven.

Romans 10:9–10 – because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

If there was any question about how to enter heaven, the apostle Paul explained that salvation is determined by what God does for us, not by what we do for ourselves.

Ephesians 2:8–9 – For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Good works, selfless deeds, and sacrificial acts are certainly valuable. While they might result in greater rewards in heaven, they won’t guarantee one’s entrance into heaven. Only putting one’s faith in Jesus for salvation will lead to eternal life.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2018 in Heaven, News stories, Scripture, Theology

 

To the Church in Philadelphia: A Church that was Faithful

While I was in the rehab center back in November, I applied for a disability parking placard from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). When I called two weeks later, I was told it took two months to process and I would receive it in February. Frustrated by the bureaucracy, I forgot all about it. Two weeks ago, I received a letter from the RMV asking me to surrender my driver’s license because the doctor who signed my original application noted I was medically unable to drive. I called to explain that was three months ago and was no longer valid. I was told I needed a note from my doctor saying my condition had improved and I was medically cleared to drive.

Rather than taking your driver’s license away, what if someone wanted to take heaven away from you? What if you were told that the door to heaven was closed and you were no longer welcome? What if your church told you to stay away and you could no longer attend?

In Revelation 1:11, Jesus sent a message to each of seven local churches in Asia Minor. While the believers in Philadelphia may have been excommunicated from the Jewish synagogue, Jesus send them a letter (3:7-13) encouraging them that the door to heaven is always. That hope would help them remain faithful in the midst of trying circumstances and persecution.

Jesus wants us to remain faithful in difficult situations. We must keep his word if we want to remain faithful.

The Church (7a) – The church was possibly founded as an outreach of Paul’s ministry at Ephesus (Acts 19:10).

The City (7a) – The city was located about 28 miles southeast of Sardis. It was located in an area noted for its grapes but afflicted with earthquakes which destroyed the city several time, most recently about AD 17. With an economy based on agriculture and industry, Philadelphia enjoyed considerable prosperity. Because it was located in a vine-growing district, the worship of Dionysus was its chief pagan cult.

Philadelphia was situated in a strategic place on the main route of the Imperial Post from Rome to the east, and thus was called “the gateway to the East.” It was also called “little Athens” because of the many temples in the city.

The Character of Christ (7b) – Jesus described himself as the one who is holy and true, who holds the key of David, and is able to open or shut a door which no one else could open or shut.

Holiness speaks of his purity and total consecration to God. He will not lead his people into moral error. True or faithful would remind the believers that Christ can keep his promises and carry them to completion. Jesus is reliable. He can be trusted. The key of David refers to Isaiah 22:20-23 where Eliakim was the steward of Hezekiah and possessed the key of David. He was the gatekeeper who allowed access to the king and the king’s presence.

Christ alone has the authority to admit persons to his heavenly city. Because he is holy and true, no one can ever argue that his admission of some and refusal of others is unrighteous.

The Condition of the Church: Commendation (8-10a) – Though small in number, the congregation had a powerful impact. Though they had little strength to oppose the forces of evil, they kept Christ’s word and were faithful. It is not the size of the church that determines its ministry, but faith in the call and command of the Lord.

Jesus has placed before the church an open door. This could mean an open door for evangelism (1 Corinthians 16:9). As the “gateway to the East,” they had a unique opportunity to carry the gospel to the cities of Phrygia. It could also mean an open door to heaven (Revelation 4:1). Christ has placed an open door into the eternal kingdom, and no one can shut it.

The believers were faithful and loyal. They had not denied Christ even though they had opportunity to do so. Despite the pressure, they were faithful.

Christ refers to their enemies as the synagogue of Satan. They were Jews who opposed the believers’ Christian testimony. The day will come, however, when all opponents of the faith will have to acknowledge the truth. This probably refers to a future event of judgment.

The Commitment (10b-12) – Because the church was faithful and willing to endure patiently, Jesus promised to keep them from the hour of trial. The hour of trial will be terrible for all who live on the earth. Christ also promises that he will coming soon. They were encouraged to hold on to what they have so that they do not lose any heavenly rewards because they fell into sin.

Everyone who is an overcomer will become a pillar in the temple of God. This is a picture of stability and security. Because believers have identified with Christ by faith, he will identify himself with them. Jesus will write his name on the faithful believers.

The Challenge (13) – Take the message to heart. Hear and heed the message.

Principles (1) God is more interested in faithfulness than success. Perseverance is the key to receiving the rewards God has for us. (2) Jesus has the key of David. He is able to provide access to heaven to those who keep his word. He can be trusted to keep his promises.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 18, 2018. It is part of a series of sermons on The State of the Church. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Is your God big enough to …?

Book Review: Not God Enough: Why Your Small God Leads to Big Problems, by J. D. Greear

To paraphrase A. W. Tozer, the most important thing about you is what you believe about God, because what you believe about God determines what you believe about everything else. That statement summarizes both the title and the theme of J. D. Greear’s book, Not God Enough: Why Your Small God Leads to Big Problems.

In the book, the author seeks to explain that many of us have created god in our own image and made him a slightly smaller version of ourselves that we can control. However, this inadequate view of God holds us back from experiencing a life-altering, world-transforming faith.

When we have a bigger, more accurate understanding of who God is, we discover that he is big enough to handle our questions, fears, and doubts. God is both a God of love and a God of wrath. He is not silent and is speaking to us today. God is worthy of our dedication and our worship. He has a purpose and mission for us to accomplish during our lives on earth. All of this and more can transform our faith from boring to bold.

The author combines sound biblical teaching, humorous illustrations, and personal stories in laying out his argument for having a bigger view of God. Much of his explanations come from a study of the life of Moses. The book is encouraging and enlightening.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2018 in Books, Theology

 

Repenting (again) about rehab

One definition of repentance is to change one’s mind. That being the case, I have repented (again) about rehab.

On December 8, 2017, I wrote a blog post explaining I changed my mind about rehab. Rather than merely doing exercises as a means to an end, I needed to view rehab as my primary task. In January, I returned to the pulpit (so to speak, since I haven’t actually used a pulpit in years) and started preaching again. I explained to folks that I had two priorities, preaching and rehab.

Now that we’re in the middle of February, I have to repent all over again about my attitude. My rehab exercises and stretching takes up a huge chunk of my day. If I do them correctly, I’m spending 45-60 minutes three times a day working my way through the list of recommended activities. That’s 2-3 hours out of my day for rehab! I feel the pressure of time and self-imposed deadlines. I have places to go, people to see, and things to do. I don’t have time to do rehab.

However, if I cut corners and skip a session or three, I will postpone my recovery. It will take me much longer to get back to full health and strength. In addition, I might fall short of my goal of being able to walk unassisted when I leave for Russia on April 8.

So I repent of my laziness and busyness. Rehab and preaching must remain my only priorities for the next few weeks. If I can do other things, I will. But I cannot commit to anything else for now. There will be time later to open up my schedule for other activities.

I have to once again give myself permission to heal and recover. I have to acknowledge that my priorities and schedule are different during this season of life. It won’t last forever, but for now, recovery needs to be my focus.

Time to start the next round of exercises.

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2018 in Health, Personal growth, Preaching