PASTOR’S BLOG

 
GOD’S WORD SPEAKS TO OUR EVERYDAY LIVES

It’s So Easy to Get Lost, Isn’t It?

How many times do I hear the tales of woe from those who have departed the pathway of righteousness? How many times must I witness the plight of those who wander from the ways of God,  watching them walk out into the swamps of misfortune and/or sometimes end up in the Valley of the Shadow of Death?

Each time, it leaves me shuddering. Each time it takes me back to the moments when I was standing at the verge of two totally different pathways. Each time it reminds me that only by the grace of God, did grace intervene! Each time, my Lord’s voice whispers recollections of how I was spared months, years, or perhaps even a lifetime of misery.

It is so easy to get lost, isn’t it? Many of the people who end up dying of exposure in desert areas become lost and eventually succumb to the harsh conditions, because they could not retrace their steps back to safety. When everything around you is unfamiliar, it can so disorient a traveler that it leaves them without any landmarks to follow for a return trip.

In an August, 2009, article from National Geographic News quoted a study by the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics. The study pointed out that when people are lost, they naturally tend to walk in circles, especially when walking in a forest. Subjects lost in deserts tended to walk in circles also, or just veer off course.

So why is this important for us? Simply, it means there is good reason to become alarmed when those we love are, “veering off track,” so to speak. There are many who lose their way and (although they do not realize the danger zone they are entering) keep going, simply because they cannot seem to find their way back to safety.

We grieve when we see loved ones leaving the way of God’s blessings, because we know what awaits them. Proverbs 14:12 says: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

Veering off the straight and narrow comes naturally to us, because of the fall that occurred in the Garden of Eden. Fallen humans simply cannot keep a straight course. We must have a compass, or some other instrument to keep us focused on the goal.

In the same way, spiritually, it is so important for us to stay anchored and rooted in God’s Word and in His Church. Without these God-given instruments for guidance, we are going to stray from the, “old paths, where the good way is,” as it says in Jeremiah 6:16.

Why am I spending so much time on these words of warning? Because it is far easier to stay on the right path, than it is to try and find your way back once you have strayed away. Hopefully, I will be seeing you on Sunday.

Blessings & Peace

Brother Dan
 

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls.’ But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ Also, I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not listen.'”

                                                                                                                                                -Jeremiah 6:16-17, NKJV


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The Bible’s Mic Drop

We are living in an age when the gospel is more offensive than ever! As the world grows darker and darker in sin and rebellion against God, the forces of evil are turning cultural values upside down. What was once considered offensive is now encouraged. What was once elevated and emulated is now considered outdated, repressive and despicable.

So, in their attempts to reach those who have left the faith due to their new found, “enlightenment,” and subsequent disillusionment  with all things, “churchy,” or, “preachy,” many churches and denominations have sought to  lessen the offensiveness of the gospel message. Whether it is by trying to seem more accepting of worldly customs and behaviors, or by refusing to adhere to Biblical morality altogether, it seems the American Church just keeps watering down the Bible to suit the ever degenerating demands of society.

In our rush to make the Church seem, “more relevant to our culture,” I am afraid we have forgotten something: we aren’t here to glorify or mollify our culture; we are here to praise and glorify our Lord Jesus! The Bible makes it clear that God didn’t choose a plan of salvation that would be desirable or even mildly acceptable to the wisdom of the world.  

To the contrary, 1 Corinthians 1: 18 says: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Verse 21 continues by saying: “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”

When are we ever going to get past thinking ourselves wise enough to know better than the Lord how to reach people for His Kingdom purposes? When are we ever going to quit trying to focus on what should be attractive to those who are lost and refocus our attention on Him? When are we going to quit trying to determine for ourselves how to reach out to the unsaved world? Why are we always trying to make ourselves, our messages and our churches attractive to people, instead of simply telling the truth?

People without Christ are lost and doomed to an eternity in the torments of hell. There is nothing we can do to redeem ourselves, because we have all sinned and fallen short of the glorious perfection of God’s holiness and righteousness. Period. End of story. (Mic drop)…..

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” – Ephesians 2:4-7, NKJV.

Our lives are not to be wasted trying to, “make ourselves appear more relevant.” Our time is not to be spent trying to, “make our churches appear more attractive.” Our resources are not to be squandered trying to, “make the message appear more acceptable.”

Our purpose in life is merely to advance His cause. We do that by declaring His praise and proclaiming His grace and how He has shown His love for us by sending His own Son to die in our place as the only, acceptable sacrifice for our sins.

See: it’s not about us; it’s about Him! See you on Sunday?

“For Jew request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and wisdom of God.”

                                                                                                                                                1 Corinthians 1:22-24, NKJV

Blessings & Peace,

Brother Dan


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“How can I be a witness for Christ to the ends of the earth?

Apparently, going into all the world was so important to Jesus, His words about it are also recorded in Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15 and Luke 24:47! Jesus didn’t just encourage, ask us to consider, or even strongly suggest that we take the gospel to the end of the earth; He commanded us to do it! 

“How can I be a witness for Christ to the ends of the earth? With my schedule, I’m lucky to make it to Virginia, once in awhile!” Given the enormity of this challenge, many are probably thinking, “How can one church do that? Why that’s just impossible!”

That is where denominations come into play. Far from being a burden or a problem for churches, denominations are the only way small, medium sized or even mega-churches can make a concerted, serious effort to take the gospel to all nations: not just some nations and not just a few!

Fortunately for us, we can and must take that command seriously! We can do it, because Immanuel Baptist is a Southern Baptist Church (SBC)! As a member church of the SBC, Immanuel is a fully autonomous body. That means we are not owned, operated, or overseen by any other organization.

So we are not forced, coerced or directed to do anything by any other organization! Nevertheless, we voluntarily choose to affiliate ourselves: with the Mountain State Baptist Association (locally); the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists (regionally); and the Southern Baptist Convention (globally).

That is why we voluntarily contribute to mission opportunities  each year. Because we give a percentage of our regular offerings, it allows us to support the SBC Cooperative Program (CP). Since the Cooperative Program provides normal operating expenses at SBC agencies, that means every cent of every dollar given to special offerings during the year goes directly to support those special emphases and the missionaries that perform them. There are five of those offerings received throughout the year. Here is the list.

The Annie Armstrong Easter Offering is received in the Spring of each year. This offering supports mission projects in the U.S. and Canada. It funds church planters and new church starts. That includes over 5,000 missionaries at present!

The World Hunger Offering money is received during our annual f30 Weekend. Every penny will go to purchase food and supplies or get people to food and/or water (including drilling wells to provide clean water). 80% of that money goes around the world. The other 20% is used right here in the U.S.

The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering provides funding directly to missionaries serving outside the U.S. Once again, our CP giving allows 100% of those funds to go directly to the support of another group of nearly 5,000 missionaries serving around the world!

The Clifford Compton Associational Missions Offering is coming, May 27th. This money is used in our own Mountain State Baptist Association. It assists churches in ministerial support and church planting; the  Harold Dove Scholarship Fund that assists college students; and the MSBA Endowment Foundation that allows our churches to obtain interest free loans.

The Ola Cox State Mission Offering will be received in the weeks leading up to September 16th. Those funds help church planting missionary salaries, various conferences and training events and supports our state mission offices and missionaries. So, being part of the SBC allows us to be world-wide witnesses!

While some churches may boast of helping support dozens or even hundreds of missionaries, as an affiliated, participating SBC Church, Immanuel Baptist members help to support thousands of them!
 

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” – Acts 1:8, NKJV

 
Blessings & Peace,
Brother Dan

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Who Needs Doctrine?

“Doctrine? Ooooh, yuk! Who wants to hear about doctrine?” That is the current thinking of most Church members, these days. It seems there is no quicker way to turn off the average Church member than by preaching, teaching, or even mentioning the word, “doctrine!” It is the taboo of the modern Church.

And yet, according to the apostles God used to record the New Testament, there is nothing more important for the Church to be about than preaching, teaching, and talking about doctrine! Because the New Testament writers mention it so often, you would think most parents would consider training their children and youth about what they believe and why they believe it to be of utmost importance!

Unfortunately, such is often not the case. At least, it must not be the case for most Christian parents today, because they do not place any importance on where, or even if, their children are getting much in the way of scriptural admonition and training in discipleship.

I say that, because, as a member of ten different churches in four different states (and a staffer and pastor of some of them) I can honestly say I know of no other Church that commits as much of its finances, resources and time and effort into the teaching and preparation of our children and young people. Furthermore, I know of no other denomination that offers as much in the way of Sunday School and Discipleship materials, events and opportunities than does the Southern Baptist Convention.

But despite all that, I have observed that most parents don’t seem to bother themselves with whether or not their children happen to receive the benefit of it! Despite the fact that there is always something going on for our children and young people, it appears that most parents don’t see the need for any of it, because most of our children are somewhere else.

This is especially true, when recalling how many other churches of which I’ve been part, and think of how often I heard complaints about what we weren’t giving/doing/offering our young people. The complaints were usually that we weren’t providing enough activities; or we didn’t have the finances to offer what our children’s ministries needed; or we didn’t have enough adult leaders; or we didn’t have the kind of facilities required.

In short, how often I’ve heard parents bemoaning the need to provide the kinds of things that are routinely offered here at IBC. Nevertheless, I am certain we would be getting the same kinds of complaints here, if we weren’t offering all that we do (and seeing how easily it is all overlooked, or just neglected).

It is spiritual neglect, to have the kind of trained, professional youth ministry opportunities provided and to see that most of our parents are not supporting what Immanuel Baptist routinely offers. Unfortunately, we only have a very limited number of years to pour the important things (like sound Biblical doctrine) into the lives of our young people before they leave us. Statistics are clear. We now find that a full 85% of the students who are raised in Church will leave it before they reach their 18th birthday. Leaving the church, they will go off to the college campus, or out into the world to get their fill of the world’s doctrines of deception, debauchery, discontent, despondency and death.

Jesus said: “The thief does not come, except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”  (John 10:10). Mom and Dad, take the time to lead them to life. It starts by leading them to a consistent commitment to a Church that is living and alive!
 

” Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”

                                                                                                                                – 2 Timothy 4:2-4, NKJV
Blessings & Peace,
Brother Dan

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Is Anyone Listening?

“What am I supposed to do? He won’t even listen to me!” How many times have exasperated mothers or fathers cried out these words? Why does it so often seem that no one is listening to the voice of reason? Why is it that the ones we love the most are seemingly unable to hear our words of warning?

Perhaps it is because they do not want to hear the message. We live in a society that no longer accepts anything as, “absolute truth.” Therefore, even the warnings of God’s Word are flippantly tossed aside and disregarded. When people refuse to hear what God says, is it any wonder they refuse to listen to any advice we may offer? After all: whatever truly wise counsel we may provide is always based upon the truths of God’s Word.

The Bible teaches us that there are only two things in this world that will never change: One is the character and nature of God; the other is human nature. Human nature never changes, unless God, in His saving grace and mercy, intervenes!

The culture in which we now find ourselves believes only those things it desires to believe. That is why the world will affirm the goodness and grace of God, while totally rejecting His demand for holiness. That is why the world will claim a relationship with God, while living in opposition to the commands of scripture.

In Leviticus 19:1-2, the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.'”

In John 14:22-23, Jesus said: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.”

1 John 2:3-5 says: “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.”

We are living in a world that is duplicating the Gnostic beliefs that began infiltrating the Church of the first century. The belief system of the Gnostic gospel proclaims that the spirit within man is good; It is only man’s flesh that is evil. That is why our culture can live in open, defiance of God’s word and then proudly proclaim, “I know I do some bad things, but deep inside, I am a good person! After all, God knows my heart.”

Those falsely claiming to know God see no need to change their behavior patterns. Such people discount the stern warnings of scripture. Their false sense of “inner goodness,” will allow them to persist in unrighteousness. Thus, they fulfill the passage from Revelation 22:10-11, printed above.

The Bible says most people will be unprepared for the Lord’s return. In Revelation 22:12-13, Jesus said: “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”

Are you ready for His is coming in 2018?

Blessings & Peace,

Brother Dan

 

“And he said to me, ‘Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand. He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.'”

                                                                                                                                Revelation 22:10-11, NKJV


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Seeking Jesus

To moderns, the report of the Magi coming from the east to find out where the Jewish Messiah was born seems like some mythical story thrown into the account of Jesus’ birth. Most people probably think it is just there to make for more characters in our modern day nativity scenes. 

You can’t understand the reality behind the record, unless you look into the Old Testament Prophetic books. The book of Daniel actually gives a time-line for the appearance of Israel’s Messiah. Daniel Chapter 9:24-26 speaks of a seventy-week period of years for that occurrence.

An angel told Daniel specifically in verses 25-26 that there would be periods of 7 weeks and 62 weeks of years before Messiah would be, “cut off,” or executed, “but not for Himself.” Although after 70 years of captivity, the Jews were allowed to return to their homeland in 539 B.C., it wasn’t until 89 years later the Persian King Ahaseurus allowed Nehemiah to go back to rebuild the city, as Daniel 9:25 describes.

7 weeks of years later would coincide with right around 400 B.C., when Malachai spoke the last prophetic words of the Old Testament. There would be 400 years of prophetic  silence before God spoke again, through the preaching of John the Baptist. That was shortly before Jesus began His ministry.

Some three years later, Jesus publicly presented Himself to the nation of Israel at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It all happened in the early years of the third decade of the first century A.D. As we now know, Jesus was crucified and shed His sinless blood for our redemption, that very same week.

While you might be wondering how all of this would make the wise men of the East search for a star announcing the birth of Israel’s Messiah, look no further than Daniel Chapter 1:17-20, where it says:

“As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. Now at the end of the days, when the king had said that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. Then the king interviewed them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm.”

The wise men from the East were members of the people known as the “Chaldeans.” Others regard their ethnicity as descendants of the Medes. Either is possible, since Daniel was revered for his wisdom in both Nebuchadnezzar’s ancient realm of Babylon, and the Medo-Persian Empire that superseded it.  In any case, these people preserved Daniel’s writings long after both of those empires had disappeared into history.

They had to have made their calculations based on the passage in Daniel Chapter 9! As a result, they would surmise that someone of such political importance, then marked for execution, would have to be a man at the time He was, “cut off.” Therefore, an unusual phenomenon in the night skies would be seen as an omen that something of divine purpose was occurring. That would have inspired them to seek out the object of such cosmic importance.

So what about you? Will you seek Him out this season?

Blessings & Peace,

Brother Dan

 

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.'”

                                                                                                                               

Matthew 2:1-2, NKJV

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Thanksgiving Gives Perspective

Life is fleeting. Relationships are gifts. Love is of God. Peace holds people together (within themselves as well as with others). Having the privilege of experiencing any one of these is cause for thanksgiving. Being part of a Church, where it all is taking place, simultaneously, ought to be cause for an overflow of thanksgiving and praise!

When people are in the process of giving thanks to God for the things they do have and enjoy, it leaves no room for the muttering, grumbling and complaining that discourages both the one doing the grumbling and the ones who have to listen to it! Unfortunately, while there are some people who get into the habit of doing the complaining, some others are all too happy to man the tables at the complaint department! When that happens, everybody loses, because the momentary joys of life listed above are lost.

As a young man, I had the distinct privilege of working in a long-term care facility in Nashville, Tennessee. I took a job there right out of seminary, so I literally went from an ivory tower into the valley of the shadow! I say that, not because it was an unpleasant place to work, but because it was a long-term care facility, so there were many residents who were at the end of life’s road.

But since I was a young male, along with my work with the regular population, I was also tasked with the responsibility of doing groups with young men who had been incapacitated in some way or another. This group included those who had been relegated to life in wheel chairs, either because of drug deals gone wrong, bar fights that ended badly, reactions from drug overdoses, botched suicide attempts, and even one case of a man, blind and lame from birth defects.

The interesting thing is that among them I also found friends. I found a wealth of information. I got an education from some of these men that I would never have received in my otherwise sheltered life. From them I learned to be joyful, simply for walking out of that facility on my own two feet, if nothing else.

Beyond that, I learned that life doesn’t always stop just because we want to get off the bus. Sometimes it goes on; even through the very worst case scenarios that young people never see coming. These men taught me that a smile and an encouraging word goes a long way. In fact, it goes a lot farther for some people than you would ever imagine.

I learned that simple acts of human compassion are not so simple, after all. I learned that attitudes are everything. From them, I learned that God is good all the time; even when some people aren’t.

So, as we have the opportunity to approach another season of thanksgiving, let’s start enjoying the life that God has given us, individually, and especially as a Church; a group of people who have the privilege to enjoy some of this fleeting time called life; to relish more deeply our on-going relationships with others;  and to savor the love and peace that come from God. Let’s do it with an attitude of thanksgiving for it all, in Christ!

Blessings & Peace,

Brother Dan
 
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.”                                                                               – 
Colossians 3:12-15, NKJV

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