“I Will Preach the Good News…”

“I Will Preach the Good News…”

Like you, I have endured the many months of back and forth of political debate. There is unrest and division like I’ve never seen among the citizens of our country. Much finger pointing is being done to direct blame as to why “things are the way they are.” It hurts my heart to see this wander into the church. I figured it was just a matter of time before the criticism was directed at pastors because “they don’t preach the truth anymore”; who is they and what truth are you speaking of?

No doubt you can find a preacher who’s misguided here and there but what I see and hear is that people really like their version of truth told. Presently, that seems to be the criticism of some political candidate, party, platform and the endorsement of another.

Let me tell you, your pastor(s) was not called to make you feel good about your political party. They are not called to criticize and make rude jokes about President Obama, Mrs. Clinton or Donald Trump; they are called to build up the church and preach the “Good News.”

The gospel of Jesus Christ affects our lives in a multifaceted way. A good preacher/pastor will preach the entirety of Scripture and not dwell on one area (eg. homosexuality, drinking beer or watching Harry Potter movies).  On occasion, the message may be to “repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” Repentance makes us right with God through his son, Jesus – it’s the Good News (Romans 5:8)!

At the heart of the matter, God is what we are all longing for whether we are religious or not. Much of the anger and unrest we see is because we want comfort, we want to live in peace, we want to be safe, we want our needs provided for, we want….Eden. It was perfect, it was good and God walked with his creation there. Newsflash; Eden is gone because man thought it wasn’t good enough. Our father Adam and mother Eve soon discovered that what they really wanted after all was God. Even now, we still long for that place but our hope is not in a return to the Garden; indeed it’s to be with God!

Stay with me a moment! In our church, like many others, we still have a “response time” at the close of the sermon. We believe that the response continues long after we leave the building and is expressed in how we live our lives. However, I’ve seen many personal commitments begin in those few moments of prayer and reflection when God is speaking to a person. This is not a plea that we should all use the “Alter Call”; God speaks as he wishes. There’s nothing magical about the front steps or the prayer bench at the front of your sanctuary but sometimes God uses our posture and physical perspective to get us out of the norm and hear him. We call this “getting out of our comfort zone.” You should try it sometime; it’s amazing!

Here is my point: I’ve watched many, many times in services when the call was given by the pastor/preacher to come and pray at the “alter” and respond to the Truth. I’ll be honest and say I’ve seen it at my church too; people stand there quietly and stare while the invitation to respond is given. Maybe they gather their Bible and belongings, ready to depart! The look I see on faces screams, “Hurry and sing the other verse, we’ve got somewhere to be.” Week after week, the alter is empty, many times after the pastor has pleaded with “saved, church people” to come and cry out to God to move, work, restore, to heal our land and be with us!

If your knees hurt, okay, I understand; but don’t blame your pastor for the problems in your life and in this country. If you can’t get up and down without breathing hard, okay; but don’t blame your pastor for the problems in your life and in this country. If you don’t like kneeling and praying in front of the congregation, okay; but don’t blame your pastor for the problems in your life and in this country. If you’re afraid that someone will think you have a problem in your life if you go to the front and pray, I get that; but don’t blame your pastor for the problems in your life and in this country. If you’re afraid you’ll miss your seat at the local chicken joint if you go down front to pray, I understand; but don’t blame your pastor for the problems in your life and in this country!

If you’ve never experienced the gospel of Jesus and repented of your sins and turned to him; I pray you’ll do that. I pray God heals you of disease and meets any need you may have. I pray that you’re bold as you follow Jesus and you do the things that he did. I hope you’ll pray for President Obama that he and his family will be blessed and he’ll look to God as he makes decisions. Pray for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump that their heart would be set on the Lord. Yes, pray about your decision on November 8, 2016. I’m praying too and preaching the Good News (Isaiah 61:1). By the way, the “alter” is always open at all services at First Baptist Vernon.

God bless,

RTJR

“All In”

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Over the past decade or so, the phrase “all in” has been used by sports coaches, political candidates and leaders of various organizations. According to a September 7, 2015 New Yorker piece (Going All In On “All In”) by Ian Crouch, the frequent use of the phrase is related to the rise in popularity of Texas Hold’em Poker. When a player bets all of their playing money on a single hand, they are considered “all in.” Used in the context of a locker room or board room, a person that is “all in” has committed all of their emotion, physical strength, thought and effort to the cause at hand. I remember Gene Chizik who coached the Auburn Tigers to their 2010 National Championship; he used the phrase with his players, coaches and fan base to describe the effort needed to win.

There’s a an old hymn that us who are familiar with church music grew up singing; the hymn’s title is “I Surrender All.” It’s hymn number 275 in the 1991 Baptist Hymnal; the hymnal that we have in our pews at First Baptist Vernon. I would venture to say that very few people know the names, Judson Van DeVenter or Winfield Weeden, however, you’d be pressed to find a multitude of “hym’ers” who don’t recognize their  famous work. One line of the hymn reads, “Lord, I give myself to Thee.”Wow, this captures the thought of being “all in” as a follower of Jesus!

Maybe at some point in your life, you were a part of a championship team. Maybe you served in the military and helped win a battle. Maybe you were awarded a scholarship to college because of your GPA. For some, getting through the day at work and getting the family fed and tucked in is considered a win! I think we all know the struggle and effort that it takes to be successful at anything in this life. I remember when I got a “C” in College Algebra; I felt like I had won “scholar of the year.” After seeing that on my grade sheet and knowing what I went through to get it, I considered it a win!

I think we all want to win no matter what’s at stake. The Apostle Paul instructs us about life to “run the race to win it” (1 Corinthians 9:24).  Jesus gave his disciples, and consequently his church, the command to go and make disciples. As the pastor of First Baptist Vernon, I often evaluate and observe if we are “winning” at what Jesus has told us to do. I can tell you right now, if we are not “all in” we are not going to win at this task.

There are no shortcuts to success. Do I sound like your high school soccer coach? I can tell you this, the work that Jesus has called us to has way more implications than any ballgame! Over the next few posts, I want to share some thoughts with you about the need to go “all in” as a member of Christ’s church. I hope that you’ll move beyond the pew and give what it takes to win!