God is Love
Favorites, we all have them! What is your favorite flavor Ice Cream (my answer would be "yes"!), what is your favorite sports team, what is your favorite color, what is your favorite food, where is your favorite vacation location....you get the idea. Our favorite is what we would chose over any other option. There are some who think God has favorites, or at least some He prefers over others. They think, "Well, God wold never choose me, I've made too many mistakes". "God can't love me, I mess up all the time". "God can't love me, I have too many bad habits". Those kind of thoughts, though they make sense to us, they are contrary to the Word of God. Acts 10:34 and Romans 2:11 both say that God shows no partiality. We can't compute that in our humanity. There are those that we don't love. They have hurt us, they have disappointed us, they have been cruel and spiteful toward us, so love doesn't fit in to our opinion of them. But, that doesn't apply to God. Romans 8:38-39 make that perfectly clear. "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord". See, it doesn't matter how high and lofty your opinion of yourself. It doesn't matter if you think you are the lowest of the low. It doesn't matter how far away you run from God, or what things you place before Him. None of these things can stop God from loving you! He loves you no matter what you have done, what you haven't done, or how low your opinion of yourself. He loves you so much that He sent His only Son to die on a cross and to pay the price for all the wrongs you have ever committed, and ever will commit! He loves you so much that no matter where you go, you can't escape His love. He loves you so much that He offers you full forgiveness of sin, even if you never accept it. So, I guess I was wrong, God does have a favorite!
God's Favorite is You!
What do you choose?
As I write this, we are about 40 days into a "Stay at Home" directive amidst the Covid-19 Pandemic of 2020. I saw a post on Facebook that said, "Can we reboot 2020, this version has a virus attached"! We didn't enter 2020 with any idea of what events were awaiting. In February, when the virus first was discovered in the U.S., most of America didn't see this as a national crisis event. Now, as I write this, 40 days later, some states are starting to re-open, economies have been wrecked, and churches are considering what re-gathering will look like. Through it all, there have been many different responses by individuals. Some have chosen to live in fear. Some have chosen to live carefree, some would say carelessly. Some have been cautious. Others have chosen to hide away till the all clear has sounded. No matter how you have responded to the crisis, let me encourage you to choose a biblical attitude. No matter what your physical response to the virus guidelines have been, let me encourage yo to choose the emotional and mental attitude of Joy! The book of Philippians is a book of joy! You will find the word "rejoice" or one if its synonyms 16 times in 4 chapters. Paul is a prisoner when he writes this, yet, joy is his response. During these days, there are some who feel like a prisoner. Staying at home as directed by government officials, unless you are an essential worker. Schools are closed, retails stores have been shut down, restaurants have been carry out and deliver only. However, even in settings such as this, you can still choose joy! Paul tells us in Philippians 4:4, "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, rejoice."
Let that be your choice as well. No matter the circumstances, no matter the crisis, no matter the fears, joy can be your choice! So, today, choose Joy!
Blogging and Beyond
As you can tell from the dates of my previous blog posts, I am not much of a blogger! It's not that I don't have anything to say. My congregation knows that my mouth often runs on and on! I will try my best to keep up a weekly blog. If I fail at times, please don't throw in the towel and not return. Just give me a couple extra days! Social media and this digital world are new concepts to this analog mind!
As I write this, we find ourselves in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, and a state mandated "Stay at Home" executive order. Many ask, "Is God trying to get our attention so that His people would cry out to Him for an awakening?", "Would God really send such a crisis for that purpose?". Over and over I am hearing II Chronicles 7:14, and Joel 1-2 in these days. My answer to those questions is "Yes, God is trying to get our attention". Yes, God does want His people to cry out to Him in prayer. Yes, God does want His people to call to Him, to turn from their sin, to fast, to weep and mourn over sin and the condition of our nation and His people. The simple answer is "YES"! But, that is and always has been His desire! It was His desire for His people in the wilderness of Exodus. It was His desire during the period of the Judges. It was His desire during the ministry of Jesus walking the Earth. It is the reason Jesus died and rose again. Is God trying to wake us up! Yes! Is the Covid-19 pandemic discipline from the Lord! Probably! The true question is, what will your response be? Romans 13:11 says, "And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed."
God, trying to get the attention of His people, is not a new thing. Unfortunately, He continually has to do it, because we aren't very good at awakening out of our sleep!
The Christmas Story
In December we hear the message of the birth of Jesus. The story that is found in the Gospel of Luke is familiar to most people this time of year. It is in Christmas Cards and children's programs. It is recited by choirs and written on ornaments. It is even boldly proclaimed on TV within the Charlie Brown Christmas show, one of my favorites. However, while the Christmas story is found in the gospel of Luke and Matthew, truth is that the entire Bible points us to Jesus. He is seen in the Garden of Eden, when God made a covering for Adam and Eve when they recognized their nakedness. There was a shedding of blood to create a covering. That is what Jesus did on the Cross of Calvary, where He shed His blood to cover our sins. He is the "I Am" spoken to Moses on the backside of the desert. For He will say of Himself, "I am the Light of the World", "I am the Door", "I am the Good Shepherd", "I am the Way the Truth and the Life", "I am the Resurrection and the Life", "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End", among other statements of who He is. Jesus is the 4th man in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He is the Commander of the Lord's Army sent to encourage and direct Joshua. He is the Kinsman-Redeemer found in Ruth. He is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace given to us in Isaiah. He is the babe in the manger, the King of the Jews on the Cross, the Bright and Morning Star, and the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! This Christmas, enjoy the Christmas story found in Luke's gospel and in Matthew. But, take some time to discover Jesus found in the whole Word of God. You may just find Him in some unexpected places! From Russellville Baptist Church, Myself, and my family: Merry Christmas! May God's richest blessings be upon you this holiday season!
The Beauty of Letting Go
Fall is upon us, some of the leaves are starting to change before letting go!
As I was driving through town this morning, I marveled at the beauty of the fall colors. It's amazing to me how one day a tree can be green with no indication of change, then just a couple days later, it has is full of vivid orange, red, and yellow.
The same is true of a spiritual journey with Christ. However, instead of changing before letting go, you and I must let go in order to change. I've had people tell me, "preacher, I know I need to get saved, and when I get my life straightened out, I will". That is so contrary to the gospel! You can't changed yourself enough to be acceptable to God. The Bible reminds us that our best is just filthy rags in the presence of His holiness. No, instead, the message of the cross is "Come unto Me, all who are weary and heavy -laden, and I will give you rest". Salvation comes when you understand "For by grace have you been saved through faith, that not of yourself, it's a gift of God, not as a result of works lest any man should boast." When you let go, then God can bring a marvelous change. He will take someone completely hostile toward the gospel, and change them into a marvelous picture of grace, representing the vivid life that is found in Christ Jesus!
The old song says it well:
"What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought
since Jesus came into my heart!
I have light in my soul for which long I had sought,
since Jesus came into my heart!
Since Jesus came into my heart,
Since Jesus came into my heart,
floods of joy o'er my soul like the sea billows roll,
Since Jesus came into my heart."
Just let go, and marvel in His glorious beauty!
Running on Empty
We are coming up on the time of year where everything is happening all at once. The holidays are right around the corner. With that comes shopping, cooking, parties, family events, travel, decorating...well, you know the rest. Add these to the regular routine of life, and there is only one result: FATIGUE! As if people aren't tired enough, once you add the holiday schedule, there is not enough coffee to help us maintain! So, let me help you deal with what you know is coming.
In I Kings 19, Elijah had just experienced a wonderful victory, as God proved Himself on top of Mt. Carmel. The prophets of Baal and Ashereth were slaughtered, and Elijah was used by God in this mighty victory. However, in chapter 19, we find Elijah running scared, literally. He receives word that Queen Jezebel wants him dead. So, he did what any other person would have done. He ran! He was already exhausted having watched the prophets of Baal cry out to their god all day long. He then prayed that God would send down fire, and He did. He has led the charge to kill the prophets of Baal. He has traveled up and down Mt. Carmel a couple of times. Now, after hearing of Jezebel's desire, he runs down the mountain, through the Jezreel Valley, and then another days journey into the wilderness. No wonder he is tired. Just like us, running everywhere, trying to do everything. Trying to keep up with an impossible schedule, which is an impossible task. When fatigue hits, and some of you find yourselves in constant fatigue, what do you do?
First, Get Well! God finds Elijah resting under a broom tree. Elijah's fatigue led him to despair. He is praying to die, saying, "it is enough, Now Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers"
(vs. 4). Did God need to do business with Elijah? Yes! But, God didn't reprimand him, nor did he rebuke him, at least not yet. First, God provided nutrition and rest (vs. 5-6). You are no good for God's service if you are not rested for the battles. Second, Get away! After caring for Elijah, God's angel instructs Elijah to go 40 days and nights away from stress of the moment. Listen, we all need time to get away. I heard Charles Swindoll once say, "If you don't take time to come apart, you will come apart!" There is truth to that! It may be a 7 day vacation. It may be a day trip to the mountains. Maybe a weekend to visit friends or family. It was the habit of Jesus (Mark 6:31). Don't tell me your job is more consuming than His. If He can take time away, so can you! Third, Get some Help! Once God got Elijah alone, He reminded him, that he was not alone in the battle (vs. 19-21). Elisha became Elijah's servant. Do you have someone to speak into your life? Someone who can assist you, someone to be accountable to? Do you have someone who can tell you to slow down? Find someone!
In times of fatigue and weariness, usually there is a very important ingredient left out of our lives: It's our personal relationship with God. We are burning the candle at both ends, and God is left out! Truth is, in fatigue, what we need more than anything is a long, well-needed look at the Savior! This holiday season, don't allow yourself to get so run down that you don't take time to run to the Father!
The Essential Quality of Christianity
If you could name just one quality that every believer must have, what would it be? There are many options: Love, repentance, brokenness, holiness, and others you could list. However, let me share a popular verse with you, that I believe suggests what the most essential quality for a Christian should me. II Chronicles 7:11 says, "If my people who are called by My name would humble themselves, and pray, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sins, and will heal their land." There it is! The essential quality is humility! Too many times when preachers preach, or when teachers teach on this passage, the emphasis is on prayer. Or even the need to repent from sin. And yes, those are in the verse, and yes, they are key ingredients to faith. But, to get to those qualities, you first come to humility. We must humble ourselves. A friend of mine, Will Hall, states it this way, "This is important, because 'being humble' is the central tenet of every spiritual process: If you want salvation, you must first humble yourself. If you want to restore your fellowship with Christ, you must first humble yourself. If you want to mend broken relationships (spouse, friends, church members, children), you must first humble yourself." Repentance comes when God's Holy Spirit reveals your sin, and you humbly recognize you can't save yourself, and you need a Savior. In spiritual maturity, you are never more like Christ than when you humble yourself. Paul says in Philippians 2, "Let this mind be in you...being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto the point of death, even the death of the cross." Micah 6:8 reminds us, "He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God." There is no place in the Christian faith for an arrogant believer. There is no place in the Church of Jesus Christ for a conceited church member. Humility recognizes that apart from Christ, I am nothing. Humility knows that I am just a sinner saved by His amazing grace! Humility bows the knee knowing that one day, "every knee will bow, of those in heaven, and on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." You want to glorify your Father in Heaven? Begin by humbling yourself!
Famous Words of Encouragement
They may be the most famous words in the Bible, besides John 3:16. They are words which are quoted in funeral services, and written on Bible covers. They hang on our walls as decoration, and are memorized by many saints. I am speaking of Psalm 23. These verses speak into many areas of our lives. For this occasion, I just want us to consider the first 3 verses.
"The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters,
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake."
Go with me for a few moment to the places described in this verses. Close you eyes, and picture yourself lying down in a large, green meadow. You lie down for a while, then, you rise, and go just a few steps to a calm stream nearby. After some time there, you notice a path that has been worn, leading from the stream, and you follow it. I don't know about you, but these images are relaxing, and soothing. I picture stillness and tranquility. Things we don't get much of in the hustle and bustle of life. These are images that seem so far away from us. Yet, they don't have to be. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, "I am the Good Shepherd..." (John 10:14). If Jesus is the Shepherd of your life, notice something with me, He takes the lead! Psalm 23 says, "He makes me lie down", "He leads", He restores"! These are great words of comfort and encouragement. Even when life is crazy, and you find yourself being pulled in very direction possible, it is good to know, that you can still find comfort and rest in Christ Jesus! These verses also remind us that we must take time to come apart from the world. You and I must allow Jesus to make us lie down! We must allow Him time to lead us into stillness and solitude. I heard Charles Swindoll say, "If you don't take time to come apart, you will come apart". Such truth! How can you follow the Shepherd, if you don't take time to look for Him?
Find your rest in Christ Jesus! Find peace for your spirit in His green pastures. Find tranquility in His refreshing waters. Find restoration in His forgiveness. FInd righteousness in His cross!
In His Service,
Rev. Gene Nelson
Preparation for the Battle
It's something every believer faces, well, for that matter, it is something every human faces: Temptation. Some fight to resist, some quickly give in, and others face it head on! And, like any battle, preparations must be made in order to stand in the presence of temptation. Paul writes in Ephesians 6:13, "Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." So, how do we stand? How do you and I go about being prepared for the temptations that we know Satan will throw before us?
Joseph (Old Testament) shows every believer how to stand. First, there must be a determination of spirit. In Genesis 39:7-10, temptation is thrust upon Joseph, as Potiphar's wife attempts to seduce him. However, verse 9-10 tell us Joseph's words to her; "There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her." Did you notice something. Joseph did not say being with her would be a sin against her husband. No, it was a sin against God. Before the temptation even presented itself, Joseph had a determination that refused to sin against His God! It's also called integrity! It was Joseph's desire to not even be in the same room as Potiphar's wife, because he knew, in her presence, there was temptation to sin against God, and He wanted nothing to do with it! There is a lesson for you and I. You must be determined, knowing that temptation is on the way, that you will not sin against God!
Also in Joseph, there is the powerful presence of God. In verse 3, the Bible tells us, "And his master saw that the Lord was with Him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand". Did you notice that? The presence of the Lord was seen in Joseph. It wasn't just talked about, it was seen. It wasn't just thought of, it was seen! Even when falsely accused, and thrown into prison, verse 23 tells us, "...the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made to prosper." See, Joseph's determination, preparation and personal integrity kept him from temptation, because the power and presence of God in His life!
I wonder, in times of temptation, can the same be said of you and me? Would people say "I see the Lord's presence with him", or "I see that the Lord is with her"? So often, we stumble in times of temptation because we aren't prepared when the time comes. May Joseph's thought be our thoughts: "How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God"!