I just wanted to post an update on my situation. There has been a good bit of improvement. I am not yet where I need to be with my blood pressure, but it is a lot better than it was a couple of weeks ago. I go back to the doctor on Wednesday for another evaluation.
Over the last three or four days I have been feeling a little better. Maybe my body is getting accustomed to the medicine. I sure hope so.
I really appreciate the prayers. There is no doubt they have helped and it is such a blessing to have friends who will call out your name to God. Please continue to pray for me.
For children who grow up in church, it is very easy for them to view it as nothing more than a religion if they never see the evidence of God at work. This fact was brought home to our church in a very real, but positive, way this past week.
Bro. Jackie and his wife were a dear couple in their seventies. After he had a stroke about a year and a half ago, they moved down from Illinois to live with their daughter. The stroke affected his speech and his mobility, causing him to be mostly confined to a motorized wheelchair and leaving his speech somewhat halting. Additionally, he was dealing with Parkinson’s disease and a number of other ailments.
Over the last few months, Bro. Jackie had two or three close calls with death, going in and out of the hospital and nursing home.
Sunday before last, he was able to be in church. It was always a pleasure to see him there. He had a million-watt smile and an obvious hunger for the Word of God. He was one of those people who could make a preacher hurt himself preaching.
At the end of the service, he motored his way down to the altar and requested that I and the elders of the church pray for his healing according to James 5:14. I called the deacons to the front and we gathered around Bro. Jackie and prayed for God’s hand to raise our brother up.
That night, Bro. Jackie slipped into a non-responsive state. Over the next three days his vital signs began to slip and it was obvious that the end was nearing. On Wednesday, about an hour before prayer meeting, he went home to be with the Lord. His family, as well as the church, felt a real sense that God had answered the prayer of faith and given him ultimate healing.
This past Sunday, one of our young boys at church, age 11, approached his Sunday School teacher and told him he needed to be saved. This young man had been raised in church and had actually been baptized at an earlier age. When I talked to him about his decision, he shared with me that his earlier baptism had not been based upon a genuine profession of faith. He further testified that seeing Bro. Jackie come forward for prayer, and then seeing God take him home had convinced him without a doubt that God is real.
Most of us have seen the staggering statistics about 85% of those church members who reach the age of 18 leave church, never to come back. Could it be that in their entire lifetime in church they have never seen God working in a manner that proved His reality? This is certainly not the fault of God as we know that He responds to faith.
The answer to reaching our young people is not another program, trip, rally, camp, car wash or (dare I say it?) class. They need to see real faith in the lives of those who are older, real faith that produces real results from a real God.
This post is written in response to some provocative thoughts brought up by Jada’s Gigi in the comments of my last post. As my answer was rather lengthy, I decided to post it out here rather than in the comments.
JG–thanks for your thoughtful and thought-provoking remarks.
May I propose some thoughts for your consideration?
I do not mean to say that we cannot experience God. We know that experiencing God is one of the most wonderful realities of being a believer. God, however, will never cause or allow us to experience Him in a way that is contradictory to the written word.
You mentioned the fact that prophets spoke what God had put in their heart. I agree with you on this point, they certainly did learn this by experience. However, they gave a written record of what they saw. Jesus Himself referred to the written record of the prophets many times. By the time the Apostle Peter wrote this epistle (I love using “apostle” and “epistle” in the same sentence), the O.T. prophets were long gone. The only “voice” of the prophets was the written record of their divine visions.
As far as God writing prophecy or anything else in our heart, Revelation 22:18,19 tells us that the book of God’s prophecy is complete and nothing should be added to it. The problem I see with people saying “God told me —–,” is that those who do so either claim God told them something that is in contradiction with the Bible, (which won’t happen) or else what God told them is already in the Bible (and thus there is no need for Him to repeat it). The alleged divine message becomes subjective to the bias of the recipient. I spoke to this in the first paragraph of my last post. We tread on a slippery slope theologically when we make man the final authority on what God says.
I definitely believe that in the context of Peter’s writing, he is referring to the written word as being superior to the experience. As great as it is to experience the glory of God, our sight and hearing can betray us. (As one who used to be a sports official, I can vouch for that.) But the Word of God is true.
Thanks again for your response. You certainly raised some good points that deserved a thoughtful answer. I hope that I have provided that.
Most of what we read is subjective. The content is subjective to the intent of the author, the interpretation of the content is subjective to the understanding of the reader. Generally, a reader may interpret the thoughts of a writer without any fear of negative consequences for misinterpreting what the writer said. (Exceptions to this might include the IRS tax code and instructions for “some assembly required” toys).
The Bible is somewhat different. God is its author therefore it carries with it divine fiat. Believers have the right to interpret Scripture for themselves free from dogma or control of spiritual hierarchy. With that right of interpretation, however, comes an incredibly important responsibility of interpreting it correctly. We are accountable to God for how we interpret His Word.
The Bible is the only book that can genuinely lay claim to divine inspiration. “Inspiration” literally means, “God-breathed”. God spoke to holy men and impressed upon them through visions, thoughts and audible voice what they were to write. God chose his instruments carefully and the result is a collection of 66 books that was written over a span of 4,000 years by numerous writers and yet is unified in its theme and consistent in its message. No other book can even come close to matching this level of magnificence.
We speak of the Bible as being inerrant and infallible. This means that it is without error and is incapable of failing. This speaks to God’s ability to preserve His Word as He promised. Satan has tried to deny, destroy, debate and dilute the Word through the centuries. He persecuted those who wrote and translated the Bible. He perpetuates lies and confusion to cloud the minds of men so as not to believe the Word, yet it still remains.
What is our responsibility concerning the Word? First, we are to read it as the source of our faith and knowledge. Second, we are to submit ourselves to what it says. Remember, Scripture is God speaking to us, we should listen and obey.
We are to recognize its superiority to the writings of men. It is wonderful to read what others say about the Bible, but that is no substitute for reading it ourselves. Reading Christian literature without reading the Bible is like reading a recipe book and hoping our body will receive vital nutrients from the experience.
We should realize that the Word of God is superior to our experience. I often hear people say something like this, “I don’t know what the Bible says about this, but this is what I felt.”
Peter dealt with this in II Peter 1:16-21. He, along with James and John were eyewitnesses of the majesty of God on the Mount of Transfiguration. They audibly heard the voice of God from Heaven affirming Christ as the Son of God. If something like that happened in our time, the individual who was blessed to experience it would get a book deal, go on a speaking tour and be on all of the television talk shows. Not Peter, his response to this was, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy“. He placed the authority of Scripture over his own experience with God.
We are in exciting times at Pine Park Baptist Church. For the last two years we have been in a building program for a completely new facility. God has been blessing our church with growth and we desperately need the added space and upgraded facilities. An additional blessing is that we will be debt-free when we move in.
We are nearing the end of the project and hope to be in the new building within a month. The feelings of anticipation are running higher than a six-year-old on Christmas Eve.
Here is my prayer request. Throughout this project, God has blessed us with an incredible spirit of unity. While we have had some varying opinions (a healthy thing) on different aspects of the project, the church has been unified in its purpose for this building. As we near the completion, please pray that we will stay focused upon Christ. We realize that this building is only a means to an end. The real church is people and we must not forsake our passion for God’s kingdom work because of material things.
This whole process has been a time of spiritual growth for our people (including their pastor). I will post more soon on how God has worked during this time. I pray that this building will not cause us to become complacent, but will only stoke the fires of our desire to reach our community for Christ.
This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. I John 1:5
God is light. This is one of the most revealing statements about God in all the Bible. It goes beyond saying what God does and focuses upon what He is.
It is interesting to think that the very first thing God created was light. He spoke and the stamp of His glory was indelibly placed upon the cosmos. His word is an extension of His nature. The more we immerse ourselves in His word, the more light we will have in our lives.
When we think about the physical qualities of light, we can see some wonderful parallels with the nature of God. The first of these is that light is unchanging in its nature. In its fundamental nature, it cannot be altered. God also is unchanging.
Light can neither be defiled nor contaminated. As light shines through transparent objects, the only effect they may have on light is to limit its brightness by their own defilement or opaqueness, but they cannot contaminate the essence of the light. As believers, we are to let God shine through our lives. The only things that hinder that light are either contamination of sin in our life which dims the light, or unbelief that blocks it altogether. The more transparent (clean) we are, the more of God’s light will be seen through us.
Light is only visible when it interacts with matter. As light touches various objects, their pigmentation causes us to see the effects of the light. While we cannot see God in His spirit nature, we can certainly see why John described Jesus as the Light. Through the Word of God, we can see the results of God interacting with man. With John, we can say, “We beheld His glory.”
Light can be experienced through three qualities:
Luminiferous–Seen but not felt
Calorific–Felt but not seen
Actinic–Felt and seen
We can see how this compares with each member of the Godhead:
God the Father–Seen but not felt
God the Spirit–Felt but not seen
God the Son–Felt and seen
Colossians 2:9 tells us that God has invested the fullness of the Godhead in the person of Jesus Christ. For those who might have doubted the divinity of Christ, John is saying, “Jesus is the light of God. He is real, I have both felt and seen Him. Believe!”
Not only is God light, but there is no darkness in Him at all. This darkness refers to moral or spiritual darkness. God is completely light. He is holy perfection. There is no capacity for moral corruption in God. This means that Jesus could not have sinned. Because God is sinless, everything He does is just.
Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour. Ecclesiastes 10:1
Perhaps you heard the story that came across the news wires yesterday. A 12-year old boy was visiting an art museum with a group of his classmates. For some reason, he decided to stick his chewing gum on the lower corner of a painting that is estimated to be worth 1.5 million dollars. The museum curator stated that the gum, while coming off fairly easily, left a residue about the diameter of a quarter. The painting can be repaired, but only through a costly and time consuming process.
Such is our testimony. Our testimony is what others think of Christ based upon what they see in our life. A testimony is a very fragile thing, it takes a lifetime to build, but can be destroyed in a moment. Dr. Johnny Hunt states, “If we damage our testimony, we are fortunate if we ever live long enough to repair it.”
One word, one careless act, one temper tantrum can cause years of witness to become ineffective.
Let me share with you something that happened to me when I was 13. My father was pastoring a church in a small town in West Virginia. Having been saved as a child I was doing my best to be a witness to my friends.
There was one kid in our neighborhood, Dennis Wilfong, whom I had witnessed to for four years. He came from what most would consider a hard background. While he was always ready to play, he showed absolutely no interest in the things of God. While I was able to get some of my other friends to go to church with me, Dennis never did.
One day we were playing in my yard. I was in a bad mood and Dennis was too. For some reason that I can’t remember we started fighting. We were about the same age, but I was a good bit bigger and so had no trouble in whipping him. He stood up with his nose bleeding and looked me in the eye and said, “You always talk about being a Christian, but I know that you are nothing but a hypocrite!” Four years of witnessing went down the drain in one moment because I failed to exhibit self-control.
Shortly after that, both of our families moved away and I have never seen Dennis again. Dennis, if you, by some chance, ever read this, please know that I asked for God’s forgiveness for that day’s events and I ask for yours as well. I have often prayed that at some point in your life you were able to get past the obstacle that I placed in front of you and find your way to God.
Those in Afghanistan have had a very challenging task of finding a man who is more slippery than an eel. Trying to find Osama bin Laden has been an endeavor that is requiring a lot of patience and commitment. I have faith that our guys will win, but I am sure they would appreciate our prayers.
Our troops in Iraq are facing a much more dangerous situation. Some say civil war is on the verge of breaking out, some say it isn’t. I am not going to enter that debate here. My concern is that our troops are now getting caught in some sort of cross-fire that just makes an already difficult job, that much harder. Again, I believe in the abilities of our troops, but they need our prayers.
Beyond the obvious factor of safety, we need to pray for this conflict to end in the right way. I am not sure I know what that is, but I know Who does. The reason I think we need to pray for this is that this war will have a profound impact on defining how we approach the next one.
No, I am not advocating that we jump from the frying pan into the fire. But, there will be future conflicts. There are still those in this world who would threaten the liberties of others, including our own. They must be stopped and sometimes that requires force. The way we come out of this war may indeed determine how we go into the next one.
So let us remember that beyond all the debate, presidential approval ratings, talking heads on news channels and editorials, there are the soldiers. Our sons and daughters, neighbors and friends are in harms way, doing what they signed up to do. If necessary, they will be called upon to do it again someday. They will do their duty, because that’s the way they are. They are Americans and we are proud of them. They need to know that we support them, and the best way to do that is prayer.