This week was another week in which we see some of the depths of the depravity of the human heart as the mass murder and wounding of so many happened this past weekend in Nevada. The killer has been called “a monster” which seems to be the best description the news media can come up with to try to summarize the horrific nature of this killer.
The Bible tells us that murder is in the heart of man—Mark 7:21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,
We know that there was murder in the first family on Earth as Cain killed his brother Abel.
We know the source of murder—John 8:44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
I have said that this is an act of depravity so let me take a moment and give you a brief but important theological understanding of depravity. I will share one of the succinct but excellent explanations from the Moody Handbook of Theology to make this clear:
"Total depravity should first be defined negatively: it does not mean “(1) that depraved people cannot or do not perform actions that are good in either man’s or God’s sight.… (2) that fallen man has no conscience which judges between good and evil for him.… (3) that people indulge in every form of sin or in any sin to the greatest extent possible.”
The word depravity means that because of sin’s corruption “there is nothing man can do to merit saving favor with God,” while total means that depravity “has extended to all aspects of man’s nature, to his entire being.” Calvin defined man’s depraved estate as follows: “All men are conceived in sin, and born the children of wrath, indisposed to all saving good, propense to evil, dead in sin, and the slaves of sin; and without the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit, they neither are willing nor able to return to God, to correct their depraved nature, or to dispose themselves to the correction of it.”
The Scriptures emphasize the depravity of man by man’s continual sinning (Gen. 6:5; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:10–18). The reason is that man is born a fallen creature with the pollution of sin (Ps. 51:5). Depravity also affirms the inability of man to do good (Matt. 7:17–18; John 15:4–5; 1 Cor. 12:3). Depravity further affirms man’s inability to understand the good (Matt. 13:14; John 1:11; 8:43; Acts 16:14; 1 Cor. 1:18; 2:14; 2 Cor. 3:12–18; Eph. 4:18). Depravity also indicates man cannot desire the good (Matt. 7:18; John 3:3; 6:44; 8:43; 15:4–5; Eph. 2:1).
Total depravity indicates man’s utter inability to do anything for his salvation. God must initiate the process if a person is to be saved.
Among other things this teaches us that there is absolutely no action of wickedness to which the human heart cannot go. We saw evidence of this in the actions of this man who took the lives and damaged the lives of so many. We also see that nothing apart from the work of God can reach the human heart. Thank God for His grace!
We should all grieve for and pray for those who have been impacted by this situation. We should grieve for and pray for our nation. We should pray for those in law enforcement and all our civil servants.
And we must remember that while there is so much darkness in this world and in the human heart, there is HOPE. It is found in Christ alone. And you and I have the opportunity to be a light in this darkness. Matthew 5:16 “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” As has been said, “the darker the night, the brighter the light.” There is much darkness around us so we should be shining very brightly. Show and shine the light of Christ in the darkness around you.
I received an email this morning letting me know that today is “National Coffee Day.” How could I not know that? I do not know how many places are actually giving away any free coffee but I am sure that they would be glad for many people to buy their coffee.
There are many national holidays in our country. Today is not a national holiday but the retail industry has been able to add many types of celebrations to our calendar so that were it possible to know we might discover that there is a celebration of some kind, somewhere that would fill every calendar day of the year.
The fact is, as people we love celebrations! From a Biblical standpoint for believers we should “rejoice with those that rejoice.” We find in the Old Testament that there were many celebrations throughout the year. Their calendar included but was not limited to the Feast of Tabernacles, Day of Atonement, Feast of Weeks, Passover and others. They celebrated the Sabbath weekly. They made a big celebration of weddings.
As a nation we have many celebrations including some that are national and reflective and days that honor others and historical events, etc.
Celebrations bring joy and delight. There is unity as many gather around a common theme. There are memories and in our day and age there are numerous pictures.
As believers we have much to celebrate. We begin our week with a celebration as we meet together to worship the Lord on Sunday. Sunday should be a day of celebration not a day to begrudge having to go to church when you could be doing something else. It should not be a day of selfish thinking and personal agendas. It should not be about “me” at all. It should be the day of the week when I desire to be unselfish and sacrificial. It should be the day when I am committed to focusing on God. It should be the day that I seek to more fully understand the Word of God and how I can obey it. Sunday should be a day to celebrate what it means to be in Christ. A day to celebrate our salvation. A celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. A day to give ourselves to a greater depth of what it means for Jesus to be Lord over all in our lives.
Sunday should be a time of hungering and thirsting after righteousness. It should be a day of giving thanks to God and praising Him. Sunday should be the day that we humble ourselves before our great God. It should be a day of loving God and our neighbor. Sunday should be a day of the week that we anticipate and look forward to. It should be a time when we as believers who are brothers and sisters corporately meet together and offer ourselves to God and worship Him with our whole being so that we can love Him and serve Him acceptably every day the rest of the week.
Is Sunday a celebration for you as you come to church?
A good pattern is what we find in I Chron. 16:23-31 as David gives thanks to the Lord:
Sing to the Lord, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place.
Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth; yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!”
If you have an alarm on your phone, you might want to set it for 4:02pm today. It is at that time that a new season begins—FALL! Yes, today is the first day of Fall. My Dad always talked about the “good ‘ole Summertime” when it got really hot in Texas. But for now, those days are over and a new season will officially begin this afternoon. This will be our first Fall to be living down here although we visited here last year in the latter part of Fall. I know that the leaf change will be different in this area but have heard how beautiful it is in many places around here. We look forward to seeing that.
While Jesus walked on Earth, He was conscious of the seasons. Imagine the Creator of life who became a man (though still God) living through the seasons. It stretches my mind to consider the implications of that.
The Scripture comments about the seasons in Ecc. 3:1-22 which is one of the most well known passages regarding the seasons and times. But there are so many others to consider:
Genesis 1:14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years,
Genesis 8:22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
Daniel 2:21 He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding;
Psalm 1:3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
Psalm 104:19 He made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting.
Matthew 24:32 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.
There is so much more to consider but I want you to pay particular attention to what Jesus said in Luke 10:2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Jesus reminded His followers of a spiritual truth by pointing out the season. And since that season is now upon us we are reminded that the season of harvest is still on-going. And we are also reminded that there are very few who truly labor in this harvest. Jesus is referring to the work of evangelism and telling others about Him. It takes all of us to work hard in making Christ known in this sinful and decaying world.
I want to challenge and encourage you to be a faithful and hard-working witness for Jesus Christ. You have some friends, neighbors and co-workers who need Christ. Ask God for opportunities to share your faith with them and with others.
And we need to pray. We must pray for souls.
In doing this, don’t forget Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
You will also be encouraged by this as we see the seasons change, Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Please be in prayer for our services this Sunday and for me as well. I look forward to worshipping the Lord together with you this first Sunday of Fall.
I already set my alarm for 4:02pm today. When it alerts me I will pray to the Lord of the harvest—would you join me?
As I was driving home last night I caught part of a radio program that was discussing the recent breach of one of the major credit information companies. There are a lot of implications when they suggest that around 143 million people had their information stolen including Social Security numbers, etc. I am not sure about all the information that was stolen but the idea I got from the broadcast was that most everyone in the United States who is of the age to have a credit rating or score could have been impacted. The host and guest went on to give advice and information about what to do.
By the time I got home I was in fear and panic (well not exactly, but you know what I mean) and thought that my identity was stolen and it would take me a couple of years to recover. I was ready to send an email to all my family and friends and tell them what I heard and to encourage them to take immediate steps.
Along the way during the evening I spoke to my brother, who is a CPA and an insurance agent. He explained to me a few other enlightening aspects to what happened and some steps I could take. He told me that it was of concern and that it is not to be taken lightly. HOWEVER, after I spoke to him I did not feel panicked! I realized that there were some things I could and should do. I also understood that I did not have to deal with this before I went to bed. Oh, and I also found out that this happened several months ago and was made known to the public a while back—not exactly new news. Again, I felt a sense of responsibility and a level of urgency—but not panic!
It is amazing the difference that one perspective can make. One voice can make you uptight and panicked, another can bring a sense of perspective and the result is calm.
We have to be careful about what voices we listen to don’t we? Sometimes we call it “the voice of reason.”
I am not referring to “voices” in our head that are from some odd source. But we all know that we are constantly interacting with our mind, will and emotions. At any moment, we can give in to a wrong thought and then even wrong choices and impulsive actions.
The Scripture reminds us about our mind and our thoughts. There are well over 200 passages that have something to say about this and there are hundreds of other references to our heart.
1 Corinthians 2:16 – For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
Psalm 119:113 – I hate the double-minded, but I love your law.
Proverbs 28:26– Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.
Lamentations 3:21-23 – But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Romans 12:2 – Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Ephesians 4:23 – and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,
Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Colossians 3:2 – Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
2 Corinthians 10:5 – We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
Hebrews 4:12 – For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
There are so many lessons to be learned from these and other passages such as:
So, how are your thoughts? If you study this further you will know that God is in control and can be trusted completely. When the world (or your world) seems out of control, when they blame God as not loving because of hurricanes, when your private information is stolen—make sure you have right thoughts and that your mind is in the right place! Go to the right source! A good place to begin might be to memorize one or several of the verses above and to meditate on them. I think the “panic” will cease if you do.
I have observed and commented many times that the news we see, hear and read about is often discouraging. And often it is true. Sometimes it is exaggerated and sometimes it is driven by an agenda and sometimes we only see one perspective. However, our culture allows us to have access to information and then to spread it in a way that no other time in the history of the world could do it.
So, we are not surprised that in a sin cursed world we are going to see every kind of pain, suffering, sorrow, hurt and devastation. All of that is a result of the curse because of sin. It should definitely grieve us that sin has resulted in such terrible consequences in humanity, destiny and even in nature. The world has explanations and even accusations but we know the real reason for all of this. It goes “back to Genesis” as has been said.
We should be concerned for and praying for those impacted by the hurricanes and other natural disasters. I have encouraged you to pray for believers to be salt and light to those around them at this time. Christians have always been known to help those in need in times of tragedy. I have heard of this happening and there are so many more opportunities on the horizon.
So, knowing the reality of disasters and difficult things happening all the time and all around us, what can we do?
One of the recommendations by those who prepare (they are called ‘preppers’) for whatever life might throw at them is that you must remain calm. Mistakes, terrible mistakes can be made if you do not remain calm when tragedy happens. Calm does not mean that you are inactive or slow. t means that you do not lose your head and do something irrational or foolish. It actually takes thought and training to remain calm when a situation escalates into an emergency. So, I would like to give you an acrostic for how you can be ready for life’s disasters. I would encourage you to be calm:
C—call on the Lord. Our first response should be to cry out to God for help in our time of need. Do not minimize either the need or the power of prayer. So when you are in trouble you should call out to God in prayer. He will give you wisdom, strength, hope and help. And you can call on the Lord on behalf of others who are facing disaster. We should!
A—anticipate. This is one thing we can do both practically and spiritually. There are hundreds of websites that advise you on how to do this practically. You don’t have to go to extremes but you can have some basics available to help yourself, your family and others. When the disaster happens it is usually too late to prepare. And on the spiritual side, be prepared to help others who have questions about God and losses and life. You have what they need to hear. You can lovingly share with them the truths of Scripture. Anticipate what you can share with others from Scripture. It might not be a bad idea to make a printed Bible one of your basics [electronics can fail, especially if there is no power].
L—look for opportunities. You will be the salt and light for the world to see when there is a disaster of any kind. Your faith coupled with serving others will testify to others. The world sees we are Christians when we love one another as believers and then as we give out of what we have to those in need.
M—make Christ known. We testify by our deeds and by our words. Do not be afraid or ashamed to tell others about salvation that is in Christ alone. While you might not be technically involved in a rescue effort [although it could happen], you can rescue those in sin by telling them about true freedom from the curse of sin through salvation that is in Christ.
Sometime and somewhere you will be in a situation in which you must be calm. I hope you will. Pease pray for those who have been devastated by the hurricanes. As I mentioned, I am praying that believers will be salt and light during this time of great disaster and need and that the salvation of many will result.
This past week has shown us again of the might and power of wind and rain as Hurricane Harvey brought destruction and havoc along the Texas coast all the way up to Louisiana. Lives were lost. And untold destruction of property will take an indeterminable amount of time to rebuild.
One of my brothers in Houston told me that pictures can’t even reveal how bad it is. My family has lived there all their lives and have seen and been through hurricanes before. I think this is of epic proportions.
And many from neighboring states and across the nation have taken the initiative to try to do something to help those who are now in need. In fact, a radio station here in Atlanta asked listeners to donate cases of water and I understand that they received enough water to fill five semi trailers! I also just heard that the city of Beaumont is without safe drinking water so I am sure this is timely.
think we all enjoy knowing that there are benevolent people who want to do something when they see a need. Our country has been known for that since its inception. And it should be that way.
I am reminded of this on another level as well—the body of Christ. We looked at that this past Wednesday evening for a few minutes. The apostle Paul is the only NT author to use the example of the human body to illustrate how God sees us as a church. It is a fascinating study of comparisons that Paul brings out in I Cor. 12:12-27. When you get a minute, please take time to read it.
Especially take note of verse 26. "If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together."
The outpouring of help to those in Houston illustrates this to one extent. And our human bodies have proven it…when you cut your finger, everything hurts!
So it is in the body of Christ. When one person in our church is hurting, we all come to their aid, we all hurt with them. We weep with those who weep.
How will you know who is hurting? Sometimes we can literally see it. But more often than not we don’t know. So how will you know? You have to take initiative. You have to get to know others well enough to find out. You have to ask others how they are doing. And if they trust you, they will tell you. This takes time to build relationships and get involved in the lives of others.
What will you do? It isn’t enough to know that someone is hurting. We have to do what we can personally to come alongside those who hurt. We help them in their pain. We offer assistance. We pray. We get involved in their lives.
Remember, when one member suffers, we all suffer. We have to work together to maintain a healthy body.
Living in a fallen world we will see suffering and sorrow and we will experience it ourselves. As brothers and sisters we need to make sure that we are keenly aware of those among us who are struggling in any way and do all we can to be involved in their lives.
Please pray for those who have been devastated by the hurricane. I am praying that believers will be salt and light during this time of great disaster and need and that the salvation of many will result.
As part of our worship each Sunday, this month we are focusing on the attribute of God’s beauty. We are using this definition: “God is the possessor and the sum of all desirable qualities.”
There are a lot of implications to this concept. If there is anything good or desirable or truly beautiful as defined by Scripture, then it is a part of the being of God. I think of Phil. 4:8 when I reflect on this attribute: Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
I also think of some other aspects of beauty that God allows us to catch a glimpse of like a sunrise or sunset, mountains and even the amazing things of nature such as flowers or a snowflake. These things are His creation. They are all created for His glory. And they reveal something of His nature.
We had some idea of this attribute of God this week as the Total Solar Eclipse happened. We got to see it through those special glasses. Some people saw the full effect of it in those particular places that went dark in the middle of the day for over 2 minutes. It was truly fascinating. You could pause to think of God’s creation and order. You could think of the power of the Sun. You can consider the Earth and moon and stars and the planets. The temperature went down about 8 degrees as we watched the eclipse. It was amazing!
When you realize the might and power of God…when you see the beauty of His creation…when you pause to reflect on His beauty—- it will affect you. It will settle you in your soul because you will more fully realize that this God of beauty and creation is YOUR Heavenly Father…and He cares for you.
Psalm 8:1–4, "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
Take a few minutes to consider God’s attribute of beauty.
These are difficult days for our nation. In some ways what we are seeing is unprecedented. It is difficult to watch as the fabric of our country is dividing on so many fronts.
But we should not be surprised. I do not need to review that there have been many steps taken in a few short years that have contributed to where we are today. It primarily centers around all the ways in which we have departed from God. Why would we not expect what we are now seeing?
Certainly we hate seeing all the tensions, contentions and dissension that have captivated the country at this time.
No matter what the pundits have to say—and they say plenty, what they are totally missing and neglecting is there will be no peace until the Prince of Peace rules and reigns. And that is where we come in as believers. We can share with others about Jesus Christ. I love writing that. Jesus Christ, King of kings, Lord of lords, Supreme, Sovereign, Savior. It just makes me smile to know that I know Him.
The desperate cry of those around us will not be answered or satisfied with political or social answers. I remember a song from years ago that says that, “Jesus is still the answer, He’s always been and always will be.”
We have a command—tell others about Jesus. That does not mean that we are all going to be a great evangelist. It means that we can all be evangelistic. Look for opportunities to tell others about Jesus. We have nothing to be ashamed of. Just look around at what people are not ashamed of and they promote those things. Pray and ask God for the opportunities. Remember, the fields are ready to be harvested. What we must be are workers in the field.
The world needs Jesus. May we be faithful with the great message of salvation that has been given to us. Someone told you and I hope we will all tell others. Only then can there be true peace in the soul of man as well as between men.
This Sunday we will be blessed to hear Jason Fitch along with his family as they share about how God is at work in their church planting effort in Washington state.
As we look forward to worshipping together this Sunday, would you take a few minutes between now and then to pray for our church services and for Jason as well. Thank you so much.
I was surprised this week to see that school has started in so many areas around here. There was a time when school started after Labor Day—I know, I am dating myself. I think my Dad called those “the good ol’ days.”
But he was realistic enough to realize that some things about the “good ol’ days” were not so good. He grew up without air conditioning in those “good ol’ days” and as time went on, he loved air conditioning. And in Texas as well as Georgia we can identify with that.
“The good ol’ days” are supposed to be our look back at a time when things were great and wonderful, we were young (younger), there was anticipation and hope for the future. There was enthusiasm about job opportunities and careers. Maybe it was getting married or having children and watching them grow up. Perhaps it was family and friends getting together. We all look back at some point and time and our recollection is that those were “the good ol’ days.”
There is a joy in thinking about some of those things. Antique stores thrive on people who find something from their past. It brings back a memory of days gone by and perhaps how good things used to be…That actually happened to me this past weekend when we were at a wedding rehearsal dinner and the restaurant had a toy steam engine just like the one I had when I was a kid—“the good ol’ days!”
But our memories can be skewed or we might be wrong about how good those days were. Sure there are good memories but we also have to be realistic. Life is difficult as we live in a fallen world. No one escapes trouble and heartache and pain and sorrow and disappointment and grief. I guess that is why we like to think about that special time in our past when things seemed to be a little bit better than they might be right now.
But you cannot live in the past. You can have an enjoyable memory but you can’t live there. And you shouldn’t. The past can also be a trap that leads us down a mental path of remembering those painful hurts and regrets. Our minds can be easily distracted from God.
There was someone in the Bible who lived during difficult times. In fact, he wrote a book entitled “Lamentations” about some of those times. Jeremiah is actually recording his “laments”, the heartache and sorrow of people facing the loss of their nation. When you read chapter 3 you see the pain and ache that Jeremiah feels and then notice verse 20 [Lamentations 3:20 My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.]. But Jeremiah does not let that destroy his hope. In fact, he writes what we need in Lamentations 3:21-24, "But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him.'"
“The good ol’ days”—whatever they were whether actually good or not so good or bad should be kept in check with the remembrance of the love of God, the mercies of God and the faithfulness of God!
As you get nostalgic make sure your recall is just like Jeremiah’s and you will live in hope and not despair. With that in mind, I guess they really were “the good ol’ days”!
Apparently there is a football team in this area that many people like. I know it has something to do with bulldogs because everywhere I turn around I see images of bulldogs on vehicles and painted ceramic bulldogs in front lawns and etc. Does anyone know what I am talking about?
When I heard about the excitement of just the team beginning practice I knew this had to be a big deal. I guess it is. And there is also excitement over a professional football team that is down here as well. In fact, there is a professional team for many major sports and even a few that cause us to scratch our heads. And we love it. We develop loyalties and go to games and buy all kinds of “brand” items for whatever our favorite team and sport happen to be.
Have you noticed the enthusiasm that fans have? That was what grabbed my attention when I heard them talking about the Georgia Bulldog football team starting practice. They were so enthusiastic.
And then I thought about enthusiasm from another perspective. Enthusiasm for Christ and the things of the Lord. We have all heard messages about being enthusiastic for the things of the Lord. So, are we?
There should be some sense of excitement about knowing Christ. And yet it is missing in many believers. They can sing the songs over and over. They read their Bibles and they even go to church semi regularly. But there is no real enthusiasm for Christ. Perhaps they have reached the level of one church in the New Testament that was identified as “lukewarm”—not hot and not cold. God is displeased with being lukewarm.
Notice Rev. 3:14-22.God is displeased with being comfortable and complacent in your Christianity. Lukewarmness suggests growing complacent and comfortable and stands in contrast to spiritual passion— having a strong, passionate faith.
Are you lukewarm? Are you passionate about Christ? Are you as enthusiastic about your faith as many are for their Georgia Bulldogs?