Knowing God

I recently reread J. I. Packer’s famous work, Knowing God. As I read, I was reminded why that book is so well respected in Christian writings. Knowing God is more than just acquiring knowledge about God; it is about taking the knowledge you learned and applying it to your relationship and walk with God.

Packer says that knowing God naturally starts with knowing about God and the only place that we can learn about God is in his Word. We must be students of God’s Word, growing in it daily. In His Word, God has revealed His character and His ways. As we learn about Him, we also come to understand how He commands us to interact with Him and the world in which He has created us to live. We also need to learn to reevaluate ourselves according to His standards as sinful creatures in a fallen world. We must come to recognize that we are not strong and self-sufficient, but we are weak and sinful. And we are on a path to Hell without some intervention by God on our behalf.

Knowing God is about developing a personal relationship with God in which we surrender ourselves to God because He surrendered His life for us. Knowing God means we receive His mercy, actually plead for it. And we find peace and rest in Jesus work of the cross in which he forgives us for our sin.

Knowing God also requires that we become a disciple of Jesus Christ. It involves faith. I have always explained faith as not simply an assent to the Lord that we believe in Him and trust Him. It is also a commitment to Him through action. Faith is not just belief, although it is not less than belief. It is trust that actively rests in Christ and His finished work on the cross. It is trust that leads to obedience to the commands of Christ. Those that really trust Christ for salvation want to serve Him with all of their lives.

Knowing God finally involves a trust in the adequacy of God to meet all our needs and take care of us regardless of the circumstances or how things will turn out. Packer discussed the conflict that Paul presents in Romans chapter 7 that a believer has with sin in his life. Chapter 8 in Romans doesn’t take away the struggle with sin in this life. It only shows that God is with us and helps us to conquer temptation and struggle if we simply trust in Christ. We are more than conquers in Christ. Sometimes God takes us out of the circumstances that cause difficulty in our lives. But more often, God leaves us in the circumstances and goes through them with us. Regardless of which, we must trust God because we know Him. The climactic verse in Romans 8 is verses 28; God is working for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose!

If you are reading this and you do not know God or have not developed a relationship with God as is described in this blog. Send me a message. I would love to talk with you about how you can be saved. Or if you are a believer that has not cultivated your relationship with God, dive into His word with the goal of knowing Him, learning to know yourself, and understanding how you fit into the world around you! Only then will you develop a habit of knowing God!

Connect>1 Evangelism Campaign

Beginning this Sunday, First Baptist Lepanto will seek to mobilize the members of our Sunday School to reach out to the community with the love of Jesus and gospel of redemption.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with the campaign, it is a program developed by Oklahoma Baptists and many churches in Arkansas went through the campaign last fall. Our church was involved in some other activities so we did not participate at that time. The motivation to begin an evangelism campaign is related to loss of commission vision. The New Testament church was very aware that their goal was to make disciples, and while the social and discipleship elements were emphasized in the church, the early believers never lost sight of what God had called them to do … multiply themselves. In our churches today, we have become accustomed to the idea that growth equals Bible study and fellowship. Both of these are essential, but living on mission is what God really requires of us.

I ask you, what have you done in your spiritual life to reproduce yourself. Have you made a difference for the kingdom? I believe most Christians are wasting their lives on things that will not make an eternal impact. We all need to be about the mission of God to make disciples through evangelism. Lepanto is filled with unchurched people without the gospel. We must share the hope we have in Christ!

3151c-1-2The campaign is designed to mobilize church members to be involved in evangelism. The connection of every believer to others with the gospel is greater than the work of one believer. Enter the 3151 challenge. In the month of February, we are challenging all of our Sunday School attendees to pray for 3 lost people, learn 1 gospel presentation, invite 5 people to Sunday School, and share the gospel with at least 1 person. At the beginning of March, we will have a celebration Sunday where we hope to baptize some new believers and challenge our members to keep up the good work of praying for the lost, sharing the gospel and inviting people to church!

All of us should be involved in this task, but if you have fallen out of Sunday School, plan to attend this week and start this campaign with your other class members. We will have a joint meeting of all adult classes in the sanctuary to kick off the campaign at 9:30 am this Sunday! BE THERE!

Inauguration Day

As I watch the 45th president being sworn into office, I am struck by what has been called by Reagan both a commonplace occurrence and a miracle. The peaceful transition of power every four or eight years by the United States of America is a powerful example of a government that is for the people and by the people. This democratic republic in which we live is a testament to a government that is unlike any other in history. This is truly an amazing sight to behold. As I get older, I realize more and more that we are watching the history of the world unfold. But more than that, we are watching the sovereign plan of God as he ordained it before the foundation of the world unfold in time. As Christians, we should be vividly aware that this is our Father’s world. He created it and He upholds it by the word of His power. And nothing takes place that is outside his control.

Proverbs 16:9 (ESV) — 9 The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

Genesis 50:20 (ESV) — 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Romans 8:28 (ESV) — 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Proverbs 21 (ESV) — 1 The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. 

2 Chronicles 20:6 (ESV) — 6 and said, “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.

I share these verses to remind Christians to trust in God above all. You may be overjoyed that Donald John Trump is now the president. I have to admit, there is part of me that is optimistic that Mr. Trump will move our country away from following the ways of the globalism and back towards governing for the good of our country. But I am also concerned about the lack of morality in his tone, language, and actions. I will pray for the president as I have always prayed for each president. But ultimately, I know in whom I have believed. And I know who is really in charge of this world. This is a great moment in history, but it is not my history, but God’s story! Trust God! Follow God! Because if you put your trust in a human being, they will ultimately let you down. But God always keeps His word and always accomplishes His purpose! Trust HIM!

The Destructive Nature of Pride

I was reading a Puritan prayer that was focused on the Great God of creation. But the prayer started with an impassioned plea to God to destroy the spirit of pride within man.

Destroy in me every lofty thought, Break pride to pieces and scatter it to the winds, Annihilate each clinging shred of self-righteousness, Implant in me true lowliness of spirit.                                              The Valley of Vision p8

The Bible speaks about pride in several places and about humility of spirit in even more. Proverbs 8:13 states that pride and arrogance are the way of evil. As I was thinking about this prayer and how it applied to my own life, I began to think about how we treat one another in this country. Everyone seems to only focus on half of the equation when it comes to how we treat people. What I mean is that we seem to only care how people treat us, or whether something offends us. We don’t seem to care what other people think. In fact, it seems like more and more, a person cannot have an opinion about how the world operates that doesn’t include the secular mindset. What is wrong with our world? What is wrong with our churches?

I believe that the answer lies in the focus. What do you focus on in your religious experience? Do you focus on the great God of the universe, or do you focus on yourself? In Scripture, we find several places where idolatry was a problem. And so the biblical record addresses the sin of idolatry in many places. In our culture, idolatry seems to be a minor focus at first glance. We don’t carve out idols or craft them of metal or stone. But we worship something! Everyone worships something. So what is our God in the culture of the United States? We worship at the feet of the god of self! We are materialistic, gratifying the desires of worldly stuff. We are a sexual culture, gratifying the desires of the flesh. And we are a culture the eats too much, also gratifying the desires of the flesh. And this whole business of calling for a safe space or avoiding offending someone is all about self. We think more about ourselves than we do about others. That is the exact opposite of what the Bible calls us to do!

Philippians 2:3–4 (ESV) — 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

If we truly cared about others more than ourselves, there would be no murder, theft, or rape. There would be no divorce. And if we really believe the good news that Jesus is the only way of salvation, we would share it with everyone we see. Why? Because we love them and put their needs above our own. By the way, loving others does not mean that we keep our ideas to ourselves. It means we tell them the truth about sin, in a loving way, and tell others that God has a wonderful plan for their lives if they will only trust Him and follow Him. We desperately need to pray this prayer in our individual lives and in our churches. Destroy every lofty thought … and break to pieces all the pride in my life! Let us love God first, and then love others in the same way we love ourselves!

The Offices of Christ

During the month of December, we have been studying the offices of Christ in an effort to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, Jesus. Many Christians have made the Christmas season so man-centered, that it is difficult to sift out all the commercialism and selfishness that is associated with Christmas. How do you teach your children about the gift of giving when everyone is asking them what they want Santa to bring them for Christmas? I encourage parents to crowd out all the noise of our cultural Christmas with the person of Jesus Christ.  Take the time to teach your children everyday why we celebrate Christmas. Take the time to teach them what Jesus came to do. That is why I have been preaching about the offices of Christ. I want each person to be equipped with the knowledge of the character, person, and purpose of Jesus Christ and His advent.

Jesus Christ came to the earth to reconcile all things to God. While it is true that he came to provide a way of salvation for lost sinners like me, the focus was on God and His glory … not on man. We tend to want to make everything about us in our culture. But Immanuel (God with us) did not come to earth to cater to our needs. He came to glorify God and reconcile a sinful world and lost sinners to God. We indeed reap the benefits, but Jesus coming was about so much more than our salvation. So let’s name a few!

Jesus came as the greatest prophet! Moses promised a prophet greater than himself that would come and teach all things. A prophet is someone called out by God that speaks God’s Word to His created beings. Who better to teach the Word of God than the one called the Word of God in John 1? Hebrews 1:1-3 teaches that Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God to humanity. And Jesus said that if we have seen Him, we have seen the Father. So Jesus is not only the promised Messiah and Savior of the world, He has come to make the Father known as the greatest Prophet.

Jesus came as the last High Priest! The high priest is a man that would, once a year, go into the holy of holies in the Jewish temple to make atonement for his own sins and the sins of the nation of Israel. Since he was offering an imperfect sacrifice for imperfect men and women, this was simply a stop-gap measure to cover the sin until the promise of God to make all things right was fulfilled. A priest is also one that goes to God on behalf of man. Jesus fulfills this role by making a way for sinners to have their sin completely forgiven. He is the promise of God to make all things right! He did this by offering himself up as a perfect, sinless sacrifice. Because His life is infinitely valuable and He lived without sin, Jesus death and the power of His resurrection is able to cover the sins of all those who believe. In an ironic twist of the plan of God, the great High Priest becomes the sacrifice. And now the Bible teaches that Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the throne of God making intercession on behalf of humanity. We don’t need a priest to go to God anymore, we can boldly approach the throne of grace because of Christ’s work on the cross.

Jesus is the Mighty King! Jesus is the ultimate king that will sit on the throne of David forever and ever. In John 18, Pilate asks Jesus if He is a King. Jesus affirms this, but explains that His kingdom is not derived from this world. It is a spiritual kingdom that is given to Him by God that will one day be a physical reality. In fact, Paul says that Jesus has been exalted above every name and one day EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. And in Revelation 19, we see a picture of this King coming to establish His kingdom forever. And He is called King of Kings and Lord of Lords. What is the nature of His kingdom? He rules over all creation!

So the coming of Jesus is about more than our salvation. It is about setting all things right in the kingdom. In Colossians 1 it is about reconciling all things to God. All creation is longing for His coming! Humanity is crying out for peace on earth and longing for a perfect world. But more importantly! God is righteous and demands a perfect world under His sovereign control! Christmas is about Jesus! Teach it to your children! Remind yourself! And tell others that Jesus came so that we encounter the great love of God and walk with Him daily.

If you would like to know more about how to be saved, please send me a message! I would love to tell you about the love of Jesus and the good news of His coming!


Finding Our Purpose in the Kingdom

Beginning November 13, First Baptist is going to focus on our role and purpose in the Kingdom of God. This two-part sermon series is called “Finding Our Purpose in the Kingdom.” In the series, we will focus on understanding who we are as God’s people and what we are called to do. This will be an important series for our church as we seek to refocus our efforts on reaching the lost for Christ in Lepanto. Each of us has been called out of sin and darkness to the light. As citizens of the Kingdom, we are all called to grow in the faith and understanding of who God is, who we are, and how we should live in light of our transformation. We are also called to be “on mission” for Him, sharing the gospel and helping others to grow in the family of God. Let us all refocus our spiritual lives on the task and responsibilities that God has given us, and live as He commands. Spread the word! This series will help our church family reach this community for Christ more effectively.