Monday, September 15, 2014

FANTASY NEVER COMPARES TO REALITY

Fantasy and Reality




Proverbs 27:1 says “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.”

The biggest mistake made by mankind is dreaming what tomorrow will be like. We say, “This is the way tomorrow is going to be,” and we picture tomorrow. However, dreams and fantasies never include nega­tives. Nobody ever says, “I know what will happen tomorrow; my mother-in-law is going to come and live with me.” Nobody ever says, “Tomorrow the com­mode is going to get plugged up.” Nobody ever says, “Tomorrow the sewer line is going to be stopped up.”

 Dreams and fantasies do not include negatives, but the reality always brings negatives; that is what makes it reality. A young lady says, “I’m looking for the man of my dreams.” He just does not exist. The reality your dreamboat will bring with him includes bad breath in the morning and stinking feet in the evening. Young man, the woman of your dreams does not ex­ist. In those dreams and in those fantasies, there are no negatives; that is what makes them dreams or fantasies.

 We place our dream of tomorrow on one side and the reality of tomorrow with its negatives on the other side; then we compare them. The dreams without the negatives overshadow reality, and we become un­happy, depressed, and melancholy.  The fantasy without its negatives compared to the reality with its negatives discourages us.

 A young lady planning for her marriage says, “This is the way it will be.” She cannot wait to get married to that big bruiser. She fantasizes about the way her marriage will be.  When marriage comes, she puts the reality on one side and the fantasy on the other side, and they do not match. Thus, she becomes disen­chanted with her husband and with her marriage. She does not blame her fantasy; she blames her husband for not fulfilling her fantasy. She says, “This is the way it will be!” However, fantasies do not include bad breath, stinking feet, bouncing checks, a mother-in-law, car payments, and a temper.

 Fantasies do not include being pregnant every nine months for four years.  Fantasies do not include ten sick babies, a lost job, a Ford car, cut-off notices from the electric company, eviction notices, and layoff no­tices. Reality has no chance to measure up to fantasy.

 Someone said, “All of my dreams have crumbled.” It is time to quit dreaming and go to work. Listen carefully, you cannot see tomorrow; but you can see today. Today can never compare to tomorrow be­cause tomorrow never reveals her negatives, while today shouts out her negatives.

 You cannot see tomorrow. You can visualize tomor­row. A young preacher goes to pastor his first church, and he dreams of the way it will be; but his dreams do not include deacons. Deacons are a reality. So he puts reality on one side and his dreams on the other side, and they do not match. Why? Because tomor­row forgot to announce her negatives, and so tomorrow did not match today. His dreams had no negatives, but reality brought negatives, and so the young preacher is unhappy.

 A church lists all the things they want in a new preacher. Then they call a preacher and compare him to what they thought they would get, and they are dis­appointed. Why? The church becomes disenchanted with the new pastor because dreams never can be matched by realities.

 The little lady looks forward to marriage, and she says, “This is the way it is going to be.” “I cannot wait,” she says. She puts her dream on one side, and then she is married and finds out that her husband cannot measure up to her dreams. However, there is a fellow at work that does, or so she thinks. The man at work always measures up to fantasies because she does not smell his breath in the morning and his feet in the evening. She says “Wow, now I have found the man that can match my dreams.” So she divorces man number one and marries man number two. She brings number two home. After awhile, she finds out that his breath smells in the morning and his feet stink at night. She measures him at home to her dream, and he also fails the test, just like man number one did.

 “Oh, but there’s a fellow in the bowling league that measures up to my dreams,” she says, and the proc­ess starts all over again. They always measure up at a distance. So here comes candidate number three, and his breath stinks in the morning and his feet stink in the evening, and he likewise does not measure up to her dream.

 It is the same process for a preacher who goes to church number one, and reality does not measure up to his dream. So he goes to another church. What happens? The new church says, “This is what we want in a pastor. We think we have found the right man.” The young pastor says, “This is what I want, and I think I’ve found it.” So they both get together, and neither of their dreams matches their realities. Now you have an all-out war.

 A preacher who stays two years and then moves will do it again. A church that fires a pastor in two years will do it again. What is the problem? The dream has no negatives. The reality has negatives. When the two are compared, disenchantment occurs. They are trying to find the elusive fulfillment of their dreams. There is no way that reality can equal a dream.  Too many contrast the greenness of the grass on the other side of the fence to the brownness of the grass on this side of the fence. So, you say, “There must be something better out there, because it is so bad here.”

The Unknown Cannot Compare With the Known

 When a preacher never becomes comfortable any­where, he is creating an appetite that will ruin him. He never becomes comfortable in a church, a job, or a house. He always feels that there is something he is supposed to be doing that he is not doing now. You cannot see tomorrow. You are making the mistake of your life by attempting to figure out what tomorrow will be like. You let God take care of tomorrow and today. There is no way to compare fantasy with reality; you cannot compare the unknown with the known.

The Future Cannot Compare With the Present

 Your happiness is in direct proportion to your sat­isfaction of yesterday’s hope. Whatever you hoped yesterday, the fulfillment or non-fulfillment of that hope today will make you happy or unhappy. What are your hopes for tomorrow? I would give a simplistic answer of “I plan to serve God.”

Look Back For Your Happiness and Forward for Your Hope

 My happiness is not based on what I believe, but on what I believed. My salvation, marriage, call to the ministry, church I pastor, children I have, grandchil­dren I have, converts I have, and so on, all give me happiness because they are reality, not fantasy. My hope is to see Jesus coming back for us at the rap­ture, the hope of Heaven, the hope of a glorified body, and the hope of eternity.

Do Not Compare Today to Yesterday

Every day is an adventure in your service for God. Every year provides its own built-in challenges. God has given us the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to help us and guide us through these uncharted waters. I dare not compare today to yesterday. 

 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

GREAT LEADERS LEAD THEMSELVES FIRST



LEADERSHIP






 Looking back on my nearly 70 years of life I can only recall a handful of men who were real leaders.  Those were the ones who led from the front and not from behind.  The late President Ronald Reagan struck me as a man’s man.  His ability to lead not just others, but himself, brought security to Americans.  He was a disciplined man who lived by principles and not personality.  He brought our nation out of the disastrous policies of Jimmy Carter into a era of prosperity. When he became President we had long gas lines and skyrocketing interest rates.

At the Sheridan Hotel in Chicago I had a conversation with President Reagan.  I asked him if he were to die today if he would go to Heaven. He told me he trusted Christ as an eleven year old boy at the leading of his grandmother.  Later on in his presidency he would witness to Mr. Gorbachev after being asked what caused America to become such a great power in the world in such a short period of time. President Reagan did not hesitate to tell him it was because we are a Christian nation and it was because of Jesus Christ that we were such.  He urged Mr. Gorbachev to trust Christ.  We would never see that happening with our current President. Rather our current President would be apologizing for our greatness.

I believe that George W. Bush was a solid conservative, policy wise, as seen in the first 4 years of his presidency.  He let conservative principles guide him.   However, I felt in his last 4 years he capitulated to the liberals far too much and was distracted by a need for a “get-a-longism” philosophy. Also, we see this in his dad who could not resist the pressure to capitulate on taxes.  I lost a lot of respect after he said, “Read my lips. No more taxes” and then he caved in to liberal pressures.  Real leadership finds a way when there is no seeming way.  Most leaders are a city without walls on the inside.

General Douglas McArthur’s WWII promise to return to the Philippines is one of the great insights to the man General McArthur.  I am one of those who felt he would have made a great President.  General Patton had his problems, but no one could consider him a man who lacked courage.  He may have gone over board, but at least he was on board.

I think of over 4,400 Americans who have given their lives on foreign soil to help keep America free in our long war against terrorism. I see hundreds of young soldiers as I go through the DFW Airport. To me they look like they are 13 or 14. They look so young to me.  The truth is these are our finest. They are not a part of a conscripted army. They volunteered because of their love for America.  They are leaders for this fight for freedom.


 Power Tends To Corrupt


Very few politicians are not ruined and corrupted by power.  They go to Washington aiming to change Washington instead they are changed by Washington.  They are some citizens who love their nation and worry about the nation's future.  Such is the Tea Party.  It is nothing more than a movement of every day Americans who want common sense government.  They are often maligned by those in power because they think they are a threat to the status quo.  

Taxation and invasive regulatory policies from Washington are strangling our countries economy.  Political Correctness has become an albatross around societies neck.  Apparently no one can challenge the status quo without being called a derisive name.

To stand up for the Constitution is a patriotic thing to do for any American.  The heroes are not just those who hold a position of power or title. Leaders lead for truth and justice sake while caring little for their own safety.  Our fighting men and women have done just that. It is this kind of leadership that brought about the birth of this great United States of America.  These principles come from within and are expressed outwardly.

I am a Senator Ted Cruz fan.  He has been railed on by rhino Republican party members, but it has not fazed him.  When he speaks he does not use a tele prompter.  He rarely stays behind the podium.  He often looks like a preacher preaching a sermon as he moves about the stage.  When principles guide you it is not very hard to verbalize them.  Passion evolves where love is found.

When Gerald Ford won the nomination for the 1976 Republican party presidential race.  He stood to speak to the delegates.   He surprised everyone in the Convention Center by asking for Governor Ronald Reagan to come to the podium and speak to the delegates.  Governor Reagan had just been defeated for the nomination of his party for president and was in the booth far above the floor.  He, his wife, and staff were watching from that booth.  

He left and proceeded downstairs to the platform.  He proceeded to the podium without a written speech or thought of having to give a speech.   He greeted the delegates and gave a 15 minute speech that brought the house down.  He knew conservatism. He did not need to have a staff write a speech, for he lived this speech because he was his speech.  The speech was who he was.   There was harmony of what came out of his mouth and what was in his heart.

I have a set of CD’s of President Reagan’s radio spots he gave for one solid year to America.  He wrote those himself.  He was passionate about those values that made America great.  They were not adopted principles for he embodied those principles.  Scare tactics did not work on President Reagan.

Energy policies cannot be formulated by Liberal ideals and pie in the sky think tanks that have never run a hot dog stand.  The American people are not being told the truth about so called climate change.  We cannot pay through UN costly initiatives the portion owed by China and other Communist who will NEVER do their part to help clean up the air.  First of all, this climate change doctrine is the biggest hoax to come down the pike.  Anemic green policy coming from liberals is a slap in the face of Almighty God.  This earth and her resources were given to man to use. They will be here until Christ returns! We need a leader who will tell the truth. However, it is hard to lead others when one cannot lead himself.

 Those Who Lead Themselves Qualify Themselves



 The book “THE GREATEST GENERATION” authored by Tom Brokaw is a wonderful book about the men and women who gave their lives for our freedom during WWII.  These were not military experts.  They were farmers, factory workers, school teachers, etc., who lived and died for love of nation.  They were passionate about freedom. Passionate principled people are the back bone of a great nation. Oh, God give us leaders once again who can lead themselves first.

I traveled and preached with Dr. Jack Hyles for 22 years.  The first time I preached with him was in September of 1978 and I shared the platform with him the last time he preached in Monterrey, Mexico in 2001.  If you have ever had an opportunity to see one of his sermon outlines you would be shocked if you compared it to the actual sermon.  That skinny little outline did not reflect the oratorical expertise of detail with which he preached.


He was what he was preaching.  He had passion because what he was saying was who he was.  He did not check the doctrinal or cultural winds of his day.  If soul winning did not build a great church then he would go soul winning anyway, because it was still right to do.   The end never justified the means to him.  His motivation came from the inside not the outside.  All of this was a result of him leading himself first before leading others.

Proverbs 16:32, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.”

God did not say, “He that doesn’t get angry….” You cannot be slow to anger if you have no anger. You cannot come back from where you have not been! You cannot be slow to anger unless you are on the way. 

Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be ye angry and sin not….” Sometimes you need to be angry, but you should decide when those times are. Your “will” should dictate when you become angry. Circumstances should never dictate your anger. Never react—act! Anger should never be a reaction, but a decision. “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.”


Our country is destitute for men. It is difficult to find a politician who possesses real leadership. It is a rare thing to find a preacher who provides real leadership. Leadership is almost extinct. The inability to not lead oneself forfeits ones right to lead others.

 It would be better for a single lady to stay single the rest of her life than to settle for anything less than a real man. When some men get married, the preacher should say, “Let me now pronounce you male and wife.” Some women could even claim their husbands as a dependent deduction for the IRS.

Our nation did not have a real man when Bill Clinton was in the White House. His wife was more of a man than he was. Consider the leaders of days gone by: Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, Douglas McArthur, and others. Most people recognize the names G. B. Vick and J. Frank Norris, but few recognize the name of the current president of the Bible Baptist Fellowship. Most people do not know the names of the presidents of the General Association of Regular Baptists, the Conservative Baptist Association or the Southern Baptist Convention.

An Interview With King David




 In my minds' eye I come to an old warrior! His hair is like the snow on the mountain peak. His shoulders are drooped, and his brow is furrowed. His hands are palsied, and his voice shakes when he speaks to me.  I say, “Sir, you are not long for this world. Could I ask you a question? What was your greatest accomplishment in leadership? Was it when you killed a bear with your bare hands? Was it when you took those same hands and slew a lion? Was it when you took five stones and with a slingshot felled the giant Goliath? Was it when you ruled a nation in power? Was it when you conquered cities of the enemies? Was it the leading of a nation through two rebellions? Sir, aged one, what was your outstanding achievement in leadership?”

He strokes his beard and thinks a while. Finally he responds, “None of those things. My greatest time of leadership was not killing the bear, killing the lion, killing the giant Goliath, leading the nation in two insurrections, or leading a great nation from the throne of Israel in Jerusalem. No, that was not it. The time I led best was at the door of a cave.

“My enemy Saul was sleeping at the door of that cave. In fact, I was running from him at the time because he was attempting to kill me. There he was, the man who had thrown javelins at me and vowed he would kill me. There he was! I pulled my sword and I was encouraged to kill him, but I did not. I cut a little piece from the hem of his garment and let him live.

Another of my times of leadership occurred when I was running from Jerusalem. My son Absalom was leading a rebellion against my forces. A little fellow named Shimei began to curse me. He threw rocks, dust, and stones at me. My servant Abishai drew his sword and said, ‘Let me kill him!’ I said, ‘No! Do not touch him!’

The third time occurred during the rebellion itself. I could have fought against my own son. I could have led the forces. I could have killed my son.”

David, you say these are your greatest times of leadership, but I am confused, whom did you lead? “I LED MYSELF!”

According to Proverbs 16:32, if you are able to lead yourself, you are performing the greatest act of leadership known to mankind. If you never learn to lead yourself, you will never be qualified to lead anyone else.  Many Christians attempt to lead everyone but themselves!

If you are a young preacher and you picture yourself leading a congregation, you will never lead a church, schools, or even a wife until you perform the greatest act of leadership known to man. That is the act of leading yourself.

Saul led a nation, but he could not lead himself, and the nation fell. Alexander the Great led a nation, but he could not lead himself. He became a slave to alcohol and crumbled with his nation. Solomon could lead an empire until he quit leading himself. When Solomon could not lead himself, the empire fell. Samson could lead a nation until he could not lead himself; when he could not lead himself, he ended up in the lap of Delilah. As a result, he lost his power to lead nations.

Daniel never led a nation, but he led himself and then influenced a nation. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego never led an army; but they led themselves, and they have led billions who have read of the time they led themselves. Joseph never led an empire, but he led himself to run from Potiphar’s wife when she tried to seduce him.  No one will be a great leader until he can lead himself.

Greater than the leadership of Douglas McArthur in the Far East, than the leadership of Dwight Eisenhower in the European Theater, than the leadership of Patton, Grant, or Robert E. Lee, is the leadership of someone who looks into a mirror and says, “I will lead you!” You and I may not be able to lead multitudes, but we can lead ourselves.

The flesh is going to fight any time we decide to put it into subjection. The battle is on, and it must be won if we are going to provide the leadership that others need. Leading from behind is simply not being able to lead oneself.  The question must be asked, “Can you lead yourself?"
  

Monday, September 8, 2014

REBELS WITH A CAUSE!

Independence



As a boy we lived in a run down apartment just off of Arcadia Court in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Our school clothes were given to us by a Nuns’ clothing room of the Catholic Church from down the street. Mama would drive my two brothers and me to church in an old 1941 flat bed Ford truck. Daddy had replaced the muffler in the truck with a straight pipe and we thought it made the neatest sound. It was embarrassing to Mama, but not to us boys. We felt like we were riding in a hot rod. 
Mama would park in the far back of the parking lot hoping no one would see that truck. We were all dressed in our best clothes and we never thought of ourselves as less privileged than anyone else. Mama made us feel as if no one was any better than us and we were no better than anyone else.  There was a humble confidence she exuded to everyone around her.
Each Sunday morning at our American Baptist church, after Sunday school and before preaching, the pastor and deacons would go to the front porch and smoke cigarettes. After a while the older teens began to go to their cars and light up as well.  One Sunday I joined a group of them. I was sitting in the back seat and a cigarette was passed around. Eventually it was handed to me.  At the exact moment I was reaching for the cigarette my Mama opened the back door and snatched me by the hair on my head.  
The next thing I knew mama was dragging me out of the car with one hand while using the other to hit my legs with a switch. As we passed the front of the church building where the pastor and deacons were smoking she paused and said, “Shame on you, and you, and you, and you!” Then she took me into the church building for the preaching hour. As long as we were members of that church, we never again saw the pastor and deacons smoking on the front porch of the church building.  
Mama was an independent Baptist before I knew there was such a thing. As such she was also a bit of a rebel, but she had certain principles for her sons by which she wanted them to live.
Independence can be considered rebellion, but that depends on what and whom you are rebelling.  If we rebel against God we are submitting to Satan. If we rebel against Satan we are submitting to God.  They use to call us of the 60’s generation  “Rebels without a cause!”  My Mama taught me to be a “Rebel with a cause!”  To rebel against wrong was right according to Mama.  I did not understand it at the time, but she was teaching me to be independent.
Because of that I learned on my own how to be independent. Through the years I have encouraged my sons, as well as my sons in the ministry, to be independent as well. Now let me tell you what that means to their futures in the ministry.
1. Every Generation Must Rediscover Truths For Themselves Without Redefining Truths. Independents are by their very nature stubborn.  The independence of independents can lead to strong opinions about everything under the sun, yet often it has produced the finest leaders in America. Most of the men of the past who stirred this nation for God were simple men, but strong independant men of faith. They were independent of "this world" which included their denominations. They discovered truth for themselves and did not fall in lockstep with their contemporaries.
2. Do Not Remove Yourself From The Influence Of Those In History Who Taught You Independence.  When independents remove themselves from the influences that brought them their independence, they tend to become homogenized  Study the history of the real independents of the past. Learn about men such as J. Frank Norris, John R. Rice, Lester Roloff, Jack Hyles, Lee Roberson, Curtis Hutson, Tom Malone’s and others who truly were independent and whose philosophies must be kept alive.  These men merit our attention and study.
They personified the independence that independents must emulate.  We cannot allow ourselves to become puppets to man-made organizations. That which is “Politically Correct” in religious circles in our nation, must not strangle the men of God. When I listen to the independents of the past and the “independents” of the present, I wonder if we are even close to being on the same page.  Thank the Lord that is not true of all current independents, but those who criticize and attack the previous generation make themselves suspect because of their criticism. Do not allow them to influence you and lead you from that for which those men stood.
3. Do Not Judge Harshly Those Who Had To Fight In Order To Be Independent.   Some criticize the "rough" sermons these men preached.  They speak of how they alienated people. Some even have labeled them as legalists or claimed they lacked grace. May I remind you, that which attracts also detracts.  That which detracts also attracts.  Some of what I read today seem to be attempting to steer fundamentalism into cultural relevance. The greats of the past always fought their culture. Homogenization of fundamentalism into current culture is cultish in nature.
The battle to be independent and stay independent often demands that a line be drawn in the sand. When independence is given instead of won there tends to be a harsh judgment on those who won it.  There was a witness of the Holy Ghost to those sermons of these men.  Their's was not just ramblings with no content. They were solid Bible messages that drew a line.  
Be fair to the men who articulated strong fundamentals and gave us our heritage.  Learn from those whom God used to build great soul-winning churches with great Sunday schools in spite of what bothers others about them. Please overlook their brashness, for they are nothing more than “a chip off the old block” of those who preceded them.  They fought for their freedom and that is why they were so outspoken.  Those who have never had to fight for their independance know little of what it takes to become independent.
4. Those Who Will Carry On Fundamentalism Will Of Necessity Be Independent And A Remnant.   There will be hundreds of independents who will be forced to fight for their independance. They, like these I've mentioned of the past, will learn there is a price to be paid for not following the crowd.  There must be a new generation of maverick preachers who will be forced to fight to maintain their independence from modern cultural influences.  Those who succeed will not turn on their mentors, but add to what they did.
Every generation must fight their own battles just as our mentors did. If you are wise, you will build on what you have been given.  What I have called "the greatest generation of independents" was purchased at a high price. God blessed the church in Longview, where my children grew up, because she was built on the previous generations' sacrifice.  Carry on my sons, my sons in the ministry, and be independent of cultural and denominational influences.

Friday, August 29, 2014

A CALL FOR ALTAR CALLS

The Public Invitation Attacked
By: Keith Phemister




I was talking to a man whom I pastored, and while we were talking, he made a statement that took me aback. He said that in our Baptist churches we do many things that are not biblical. “For instance,” he said, “we have invitations and nowhere in the Bible does it say for a church to have an invitation. If it isn’t biblical, then I will not move during the invitation.

Well, since we are on the subject, where in the Bible does it say we should have pews? Offertories? Organs? Pianos? How about Ushers? May I just say that because the Bible is silent on an issue does not mean it is wrong! In fact, just because the Bible does not address the issue of a public invitation does not mean that we are wrong in conducting an invitation.

I would even go further and put that notion on the defensive. How about this; if it is not in the Bible, then why don’t you show me where it violates Biblical principles?

Charles G. Finney was held as the pioneer of the “public invitation.” For the first time in his preaching career at Evans Mill, New York, in 1825, Finney conducted an invitation and asked anyone who would like to give his heart to God to come forward and take the front seat. On his first attempt, Finney was successful.

Now Finney was not a Baptist, he was a Presbyterian. I say that because of the belief I have that what he did was biblical because it stood based on biblical principles.

The reason for conducting an invitation can rest in the need for recognizing the saved so that the next step can be easily pushed. How can we really know whom to baptize as part of the “Great Commission” if there is not an identification of the saved?

A person does not need to be saved in a church building. There are numerous instances in the Bible of people being saved in places other than the church.

If you look in Acts 2, Peter is preaching the very first sermon after our Lord’s Ascension. These Jews were pricked in their heart at the preaching of God’s Word, and demanded, “What must we do?” Folks who are under conviction should be told by the preacher what to do.

An invitation is the answer to meet the need. The answer in this case was: Repent and be baptized! I have a simple question to ask all of us. How did they know whom to baptize that day unless they identified themselves?

The Bible says that about 3,000 were baptized. Before baptism, there was salvation. Identification was necessary. Therein rests a very good reason for an invitation. Whenever there is preaching, real Bible preaching a decision is demanded. I have always been taught that preaching is teaching with authority, persuading with the intent to make a decision. We have gotten away from Biblical preaching and become teachers exclusively with the intent to not “run off the crowd.”

The Biblical principle of an invitation is evident in the Old Testament as well as the New. In Exodus 32:19-29, Moses came back from the mount, only to find the people having made the golden calf. There was ungodly music and the people were found naked.

Exodus 32:26 says, “Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD'S side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.” 

Would that not be an invitation to the people of God? Absolutely!

An Old Testament example of the invitation is found in Deuteronomy 30:15-19, 15See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil: 16In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. 17But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt no hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; 18I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall jnot prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. 19I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and they seed may life:” 

There is ample biblical principle for an invitation. See also Joshua 24:15 and I Kings 18:17- 21.   The simple truth of the matter is that preaching demands a decision. There is a difference between preaching and teaching. In our church, I desire a balance amongst our people. I want them to get the fire and zeal that preaching gives, but I also want them to get the knowledge that teaching brings. We need to also be aware that biblical preaching will include teaching.

When I think of preaching, I think of II Timothy 4:2 that says, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” 

Doctrine means teaching. Biblical preaching involves reproving, rebuking, and exhorting. What does that mean? Here it is broken down for us.
  •   Reprove to charge with a fault, to excite a sense of guilt
  •   Rebuke to restrain, to calm, to check
  •   Exhort to call for, to encourage to obey

    In conclusion, we see a preacher is to identify sin, present the need to change, and finally urge one to make a decision. No wonder our Lord said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”

    We are to press them for a decision. One of the most critical points in presenting the Gospel is what is called, “Drawing the Net.” For the soul winner it is the invitation. It is the time after preaching where we invite the sinner to “receive the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Saviour.”

    We must not bow to the liberal’s way of doing things. The neo-evangelical crowd, emergent church philosophy or even the seeker sensitive agenda must never cloud our minds. Just stay with the old paths. We must stay the course and have an invitation.
The liberals blast confrontational soul winning in the same way that invitations are blasted. All because we are pressing the appeal to make a decision! 2 Corinthians 6:2 “...now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

The same people who claim that the invitation is unbiblical are much of the same crowd who are consumed with pride. Pride will keep one from going to the altar to do business with God.

In no way, shape or form do I believe one must go down an aisle to be saved. It is belief in Christ death, burial, and resurrection that saves, not walking an aisle. Sadly, there may be some who think that walking an aisle is what saves them. Confession does not save. Confession is for man.

When we confess Christ, we show man our belief and God is glorified. Romans 10:10 states, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness (God sees it) and with the mouth confession is made (man sees it) unto salvation.”

Nowhere in the Bible does it say that confession is necessary for salvation. When Paul addressed the Jew in Romans 10, he said to them that confessing Christ was essential to note salvation from man’s point of view.

To the Jew, confessing that Christ was Lord and not a man would mean a loss of friends, respect, position and even life (witness Stephen and the Apostles). Even Paul himself, in Acts 9:1, persecuted those Jews who had confessed Christ.

Yes, according to biblical principles a public invitation is desired and needed. We will continue to give an invitation as long as we continue to preach. God give us strength and wisdom to continue to carry on what we have been taught and never waver.

Monday, August 25, 2014

BE NOT CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD OR CULTURE

Do Not Conform



In 50's I recollect the PTA of our pubic school debating the allowing of what they called “Slack Friday.”  It was a discussion over allowing the girls to wear slacks, not jeans, on Friday.  It was a discussion that was not a religious or spiritual discourse.  It was a public debate and not a church debate.  

It was sent on to the school administration that eventually agreed and it became policy.  I remember how the male students had to keep their hair cut and to button up their shirts.  The female students had to cover their bosom and wear lengthened skirts.  

The world in every generation provides a pattern for that generation of what is fashionable.  When the Bible talks about not conforming to THIS world it is referring to the current culture.  Fads come and fads go, but modest dress is still modest dress.  Promiscuity is still promiscuity.  Adultery is still adultery. Stealing is still thievery. To allow the current culture to invade our local churches is disobeying the Bible's command to not be conformed to "THIS" world.

1. Looking Back I Can See God's Hand On Those Who Fought The Culture Of Their Day.   Looking back at the 60's, 70's, and 80's I find myself thanking God for men like Jack Hyles, Evangelist Lester Roloff, John Rice, Lee Roberson, Tom Malone, G. B. Vick and others who stood against the culture of their day.  They fought the liberalism of their day.  

The culture of their day was not the issue to them.  Their issue was what does the Bible say how God's people should live regardless of the current culture.   People are far too much like sheep and move on body heat or a crowd mentality.  It never entered their minds to conform to their present day world.

Those great men were a breath of fresh air to those struggling with the onslaught of the styles of Paris, the movies of Hollywood, the formalistic ritualistic church services, the bad doctrine of the SBC, and the pop music of the day.  Those men fought the culture and attracted great crowds.  

God's hand was obviously on these men.  Thousands came to Christ through their ministries.   Their churches were aflame with evangelism.  They were in Rome, but did not do as the Romans did!  They understood God's people are IN the world, but should not be OF the world.

2. Public Schools Today Are Tightening Dress Standards While Some Churches Are Loosening Theirs.  This is interesting to me.  Dress codes are in.  Low riding pants are out.  Immodest dress is out.  Many public schools in our day have stricter rules and standards than some churches and Christian schools of our day.  They have found that dress standards and discipline have much to do with learning.  

Our public school academics are sad.  The test scores reveal a drop in our ranking among the world powers. All one has to do is to look at the pictures of public sporting events in 50's and 60's and you can easily see the difference. Is there a connection between dress and behavior?  Is there a connection between dress and academics?  Apparently some public schools think so!

In 1963 Mrs. Gray and I graduated, with 61 others, from Galesburg-Augusta High School of a small Southwestern Michigan town named Galesburg.  Our school was a consolidated school system of Augusta and Galesburg, MI. This was a typical public school with typical public school activities.  Actually our schools in those days were a strong reflection of a Judea-Christian influence that had existed for decades.   The impact of the Bible was felt in our classroom as well as our morals. 
  
3. The Latest Moral Decline Started In The Late 60's.   Mrs. Gray and I married June 25, 1965, and began our family.   God blessed us with four wonderful children.  I became concerned as the late 60's ushered in with the "God is dead" theology.  Prayer would soon be kicked out of our public schools.  New versions of the Bible were just beginning to come on the scene. Churches and church choirs began to reflect the world.  Our young men began to let their hair grow as the Beatle effect took foothold.  The young ladies began to shorten their skirts.  It was a cultural invasion.  It seemed everyone I knew was conforming to the culture.

4. Great Churches Were Still Built During Those Days.   It would be seven years after our 1965 marriage when I heard Dr. Jack Hyles and Dr. John R. Rice at a SWORD OF THE LORD CONFERENCE for the very first time.  At that conference I went through every emotion possible.  My mind was opened to a world of Christianity that I knew nothing about called fundamentalism.  The building was full. There was a spirit there I had never seen before.  

I met Brother Hyles and Brother Rice for the first time.  The sermons were uplifting and challenging.  I made a decision the first night to go into full time service.   I knew God wanted me to be in the ministry.  It was not a call to preach, but a call to leadership.

We decided to visit some of these great churches listed in the SWORD paper.  We as a family visited every one of these great churches.  I was amazed at the spirit filled services.  The song services were exciting and altars were full.  Dozens of people baptized in each one of those churches.  I had never seen anything like it.  The largest number I had ever seen until now in church was 100.  I saw as many people on their platforms of these great churches as we had in our little church.  

All of those men were different.  Their physical attributes were different, but the main thing that intrigued me was the souls saved and baptized.   They were all different, but they all preached powerful sermons.  People walked the aisles trusting Christ.  Many were baptized and the Lord was obviously working.   It thrilled me.

5. Those Men Of God Had To Fight To Build Their Churches.   Dr. Rice, at one point in time,  lost thousands of SWORD subscriptions because of his various stands.  Dr. Hyles helped to rebuild the SWORD subscriptions.  His church was on the rise when Dr. Rice was on the decline. All of these men fought battles through out the years.  Most of those struggles were two fold.  One was with the culture of their day and the second was the denominationalism of their day.  

Brother Rice was fearless and had tunnel vision when it came to the cause of Christ.  When he took a stand he could not understand why people got upset.  All of these men had their own unique battles.  Most of them came from the Southern Baptist Convention and fought for their independence.

I was introduced to the Holy Spirit and His work through Jack Hyles and John Rice.  I was introduced to personal soul winning, holiness, Sunday school and the baptizing of converts immediately.  Our church had no  catechism phase for church membership.   We did have graded Sunday schools as our discipleship program and it worked.  Personal separation from the world made sense to me.  

My spirit certainly bore witness with the Holy Spirit working through these men. My mind was transformed.  At the same time it brought its own battles into my ministry.  My mentors were not men who were conforming to the world around them, but transforming the world around them.  The result battles.

6. Fads Come And Go.   The size of ties come and go.  I wish I had kept some of those narrow ties I use to have.   I think I will hold on to my wide ties for it will not be long until they are back in style.  Funny how things come and go and come back again.  

My experience has been to not jump on current styles and look like a trend follower.  When bell bottoms were in vogue Brother Hyles taught us to stay where we were.  Guess what happened they went out of style.  When you chase fads you become the follower and fads the leader.

If you jump too quick it does not set a good example for those following.  As a leader nothing builds trust like stability does.   Security always follows those who are slow to change.  There is nothing wrong with being well dressed.  Brother Hyles was voted the best dressed man in Hammond, IN, one time.  However, he was not a trend follower.  He was a trend setter in many ways in every thing he did.  The appetite of being hip will come back to bite you spiritually.

7. The Great Men Of The Past Were Transformed Not Conformed. The Scripture says “be ye NOT conformed” rather “BE transformed.” The secret is the mind and in the renewing of the mind by being transformed and not conformed to this world. The book of Romans is divided up in to two sections, chapters 1-11 and chapters 12-16. 

The pivotal verses are found in Romans 12:1-2. In the first eleven chapters of Romans we have doctrine. In chapters 12-16 we have practical living or application of the doctrine to a real world.  Romans 12:2, And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” 

Paul is saying the redeemed ought to live this way because of the wonderful doctrines in the first eleven chapters. An example would be the doctrine of “justification.” Paul is saying, “I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God” or because you are justified by faith that you “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.”   

God is saying because you are justified be not CONFORMED to this world, but TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind. Paul goes on to tell us in the rest of the book of Romans what it means and what kind of a life we are supposed to live because of transformation as God’s children.

Now, we are required in some ways to interact with a godless Christ-less world. May I point your attention to whom this passage was given? The passage of, “be ye not conformed to his world but be transformed” is a passage written to the Christians in Rome. 

The Romans were corrupt, pagan, skeptical, and a perverted people. The entire environment was not only un-Christian but also anti-Christian. The Bible says this book was written to the saints in Caesar’s household.

No Christians in Rome had a Christian school to attend. They had no Christian grade school, junior high school, high school, or college to attend. Yet, God said to these people in the middle of godless anti-Christian Rome it is possible for you not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

8. It Is Just As Possible Today To Be Transformed And Not Conformed.   Paul is saying it is possible to live in the midst of a Roman moral quagmire without lowering your flag of purity. That means that it is possible today also to do the same. It is possible today to live in a society controlled by TV, Hollywood, NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, and the Internet and still live for God via the renewing of the mind. 

It is possible to live in this sex crazed, Hollywood infested world, HBO world, Cinemax world, Showtime world, and hip-hop music, and be not conformed to this world. If it is possible for the saints at Rome then it is possible for the saints of today!

Great soul winning churches can be built again if we are transformed.   As long as we are being conformed to this world we will be mediocre at best.  The great churches of the past were led by courageous men of God who stood.  It is not easy to go against the grain, but it is necessary.  There is no reason to look back at what was greatness without it causing us to be transformed through the same Bible.  Otherwise it is just an historical fact to be admired.

It was possible to walk in its septic streets without soiling the white garments of saint-hood. Paul tells them not to be creatures of circumstances or happenstance, but to take a stance for God. Stand up at work for Jesus while others curse him. Stand up for Jesus at school while others mock him. 

Paul is saying to these saints in Rome do not do when in Rome as Romans do, but when in Rome do as Jesus would do. He is saying to them be not the slave, but the master of your environment. He preaches not the doctrines of conforming, but the doctrine of transformation.

It bothers God when his daughters are quick to take up the hairstyles of modern day Romans. It bothers God when his sons start looking like the world they live in.  It bothers God when any of his children are quick to pick up the modern appearances and so desperately want to be accepted by the modern day Romans. 

It probably occurs because God’s people spend more time reading “Glamour Magazine” than the Bible. Young Christian ladies spend more time in “Sixteen Magazine” than in their own Bibles. It bothers God when his sons are so quick to get a tattoo or pierce their ears simply because of the modern day Romans.

God is telling his children they are not to copy THIS pagan world. There is a difference between dressing appropriately and going gaga over the latest styles.  To embrace them simply because we want the Romans to love us is not wise. We are not to pattern ourselves after this modern world. 

If the world lies on a beach in their underwear then God’s people ought to do the opposite. If the women of this world wear their shorts and man’s apparel then the Christian ladies ought to do the opposite. We are in the world but not of the world!  We cannot win the world by imitating the world.  

9. We Are More Than A Product Of Our Culture.   Paul is saying to the saints in Rome you are to be more than a product of your culture. He tells the redeemed in Rome you are to be more than a product of your environment.  You are to be more than a result of geography.  You are to be more than a piece of merchandise molded, made by surroundings, more than a manufacturers object of weather and meteorology. You are not to be conformed to this world, but be ye transformed that ye may prove what is that good an acceptable perfect will of God.

It thrills God to see his children around town reflecting Scriptural culture rather than societies culture. When he sees the boys with decent haircuts and without their pants hanging down to their ankles with their underwear showing. God loves it when he sees his young ladies dressed in modest clothing without a vampire look. I thank God I belong to a church where members are taught to dress right and people around town know just by looking they belong to Longview Baptist Temple.

10. There Can Be No Conforming Until There Is Transforming.   Paul is saying it may be difficult to not be conformed to this world, but difficult is not spelled “I M P O S S I B L E.”  He says do not drift, but steer! He says do not float but swim! He says do not descend but ascend. He says do not blend but transcend. He says do not condescend, but apprehend. He says do not be a slave to dust be its master. He says swim the tide.

The key is the mind.  To allow the mind of Christ to flow through our minds will transform our minds.  This will give us spiritual power to not be conformed.  Transforming must come first in order to battle conforming.  It matters not who you are and what you are you, can live for God wherever and whenever. Factory workers can live for God. 

If they could do it in Rome and Paul expected them to do it in Rome then so can any of us! The Holy Spirit that inspired the Bible expected them to live for God in Rome, which means we can also live for God in our Rome.

God is saying to his children in Rome be like the lily in the mud which transforms sordidness into beauty and stagnates into fragrance. He is saying to them do not bow your knee to the god of fashion, the Baal of conformity, the deity of compromise, the altar of timidity to the prince and power of this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. 

Conquer this world’s gravity! Be a lily in the mud, a daisy in the gutter, a flower in the wilderness, a stream in the desert, and a rose amidst needles and thorns. If you have to flee to the catacombs flee singing! If you are appetizer for the lions then die praising God. Throw your shoulders back and chest out, lift up your head, and hold your banner high to let everyone know you are a child of God!

Emerson said, “Whoso would be a man must be a non conformist!” If the Bible is true, if God be real, and you desire to be a man then do not conform to this world and see what happens? Show me a famous Christian who was a conformist? Show me one in history?

11. The Hall Of Fame Is Filled With Non-Conformist.  The Hall of fame list includes John Bunyan who spent twelve years in the Bedford Jail. Why, because he would not stop preaching the Gospel on the street corners! He had a blind daughter who would come to the Bedford Jail and say, “I’ve some good news daddy. They will let you out of jail if you promise to quit preaching the Gospel on the streets.” He was a non-conformist!

John Wesley was a non-conformist! Read his diary sometime and you will read, “Kicked out of church after church after church…” We garnish his tombstone and crucify the people who are like him today!

·      John Bunyan a non-conformist
·      John Wesley a non-conformist
·      Peter a non-conformist
·      Paul a non-conformist
·      John the Baptist a non-conformist
·      James a non-conformist
·      Savonarola a non-conformist
·      Martin Luther a non-conformist
·      Cromwell a non-conformist
·      John R. Rice a non-conformist
·      Lester Roloff a non-conformist
·      Tom Malone a non-conformist
·      Lee Roberson a non-conformist
·      Shadrach a non-conformist
·      Meshach a non-conformist
·      Abednego a non-conformist
·      Daniel a non-conformist
·      J. Frank Norris a non-conformist
·      G. B. Vick a non-conformist
·      Curtis Hutson a non-conformist
·      Jack Hyles a non-conformist
·      Charles Spurgeon a non-conformist

These were not all Baptist people, but they were God's children and learned how to bring about an impact on a world without using the world.  Today, there is resurgence of using the world to reach the world and it will fail just as it has always failed in history.   I John 2:15, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”   II Corinthians 6:17, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing…”

12. History Is Repeating Itself.   In looking back I see a time when we were conformed to this world.  Then I see a transformation from religious Egypt to the Promised Land.  Now, I see some in this generation turning to being conformed instead of being transformed.  This old wicked world will not be won by the power of the flesh, but by the power of the Holy Ghost.  

This power is not found in a bargain basement sale, but in long nights of begging God.  I much prefer being transformed than being conformed.  The great men and the great churches they pastored were not built like some are attempting to do today.  Be careful, history is repeating itself and you will have to be a non-conformist to be used of the Holy Ghost.

Thank the Lord America had some great men who fought the invasion and onslaught of a social moral decline. They were the Watchmen on the walls protecting their people.  All we need are a few good men who will be willing to sacrifice popularity with their peers and with the post modern populous movement in order to gain Heaven’s attention.  

The common denominator of our mentors was not the standards they held as much as it was the passion in their hearts they held for those headed for hell.  No purpose simply means no passion!  Do not conform, but be transformed.