Tuesday, November 20, 2007


"Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations" (Psalm 100:4-5).

Thanksgiving is my favorite of all holidays, in fact no others come close. The joy that comes from remembering past mercies, past blessings, past deliverance's and Providence's is a source of wonderment to me that the God of heaven would take thought of man and extend His grace to us. It is difficult to have a bitter spirit or complaining heart when focused on how great things the Lord has done for us.

I've always had much to be thankful for. I've never wanted for food, clothing, shelter or a family to care for, love and provide for me. That alone is a great mercy from God that I cherish. I've never wanted for a church home, this is one of the greatest blessings of my life. I've never wanted for kind friends and close supporters to help me through difficult times of life. I've rarely been in any type of want, and the few occasions that I have, my God has provided as His word promises He will.

This week I fly (God permitting) to Texas to see my mother, father, brothers, sister, niece and grandparents to spend this time of thanksgiving. I'm looking forward to seeing my family, but more importantly I'm looking forward to taking an entire day and devote it to the entrance of the courts of God to praise Him, to pass through His gates to give thanks. Obviously this can and should be done each day of our lives, but just as with feasts of the Old Testament, its good to have physical reminders to partake of spiritual blessings by fulfilling our spiritual duties and privileges.

I'm anticipating this day that's approaching because my heart is already full of praise and thanksgiving. I've received all I could ask for, and more. As Isaiah recorded, I have "received of the LORD'S hand double."

I'm thankful for my family, I'm thankful for the kingdom of God and Little Flock Church in particular. I'm thankful for the great host of brethren and sisters who have supported me in good times and in bad. I'm thankful for the seemingly insignificant natural blessings of food and raiment. I'm thankful for redemption in and by Jesus Christ. I'm thankful to be a child of the King.

I'm also VERY thankful for a sweet young lady that has added a new excitement and joy to my life. As some of you know, and maybe others have heard, Lydia and I have begun a new relationship that I am very thankful for, and of course very excited about! {Sorry Lyd for broadcasting it to the whole world ;-).}

So over the past few days and weeks I have entered into the gates and courts of my God with thanksgiving and praise. For His truth, His everlasting mercy that He manifests in so many ways in my life. May God be praised for His wonderful works to the children of men!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

'Tis Heav'n to Rest in Thine Embrace

My Savior and my King,
Thy beauties are divine;
Thy lips with blessing overflow,
And ev'ry grace is Thine.

The smiling of Thy face,
How amiable they are;
'Tis heav'n to rest in Thine embrace,
And nowhere else but there.

Nor earth, nor all the sky,
Can one delight afford;
No, not a drop of Thy real joy,
Without Thy presence, Lord. - Isaac Watts

This has been a very blessed week for me in many regards. I cannot begin to express the proper and adequate thanks to my Lord for His mercy, His pity, His grace. Truly, "the smilings of His face, how amiable they are." The world, with all its charms can never give the joy that comes through the felt presence of the Holy Ghost.

Over the past weekend our church received wonderful blessings of singing praises, offering prayers to God, hearing His word expounded and exalted, and the fellowship with like-minded saints was as refreshing as ever.

The sermons from beginning to end were a blessing, but two specifically fed my soul, instructed my mind and caused me to consider my walk more closely, and make needed adjustments in life. I love all Bible preaching, but especially when my mind is stirred, my toes are stepped on, and I see areas that I need to make improvement. While to the flesh this is not pleasing, to the soul it is so needful, and in my experience, refreshing.

On Friday night of our meeting, Elder Steve Bloyd preached on the subject of "Fasting and Prayer." Elder Bloyd brought to our attention the often forgotten Biblical principle of fasting. He taught clearly that God's people have observed this practice in Old Testament times, in New Testament Apostolic times, throughout Baptist history, even regularly during the American Baptists during the 1700 and 1800's. In addition to preaching the practice, he gave a few helpful hints from his own study and experience that quite interesting.

On Saturday afternoon, Elder Clayton Nowell preached the word by asking us 5 questions:
1. Are you closer to the Lord than you were a year ago?
2. Are you stronger in the faith than you were a year ago?
3. Do you take time to pray?
4. Do you take time to love?
5. Were you honest in your answers to the first four questions?
Of course his last question struck me, I wasn't expecting it, and at first I laughed, but as I considered it, and as he preached on, the point was well made that we often fool ourselves that we're doing better than we really are. His exhortation was sweet, and his manner invited closer service to the Lord and a closer service to His people. I love sermons where men can invite me to fulfill my Scriptural responsibilities, instead of beating me over the head with them. While I should always be faithful, it is pleasant to receive such a rebuke.

With the combination of these two sermons, I saw drastic need for improvement in my own walk. I'd also seen areas of decline in our congregation, so on Sunday at the close of our meeting, I called for fasting and prayer in our congregation on two Wednesday's a month, asking that God would revive us, and revive His work in our community and in our nation.

I don't record this to boast about my first experience of fasting, since our Lord said it is to be done in secret to prevent being as the Pharisees. However, I do record this as a testimony to the power of this practice. My prayer life had been stifled for sometime by neglect. Yesterday, during the fast there literally wasn't a minute in the day that I wasn't praying, or thinking of prayer needs. It was the most intense day of prayer I've ever experienced, and the joy of it was real.

Too often I get wrapped up in the tasks of life, the charms of life and the distractions of life. But as this hymn states, "Nor earth, nor all the sky, Can one delight afford." How true, how true. Many find themselves "enjoying" the world, and often I do too, yet so few find themselves experiencing joy. Joy is simply a calm delight and gladness. So often I find myself grumbling, and I find myself around a grumbling people. Just like Isaiah said, "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips" (Isaiah 6:5).

"No, not a drop of Thy real joy, Without Thy presence, Lord." Yet with His presence it is "heav'n to rest in Thine embrace, and nowhere else but there." How hard to murmur and complain when you've been in the embrace of your Savior, our Lord, our King! An impossibility, I think. While I still see great need of the Lord's revival in my own heart, in my walk, in our land, I have boldness to believe that not only are all things possible with Him, but "Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it" (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

My Savior and my King,
Thy beauties are divine;
Thy lips with blessing overflow,
And ev'ry grace is Thine.

Monday, November 5, 2007

A Trick? No, It Was a Treat

In Edwardsville, the children participate in "trick-or-treating" on the 30th of October, and on the 31st the city has a parade. Once the sun went down, I had a cute surprise on my doorstep:

Here is Rian, Abby and Tressa Zimmerman, a.k.a. "The Three Little Pigs." Sister Tracy Zimmerman came up with the idea and made the costumes for girls. Brother Jeff had to help Rian with her hay for the house she was to build.

In spite of Abby's face, the girls seemed to be enjoying themselves very much, I know I sure enjoyed their stop.

Friday, November 2, 2007

What A Friend

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He'll take and shield thee; thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear
May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright unclouded there will be no need for prayer
Rapture, praise and endless worship will be our sweet portion there.

As we live here it is easy to grow discouraged. As we see the world crumbling around us, wickedness abounding because the love of many waxes cold, many saints we once enjoyed fellowship with have forsaken the house of God and fled. As we see these notable "signs of the times," they encourage me that perhaps the Lord's return is near, but they also discourage me fearing that it isn't, and we're just experiencing the judgment of our Lord.

There is a hymn I love, it is rather mournful, but yet it strikes my soul and makes me yearn for God's reviving breath upon His kingdom, and our nation:

Will God forever cast us off? His wrath forbear to smoke
Against the people of His love, His little chosen flock.

Think of the tribes so dearly bought With the Redeemer's blood,
Nor let Thy Zion be forgot, Where once Thy glory stood.

Where once Thy churches prayed and sang Thy foes profanely rage;
Amid Thy gates their ensigns hang, And there their host engage.

And still to heighten our distress, Thy presence is withdrawn;
Thy wonted signs of pow'r and grace Thy pow'r and grace are gone.

No prophet speaks to calm our grief, But all in silence mourn;
Nor know the hour of our relief, The hour of Thy return.

This song follows Psalm 74, a psalm appropriate when we find ourselves, our churches and our nation in a desolate condition:

"O God, why hast thou cast us off for ever? why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture? Remember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased of old; the rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed; this mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt. Lift up thy feet unto the perpetual desolations; even all that the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary. Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations; they set up their ensigns for signs. A man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick trees. But now they break down the carved work thereof at once with axes and hammers. They have cast fire into thy sanctuary, they have defiled by casting down the dwelling place of thy name to the ground. They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together: they have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land. We see not our signs: there is no more any prophet: neither is there among us any that knoweth how long. O God, how long shall the adversary reproach? shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever? Why withdrawest thou thy hand, even thy right hand? pluck it out of thy bosom" (Psalm 74:1-11).

I realize we don't like negative news or a discouraging report. Yet a faithful watchman not only has to cry, "all is well, the morning comes," he must also faithfully report, "the enemy approaches, the night is long." In 21st century America when everyone rushes to the physicians for mind altering drugs to find reprieve from discouragement, depression and despair, none wants a messenger who brings a report, "all is not well."

Many times we'd prefer to take the "ostrich approach," bury our heads and pretend all is well and hope the bad times go away. However, that approach rarely accomplishes anything but a numbing from reality.

Matthew 5:4 states, "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted."

This past weekend I rejoiced to be gathered with many saints and was reminded of past times of my youth when many came to hear the word of God preached. Their heart's desire was to praise Emmanuel. Now I fear the time has come that Paul warned of:

"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables" (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Even we ourselves only want teachers that tell us the good, leaving off the bad. We want fairy tales (fables) that everything is OK, when it may not be. We want teachers of the Joel Osteen sort, always smiling, always positive, always unrealistic, always so "heavenly minded they serve no earthly good." Then when a messenger of God speaks the truth and warns of our condition, we turn him off, act as if he's robbed us our make-believe joy. How much more genuine joy we would have if we saw the kingdom of God as He intended it to be.

Why do we so much dread simply owning up to the fact that everything is not OK, the churches in large part are declining, and in some places, "Where once Thy churches prayed and sang Thy foes profanely rage; Amid Thy gates their ensigns hang, And there their host engage." In many churches, "No prophet speaks to calm our grief, But all in silence mourn; Nor know the hour of our relief, The hour of Thy return." And when we do recognize it as fact, why are not our spirits stirred to cry out to our Lord that we've erred, and hope that in wrath He'll remember mercy?

"Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer. Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer."

Yes, we have trials and temptations, and often trouble abounds on every side. We should not be discouraged, but should "rather mourn," take our care to Jesus and share our condition and sorrows with Him. Then we should act on our prayers and do more than cast it at Jesus' feet. We should live up to the gospel mark and show we mean our prayers, and that our mourning is authentic by acting, and moving forward in all the commands of Jesus.

Perhaps then where once churches prayed and sang they'll sing and pray again. Perhaps the foes will be turned to Christ, or at least find the Sword of the Spirit turned against them. Perhaps the prophets would speak to calm our grief, and afflict the terrible. Maybe then we'll love sound doctrine instead of fairy tale fantasies and our mourning be turned to comfort and rejoicing. After we've "rather mourned," we'll rather rejoice. Where once we cried asking for pity, we'll cry out, "our cups runneth over."