The Impact of One Church

As I sit in my office this afternoon, I contemplate that today, August 14, 2016, this church celebrates its fifty-eighth anniversary. In those fifty-eight years, God certainly has done some amazing things through this “one church.”

I have a unique perspective of this church because most of my life has revolved around what God has done in this place. You see, this church started in my grandparents’ living room. They moved out of their home so the young preacher, Roy Thompson, could lease the house to start a church. My grandfather consented to attend the first service, and the rest is history. I was just a baby when my parents carried me into that living room that was functioning as a church meeting place. What transpired in that house impacted my parents and several members of my family. This church has continued to play a part in almost every aspect of my life as a person and a preacher.

I am grateful for a man of God that had faith and a vision for a city and was obedient to the calling of God upon his life. That man, Roy Thompson, was my pastor for thirty-seven years. I am grateful for his influence, preaching and mentoring in my years as a young preacher. Six years ago God saw fit to take him to heaven, but there is hardly a week that goes by when I don’t think about him and the impact he had upon me and my family.

Today at fifty-eight years of age, Cleveland Baptist Church is still a thriving ministry that is impacting the world for Christ. There are a few things that have been emphasized through the years that have helped the church stay focused.

  1. The Word of God has always been principal in this ministry. Roy Thompson was a Bible preacher. He thundered the Word of God from the pulpit, and I have endeavored to continue on as a preacher of the Bible. I primarily preach expository messages, chapter by chapter and book by book.
  2. Soul winning and discipleship have also been a focus of this ministry through the years. For almost fifty years this church has maintained a dynamic bus ministry. Still today we have over fourteen bus routes that cover the west side of our city. We still knock doors endeavoring to reach people with the gospel. Those that are saved are encouraged to get into a discipleship class in order to ground them and help them grow in the faith.
  3. Church-planting and missions are also a key focus of this church. As it was in the days of Roy Thompson, that focus continues under my leadership. We have planted many churches in this region and across the face of the world through our CBC-sent missionaries.
  4. Finally, we have tried to keep the truth of loving and living for Jesus in the hearts of our people. We don’t want to be a ministry that just does things to do things. We want to be a church that does what it does because we love the Savior. Love is the greatest motivation for service and ministry.

I don’t think we can possibly know until we get to Heaven how many lives have been changed or individuals and families have been impacted because this church was placed by God in Cleveland, Ohio. I just know personally that five generations of my own family have been powerfully impacted and changed because of this church. May God help us to continue!

Churches Working Together

Without a doubt, the New Testament alludes to the concept of a local assembly of baptized believers as being the church. In our current study on the book of Revelation, we are in the section where there are seven local bodies identified as churches. The Lord saw them and was aware of what each of them was doing in this world. He likens each church to a lampstand or candlestick. Interestingly enough, the Lord didn’t see one huge candlestick, but he saw seven individual candlesticks and identifies each one as a church.

I would be so bold as to say that there is no concept of a universal, invisible church found in the pages of the New Testament. The suggestion that all the churches will make up the church in the future in Heaven is surely seen, but right now, God sees churches—plural. Each real New Testament church is the body of Christ, and He is the head of that church!

In the New Testament these churches were identified by their geographic location. In 2016, Independent Baptists often tag their churches with a location; for instance, we are known as Cleveland Baptist Church. We are a regional church that draws people from across the greater Cleveland area. Yet, around us are other Baptist churches that have names such as Grace Baptist Church, NorthCoast Baptist, Southwest Baptist, etc. In New Testament times, those churches would have had a city associated with them in order to designate its location.

As one of the oldest and largest Independent Baptist churches in this area, Cleveland Baptist Church has planted several of the other Baptist churches in this area. We have either directly planted that church out of our church, or we have helped a man that has been sent to this region to plant a church. Throughout the years, we have given people and resources to help these regional church plants. We don’t look upon these other churches as competition. We see them as partners in the ministry. I firmly believe that as large as the metro Cleveland area is—seven counties and 2.1 million people—it would be impossible for one church to reach and impact this region totally or effectively. So it takes churches—plural—to be placed in strategic areas to reach a region like this with the gospel.

It is a wonderful thing when churches in a close geographic area can cooperate and strategically plan some combined efforts. As I look around me, I know some of these Baptist churches in this region wouldn’t agree on every detail, but we agree on the major doctrines and understand the concept of independence and autonomy. Yet, we have been able to come together for teen camps, summer missionary ventures and other joint efforts. Some of the churches in our region have chosen to utilize our Christian school for some of their church families and send men and women to our Bible Institute for training. Recently, we have been planning a combined outreach to the Republican National Convention which will be convening here in a few weeks. It has been refreshing to have the pastors and leaders of these churches sit down with us to strategize about outreach and evangelism. Next year we are looking at working together for a joint meeting on Revival and Prayer!

Please join me in praying for the Independent Baptist churches of the greater Cleveland area to not only be effective in their individual work but also powerful in our collective work! I want Cleveland Baptist Church and the other area Independent Baptist churches to have a great spirit of unity and cooperation. In this day of cultural shift and animosity toward Bible-believing Christians, we are going to need each other. Unless something changes, I believe that we are going to be dealing with pressure and persecution that we have never known from the world around us. Therefore, we must encourage and pray for each church and pastor. We must remember the Lord is still walking among the candlesticks, and He is the head of every New Testament church. I think He is pleased as we show grace and kindness toward each pastor and church that shares our doctrine and faith.

The Christian’s Responsibility

I am writing these thoughts right in the middle of our annual Faith Promise Missions Conference. This year, like in most years, we are privileged to have a number of missionaries and fields represented in our conference. They are sharp, articulate people desiring to go the field and share Christ with the multitudes. The only thing holding them back from the field is the financial resources necessary to go and be sustained on those fields.

In the opening service of the conference, I was struck when we had a parade of flags. Each missionary guest with us followed a flag of their country as they marched in. The final flag carried in was solid black and represented the countries with closed or restricted access to missionaries. Over half the world’s population live in those lands where their governments have restricted missionaries from bringing the gospel message. My heart aches as I write these words thinking of the multitudes that will never hear a clear presentation of the gospel. I am sure that in every land there is someone sharing the gospel. However, it is limited by a repressive government or lack of trained personal to share that message.

One of the reasons we must reach the open fields with the gospel is that other nations are welcomed in even though Americans are restricted from going to these nations. For instance, the Filipinos are able to get into most countries of the world. They do service work and have few restrictions in their access. So we need to get missionaries to open fields to win people to Christ, baptize them, form churches and train them to take the message of Christ to the world.

It should trouble us that while we are restricted from going to other places in the world, we aren’t restricted here at home. Yet so few are engaged in telling others about Christ here in America. I believe we will stand before God some day and give an account for our lack of effort in reaching our own nation with the gospel. I read the other day that when it comes to faith, a fast growing segment of our population are those that are called “Nones.” In other words, they have no faith. They are either atheist or agnostic and don’t care about God or the Bible. Perhaps the reason they are that way is because many in Christianity aren’t living credible lives or speaking of their faith. Too many of us have been intimidated by the culture and silenced by fear.

There are a few responsibilities each of us must own. As American Christians, our responsibility is huge.

  1. We must live credible lives so that others can see the distinct difference that Christ makes.
  2. We must be faithful to tell others about the Saviour. When God opens the door, we must speak up. We must look for opportunities to share our faith and do so with boldness and assurance.
  3. We must give generously so that others can go the fields of the world.
  4. We must pray earnestly for those who are on the field and for others trying to get there. Pray that God would make them effective in the reaching people with the gospel.
  5. We must live ready and excited about the return of Christ.
  6. We must encourage one another to be the best Christians we can be.

The 2016 Election

Almost everyone is aware that America is in the midst of a very vicious primary season. We are trying to determine who will be the standard bearers for both the Republican and Democratic parties in the coming presidential election. I realize there are a host of other contests, but the one that has received the most attention is the presidential contest.

Here is my opinion regarding this contest:  as American citizens, we have a real interest in this election. As it stands right now, it looks like Hilary Clinton will be the nominee for the Democrats unless she is indicted for her part in the email server scandal. If that is the case, then it will be the avowed Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders. What a pair on the Democratic side. If things continue down the path they are going now, the nominee for the Republicans will be Donald Trump. I am not thrilled with this man being the standard bearer for the party for which I am most closely aligned.

It is my hope and prayer that the Republicans can put a better, more qualified candidate into the coming head-to-head battle for the 2016 election. I realize that Donald Trump is an accomplished businessman, yet he is crass and seemingly devoid of moral uprightness. I am appalled watching the pettiness and childishness of the Republican debates. Name calling, interrupting each other, and bullying are all part of these so-called debates.

We who live in Cleveland, Ohio, will have a front row seat to the Republican National Convention the week of July 18.

As I think about what is going on in the realm of national politics, it seems we have a real leadership void. Statesmen like Ronald Reagan are seemingly absent from the fray. I have to ask myself, why? Why are the likes of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump the kind of candidates people want?

Here is why I think the Clintons and Trumps are out in front—it is because these people represent who we are as a people. If we look in the Scripture, one of the curses people have to deal with when they distance themselves from God is poor leadership.

Think about it: the average American doesn’t really seem to care about morality and conservative values. Across the country our cities are becoming moral cesspools of iniquity and ungodly behavior. This kind of behavior has enveloped the nation. We add to that bloodshed and violence that are daily occurrences, and we have the American wasteland. Just drive down the streets of any major city and see the depths of depravity on display. Turn on your television on any given night and try to find something wholesome to watch. Most of the entertainment industry is out in left field when it comes to morals and what they think is humorous. The sexual innuendos are constant, and what we consider normal and moral is often mocked and ridiculed as being abnormal.

I told my wife the other day that we are living in the days of Lot in Sodom. Lest you think I am a negative person, I am not. I realize that the gospel of Jesus Christ changes lives. We still see people saved and baptized at our church on a regular basis. I know there are churches across the country that are actively trying to reach their community and world, too. Yet there is a hardness, and at times, a lack of receptivity in the hearts of the general population.

From what I am seeing, regardless of who is elected as president, he will not be able to fix what ails America—only God can do that. Nevertheless, I do think that electing a principled conservative is vital to the health of our nation although it doesn’t look like that is going to happen.

I challenge you to pray for America! Pray that God will awaken this nation again to the importance of spiritual matters. Pray that God will awaken His churches to righteousness and godly living! Vote in each election. Vote godly principles and values. These are the things that will make the biggest difference in the 2016 election.

Certainty in an Uncertain World

Our world is filled with uncertainty, so we often find ourselves thinking about things that weren’t an issue ten years ago. Back then, movements like ISIS or ISIL weren’t much of a problem. While I was aware of Muslim extremists like Osama bin Laden, I had no idea that this kind of people could gain traction and become a real force to be concerned with in my world. It is more than just rhetoric when we hear of these movements declaring a jihad, or a holy war, on the west. They have declared that America is “The Great Satan” and must be defeated. There is no doubt that there are cells of these Muslim extremists in our country waiting for the next opportunity to inflict fear and terror on us.

I have a level of concern when our world leaders gather to declare that they have come to the conclusion that the greatest danger we face is “Global Warming.” It is hard to feel secure about my future when they speak with their politically correct speech and their collaborated talking points. It is nothing more than their desire to control our lives and redistribute wealth.

On any given day we awake to news regarding economic issues in places like Russia, China or some other major place in this world. Those issues cause the economies of the rest of the first world nations to shudder and shake. Add to that news a level of uncertainty regarding our nation’s economy because of our political leaders’ unwillingness to deal with the national debt. They never saw a program they didn’t want to fund, nor can they bypass a pork-barrel project that will help line their own pockets.

Although there is a lot of uncertainty in our world, there are some great spiritual truths that cause me to be very secure and certain about my future.

  1. I am very secure in the fact that my eternal destiny is fixed because of the work of Jesus Christ. By faith, I have personally claimed the truths of Scripture. As a young child, I heard the gospel and responded to that message by placing my faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour. I have personally claimed John 3:16, Romans 10:9-13 and other verses.
  2. I am very secure in knowing that God has clearly spoken in His Word. The Bible isn’t just a book of religious instruction; it is, in reality, the very Word of God! I have found it to be a book of comfort, of instruction, and of correction. I have found Psalm 12:6-7 and II Timothy 3:16-17 to be certain and powerful in formulating my conviction about the Word of God.
  3. I am very secure in knowing that God has a plan that will be accomplished in this world. I love Psalm 2. It speaks of all the rulers of this world making their plans and rejecting the God of Heaven. I love verse 4, “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh, the Lord shall have them in derision.” At some point in the future, God will pull the plug on this planet. He will bring things to a very certain conclusion, and He will remake this world in righteousness. I love the promise of God and men dwelling together on new earth (II Peter 3:10-13).

In an uncertain world, I have great certainty because my God reigns, and in this, I am very secure. An old preacher used to say, “The future is as bright as the promises of God.” For those of us that know Him, it is very bright. We are not to live in fear but in certainty that God has a plan, and it will be accomplished.


The Communication Breakdown

We are all aware of our need to communicate—it starts early in life. In order for a baby to communicate that he needs something, he will cry. It is amazing how effective a baby can be at communicating without words. After a while, we learn our first word, and then it isn’t long before we are talking a blue-streak.

One would think that by the time we reach our adult years we would be good at communication. However, communication is more than just speaking words. Communication is also listening to what others are saying. Isn’t it amazing that many times our preconceived ideas can play into what we think someone is saying rather than what they are really saying?

I often think about how men and women communicate. Years ago, I heard Dr. Johnny Pope make the statement: “Men communicate in headlines and women in fine print!” Here is how that goes. A man comes home from work, and his wife asks, “How was your day?” He replies, “Fine!” She wants to know what happened at the office or the shop, but he just generalizes and says it was fine. A woman will ask her husband, “How does my hair look?” He will reply, “It is nice!” He thinks he is paying her a compliment, but she replies, “Oh, you don’t like it!” because he didn’t say, “I really love it,” or “It is the best hairdo ever.” In her mind he is just making a statement.

This isn’t the only way we see a breakdown of communication. Sometimes, we totally misunderstand a situation, and based on the way we think things are or perceive that they are, we respond to them. I recently preached from II Kings 5 where we find the story of Naaman, the captain of the host of the king of Syria. The Bible says he was a leper, and the little Hebrew maid spoke about the man of God, the prophet Elisha, that could heal the leprosy.

When the king got word that the prophet in Israel could heal leprosy, he sent a letter to the king of Israel saying that he was sending his captain for the king to heal. The king of Israel thought the king of Syria was picking a fight with him. What the king of Israel didn’t consider was that there was a man of God, a prophet named Elisha, that could help. Elisha sent word that the king should direct the captain to his home. More misunderstanding happens when the captain shows up. Elisha doesn’t come out himself; there is no fanfare, just a messenger. A servant of Elisha told Naaman to wash in the Jordan River in order to be healed. The Bible tells us that Naaman was in a rage. Why was he so angry? Because he thought that the man of God would come out personally to meet with such an important person as himself. He thought he was worthy of that kind of treatment. After all, he was in charge of the king of Syria’s army. He was also put off by the dirty Jordan River. In his mind, the rivers in Damascus were better than the dirty Jordan River.

God was communicating to the captain, and God used those that accompanied the captain to further His communication. They reasoned with him saying that if Elisha had given him some difficult thing to do, he would have done it—why not try this simple thing? He humbled himself and did what he was told, and God healed him.

It is often our human pride that gets in the way of our communication. Pride breaks down our ability to hear properly. Many times our hearts are hardened by sin and that keeps us from hearing and communicating properly.

Truthfully, the greatest element in communication is not our mouth, our brain, our lips or our tongue—it is our heart. Jesus spoke about this in Matthew 15:8, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” Matthew 15:11, “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.” Luke 6:45, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.”


Here are a few ideas to keep our communication from breaking down:


  1. Listen more than you speak. Really listen to what is being said. Let a person explain what he is seeing, feeling and hearing.
  2. Ask God for wisdom in response to critical times of communication. As a preacher, it is imperative that I communicate properly, effectively and powerfully. I can’t do that without the help of the Lord. If you are a teacher, parent, spouse, employee, or employer, we must communicate well. Ask God for His help.
  3. When you have made a communication mistake, whether it is what you have said or in misunderstanding what you have heard, take responsibility. Don’t act as if it isn’t important. Make sure that you are able to communicate with those people you deal with on a regular basis.
  4. Saturate your heart with the Word of God and fellowship with the Lord. That will do more to keep your heart right and help you with good and sound speech than anything else.

The Culture and the Christian

On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court, in a five – four decision, rendered a verdict that same-sex marriage was to be the law of the land. These five unelected justices told all fifty states that they were overturning 239 years of our Judeo-Christian definition of marriage. Now any two adults that want to be married—regardless of their gender—are able to be recognized as a legal, society-sanctioned marriage.

Regardless of what these five justices have decided, God hasn’t changed His mind on the matter. No matter how much our society accepts this as the normal evolution of our morals, God isn’t swayed. God doesn’t put morality up for a vote; He isn’t putting His finger up to the wind to see which way He should go; His morality doesn’t change regardless of the changes found within a culture.

Our world is rapidly moving away from God. It isn’t just our nation but all the nations of the world. It reminds me of Psalm 2:1-5, “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.”

The picture in this Psalm is quite humorous. Do you think that God—the God of all eternity and the God who made us—is sitting in Heaven the least bit concerned about humanity’s rebellion against His laws? Our nation may think that they are going to throw off the restrictions and laws of God, but God in Heaven shall laugh. The Lord shall have them in derision. He is our maker, and He has stated how things will end.

It would seem that we have lost our sanity in our nation. We have become so politically correct that we have lost our common sense. We put men in the military and send them across the oceans to defend us with powerful weapons, but we won’t allow those in active service stationed on bases in the U.S. to carry weapons to protect and defend themselves. Thus, we have situations like the one that recently took place in Chattanooga, Tennessee, at the two recruiting stations.

We allow illegal aliens to cross our borders and give them immediate access to healthcare and education, but many of our veterans are languishing with substandard healthcare and have to wait days, or even months, to see doctors.

The culture has given applause to the LGBT community with all their strange behavior, and the people of faith are told to keep their faith inside their church buildings. We, the people of faith, are treated with distain simply because we believe in biblical morality. A classic illustration of this insanity is Tim Tebow, a vocal Christian who is unashamed of his faith. He has been treated as if he has a disease and barely gets a second look from the football world, but we parade Bruce (Caitlyn) Jenner before the world and give her an ESPY award for courage.

So what should we do? How should we behave in such a culture and world?

We need to live like the first century Christians—with boldness, walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. This isn’t the time to retreat to our buildings and keep silent in our world. It is time to speak up and let God’s Word be our guide. We aren’t to be ugly or harsh, but we are to speak the truth in love! We are to tell the truth and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Let me encourage you, as believers, to remember that your church and its meetings are vital in these days in which we live. It is a time when we need the encouragement we get from meeting with our church family and what we hear from the Word. Let’s make sure that, as God’s people, we are right with God and living right in the world. We have nothing to fear; we have a certain hope looking for our coming Saviour! We can, and will, make a difference regardless of what is happening in the culture. We are on the winning side!

Facing Adversity in Your Life

When we deal with adversity, we have a tendency to think that we are an isolated case; however, everyone faces difficulty at various times in life. We aren’t the only ones dealing with trouble. Our problems may seem overwhelming, but the truth is, with God’s help, we can face our problems and go on!

As I travel through the pages of Scripture, I see story after story of men and women who faced trouble in their lives, but God used those troubles to mold them and accomplish His purpose.

I think about a man by the name of Joseph. Joseph knew more than his share of adversity. His would be an extremely sad story unless we knew that there was a God in heaven that was using the struggles to do a work. Joseph had to understand this truth at some point in his life, for he told his brothers: “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Genesis 50:20)

God used the adversity of not being able to have children in Hannah’s life. I Samuel 1 tells us that her inability caused her to plead with God. If He would allow her to conceive and have a son, she told Him that she would be willing to give him back to Him. God responded and gave her a son, Samuel, who was mightily used of God to accomplish His purpose. His life and ministry arose out of his mother’s adversity.

I don’t know if you are facing adversity or affliction today. If you aren’t, that is good; there is a good chance that, eventually, you will be dealing with one. When adversity comes, how do we deal with it?

First, we need to understand that God has a purpose in our trials—a purpose for everything that touches the life of the believer. We need to be extremely careful that we don’t waste something that God has designed to strengthen and build us. If you are saved, God has a purpose for everything that touches us. Romans 8:28-29 speaks of this truth. It is important that we understand that it doesn’t say that everything is good that touches us. It does say, however, that everything that touches the believer can work together for good. With that thought in mind, we need to ask God to show us that purpose. If God chooses not to show us, we must be content to believe that it is true, even if we can’t see it.

Second, we need to understand that God will give the grace and strength needed to deal with the matter. No matter what it is, no matter how difficult, we must believe what God has promised. I Corinthians 10:13, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” Hebrews 4:14-16 speaks of this truth too! God will give grace to help in the time of need as we face temptations and trials.

Third, we must understand the way to deal with a trial is to turn to God and seek Him. Psalms 13 is a brief Psalm, just six verses. It speaks of the Psalmist David going through a trial. He begins the first three verses distraught. He is struggling to figure out where God is. Those verses speak of his intense struggle and how difficult it was. By the time we get to the final three verses, something changed in the life of the Psalmist. It isn’t clear if the circumstances changed, but for sure, David’s attitude changed. He ends the Psalm singing praises to God. The Bible plainly states that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble is the person that realizes that his problems are too big and runs to the Lord with those problems. God will give grace and special attention to that man. The truth is the physical problem may go on for a while, but with God’s added grace and strength, you can deal with the problem.

You will face trouble and adversity in your life, but there is a God in Heaven that is there to help you! Turn to Him and grow in grace during the struggle. The day will come when the fog will lift, and you will be much stronger because of what God has brought you through.

Troublesome Days

II Timothy 3:1 states “in the last days perilous times shall come.” The word “perilous” means difficult to deal with. Interestingly, the next verse shows that the troubling days come because of narcissism. The Bible plainly states that “men shall be lovers of their own selves” and then begins to list issues that happen because of this self-love.

From my perspective, the things that are listed in this passage are things that are now at play in our world and are things that trouble us.

The current amoral culture in America causes me to be agitated and troubled. The fact that so many people have moved to a post-modern mindset ultimately affects how they live. Post-modernism has taught people to think that there is no such thing as absolute truth, and there are no fixed points of morality. Ultimately, it teaches that there is no God! It reminds me of what is stated in Romans 1:28—that men don’t “like to retain God in their knowledge.”

I am troubled by the seeming lawlessness of many people in our society. I am troubled by the way that our police and other law enforcement individuals have been demonized. Although there are some bad police officers, the vast majority of them are exceptional citizens who get up and go to work every day and put their lives on the line to protect us. They are good, brave men and women that have a job to do. The last thing they want to deal with is a mob mentality where people get stirred up, protest, plunder and pillage, stealing and destroying property. A lot of the issues that people are upset about when it comes to the police could have been completely averted had people just done what they were told to do when confronted by the police.

We can be troubled about the economy and how we might be affected going forward. We can be troubled by the lack of leadership among our governmental leaders.

We can be troubled about the state of affairs in our world. The instability in the Middle East greatly troubles many people in this world. It would seem that our world is on the brink of World War Three. The radical element of Islam is bent on jihad and the establishment of a caliphate. Like our Jewish friends in Israel, we are greatly concerned about what could happen should Iran develop nuclear weapons.

How do we respond to these troubling days? Let me share a few thoughts.

  1. We must understand that this trouble means that we are drawing close to the end of this age. For that reason, our hearts should have hope. Jesus promised that He would return, and when we read the passages in I Corinthians 15 and I Thessalonians 4, we realize we will soon be changed and removed from this planet.
  2. We should understand that God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love and a sound mind (II Timothy 1:7). Therefore, our hope isn’t in the things of man or even the issues at play in our world but in Christ alone. We are reminded in Hebrews 12 that our eyes are to remain fixed on our Saviour.
  3. We are called to be witnesses for Christ, regardless of what is going on in our world. We are like the stewards in the Lord’s parable that were entrusted with his talents. We are to take the truths of the gospel and share them with folks along life’s way. Winning people to Christ and helping them develop in the faith is the greatest and most important thing we can do in these troubling times.
  4. We need to pray for our government. You and I may not agree with the direction of those that lead us, but we are commanded to pray for them (I Timothy 2), and we are to obey them (Romans 13) until they command us to do something that violates God’s truths. I think we all know that our President and Congressional leaders, as well as the justices on the Supreme Court, need to be supported through our prayers.
  5. The final thing we can do is obey Philippians 4:4-9. We are to think on the right things. We are to be “careful,” but we are to pray and think on the right things; then as verse nine states, the God of peace will be with us.

Don’t Quit

On January 4, I preached my first messages from the pulpit of Cleveland Baptist Church for 2015. In my study leading up to that first Sunday, I was directed by the Holy Spirit to Galatians 6:7-9. In that passage, Paul talks about the law of sowing and reaping and gives us both the negative side of that law (“he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption”) and the positive side (“he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting”).

Interestingly, the word “corruption” in this text speaks of rotting garbage. When we allow our flesh to dictate our life and allow sinful aspects to overrun us—mark it down—it is like stinking up a life, and nothing stinks worse than rotting garbage. The garbage dump is definitely not a place where I want to live. However, too many people have sown to the flesh and find that they are living on the garbage dump. What sounded so attractive and seemed so inviting has turned ugly and has brought a terrible stench.

The last several years I have read the book of Proverbs through once every month. In that book, sin is dressed up like a provocative woman. She is called a strange woman; she is decadent and appeals to the eye. She is inviting, offering herself and a good time to those that will respond to her. However, as Proverbs 5:4-5 points out, “But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell.”

The other admonition that Paul gives us is that sowing to the Spirit is profitable—a person that sows to the Spirit will reap life everlasting. The problem is that our flesh doesn’t like the Spirit; it resists and rebels against spiritual things. That is why Paul makes the statement in I Corinthians 9:27, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

Galatians 6:9 is basically an admonition not to quit in the matter of sowing the right kind of seed. Because there is a period of time between sowing and reaping and there isn’t instant gratification in the realm of the Spirit, it is easy to get discouraged and weary in well doing. Yet we are told to keep on because we will reap if we faint not.

Let me give you a few reasons not to quit sowing the right kind of seed!

  1. I think I shouldn’t quit because of where I want to be in my life. I need to look at the end of the road! Where does the path I want to travel take me? Things that are inviting up front can end up bringing corruption to a life. Things that are less attractive to the flesh but are promoted by the Spirit, bring joy and gladness when we obey. The end of that path is life eternal. The Bible never speaks of the flesh in good terms; however, the Spirit is always spoken of in positive ways.
  2. I ought not to quit because of the promise of reaping what I sow! There is the promise of reaping the benefit of what you sow. The law of sowing and reaping is an inevitable law; it cannot be altered—whatever you plant you will eventually reap.
  3. I shouldn’t quit because of those that are coming behind me. I have too many eyes looking at me. I need to live in such a way that my testimony is clear and I don’t cause others to stumble because of what they see or don’t see.
  4. I shouldn’t quit because Jesus didn’t quit! He finished His course and despised the shame, but He purchased salvation for us. He now says to run your race and don’t quit!

It is obvious that God is faithful, and He will reward those who are faithful too! I want to hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” As you go through 2015, keep in mind that you are sowing every day. Make sure you are sowing the right things in your life!