Category Archives: salvation

Pre-Salvation Counseling?

Pre-Marital Counseling

Have you ever given pre-marital advice? Have you ever sat down with a young couple, stars in their eyes, and tried to break them up? No? Then maybe you don’t know what real marriage counseling is all about.

Honestly, one of the things I try to do before I marry a couple is to break them up. OK, no, I don’t go into a counselling session with the intent on making them run out of the room crying and screaming at each other. But what I do try to do is bring to the surface issues that might cause problems down the road which will ultimately lead to major problems, even divorce. Believe me, a lot of people could have been spared a lot pain and heartache had they been asked some serious questions before they tied the knot.

So, if you want me to conduct your wedding, you must endure at least four hours of me trying to find out if you are aware of what’s ahead.

Salvation Counseling 

Much like the syrupy-sweet lovers who want to jump into marriage without even considering what comes after the honeymoon phase, many are led into believing that becoming a Christian is the answer to all their problems. Because of many one-stop, Vegas-like “wedding chapels” we call “worship centers,” scores of people have been drawn into a relationship with Jesus – but without the “pre-marital” counseling.

Reality check: Following Jesus will not be easy. As a matter of fact, it might even result in a life of pain and suffering, of hunger and want. This relationship may even cost you your life.

And when [Jesus] had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” – Mark 8:34

Oh, make no mistake about it, entering into an eternity-long relationship with Jesus is totally worth it! Just make sure you know what you’re getting into.

See the Movie

This Friday (March 20) Do You Believe? will come out in theaters. Please, take my advice, go see this movie! It may prove to be the best spiritual “marriage counseling” you’ve had in a while. Oh, and take someone with you who is lost; you won’t regret it.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Defending Traditional Marriage, Defining Marriage, Divorce, Life Lessons, Movie review, salvation, Witnessing

Do You Believe? YES!

Last night I was privileged to see the new Pure Flix movie Do You Believe, which will be released in theaters on March 20. Wow!

Yes, I got to see it before the rest of you because I am uber-special and have connections. No, seriously, because I’m a pastor, I was invited by email to a screening. The purpose, of course, was to see the movie ourselves before we start encouraging others to buy tickets and flood the theaters.

Buy tickets and flood the theaters. It’s that good.

Seriously, Do You Believe fires on all 8 cylinders (that’s non-hybrid car talk). It is dramatic, well-produced, and unwilling to pull punches. Look at it this way, if you liked God’s Not Dead, you’re gonna love Do You Believe. On the other hand, if you thought God’s Not Dead was Christian propaganda, you’re gonna have an aneurysm before this movie is half-over. Do You Believe is all about the Cross and faith in Jesus Christ – no apologies.

If I could explain this movie to you in another way, I’d say it must have been derived from the classic book In His Steps. If you remember, those who believed in Jesus were challenged to walk “in His steps,” to live as He would if walking in their shoes. In this movie, those who truly believe are challenged to “carry the cross,” regardless the cost.

When God’s Not Dead was over, people were taking out their cell phones and texting “God’s not dead!” to all their contacts. When you see this movie, which I hope you do, the first thing you’ll probably do is stand and sing along with music playing during the closing credits. If you’re like some people I saw, you’ll sing with hands raised as you praise God. Others, like me, will stand shivering with tears in your eyes, realizing you’ve just been kicked in the gut by the Holy Spirit. The next thing you’ll do is go out and “do something” with what you believe.

After the movie was over, we took a little girl whom we took with us to the movie as a guest back to her home. There, for the first time, we got to sit and talk with the girl’s mother about the Gospel, about God’s love for us manifested on the Cross. It was like we were still in the theater, ’cause I even found myself, a preacher, using some the lines I’d just heard in the movie. So, what does that tell you?

Go see Do You Believe, and take the unbelievers with you. I guarantee you this: some will believe.

2 Comments

Filed under Apologetics, current events, salvation, Witnessing

My 15 Minutes

Fame

photo (40)Once the weekly community paper came out yesterday, I was famous for a moment or two. Just this morning, as I was paying for a cup of coffee at the gas station, the lady behind the counter asked, “Weren’t you in the paper?” “Yes, that was me,” I replied. But I still had to pay for the coffee.

Click HERE to read the article.

The kids on my bus were thrilled to see their bus driver in the news paper. “You’re famous!” “We’ve got a famous bus driver!” One little girl even took my copy of the article I had picked up that morning and never gave it back – she was way too excited, poor thing.

So, yes, I was on the front page of a little paper, got a friend request on Facebook from someone locally famous, and paid for my own coffee. Amazing what can happen when you write a book.

Lasting Notoriety 

But no matter how famous I become down here on this earth, fame is fleeting. Next week there might be a student, parent, or teacher who will comment on my recent notoriety, but in a few days it will be history – I’ll be non-famous again.

What matters most is that my name is not written down on the pages of some local rag, or even the New York Times best-seller list (don’t I wish), but that my name is written down in heaven (Luke 10:20).

“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is [the book] of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” – Revelation 20:12 KJV

I’ve had my 15 minutes of fame a few times over, and hardly nothing remains to show for it. On the other hand, however, my name has been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and that’s notoriety that will last forever – and I didn’t even do anything to deserve it.

I wonder if there’ll be coffee in heaven? If so, I bet it’ll be free ;-)

 

4 Comments

Filed under current events, Life Lessons, salvation

The Sunday Sermon

The Prayer

The last post I published was a literal prayer that I was praying as I wrote it. As a matter of fact, I wrote it on my iPhone as I was on my knees beside my bed.

The reason I did it? I don’t know. Maybe I just wanted you guys to get a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes, when no one else is around. I guess I wanted you to get a sense of the humanity in ministry; I’m only human.

Now, thanks to the same iPhone and a little editing with Audacity (free software I would recommend), linked below is the sermon I preached Sunday morning. Incidentally, some of what I preach in this sermon reflects back to a previous post having to do with the “prayer of salvation.”

The Sermon

Since the second Sunday this month I have been preaching through the book of James in the morning services, one chapter a week. The focus has not been on doing a thorough exposition of each chapter, but to seek what it is God would have our congregation hear from Him for such a time as this. Therefore, don’t expect a glittering example of homiletical prowess; I didn’t even go to the pulpit with an outline, only a few notes. All I did was ask God to show me what we at Riverside needed hear.

bibleIf you haven’t read it yet, go back and read the prayer I prayed on Saturday night, then listen to the sermon. Then, from a purely academic perspective, try to answer the following questions: Did the message stay true to the text? Was the message clear and distinct? How might you approach the topic differently?

From a spiritual perspective, could you sense the Spirit moving through what was said? Was the prayer answered? Of course, it’s impossible to know what was going on the hearts of those present when this was preached, but what about your heart? Did God speak to you?

“The will of the Lord concerning pastors is made known through the prayerful judgment of his church. It is needful as a proof of your vocation that your preaching should be acceptable to the people of God.”  – Charles H. Spurgeon, Lectures to my Students, Vol. 1

Your thoughts would be appreciated. :-)

Click HERE to listen to the sermon, “James 2″

 

 

NOTE: This post is not intended to stir up arguments, heated debates, etc. I will not allow comments which are antagonistic, hateful, or anything the like. This will not be allowed to turn into a battleground for trolls with no respect for faith. Comments will be carefully monitored.

1 Comment

Filed under Faith, Preaching, salvation, Theology, worship

Prayer of Salvation Controversy

Tough Topic

Sooooooo…. Here’s a good one for you guys to debate (atheists, skeptics, cultists, and otherwise non-believers need not participate):

Is the “sinner’s prayer” a good or bad thing?

Just the other day I read a great article by BJ (a follower) on The River Walk. The subject was “The Sinner’s Prayer,” and the text was Matthew 7:21.

Some big names in evangelicalism (David Platt, for example) have a problem with the sinner’s prayer. Many even claim that this type of prayer has led to a plethora of false conversions. Some even go so far as to claim this kind of prayer is a form of “works salvation.”

My Two Cents

Below is the comment I left on The River Walk (tworiversblog.com):

Where do I start? Where do I end? I’m a Baptist. I’m a Baptist pastor. I prayed the “prayer” as a child. I am born again. I have given altar calls. I have invited others to pray the “prayer” during invitations. There’s no way I can know who was born again…or not; only God knows. However, I can tell you about fruit.

No, the prayer doesn’t save; Jesus does. But what I see so often today is an attempt by many to belittle, malign, berate, and denigrate something that is precious and effective if presented in context with the true gospel message. I have seen it so many times: young, intellectual, up-and-coming theologians stirring up strife within the body of Christ, all the while holding on to the banner of grace, attempting to change, as if change itself was something divine. Why not accept the “sinners prayer” with a little more grace and along with it teach the fundamental doctrines on which it depends to be effective?

We ARE commanded to call upon the name of the Lord to be saved (Rom. 10:13). Is it not a “sinner’s prayer” when a sinner prays for salvation? Yes, I believe that there have been many false conversions brought about by head-hunting preachers and evangelists leading silent, congregational “sinner’s prayers.” That is why when I give an invitation I always explain that true salvation will result in public confession (Matt. 10:32-33). In other words, I never say “Pray with me…” and then ask people to come forward. I say that if one is truly repentant, truly understands his need of new birth, truly finds himself humbled at the foot of the cross, then he will have no problem coming to an altar, making a public profession, and then being baptized.

So, to sum this up…sorry for the length…I was saved at the age of 6 (I’m 47) when I realized that I was a sinner, was going to hell, and that the only way to heaven was to accept God’s gift of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. I wouldn’t have been able to recite the Apostle’s Creed, the Baptist Faith and Message, or even the Ten Commandments, but I knew I was lost. My dad led me to a little Sunday school room where we knelt at a little table, and it was there that my dad, a humble, former moonshiner, led me in the “sinner’s prayer,” because I didn’t know any better way to say what was in my little heart. That was the day I was saved, and I thank God my dad prayed with me.

That’s my 2 cents.

Well? Let’s discuss it.

15 Comments

Filed under salvation, Theology

What Are You Worth?

What would you die for?

What is so valuable that you would risk or even sacrifice your own life? Have you ever stopped to think about that? You should.

The typical things in life that are considered so valuable, when put in perspective, aren’t really worth that much. Even the most “priceless” treasures are not worth your life – or are they? Would you fight a thief for your purse or car? If so, you are saying those things are more valuable than your life, for you are willing to risk your life to keep them. It is how people die every day in the pursuit of, and the keeping of earthly possessions. Pretty foolish.

What about non-concrete items, such as pride? Some people are willing to fight to the death, or kill others, when insulted or “dissed.” Perception is NOT reality, just as integrity is not determined by opinion; yet, some would rather risk death than be wrongly perceived.

Is family worth risking your life?

Photo: Andy Britt

Photo: Andy Britt

Really, there is no argument against this one. But on the other hand, society has a difficult time determining the value of life; one life is not as valuable as another if convenience or personal pleasure is at stake.

I would risk my life to protect my family, and if you doubt it, try to hurt them – I carry more than a big stick.

Many, however, kill their own children before birth.  It seems to me that society values gold more consistently than life itself.

Are you willing to die for what you believe?

Now this, I know, could open up a whole can of worms; but that’s OK. Just stop and think about it for a moment. Do you believe in anything so much that it is worth more than your own life? When your life is on the line, knowing the difference between what you believe and what is only opinion is of key importance. A martyr is one who would rather die for what he believes than deny it.

Is your faith worth dying for?  If not, then how much do you really believe?

How much is YOUR life worth?

Value is determined by what someone is willing to give for it, right? That’s typically the way it goes. So, if nothing on earth is more valuable than your life, does that make your life valuable? Well, maybe to you.

Think about it, to someone else your life might not be as valuable as their own. Would you value the life of a total stranger so much that you would offer your own in exchange? I mean, really? Someone may even be willing to give all of the world’s riches in order to obtain your life, but are you worth it? Who would even have that kind of wealth? That leaves you with nothing more than your sense of value compared to another’s; your worth against theirs.

Value is relative to the thing for which the buyer will exchange.  That’s a disturbing thought, isn’t it?

On the other hand, what if the Creator of the universe offered to die for you?

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Rom 5:8 NIV

That would make your worth INCALCULABLE! The King of Heaven, the Son of God, gave His own life in exchange for yours, even accepting your guilt and failures as His own, and payed the death penalty for sin on your behalf.

For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. – 2Corinthians 5:21 KJV

That makes you valuable; Jesus unique. How many others have done what He did for you? Most of us would die for our children or spouse.  Some of us would die for a friend or maybe a good person.  But how many of us would give our own life to purchase the life of a stranger, much less a convict, drug dealer, murderer, etc?  Jesus did.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Rom 5:6-8 NIV

That’s the whole reason for Christmas, you know.  Jesus had to come to earth as a baby to grow into the Man that would willingly go to a cruel cross.  The gift of Christmas is the gift of life, purchased with the life of the Giver of Life. How ironic is that? How wonderful?

Let’s Review

  • Jesus Christ suffered the most excruciating death Rome could conceive, crucifixion…for you.
  • The Prince of Peace was shredded by a “cat of nine tails”…for you.
  • The King of Kings wore a crown of 4″ thorns…for you.
  • God became flesh so the world could know Him…including you.

Don’t believe the lies told to you by Satan, the culture, or your depressed emotions. Your life is of immeasurable worth because of the immeasurable price offered for it.

If you are worth that much, and if that kind of price was paid, don’t you think giving your life to Jesus is a fair exchange?

If you would like to know more about Jesus, and how he loves you and died for you, then call this number, 1-800-NEED-HIM. Or, if you would like to talk with me, just send me an email.  Your life is worth it.

 

This article was first posted 6/13/2014 and has been edited

4 Comments

Filed under Christian Living, General Observations, Love of God, salvation, self-worth, World View

The Cross I Cherish

The Voice

First of all, I have only watched a couple of episodes of The Voice. Like most programs of this kind, I am not interested in most of what comes across the stage, nor the drama associated with it all.

Personally, I quit watching shows like The Voice when Katherine McPhee lost to Taylor Hicks on the 5th season of American Idol – it all went downhill from there.

However, every once in a while a performance from one of these programs is posted on the web and gets a lot of attention. The following is a good example.

The Cross

I guess what shocked so many people is the fact that a singer chose to sing this hymn on a national stage – in a competition. I mean, the cross? Really? Was this guy thinking straight? I hope so.

You see, it was on the cross of Calvary that the “Dearest and Best” was slain. It was on this cross that the “ordinances against us” were nailed (Col. 2:14). It was on this cross that our Savior promised that if He be lifted up, He would draw all men unto himself. It was on this cross where Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

So, I will cherish the old, rugged, blood-stained cross on which Jesus paid the penalty for my sin. It was the crossroad of judgment and mercy where the Lamb of God humbled Himself (Phil. 2:8) and purchased my reconciliation with God (Eph. 2:16).

Why cherish the cross? Because it was and is proof positive that even before I knew Him, even when I was steeped in sin, God loved me enough to die in my stead.

It’s shame and reproach I’ll gladly bear.

2 Comments

Filed under Faith, God, salvation