Tag Archives: Worship

God IS Good!

This morning at South Soddy Baptist I will be preaching a message on the goodness of God. In some ways it will be similar to one that I preached 2 years ago at my last pastorate, but in other ways it will be different.

Nevertheless, even though the sermon I’ll be preaching this morning will be different in several ways from the one I’m going to share with you right now, the truth of this sermon remains the same: God is good, and we should be thankful.

As Thanksgiving approaches, why not take a few minutes to consider what your life would be like if God was NOT good. If God wasn’t the definition of good, the judge of what is good, and the very standard of goodness – if God was not good by nature – all of His other characteristics could be called into question; any of His actions could be suspect. But God IS good, and we have plenty of reasons to praise Him.

http://RiversideSermons.sermon.net/main/main/20542053

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Filed under God, Thanksgiving, worship

One Week After FBC Sutherland Springs, Will You Go to Church?

From my Facebook page this morning…

One week ago nearly half a congregation was murdered in church. Sadly, it won’t take a terrorist to scare people away, today – just the weather, the hard pew, or the encouragement to worship a God other than self. Frankly, any excuse will do. But I guarantee you one thing, I’d rather stand before the Lord one day as one of those in Texas than one who died peacefully while shunning the very commandment of God to “forsake not the assembling of yourselves together…”

Remember how your parents or grandparents used to tell you to clean your plate or eat your vegetables because there are starving children somewhere who would love to have what you’re eating? Well, there are millions who would love to have the freedom you enjoy to worship in a church without fear of being arrested, bombed, burned, beheaded, or shot by their own government. To waste the blessing you’ve been given is to dishonor all those who’d give their lives for what you care so little about…

And, frankly, it won’t go unnoticed when we all stand before the Savior and give an account, either.

Pastor Jacques Houeto in the middle of his burned-out church in 2015.

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Filed under Christianity, Church, worship

Just Be Thankful You’re Alive

It is a little after 1 PM in the afternoon, and I’m sitting in our van reading my Bible. Not long from now I will go back to work and drive the school bus, completing my afternoon routes. 

As I was reading I came across a verse in the book of Lamentations, and I thought I would share it with you. 

Lamentations 3:39 (CSB) Why should any living person complain, any man, because of the punishment for his sins?

Here the idea is that if you have been punished for your sins by a Holy God, and are still alive, you have nothing to complain about! Seriously, too often we gripe and moan about the circumstances which we must endure, and yet those circumstances are so often the result of our own sinful decisions. Is it not a wonderful thing that we are so loved by our heavenly Father? He does not pour out on us the punishment we deserve, because he is rich in mercy. We are alive! We should be grateful!

Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD. Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens. – Lamentations 3:41-42

There are so many things in this world we could complain about. So often those who complain the most are the ones who have the most. But if there’s anything worth rejoicing about, it is the fact that we serve a God who is rich in mercy. We don’t deserve anything good, no matter how small or insignificant; we deserve judgement. 

However, if I just turn back one page in my Bible I can read verse 22, where it says, “Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” And, thankfully, they are new every morning! 

If you are reading this, then you are alive! Why not take a moment and praise Him?

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Filed under Bible Study, God, grace, Uncategorized

My Testimony (by David Fuller)

Guest Post by: David Fuller (Non-Cessationist)


As a follow-up to my previous post, Tongues And The Church Today, I thought it would be relevant to share my personal testimony, because I think I understand the perspective of those who view the Pentecostal movement as something strange, and maybe even regard it with some suspicion. I grew up Baptist. My parents and grandparents are Baptists, we attended a Baptist church, and I attended Baptist schools from 4th grade on. I’m extremely grateful for the upbringing which God provided me. Baptists tend to be sticklers when it comes to the Word of God, which unfortunately can, and did, lead to the errors of legalism, but it also basically meant that I spent my all of my developmental years in Bible school, resulting in my mind being inundated with God’s Word to the point that it became inextricably woven into every aspect of my thinking. I was also taught to use the skills of critical thinking as did the Bereans in the book of Acts, who “searched the scriptures, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). Spiritual gifts, however, is one area my teachers tended to shy away from. Generally, if someone was talking about speaking in tongues, it was because they were debunking Pentecostal teaching.

What I had gathered from the teaching I received, was that the gifts of the Spirit today consists of God bestowing on various people a supernaturally inspired disposition toward a particular virtue or area of service to the body. Since the Bible says that tongues and prophecy would one day cease, this was believed to have already occurred, assuming that “when that which is perfect is come” refers to the completion of the New Testament writings, and the compilation of the scriptures into a single volume, an interpretation which I think is debatable, since we still “see through a glass, darkly”, and not “face to face”. (1 Corinthians 13:8 – 12)

My earliest memories include being read the Bible and taught the gospel story. The first time I remember being consciously aware of God is when a man from a gospel group singing at our church prayed the prayer of salvation with me, and explained what it means to be saved, and be forever in God’s mighty hand. I was seven, I hadn’t actually asked to be saved, and I didn’t completely understand at the time, but I remember that encounter like it was an hour ago, and I don’t remember anything else around it. I believe now it was God’s way of personally introducing Himself to me. Knowing my understanding was incomplete at the time, when I was thirteen I asked my father to pray with me again, just to be sure it was my decision.

When I was 19, I worked at a dept store. One day a guy asked me where the men’s section was, and then asked if I was a Christian, and I said yes. He asked when I got saved, and when I told him I was young, he said, “Oh, your one of those.” He had met the Lord about a year prior, and proceeded to talk with joyful exuberance about how wonderful it was to know the Lord, and he felt sorry for those who had been saved so long they didn’t seem to share his excitement. I never saw him again, but I couldn’t help seeing his point, because I knew that my Christian life was more about believing the right doctrines, and keeping the right rules. It was not the experience of wonder and irrepressible joy that he seemed to exude, and that bothered me, so I began to pray about it. I wondered, should I feel that way? Was he just acting like a typical new believer, and some maturity would temper him down eventually?

Not long after, a coworker at the same store invited me to a young adults bible study group, hosted by a couple from a local Assembly of God congregation. I went, and got to know them, and began attending their church. Of course, I was all questions. What’s it like? How does it happen? Do you go into a trance? Do you know what language it is? What’s the point of it? Etc, etc. All I could squeeze out of them were dreamy looks and vague sounding descriptions of sublime feelings. I was prayed over a few times, and laid hands on, and even anointed with oil. I was told to just let go, that I might feel my tongue begin to move around in my mouth, as if it wanted to say something, and to just let it flow and trust God. I didn’t feel anything like that, or anything at all, really, but I tried anyway, tried to make the kind of sounds they were making, but I felt silly because I knew that’s all I was doing. I wanted answers.

So I checked out their church library, where I found a book called, “A Handbook on Holy Spirit Baptism”, by Don Basham. It was precisely what I had been looking for. The author, having traveled and spoken extensively, had naturally been confronted with all sorts of questions, and had compiled them into what was essentially a FAQ on tongues and Holy Spirit Baptism. The book was organized into several sections, with each question being a chapter heading, followed by an answer/explanation with pertinent scriptural and historical precedents, and designed so you didn’t have to read it in order. Near the end of the book, he had included a short prayer as a guide for requesting and receiving the Baptism.

I took the book home and perused it, starting with the questions I was most interested in, until I had read most of it. The section with the prayer had something similar to a plan of salvation series of steps, which included the author’s suggestion to read or re-read a particular previous section and look up the scriptures referenced. Now, I wasn’t kidding when I said I wanted answers. Consequently, what had begun as a growing sense that something important was lacking in my relationship with God, had merged with my curiosity about spiritual gifts, and the result was a kind of science experiment. I was not looking for vague answers supported by verses that were used out of context, or dubiously interpreted to fit a preset conclusion. I had never desired the gift of tongues or any second experience. I wanted two things. I wanted to be closer to the Lord – to know Him better, love Him more and trust Him more; and I wanted to know, as certainly as it was possible to know, whether God still poured out His Spirit in this way today, since a closer relationship with Him seemed the obvious result, if He still did that.

I feel it’s important to note, that though my new friends were quick to encourage all to seek the Baptism and the gifts, and I was inquiring about them, I was not seeking these. I was seeking the Lord. I was ready to receive whatever His answer was. If it turned out that tongues was not part of His plan for me, I was completely fine with that. That would just mean that I could put the issue to rest for myself, continue asking Him to draw me closer by whatever means appropriate, and not worry that here was some form of intimacy with my Lord that I was missing out on due to pride or ignorance.

Since I had already read the suggested chapter, and looked up all the referenced scriptures, I was at first inclined to skip this step. Then I decided, if nothing happens here, I’m not going to be left forever wondering if it was because of some step I was too proud or lazy to take. So I sat on my bed, alone in my room at my parent’s house, as the night crept into the wee hours of morning, and re-read the chapter, as well as the entire Bible chapter in which each referenced verse was located. Then I prayed.

I prayed, “Lord, if you still do this today, if it’s possible for me to know you the way Paul and the other apostles knew you, then please do this for me. And if you do this, please do it in such a way that there can be no shadow of any kind of a doubt, that it’s YOU doing it, and not some spiritual deception or work of the devil, or something I’m doing and deceiving myself. And if you choose to do this in me, please give me the gift of tongues as the sign by which I will know for sure that Holy Spirit Baptism is what I’m actually experiencing. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” I asked specifically for tongues, since there is apparently some debate over whether tongues is always the particular manifestation given with the Baptism, and again, I wanted to be as certain as possible. I didn’t want to wonder, did I actually receive the Baptism, only with one of the less obviously observable gifts? I wanted answers, not more questions.

I waited, the clock ticked, and nothing else happened.

Perhaps partly because of my Protestant background, or my own preference for authenticity in people and things, I’ve never had much use for recited prayers, but since the provided example prayer was the only remaining step I had yet to take, and I wanted to leave nothing undone, or any possibility of my own pride or presumption having hindered me, at about 4 in the morning I knelt beside my bed, alone in my room, and began to read the prayer in the book, and make it my own.

As I began to read and pray, my eyes inexplicably filled with tears, so that it became hard to see the page. By the time I was a couple of lines in, I was so choked up it was difficult to even continue, but I was determined to see this completely through, so I read through the river of tears and choked out the rest of the short prayer, and then let myself collapse beside my bed, where I sobbed and wept uncontrollably as if I had forever lost my best friend in the world, until my sides hurt and I could barely breathe. I can remember wondering why I was weeping. I had had bouts of teenage angst and depression before, but I hadn’t been depressed that day. I don’t enjoy crying, or feeling bad, so I reason my way out of it if I can (what am I really upset about? Is it really that bad, or do I just imagine it to be?, and so on). I couldn’t think of anything I was particularly upset about, certainly not anything that would have me holding my sides and wracked with sobbing tears. I remember thinking, “this is ridiculous, what’s wrong with me? I need to get a grip.” But I couldn’t. It was all I could do just to breathe through the tears and snot and choking sobs.

When it wouldn’t stop and I couldn’t take it anymore, I started asking God to help me. I don’t remember the change, or how, or the precise point at which it happened, but my praying changed from English to something else. It was effortless. Nothing at all like before, where I could come up with a few syllables of mimicking gibberish on my own, and knew that I was doing it. This just flowed, as if I were speaking a language I forgot I knew, though I didn’t understand what I was saying. I was still sobbing, but I was filled with joy like I had never felt before. I was aware that I was also still praying, but not with my understanding. At some point it just turned back into English, and I continued speaking to God, praising Jesus in more ways and by more names (all biblical) than I had ever even thought of in one day before, and I knew (can’t explain it) that what I was hearing from my own lips was the interpretation of what I had just spoken in an unknown language. It was beautiful. I remained on my knees praising Jesus, as it changed back and forth between tongues and the English meaning, for I’m not sure how long. I felt as if I would rather just speak in the new language, because it seemed to flow more easily than English, which seemed crude and inadequate by comparison, though the interpreted praises of Christ were themselves sublime, and certainly nothing I was coming up with on my own, either. I was by myself, but I had never felt less alone.

As with my first encounter with God, I remember these details as if it happened yesterday, but my memories of what immediately followed are less clear. At some point, I think, I must have become exhausted and went to sleep. I think the experience took place over an hour or two. The next day I would have been tempted to think it was just a dream, had I not, without even thinking about it, found myself randomly praying in the new language, still without effort, and also without the immediately following interpretations of the night before, which I believe were given to me in response to my desire and requests for certainty and the elimination of doubt, something difficult to achieve in a mind taught to maintain a healthy level of skepticism towards anything not concretely provable.

Barely able to contain my excitement, I told my parents what had happened, and they told me that “we don’t believe that still happens today”, and encouraged me to search the scriptures and seek God, presumably believing that my error would by this means be corrected. Others I tried to tell just looked at me like, ohhh kaaayy, you need help. So I left off trying to tell them about things they weren’t interested in. Since they were already believers, I left them in God’s hands, and cherished the new way He had given me to talk with Him, which I do all the time, everywhere, to this day. At work, home, church, the store, my car, everywhere. Often out loud (not loudly), sometimes not. Nobody ever seems to notice, or maybe they just think I’m talking to myself. I’ve felt the temptation to show it off, but I’ve always sensed that He frowns on that, and anyway, it’s too special to me. It’s a form of intimacy with Him which I prefer not to share with just anyone.

What’s it like? It’s wonderful! It’s a constant reminder of the reality of His presence and power. There have been times when my rational, practical, skeptical mind has wandered to a place where ideas like armies of horsemen coming out of the sky just seemed ridiculous, and I found it difficult to believe, then I find myself praying in the Spirit, who bears witness with my spirit, that truly “My Beloved is mine, and I am His” (Song of Solomon 2:16), and doubt flees away. How does it happen? By the power of the Holy Spirit. I can’t give you a scientific explanation. Do I go into a trance state when speaking in tongues? No. I always retain full possession of all my faculties. As I said above, it’s as simple and effortless as normal speech. Sometimes I “stir up the gift that is in me” (2 Timothy 1:6), but I frequently find myself praying in the Spirit when (perhaps because?), God and praying are the furthest things from my mind. Do I know what language it is? No. I have at times thought that it sounded like various different languages, and I’ve often wondered if someone with a different first language happened to hear me might they recognize it? But if anyone has even noticed I wasn’t aware of it. I do get the sense, as I sensed about the interpretations, that as a member of the body of Christ, the Spirit may at times intercede through me for people of various languages, in various places, whom I may never meet in this life. Also, Paul often calls it “speaking in an unknown tongue”, which could also mean unknown to anyone in this world, since he clearly refers to tongues of men, and tongues of angels (1 Cor. 13:1), and it seems reasonable to assume that if uncountable legions of angels were created before humanity, they would likely have their own language or languages. What’s the point of it? When I pray, I want to pray according to His will, and sometimes I don’t know how to pray as I ought, or words become inadequate, but the Spirit searches the deep things of God, and intercedes for us, so when I pray in tongues, I can trust that the Spirit knows how best to communicate my heart to His. (Romans 8:26, 1 Cor 2:10)

I should emphasize that this work of the Spirit in me did not eradicate the law of sin at work in my flesh, any more than His work of regeneration did. We will all receive that gift at the same time, when corruption puts on incorruption, and our last enemy is finally defeated. (Rom 7: 15 – 25, 1 Cor 15:26, 52 -54)

As beautiful as the gift of tongues is, Holy Spirit Baptism is much more than any particular gift you may receive, and obviously the greatest gift of all is the one I was actually seeking all along – an unending, ever growing intimacy with Jesus, the likes of which I had previously only heard about and dreamed of, which does not come from speaking with tongues, but from being filled to overflowing with God’s Holy Spirit. “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit” (1 Cor 6:17). What could be more intimate, than to be so closely united with the one you love that words of any kind become almost unnecessary? To know that not one tear escapes my eye, but that He feels the sting of it? And wonder beyond wonders, He shares His feelings with me also. It’s just as Jesus said, “My peace I give unto you”, “that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 14:27, John 15:11). It’s not all roses and rainbows, however. As He bears our grief, and carries our sorrows, we are also called to share in His sufferings, that we may also share in His glory. But empowered by His Spirit, His yoke truly is easy, and His burden is light. (Isaiah 53:4, 1 Peter 4:13, Philippians 3:10 – 11, Matt. 11:30)

While I could wish that those whom God used to draw me closer to Himself had been more knowledgeable or articulate, I now understand the dreamy expressions I sometimes saw when I asked them to explain. If you’ve ever tried to talk with someone who’s madly in love, about the object of their affection, then you might know what I mean. Their hearts had been captivated by Jesus and His amazing love.

And so has mine.

 

P.S. The book mentioned above is still in print, and you can Google it if you want to. Remember, though, the ONLY author who can give you the Holy Spirit, is the Author of our Salvation, Jesus Christ. Grace and peace to you.

David Fuller


Note: The above post is not a reflection of my personal beliefs. You will be able to read a response in the next post. – The Recovering Legalist

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Filed under Church, Guest Posts, Theology

If We Could Only Comprehend!

This morning, as I preach from the third chapter of Ephesians, my prayer for you (and myself) will be the same as what the apostle Paul prayed…

I pray that he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:16-19 CSB

Oh, that we might comprehend the the width, the length, the height, and the depth of God’s love through Jesus Christ! If we could only even slightly comprehend the vast, expansive spread before us, mercy and grace for every need; the never-ending, eternal, infinite promise of his love and care; the heights to which we are raised, far above the lowly, humble truth of our natural condition and state; and the the depths of Christ’s love – humble depths to which the love of God had to reach down in order to pluck us from the pit of sin… If we could only even slightly comprehend them!

Yet, through His strength (v. 16), and being rooted and grounded in His love (v. 17), it is possible! Hallelujah! Because He “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according the power that works in us! (v. 20 NKJV)

This morning, and every morning, to God the Father be all glory in the church by Christ Jesus, to all generations, wherever they may be, forever and ever, “world without end” (v. 20).

And all the people said… “AMEN!!” 

 

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Filed under Bible Study, Christianity, Church, Faith, God, Love of God, Preaching, worship

When I Die, Have Church!

Don’t Make Her Buy the Car Alone

My feelings are pretty raw at the moment. It was today that I presided over the funeral for the father of a 16-year-old girl. It broke my heart as I watched her weep over his casket. My own eyes filled with tears.

Several years ago I used to be in the funeral pre-planning business. Even to this day I firmly believe making funeral preparations in advance is a very wise and loving thing to do. That was especially evident this week when I talked with the 16-year-old who had to handle all the arrangements for her deceased daddy. She literally had no idea what to do.

Do you have children? Would you force your teenage daughter to buy a new car… after a couple of hours of sleep… an emotional wreck… and whatever she purchases, if she makes a poor decision, spends too much money, or does anything she regrets, too bad – no returns?

Well, forcing your teenage daughter to handle your funeral arrangements after you die is not much different from forcing her buy a new on the worst day of her life. How is that being responsible? How is that taking care of those you love? It’s not! And that is why I want to make it very clear right now what I want for my funeral.

My Wishes

The following is not meant to be an official funeral pre-arrangement, but it will give you an idea of what I want to take place after I die. My wife and children, should they outlive me, will obviously have the right to do whatever they desire, but the following is what I want, if possible, to take place.

  • Music. I want good music. I don’t want canned music from the funeral home’s collection; I want LIVE music! The only exception to the live music would be a recording of Building 429 singing “Where I Belong” somewhere in the service. I will leave it up to my family to call on the groups that I want to be there, but I want God-honoring, Spirit-filled, praise-filled music that sets a tone of victory and celebration.
  • Preaching. Yes, I want somebody to preach. And when I say “preach,” I want somebody who’s fought a few battles, spit in the eye of the devil, experienced amazing grace, and is unflinching in presenting the life-changing, soul-saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. I want someone who will be able to open up the Holy Writ and let it fly. But I don’t want some guy who’s all emotion; I wan’t someone who can rightly divide the word of Truth. My life is a testimony to God’s amazing grace, and I want someone who can tell what that’s all about.
  • Shouting. Friends, today I instructed my youngest daughter to have at least one Church of God lady standing by (with a $50 retainer, if necessary) to belt out a few hallelujah’s and praise God’s if the crowd gets too quiet. I would be very disappointed to find out the people at my funeral were sad, downtrodden, mournful, and blue. Seriously! Rejoice in hope! Shout with joy! Give glory to God! Make my funeral a celebration of salvation! A celebration of Jesus! I want some hankey-waving, chandelier-swinging, back-of-pew running, excitement in the place 🙂
  • Shout at my casket. No joke, I want everyone in the place to face the casket and yell my name. Then, I want you to wait. Why? Because I want you to hear the silence – because I won’t be there! Yell my name and see if I’ll respond, then make it known that what’s in that casket is nothing more than an empty shell; Anthony’s not there – he’s gone!
  • Bag Pipes. There’s just something special about “Amazing Grace” played on bag pipes. That’s what I want at the cemetery.
  • An Invitation to Accept Jesus as Savior. Folks, I’m a preacher. What else would honor my memory more than to have someone be born again at my funeral? It happened when I preached at my father’s funeral back in 1991, so shouldn’t I hope for the same at mine? You see, therein lies the hope…the joy…the expectation…the comfort…the consolation…the peace that passes all understanding.

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, [and] become the firstfruits of them that slept. – 1 Corinthians 15:19-20

For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive [and] remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. – 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 KJV

When I die, put away the timer, tell the funeral director to go eat lunch or dinner, and… JUST. HAVE. CHURCH!

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Filed under Christianity, Church, Life/Death

“First” Conviction

Since I first – no pun intended – heard the song “First” by Lauren Daigle, I can’t open my eyes in the morning without the lyrics popping into my head.

Before I bring my need
I will bring my heart
Before I lift my cares
I will lift my arms
I wanna know You
I wanna find You
In every season
In every moment
Before I bring my need
I will bring my heart
And seek You

(chorus)
First
I want to seek You
I want to seek You
First
I want to keep You
I want to keep You
First
More than anything I want, I want You
First

Believe it or not, these very lyrics convict me like crazy. They have affected me so much I’ve even re-ordered the order of service on Sunday mornings at the church where I pastor. And speaking of pastoring, or preaching, read the words to the second verse…

Before I speak a word
Let me hear Your voice
And in the midst of pain
Let me feel Your joy
I wanna know You
I wanna find You
In every season
In every moment
Before I speak a word
I will bring my heart
And seek You

I wake up each morning, no joke, hearing Lauren Daigle’s powerful, Spirit-empowered voice exploding out the first word of the chorus… “First!”

This morning was no different, and that is why I am sharing this with you. Are you putting God first in your life? Are you putting Him first every day, every moment, before your own desires or needs? Are we not commanded by Him to “Seek ye first…?”

I don’t want to wake up each morning with guilt, but so often the first things on my mind are  coffee, checking my messages, going to the bathroom, letting the dog out, or hitting the snooze button one more time. I need to work a little more – as in working out my salvation – on growing my love for and dependence on the One who should take priority in every area of life.

It might be easier on a Sunday morning, but what about Monday? What about the next holiday morning? What about when you’re running late, or want to sleep in?

We talk about putting “first things first” all the time, but will you strive along with me to put the Lord first, before everything?

He is worthy. 

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