Seven Stop Signs That Will Change Your Life, Pt. 1 @SSPreacherman

Have you ever run a stop sign or a red light? Whoo. I’m glad I’m not the only one. There are times when I am distracted or talking or just plain let my mind wander, and the next thing you know, Sonya is yelling at me to stop. Sometimes I do stop; other times, it’s just too late, but by the grace of God, every time that has happened, there have been no other cars coming my way. But sooner or later, I know that the likelihood is that I’m not going to be that blessed and bad things could happen. Did you realize that God gives us warnings when we are traveling down the wrong road?

In Matthew 7:13, 14, Jesus tells us that in this life, there are two roads that we can travel. “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Right now, you and I are either on the road to Heaven, or we are on the road to Hell. There is no middle ground because Jesus said in Matthew 12:30 (NKJV), “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.”

If you are traveling the broad way, the road that leads to Hell, there are several things that you need to be aware of. In Matthew 25:41, Jesus tells us that Hell is a place of everlasting fire. Do you realize what that means? It means that the fire never dies out. This is no ordinary fire because even though the fire burns forever, Hell is a place of total darkness (Matthew 8:12). Then in Mark 9:44, Jesus said that hell is a place where “their worm never dies.” The word worm was used in the OT and in Jesus’ day to refer to apostates – those who had turned their backs on God, so that means while the fire never dies, it also never consumes so that the torment is unending for those who go there. And those who are traveling the broad way will go there unless they turn to Jesus in repentance and belief. There is something else you need to be aware of. In Luke 16, Jesus tells us that Hell is a place from which there is no escape. You remember, in my previous blog, I mentioned this passage about the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man begged for a drop of water to cool his tongue and for someone to go warn his brothers. But Father Abraham reminded him in Luke 16:26 (NKJV), “And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.”

Do you know what that means? After death, there are no second chances, there is no purgatory, and there is no probation. Hell is a place of never-ending torment from which there is no escape.

Many people will say that if God were truly loving, He would never send a single person to suffer that kind of torment. And they would be right. God doesn’t send a single person to hell. In fact, the Bible says that hell was prepared for Satan and his demonic hordes. And Jesus reminds us that “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him (the Son) is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already” (John 3:17-18). So every human being that winds up in hell does so of their own choosing, but know this: God loves you so much that He has put down stop signs all along the way to keep you from winding up in that horrible place. 2 Peter 3:9 says,  “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

Any person who goes to Hell, goes there against God’s will. He has done everything possible, everything that He can do to stop you, and the only way you can wind up there is to ignore the stop signs along the way. But what are those stop signs?

First, God has placed in every human being the stop sign which we call Conscience. In John 8, we read about the Jewish religious leaders who brought the woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus. They walked away because they were “convicted in their conscience” that what they were doing was wrong. Paul speaks about the Gentiles in Romans 2:15 (NKJV), “…who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them.” Even the Gentiles, those who did not receive the Law and the Prophets from God have no excuse because their conscience bears witness to the truth. Even Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden knew immediately when they had sinned because God had instilled within them this conscience which tells us what is right and what is wrong. Sadly, though, Paul reminds us in 1 Timothy 4:2 that our consciences can become hardened when we repeatedly ignore it, so while the conscience serves to stop us from continuing down the path to hell, it is not enough to put us on the path to heaven.

Second, God has placed before every human being the stop sign of His Creation. Back to Romans for just a second. Romans 1:18-20 (NKJV), “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,”

Do you see it? Everyone is without excuse because the things that are made – His creation – provide evidence of God’s existence and His nature and His power. But I want you to see something. This isn’t some haphazard presentation where God puts His creation out there and everyone has to go looking for the meaning. Paul says that God has shown all these things to every person so that they will know His power, His personality, and His purpose to bring all men into a right relationship with Himself. How could anyone look at the beauty of the universe and not see God? How could anyone hold a newborn baby and not know that there is a Creator?

Again, sadly, the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden demonstrates that even the perfection of creation is not enough to keep men from sinning, but it is enough to stop our descent on the path to hell.

On which road do you find yourself? While I will share the remainder of these stop signs later this week, let me give you a shortcut – a detour, if you will – to avoid a final destination you do NOT want to experience. Surrender your life to God. Trust in the saving grace provided by Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. Know that He did this for you, and if you believe it and receive His forgiveness, you will find yourself on the road to life.

You can listen to the audio sermon from which this was taken by clicking on this link.

A Tale of Two Judgments Pt. 2 #SSPreacherman

Isn’t it interesting that Hebrews 9:27 mentions one very specifically in reference to death, but not to judgment? That’s because every man, woman, and child will face two judgments. Let me explain. Whether we die before or not, Jesus Christ is going to return. 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 5 tells us that the Eastern sky is going to break open, the trumpet of God is going to sound. All those who have died as Christians are going to be reunited with their resurrection bodies, and those Christians who are alive are going to be called up to meet him in the air. The fourth and fifth chapters of Revelation tell us what’s going to happen next. Jesus is going to take his future bride home to glory. We are going to gather around the throne of God and receive our judgment. 2 Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body (be recompensed for his deeds in the body), according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” Some say that our reward is simply going to heaven and hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Honestly, that would be enough for me, but some say that they are going to be in the shape of crowns. As I read my Bible, I find mention of five types of crowns: the incorruptible crown for those who have lived a disciplined Christian life; the crown of rejoicing for those who are soul winners; the crown of righteousness for those who look forward to Christ’s return; the crown of life for those who have given their lives for the sake of the Kingdom; and the crown of glory for those called of God to shepherd His sheep.

The Lord Jesus Christ is going to judge His people. Imagine standing before our Savior with all the other saints while all their deeds are read and their crowns are given. What a joyous time that will be! For some. How are you going to feel as all of your deeds are broadcast to all of these saints? All of them tested as if by fire to see if they were truly done to bring glory and honor to the Father. How many will be burned away as nothing but selfish ambition, self-glorification, and just plain self working in order to look like you are serving the Lord? That will be an eye-opening experience for some, but what a blessing to be able to take those crowns we receive and place them at Jesus’ feet in worship — acknowledging once and for all that He alone is worthy of praise.

There is another judgment, however, that is going to be far worse for those who have never trusted in Jesus Christ. That is the Great White Throne judgment of Revelation 20. After Satan has been bound and cast into the hell that was prepared for him, God is going to judge mankind. Notice John writes, “I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God….” The dead are the lost of all ages. Christians won’t face this judgment because they are already alive, resurrected with Jesus. Everyone who has gone to his grave without professing Jesus as Lord of his life will be there. It doesn’t matter how good they were. It doesn’t matter how rich they were. Nothing matters other than their relationship with Jesus Christ, because the dead, small and great are going to stand before Him in judgment. When the apostle Paul said that one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, that is the day it will happen. The hard-hearted as well as the hard-headed will know then that the Lamb of Calvary is the Master of the Universe, but then will be too late.

Look at what John says next. “And the books were opened….” One of these books holds the deeds of men’s lives. There has been a lot of speculation as to how God is going to do this. Some say he is going to flash all of those deeds across a giant movie screen and everything that you thought was hidden and secret will be known. Every sin that you have committed will come flooding back into your mind. Every opportunity you had to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will be there haunting you and you will say to all, “Why didn’t I listen then when I had the chance?” It will be there.

But the verse says that “the books were opened.” The other book is the Lamb’s book of Life. In that book is the name of every child of God written in the blood of Jesus Christ. But let me tell you a little secret. Every human being that ever lived had his name in that book before they died. But once their lives were over, if they had not received the gift of eternal life by believing in Jesus’ death and resurrection and if they never confessed with their mouths in this lifetime that Jesus Christ is Lord, their names are blotted out of that precious book. Moses knew that in Exodus 32. The Psalmist wrote about it in Psalm 69:28. But because He is a God of grace and mercy, because He is a God of justice and holiness, He is going to check that book again looking for the name of that lost person, but it isn’t going to be there. There is only one way to keep your name in the book of life. Jesus said, “I am the Way.” Paul said in Romans 10:9, 13 (NKJV) “…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved…. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” The time to call upon him is now. Today is the day of Salvation. Now is the accepted time. Tomorrow may be too late to be sure that your name remains written in that Book of Life.

Judgment is going to come. When God searches the Book for your name and it isn’t there, judgment will come. Verse 15 says, “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” Judgment is complete. Judgment is final. There is no appeals court. There is no purgatory. There is no way out.

But that isn’t quite the end of the story. Look over at chapter 21 verse 4. “God shall wipe the tears from their eyes.” Brother, God isn’t going to wipe the tears from the eyes of the lost. He is going to be wiping the tears from the eyes of the saints in heaven. There is going to be sorrow on that day because husbands and wives are going to be separated for all eternity. Parents and children, brothers and sisters will never be together again. Friends will no longer be seen. There are going to be tears of sorrow on that day as Christians wonder what more they could have done to win that loved one to faith in Jesus Christ. But then it will be too late. Now is the time for tears. Today is the day to witness. Tomorrow may be too late to share Jesus Christ with that lost person.

Maybe you’ve been praying for years that someone you love would come to know the Lord. When was the last time you shared the gospel with them? I’m not talking about inviting them to church; I’m talking about showing them from God’s Word how much He loves them and how they can enter that relationship with Jesus if they only believe.

Lost Friend, what are you going to do with Jesus? If you are lost, if you have never asked Jesus Christ to come into your life and save you, you are destined for hell. If you were to die right now, you would go to hell. But you don’t have to. You can change your destiny with a simple prayer. Just pray to God, “Father I am a sinner. Forgive me of the sins I have committed. Jesus, I know that you died on the cross for my sins, and on the third day, you rose again. I confess that you are Lord of the universe, and now I want you to be Lord of my life.” And then thank him.  The Bible says that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, so if you do this, welcome to the family of God. Find you a pastor that you can talk to about this decision, and let him guide you through your next steps. But let me know that you’ve made this decision so that I can pray for and rejoice with you.

To listen to the audio of this sermon, click on this link.

A Tale of Two Judgments #SSPreacherman

For the last several weeks, I have been preaching on the future of every human being that has ever existed. Below, you will find the first of several installments taken from these messages. To listen to the audio of this sermon, click here.

Philosophers, scientists, and poets all say that the future is not written in stone and that you can make it what you want it to be. They say that your destiny is in your own hands and to a point, that may be true. There are decisions that you can make that will shape your future: education, career, marriage, children, etc. Those are but some of the decisions we can make that will determine what life is like for us in the future – but that’s only part of the future.

I am going to tell you right now that there are some aspects of the future that are written in stone. It is the future of all mankind, and you can find it in the Bible. You know, the sad thing is that it seems these days that everyone wants to know what the future holds for them, but they keep looking in the wrong places. People read their horoscopes every morning. They pay to have biorhythm charts made up to see what kind of day they will have. They go to these palm readers, all because they want to know what their future is. Well, I’m going to tell your future for you today as the Bible teaches it. “It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment.”

Try to understand this. Your life is going to end one of two ways. One, just as every human being that has ever lived except for Enoch and Elijah has died, you will die. Or two, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you will be raptured – taken from the Earth much like Enoch and Elijah were taken, but this time, it will happen when the trumpet of the Lord sounds and Jesus comes to claim His bride – and only those of us who have held to His teachings, who are truly His disciples, will be taken.

But just as your life is going to end one of two ways, your life will also continue one of two ways. You will either go to heaven, or you will go to hell. Heaven is a place of eternal peace and joy in the presence of God. There is no more pain, no more sorrow, and no more suffering. But Hell is a different story. Hell is a place of eternal torment where the flames burn hot but never consume and where the conscience constantly torments but the soul never dies. Jesus taught us in Luke 16 that at the moment of death, the soul of man went to a place that the Greeks called Hades. This was the resting place of the dead. On one side of Hades was Abraham’s bosom where the righteous dead, those who believed in God, were sent. The other side was the hell that we know of as the place of eternal damnation, the lake that burns with never ending fire, where the pain never ceases. Fixed between the two was a great span that could not be crossed. When Jesus died on the cross of Calvary, I believe that he went to Hades. 1 Peter 3:19 tells us that Jesus descended into Hell itself where for three days He presented Himself as the Messiah, the Savior of the world to the unbelievers and evil-doers of Noah’s day to show them that not only had Noah been victorious but also that the complete victory over sin had been won. Then He also preached to the Old Testament saints so that all of the righteous people who died before would have the opportunity to believe on the name of Jesus because, my friends, salvation is found only in the name and person of Jesus Christ. And the good news is that Paul says in Ep. 4:8 that when he ascended he led the captives free, the righteous in Abraham’s bosom, to their new home in glory.

It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment. I tell you today that unless Jesus returns before that day comes, all of us will experience death. We are going to die, and at the moment of death we will face our judgment. At the moment you die, your destiny is sealed. If during your lifetime you have confessed your sin before our Holy God, trusted in the fact that Jesus died on the cross for your sins, but rose again three days later, and professed with your mouth that He is Lord of your life, then your destiny is heaven. Your judgment is for eternity in glory. If you have never confessed your sin to God and made Jesus the Lord and Savior of your life, your destiny is Hell. It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment.

More next week.

What if…? @SSPreacherman

Serendipity! I think that is the word that I am thinking of: a blessed and unexpected moment that God gave me this morning. As I was leaving the house, I was adjusting my Bluetooth headset around my neck and “accidentally” hit the button that started the music on my iPhone. What a thrill touched my heart as I heard the voice of Wes Hampton along with the rest of the Gaither Vocal Band singing “I’ll Pray for You” (https://youtu.be/UhrxwsA9gQM). If you have never heard that song, you need to find it immediately and listen. Better yet, find the lyrics, too, and read them as you listen. Immediately following this song came Laura Story’s “Blessings” ( https://youtu.be/XQan9L3yXjc). You need to listen to this one as well.

These are two powerful songs about the power of God’s presence through the trials of this life. Just to whet your appetite, Wes Hampton sings, “… heart so broken, God is so far… sleep won’t come, tears won’t quit… can you remember, I won’t forget… when you can’t think, you can’t even pray….” Have you ever been there? I have. I am. We are. Then all of a sudden, Wes sings, “…please hold on to one thing that’s true, all this time He’s holding you.” And I can tell you from one fellow pilgrim to another in this life’s spiritual journey, he is exactly right. During these last 7 months, on more occasions than I can count, I have heard God’s voice and felt His tender embrace. During this very difficult time, I have been asked over and over how I have been able to keep going. This is why. God’s presence was more than adequate to carry me through the most difficult of the days.

Then as I listened to Laura Story, God spoke to my heart. “What if your blessings come through raindrops? What if your healing comes through tears? And what if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near? And what if the trials of this life are your mercies in disguise?” Wow! As I looked back over these last 7 months, I realized that there had been many sleepless nights and unending tears as I cried out to God. In that moment, God showed me that He has been using these trials to strengthen and heal me. I have learned lessons about myself that I had refused to hear. I have seen changes in the way I think about things. And He has shown me what true forgiveness is all about as He has forgiven me for my sin and as He has empowered me to forgive those who I felt had wronged me. Pay attention to what I am about to say: nothing is more freeing – nothing is more healing – than to forgive and release those people who have hurt you without the expectation of an apology or a confession. Truly, the trials of this life have been His mercies in disguise.

So, my friends, as you read this, if you are going through the fires of this life or the flood of problems seems like it is about to overwhelm you, remember the words of Isaiah 43: 1-3.

1  But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.
2  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.
3  For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I gave Egypt for your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in your place.

And think about this: as a child of God, He didn’t give Egypt, Ethiopia or Seba as your ransom. He gave His only begotten Son. That should be enough to get you through the darkest valleys of this life. I know it has been for me.

 

Four Fatal Flaws @SSPreacherman

It has been a very busy couple of weeks, and that is why I haven’t posted since May 1. From preparations for revival to the week of revival capped off with our Mother’s Day celebration – pastors will understand what that is like. The physical, emotional, and spiritual exertion can leave you drained, but the powerful services we have experienced since last Sunday have been amazing. Bro. Ed Lacy, our evangelist, and Bro. Tommy Gray, our music leader, did a fantastic job, but it was the Holy Spirit that moved in our midst that took us to the mountaintop. While we had no professions of faith, I know that some of us truly had an encounter with God that has renewed our strength and our hope that He is about to do something amazing at Southside.

But have you ever noticed in the Scripture – or maybe you have seen it with your own eyes – how our tendency is to come crashing back down into the valley. It happened with Elijah after Mt. Carmel. It happened with the disciples after the Mount of Transfiguration. It happened to Ananias and Sapphira after Pentecost. And it happened to Israel at Mt. Sinai. After having heard the audible voice of God and seeing the display of His glory as He came down on the mountain, they rebelled against Him and broke the first two commandments by worshiping the golden calf. In forty days, they went from the mountaintop to the depths of depravity that is hard to even imagine. How? Why? And can we learn anything from their experience?

In my message yesterday (May 14, 2017), I shared what I see to be four fatal flaws that caused Aaron and the people of God to turn away from God. I will briefly share them with you and then encourage you to listen to the sermon for which I will leave a link below.

Turning from God results from a:

  • Limited passion for the presence of God. They refused to enter into and stay in God’s presence. In Exodus 20:19, they told Moses to speak with God and tell them what He said rather than enjoy the presence of God themselves.
  • Lack of patience in the purposes of God. God never gave them a timetable, but by the end of the forty days Moses spent on the mountaintop with God, they had worked themselves into a frenzy and decided to take matters into their own hands.
  • Load of pressure from the people of God. Aaron could not take the peer pressure and stand firm in God’s plan even though He had heard the audible voice of God and came closer to God in this encounter than the majority of the people.
  • Leader that is passive to the priorities of God. Aaron had heard the voice of God and knew what God expected, but it didn’t matter because God’s priorities were not his priorities. He knew the people had committed themselves to be the priestly presence and the purified people representing God to man and bringing man to God. But it didn’t matter to Aaron.

And we all know the outcome. The people found themselves living in perversion – the phrase in v. 7 that says they corrupted themselves literally means that they were running to destruction. And Aaron did nothing to restrain them. As a result, they lost their position as God’s people. Look at chapter 32. All of a sudden, God stopped calling them “My people.” Now they were Moses’ people. But God did what He always does – He provided for them a second chance. You can’t tell me that the God of the Old Testament isn’t a God of grace. He most certainly is. The good news is that His grace is still poured out on all those who choose to repent and come to Him. And it doesn’t matter what your sin is. As long as you come to God on His terms, He will forgive and welcome every prodigal back. But we must make the choice.

If you would like to listen to the audio of this message, go to http://media.drbenhayes.net/?name=2017-05-15_051417am.mp3.

When God Comes Down (Road to Revival Pt. 7) @SSPreacherman

This week, as you can imagine, my mind has been focused on the subject of revival. For some reason, all of a sudden I began thinking about the number of people that I had seen revived physically. I have watched as CPR has been performed – some survived and some didn’t. I have seen people put on ventilators with heroic measures taken to revive them – some survived and some didn’t. I’ve heard countless stories of people who have been brought back to life after they have died. They were revived. And I began to think, what exactly happened to them? Most of them probably had a greater appreciation for life after such a dramatic episode, but their lives, most likely, kept right on with the same routine as before. And my thought was, “I don’t want that kind of revival.” Then it hit me: spiritual revival – at least the kind found in the Bible — isn’t about restoring life back to the old routines; it’s about bringing new life where there is no life. It’s about God breathing His breath into our spiritual lungs so that we can be the church He created us to be. We look at revival as something scary – or at least so supernatural that we cannot begin to comprehend it – when its purpose is to simply restore us back to normal. But let me make one thing perfectly clear: it is God’s normal and not ours.

So, what exactly should we expect if God chooses, in His Divine Sovereignty, to grant to us the desires of our hearts and send revival? Yes, hearts will be changed, families will be healed, and relationships will be restored, but what does that equate to in the church? What is the “new/old normal” that we will experience? As I compare what took place with the children of Israel at Mt. Sinai when God came down to meet with them and what will take place should God come down to meet with us, I came away with two conclusions: He will reveal the truth to our hearts, and He will transform our character to accomplish His purpose.

From the time that the Jewish people left Egypt up to this point in their history, they perceived God to be some kind of divine vending machine. They were hungry and cried out to God, so He sent them manna. They were thirsty and cried out again, and He gave them water from a rock. They were bored with what God had provided and cried out again, so He gave them quail. Have a need? Pull the lever and God took care of it. Sadly, I fear that the modern-day church has done the same. Commit a sin and need forgiveness? Go to God and ask (which is the right thing to do) but then go back to life as “normal” and do the same thing over again and ask for forgiveness again (which is the wrong thing to do). Have a need regardless of your relationship with Him? Ask Him to take care of it. Pull the lever and watch God provide. No true gratitude. No change of heart. Just keep pulling the lever.

But when God came down to Mt. Sinai, He revealed to the people the truth of Who He is, and He is much more than a divine vending machine. Add to that the fact that when He came down, in spite of their preparations, they realized who they were, and they were terrified to be in His presence. In fact, they told Moses that they wanted to go back to the “old normal” and let Him do all the talking with God. “Just report back to us what He says,” they demanded. Why? Because it’s too hard for many to allow God to change their hearts and lives in the midst of the encounter. Many Christians and other church-going people feel the same way. “Pastor, you meet with God and tell us what He says.” The only problem is that encounters with the pastor are not enough to change our lives – only a face to face meeting with Holy God can accomplish His purposes for us.

And just what is that purpose? Exactly what He told the children of Israel in Exodus 19:5, 6. He wants us to be transformed in such a way that we understand what it means to be His prized possession, a priestly presence, and a purified people. He wants us to understand that in this encounter, He will change our hearts and our lives in such a way that we will truly demonstrate to the world how much God loves us, and we will serve to bring men to God and God to men. Isn’t that what the church needs today?

For a more detailed presentation of this truth, listen to the message from which this blog was taken. You can find it at http://media.drbenhayes.net/?name=2017-05-01_043017am.mp3.

Close Encounters of a God Kind (Road to Revival Pt. 6) @SSPreacherman

As I was preparing my message for this past Sunday, staying on track with our them of “Telling the Story” as well as preparing for our revival services, I realized something. As I was studying the passage in Exodus 19 where God is telling the people to prepare themselves for their encounter with Him, I thought to myself: “These people have been encountering God all along their journey through the wilderness. He had been leading them with the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. He had been giving them miracle after miracle to meet their needs and speaking to them through Moses. What is so different about this encounter?” That’s when it hit me. God wanted to meet with His people and speak to them like He met with Moses. Doesn’t it make sense? God has always wanted a close, intimate, personal relationship with His people. Think about the Garden of Eden and how God came down to walk with Adam and Eve. Think about his relationship with Noah and Abraham and now Moses. This is what I believe: God longs to meet with all of His people face-to-face on a regular basis, but very seldom are we prepared spiritually to do that. The people of Israel weren’t, so He gave them instructions on how to prepare themselves.

When you read the story, the instructions almost seem like God just plucked a few things out of the air to force them to jump through hoops to get ready. Wash your clothes. Put up a boundary. Abstain from sexual relationships. I mean, come on. “Can you get any more random than this,” some might say. But think about it. This is a big deal. Coming into the physical presence of a Holy God for the first time. Hearing His voice for themselves and not through a mediator. If nothing else, the threat of death for touching the mountain should have told them something. But here is what is going on. God wants the people to go through these outward actions as a symbol of their inward motivations – to understand that it is the heart that must be right as we come into the presence of God. How do we know our hearts are right with God? Absolute obedience to His commands. Anything less reveals that we have a heart issue.

So how do we prepare for an encounter with God in the 21st century? I believe using the principles that I see in the practices God gave to His people. The three actions lend themselves in some way to all three of these principles, so I will not try to delineate which goes with each one, but this is what we need to do:

  • Separation. We must be separated from the world and worldly things. Now hang on. That doesn’t mean that you have to sell your house and all your possessions and move into a monastery. Look at the story in Exodus 19. Do you notice what God did when He wanted to talk to Moses and the leaders of Israel? He called them away from the rest of the people. And then when He wanted to speak specifically to Moses, He separated him even further from the leaders of Israel. I want you to notice something here. God had spoken to Moses in the camp many times before, but in order for Moses to experience God’s supernatural presence, he had to climb the mountain. If we are going to experience the presence of God in our lives, then we are going to have to be willing to pay the price to spend some time alone with God. What are you willing to give up in order to encounter the supernatural presence of God?
  • Seeking God with our whole heart, with every aspect of our being. That’s what Jeremiah 29:13 is talking about, and that is what is required. Let me ask you a question: have you ever been homesick? I don’t know if there is anything that feels worse than being homesick and not being able to return home. That’s the situation of the people of Israel, in Jeremiah’s day. They were in exile, separated from everything they loved, including, at least in their own minds, their God. So, He says to them, “When you get to the point that you cannot stand it any longer and your heart is consumed with a desire to experience my presence, then you will find me, and I will take you home.” But that is the key. We have to want Him with all of our hearts. Have you gotten to the point that you want to meet with God more than anything else in this life because you know that He holds the solution to all of your problems in the palm of His hands?
  • Submission. Oh, man, is that hard or what? But that’s the requirement. James 4:7, 8 says, “Submit yourselves to God. Draw near to Him, and He will draw near to you.” James is talking about coming to God in repentance, renouncing all the practices and teachings of our former lives outside of Christ. Surrendering our wills to His will. Simply saying, “Yes, Lord. Whatever you say.” The question is, have you come to the point in your life that you are willing to say to God, “Whatever it takes to come into your presence, Lord, I will do.”

Only when we are willing to come to God on His terms can we ever expect to experience His presence and His power – and we definitely need both in this 21st Century world. To listen to the message that this blog post comes from, click on this link.

The Road to Revival Pt. 5 @SSPreacherman

Several months ago, we had a city-wide prayer gathering here in Decatur prior to the national elections. Actually, it was one of two city-wide prayer gatherings sponsored by our Morgan Baptist Association. My responsibility was to try to explain why we were gathered together to pray. It was not supposed to be a Baptist thing. Nor was it supposed to be a Republican thing. It was supposed to be a Christian thing. Believers pouring their hearts out to God asking Him to provide direction to our nation – to bring healing to a nation that has suffered for so long under the influence of the demonic that many cannot even tell the difference between right and wrong any longer. The Bible is clear: God pronounces judgment on those who call evil good and good evil. We must find our way back. We must right the ship. We must, once again, discover the moral compass that can only be provided by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit will only indwell the children of God. As good Baptists, we believe that we receive the Holy Spirit at salvation, but we also believe that unconfessed sin in our lives quenches the power of the Spirit working through us and it interrupts the flow of our relationship with the Father. That is how we find ourselves in need of finding our way back to the moral compass, and sometimes the problem becomes so bad that we need something even greater. It’s what I spoke of on that morning at our  prayer gathering. This is an enhanced version of my text:

My job this morning is to explain in just a few minutes why we are here. There is no better way to do that than to share God’s Word. We are here today because God has shut up the heavens and there is no rain. God has given the command and locusts are devouring our land. He has spoken and pestilence is raging. While we are experiencing drought in our part of the country, today I am referring to a drought of His Holy Spirit, and the locusts are the demons and dark forces that are stealing His Word from the hearts of even His people so that many have been deceived, and we are suffering from a pestilence of apathy that has turned to animosity towards all that is holy and righteous. And the result in 2016 (and now in 2017) is the same result as it was for Israel in 721 B.C. when Assyria swept in and swept them away into exile. The result is the same as it was for Judah in 587 B.C. when the Babylonians came and destroyed Jerusalem and carried them away and again for Israel in 70 A.D. when the Romans came.

In the United States of America, because the church has turned its back on God, I truly believe that we are facing the hand of God’s judgment, and our only hope is the very prescription that God gave to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:14. If my people – not the president or the congress or the Supreme Court, but His people – who are called by His name – those of us called Christians – will humble themselves – not wait for Him to humiliate us through discipline though I believe that is coming but will voluntarily humble ourselves – and pray – that’s what we are here for today, to pray – and seek My face – not the face of a pastor or a politician but the face of Holy God – and turn from our wicked ways – and this is the hard part because it requires that we admit that we are living lives of wickedness, that even those things that we call little sins must be confessed as sin against a holy God, repented of with all of our hearts, and turned from with all of our might and God’s help  because only then, God says – only then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

This, my friends, is what we desperately need. This is what I am praying for in my life. This is what I am praying for in my church. This is what I am praying for in my nation. Would you join me in this prayer? And pray for us at Southside Baptist Church as we journey toward revival May 7-10 with Bro. Ed Lacy, Evangelist and Bro. Tommy Gray, Musician leading us.

The Results of Revival (Pt. 1) @SSPreacherman

Last week, we started on the road to revival. I shared with you four steps on that road that I believe that every Christian must take if they hope to experience the kind of awakening that we need as a church and as a nation. This week, I want to continue along the same path, so to speak, but with a little different emphasis. As we continue to look at the story of King Hezekiah, what do we see as the result of revival and can we glean from this story some of the signs that revival is necessary? But we must understand one very foundational truth. Revival does not come easily. 2 Chronicles 31:21 says that Hezekiah “sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.” Revival is hard work.

In 2 Chronicles 30 we see that as a result of the revival, there was a renewed desire to follow God’s commands. That’s why in verses 1 and 2 Hezekiah decided it was time to renew the Passover Celebration. From their deliverance from Egypt, the Israelites had been commanded to celebrate Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the first month of their year. For centuries they had done this, but the country had rejected God and His commands so greatly that for years they had not done this. In fact, many had forgotten the requirements for participation. One of the sure‑fire signs that revival is needed is when people start neglecting biblical principles. In a church, the people stop attending Sunday School and Discipleship Training. They stop reading their Bibles. Pretty soon they start missing prayer meeting. Not long after that, attendance on Sunday night is sporadic. Eventually, they begin to miss on Sunday morning until one day they wake up and realize they have fallen away from God.

In a country, people stop caring about their fellow man. They stop thinking about the Bible and its principles. They outlaw its reading in the public schools. Pretty soon they start legalizing the murder of babies. Before you know it, our children begin to be indoctrinated with godless principles, Satanic powers, and the forces of evil through the media and through the schools. Ultimately, without revival, the end is the complete outlawing of the church, of worship, and evangelism. My friend, unless we wake up, our nation will be destroyed for lack of revival. Revival calls us back to obedience of God’s commands. Then it causes us to seek out others and convince them to follow God’s commands. We call this evangelism or perhaps reclaiming our backslidden brothers and sisters in Christ.

Hezekiah was not satisfied with celebrating the feasts of God with only his family or his city. He sent out messengers from Dan to Beersheba, throughout all of Judah and into Israel. He didn’t care that the people of Israel hated the people of Judah. It didn’t matter that they were openly hostile to their Jewish kin and had been ever since the kingdoms had divided after the death of Solomon. He believed God wanted all of His chosen people to experience revival, so he went out to get them. He extended the invitation to everyone regardless of their nationality.

Listen, when revival comes, there is a renewed desire to reach out and bring others in. God’s people who have repented of their sin and recommitted themselves to God’s service, are endowed with a desire for and a power to reach out and bring others into their new life. Really, this is simply a part of following God’s commands. In a church, we are always supposed to be evangelizing, reaching out, ministering. But sometimes we stop. And to stop witnessing is to die. Revival brings renewal and life.

A sure sign that revival is needed is that artificial barriers are erected. For a church and a nation, revival means breaking down those barriers like race and economic status. It means forgetting the hostilities and tensions that keep us from reaching out to people who are not “like” us. It means people can love one another and work together, and when we are willing to do that, we make our church and our country a better place. Historically, revival brings a reduction in crime. It means an abundance of volunteer labor. It means a complete change in our society as education of our children and medical care for the elderly receives proper attention by our legislators because priorities get straightened out.

Don’t misunderstand. Hezekiah did not have a 100% success rate. In fact, only a small remnant from the Northern Kingdom responded positively. The majority laughed at the messengers. They ridiculed the invitation. Some people reject the proposition that serving God can make a difference. They have no hope. The sin in their lives has caused such moral depravity that they wouldn’t want to change things even if they thought it was possible. But when people become so entrenched in sin because of years of sinful activity, they can’t see a need for change. But even a handful of changed people can make a difference. Even a small group of dedicated men and women committed to the cause of Christ could change the direction of a church or a community or even a nation.

The Road to Revival (Pt. 4) @SSPreacherman

In the closing verses of 2 Chronicles 29, we see that renewed commitment to God and a restored connection with God evidences itself in renewed worship. It is the fourth step on the pathway to revival: the Rejoicing of Our Congregation. Look at what happened to God’s people:

  • They came together to worship through public cleansing rituals. They offered sacrifices for their sins. I have always been amazed at the willingness of the Jewish people to publicly confess their sins. That is so foreign to us, but James 5:16 says that we are to confess our sins one to another. I know that this verse speaks to specific circumstances, but I believe that it’s a sign of God’s presence when we have enough confidence to confess our failures to one another. You may wonder why I include this in the rejoicing part of this journey. It is because there is something about this exercise that releases us so that we can celebrate with our brothers and sisters when it is done.
  • Following the cathartic experience that undoubtedly released the power of God’s Spirit into the hearts and lives of His people, they worshiped through music. For hours, the people bowed down before God praising and praying as the music played. When revival comes, celebration is inextinguishable. Listen, I think sometimes we need to get down on our faces before God, laying our entire selves on the altar, at the feet of Jesus to do with as He chooses. To be serious and somber and to allow the Holy Spirit to move in our hearts to cleanse and change us. But once that process is over, then we celebrate.
  • Then the people worshiped through giving. They gave so many offerings that the priests couldn’t handle them all. I don’t know a church who wouldn’t get excited about this part of revival. My friend, when revival takes place, our spirits desire to give everything to God knowing that He will supply all our need.
  • Finally at the close of the service that had lasted for hours, the people rejoiced at what God had done. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. When I was a youth, our church experienced this kind of revival. Hours seem like minutes. No one wants to leave because the presence and the power of God is there. It’s palpable. And no one complains about how long the preacher preaches or how long the invitation goes. It’s amazing.

But we have to understand that revival doesn’t begin in a place. It doesn’t begin with a ritual. It doesn’t begin because we follow a set of directions. It begins in your heart. It begins in your prayer closet all alone, but it culminates in exciting worship together as the community of Christ celebrating the victory that is ours.

Let me close this week’s blog, The Road to Revival, with the lyrics to Kari Jobe’s new song, Let Your Glory Fall. Make it your prayer today. Here is a link to listen to her sing the song: https://youtu.be/U7GXIODoeGc.

A longing stirs in my soul
Draws me near
Calls me close
Deeper into this love
That won’t run out
Won’t dry up
Oh, let it rain
Oh, let it rain

Only now will I come
Before your throne, holy one
By your thunderous grace
Spirit flood, come flood this place
Oh, let it rain
Oh, let it rain

Let your glory fall
Overwhelm my soul
Let your presence flood my life, oh lord

Deep is calling to deep
Revivals tide, breaking free
Jesus reign in this place
Thirsty we cry, heaven in vain

Let your glory fall
Overwhelm my soul
Let your presence flood my life, oh Lord

Break upon me now
Let your love crash down
Let your glory fall
Let your glory fall

Oh, let it rain
Oh, let rain
Oh, let it rain
Oh, let it rain
Oh, let…

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