The Prodigal’s Father

There are many great verses about Fathers in the Bible but one of my own favorites is found in Luke 15 and the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Go there with me this week as we approach Father’s Day 2019! Read vs 11-32. Most of the focus in the Parable is on the “prodigal son” but this week let us look at the prodigal love of the prodigal father. What a fantastic picture we have here of the ministry of fatherhood: Verse 12 shows us the father’s ministry of “GIVING”.  We fathers can do great harm if we’re not particularly careful with what we “GIVE” our kids! It is very easy to give too much or too little: freedom, work, responsibility, accountability, education, wisdom, time, entertainment, encouragement, praise and love and most important of all – a Biblical upbringing focused on the word of God.  Examples abound in the Bible that show us where fathers succeeded or failed by their giving in these categories. Verse 13 shows us the Father’s Ministry of “LETTING GO”: The father knows his son is making a major mistake. I am certain it broke the father’s heart to let his son go. However, letting go isn’t always a bad thing and in some cases it’s a blessing. Like giving a son or daughter in marriage, or off to start their life as adults. Verse 30 reveals that this Father learned of his son’s riotous life and of how he’d been reduced to squalor & hunger. I doubt this surprised him, but I imagine it broke his heart even worse. Here we see the Father’s Ministry of “TOUGH LOVE”. We might expect the father to pack up and go “hog-tie” his foolish son and bring him home. But we know that wouldn’t solve the problem. Why not? Because the son has a sinful heart and bringing him home won’t fix it. His heart would still be in the far country! This father knows that. Even when he learned his son was starving, he didn’t send more money! Why not? Because more money would only be wasted on more sin and wickedness. Many parents help their children remain in sin and wickedness by giving them the money to finance it. No…this father knows that more money isn’t the answer. His son must “COME TO HIMSELF” and see the “far country” for what it is and realize the error of his ways. TOUGH LOVE may require a father to let the hard lessons be learned! Sometimes a father must pray and wait for a son / daughter to “wake up”! In verse 20 we see the Father’s Ministry of KEEPING WATCH: When that son was yet a long way off his father saw him, he was waiting, praying and watching and his faith prevailed! A Father’s Ministry includes keeping watch for his children [Praying for them, looking out for them, having intercessory faith for them, keeping hope that God will work in them]! Even when friends and siblings have given up, a Father must KEEP WATCH! In verses 22-24 we see the father’s ministry of “FORGIVING, FORGETTING and RESTORING”! Yes, the son made a mess but that is past. There is repentance and the father sees it. So, he embraces and welcomes a son home. Many fathers need that one!

Echoes Down the Hall

On three different occasions of late the Lord has put on my heart to bring the message at Calvary Baptist Church from Acts Ch 16 vs 1-34.  I hope you’ll pause here and go read those verses before continuing.  There are many things we could look at here but let’s consider first that in addition to suffering a terrible beating [vs 23], they have also been thrown into prison, in the very heart of the prison. Imagine yourself there with them. The stench, the defilement the hopelessness. Hear in your mind the screams, the moans, the calls for water…the calls for death to come and finish what it started. I imagine myself there in the dark listening to the chains of the prisoners and the rats scurrying about.  Can you hear it? Can you smell it thick and pungent? Can you feel the despair so thick in that place you can almost reach out and touch it [v. 24].  In my mind I think I might go back to the poor decisions of my wasted life. I might revisit all my crimes and thieveries and I might feel the tears of shame run down my cheeks. I imagine what it must have been like to listen to those ‘followers of Christ’ that the guards dragged in early this afternoon. I saw the blood-stained tunics and I figure the beating they suffered must have been bad. But despite that, I try to imagine what it must have been like to listen to those two men praying and singing and praising God!  I think all the other prisoners would have been listening with rapt attention. In fact, did you notice that after God shook that prison with an earthquake and all those prisoner’s doors fell off the hinges or swung open wide and their chains fell to the flood, not one of them ran [vs 28]? No, they stood there still listening to Paul and Silas. Did they go into Paul’s cell? Did any of them walk to his cell and stand there with tears of joy and redemption running down their cheeks? When I read this amazing and beautiful account of God’s wonderous love I picture the untold millions of people who are themselves no less prisoners of sin and of condemnation. They are just as much locked in a cell with their own heavy chains as were those prisoners in this precious story.  But they too might be set free from their chains if you and I would sing! Their feet might be freed from the stocks if they could hear some echoes of our prayers down the hall. They might see their own prison door swing open if we would praise the great Lord of Heaven. How many times throughout the last 2000 years has a prisoner of sin stood listening to the sweet hymns and the praises and the prayers echoing down the hall? How many have been moved to kneel in their cell and cry out to God for pardon and mercy? I do not know how many prisoners were made disciples of the living God there in the prison of Philippi but I wonder how many of them spent the rest of their prison sentence singing and praying and praising God as they had heard Paul and Silas do? I invite you to come and get in your place and send some echoes of your own down the hall to your family and friends.

The Last Mother’s Day

Another Mother’s Day has come and gone.  It was by far the hardest I have ever had.  I lost my mother three weeks ago and the pain is still very tender.  No more will I be able to pick up the phone and call her to say Happy Mother’s Day.  No more will I get to send her a pretty card with declarations of my love for her.  Never again will I get to send her something pretty to try to make her happy.  Some of you have experienced this loss and know this pain.  But many of you still have your Mother.  The Bible says in Exodus 20:12 “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.”   Indeed, we find it in many verses in our Bible.  Honor thy father and thy mother.  I find no qualifiers in these verses to honor my mother if she is perfect. Nor any verses that say she must earn it. My mother was not perfect and perhaps yours isn’t either.  Nonetheless God gave us a directive to honor her.  Not just once per year, but daily. Maybe you are young, and you have not learned yet what an asset your mother really is to you, how much she really does know after all.  Maybe your mother is aged, and she has told you the same story every time you have talked to her for years.  Maybe she is lonely and clingy and seeking your attention, forgetting that you are busy, that you have to work and raise a family.  Maybe your relationship has become flipped and now you are her caregiver.  Perhaps you are estranged and unforgiveness stands between you.  In the end, that is your mother and you only get one.  Again, my mother was not perfect, but let’s face it, neither am I.  I know that she did much more for me than I will ever really know. And now, as a mother myself, I know how much she truly loved me.  There really is no equal in this life to a mother’s love.  And perfect or not, I loved her very much.  Would to God I could call her now and tell her.  So why not treat every day like Mother’s Day?  But who could afford that you say?  Guess what.  She doesn’t want things, she doesn’t care if you never buy her another flower or another card, or another gift and she doesn’t care if you never buy her dinner again.  She wants you.  Your time, your attention and your love.  It always blesses my heart to see children come to church with their mothers for Mother’s Day.  What a joy!  Can I tell you she’d love to have you with her every Sunday?  She would be thrilled for a random call just to say, “You know what Mama, I just had you on my mind, I don’t really have time to talk but I wanted you to know that I love you.” Or perhaps a call to just say “Thank you Mama for all you have done for me.”  There will come a day unless you precede her that you will not have those opportunities again.  It’s been almost a week since her “special” day.  Have you seen her since?  Have you spoken to her?   Proverbs 31: 28 says “Her children arise up and call her blessed.”  If you still have her, honor your Mama before that last Mother’s Day is gone.

The Resurrection

My pastor, Lev Humphries, wrote the following article which I offer to you here as a blessing: [The Resurrection of Christ was a hot topic in New Testament times. It was one of the most often preached topics of Peter and Paul. In fact, in Acts 23 when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question. That sparked a division For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel: but the Pharisees confess both. Paul told Timothy in 2 Tim.2:18 that Hymenaeus and Philetus had, erred, saying that the resurrection is past already;… False doctrine concerning the resurrection is not new. 1 Cor. 15 is mostly concerned with the resurrection and tells us If the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.Verse 20-22 stateBut now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. Whether you are saved or not, you will be resurrected. Jesus spoke of this in John 5:28-29. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, And shall come forth: they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. Verse 24 explains that salvation is not merited by those who do good. It is received by faith. Verse 29 is a result of faith in Christ, the New Birth. If you look at Rom. 10:9-13, we have an invitation to the lost to call upon the name of Christ. If you look at verse 9 you will see the importance of believing in the resurrection of Christ: That if thou shalt confess with they mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. Remember 1 Cor.15:17, And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain…1 Peter 1:3, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotton us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.Revelation 1:18 Jesus statesI am He that liveth, and was dead; and , behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death“] This Sunday is the day we will celebrate what Christians refer to as “Resurrection Sunday”. It is the most crucial doctrinal truth of the Bible. In fact without the resurrection there would be no New Testament, no God ordained church and no eternal hope, no forgiveness of sins and no escape of damnation. Without the resurrection there would be no way for believers to be reconciled to our great merciful God! Without the resurrection there would be no hope of that glad reunion with dear loved ones who have died believing on God. We would sing no glad songs of joy, peace and hope. This Sunday we invite you to come and rejoice with us in the resurrection at Calvary Baptist Church in Palestine.

The Cup Not Taken Away

There are many different ‘cups’ in this old amazing Bible. Sometimes they’re literal cups, sometimes they’re allegorical cups, sometimes they’re prophetic cups. There are cups of blessing [1st Cor 10:16], of salvation [Psalm 116:13], of fury [Isaiah 51:17], and of wrath, judgment, indignation [See Psalm 11:6, 16:5, 23:5, 75:8, Jeremiah 51:7, Zechariah 12:2, Matt 10:42, 20:23 and there are more].  I can certainly say and know beyond doubt that the great and terrible King has handed me some of these cups over the years. I have drank from the cup of salvation, the cup of blessing, the cup of marriage, of children, of laughter and the cup of weeping; but always with the cup of mercy. There have been some cups I didn’t want to drink from, some I didn’t think I could handle.  I am thankful for the certain knowledge that the greatest gift ever given {Our sweet Lord Jesus} took one of my cups because I couldn’t take it and He loved me enough to take it for me. You may recall that in Matthew chapter 26 vs. 36 Jesus went to an ‘alone’ place where instead of sitting in the pew He “fell on his face and prayed” [vs 39] {which is something the Baptist were doing 2000 yrs before any other church was listed in the carrier pigeon and smoke signals book}. I fear I see little or no “falling on one’s face to pray” anymore. But watch on – He prayed there saying “…O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt”.  Let me call to your attention this week a comforting if difficult truth…Some ‘cups’ are not taken away.  Some cups may be handed to you and you alone must drink them. Cups that no one else can drink…perhaps you too will plead that the Father would take it from you if it be possible! Perhaps it will be a cup of terrible sickness, or a cup of horrible disease, or a cup of wrenching heartache? It may even be the cup of death.  I hope this is not the case – but we all run the race that is set before us [Hebrews 12:1] and we drink from those cups that are handed to us along the way. Like those runners for various causes and charities. They run along the road and at various points are tables set with cups of refreshment for them to take as they go by.  I notice they do not fear the cups but they just grab them and slam them down and keep on going. They trust those who hand them the cup. Is it not the same for you Christian? Have you not been handed enough good cups, cups of blessing and mercy and grace, that you have learned you can trust the Father with those hard and bitter cups too?  I think if you reflect back you will see He has given you far more cups of grace than of hardship. Even our precious Lord the Son of the Living God had to drink from a cup handing to Him by His own Father. If He will trust and obey and accept “the cup not taken away” then can we not all take our cups firmly in hand and drink them knowing that our Sweet Heavenly Father can be trusted implicitly with the contents? As for me I have come to trust that God will enable me to be confident that He knows best. His will is perfect. Calvary Baptist Church across from Pizza Hut on the Loop 903-729-5924. 

The Authority and Power of the Word of God

Napoleon once promoted a young soldier from the ranks to Captain. The old war horse had lost control of his steed and the young man had risked his own life to stop it. Napoleon was so impressed that he immediately promoted the young soldier to Captain of the guard on the spot. When the young soldier went to head of the ranks the unknowing leader ordered him back to his duties, but the new Captain refused and told him he’d been promoted to Captain. When asked by whose authority he replied “by order of the emperor” and that was that. Nothing more could be nor needed to be said. So powerful was the word of the famous emperor that upon hearing it all questions ceased.

Solomon, penman and secondary author of the great book of Ecclesiastes wrote in Chapter 8 vs 4 “Where the word of the King is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What doest thou? Old king Nebuchadnezzar back in Daniel Chapter 4 wrote two particularly interesting things that God permitted to be recorded in His bible – verse 34 “…I blessed the most High, and I praised and honored him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation. 35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? Job, oldest book in the bible, permits us to hear these ominous words which God said to him in Ch 38:2 “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge”? And in verse 4 there “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding?”

I am sure that I am not alone in being thankful that the “great and terrible God” [Neh 1:5] gave me enough sense to regard the words of the “Living God” for what they are! Absolutely inerrant, completely and unquestionably powerful far beyond my ability to comprehend and totally worthy of my devout belief, obedience, submission and fear. I trust in them, have my confidence in them, live by them and count it quite an honor that my precious King of Kings and Lord of Lords even allowed them to be given to me in my own language over 400 years ago.

I don’t know about you friend, but I am one of those old fashioned bible believers who thinks God said what He meant and meant what He said in John 14:23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. What does that mean? It means exactly that ‘if anyone really is a Christian and really does love the Lord Jesus Christ, he or she WILL keep God’s words’. How can someone who doesn’t even believe they exist perfectly in the bible do so?

Finishing What You Started

In Luke 14:28-30 The Only Begotten Son of God said “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build and was not able to finish.”

Can I call a few observations to mind? #1 “Christianity isn’t easy” or #2 “cheap”. Another good lesson to draw from this text for the student of the word of God would be #3 “Finish What You Started”.
I cannot stress enough what damage is done when professing Christians cave in and fall out. Many have I met who mock the Bible and insult Christianity and when you get to the bottom of it you often find that some Christian they trusted long ago, someone they loved quit and it robbed them of their hope! Time and again I’ve listened to the testimonies of those who at first appearance seem to hate Christians…someone who, as a child, watched their grandparents, or parents make a decision to follow Christ and then after some time they fell out, quit and their fall completely devastated someone who was watching to see if “it was real”. 
I wish I had space here to share with you just a few testimonies of some I’ve talked to over the years who said “No…I don’t want to hear about Christianity or Christ or God or Church…it wasn’t important to my parents and it isn’t important to me”. 
It is sad to think of those moms and dads who turned their own kids away from God by starting and then quitting. One man told me his father turned him away from Christianity by playing good Christian on Sunday and otherwise living like a hellion Mon-Saturday. “If that’s Christianity you can keep it”. 
Can I give you Christian parents, neighbors, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters some advice?! You are being watched and your walk is making an impact. Don’t quit! Don’t wobble on the axle! Get that Bible in its place every day; get that Christian life in its place every day! Put your feet on the floor saying “Lord…help me to honor you today lest I cause someone else to stumble and fall by my poor example”! If you’ve started on this Christian course of life – FINISH IT! If you’re a Christian, you’ve started a good thing, but a hard thing….So FINISH IT! Get serious about it before it is too late and you find yourself watching those who were watching you, headed to hell because you didn’t have the will and drive to dig in and go all the way! Don’t quit! Someone has to be willing to stand up for Jesus even if everyone else quits. Finish it! 
If you’ve already fell out; get up, brush off, and get going again! 

One of These Days Soon…I’ll Call for You

Old Paul was quite an opponent in a debate. Having been a ‘top shelf’ Pharisee himself he was intimately familiar with the scriptures and having met Christ himself and his eyes opened there was no stopping him in a discussion. A great example of Paul’s debate and convincing abilities can be read in Acts 24. There we find a lying con-artist named Tertullus doing his best to make Paul out to be a ‘pestilent fellow’ {common thug & troublemaker}. He accuses Paul of starting riots and profaning the temple. You know the type, Tertullus is one of those guys who stirs up more strife in a week than most do in their whole life. Anyway, after Tertullus finishes stacking up his big pile of false statements again Paul, Governor Felix says “ok Paul, let’s hear your side in this big hullabaloo.

Paul takes the witness stand and proceeds to dismantle Tertullus and all the fabricated accusations limb by limb. His reasoning and discussion of the facts is so compelling that even Governor Felix had to admit he couldn’t argue with it. A few weeks later as the testimony continues Paul is again before Felix and his argument so compelling that Felix had to get away from Paul or join him! In Acts 24:25 Felix says “Go thy way for this time, when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee”. 
I suppose anyone who has been in church long has heard this subject addressed, preached and taught on. I suppose any preacher worth his keep has seen someone under conviction raise a hand saying “pray for me pastor, I’m lost and I know it” and then seen them walk out of the church never to return. It’s a heartbreaker for any of us who has been witnessing to a lost loved one or friend. To see them come right up to the door and then withdraw the hand and turn away. Some perhaps will eventually open it and be gloriously saved. However, as in the case of Felix, we see that his refusal of Christ just made him harder and harder. He listened to Paul for two full years and wasn’t converted. 
When some important folks showed up Felix wanted to impress them and the Jews who hated Paul so he left Paul in chains. It certainly seems clear that not only did Felix’ refusal of Christ harden his heart, but it hardened his heart so much that, as far as we know, he never did accept Christ.

“When I have a convenient time”. I wonder how many have died before the convenient time ever came? I wonder how many have said “tomorrow I will for sure”. One of the saddest things in the book of Acts is this piece of scripture…tomorrow, maybe next week, maybe next month… Can I just encourage you to not to wait? The latter part of 2 Corinthians 6:2 says “behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” If you are saved, don’t neglect to warn your loved ones. Sooner or later for us all, there is no tomorrow.

Some Verses That are a Help in Time of Trouble

Over the years as I have faced my Goliaths and my times of rejoicing the sweet Lord has brought to my mind and heart some scripture verses that changed me, matured me, illuminated my way and brightened my path. Sometimes He’s given verses that made me laugh and made me smile. Often in times when I felt so alone He’s called to mind a verse that made me feel His presence so real I thought I could reach out and touch Him. He’s given me verses that warmed my heart. Many times he’s called to my mind scriptures that brought me up out of a horrible pit and at times when I’ve been done wrong by someone. In times of betrayal, in times of cruel accusations, in times of slander and lies. Oh, don’t we all know those?

Over the years there have been many who I have shared some of these verses with, those He’s put in my path. Sitting in hospital lobbies and waiting rooms, at funeral homes, in jails and prisons, on porches. The sad, the broken hearted, the lonely, the weary, the sick, the devastated and those on a deathbed. God has words of comfort, words of wisdom, words of help and assurance and confidence – it seems to me sometimes almost an insult to call them words, for these are filled with power and strength and comfort. Here are just a few that have been very precious to me and a great help to others as well in dark times. I urge you to turn and look at them in the perfect and most ancient of texts [which was retitled 400 years ago “The Authorized Version” called by some ‘the King James’ Bible].

Jeremiah 32:17 and Jeremiah 33:3 “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not”. Isaiah 41:10 is a great one! Psalm 86:7 “In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me”. All of Psalm 51! Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit”. Psalm 27:13-14 have helped me often “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 14 “Wait I say on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait I say, on the Lord”. Job 13:15, Proverbs 13:15 “Good understanding giveth favour, but the way of transgressors is hard”. Proverbs 11:14, Luke 1:37, Mark 1:15 and the whole book of John. Revelation 21:4 is a sweet comfort “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away”. Ask God for the one He has for you today, for there are many!!

The Burglar That Escapes Undetected

Back many years ago I took the entrance exam for a large Police Department in Florida (and was later hired). I had to spend the night to be there for the long day of tests & exams so I had driven in the night before and gotten a hotel room. The next morning early I discovered that my truck had been burglarized! My truck was ransacked and tools, stereo and other odds and ends were stolen. The thief had broken in through my camper’s sliding window and breaking the latch.

It was clearly the work of an amateur. The really good burglars pride themselves on getting in & out undetected. They leave no evidence, no prints, nothing out of place. They sneak in, steal one or two things that often go unmissed and sneak out with the doors locked just as they found them. Their goal is that the crime will not even be discovered. Have you been burglarized? Let’s put it to the test and see if something monumentally important has been stolen from you that you didn’t even notice was missing! Turn in your Bible to 1st John 5:7 and lets check to see if any of the words that God gave you have been stolen. Your Bible should read “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” If it doesn’t…the words of God have been stolen from your Bible. Some thieves try to tell you those words were ‘made up by men’ in 323 AD and don’t really belong in the Bible, but the fact is this verse was being quoted in writings by students of the Apostles as early as 70 A.D. 
Let’s look at another one: In Acts 8 the Lord sent the apostle Philip to go meet and teach a fella who wanted to know about Jesus. The fella was completely confused and so Philip met him and told him all about Jesus and showed him some scriptures to prove it. Afterwards the man wanted to be baptized and Philip said something vitally important to him in verse 8:37 “And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God”. WOW! Talk about a major league important piece of Scripture!!

It isn’t at all a surprise to me to see Bibles that have removed this verse completely or cut out the most important part. If I were the great thief and liar called Lucifer I would use every resource at my disposal to create Bibles from which I’ve removed some words here and there…like a good burglar. There are many hundreds of stolen words, words of the Living God, which sneaky burglars & thieves have stolen from all newer versions of the Bible since 1881. However if you want a Bible that has ALL the words God gave get yourself a 1611 King James Bible.

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