Friday, May 13, 2022

"Revival of the Remnant" - A Study in the Book of Ezra begins this Sunday, May 15, 2022 at Rainsville First Baptist Church

 

It was 538 B.C. when God, fulfilling the prophecy of Jeremiah (25:12; 29:10) that the Babylonian captivity would last only seventy years, “stirred up” the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia (Ezra 1:1) and “all those whose spirits God had moved” (Ezra 1:5) to begin to bring revival and restoration of His true remnant people back to Jerusalem. Under Ezra, the priest and the scribe, and Nehemiah, the layman, God revived the faith of His true people by restoring worship and holiness and then rebuilding the walls.
It was 2020 when God begin to “stir up” my heart again on the theme of revival and spiritual awakening. You see, there have been seasons, though brief, of my life when I forsook the possibility of God sending revival and spiritual awakening. I looked at the condition of the church and our nation thinking we had gone too far. But then I was reminded America has experienced worse moral decline in its early years than even where we are today. Then I remembered, like with Ezra, revival comes after a time of judgment. God used men of God like Don Graham to “stir my heart” again that God could bring revival and renewal. So in repentance, I begin to believe and pray for revival and spiritual awakening.
Due to my own experience with COVID in 2020, I did not complete the preaching and writing project I wanted to concerning revival. But the fires did not quench. In 2021, I wrote “Fan the Flame” for our church’s devotional guide for January 2022. But I did not get to preach Ezra and the theme of revival.
Once again, God has not let the fire go out. I took all of my written material to Africa with me knowing God was stirring this again in my heart. I am glad to announce this Sunday I begin a series “Revival of the Remnant” from the book of Ezra.
The theme of the remnant is an interesting one in Scripture. We will deal with it for God seems to focus on the remnant when He is moving His agenda. Who are the remnant? What does the Bible say about them?
Using Ezra, I will declare its time for the modern-day remnant to return to God, prayer, holiness, dedication, His Word, obedience, His Spirit, and His church. After the dark, cold, isolated days of COVID, it’s time for the REMNANT TO RETURN. And only through a revival of the remnant can we hope to see a lasting, sweeping revival of His church reaching into our communities and nation for a spiritual awakening.
This is difficult on several fronts. First and foremost, this is spiritual warfare. The “prince of the power of the air” hates the remnant and is doing everything to discourage them. Second, our generation has never seen a revival or spiritual awakening. In American history, there have been four major moves of God: the first and second Great Awakenings, The Great Layman’s Prayer Revival, and the Jesus Movement in the 70’s. In our generation, only the Jesus Movement would qualify, and it was rejected by most in the church, thus never able to get the spiritual momentum and footing it needed for a sweeping awakening.
My prayer is through examining Ezra, God will “stir the spirits” of the remnant to seek God for revival, prepare for revival and constantly pray for God to “rend the Heavens and come down.” (Isaiah 64:1).
Join us Sunday as we look at “Who Are the Remnant?” from Ezra 1:1.



Tuesday, April 12, 2022

"Go to Funerals" by Michael Lyons

 Years ago, I attended a funeral of an older man from my church. This church was in the heart of an urban city and was surrounded by drugs and poverty. But the church had a thriving ministry and more than 300 people regularly attended. The funeral that day was packed out. But the man, Robert, was little known. I knew him from our men’s lunches. I often ate lunch with him after a worship service. He was kind, caring, and invited me into his life while I was living in the area. But he and his wife did not have a wide circle of friends. Nevertheless, everyone came to the funeral. I mean everyone. The entire church came out for it.

Why?

Because year after year, we heard our pastor say, “When one member grieves, we all grieve. That’s what family does.”

I remember talking to the funeral director afterward. He was stunned by how many came to this funeral for a man whom the world did not know. He asked me, “What is it about this church that people would give up their day for a funeral like this?” Robert had no impressive career. He had no impressive influence. His resume was unremarkable. He was older and had many physical problems, so he was not as involved in the church as he used to be. Most of the congregation did not know him as a result (to their loss!).

But Robert was a brother in our church. We all were in covenant membership with him and his wife. That mattered more than anything else. He was closer than a blood relative; he was united to us through Another’s blood.

My pastor happened to be standing beside me and answered the director, “This is what it means to be a follower of Jesus. We are family.”

And so, we went to funerals of people we hardly knew in our church. Often the funerals propelled us to make sure we were getting to know others in our church before it was too late.

Let me encourage you to something: consider attending every funeral that occurs in your church’s life. And if you are a pastor, disciple your members to attend funerals.

The Christian community can be distinct by going to funerals of everyone in your church. At funerals, we display to the world what the body of Christ is like. At funerals, we display what commitment looks like in a covenant body. When we take our membership vows, we are not joining a hobby or a club. We join a body. A body needs all its members—especially at a funeral.

Who hasn’t been to a funeral where only a few showed up? Didn’t you feel sorry for the grieving family member? Now imagine that family member watching as an entire church arrives at the funeral, proclaiming not with words but in actions, “You are part of our family, the family of God.”

Funerals interrupt our lives. They are unplanned. They disrupt your schedule. That’s often why we don’t go to them unless we have a personal connection. But the very fact that they are disruptive to our lives is a grace of God. They invite us into a different liturgy, a different rhythm of life, one that our busy world tries to push to the sides. When we break free of our personal calendars and embrace the disruption of a funeral, we walk according to the life of Christ, not the life of the world. Christians are distinct.

And the world takes notice. In such a funeral, the church puts on display the beauty and the glory of the body of Christ. It shows the world what true community looks like. It invites others to join and participate in this kind of true humanity found only in the body of Jesus.

But not only you should come. Bring the children.

All my children come to funerals with me. It’s not an option in the Lyons household, and it’s not because I’m a pastor. A century ago, children were regularly exposed to scenes of the dying. They often had an elderly grandparent in their own home who was dying. But nowadays, our culture has done everything it can to sanitize death and remove it from the minds of children. We remove the dying to nursing homes and hospitals. Few funerals have children unless they are directly related to the one who died.

O Church, we are missing out on one of the most important discipling moments for children.

When you bring your children to a funeral you are teaching them about community in the church. Especially if they don’t know the person, they see a vision of what it means to live life together in the body of Christ. It helps shift their minds toward serving others who are in need, rather than thinking about themselves.

You are also teaching your children about death and what matters most in life. Unless the Lord returns, your children are going to die one day, and those whom they love most are going to die. The liturgy of funerals reaches down into children and helps disciple them on how the gospel relates to death and dying.

In our ambitious culture, we spend enormous amounts of time trying to give our kids success: we drive all over the country for sports games; we push our kids to master school subjects; we join with the hurried world in trying to stuff our children with as many ‘success-factors’ as possible. All the while, we ignore helping them face what everyone will face: death.

Funerals disciple children. Don’t miss out on this most important Christian shaping that your children need. Don’t miss out on what you need too. Go to funerals.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Ways to Understand the Bible Better from Dr. Adrian Rogers

 Several weeks ago I was cleaning out some files and found this article of "Pastor's Paragraphs" written by Dr. Adrian Rogers as he was Pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis, TN.  This is the article he wrote:

When we were talking about ways to better understand the Bible Sunday morning, I mentioned to you some things I had written in the flyleaf of my Bible when I was a young preacher.  Many of you desired a copy of these.  Here they are:

Six questions to ask:

* Is there a promise to claim?

*Is there a lesson to learn?

* Is there a blessing to enjoy?

* Is there a command to obey?

* Is there a sin to avoid?

* Is there a new thought to carry with me?

Six commands to obey:

* Read it through

*Think it clear

* Write it down

* Pray it in

* Live it out

* Pass it on.

If you will ask these questions and obey these commands, I believe that the Bible will burst aflame in your heart and will be lived out in your lives.


Monday, February 7, 2022

Universal Reconciliation by Wade Trimmer

blog post by David Shibley this morning, stated, “Today, we’re battling a surge of teaching espousing universalism. This is the belief that all people will eventually be saved. And this teaching is never a friend to evangelism or missions. Instead of a loving yet firm rebuttal (which, I pray, this post will be), there is an eerie silence, even among many staunchly evangelical preachers. “It is a time to speak truth, as God gives us to see the truth. Universalism is an ancient heresy.”

Although this has been my observation for several years as well, I must confess that I have been in the “eerie silent group of evangelical preachers.” I want to repent and begin, as the opportunity arises, to “admonish” brothers and sisters in the Household of Faith about the dangers of this heretical teaching. And I want to do this by the empowering of the Holy Spirit so that I comply with every facet of the meaning of the word “admonish”, which in the Greek is to, “confront with truth in love for the purpose of change.”

The teaching that all will eventually be reconciled to God and saved eternally regardless of life lived or faith professed during this lifetime caters to the sentimentalities of people who are troubled by the idea of eternal torment in hell. Without question, there is nothing pleasant or happy about the destruction of the wicked. On the other hand, from God’s perspective as revealed in Scripture, there is nothing pleasant or happy about the treasonous and destructive nature of sin and rebellion either. Such bad news is what makes the good news of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ so amazing. As professor James De Young asserts, “Universal Reconciliation is biblically groundless and is untethered from the historic teaching of the church. Further, it offers false hope to the lost and, in turn, undercuts the church’s commitment to missions.”

Australian Gary de Vries lists several varieties of universalism:

  1. Universal Reconciliation: This view maintains that Christ’s death accomplished its purpose of reconciling all mankind to God. Whatever separation exists between man and the benefits of God’s grace is subjective in nature, existing only in man’s mind. Reconciliation is an accomplished fact.
  2. Universal Pardon: This view maintains that God, being loving, will not hold unswervingly to the conditions he has laid down. Though threatening eternal punishment, he will in the end relent and forgive everyone. God will treat all persons as if they believed.
  3. Universal Restoration: At some point in the future all things will be restored to their original and intended state. Full salvation may be preceded by cycles of re-incarnation or by some purgatorial period at the beginning of the life hereafter.
  4. The Doctrine of a Second Chance: Maintains that the work of Christ is sufficient to secure the salvation of the elect, but salvation is effectually secured by the means of faith (Romans 10:10–13). All people, even those who have heard and rejected, will be confronted with the claims of Christ in the life to come. Everyone given such an opportunity will of course accept it.

Many adherents prefer different names for universalism such as the gospel of inclusion, the greater faith, the larger hope, the victorious gospel, etc.

The late Gary Amirault, on the opening page of his website – The Tentmakers – says, “The Bible, correctly translated teaches Jesus Christ, the Chosen One of our heavenly Father will save the whole world. Hell will be empty when Jesus and His believers (His called out ones) are finished. That is the growing view of Bible scholars, translators, Bible publishers and ministers of grace. Hell is leaving the pages of many Bible translations. Jesus Christ is becoming “Lord of all. Experience your heavenly Father’s and Son’s unfailing love for you. Be set free from the fear that you or a loved one may be eternally damned to Hell. Beloved, because you ARE loved, now you can BE LOVE.”

In this age of “tolerance,” diversity, relativism, and creature comforts, the idea that ultimately everyone will be forgiven fits right in. Universalism is a theology of tolerance, of ease, and comfort.  It feels good.

Daniel Strange observes, “Doctrinally, issues surrounding the love of God are central in this debate. The type of universalism being described here claims that if God is love, and if the Christian hope is one where God is to be ultimately triumphant and victorious, then all his actions must be compatible with his love—including his holiness, wrath, and justice. As a result, any account of hell must be a manifestation of divine love and mercy. A fundamental assertion here is that the purpose of all divine judgment and punishment is never exclusively retributive, legitimizing hell being populated; rather, it is ultimately always concerned with correction, purification, and rehabilitation. Not only every individual passage of Scripture, but the entirety of the plotline of the Bible, must be read through this lens.”

But in reality universalism disparages the love of God by rejecting, in the end, the value of the greatest act of God’s loving, namely the redemption secured by the sacrificial, substitutionary, atoning death of Jesus Christ. Ultimately the person of Jesus Christ is disparaged. His death and resurrection do not make a difference in the end.

Universalism distorts evangelism by diminishing the urgency of the proclamation because all people will ultimately be saved anyway.

Universalism taints society’s own sense of justice and retribution. Universalism teaches that even the most incorrigible of persons like Hitler, Pol Pot of Cambodia, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, etc., who were wicked till the moment of death, still will be accepted one day into God’s heaven.

Paul Young, author of “The Shack” from which the movie by the same name was made, wrote another book, published in 2018 titled, “Lies We Believe About God”. There are 28 chapters in the book citing the 28 so-called lies we believe about God. In this book he comes out of the closet and reveals himself as a full-blown believer in universalism.

I have read the book twice and here’s some of the assertions Young makes: “all people are good and no one has ever been separated from God (ch 27, p. 232); Not everything is in God’s plan, that he is not in control of everything (ch 3, p 38-39); every human being is a child of God already saved and reconciled to God (ch 5, p. 55; ch 13, p. 118; ch 24, p. 204-206); the God of the evangelical Christian faith is a “torture-devising God” (ch 15, p. 132); Hell does not separate anyone from God (ch 15); the death of Christ was not in God’s plan but was man’s idea (ch 17, p. 149); he claims that if God originated the cross then the sacrifice of Christ on the cross was “cosmic abuse”; that God is “cruel” and “monstrous” for creating the cross to “torture human beings” in an “abhorrent manner” (ch 17, p. 149; ch 19, p. 169-171); he believes that God will save people after death (ch 21, p. 186); that death is not a barrier to make a postmortem choice to accept the love of God and relationship with him (ch 21, pp 183, 184, 186).

Universalism is a false and dangerous, unbiblical doctrine.  Nevertheless, many find it comforting to think that no one will go to hell forever– especially ourselves. It means that we will escape the judgment of damnation.  It means we are safe even in our imperfections, our sins, our rebellion, and our blasphemies.  It means we can offend God outright, reject Him boldly, and not worry about our salvation – because we’ll all be saved no matter what they do in this life.

Yes, that the gospel of God is lavishly and wonderfully universal in its scope is a truth in which we rejoice and proclaim. Such a breadth is attested by the apostle John, who sees “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Rev 7:9).

But ultimately God’s love is not inconsistent with hell being populated for eternity by those creatures who habitually rebel and assert “not Your will, but mine be done!” Given the sinfulness of sin, the fact God saves one of his creatures – let alone that great multitude no one can count – is an act of sheer mercy and grace. The cross of Christ is where is we see God’s retributive wrath and mercy meet such that God’s justice is satisfied. This is the heart of the gospel we are to proclaim to all and for all who will come.

 

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Sunday School Leadership Conference with Allan Taylor Monday, January 31, 2022

 


The premier leader of Sunday School in the Southern Baptist Convention is coming to Rainsville First Baptist Church Monday, January 31 for our annual Sunday School Leadership Conference.  Allan Taylor, for over 20 years the Minister of Education for First Baptist Church, Woodstock, GA, and once the Director of SS for Lifeway will be our speaker.

 

He will be conducting two sessions beginning at 6:00 and ending at 8:15 and one of them is a MUST for every Sunday School leader (adult, youth, children, preschool, care group leader, outreach leader, secretary) and for every church member – “Sunday School as a Strategy.”  He will give us the basic tools for why SS is the most important ministry in our church and how to see it become that.  It was this session that he gave here three years ago that several pastors said afterward, “I wish every member of my church could hear that.”  Well, we are providing that opportunity again for us to hear that.

 

This conference is free and open to anyone.  Would love to have you, your leaders, and anyone else you want to invite.

Monday, January 17, 2022

The Power and Joy of Biblical Fasting by Bill Elliff

 

Bill Elliff is the founding and national engage pastor at The Summit Church in North Little Rock. He also serves on the Prayer Task Force at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. His passion is to see genuine revival.

If you are a follower of Christ, you carry a deep longing for MORE. More of Christ—more of His presence, His will, His voice, His direction. More fruit and effectiveness; more life change for you and those around you. More revival and spiritual awakening.  

Christ understands this desire because He placed it there! The Holy Spirit is in you if you are a believer, convincing and convicting, drawing you towards God. He does this because He knows your greatest life is found when you are walking in deepest intimacy with Him.  

It delights His heart when you are experiencing Him. He “has no greater joy than this that to see [His] children walking in the truth” (3 John 4). He knows that your soul’s only true satisfaction comes when you are experiencing His presence. “In Your presence is fullness of joy and at your right hand are pleasures forevermore,” David said (Psalm 16:11).  

But there’s more…God wants your life to reach its highest effectiveness for His kingdom. He has plans to reach people that no one else can reach except you. He wants you to bear much, remaining fruit for your good, others’ good and God’s glory! This can only happen when you are walking deeply with Him.  

His tools and His means 

Since God has designed you with such longing and purpose, there is a Divine design to make this happen! He has created tools and means by which you can “draw near to God” with the promise that when you do, He will “draw near to you” (James 4:8). Bible study, prayer, worship, preaching, community with other believers, communion, and ministry are all tools God has given you to draw near to Him. But one of the important tools that is often overlooked is the biblical practice of fasting.  

The purpose 

There are multiple biblical examples, exhortations and reasons to fast. It’s important as you approach a fast to determine why God is calling you to fast and what He is wanting to accomplish. Fasting is seen in Scripture . . . 

  • As an aid to prayer (Ezra 8:21-23) 
  • As a sign of and aid to repentance (1 Samuel 7:6) 
  • To beseech God for revival and spiritual awakening (Joel 2:12) 
  • To overcome sin and temptation (Matthew 4:1-11) 
  • To hear God more clearly or discover His will (Acts 14:23) 
  • To humble and quiet one’s soul (Psalm 35:13) 
  • To prepare for ministry (Acts 13:1-3) 
  • As an expression of deep sorrow (2 Samuel 1:11-12) 
  • As an expression of mourning over sin — both personal and corporate (Nehemiah 1:3-4) 
  • As an act of pure worship and devotion to God (Luke2:37) 

Read this list again carefully. What are you anxious for God to do in your life and through your life through a season of fasting? Something that couldn’t be accomplished any other way?  

Jesus assumes that fasting will be a regular part of your spiritual life. “WHEN you fast,” Jesus said, not “IF you fast” (Matthew 6:16, emphasis mine). Perhaps a better posture for believers would be that we are to assume (like Jesus) that fasting should be a regular exercise and not a rare experience.  

God wants you to live and minister in spiritual power! But the secret of such power is to walk with God — to lay aside all that is aborting His presence and power. There’s more for you with God if you will humbly, faithfully pursue Him with all your heart through Word-filled prayer and fasting.  

Join other Arkansas Baptists who are uniting in 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting right now. Click here to sign up to receive a daily email reminder.  

For more information, read “The Power and Joy of Biblical Fasting” by Bill Elliff. Copies can be ordered at www.billelliff.org 

Friday, January 14, 2022

"The Nicholson Revival" by Leslie Holmes


 This month our 31 Days of Prayer and Fasting is on Revival.  Each week I am sharing a story about a Revival or Spiritual Awakening that occurred.  Here is another one as told by Leslie Holmes, Contributing Editor of Preaching magazine and the former MOderator of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.

W. P. Nicholson came back home to Northern Ireland in 1923 after a spell in the United States. Nicholson was a straight-shooting preacher who called for an increased zeal among Christians and saw a large number of conversions. What started out as a weekend guest preaching spot in a local congregation ended up being a nine-month nightly preaching marathon in the largest soccer stadium in the country.  Thousands, including my maternal grandfather, were converted. The bars were emptied out and peace that lasted for more than 40 years came to a divided country.

As a result of the "Nicholson revival," as local historians call it, a warehouse needed to be built on the grounds of the Belfast Shipyard of Harland and Wolff to accommodate the stolen tools and materials that newly converted and repenting shipyard workers returned, confessing their sins and asking forgiveness.  So much material was brought back that Harland and Wolff finally ran a one-page announcement in the Belfast Telegraph saying, in effect, that workers should not return any more materials and tools because there was not enough room to store them.

"If you have tools and materials that you took without permission, you are forgiven," the advertisement said. That building, still standing today, is called "The Nicholson Shed" after the preacher. I've seen the Nicholson Shed.  My father-in-law, a shipyard employee, was in it on a number of occasions when he worked at the shipyard. Not long before he died, told me about the things that were in there.

That is what I mean when I say our country needs revival.  America needs a revival of Scriptural knowledge, genuine repentance, practical obedience to the Word of God, and vital piety. We need to see preachers become bolder in their pulpits, church members become more faithful in their living, and a country that understands we will not be truly the United States until our "God is the Lord" as the psalmist says in Psalm 33:12.