Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Cross Is...

(The following notes are the manuscript of Pastor Matthew Everhard's 
Maundy Thursday sermon entitled, 'The Cross is...') 

The Ubiquitous Cross

The cross is everywhere. It is a symbol of almost everything from religious denominations, to non-profit humanitarian organizations, to jewelry, to high fashion. In the course of any given week, you may see a cross…
  • Hanging from golden pendants or necklace chains around the neck.
  • Tattooed on the back of the cage fighter as he is entering the octagon.
  • As a symbol of “peace” such as on the Red Cross logo, or on a tombstone in the cemetery.
  • On the stylistic and elaborate t-shirts of dancers in a nightclub.
  • On the flags of any one of several dozen nations, and a couple of the US state flags.
  • As a military symbol, often found on medals and awards.

But the question is, what does it mean? What does it stand for? 

The Cross Is… 
In tonight’s message, I would like to mention twenty things about the cross of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, we don’t care what meaning the world gives to it. We want to know what the Bible teaches. The cross is…

1.    Necessary. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17). When humanity sinned, God immediately began to fulfill His promise about death. Death came into the natural world and order as a consequence to human rebellion. The first deaths recorded are in reference to the skins that God made for Adam and Eve while still in the Garden. These animal deaths were precursors to the numerous animals that would have to die in the OT sacrificial system. Once sin entered, death was certain. The cross is a necessary death so that death itself would die!

2.    Cursed. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Galatians 3:13). According to Paul in Galatians, there is a curse upon those who hang on a tree. Deuteronomy 21:23 says, 22 “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance. Jesus Christ would take the curse of the wrath of God on our behalf for us!

3.    Prophesied and foreshadowed in the OT. 4Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:4-5). There are numerous places in the Scriptures where the cross is foreshadowed. Of course, the entire sacrificial system of the OT foresees the cross: the temple sacrifices, the blood, the perfect lamb of the Passover. But almost no passage is a rich and layered as Isaiah’s prophecy spoken 700 years before Jesus came.

4.    Brutal. There they crucified him (John 19:18). In the Gospels, we do not have a thorough description of crucifixion. There is no elaborate description of the cross. No moment, by moment “Passion of the Christ”-like description of Jesus death. Why not? Mostly because the early church had seen many, many crucifixions done in their own day. John uses the briefest economy of words. Let me add that it was the most painful method of torture that could be contrived by the Romans in order to induce fear in their captured peoples. It was given so as to produce the longest possible suffering before death occurred.

5.    Shameful. Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2). Further, the cross was done in order to heighten the shame of the convicted criminal. There are noble ways to die (such as in a heroic war or battle) but the cross was designed to be the most shameful way possible. Men would cry like boys. Most were crucified naked. Men were pinned to the cross frontward so as to expose their most modest regions. Women too were crucified, back outward so as to give them some remote element of cover. Do not make the cross a glorious event in your mind with Jesus wearing a white robe with purple sash! The Gospels make clear that His clothing was gambled for at the foot of the cross.

6.    Predestined. 23 This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (Acts 2:23). But lest we think that somehow the story of our Christ has spiraled out of control, no! God planned this. Acts 2:23 makes clear the most mysterious and baffling of paradoxes. The cross was both the wicked volition of twisted men and their debased minds, and yet harmoniously the perfect will and plan of God so as there is no incongruity in its execution between men’s will and the will of Almighty God.

7.    Foreseen by Our Lord. 31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. (Mark 8:31. cf. 9:31, 10:33). The cross did not catch Jesus off guard. He knew it was impending. He predicted it many times to His disciples in order to prepare them. Nevertheless, they refused to believe this could be God’s plan for redemption.

8.    Offensive. So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do (1 Peter 2:7-9). When the cross is explained to most people, it is offensive. It is offensive because we do not want to believe that this was necessary to redeem us! We don’t believe that we were THAT BAD and we don’t want to believe that God is THAT MERCIFUL. It is offensive to tell people they need died for. It is deeply offensive to tell people that it should have been us on the cross!

9.    The Great Dividing Line. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ (Philippians 3:18). It is impossible to be neutral about the cross. You are either redeemed by the cross or you are its enemy. We must declare our sides and our allegiance. Those who believe they do not need a redeemer have declared themselves to be the enemies of the cross and of the Gospel.

10. Foolishness. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). Therefore, it is seen as something to be mocked. To be laughed at. To be scorned. Something to be mocked. A crucified savior is exactly the opposite of what the world of arrogant men would have drawn up. The earliest known drawing or piece of art depicting the crucifixion of Jesus is a second or third century (?) graffito carving in the Palatine Hills of Rome depicting a man worshipping a crucified jackass. The inscription reads “Alexamenos worships his god” and was mean to mock Christians in general and a young convert named Alexamenos in particular. The mockery has not stopped to this day. Neither has the worship of our crucified and risen King!

11. The Very Center of the Gospel. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him (Colossians 2:13-15). And yet for us, the cross is the very center of the Gospel, the heart of Christianity! Fallen man can now be redeemed by a Holy God and united to one another in brotherly love!

12.  Our Peace…19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross (Colossians 1:19-20). Peace has been made by God on behalf of man! Man declared rebellion, but God declared His peace and gave it to us through the cross. We need but to repent and to believe in order to find the peace that transcends all understanding! This very peace is available to you! Tonight!

13. The Burden of our Discipleship… If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Matthew 16:24). Jesus described the Christian life as one of “cross-bearing.” That means it will be the most difficult life you can imagine. It will be rigorous. Demanding. All-consuming. Discipleship is a slow death—death to oneself and to one’s sin.

14.  Our Motive for Holiness. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24). Now, we are so united to Jesus that Paul can state “I’ve been crucified with Jesus!” I am united to Christ in a mysterious way so that I can say that I died with Christ and that Christ died FOR me. On my behalf. In my stead. Therefore I lack no motivation to follow Him in holiness. I desire holiness because He lived and died for me.

15. The Boasting of Believers. But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Galatians 6:14). For this reason, rather than being an emblem of my shame, the cross for me is now my highest boasting! It is my greatest prize! It is my faithful hope! It brings me joy and makes me feel alive in Christ!

16.  The Heart of Every Faithful Sermon. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:22-24). This was true for Paul and it ought to be true in every church that claims to be Christian. The cross is our relentless message. Our primary narrative. Our doctrine. It is the heart of every good and faithful sermon. Paul could even say to the Corinthians, For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).

17. The Hope of a United Mankind. By abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility (Ephesians 2:15-17). If there is one thing that all of mankind has in common, it is our total depravity. Every race, every kind. If there is a second thing that we have in common, it is that Christ’s blood can unite us and make us into a new humanity!

18.  The Source of My New Life. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20). Because of the cross, I can say I have new life in Him! I have crossed over from death to life! I am a new creation in Jesus Christ!

19. The Place of our Lord’s Utter Humility and High Exaltation. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name (Philippians 2:7-9).

20. The cross is our only hope! 

Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Son of God: Is Another Movie Necessary?

By Dr. Wilfred Bellamy

They thought they could do as they pleased with Him. And so when He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey they hailed Him their conquering hero. Then as the week progressed they rallied against Him. He declared Himself to be King of the Jews, the Messiah had come, and they became violent. Pilate washed his hands and found no fault with the Son of God. The crowd yelled "Crucify Him!" To all He was little more than an object.

He was flogged, sorely abused and wounded. Slowly He hauled His wooden beam to the place called Calvary, the place of execution and shame. There they did as they wanted to do ... they nailed His hands and feet to a cross and raised Him for all to see. Passers by wagged their heads, mocked and scorned Him. Gawkers stopped to study His suffering and probably said to themselves; "He got what He deserved."

It still goes on. People do as they please with the Son of God. They write what they choose, print what they choose, paint portraits and hang them for all the see, or worse yet, make movies so that people can sit in cinemas to witness a man's rendition of the sufferings of the Son of God. So unreal, plastic, contrived! We have not changed. The blood lust is still there. The mob violence that took Him to Calvary still abides.

But remember, He remains indomitable. He is the conquering Christ. He suffered and bled and died to be the supreme sacrifice for the sins of mankind. He satisfied the justice of God for the justification of His elect children, past, present and future. He was innocent but became guilty as He drew all my sins upon Himself, embracing them as surely as the thorns upon His head, and then took them to Hell where they belonged, witnessing His triumph over sin and death.

My victorious Lord Jesus is the risen Christ, vindicated, majestic as He was raised from the dead. They had rolled a stone at his tomb and probably said; "So that's that!" All was over and done with...on to the next criminal. Yet those close to Him saw Him, broke bread and ate with Him, and walked and talked with Him. Some understood what had happened while others puzzled over His glorious presence. He came through a wall to show the evidence of His crucifixion. There was no lingering question or doubt. Jesus was risen from the dead.

And then, as He was gathered to the Father in Heaven, as He ascended into the eternal glory that was always His, it was promised that "this same Jesus," the conquering Son of God, will come again. How amazing! What a challenge to those who had thought He was special but just a human being like themselves. Crucified, risen, and now to return? Incredible.  Wonderful.

So I wait with longing. I look to the horizon and I pray: "Even so come Lord Jesus!" I live in anticipation and expectation that the One whom I have come to know, not by way of the media, but by way of the witness of the Holy Spirit in my heart, is my coming King. I need no other argument. His truth is sufficient ... "for it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast."

-Wilfred A. Bellamy, Ph.D., is a former missionary to Nigeria, and an ordained pastor in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Seven Reasons You are a Better Evangelist than Your Pastor

I suppose that most people feel that their pastor is far more equipped to share the gospel with unbelievers than they are. Honestly, I'm not so sure. Since I was asked to speak on this very topic recently, here are at least seven reasons that you are probably a better witness than your friendly neighborhood clergyman.

1. ‘Show Me the Money’: Like it or not, people often see the worst motives in others, even pastors and ministers. Some people think pastors are “hucksters” and “salesman” looking to push their product, raise money, and pass the plate!  Enough examples of public leadership failures exist to confirm those negative suspicions. You however are unpaid and therefore a much more credible witness.

2. The ‘Scary Black Robe’ Factor: Stereotypes often win out. Many unbelievers think of pastors as strange, alien people—something like Jedi Knights from Star Wars. The robe and clerical collar don’t help much. For this reason pastors are often perceived as unapproachable, mysterious, and even intimidating. You however are a "normal" person. (Well, most of you anyway).

3. The ‘Dilbert’ Dynamic: Because pastors spend most of their time crafting sermons in the study, working in the church, planning meetings, fellowshipping among believers, or visiting hospitals, ministers simply do not have as many “contacts” with unbelievers in the workplace. You however live as a missionary in the cubicle and know dozens of unbelievers personally. 

4. Jargon: Your pastor is a trained theologian and probably can’t help but think in theological constructs, even when he tries to resist it. Put him in a room with an unbeliever for more than five minutes, and a lecture on “Views of the Doctrine of Justification at the Time of the Reformation” is likely to break out. You however can speak from the heart because you can communicate very well without the hindrance of technical terminology.

5. Life Change: Before your pastor joined your church, he likely came from one of two places: the seminary (How weird does that sound to the unbeliever! Might as well be Mars!) or else a previous church. You however have people in your life that have seen the change in you since you came to faith in Jesus Christ, and are therefore viewed as an authentic living testimony of grace.

6. The Umbrella Affect: Whenever a pastor starts talking, many people automatically put up a “sermon umbrella” and brace themselves. They think to themselves, “Oh boy, here comes something religious. Maybe I can remain inert long enough for him to think I’m dead, and he’ll just go away.” His words roll off the unbeliever’s protective umbrella and fall harmlessly to the floor. You however have the potential of uttering something truly unexpected and therefore refreshing and invigorating to their dry soul.

7. The Bubble Boy: Your pastor probably feels a lot of pressure to make others think that he and his family are as close to perfect as possible. (I know I put a lot of that pressure on myself). Even though that “angelic aura” is obviously false, sometimes pastors do a pretty good job of convincing others that they are hyper-spiritual people who just came down from Mt. Sinai. You however can live free of pressures of perfection. In so doing, you can show unbelievers that Christians have real problems, real struggles, real difficulties—and real hope in Jesus Christ. 

So, my friends, go share your faith! You are probably far more effective than you think. 

--Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville Florida. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

World Vision's 'Neutral Stance,' Reversal, and the Evangelical Response

While controversial to many, the following is the opinion of JT Holderman and may or may not reflect the opinion of this blog or those who write on its behalf.

The "Neutral" Stance
World Vision shocked the evangelical world earlier this week with their "neutral stance" on the homosexuality debate. An interview with World Vision president Richard Stearns by Christianity Today sums up their initial stance:
"World Vision's American branch will no longer require its more than 1,100 employees to restrict their sexual activity to marriage between one man and one woman...a policy change announced Monday will now permit gay Christians in legal same-sex marriages to be employed...this is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage. We have decided we are not going to get into that debate. Nor is this a rejection of traditional marriage, which we affirm and support."
While World Vision sought to remain neutral by not getting "into that debate," many disagreed vehemently that this policy was a neutral stance. While purported to be neutral, they condoned same-sex marriages, thereby tipping their hat to the hypocrisy of their neutrality aim.

John Piper quickly responded to their statement: "Make no mistake, this so-called 'neutral' position of World Vision is a position to regard practicing homosexuals (under the guise of an imaginary 'marriage') as following an acceptable Christian lifestyle..."

The World Vision Reversal
On March 26th, World Vision reversed its decision to permit the hiring of homosexuals. Stearns stated in response to the reversal:
"Yes we will certainly defer on many issues that are not so central to our understanding of the Christian faith...but on the authority of Scripture in our organization's work...and on marriage as an institution ordained by God between a man and a woman--those are age-old and fundamental Christian beliefs. We cannot defer on things that are that central to the Christian faith." 
World Vision's newly revealed stance upholds the authority of Scripture and the intolerance of an anything goes lifestyle. America's god these days is tolerance; a tolerance that says everyone's point of view as equally valid to our own and that any who disagree are bigots. Depravity continues.

But at the heart of World Vision's reversal is an important emphasis on their decision to align with the clear teaching of the Scriptures regarding how one was created to live. Kevin DeYoung, I believe, highlights the importance of this foundational belief in a productive way:
"The evidence is so overwhelming that Luke Timothy Johnson, New Testament scholar and advocate of legitimizing homosexual behavior, argues rather candidly: 'I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scritpture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good. And what exactly is that authority? We appeal explicitly to the weight of our own experience and the experience of thousands of others have witnessed to, which tells us that to claim our own sexual orientation is in fact to accept the way in which God has created us.' At its root, support for homosexual behavior is not simply a different interpretation of Scripture; it is a rejection of Scripture itself.' (Italics mine)
The decision of World Vision, of which I am glad they reversed, upholds not a cultural tolerance of an anything goes country, but upholds the authoritative word of God itself. As a Christian where else does authority lie but in God's word? Props to World Vision for clarifying their position and recognizing the authority of God's word.

Nearly five hundred years ago Martin Luther noted the same thing in the face of Rome's tyranny and I commend it to you this day as you think on the very real issue of the subordination of scripture's authority under our own authority to pick and choose what we think is right for us:
"Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason--I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other--my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor save. God help me. Amen." 
*     *     *

JT Holderman is Assistant Pastor of Bellevue Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Gap, PA.

Friday, March 21, 2014

On Reading 'Church Growth' Books

For my doctoral studies, one of our required courses is entitled Church Growth. Exciting right?

Like the rest of our core classes, we must read two thousand pages of literature before entering the classroom later this summer. After buying a dozen or so of these "church growth" books (at least they were cheap; there are so many of them!), I gulped reluctantly and bit in. 

I must confess that this is some of the most arduous reading I have ever done, not because it is too hard conceptually (the writing is actually quite fluffy and banal), but because of the severe beating my pride has taken. Where are the Puritans when I need them?

If most of these modern, cutting-edge experts are correct, I am doing practically everything wrong. In fact, I am hardly a "pastor" at all, by today's modern standards. Today's church leaders must be visionaries!

If my church is to grow--so say the gurus--I must do all of the following well:
  1. Enact a God-inspired "vision" for our church (read: be able to see the future and make it come to pass by an act of sheer willpower).
  2. Exude a dynamic, relevant presence in the pulpit that simultaneously inspires, convicts, inspires, leads, inspires, motivates, inspires, and rebukes--all winsomely!
  3. Launch self-replicating core groups led by omni-competent laypersons which will galvanize entire neighborhoods and suburbs with contagious Christianity. 
  4. Transform the old, "institutional" congregation by instead inspiring a "Jesus movement" that defies all the normal laws of ecclesiastical physics (like budgets and parking). 
All of this is possible, the authors assure me, because they have done it themselves. Flip the book to the inside of the dust jacket, and their credentials remind me of what I have been fearing all along: I must be a complete slacker. 

You haven't started a movement yet? Are you even TRYING?

One bio boasts that this mega-pastor's mega-church's mega-ministry has already planted 100 other churches! In chapter five, he tells readers that his goal is to plant 1,000 churches in one year, maybe even 10,000! (No, I'm not kidding).

If he is to be believed, my home church's single, solitary church plant looks pretty pathetic by comparison.

At this point, someone will accuse me of being anti-evangelistic. I assure you that I am not. If there is something that my church can do to grow faster, reach more people, or win our neighborhood with the Gospel in a more biblical way, I am all ears. I do want to learn from these experts, even if that learning forces me to see my own weaknesses (which are many) or my church's own weaknesses (to which I am often blind).

But must every pastor be a "visionary"? Must every local church transform itself into a "movement"? Is that even possible? Where does the sovereignty of God fit in?

At some point, I must be content with what God has given me: real responsibility for a real family of about 400 souls in small-town Brooksville, Florida (population: 7,719). Even if every person in my entire city attended my church--which I doubt would even be healthy--I still wouldn't have a "movement" the size of most of the authors I am reading.

But is there really anything wrong with that? I don't think so.

Perhaps there is some "church growth" that cannot be measured with metrics. Perhaps some progress in the Kingdom is invisible to human eyes. Perhaps some of the most visionary leaders are those who don't write guru-books. They just preach the Bible week after week. Show up at hospitals. Baptize babies. Perform funerals. Love people. Treat their wife and children with compassion.

Maybe faithfulness is really greater than "success" after all. I hope so.

Because if success and faithfulness are the same thing, I'm not sure it's possible for me to be either.

--Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida. He is the author of Hold Fast the Faith: A Devotional Commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Dying Man to Dying Men: Listening to the Final Words of an Eternity-Bound Believer

 -I preach as a dying man to dying men. (Puritan, Richard Baxter)
Today a few men from my church and I had the most extraordinary experience.

We listened in as one of our own dear saints gave his final testimony to a small group of his close friends.

For years, the Men of Faith group has been closer than brothers, and most of us realized that this would be the final time we would see John during this mortal pilgrimage.We sat in the Sunday School classroom as he spoke to us with the conviction of a saved man, the glorious tastes of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb already upon his lips.

If the doctors are right, he has but a couple weeks to live. Almost certainly, this was his last visit to Faith Church. I found the words of this once seemingly invincible welder (John is 6' 8'' in height, but now mostly confined to his wheelchair) to be gripping and inspiring. We all sat with baited breath as he spoke to us with the assurance of a prophet and the erudition of an apostle.

"I have absolutely no fear of dying," he said. "None."

The words of Richard Baxter quoted above were fixed in my heart as he exhorted us. He was truly speaking "as a dying man to dying men." Notable among his words--brief and poignant as they were--are a few monumentally significant thoughts I would like to relate to everyone. 

1. Eternity is closer than it appears. John isn't the only man who will be entering eternity soon. We all will. For all we know, any one of us might go before him! For all of us, this mortal life passes quicker than we realize. James says it is like a mist or vapor (4:14). It is incredible how the priorities of this life sort themselves out so quickly when Heaven is in close view. The brevity of life is fleeting. Will we be as ready as John to enter the presence of our Creator and Judge? John's readiness for the eternal gates comes not from self-assurance, but from self-abandoning faith in Jesus Christ.

2. Men, lead your family in the faith. John spoke with power and honesty when it came to leading one's household as a man of God. Regrets? Of course. We all will wish that we were better husbands and father's when we reach the threshold of the eternal city. How we loved our wives and lead our children during this life will be so much more valuable than possessions!

Remarkably, John never once spoke of the importance of "things," and the silence on this matter was deafening from a man whose house once burned to the ground along with every earthly possession! His leadership of his family in the Lord, however, seemed to weigh heavy on his lips.  

Oh how all of us will wish we had been more consistent in prayer, devoted in Scripture, and relentless in catechizing our children in the truths of the Christian faith!

3. Share the gospel without fear. What struck me most was John's encouragement to banish fear from our lives, especially as it comes to sharing the saving truth of the Gospel. John boasted that he "feared no creature on planet earth with a heartbeat," and yet acknowledged that sharing Christ with others was sometimes intimidating.

Although John often witnessed by word and deed to the other welders at work, he admitted that it was not without some trepidation! All of the men in the room (including this pastor) agreed. And yet he bade us not to fear sharing the Gospel of Christ, as this present life will soon give way to eternity. "Where will fear be then?" he asked.

After about twenty minutes of sharing, John retired to the sanctuary of the church to film his own funeral message. He hoped to impact the lives of as many as possible. John prayed that many would receive his words--arrows shot straight from his heart to ours--as pleas to trust and believe the Gospel as well as to lead like men of courage.

Rarely have I seen a man speak so clearly and absolutely under the influence of the Holy Spirit! After we filmed his testimony, we wheeled him to the car. I hugged him goodbye and we parted, likely for the last time on this earth. 

Dear readers: Time flees. Eternity beckons. Life is short. Kids grow up fast. The sand in the hourglass drops relentlessly. That is, of course, until we enter the world in which time is of no consequence.

Thank you, John, for being a faithful witness.

--Pastor Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida.

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Lenten Prayer (For Those Who Pray)

Dear Lord and Heavenly Father, 

Blessed Lord Jesus, Divine Holy Spirit, Wonderful Name that is above every Name; I praise and worship you today. I come binding myself to you afresh, acknowledging that I have no other Master. You are my King!

I am excited to think that once again you have given me a period of reflection in which to explore my relationship with you, to hear you calling me back to first premises, to the foundations of my faith, to deeper affection, to piety, and to devotion to you. You have graciously reminded me of my union with Christ that is the very essence of my life – not just in receiving something from Him, nor giving something to Him, but being something in Him. You have made me alive in Him. I have discovered what it means to be a spiritual person and so I come to celebrate, while looking forward to being reminded of the Cross, the Suffering, the Death and the glorious Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, that in all of these I am bound to you. They are my means and my end. I bind myself to this truth.

The enormity of my sin appears mountainous before me. What hope would I have if I dwelt upon it? How overwhelming would it be to my spirit if I faced its awesome consequences day by day? Yet as I acknowledge my proneness to sin, the sin that so easily besets me, I rejoice that by your grace you remind me that; “as far as the East is from the West, so have you removed my transgressions from me.” Your forgiveness for all my sins is as a fire that burns up my dross and renders me clean, that I may obey your Word to be “holy as I am holy.” I bind myself to this truth.

Now Father, I ask you for help. I remember so well the importance of my having been baptized – having been symbolically washed (shriven) having been set aside to be your child, and to live for you as one who is dead to self and alive unto God. A glorious exchange has taken place. I am not my own, “I am bought with a price” prepared from before the foundation of the world. This knowledge is wonderful to me. But I need your help in holding me to this truth. I confess that I am so easily drawn aside to the cares of this world, to the frets and worries that seem to come on a daily basis, when I say “if it isn’t one thing it’s another.” You are Sovereign Lord and I need to dwell in this glad assurance. I bind myself to this truth.

So may all my conscious thoughts, my flights of fancy, and hopes and aspirations, come in renewed commitment before you today. May my wants be your wants, inspired and disposed to draw me onwards, deeper, more profoundly dedicated to you my Lord and my God, in all things, and for ever.
I bind myself to this truth!

-Dr. Wilfred Bellamy, Ph.D. is a longtime pastor and missionary, ordained in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.