Monday, February 19, 2018

Repentance...Preparation For Baptism

Repentance "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; as it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." (Mark 1:1-4)
Soon after salvation should come water baptism. Once we understand the reason for baptism we should make preparation for it.
Now, in olden days, when a king and eastern monarch would get ready to go somewhere, they didn't want him to be inconvenienced at all. What they would do would be to prepare a road...a special road for him. They would fill in the low places. They would level off the high places. They would straighten out the crooked places, so this eastern monarch would just have an easy journey. John says, "We had better prepare like that for the coming of the Lord." He says that our Lord is going to come like that to the deserts and wilderness of our lives. What we need to do is make a road for royalty; we need to prepare the way of the Lord. We need to have a bulldozer that will straighten things out and make things ready for the coming of the Lord. That bulldozer is repentance.
Repentance—what does it do? It brings down mountains of pride. What does repentance do? It fills up valleys of failure. What does repentance do? It straightens out the crooked places of deceit. It makes a road and that road is the road through which the Lord comes into the wilderness and the parched desert of our lives to bring His reviving power. He comes on the royal road of repentance. John said that baptism is the outward sign that you have repented. If you haven't repented, then you've got no business being baptized. You see, the preparation for baptism is repentance. Repentance is not incidental; it is fundamental.
John preached repentance. What did Jesus preach? Jesus began His public ministry shortly after this. Verse 14: "Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God." (Mark 1:14) Well, you want to know what Jesus preached when He preached the good news of the Kingdom? "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." (Mark 1:15) That's it, folks—repentance and faith. "Repent ye, and believe the gospel." Jesus said, in Luke 13:3: "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." Repent or perish. What is repentance, anyway? The Greek word repentance is the word metanoia; it literally means, "to change your mind." It is a turning around; it is a change of mind.
Repentance involves:
1.  A conviction of sin
2.  A confession of sin
3.  A contrition (Godly sorrow) for sin
4.  A conversion from sin
When the Bible says faith, it infers repentance. And, when it says repentance, it infers faith. When you turn from sin, you turn to God. When you turn to God, you turn from sin. That's the reason that repentance and faith are heads and tails of the same coin. That is the preparation for baptism.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Don't Let Cold Keep You From God's House

When you’re tempted to stay in bed on rainy or cold Sunday mornings, remember the sacrifice of early generations. Februarys were exceedingly difficult, for example, in Puritan New England. Judge Samuel Sewall once noted in his diary after an unusually frigid Sunday that “the communion bread was frozen pretty hard and rattled sadly in the plates.”

Ministers were forced to preach while wrapped in layers of coats, heads covered with caps, and hands cased in heavy mittens. According to Sewall, one Puritan preacher in Kittery, Maine, used to send his servant to the meetinghouse to find out how many had braved the snow. If only six or seven had come, the servant would ask them to return with him to the parsonage and listen to the sermon there.

In harshest weather, women brought to the church little footstoves, filled with hot coals from home, around which children huddled by their mother’s feet beneath the pews. But after several churches burned down because of footstoves, their use grew controversial.

In one of his journal entries, Judge Sewall tells of a winter’s Sunday when his friend, Rev. Michael Wigglesworth, preached from the verse in Psalm 147 that says, “Who can stand the cold?” By the next Sunday, the entire congregation was so afflicted with illness that services were canceled for three weeks. On February 20, 1698 services resumed and Wigglesworth prayed and preached from the words, “At his command the ice melts.” The very next day, a thaw set in. It was regarded as a direct answer to his prayer.

"He sends forth His commandment on the earth;
His word goes out swiftly.
He gives snow like wool;
He scatters the frost like ashes;
He casts forth His ice like morsels;
who can stand before His cold?
He sends out His word and melts them;
He causes His wind to blow and the waters flow. (Psalm 147:15-18).

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Day After Valentine's Day Love Story

Here is a love story that had something very significant happen the day after Valentine's Day. It was a wonderful surprise and the culmination of a couple's love.

Adoniram Judson, who wanted to become America’s first foreign missionary, fell in love with the most beautiful girl in Bradford, Massachusetts. Ann Hasseltine was the daughter of a Congregational deacon, and Judson’s letter asking for her hand is among the most emboldened in church history: "I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter, whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and suffering of a missionary life? Whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean, to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India, to every kind of want and distress, to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death."

(Was he trying to gain this prospective father-in-law's approval or talk him out of letting him marry his daughter? Not the way to ask a father for his daughter's hand in marriage if you ask me).

John Hasseltine did consent, and the couple was married in the Hasseltine home on February 5, 1812. The next day they were commissioned as missionaries and soon left American shores.

When war broke out between Burma and England, Adoniram was accused of being a spy and placed in a death prison. His dark, dank cell was filled with vermin, and Adoniram was shackled at the ankles. Every evening he was hanged upside down with only his head and shoulders resting on the ground. Ann, pregnant, visited one government official after another, urging her husband’s release. On February 15, 1825, eight months after Adoniram’s arrest, she showed up at his prison carrying a small bundle, their newborn daughter Maria. No artist can capture the poignancy of that brief union with its intense emotions of sorrow and joy, fear and faith. Torturous months followed. Adoniram was finally released.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine's Day

Legends have occasionally crept into Christian history. Stories of some of the early martyrs, for example, handed down orally, have sometimes become embellished and romanticized. Such is the story of St. Valentine. Two Valentines are actually described in the early church, but they likely refer to the same man —a priest in Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius II. According to tradition, Valentine, having been imprisoned and beaten, was beheaded on February 14, about 270, along the Flaminian Way.

Sound romantic to you? How then did his martyrdom become a day for lovers and flowers, candy and little poems reading Roses are red… ? According to legends handed down, Valentine undercut an edict of Emperor Claudius. Wanting to more easily recruit soldiers for his army, Claudius had tried to weaken family ties by forbidding marriage. Valentine, ignoring the order, secretly married young couples in the underground church. These activities, when uncovered, led to his arrest.

Furthermore, Valentine had a romantic interest of his own. While in prison he became friends with the jailer’s daughter, and being deprived of books he amused himself by cutting shapes in paper and writing notes to her. His last note arrived on the morning of his death and ended with the words “Your Valentine.”

In 496 February 14 was named in his honor. By this time Christianity had long been legalized in the empire, and many pagan celebrations were being “christianized.” One of them, a Roman festival named Lupercalia, was a celebration of love and fertility in which young men put names of girls in a box, drew them out, and celebrated lovemaking. This holiday was replaced by St. Valentine’s Day with its more innocent customs of sending notes and sharing expressions of affection.

Does any real truth lie behind the stories of St. Valentine? Probably. He likely conducted underground weddings and sent notes to the jailer’s daughter. He might have even signed them “Your Valentine.” And he probably died for his faith in Christ. But he almost certainly never wrote, “Roses are red, violets are blue.… ”

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

John Wesley's Conversion

On this day (May 24) in history 1738, John Wesley was converted.  He later described it like this: "I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given to me that he had taken away my sins, even mine.”

The events leading up to his conversion were significant.  He was on board a ship with a group of Moravians.  They were holding a worship service when a terrible storm him.  John was very much afraid but the Moravians never missed a note. They were completely at peace.  Even the children were unafraid. This impacted John greatly.  When he was back in England he attended a Moravian meeting.  It was there he came to faith.

Wesley became a famous evangelist and social reformer, with the world as his parish. But he himself was won to Christ by the power of a small group whose commitment to Christ was strong enough to keep them unflappable in a storm.

Friday, May 19, 2017

St. Dunstan’s Day,

Today is St. Dunstan's Day.  St. Dunstan’s Day is named for the British politician who, having slighted the king, found himself banished to a monastery in Belgium. There he committed himself to Christ’s cause, eventually returning to England and becoming archbishop of Canterbury. Dunstan died May 19, 988. Three hundred years later another archbishop of Canterbury, William Courtenay, ruled. Courtenay was outraged by John Wycliffe, "We are saved," he said, "by faith in Christ, Scripture alone being our authority." He pre-Luthered Luther, and thus is called The Morning Star of the Reformation. Finally Courtenay summoned a special committee to examine Wycliffe’s teachings, to condemn and destroy the Bible teacher. They convened on St. Dunstan’s Day, May 19, 1382. While they were gathered a powerful earthquake hit.  The committee members were afraid and thought they better leave Wycliffe alone.  But the archbishop’s meeting has ever since been known in English history as the Earthquake Synod. Reminds me of the Scripture: "God is our refuge and strength, a well-proven help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea" (Psalm 46:1-2).

Friday, May 12, 2017

William Carey

Today is the day in history May 12, 1792, that William Carey wrote his book "An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians, to use means for the Conversion of the Heathens in which the Religious State of the Different Nations of the World, the Success of Former Undertakings, and the Practicability of Further Undertakings, are Considered". (Not a very catchy title!).  It was written in response to a rebuke given to him when he became concerned for lost people in other parts of the world.  The rebuke was, “Young man, sit down! When God pleases to convert the heathen, he’ll do it without consulting you or me.”

Despite its unwieldy title, this 87-page book became a classic in Christian history that deserves a place alongside Luther’s Ninety-five Theses in its influence on subsequent church history. It led to the formation of a missionary society and William Carey became the Father of Modern Missions,