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Thankful for the Gospel

After believing gospel and being gloriously born again, the former slave trader and scoundrel John Newton penned the words to the most familiar christian song ever written. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,” he wrote, “that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.” You’re probably familiar with many of the details of Newton’s wicked life before conversion and his efforts to end the slave trade. What an amazing testimony to the power of the gospel!
 
When we hear a testimony of “a wretch” saved out of a life of horrible sin and we’re able to witness a life transformed by the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit, we think, “this is the stuff that great testimonies are made of!” In comparison, some of us may feel our testimony is relatively boring — “…grew up in a Christian home, went to church every Sunday… One day, I became convicted of my sin against God, while at the same becoming convinced from the Bible that only the sacrifice of Jesus could pay the penalty of that sin. I asked Jesus to forgive my sins and give me eternal life… and here I am, still going to church every Sunday, trying to love and serve God…”
 
Both testimonies are exciting! Both were sinners deserving the wrath of God. Both were saved from a life of sin — one was delivered out of the chains of sin; the other, delivered from ever having to experience those dreadful chains; spared from a long life of being a slave of Satan. This is my testimony — and I’m so thankful for the gospel that saved my soul!
 
Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul.
Thank you, Lord, for making me whole.
Thank you, Lord, for giving to me,
Thy great salvation so rich, and free.
 
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16ab)
 
~Pastor David

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Beware of Foxes and Wolves (part 2)

“The elders which are among you I exhort… Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.” (1 Peter 5:1-2)
 
God gives a pastor three primary responsibilities: feed the flock, overseethe flock, and protect the the flock. “Take heed… to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:28-30)
 
A pastor needs to protect the church from “wolves” of a spiritual nature. The protection of the flock is primarily accomplished through feeding and overseeing. Feeding enables growth and encourages loyalty and unity, and oversight provides spiritual and physical direction for the church, while warning against and exposing enemies of the flock—the “wolves” that come in dressed as sheep. They attempt to look like sheep and talk like sheep, but they are not sheep. “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening[extortionate] wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15– 16). Wolves are false, hypocritical, dangerous teachers; thieves that come to steal, to kill, and to destroy (John 10:10). Their motives are always evil, always self-serving. Their god is their belly (Romans 16:18; Philippians 3:19).
 
Wolves try to scatter the sheep and isolate the weak and vulnerable from the protection of the shepherd and the rest of the flock (John 10:12). This is why it is so important for the church to be unified in doctrine and knit together in love, following the God-ordained shepherds given to them.
 
~Pastor David

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Beware of Foxes and Wolves (part 1)

“Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy, and say thou unto them that prophesy out of their own hearts, Hear ye the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! O Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes in the deserts. Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the LORD. They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying, The LORD saith: and the LORD hath not sent them…”
(Ezekiel 13:2–6).
 
The Bible uses the well-known characteristics of foxes and wolves as an illustration of people who can attack or infiltrate a church or nation and cause damage and destruction. Foxes may seem fairly benign, but “little foxes… spoil the vines” (Song of Solomon 2:15). Foxes are sly and opportunistic trouble-makers, and can cause considerable damage.
 
In Ezekiel 13, God calls prophets foxes when they prophesied in God’s name without receiving any direction from Him. These prophets were telling the people the positive “fake news” that they wanted to hear, instead of the negative “real news” that Ezekiel was preaching. Judah and Jerusalem’s rebellion and idolatry had caused the moral decay of the city, pictured by the gaps and breaches in the walls of Jerusalem. “[These] prophets had not stood in the way of this decay and its causes, as the calling and duty of prophets demanded, by reproving the sins of the people, that they might rescue the people and kingdom from destruction by restoring its moral and religious life”[C. F. Keil and Delitzsch F., Commentary on the Old Testament]. They were actually furthering the moral decay by telling the people everything was okay.
 
These “foxes” of prophets were a real problem in the years preceding and following the Babylonian captivity. “The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:28) “…Shemaiah hath prophesied unto you, and I sent him not, and he caused you to trust in a lie:” (Jeremiah 29:31).
 
Beware of prophets and preachers who tell you only what you want to hear! A faithful preacher must preach only the Word of God.
 
~Pastor David

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You Can’t Take It with You

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” (1 Timothy 6:6–7)
 

On May 25, 1994, the ashes of 71-year-old George Swanson were buried in the driver’s seat of his 1984 white Corvette. 

Swanson, a beer distributor and former U.S. Army sergeant during World War II, died the previous March at the age of 71. He had reportedly been planning his automobile burial for some time, buying 12 burial plots at Brush Creek Cemetery, located 25 miles east of Pittsburgh, in order to ensure that his beloved Corvette would fit in his grave with him. “George wanted to go out in style, and, indeed, now he will,” commented Swanson’s lawyer in a report from The Associated Press.

According to the AP, Swanson’s widow, Caroline, transported her husband’s ashes to the cemetery on the seat of her own white 1993 Corvette. The ashes were then placed on the driver’s seat of his 10-year-old car, which had only 27,000 miles on the odometer. Inside the car, mourners also placed a lap quilt made by a group of women from Swanson’s church, a love note from his wife and an Engelbert Humperdinck tape in the cassette deck, with the song “Release Me” cued up and ready to play. As 50 mourners looked on, a crane lowered the Corvette into a 7-by-7-by-16-foot hole.   

“George always said he lived a fabulous life, and he went out in a fabulous style,” Caroline Swanson said later. “You have a lot of people saying they want to take it with them. He took it with him.” 

 
The truth is, George Swanson couldn’t take it with him. “[We] brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” (1 Timothy 6:6-7) Although others may have praised him for doing what he always wanted and “going out in style,” Mr. Swanson’s actions were both foolish and incredibly selfish. 
 
Although the motto of some people seems to be “He who dies with the most toys wins”, the Apostle James warned that people who die with the most treasure are actually the biggest losers! “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.” (James 5:1–3)
 
If he would have read his Bible, George Swanson would have read the account of a rich man, who also could not take anything with him when he died. “But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:20–21)  Jesus warned, “…Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” (Luke 12:15)
 

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)

 

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The Testimony of Queen Victoria

After hearing a sermon delivered while attending a service in St. Paul’s Cathedral, Queen Victoria asked her Chaplain if “one could be absolutely sure in this life of eternal safety.”  His answer was that he knew of no way that one could be absolutely sure.

This was published in the Court News and fell under the eye of a humble minister of the Gospel, John Townsend, an intimate friend of George Mueller.  After reading of Queen Victoria’s question and the answer she received, Townsend thought and prayed much about the matter, then sent the following note to the Queen:

To her gracious Majesty, our beloved Queen Victoria, from one of her most humble subjects:

With trembling hands, but heart-filled love, and because I know that we can be absolutely sure now of our eternal life in the Home that Jesus went to prepare, may I ask your Most Gracious Majesty to read the following passages of Scripture: John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10?

These passages prove there is full assurance of salvation by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ for those who believe and accept His finished work.

I sign myself, your servant for Jesus’ sake, John Townsend.

John Townsend was not alone in praying about his letter to the Queen.  He took others into his confidence, and much prayer from many hearts went up to God.  In about a fortnight he received a modest-looking envelope containing the following letter:

To John Townsend:

Your letter of recent date received and in reply would state that I have carefully and prayerfully read the portions of Scripture referred to. I believe in the finished work of Christ for me, and trust by God’s Grace to meet you in that Home of which He said, ‘I go to prepare a place for you.’

(signed) Victoria Guelph

Whether one is an earthly monarch or an inconspicuous, unknown person, the way of salvation and of eternal life is the same. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10)

These passages, and many others, in the Word of God, pledge us His Word that one who, by simple faith, received His Son as Saviour has eternal life now. The Apostle John tells us that His Gospel was written “…that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His Name.” (John 20:31)

Salvation by faith in Christ is repeatedly declared in the Scriptures to be the present possession not merely future, of those who believe. Thus the Lord said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My Word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” (John 5:24)

Excerpted from a tract published by Evangelical Tract Distributors (evangelicaltract.com/products/can-we-be-sure)


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Godly Grandmas

“The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” (Titus 2:3–5)

Commissioned by God to preach His Word, Titus faced a huge responsibility as the overseer of all of the churches on the Island of Crete. This young pastor still had a lot to learn, so God had Paul write a letter to Titus to instruct him how to handle the various issues and problems that would arise in the churches. In chapter two, Paul exhorts Titus to “speak the things which become [are appropriate for, or give evidence of] sound doctrine” and gives him a list of things to teach each age group.

Perhaps one of the most difficult things for a young pastor to do is authoritatively teach those who are older and more mature than he is Read more…


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How Love Behaves

“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth” (1 Corinthians 13:4–8)

  1. Love suffereth long (v. 4). Love is slow to become angry, slow to become offended, slow to become indignant.
  2. Love is kind (v.4). Love is positive. Love shows gentleness, tenderness, goodnesss of heart, and is pleasant.
  3. Love envieth not (v.4). Love does not begrudge; therefore it will not be jealous or selfish of another.
  4. Love vaunteth not itself (v.4). Love is not rash or boastful; therefore it is not guilty of vainglory.
  5. Love is not puffed up (v.4). Love does not become inflated with pride or self-importance.
  6. Love does not behave itself unseemly (v.5). Love is never discourteous or impolite, and is not lacking good manners.
  7. Love seeketh not her own (v.5). Love insists on no rights of its own but will forfeit all for the one it loves. Read more…

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I Know That My Redeemer Lives!

“For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another, though my reigns be consumed within me.” (Job 19:25–27)

Job was a man of great character and faith. He was determined to trust God and do what was right, no matter what. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. He also shall be my salvation: for an hypocrite shall not come before him.” (Job 13:15–16)  Although he could not understand why God was allowing the trials he was experiencing, Job believed that God’s ultimate plan was for his good. “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10)

Job had far less knowledge of God and His ways than we do today, but he did have a special relationship with God and knew several important truths  about the resurrection that had not yet been revealed in Scripture. Read more…


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Hosanna!

“And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. (Matthew 21:6–9)

One of the Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by Jesus Christ was the fact that He would come into Jerusalem riding on a young donkey. The prophet Zechariah prophesied: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” (Zechariah 9:9)

Another less well-known passage of Scripture Read more…


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Bad Laws Make Good Citizens Lawbreakers

All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counselors and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions… Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree.” (Dan. 6:7,9)

Daniel, the prophet of God, was a faithful, loyal, and good citizen in the Medo-Persian Empire. Unfortunately, there was a bad law passed that made this good citizen a lawbreaker. Daniel lived by principles—principles based upon the perfect law of God. His enemies came up with a plan to make him a lawbreaker, by making it illegal to ask any petition of God or man for 30 days (Daniel 6:7). These men feigned wanting to honour the king by this proposed law. King Darius unwittingly fell into their trap and passed the law (Daniel 6:9).

Being a man of prayer and principled living, Daniel “prayed and gave thanks before his God as he did aforetime” (Daniel 6:10). These jealous leaders reported Daniel, as a lawbreaker, to the king: ” (Daniel 6:13). Try as hard as he possibly could, King Darius could not deliver Daniel from the consequences of this bad law (Daniel 6:14-15). Daniel was thrown into the den of lions.

God has ordained human government for the primary purpose of “the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.” (1 Peter 2:14). Governments are to punish evildoers by upholding the law of God, which is summarized in the Ten Commandments. Further, governments are to praise those who do well by acknowledging the good they do by awards, medals, feasts, and proclamations. No government has authority from God to pass laws that are evil or violate His laws.

Some examples of bad laws in Bible times would be the command by Pharaoh to kill all the male Hebrew babies (Exodus 1:16-22). This command made the Hebrew midwives and Moses’ parents lawbreakers. Another was the law by King Ahasuerus to kill all the Jews in his kingdom simply because they were Jews (Esther 3:8-14). This command was a death sentence for Mordecai and Queen Esther. Further, the decree by Nebuchadnezzar that forced all people to bow down and worship his golden image made Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego lawbreakers (Daniel 3:4-7). Additionally, the command of the Sanhedrin not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus made Peter and John and the rest of the disciples lawbreakers (Acts 4:16-21; 5:27-29).

Today, laws that endorse confusion can make good citizens who do not support immorality lawbreakers. Laws that prohibit the free exercise of religious belief such as public praying, Bible reading, or preaching on certain issues, can make good Christian citizens lawbreakers. Hate speech laws can make a good citizen a lawbreaker as he expresses his beliefs and exposes error. Disagreement does not equal hate. Let’s pray that for our leaders that they will pass good laws and rescind bad laws so that we can we “may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

Pastor David Harness Sr.


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