Psalm 119 is an amazing Psalm. Not only is it the longest Psalm with 176 verses(!), but it is also the Psalm that deals the most directly with the topic of Scripture. Virtually every verse, in one way or another, refers to God’s Word. David (who is most likely the author) uses a variety of terminology to describe God’s Word: commandments, law, statutes, precepts, ordinances, rules, words, testimonies, etc. These all refer to the Scriptures as they existed in David’s day (essentially the Pentateuch). So, Psalm 119 is one of the best examples of Scripture speaking about Scripture. It is the Word about the Word.
And in it, we find David interacting with the Word of God in five ways that should be paradigmatic for all believers:
1. Trusting the Word of God. Time and time again, David expresses his belief that the Scriptures are true (v. 151). He believes in them (v. 66). He trusts in their reliability (v. 42). He states: “The sum of your word is truth” (v. 160).
This first step is key. If a believer doesn’t really regard the Word of God as being fully and entirely trustworthy, none of the other steps below will follow. This is why the Church needs to be quick to deal with the repeated criticisms of the Bible that so often permeate our culture.
2. Studying the Word of God. David doesn’t just believe the Word, he is a student of the Word. He learns it (v. 73), he seeks it (v. 155), he has memorized it (v. 153), and regularly meditates on it.
This step ought to naturally follow the first one. If God’s Word really is true, then we ought to commit ourselves to being diligent students of the Word. We need to embrace it with our minds, as well as our hearts.
3. Using the Word of God. It’s one thing to believe and know the Word. It is another thing to rely on it, to look to it as a guide during the difficulties and challenges of life, to lean on it for encouragement and hope.
David repeatedly affirms that he uses the Word of God as a “counselor” (v. 24), to give “strength” (v. 28), and to bring “comfort in affliction” (v. 50). He states, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (v. 105). In short, the Word of God is the very source of life for David (v. 156).
This reminds us of a very important attribute of God’s Word: it is alive. It is powerful and active. When we talk about the attributes of Scripture, we must remember that it is more than just a true book (encyclopedias can be true). It is also a living book. It is the place where the God of the universe meets us and manifests himself.
4. Delighting in the Word of God. What is amazing is that David takes things one step further than we might expect. It’s not just that he trusts, studies, and uses the Word of God. He actually has affection for it. He has a deep emotional affinity towards it.
He “loves” God’s Word (v. 159), he “rejoices” at his Word (v. 162), the Word is “wondrous” (v. 18), it is “better than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (v. 72), and “sweeter than honey to my mouth” (v. 103).
I am convinced that this is the missing piece for most believers today. For many, the Bible is viewed almost in a utilitarian fashion – it is a mechanical, sterile tool that Christians are supposed to use. It’s like taking your medicine.
In contrast, David has passion, zeal, and excitement for the law and commandments of God. And the reason for this is not hard to find. David loves God’s law not because he is a closet legalist but because the law reflects God’s own nature and character. He loves God’s law because he loves God – and who God is and what he is like.
Any Christian who says they love God but then despises God’s law is living a life of contradiction. Indeed, they are living a life that is the opposite of Psalm 119. To love God is to love his law.
5. Obeying the Word of God. Not surprisingly, the prior four characteristics naturally lead to this last one. David repeatedly expresses his desire to actually obey God’s law. He wants to follow it, keep it, and fulfill it.
In our world today, the concept of “obeying the law” is not a popular one. Many see this as contrary to grace. However, two things should be kept in mind: One, David is not keeping the law in order to earn salvation – he is obeying out of love for God. He is obeying out of a heart of faith. Second, we should remember that Jesus himself was very much about “obeying the law.” Before we too quickly despise the concept of law-keeping, we should remember that Jesus delighted in keeping his Father’s law. And he kept it absolutely perfectly – for us. He obeyed on our behalf, and his righteous status is imputed to us by faith.
Indeed, Jesus embodies all five of these characteristics. He trusted, studied, used, delighted in, and obeyed God’s Word. In fact, he did all these things even more than the first David. One greater than David had come. And he loved God’s Word.
-Pastor Kleiser (March 2019)
If the death of Christ on the cross is the true meaning of the Incarnation, then there is no gospel without the cross. Christmas by itself is no gospel. The life of Christ is no gospel. Even the resurrection, as important as it is in the total scheme of things, is no gospel by itself. For the good news is not just that God became man, nor that God has spoken to reveal a proper way of life for us, or even that death, the great enemy, is conquered. Rather, the good news is that sin has been dealt with (of which the resurrection is a proof); that Jesus has suffered its penalty for us as our representative, so that we might never have to suffer it; therefore, all who believe in him can look forward to heaven.
Patterning our life after Christ's life and teaching is possible only to those who enter into a new relationship with God through faith in Jesus as their substitute. The resurrection is not merely a victory over death (though it is that) but a proof that the atonement was a satisfactory atonement in the sight of the Father (Rom. 4:25); and that death, the result of sin, is abolished on that basis. Any gospel that talks merely of Christ's birth, meaning an incarnation without the atonement, is a false gospel. Any gospel that talks about the love of God without pointing out that his love led him to pay the ultimate price for sin in the person of his Son on the cross is a false gospel. The only true gospel is of the 'one mediator' (1 Tim. 2:5-6), who gave himself for us. Just as there can be no gospel without the atonement as the reason for the Incarnation, so also there can be no Christian life without it. Without the atonement, the Incarnation theme easily becomes a kind of glorifying of mankind and leads to arrogance and self-advancement.
- from Foundations of Our Faith (by Pastor Kleiser April 2019)
Paul On Mars Hill – Acts 17
When Paul came to Mars Hill in Athens during his second missionary journey, he was completely by himself. Timothy and Silas, his associates in ministry, had been left in Berea while he was sent away by the brethren due to the dangerous and escalating conditions there (Acts 17:13). The unbelieving Jewish leaders who had stirred up the crowds in Thessalonica were intent on doing the same in Berea and consequently the apostle had to flee the area for his own safety. Arriving in Athens, the apostle discovered a culture steeped in pagan idolatry. Surrounding him were the abundant evidences of man’s dark and fallen nature. The scene deeply provoked his spirit as he witnessed firsthand the grip that sin has over the hearts and minds of people whom God had created in His own image. Not being one who could stand idle, the former Pharisee made a beeline for the local synagogue reasoning with the Jews and devout Gentiles and daily with those in the marketplace who would meet with him. Others, like the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, adversely encountered him, ridiculing and questioning his new and unique message of Jesus and the resurrection (v. 18). Not backing away and always ready to give an answer, Paul certainly relished the opportunity to clarify his message to these religious curiosity seekers (v. 20) who brought him to Mars Hill, the central meeting place in town. What followed was a concise, yet effective presentation of the Gospel in all its simplicity, demonstrating that it is the power of God unto salvation—a message for everyone regardless of their cultural background or personal persuasions. It clearly shows that the Gospel can stand on its own and does not require any props or apologies to ramp up to its audience, no matter how diverse that audience may be. It is also a display case of the qualities and attitudes that are behind any successful Gospel ministry.
What were some of the qualities and attitudes that Paul exhibited in this proclamation of the truth, qualities that we need to likewise embrace in our diverse, but depraved culture? First, Paul demonstrated the quality of boldness. Without spiritual back up, Paul might have been tempted to waffle at the opportunity to speak to the crowd assembled on Mars Hill. But standing in their midst, surrounded by an adverse and potentially dangerous audience he boldly proclaimed the truth of the Gospel. The Scripture reminds us “the righteous are as bold as a lion” (Prov. 28.1) and certainly Paul was that as he single-handedly preached the Word to them. Paul was bold in the Lord and we need to be bold in the Lord too.
Paul also exhibited respect. Even though he knew that he had to speak the truth in love, he also knew that he needed to “adorn the doctrine of God” (Titus 2:10) and emulate the Savior who brought a message that was both “grace and truth” (John 1:17). He knew that many, if not all of them, were lost in the darkness of sin and were fundamentally opposed to the Gospel of Christ, but still there was no attitude of condescension in his opening remarks. Rather, he acknowledged what they were—not superstitious but religious and devoted to their cause. He commended them for their intensity (albeit misdirected intensity) and by so doing gained a listening ear, at least initially. We also need to be respectful in our presentation of the truth.
Paul was also direct in his message. He was frank about the core issue – their ignorance of God and His way of salvation. “Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you” (v. 23). The altar dedicated and inscribed with the words “to the unknown God” only heralded their misconception of the true God. Paul did not “beat around the bush” or sidestep the issue, but was direct in his words, dealing with the real matter at hand. “The night is far spent, the day is at hand,” Paul reminded the believers in Rome (Rom. 13:12) and the time is short for us as well. “Let the redeemed of the Lord, say so” (Ps. 107:2)!
Paul was also logical in his presentation. He was orderly in his argument. The major tenets of his message were: 1. They were religious, but ignorant (vv. 22-23); 2. The God Whom they do not know controls them and not the other way around (vv. 24-27); 3. We are the offspring of a personal God, and therefore should not worship Him with fanciful images and carvings (vv. 28-29); 4. Their ignorance in the past God overlooked, but now calls people to repent based on Christ’s resurrection from the dead (vv. 29-31). At first, there was resistance to the message, but that resistance was countered by Paul’s powerful refutation, which was clear, orderly, and logical in its development.
Our message should be the same. As is often the case whenever the Gospel is preached, there is a varied response to the message. In this case here, there was ridicule and indifference (v. 32) but also belief unto the truth (v.34). The fact that there were not more “decisions” for the Lord was not because Paul did not effectively present the truth. It was because, wherever the Gospel seed is sown, there will always be hard ground that prevents it from taking root as well as indecisive hearts that have not yet been willing to release their grip from the pull of the world. Paul’s message at Mars Hill was brief, but it was long enough to show us some of the essential qualities of the simple Gospel message that we also need to exhibit regularly in our preaching of the Word. May we be bold and respectful, direct and logical as we too bring the Gospel message with us wherever we go.
-Pastor Kleiser (May 2019)
While in seminary, I had the pleasure of sitting under the instruction of some of the finest biblical scholars and the godliest men I have ever known. One such professor was Dr. Douglas Kelley, who himself had been well-trained at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. His evident love for Christ and His Church are apparent to all who know him. Typical of his class lectures was to begin with prayer...and may I say that listening to him speak to God was of itself a precious theological lesson and a display of humility worth every penny of the tuition paid for the courses I would take. What follows is a brief excerpt of an illustration from a sermon he preached and I share it in The Provideo with the prayer that we all might learn to expect great things from God. Such lessons do not always come easy but God's classroom is worth it all.
Here's a little story about ourselves when we lived here in Jackson, several blocks down, in Belhaven. It was one autumn, maybe about late October or early November, and there had been various…I was paid enough, it was fine…but there had been some crises. I don't know…some medical issues, maybe, with some of the children, and mechanical things of the car. I don't remember what. But we were close on money, much more so than usual. And my wife said to me one day…. (There were four missionaries that we gave a little bit of support to…it was minimal support, beyond the tithe…and those particular missionaries were all single. They'd never been married, and we knew from letters that the last remaining parent of those four missionaries in different parts of the world had died during the calendar year.) And Caroline said, "Why don't we send a check to each of the four, and not send it through the agency but send it directly to them as a Christmas present? Their parents are dead. They probably won't get any Christmas presents. Let's send them some money. All four of them." I replied, "I think that's a good idea. It may well be of the Lord. I'm not sure. But I want you to understand…" (I was the one that handled the checking account and the bank and so forth.) "…I want you to understand there's not much money in the bank." I would get paid on the 25th of the month, and it would be another two weeks until I got paid, something like that. I said, "I've paid every bill honorably, I've left out enough for gas. But if I write four checks, even modest checks, it will take us way down and I wouldn't be able to give you the money to buy groceries. If you're willing to take the chance of not having money for groceries for two weeks, I'll write the checks." She said, "That is fine. I've got plenty of extra rice and potatoes in the pantry and that will be fine. You write the checks." So I did that and left Belhaven to go to the seminary in the morning, and teach that day. I got back…(We never locked the door, because the children were in and out all the time, and she'd gone to take the children to music lesson or sports or something, and she always put the mail on the kitchen table. You'd come in the hall, and then the kitchen.) …and I saw this letter, and it had my wife's handwriting on it in pencil. And it said in pencil, "See what the Lord has done!" with an exclamation mark. So I opened the letter from a particular source that could not possibly have known of our need, because we never intimated it. And this man had sent a check. He said, "The Lord told me to send you this check." It was exactly one hundred times the combined amount of what I had sent those four missionaries that morning. And then I had a sinful thought: "What if I'd given more?!?" Anyway, I found out that day, and it has worried me far less to see the account get down low sometimes to do something I know God wants me to do.
- Pastor Kleiser (June 2019)
Mission of Love
“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:13-14; Prov. 10:12; 1 Pe. 4:8).
Paul encourages us to, literally, “Let all your things (the things of us) be (done) in love (agape).” This type of agape love desires to give in a way that is self-sacrificing to the giver. It cannot stand still; it must act to benefit others. Therefore, it’s not just a warm, fuzzy feeling, but it has action tied to it. The Greek word, ginestho, translated “be done” is a grammatical present imperative (command to do something in the future which involves continuous or repeated action). In other words, it’s not enough for it to be felt or intended; it must be acted upon or it isn’t agape love in the truest sense. Matthew Henry states concerning this, “Christians should be careful that charity not only reigns in their hearts, but shines in their lives.”
As the results of Christians acting out their love for God and others, philanthropic endeavors involving education and healthcare sprang up across the known world.
The modern concept of a hospital dates from A.D. 331 when Constantine, having been converted to Christianity, abolished all pagan hospitals and thus created the opportunity for a new start. Until that time, disease had isolated the sufferer from the community. The Christian tradition emphasized the close relationship of the sufferer to his fellow man, upon who rested the obligation for care. Illness thus became a matter for the Christian Church. (The Encyclopedia Britannica)
Likewise, renown bastions of evolutionary teaching like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Oxford, Cambridge, St. Andrews, and the University of Edinburgh were founded by Christians for the instruction and study of theology. So, what changed? How is it that institutions steeped in the origins of Christian love have devolved into such secular, counter-Christian establishments? In America, we can point to the 1962 decision, Engel v. Vitale, where the Supreme Court ruled prayer in public schools to be unconstitutional or the 1963 decision, Abington School District v. Schempp, where the Supreme Court ruled Bible reading in public schools to also be unconstitutional. However, these are just the results of Christians abdicating the responsibilities to love others, preach the Gospel, “be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong”, and turning it over to unbelievers and government entities who were willing to fight until the end for their worldview. Concerning this, A. A. Hodge wrote in 1850:
It is capable of exact demonstration that if every party in the State has the right of excluding from the public schools whatever he does not believe to be true, then he that believes most must give way to him that believes least, and then he that believes least must give way to him that believes absolutely nothing, no matter in how small a minority the atheists or agnostics may be. It is self-evident that on this scheme, if it is consistently and persistently carried out in all parts of the country, the United States system of national popular education will be the most efficient and wide instrument for the propagation of atheism which the world has ever seen . . . A comprehensive and centralized system of national education, separated from religion, as is now commonly proposed, will prove the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief, and of anti-social nihilistic ethics, individual, social, and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen.
While Hodge comes across as fatalistic in his outlook, it’s hard to argue with the accuracy of his predictions.
Still, we are called to love. Philanthropic and educational endeavors may contain a seed of universal grace to all, but they leave a void in the hearts of the recipients that can only be met through the agape love that God has placed in His Church in order that we may disseminate it to the world. We are called to give hope to the hopeless, speak to them about eternity with our loving and just Creator, and warn them of the eternal consequences of sin. It is the Gospel that gives lasting hope beyond anything secularism has to offer. Therefore, “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9).
- Pastor Darbyshire (July 2019)
It’s that time of year again. To the delight of parents and dismay of children, it’s back-to-school time. Tax-free days are upon us. Clothes and supplies are being purchased. Vacation, VBS, youth and children’s camp pictures are being shared. Memories have been made of summers that pass too quickly.
When most parents are asked why we send our children to school, they respond with some form of “so they can get an education.” However, if you ask the children, you will hear answers like “to be with my friends”, “to play sports”, “to participate in various activities”, or something similar. While these are benefits of being in school, they are not the goals. The goals are education and maturity.
We are to have the same goals for the body of Christ: Christian biblical education and maturity. We must be as committed to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4b) as we are to reading, writing, and arithmetic. The self-centered, immature nature of adolescence will continue to desire to focus on fun, entertainment, and their particular interests. These are the bait we use to help draw them closer to the Lord, knowing that He is what is most necessary in their lives. The enemy will attempt to use the same bait to draw them away and focus on the benefits, rather than the Benefactor.
Because God knows that we are so easily distracted and drawn away by our own desires (Jms. 1:13-16), He told the children of Israel to set up stones of remembrance when they crossed the Jordan River into Gilgal (Josh. 4:1-24). When the future generations asked, “What do these stones mean?” they were to tell them the story of God’s great deliverance. Likewise, they were later instructed, “Do not remove the ancient landmark that your fathers have set” (Prov. 22:28; 23:10). The stones were to tell the perpetual story and never be forgotten.
A huge part of the maturity process is learning that ministry and service is often a thankless job. No matter where you serve, people will attempt to take advantage of you - just like myopic children do - but we are to continue to be faithful in the work of the Lord. We do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do to glorify our Heavenly Father. We focus on the goals, not the rewards. God has already promised those to the faithful (Rev. 22:12). We are not to be mere lifeless stones, but “living stones” of remembrance that tell the story of a God who loves us and gave Himself to save us (1 Pe. 2:4-9). Generations pass, but the rocks remain to tell the archaeological story. When future generations look back on the rocks of our lives, will they see stones that tell of believers who loved their God and their neighbors more than pleasure (Matt. 22:37-39) or lovers of themselves, money, boastful, proud, ungrateful, unholy, etc. (2 Tim. 3:2-5)? What legacy do you work to instill in the next generation? What stories will our children tell when they go back through the archives?
- Pastor Darbyshire (August 2019)
Faith and Assurance
Faith is not a blind leap into the dark or wishful thinking for things that we want to be true. Instead, faith is grounded in the objective work of God in history, His revelation in nature and in Scripture serving as evidence that what we believe is true. The Apostles never call us to believe in something without evidence; rather, the apostolic preaching of the Gospel always includes references to what the Lord has done for His people in the historical acts of Christ's incarnation, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension (Acts 2:14-36; Philippians 2:5-11).
Although the act of trusting the Messiah for salvation is something we do, we do not create faith in ourselves. Faith is God's gift (Ephesians 2:8-10) and the product of the new birth (John 3:1-8). If the Lord has changed our hearts, giving us the disposition to love Him, we will certainly exercise faith and persevere in it to the end (Philippians 1:6). That we exercise faith at all is due to God's sovereign grace. Born in Adam, we are disinclined to admit our sin and inability to save ourselves; we need the gift of faith to receive and rest on the Lord's promises in Jesus. "With the heart one believes and is justified" (Romans 10:10).
Personal assurance of faith is part of the essence of saving faith but we can sometimes lack personal assurance for reasons that cannot be explained in this brief article. Much in Scripture supports this assertion that true Christians can sometimes doubt the authenticity of their faith. For example, the psalmist testifies to what many have called "the dark night of the soul," a period of intense spiritual depression wherein we have significant doubts about the Lord's presence and goodness (Psalm 88). We are certainly not to assume that this writer was not a true believer, even if he lacked full assurance at the time he wrote. Prolonged periods of intense doubt should not be the norm of the Christian life, but assurance does develop and strengthen over time. Relying on fellowship, Bible study, the ordinances given by our Lord, and the other means of grace, we make our "calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10), increasing our assurance that we belong to Christ.
- Pastor Kleiser (September 2019)
My window seat on a recent flight to Edinburgh, Scotland from the Florida panhandle provided a heavenly view of the American northeast. The Atlantic shore appeared to stretch as far as the eye could see. As we soared northward, a voice crackled over the intercom: “Ladies and gentlemen this is your captain speaking… just to give you some perspective on where we are, that glint of light in the distance on the left is New York City.”
I quickly spotted the glimmer he referred to, but thought about how profound the captain’s words were in an eternal sense. At 33,000 feet, God’s creation was magnificent and unending, but man’s “monumental” achievements in New York City amounted to nothing more than a gleaming speck passing quickly on the horizon.
I suppose anything we can construct or achieve in this world will look insignificant from high above. However, the works we do for God stretch beyond earthly boundaries – and last for all eternity.
2 Corinthians 4:18: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Maybe we should “take flight” more often in our Christian mindset. Sometimes it takes a heavenly viewpoint to provide true perspective on where we are in this world.
- Pastor Kleiser (October 2019)
Give Thanks in ALL Things
“In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him” (Eccl. 7:14).
In his annals, “Of Plimoth Plantation”, Governor William Bradford wrote that “for the buckling of the main beam, there was a great iron screw (jackscrew) that the passengers brought out of Holland, which would raise the bream into his place.” Jackscrews/jacks were used for printing presses as well as homebuilding. They intended to print their own Bibles and literature and build houses. In God’s providence, the pilgrims were able to take what they had and re-purpose it in order to save themselves at sea. Had they not used the tools God gave them, they would have perished before reaching the New World. Of the 102 passengers aboard the Mayflower, forty-five (45) died during the Winter of 1620-21. However, after their first harvest in the Fall of 1621, they paused to give thanks to God for his goodness. They could never have foreseen what would transpire later in the development of the United States, but they knew God was merciful and brought them through to a place where they could freely worship Him.
Job had lost his children, livelihood, and health and he was scorned by his wife and alleged friends. In fact, his wife ridiculed him when she said, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” I love Job’s response because it was not based on circumstances but on the truth of his relationship and trust in God. “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil (disaster)? In all this, Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:9-10).
We all face difficult circumstances, but many of our trials cannot compare to what Job had faced or what the early disciples of the Lord encountered. In Philippi, Paul and Silas were attacked, beaten, thrown in the inner prison, and kept shackled with their feet in stocks all for preaching the Gospel and casting a demon out of a slave girl. And yet, they sang songs that lifted them above their circumstances and God literally moved the whole prison with an earthquake of freedom. However, the freedom was not so they could escape the circumstances for their own benefits, but so that a jailer could be given eternal life by them remaining in the situation God had allowed.
Four times the book of Ecclesiastes asks the question “who knows?” 1. “Who knows whether he will be wise or a fool” (2:19a)? 2. “Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward” (3:21)? 3. “Who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow” (6:12a)? and, 4. “Who knows the interpretation of a thing” (8:1a)? The obvious answer to all of these questions is that the Sovereign God knows the beginning from the end and the purpose for all things. He will restore all things to Himself and be glorified in the midst of it. We see an example of this in John 9 where God has a plan that is not obvious to the casual observer, but Jesus reveals what is really going on. “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work’” (Jh. 9:1-4).
Likewise, Paul reminds Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted . . . Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them” (2 Tim. 3:11-12). We cannot conjure up enough faith in our faith to avoid trials and tribulations. That’s heretical escapism. We are to show the world what thankfulness in ALL situations looks like so the Lord is magnified in their midst.
As the words to the Casting Crowns song, “Praise You in the Storm”, remind us, the storms may still be raging in our lives but we can raise our hands and praise the God who gives and takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord both now and always (Job 1:21; Ps. 34:1-4; 113:2).
- Pastor Darbyshire (November 2019)
What Do You Value Most?
What do you believe to be the most valuable, tangible object in the world? Perhaps you think of something like the Hope Diamond, the Mona Lisa, Michelangelo's sculpture of David, or the gold burial mask of King Tut's tomb. As costly as these are, the price tag on some enormous skyscraper could be higher. And yet offer any of these to an emaciated man who is hours from dying of thirst and hunger, and the relative value of the world's greatest treasures drops to nothing. Though inexpensive and often taken for granted, ultimately it is the basics of life - things such as food and water - that are most precious. For without them, there is no life at all.
Therefore, I submit that the single most valuable item on earth is the Bible. God's Word is like water, according to Ephesians 5:26. It is also food. As the prophet Jeremiah said to God, "Your words were found, and I did eat them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart" (Jeremiah 15:6). Jesus Himself proclaimed that "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). It is true that without physical food our bodies would die in a matter of days. But without soul nourishment, we perish forever.
Food and water are essential, but there are other things basic to life and the Word of God is compared to these as well. It is called a light (Psalm 119:105), a fire and a tool (Jeremiah 23:29), a weapon (Ephesians 6:17), and seed (1 Peter 1:23). Moreover, the Word of God is perfect, sure, right, pure, true and righteous, sweeter than honey, and to be desired more than much fine gold (Psalm 19:7-10). The psalmist exclaimed, "The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver" (Psalm 119:72). It can convert the soul, make wise the simple, rejoice the heart, and enlighten the eyes (Psalm 19:7-9). The Bible is unlike any other book, religious or secular, "for the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).
The written words of God are closely identified with God Himself. Through them, He makes Himself most clearly known and declares to us the way to Himself through Christ. Without knowledge of God, no matter how long and prosperous one’s earthly existence, life is meaningless. No other object on earth is as valuable as the Bible, for nothing else can provide anything as essential or eternal. Given the incomparable value of Scripture, the Christian's need for its constant influence cannot be overstated. God's Word is the manna by which the heavenly Father feeds His children so that they can grow more into the likeness of His perfect Son. That is why the Lord has told us to "desire the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby" (1 Peter 2:2). So, one question you can use to evaluate your spiritual health and growth is, "Are you governed increasingly by God's Word?"
- Pastor Kleiser (December 2019)
Perhaps, this should be written at a later time in the liturgical calendar, closer to Passion Week as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior. Yet, it has been burning in my thoughts during this time of the year. It would be easy to presume it has a lot to do with being a Prison Chaplain and living on the front lines of this phenomenon. There’s no denying this premise. The reality is that the God of the universe, the Maker of heaven and earth is raising up generations of servant-soldiers behind the prison walls. He is using the forgotten, the hopeless, the downtrodden, the weary and heavy-laden with sins. He is touching their lives, saving their souls, placing a new Spirit within them, giving them a hunger to know Him, and a burning desire to fulfill their roles in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20).
Many volunteers who come into the prisons are surprised - and frankly, a bit embarrassed - by how well-versed in Scriptures inmates can be. They certainly have more time to read and study than many of us and several are involved in various Bible studies and college curricula. It reminds me of one of the first mission trips I was on. We thought that we were going to bring the Gospel to these unwashed masses and start a wildfire of converts throughout the country. We were going to be heroes - or maybe martyrs - for God. It was a shock (and embarrassment) for us to find that God was already there, doing what only He can do, drawing people to Himself, with or without us. It was our responsibility to repent of our own pride and sense of self-importance and to get on board with what He was doing, or as Henry Blackaby writes, “Watch to see where God is working and join Him.”
It’s easy to speak down to others when our own sins are well concealed and their history is an open book that goes as a beacon before them (see John 8:1-11). Yet, these are precisely the people Jesus and the Apostles reached out to and had compassion on them, not because they deserved it, but because they were as sheep without a shepherd, lowly, destitute, imprisoned in sins, and in need of a Savior. The One who has every right to cast the first stone chooses not to condemn but to commission.
Who does God use? Available people who are willing to trust and faithfully follow Him wherever He leads are the ones He uses - not the ones trying to dictate to Him what they’re willing to do or not do, where they will go or not go. The Church was built on the Word of God and the foundation of the prophets and Apostles, who were willing to suffer incarceration and death because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:20). That incarcerrection is still raising the spiritually dead today.
- Pastor Darbyshire (January 2020)
The School of Christ
The fact must be faced that there are thousands of Christians today who undertake no definite service for God. They do not participate in Sunday School work; they do not engage in tract distribution; they have never tried to win a soul for the Savior; they are never at a prayer meeting; their Christianity consists of the things they do not do, rather than the things they do. God never yet saved anyone in order to live like that; He saved them that they might be His disciples; that they might be His servants; but in order to be what God saved us to be we must respond to His call, undergo His training, and act upon His commission.
It is noticeable that many of the servants God chose were quick in disclaiming any ability for the task, but they learned that God's call is God's enabling; that weakness and insufficiency are not a barrier to success and are not even a handicap; for God always supplies the ability to those who respond to His call.
Moses spent forty years in the courts of Egypt. He had every natural qualification for the task God set before him. But natural ability is not totally sufficient in the things of God, and God had to take him to the desert for a further forty years in order to give him the spiritual qualifications. Natural abilities are still not enough for God; you must spend time with Christ, and gain the spiritual abilities. Even after all his training, Moses protested his incompetence. "Who am I?" asks Moses. "I will be with you," responds God. "They will not believe me," asserts Moses. "What is that in your hand?" replies God. "I am not eloquent," declares Moses. "Who made man's mouth?" demands God. It was only after the anger of God was kindled against Moses that He agreed to the inclusion of Aaron in the scheme, but God could have done it all - and done it all better - through Moses alone, for He would have given Moses all the enablement required. When God commissioned Joshua He said, "As I was with Moses, so will I be with you." "As I was with Moses" . . . but never forget that first of all, Moses was with God.
Can you think of anyone more unsuited to the task than Joseph? A shepherd boy; a bit of a dreamer; when sent to seek his older brothers, he was found "wandering in the field." But God trained and equipped him, in the quiet of the pasture land, in the bustle of life in Egypt, and in the solitude of the prison cell. When Stephen speaks of Joseph in Acts 7 he cries, "But God was with him." But never forget that first of all, Joseph was with God.
Then there was David. His father thought him so unsuited and so unfitted for kingship that when Samuel came to anoint him, Jesse did not bother to present him to the prophet with his other sons. Yet all the time God was training David for the great task that lay ahead, and you may read in his record, "And David went on, and grew great, and the Lord of Hosts was with him." But never forget that first of all, David was with God.
Or Paul. He had all the natural qualifications. He was of good birth, well educated, and with a great knowledge of the Scriptures. It was said of him at his conversion (Acts 22:14), "The God of our fathers has chosen you, that you should know His will, and see that Just One, and hear the words of His mouth. For you shall be His witness unto all men." Notice carefully - for this is vitally important - that Paul, with all his natural qualifications, could not be "His witness" until He had first "known His will, seen His face, and heard His voice." So, he himself says in Galatians 1, when he received the call from God, "immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood; neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia." And Paul was "with Him" in the Arabian desert for three years, being trained and equipped to be "His witness unto all men." Toward the end, when everyone had on one important occasion forsaken him, he declares, "Nevertheless, the Lord stood by me," "The Lord was with me." But never forget that Paul was first of all with the Lord.
When Peter and John are before the high priest, the rulers, the elders and the scribes, in Acts 4, we read, "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus."
So there you have it; the purpose of the school, "that they should be with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach." You must be a pupil before you can become a teacher; you must go to school before you can go to sinners; you must be a student before you can become a soul-winner. You must be prepared to spend time "with Him;" in His presence, in communion, prayer and meditation; like Paul, learning His will, seeking His face, and hearing His voice; for only when you have graduated at His school will you, like Moses, hear His voice, "Come now and I will send YOU."
- Pastor Kleiser (February 2020)
“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
Psalm 90 is the only psalm attributed to Moses, who lived 400 years before David. It is a prayer, probably written in the wilderness when the people rebelled and complained under his leadership. Among other things, it teaches us man’s frailty in contrast to the strength and power of God.
To number our days means to consider well how we should spend the time left to us in view of the eminence of the Lord’s return. Because the time of His return is uncertain, we should apply our hearts to the pursuit of wisdom, seizing every remaining opportunity to please God in the use of our time, and our manner and conduct of life.
In Ephesians 5:15-17, the Apostle Paul expresses the same thought — to be wise and redeem, or “buy up,” the time, understanding and doing the Lord’s will. The days in which we live are as evil as they were in Paul’s time, so we should measure the worth of our lives in the light of moral and spiritual values, and not on a temporal or worldly scale.
The Lord Jesus said in Luke 12:40, “Be ye therefore ready also; for the Son of Man cometh at an hour when ye think not.” So let us plan the days remaining in relation to the work we have left to do for Christ and prepare for the time when we shall give account of ourselves to God at the judgment seat of Christ (Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). The last recorded words of our Lord in the Bible are, “Surely I come quickly” (Revelation 22:20). Thus, let us spend our time seeking wisdom. His coming may be nearer than we think!
-Pastor Kleiser (March 2020)
The Resurrection of Christ
The great significance that is attached to the resurrection of Christ in the New Testament makes it a very crucial doctrine of the faith. Not only is the historical reality of Christ’s resurrection an important part of the gospel proclamation, but it is itself that which authenticates the gospel (Rom. 1:4; Acts 2:22-36; 13:26-39; 17:30). In view of this, it is very significant that the New Testament writers take great pains to show that Christ’s resurrection was a real bodily resuscitation from physical death.
In John 20:27, Christ gives Thomas the opportunity to inspect His wounds and the skeptical disciple is subsequently overwhelmed by Christ’s bodily presence and the reality of what has happened. From Luke 24:39-43, we learn that Jesus encouraged all of His disciples to handle His body to verify that He was not a spirit or an apparition but that He, like themselves, consisted of real bone and flesh that was solid and could be felt. He also ate before them to prove that His body was capable of normal functions.
It is significant that in Acts 2 and Acts 13, both Peter and Paul apply Psalm 16:10 to Christ’s resurrection thus emphasizing the continuity between His body before death and after resurrection. Of course, we learn from other passages that there was also a significant discontinuity, that the resurrection of Christ involved more than just a return to life, as in the case of Lazarus and others, but included a radical transformation of the body as to its properties and qualities (Rom. 6:9, Phil. 3:21).
Nevertheless, the fact that both Peter and Paul emphasize that Christ’s flesh was not allowed to decay, suggests that the resurrection body was essentially the same body that was laid in the grave.
Both the incarnation and the resurrection of Christ rest firmly on the foundational truth of the goodness of the created realm and of man as first created by God. The New Testament clearly asserts that God in the Person of Christ entered the created, material realm, became a genuine man, lived a sinless life, and three days after being crucified, was restored to a fully human state through bodily resurrection. This April 12th is Resurrection Sunday. Enjoy the goodness of God. Celebrate that goodness of Christ, the One who is fully human and fully God!
- Pastor Kleiser (April 2020)
What Moms Really Want for Mothers’ Day
I’m not much of a John Lennon fan, never have been. Still, I agree with a line from one of his songs that these are “strange days indeed”. Some of us experienced our first drive-up Resurrection Day sermon. We’ve learned something about video services and getting them out to the public through social media. We’ve Zoomed in, logged on, social distanced, and missed each other. Anyone with Category 5 hurricane and pandemic on their bucket list has crossed them off. Yet, we’re still the Church and we’re still families, collectively and individually. A.W. Tozer was correct when he said, “Worshipers never leave Church . . . we carry our sanctuary with us wherever we go.” Even if it means staying home, we stay in touch because that’s what families do.
As we try to collect our bearings this month, we find ourselves in very different boats on the same lake. Some are missing their loved ones whom they have not been able to see for quite some time. Others have had about all the family together time they can handle for a while. Amidst it all, we pause for the National Day of Prayer (which should be every day); to remember our armed forces, who help to keep us free, some of whom paid the ultimate price; and set aside time to honor Mothers.
Some of us are missing Mom. Some get to spend time with her. Some are, will be, or step into the roles as Moms. We ask ourselves, “What does Mom really want this year?” (Ladies, help us out here. You give us more credit than we deserve at guessing games. You must tell us because we are even more clueless than you think.) If you look at the advertisements, you’d think spa days, jewelry, flowers, chocolates, manicure/pedicure gift cards, and lunch are the answers to all your questions. These are nice, and Mom generally likes them, but the gift means little if she doesn’t feel important (Prov. 31:28). If you ask (and she doesn’t make you guess), many Moms will say that the heart that shows the effort is as important as the token of appreciation. Make it personal. Commit some thought to it. Be willing to sacrifice time and energy for her. It may be something as simple as a handwritten letter or sharing a family photo album. She is special and should be honored, even if she didn’t always get it exactly right. Mothers are a gift to us all, from the promise made to Eve (Gen.3:15) to your Mother.
Another line from the Lennon song says, “Nobody told me there’d be days like these,” but, according to the Shirelles, Mama said there would be. Most importantly, the Bible tells us that perilous times will come in the last days (2 Tim. 3:1-5). If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s to honor and trust God in all things and love people while we have the chance. Life is very fragile.
- Pastor Darbyshire (May 2020)
On Tuesday, June 6, 1944, the allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, France for Operation Neptune - or more commonly known as “D-Day”, the beginning of the liberation of France and Western Europe from the German occupation. It’s estimated that the allied casualties were at least 10,000 with 4,414 confirmed dead. A heavy price was paid by those from other countries to free the people of the land. As we know, the mission eventually succeeded, leading to the ultimate victory in World War II. We look back at these brave men and honor them for their sacrifices. May we never forget that “all gave some; some gave all” (Howard Osterkamp).
With all that has happened so far this year, many are wondering what the future holds. Who can we trust to tell the truth? Will life ever return to the way it was before or will this be the new norm? What comes next after the corona virus? We pray that this pondering leads us to look to God and His holy Word for the answers. Solomon stated, “Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit” (Ecc. 7:8). As those men stared at the beaches in front of them, they must have wondered what the result would be and if they would see it.
Nineteen hundred years before this, the Apostle John, Mary, and a few family members and friends stared up at Jesus on Golgotha trying to make sense of what was happening. It seemed that all was lost when, in truth, victory was on the way. Jesus died on the cross prior to the high Sabbath (Jh. 19:30-31). We have no total count for casualties that day. There were at least three confirmed deaths, one of whom was the Lamb of God, who stepped out of heaven and into this land to save us - the highest price ever willingly paid for the freedom of mankind from the penalty of sin. “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe” (Elvina Hall). Three days later, He rose again and won the victory over death and hell (Jh. 20; 1 Cor. 15:1-8,54-57). We need to faithfully trust Him because He is always faithful, and His plans will always work out for His glory and our benefit. If you believe the Gospel message (Jesus, the Son of God, came to this earth, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for our sins, rose from the dead on the third day, and is in heaven interceding for us), today is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2). Today is your D(eliverance) Day.
- Pastor Darbyshire (June 2020)
What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do
This article will be a bit different from previous ones. We’re discussing Jehoshaphat's leadership in 2 Chronicles 20:1-23, when the Moabites, Ammonites, and people of Mount Seir came to attack them. For the sake of space, rather than a prose description of the results, this will be more of an outline of the actions and responses that glorified God, led to the ultimate victory, and became a testimony of hope and trust for all of us. This battle plan can help in our decision-making as we face the spirits behind those who set themselves against God and His Word.
* 20:1-3 - The enemy attacks but fear does not stop the leader from responding in faith and hope. (see Ps. 56:1-4)
* 20:3 - Jehoshaphat’s first response (not last resort) was to seek the Lord.
* 20:3-4 - He declared a fast throughout all of Judah. This acknowledges the gravity of the situation. He wanted all hands on deck and everyone played a part individually and collectively.
* 20:4,13 - The people responded in faith and obedience. They set aside what they were doing to focus on the Lord and the task at hand.
* 20:5-12 - Jehoshaphat leads by example. He doesn’t abdicate or delegate his responsibility. My father illustrated this with the saying, “LEADERS must lead. Leaders MUST lead. Leaders must LEAD.” In order to lead, we must be following the Lord Jesus.
* 20:5 - Jehoshaphat set his base and point of leadership in the Lord’s house.
* 20:6-9 - He acknowledges who God is, what He has done, His power and might, what His Word says, His promises, His covenant, His inheritance, and their relationship to Him. God does not need these reminders, but we do. When we see His faithfulness throughout the generations and His kept promises, it encourages us more to trust our future to Him as well. (compare this prayer to the Lord’s prayer in Matt. 6:9-13)
* 20:10-12 - Jehoshaphat makes his petition known to the Lord. He states their obedience to Him in the past by showing mercy to the approaching attackers and the unjust response they are receiving.
* 20:11 - He reminds the Lord that the attack is a personal affront to Him because they are attacking His possession and His promises to the people of Israel.
* 20:12 - Jehoshaphat requests judgment without mercy because the enemies have shown no mercy by returning evil for good. God desires mercy and repentance but reserves the right to judge justly when and how He chooses.
* 20:12 - Jehoshaphat understands God’s power and authority and his own weakness. He does not tell God what He should do; he petitions God for the answers and is willing to obey.
* 20:14-17 - As the people gathered together in one accord, the Lord spoke. He doesn’t always speak through the leader, but uses whom He chooses from those who are available and submitted to Him.
* 20:15,17 - God’s messages encourage us to trust Him and not our own devices. When we lack faith in His character and trust our own abilities and instincts instead of Him, we limit the resources available to provide the best solution.
* 20:15-17 - God takes His reputation, His Word, and the defense of His children personally.
* 20:16-17 - God knows the enemies’ strategies before they happen and already has the victory plan in place. Charles Spurgeon tells the story of the Duke of Wellington, during the Battle of Waterloo, who orders his panicked officer to “hold his place . . . die where he stands or else win the victory.” Wellington knew help was on the way and victory was just around the corner. The soldiers needed to trust the insight of their leader.
* 20:16-17 - Even though God declared victory and told them they would not have to fight, they were still expected to obey in faith, march out to battle, and face the enemy. We are not to hide in fear but walk in faith.
* 20:18 - The proper responses to God’s plans are faith, worship, praise, encouragement, thankfulness, and obedience.
* 20:22-23 - Fighting against the Lord and His faithful children is self-destructive and self-defeating. (Deut. 28:7; Isa. 54:17)
- Pastor Darbyshire (July 2020)
Water in Waterless Places
Take a moment and read Isaiah chapter 41:8-20 and ponder with heightened interest vv. 17-18:
"The poor and the needy seek water, but there is none;
their tongues are parched with thirst.
I, the LORD, will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will open rivers on the barren heights,
and springs in the middle of the plains.
I will turn the desert into a pool of water
and dry land into springs of water." [HCSB]
We are living through a tumultuous time, nationally and globally. These seismic times reverberate into our own personal lives. Though this may be new to us, it is not new to the human experience broadly, nor God’s people specifically. These times and experiences may be likened to the barren wasteland of the desert. Nothing can grow there; everything is impossible. And yet, because the Lord–the helper of his people, the Redeemer of Israel–is God, all manner of hope, consolation, life, and joy is possible. More than that, hope is assured. Water is indeed possible in waterless places.
- Pastor Kleiser (August 2020)
Abide In Christ
Thirty years after Andrew Murray wrote Abide in Christ, he said: I would like you to know that a minister or Christian author may often be led to say more than he has experienced. I had not then [when he wrote Abide in Christ] experienced all that I wrote of. I cannot say that I have experienced it all perfectly now. Was it not in this same spirit that the Apostle Paul wrote: Now that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own (Philippians 3:12). I share the same sentiment with regard to the following article, Lord, Break Me! The burden of the Lord is on me to write these things. The truth is too sublime and too urgent to be withheld simply because I have failed to experience it in full. To whatever extent I have failed, I make the things I have written the aspiration of my heart.
God Values Broken Things
Usually when something is broken, its value declines or disappears altogether. Broken dishes, broken bottles, broken mirrors are generally scrapped. Even a crack in furniture or a tear in cloth greatly reduces its resale value. But it isn’t that way in the spiritual realm. God puts a premium on broken things—especially on broken people. That is why we read such verses as:
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise (Psalm 51:17).
God knows how to resist the proud and haughty, but He will not resist a person who is humble and contrite. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). There is something in our brokenness that appeals to His compassion and power. And so part of His wonderful purpose for our lives is that we should be broken—broken in heart, broken in spirit, and broken even in body (II Corinthians 4:6-18).
Conversion A Form Of Brokenness
We are introduced to the breaking process prior to our conversion when the Holy Spirit begins His work of convicting us of sin. He must get us to the place where we are willing to confess we are lost, unworthy, deserving only of hell. We fight every step of the way. But He continues to wrestle with us until our pride is shattered, our boasting tongue is silenced and all resistance gone. Lying at the foot of the Cross, we finally cry out, “Lord Jesus, save me!” And He will.
- Pastor Kleiser (September 2020)
As You Are Going
A friend of mine is an avid hunter. Deer season has started, but he has been experiencing some medical setbacks that have not allowed him to get out in the woods where he longs to be. Many hunters, fishers, and sports enthusiasts could tell similar stories of their longings to be out in the world doing what they love. Their unbridled passion drives them to remain focused on the goal of getting back out there as soon as they are able.
In the Great Commission, as stated in Matthew 28:18-20, we read that we are to go to the world and influence it for the kingdom. Verse 19 of The Young’s Literal Translation begins, “Having gone.” The Interlinear Bible simply says, “Going then” (both versions suppose that marching orders are being followed, as opposed to “going” being a future directive). Our purposes for going are to preach the Gospel (evangelize), baptize, and teach (disciple) those we contact, both believers and unbelievers.
When we go into the world, what is our purpose? Is it to fulfill our personal agendas or to answer God’s kingdom call? Whether it is hunting, fishing, sports, entertainment, shopping, dining, gathering with friends and family, or pumping gas, we have a mission to break down the walls of the enemy and shine God’s light. Even if you are not comfortable with speaking up, you could have a great tract ministry, or letter writing, or prayer, or volunteer support. There are numerous ways to use your gifts. Have you ever asked the person at the drive thru or the one waiting your table if they had any prayer requests and made sure you prayed for them? God will provide the opportunities for our passion to serve Him. We need to step out of our comfort zones and make a difference in our communities.
In the Great Commission, there is an expectation that we are where we’re supposed to be and attending to the Father’s business. Will they miss you when you are not there? Let’s make sure we are in our stand when the time comes.
- Pastor Darbyshire (October 2020)
Thanksgiving is Year Round
Thanksgiving in its original concept was a time when the early settlers got together for the purpose of giving thanks and praise to God. The occasion was the gathering in of the harvest. This was accompanied with rejoicing and feasting. The first American Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621. The winter of 1620 had been disastrous; nearly half of the members of the colony had died. New hope came in the summer of ’21. The corn harvest was plentiful and Governor William Bradford decreed that a three-day feast would be held, but from that time until 1863, no special day was set aside for Thanksgiving.
In 1863, President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as “a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father” and, for 75 years afterwards, Thanksgiving was celebrated on the last Thursday of November. In 1939, President Roosevelt, in order to extend the shopping time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, proclaimed Thanksgiving Day to be celebrated a week earlier. In 1941, by an act of Congress, Thanksgiving Day was made a legal holiday.
Nations down through the millenniums have had their own thanksgiving days. Israel’s first thanksgiving was held on the wilderness side of the Red Sea (see Exodus 15). They had experienced redemption equally as great as their deliverance from Egypt. They had witnessed an unparalleled display of the awesome glory and power of God. “Thus, the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hands of the Egyptians. And Israel saw the great work which God did.” (Exodus 14:30-31) As they appreciated their deliverance, thanksgiving welled up in their hearts and found expression in song.
In Ezra 3, we have another thanksgiving. Thanksgiving seems to be generated after God moves in a crisis. Sons of the Jews had returned to Jerusalem after 70 years of captivity. They had built an altar. Then they had laid the foundations of the Temple. In verse 11 we see that they sang together and praised the Lord. They gave “thanks unto the Lord because He is good and because His mercy endureth forever.”
In conclusion we should be thankful for the following:
1. For the abundance of food grown by the hard-working farmers upon the land and for our godly heritage. God bless and God save America.
2. For our perfect salvation, past, present, and future (blood, powers, and experience).
3. For our freedom to worship.
4. For our victory in Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57 - “Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 2:14 - “But thanks be unto God who always leads us in triumph in Christ.”)
5. For His unspeakable and indescribable gift (see 2 Corinthians 9:15).
6. For our spiritual blessings. He has chosen us, predestined us, and made us accepted in the beloved. He has redeemed us. He forgave our sins and has made known unto us the mystery of His will. In Christ, we have obtained an eternal inheritance; the Spirit has sealed us eternally.
-Pastor Kleiser (November 2020)
What Does Christmas Mean to You?
Is it Christmas trees, toys, tinsel, lights, and gifts? Do we really see the Christ Child, God manifest in flesh? Do we thank God for His unspeakable gift? Are we beyond words at how indescribable, unbelievable, and stunning He is? Do we bow down in worship and present our gifts to Him? In the light of the glory of the greatest of all gifts, should we not, in return, present our body to Him as an act of worship?
The true meaning and message of Christmas is, “Unto you is born this day a Savior Who is Christ the Lord.” God had not spoken to the world for 400 years, and then in one act He emptied heaven and revealed to earth the unfathomable fountains of His love. John tersely describes the event of the incarnation in John 1:14 saying, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” This statement is overwhelming.
Our Lord came from ivory palaces into this world of woe. He came from infinite distance into finite nearness. He came from the unknowable to the knowable. He who was in the form of God took upon Himself the form of a servant. He came as the infinite Creator, the God of the universe who made the stars, sun, moon, constellations, and galaxies.
He laid aside His glories; He veiled them in human flesh and stepped down to the lowest depth to save us. He came down past all the greater stars and blazing planets and stopped on an infinitely small planet called Earth. On Earth, this great God of eternity took up His abode in a microscopic cell. The Holy Spirit planted Himself in the virgin womb of a fair Jewish maiden, dwelt under her pulsating heart for nine months, developing under perfectly natural biological processes.
Finally, He was born in a stable and cradled in a manger. He was Emmanuel - incarnate Deity.
- Pastor Kleiser (December 2020)
All Things New
“And He who was seated on the throne said, Behold, I am making all things new. Also He said, Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true” (Rev. 21:5).
Often, as we approach the beginning of a new year, we ponder what it will bring in light of our current situations. Resolutions are made and broken. Stuff breaks. People get sick. Christmas bills arrive in the mail. Life moves ahead, sometimes at breakneck speed and other time at a snail’s pace. Still, there is the longing in our spirits for that eternal renewal, that fresh start spoken of in God’s promise to make all things new. C.S. Lewis describes this longing when he writes, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” Our attempts to fill this void with “things of this world” only lead to frustration and disappointment.
In the first century, the Jewish nation had a similar longing that God would restore their nation through the coming Messiah. Following His resurrection, they asked Jesus, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6b)? While God emphasizes in our passage from Revelation 21:5 that His Word is trustworthy and true, He is in the process of working His plan, His way, not theirs, not ours. Our story must reflect His-tory.
“Richard Baxter was a very effective pastor in England in the 1600s. His whole adult life was spent battling one sickness after the other. He was harassed by a constant cough, frequent nosebleeds, migraine headaches, digestive ailments, kidney stones, and gallstones . . . bodily suffering was with him to the end, and he once said that from the age of 21 he was ‘seldom an hour free from pain’" (John Piper). Richard Baxter was given a historic message on the importance of spending time with the Lord in worship and prayerful meditation because of the things he suffered, the testimony of God’s miraculous healings, and the means to seek Christ in all things. God uses these testimonies to glorify Himself and draw us closer to Him.
It is much easier to stand on promises that seem to come without suffering. For instance, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). We must remember that salvation was bought with the most expensive and cruel price known and there are no such things as easy Christianity and freedom from suffering in this world.
God has promised, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind” (Isa. 65:17). Therefore, “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9). Lockdowns, viruses, and other restrictions on our lives will not stop God’s plan - nor His ability to use us - if we remain faithful in the midst of them. We know, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Mt. 24:35). That is the future we may all hope to see.
- Pastor Darbyshire (January 2021)
The Church’s Calling
It has been said that recent elections in America show that the issues that move the majority are now sex, stuff, and survival. Sex - choice with no judgment; stuff - economic prosperity and how much government will give and do for me; and survival - health care and the global environment. The thinking is that since “mother earth” is viewed as the source of life via evolution, she must be saved or she is lost. Issues of morality, truth, and God no longer move the populace. According to Romans 1, these are the exact results that happen to a society that rejects God in creation. They go from rejection to rationalization (darkness) to religious perversion to reversal of truth to ravishing appetites (homosexuality) and ending with reprobation of the mind (unable to think soundly). They self-destruct and are worthy of the judgment of God.
However, the Church - God’s work - is called out of the nations by God’s saving Gospel in Christ. The Church is in contrast to the world. The true Church knows the authority of God in His Son, the risen Lord Jesus, as revealed in the written Word. Therefore, true believers recognize that the biblical principle of one woman for one man, “until death do us part” is the pattern of God’s creation - purity. They understand that God will supply our needs as we work - security. They are convinced that while the earth is God’s tool of sustaining life, that God is the source of life, promising the sustaining of the planet - perpetuity. (Gen. 8:22 / Heb. 1:3 / Col. 1:16). The Church’s calling is not to cleanse the world. What is our calling? We should be captivated with Christ and what He calls us to do. "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel..."
- Pastor Kleiser (February 2021)
Satan's Devices to Draw the Soul to Sin
In our biblically illiterate culture, it’s no wonder that so many Christians embrace what “feels” right rather than seek to align their life with truth and God’s will as revealed in the Bible.
Here’s an outline of Satan’s devices that aid them in taking "the easy road" from time to time. This list is taken from Thomas Brooks' work entitled Precious Remedies for Satan's Devices and contains the means of attack while the book includes the remedies. This Puritan lived 1608-1680.
SATAN’S DEVICES TO DRAW THE SOUL TO SIN
1. By presenting the bait and hiding the hook.
2. By painting sin with virtue’s colors
3. By the extenuating and lessening of sin.
4. By showing to the soul the best men’s sins and by hiding from the soul their virtues, their sorrows, and their repentance.
5. By presenting God to the soul as One made up all of mercy.
6. By persuading the soul that repentance is easy and that therefore the soul need not scruple about sinning.
7. By making the soul bold to venture upon the occasions of sin.
8. By representing to the soul the outward mercies enjoyed by men walking in sin, and their freedom from outward miseries.
9. By presenting to the soul the crosses, losses, sorrows and sufferings that daily attend those who walk in the ways of holiness.
10. By causing saints to compare themselves and their ways with those reputed to be worse than themselves.
11. By polluting the souls and judgments of men with dangerous errors that lead to looseness and wickedness.
12. By leading men to choose wicked company.
- Pastor Kleiser (March 2021)
What Christ's Resurrection Means for the Christian
Every Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The victory over death by Jesus is so colossal it has to be celebrated one day every week. It is, Scripture says, the “Lord’s Day” and no one else’s. The resurrection declared Jesus of Nazareth, who had been found guilty of blasphemy and rebellion by man, to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness. It is the resurrection that is the definitive statement about Christ. Golgotha was followed by the empty tomb. It was his resurrection, never to die again, that designated and marked Jesus off. No one else actually predicted that they would rise on the third day . . . and then did rise! So as the Gospel spread around the world it was as the apostles gave witness to the resurrection, not the event of the cross, but what happened in the Garden on the third day. Lots of people had been crucified; only one had come back from the dead. The new life proved the death of Jesus had purpose and meaning. The resurrection vindicated Jesus’ identity as God. He was not raised in order to become God. Jesus already was God, and had for ever existed as God. The resurrection vindicated his claims to absolute equality with God, “I and my Father are one!”
It was the resurrection that declared that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Peter preached in Jerusalem fifty days later, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). The resurrection declared that Christ’s sacrifice was accepted by God. The Lord Jesus had been, “delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification” (Romans 4:25). “And if Christ be not risen then your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” (I Corinthians 15:17). Again, it is the resurrection that makes our new birth possible. Death cannot give life. The cross did secure atonement for a company of people more than any man could number, but it required an exalted, reigning, powerful Saviour to apply salvation to all those he had died to redeem, that not one of them be lost. Peter said to them at Pentecost that it was the risen Jesus who had poured out his Spirit that they witnessed in the apostles’ lives.
It was the resurrection that brought about Christ’s continuing intercession for his people. “He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). We will never sin or fall without deliberately climbing right over and defying his heavenly intercession. The resurrection of Jesus makes our own resurrection possible. “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead” (I Corinthians 15:20-21). ‘Firstfruits’ refers to the first part of the harvest to come in. It represents the rest of the harvest yet to come. When a car manufacturer designs a new car they will, before going into mass production, first come out with the prototype. Christ is the prototype of the resurrection. He is the first of many to follow. All those who are his he will raise up and they will be like him.
-Pastor Kleiser (April 2021)
A Time to Laugh and A Time to Weep
The radiant choir on the TV program sang, "Christ will banish all your sadness, turn your sighing into song." Later the preacher of the hour said in his sermon, "If you have the Holy Spirit in your heart, you'll have a smile on your face."
Such lyrics and comments are not unusual in this day when there is among us a strong stress upon the importance of joy. And clearly the Bible teaches that the Christian is to be joyful, full of praise and thanksgiving. A dour countenance and a gloomy spirit do not appropriately reflect to others the value of our salvation. But with all the current emphasis upon joy let us not forget there is a place in the Christian's life for sorrow. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn" (Matthew 5:4). Our Savior was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. There is a time to laugh, but there is also a time to weep. There is a time to dance but as well a time to mourn (see Ecclesiastes 3:4).
We should be grieved over our personal shortcomings and failures. The apostle Paul once cried out, "What a wretched man I am” (Romans 7:24)! He said this because he had to admit, "I have the desire to do good, but I cannot carry it out. The evil I do not want to do, this I keep on doing" (Romans 7:18-19). Because we are constantly being told that Christians should be happy, I think some people feel they should simply ignore their deficiencies and failures and assume an attitude of joviality. But genuine Christian joy arises from victory over sin and deliverance from the defeat of failures. And we will not be delivered if we do not sorrow over our faults and grieve over our sins.
We ought to be saddened by the moral condition of our nation. Jesus wept over Jerusalem. How can anyone today with a heart that is anything like that of our Savior do less than weep over the United States...and the rest of the world?
The late Chuck Colson in an article in the [now defunct] Moody Monthly magazine set forth abundant evidence for saying, "America is beset with moral decay." And "by almost every measure, moral values are in retreat." Can we constantly smile and always sing when the country in which we live is disintegrating? Surely, we must grieve over the plight of the suffering. The Bible says that we are to "mourn with those who mourn" (Romans 12:15).
We must also be burdened for the lost souls of perishing people. A woman whose husband was being held captive by terrorists and constantly under threat of death said, "I have wept until I have no more tears." Around us...in our homes and in our world are people who are captives to sin and Satan. And people who have not yet received the salvation that is found only in Christ Jesus live under not only the threat of death but under eternal condemnation. Surely their tragic state should move us at times to deep, deep sorrow.
A Christian will rejoice. But she/he will also mourn. There are good reasons for sometimes being deeply grieved. There is a time to weep as well as a time to laugh.
- Pastor Kleiser (May 2021)
Gentlemen, if you have not read Kingdom Man by Dr. Tony Evans, you really should. Even though it was written about ten years ago, the principles are timeless. While this is not a book review – that will be another’s pleasure to write – it is about manhood.
Ladies, before you decide to “tap out” from reading this article and scroll down the page, please consider these words from Priscilla Shirer (author, speaker, and one of Tony’s daughters): “Every woman wants a kingdom man. Maybe she cannot find the words to describe what she’s longing for, but she knows him when she sees him – the unmistakable sense of purpose, the reputation marked by integrity, the willingness to be a strong leader and tender caregiver at the same time – this is what she desires. . . a man worth committing to while steering clear of his counterfeit peers.”
Perhaps you have heard the statistics: According to LifeWay Research Group, Fathers’ Day is the holiday with the single lowest average Church attendance – statistically lower than Labor Day, Memorial Day and even the Fourth of July. Mothers’ Day is one of the most highly attended Church Sundays. Is the Church not reaching Christian fathers? Are Christian fathers not valuing the Church? Are both happening? Is it something else? According to LifeWay’s research, one in 50 children will become regular worshipers if the father does not attend Church, even if his wife does. When the father is a regular attender – even if his wife is not – two-thirds to three-quarters of their children will attend as adults. While we do not want to minimize the impact that mothers have on their families (especially single mothers who are trying to fill both parental roles), the father’s influence is huge and moves the needle precipitously.
John D. Morris was correct when he wrote, “Our primary goal as parents should be to establish a godly heritage—to teach the truths of God in such a way as will be believed and cherished by our children so that they will ‘keep that which is committed to [their] trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called’” (1 Timothy 6:20).
The Bible is clear that it is the father’s primary responsibility to be the spiritual leader in his home, regardless of whether he is the most effective Bible teacher. We are not to abdicate our God-given responsibility to lead our families, no matter how busy we are or how insufficient we feel. “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deut. 6:6-9).
Remember, He is strong when we are weak, we are not alone, but have resources available to us for the asking, and “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). I certainly do not have a corner on the market and often fail, but that is not an excuse to give up and stop striving. If we want to score on fourth and goal, we will face opposition. Go for the win. Our Lord and our families are worth it.
Happy Fathers’ Day!
- Pastor Darbyshire (June 2021)
I recently had a friend ask me to read Charles Spurgeon’s sermon on the Lily of the Valley. I hadn’t read it in a very long time and it greatly blessed me. I long to see a day when the Church universal has the incredibly high view of Jesus that Spurgeon preached and that Scripture reveals to us. Reading this sermon, it hit me that Christ is so much more beautiful, powerful, and holy than we grasp. Christ is not at all like what many in the Church say He is like. But He is especially not like what the world says He is like.
I’ll give you an example. Have you ever run into the argument that Christianity can’t be true because Christians can be really terrible people? Like if Christianity is true and Jesus really was God, why are all His followers such jerks? Don’t we all know how many wars and crusades and witch-trials have been carried out in Jesus’ name? Who on earth would want to be a Christian when the result of belief in Jesus can be so ugly?
Let’s try applying this logic to something else. Did you guys know that a lot of really terrible things have happened in the name of science? Human experimentation, for example, was a favorite for the Nazi scientists. We do have to credit them with a lot of what we know about the human brain and how it functions and how to fix it. The women who pioneered the science that we currently have behind how radiation works all died horrible deaths, and all of this was for the sake of science so I’m thinking that perhaps science is bad, and we should all stop listening to scientists. Look at all the horrible things science-believers have done!
And then there is food. I simply cannot believe in food because of all of the horrible things it has done to us throughout history. Unwisely proportioned food has been known to take the lives of infants. So many wars have been fought over food. And in fact, our dependence on food regularly drives people to greed and theft. Because of all the horrible things that can happen because of food, I think it’d be insane for any of us to continue supporting the use of food. The results are just too disastrous for us to continue to have it in our lives.
Hopefully, you see the sarcasm I’m getting at here. Hopefully, we can all reject the insane idea that we can actually judge the validity or necessity of something purely on the ways that humans have used and abused it. Hopefully, these examples highlight something that is incredibly important.
Science in and of itself is not bad.
Food in and of itself is not bad.
What is bad?
We are. We are bad. We are incredibly, horribly wretched. There is simply no end to the list of ways that humans—all of us—can destroy things. We can turn the incredible goodness of food into a weapon. We can use science to harm people. And yes—many, many people have used the name of Christ to do terrible things.
Fallen humanity is no reason to reject Christ. This is all the more reason for all of us to bow the knee to Christ, because He alone is good. Christ made an incredible claim about Himself and who He is. It is the most incredible claim that has ever been made and your entire life hinges on it. His incredible, life-changing claim is this: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
You cannot miss this. Jesus’s actual claim is that He is THE way. THE truth. THE life. There is not a single way that any of us can come to God without Him. There is one truth, and HE is it. There are not multiple truths, multiple ways, multiple lives. There’s one way for all of this to go, and it’s THROUGH Him.
- Pastor Kleiser (July 2021)
The Cost of Discipleship
As we consider the title to this article, we can begin with the definition of a disciple. One who is a disciple is a learner...a learner of Jesus and one who learns and lives from the teachings of Jesus himself and those whom Jesus directly taught (the apostles). Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a German pastor who ministered in Germany during the difficult days of Adolf Hitler. His ministry and resistance to the Nazi regime eventually led to his execution toward the very end of the European portion of the Second World War. In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, he writes, "Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ."
The call to spiritual growth is the call to be a disciple of Jesus. It is a call to be more like Jesus. Our Lord summarized the cost of discipleship with a vivid metaphor: "Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Matt. 16:24). This leads to the importance of understanding what God has done and is doing in our life.
And what is it, that God is doing with a disciple's life? When considering this, one must understand His purpose or goal. He is moving all Christians towards Christlikeness. Paul explains God's plan this way: "...those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son" (Romans 8:29). God is chipping away at the stuff in a Christian's life that is not like Christ in order to bring forth an image that is. He is molding us into a perfect piece of pottery, so to speak. He is promising every believer in Jesus Christ that He will get her/him to this goal, the theological term being 'sanctification.'
God the Holy Spirit's use of the means of grace to propel Christians in this direction include at least these three: the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:14-17), trials and/or suffering (James 1:2-4), and rewards as motivation (1 Cor. 3:8-15). In this process of spiritual growth, we are not to be idle. E.M. Bounds, a War Between the States Chaplain, a Pastor, and an author, summarized the importance of our great weapon of prayer, "Prayer succeeds when all else fails."
- Pastor Kleiser (September 2021)
The other day, I took my motorcycle for a ride around town. Between traveling, not being home much, and weather patterns, I don’t get to ride it that often. Sometimes, I’ll just ride to the mailbox and back if it’s been sitting for a while without running. One of the worse things you can do for a vehicle is leave it sit for long periods of time. This prevents the circulation of vital fluids throughout the engine and causes the seals to dry out and crack from lack of lubrication.
The same can be said for Bible reading and prayer. It’s easy to gaze at our Bibles or Sunday School lessons and tell ourselves “I’ll get to it” and quickly forget. It’s also easy to tell someone we’ll pray for them and not get around to it for a while. The spiritual engine begins to run dry. We begin to choke on our words and thoughts and become exhausted with the guilt of not staying spiritually tuned up. If this pattern continues, we risk being out of gas before too long.
The remedies are simple but take some scheduling and discipline. First, begin the day with reading and prayer before you look at your phone or turn on the computer. Yes, there are apps and online devotionals that are available, but they can easily get crowded out by the other social media items that are vying for our time and distracting us from focusing on the Lord and His Word. This also sets the tone for a day that honors God as the priority in our lives. Secondly, when you tell someone that you’ll pray for them or honor their request to pray for someone or something else, do it right away. This shows honesty, integrity, and priority in our Christian character. By staying spiritually attuned, we help circulate to others our relationships with Jesus. The Bible relates this character with the discipline and conditioning it takes to be an athlete (see Heb. 12:1; 2 Tim. 4:7; Isa. 40:31; Gal. 5:7; and others). We must stay in spiritual shape and keep the Gospel message flowing through our lives.
Recently, I was asked what kind of Study Bible someone should use. The trite (but correct) answer is the best Study Bible is the one you study and obey, the one you don’t neglect. Likewise, the best prayer is the one you actually pray in faith and humility. Stay tuned up! Remember, you’ve been sealed with the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 1:21-22, 5:5; Eph. 1:13-14, 4:30; 2 Tim. 2:19) and He should circulate through our lives.
- Pastor Darbyshire (October 2021)