Religious but lost

There was once a man who had done everything right. His family heritage was a good godly one. He had been taught the scriptures from his youth. He had studied hard, kept his nose clean, and eventually had risen to the top ranks of his religion. He enjoyed all the prestige of one who sat on the highest court of the Jews. None was more skilled in the law and it’s application. He meticulously kept the law the very best he could. He had the respect of his peers and of the community. He had achieved all the success one in his day could imagine. And, by all known standards, he was a very good man.

It was this man who came to inquire of Jesus, “Just who are you?” He acknowledged Jesus had come from God. No man could do what Jesus had clearly done of himself. Surely he must at a minimum be a prophet from God.

Jesus did not answer his questions. Instead, after asking some demeaning questions he announced to him “You MUST be born again!”

As you can imagine, Nicodemus was astonished. It made no sense. Born again? What was Jesus saying?

Your family history, your religious experience, your affluence, your social status, how much Bible you know, which church or synagogue you attend, and a thousand other things will not earn an  entrance into God’s family. You must be born again! You must be recreated. There is nothing to start with. Compared to God’s holiness the best man alive doesn’t even begin to be good enough in any way to stand approved by the Holy God and his Christ.

Yet, today in many of our churches we are busy trying to reform each other, blinded by the absurd belief that just the right measure of moral improvement will make us acceptable to God. Don’t do that, but instead do this. Become an actor like us we advise. Play the part. Act religious and you’ll soon be religious… But Jesus said “You MUST be born again”.

You and I are completely helpless and hopeless to change ourselves into people who please God. That is His exclusive work of grace. He alone can make something out of nothing. Here, I’ll let you read Jesus’ instructions about how to be born again. And oh, this is very, very important, you MUST be born again or you will NEVER see the kingdom of God.

Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:7-21)


BBQ, Bluegrass, and Baptisms

Wednesday a week ago, Carol and I drove to Atlanta where we met my brother David and his family for a nice dinner and a great visit at Outback. On Thursday we drove to Hendersonville (one of the prettiest towns on the planet) to the home of Don and Harriet Yelton. Don and Carol are WFR Relief! They of course had tons of work to do because of the demands of the recent storms and the famine in Africa.

On Friday Don and I had a great morning just visiting, having coffee, watching the white squirrels feed and play outside the kitchen windo, and talking fishing. In the afternoon we fished the Davidson river with a guide and caught some trout. This was my first trout fishing with a fly rod. What fun! That evening Carol spoke at a retreat for the ladies of the Hendersonville church about their launch of Heart to Home womens ministry. They had a great meeting with lots of excitement about the older women moulding the lives of the younger moms.

Saturday we drove over to Burnsville, N.C., (the birth place of both my parents and where they are buried) for an Ogle family reunion. There were lots of cousins I had not seen for some time, so the food and fellowship were equally wonderful. On the way back to Hendersonville Carol took me to a new show outlet where I found the Crocs I have been wanting, brown and black with leather uppers.

Sunday we worshipped with the Yeltons at Hendersonville coc, had a great lunch with them and the minister and his wife. In the afternoon house church at the Yelton’s was good with lively discussion, worship, and prayer.

Monday we were off down the mountain to Pigeon Forge to Dollywood for two days of Bluegrass and BBQ. What great fun! The weather, the food, and the music were top notch. Early Wednesday we left for Mobile and drove all day (582 miles). On Thursday we drove to Bayou La Batre to visit with the folks, catch up on all the news about the church, and prepare for two nights of Grief Share goups. On Friday night we had 18 people including many from the community and on Saturday night I believe there were 14 present. Bayou La Batre has lots of hurting people and it was a great blessing to be able to share our love with them.

On Saturday we had lunch with Daphne German (superwoman) and two young folks who had questions about baptism and how to begin a relationship with Christ. I shared the very good news with them and when I had finished they were eger to be baptised.

Sunday we had perhaps 40 to 50 in attendance at the Hemley Road church of Christ. I did a child dedication at the request of 4 young parents. I stressed the necessity of the parents being dedicated to Christ if they expect to raise godly children. It was a big deal for those families with grandparents and other relatives on the platform with the parents and children. Carol had printed nice certificates for each of the 4 kids. That event hopefully will be a landmark on their spiritual journey.

I preached from John 3, “You must be born again” and I have never had folks listen with more attention. At the invitation there were three adults who wanted to be baptised so immediately after the service we all drove over the the beach and I baptised two of those young moms whose children we had prayed for and dedicated to God, and a young father whose son was also in the dedication ceremony. God is so kind to allow Carol and me to have a part in what He is doing.

We left right away for Monroe and home, thinking of the joy of sleeping in our own bed again. We had not driven very long until we had a phone call reporting that another soon to be mom who listened to the message also wants to be baptised. What a joy filled trip with God’s blessing so evident!

Please pray for the brothers and sisters in the Bayou there in Alabama. They are in desperate need of funds. Their food bank is getting low, they need air conditioning in the church building, and a baptistry. Our dear sister Daphne does not have air conditioning in her house either by the way. They are running three vans each service to gather children who want to come to church and get something to eat. Over $500 is required each month just for fuel. They have a large insurance bill due in a few days and the list of needs goes on and on. But they are optimistic! They are going ahead and bro” Billy Spaulding told me he expects them to outgrow that facility soon. What great Christians and worthy of our gifts and prayers.

I am glad to be home and excited about what God will be up to next in our lives. Thanks for reading.

His peace,