Grumbling or Glory – March 11, 2017

There’s a poem I read recently. It’s called the Grumbling Family and it lists all the things this family grumbles about. What I like about the poem is the ending. It goes like this “Let us learn to walk with a smile and a song No matter if things do sometimes go wrong; and then, be our station high or humble, we’ll never belong to the family of Grumble”.

It’s so easy to grumble and complain. I believe its most peoples natural bent. We know there is something wrong with the world, but we don’t know how to fix it. So we grumble and complain. We all are searching for nirvana and yet it is not attainable in this world today. Charles Spurgeon once said “murmuring is wasted breath and fretting is wasted time”. Fortunately, the word of God speaks into our grumbling with hope and promise.

The word for complain is used four times in the New Testament. There are other synonyms that carry a similar meaning, but when we complain it is for various reasons. Complaining hurts, damages, divides tears down and elevates self above others. It opposes Gods will and hinders progress in our own lives. It misleads people, and is self-centered and it works to push people away from God and the local church.

This week in my devotional time, I’ve been reading through the book of Numbers in the Old Testament. In Numbers chapter 11, the Israelites, who were Gods chosen people to represent him to the entire world, were grumblers. They were corporately a grumbling nation. The sad part is they didn’t have to be.  They had the God who is all powerful, the God who provides everything they needed and they had just witnessed him delivering them from a powerful people (the Egyptians) out of slavery and hardship. God promised to bring them to a better land with all the necessities to start a new life and yet they were fearful of the future.

As soon as Israelites set out on their new journey to the Promised Land, a land God promised would be rich in resources, they started to complain. It says in Numbers 11:1 “And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp”

 God does NOT take complaining lightly. Here in Numbers 11:1 it says that Gods anger was kindled.  This was NOT a sudden spontaneous reaction.  The Israelites had complained often.  Exodus 15,16, and 17 remind us that Israel was always looking back at their past life complaining at what they had rather than looking forward to what God had in store for them. They lacked faith in God and failed to show trust in others.  Two primary agents of complaining are fear and faithlessness.

Here we see that the Israelites were exhibiting an unspiritual life. The real issue in Israel was not their current conditions but their current faith in God. It was miniscule and it evidenced itself in their constant grumbling. The Christian faith is one in which we are called to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). The goal in the Christian faith is to please God (2 Corinthians 5:9), and too often we try to please anyone BUT God.

I wish I could tell you to just STOP IT. It’s not that easy. Old habits are hard to brake and yet God has given each person who has been born again the ability to fight against sin attitudes like complaining. We are not born spiritually alive. Our wills are curved in to please self rather than God, and therefore every person needs a new nature that comes from the divine.

Unfortunately because the first generation of Israelites did not stop complaining, they failed to receive Gods promises and every adult except for two men who did not complain, Joshua and Caleb,died in the wilderness of wandering. It says in Deuteronomy 1:35 that because of their complaining God refused to bless them and actually judged them.

Complaining destroys faith, and constant complaining will not grow and mature a person.

 The good news for anyone reading this article is that when someone confesses their sin to God and repents of their whole lives apart from faith in God, and trusts in Jesus perfect life of good works rather than their own, they become born again.  Jesus said in John 3:3 a person MUST be born again. The by-product of being born again is that God works in us both the power and ability to do his will (Philippians 2:13).

What’s the solution to complaining? First we need to examine our lives and see where we distrust God. Second, we need to grow in our understanding of God, his character, his attributes, and power so that he gets bigger and our fears decrease. Third, act on what you know and what God calls you to trust him in.

Contentment is learned, it is not found in a day.  It happens as we dwell on the right things, will you?

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me– practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you…….. 11

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. (Phi 4:8;9;11)

One of the promises I have found in God’s word that helps in times of  grumbling is found in 2 Peter which says  “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence”- (2Pe 1:3). Knowledge of God and acting on the promises of God shows faith and it will help curb complaining. May God help us all to focus and act on his promises for his glory.

 

 



Dealing with Impatience 01-28-17

I know it’s only the beginning of 2017, but most of us start the New Year with plans, goals, and desires we hope to fulfill in one way shape or form. This year I have determined to change a couple of things in my life to make me more productive. I want to please God, love my family, serve my church, and be a positive influence in my community.

Those are good desires BUT when desire becomes demands and demands are not met, we can become angry and disenfranchised, which leads to being judgmental and destructive of anything that gets in the way of our desires.

Last time I checked I’m not in control of the world, but sometimes I forget that God is, and he is working all things together for his glory and our good (Romans 8:28). I have a tendency to push the harder things to later dates, and when I don’t have the time to finish them well, frustration and anger can set in. People pay when I have a disordered life.

Someone once told me “the good is the enemy of the best”. Being busy does not necessarily mean you’re being productive and so this year I have a commitment to doing the harder things earlier in the week.  I have a tendency to do a lot but leave the harder things to later in the week.  Unfortunately, I’m not in control of time and events that come my way so frustration can set in when unexpected events fall in my lap and the hard things I need to accomplish get challenged by time. 

In Genesis 16, there is a story about a woman named Sarai, the wife of Abram, the Father of the Jewish faith. Sarai wanted a child desperately. In that day, a woman’s ability to bear children, especially a son, was almost a necessity to staying married. In the eyes of people, children were a sign of God’s blessing, whereas being childless was a sign of dishonor and reproach (Gen 21:16). The hard thing for Sarai to do was trust in God and his timing.

Sarai was now seventy-five years old, and she had never conceived a child. She felt the shame and remorse, the dishonor that women of that day felt from being childless. Throughout her life, she had been eager to bear a son for Abram, but her desire had never been fulfilled. Sarai was childless, and now in her old age she was desperate and becoming more and more impatient. In fact, her patience was running out, and impatience was gaining control of her heart. She was impatient with God who had promised Abram that he would have a child. Her desire would soon become a demand

When demands aren’t met, we judge events and people and then punish those who get in our way. The point in this short story is this: an unfulfilled desire can cause impatience; it can cause us to act before we should, to ignore God’s will as well as God’s timing. Impatience can arouse us to move long before we should to devise plans and programs, to plot and scheme or to act and react in ways that are not pleasing to God and destructive in our lives.

Impatience can cause us to try to fill the desire ourselves instead of waiting upon God. This is exactly what happened to Sarai, and it is what often happens to us. Sarai desired to have a child BUT when she did not have the desire granted, she chose to give Abraham her female servant to bring forth the promised child rather than wait on God. Everything went downhill once the desire became a demand.  Eventually, her servant looked down at her barrenness, Sarah treated her servant harshly and the servant ran away (Genesis 16:4-6).

Paul Tripp a well-known biblical counselor states that conflict does not start necessarily on the outside but in the heart. James 4:1+2 says “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask”.

We often ask for the wrong things and when we don’t get them, we blame God and others. We have to remember we are not ultimately in charge. While we can’t control the circumstances we can control the way we handle them. Desires are good things. I want my children to be successful, I want my church to love Jesus, I want the Patriots to win the Super Bowl, and I want my wife to be happy.

 But when things don’t happen in the time or in the way I want them to, I have to be careful of trying to create an ending God hasn’t scripted. I need to remember that while I’m responsible to honor God, He is still sovereign and in control of all things. When I forget, I make demands of everyone and that is a sign that I am impatient and it does not promote the good of all.

This year I want to challenge you to ask yourself three questions as you work through desires of the heart. 1- Is my desire something that God wants me to have? 2- Will I not make demands on  God and others when my desire is not fulfilled? 3-Will I trust him, knowing that he always is working out good, even in trying times? If you say yes to all three, I believe you will be far less impatient, and much more at peace with God and man. 10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10)



Christmas is Coming 12-18-16

I get excited about celebrating Christmas. I almost feel like Paul Revere who many years ago on New England soil in the Boston area gave the mythical rallying cry to all the natives that the “Red Coats are Coming……”.  There’s not a lot of evidence to prove he ever said this BUT with utmost confidence I can say to those reading this article that “Jesus is coming again”.

Christmas IS COMING….. CHRISTMAS IS COMING…. AND is almost here.  We who are followers of Jesus will be celebrating his first coming; his birth in many of our churches next Saturday, while waiting with anticipation for his second coming which could occur at any time.

The scriptures remind us that while Jesus return is imminent….to God, the church has been waiting for 2000 years in anticipation.  Because no one knows the day or hour, we must be diligent to continue to represent him as ambassadors until we either go to him, or he comes to us. How are you functioning as you await his return. 

My question to you who “claim” you’re a Christian is who do YOU represent most on a daily basis?  Christmas is a time when we focus on pleasing others, blessing them, and caring for their needs and desires, BUT are you looking to please God more than anyone else? He should be our primary goal (2 Corinthians 5:9)

What is your primary focus this Christmas? One of the privileges of being in the family of God is that we have been given a new title: Ambassador? An ambassador is someone whom through a sovereign speaks. A sovereign is a powerful being.

In the Old Testament an ambassador was a messenger, or negotiator sent on a special, short term mission of the highest rank chosen, and certified by a government to represent it before another. The bible gives examples of such. Pharaoh had ambassadors (Is 30:4) and the King of Babylon had princes who represented them (2 Chronicles 32:31).

An ambassador had a different function in the ancient world when compared to that of the apostle Paul.

 First, in ancient times ambassadors were considered to be inviolate and were never to be imprisoned. There were cases where ambassadors were mocked, ridiculed, and harmed, but this abuse would be met with retribution, especially if a greater power was offended. God knows how to handle opposition.

In contrast to the powerful sovereign rulers of his day, Paul was an ambassador in chains (Eph 6:20) and often incarcerated for crimes he was falsely accused of. For Paul the chains were a symbol of honor. His glory was being shamed for the name of Jesus.

Second, ambassadors were often sent to renew relations or make alliances with foreign powers. Yet, Gods purpose in sending Jesus was to remove any hostility to him and make friendship with him possible. God as the sovereign power acts autonomously.

Third, in ancient Rome when the Apostle Paul writes, the King would send governors to rule over these vassal states and in return these states would have their have ambassadors come to the King to plead for some type of favor. A friendship was sought through an ambassador. Yet our God does not wait for an appeal to be made BUT sent his Son Jesus to appeal on his behalf.  What a gracious merciful God.

Last, being an ambassador in the first century was far different than what we read about in our country. It was burdensome, time consuming, and one never knew when they might be welcomed to make their appeal, and it was often costly and fearful. There was no guarantee of the favor of the King for the request that was put forth.

 

Do you see yourself as representing someone else or only yourself?? The beauty of being born again is that we no longer live for ourselves but for a sovereign, THE sovereign.

Born again believers declare that eternal life is found NOT in what you do but in what Jesus Christ has done.  By trusting in what he did and repenting of our sins we too can have eternal life (John 6:29)

 The five star general of the Christian church is the Apostle Paul. Paul once represented a religious group, but once he was born again (Acts 9) Paul embraced the new role of “Ambassador to Jesus” .Paul saw himself as Jesus Christ’s spokesman.

 So many people when they lose something in life lose an identity, or status, BUT as a Christian, we don’t ever lose our title as ambassador. We have the privilege to be an ambassador for all our lives on earth and no one can take that title from us.

The apostle Paul in his new life, no longer acted on his own or as his own authority but under the orders of a greater power and authority that had chosen to send him as the apostle to those who had not heard of Jesus. Paul therefore understands himself to be divinely authorized to announce to the world God’s terms for peace and reconciliation. It was not only Paul’s job BUT our job too.

To be an ambassador means that it will cost you It cost God his only Son, and when we becomes followers of Jesus it will cost you. I often use the slogan, “Christmas is NOT about what goes under a tree, but who hung on a tree”.

Our ambassadorship this Christmas should focus should on why Jesus came the first time, while reminding others that he is coming again. If you’re looking to understand what Jesus did the first time he came to earth, I’d like to personally invite you to service at Redemption Fellowship Church this Sunday at 10:30 AM or come and join us on Christmas Eve at 5:30 PM. Have a very Merry Christmas. Jesus is the reason for the season. 



Suffering for Glory

November 5, 2016

What would you do if you no longer could share your faith or convictions about life and say the name Jesus in public? Does this consideration ever enter into your thoughts? Would you continue to share your faith IF the government told you not to? Would you trust that God may actually be building his kingdom through suffering and persecution?
I’m reading a book called “The Insanity of God” by Nik Ripken a Southern Baptist missionary who in the 1990’s moves to Somalia as a missionary in hopes of relieving suffering while bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to many of the war torn areas. In the midst of suffering and hardship he starts to wonder IF God is there when others suffer and there is no change or relief in sight. It leads him on a journey to speak to over 600 believers in 60+ countries to see if God can preserve faith in those who suffer in unfathomable ways. He wonders if faith can prosper in hardship and eventually comes to see that it can in those who do.
Daniel Akin the President of Southeastern Baptist theological Seminary says of the book “you will weep at the anemic and tepid ‘Christianity’ of the American Church, exposed for the shameful counterfeit it too often is”. I would love to see our hearts broken, but also revived as we see Gods people, our brothers and sisters, stand for Jesus in circumstances beyond belief.
Recently the book has been turned into a movie which is inspiring many others to persevere and continue through the hardships and difficulties that life can and does throw at all of us.
The book of James reminds us that tribulation matures a Christian who views it though a right lens— 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).

This scriptural reminders challenge you and I to stand firm in the midst of mocking and ridiculing. We can stand and persevere because in the midst of a war torn, broken, sinful, world God sent Jesus to suffer and die in our place so that our sins could be forgiven and grace would be imparted so that we could become children of God (John 1:12).
I’ll share one story from the book. There were Pastors in Russia who had organized house churches (gatherings in homes) in the 1950’s but the people in these home groups had never experienced the larger biblical Kingdom emphasis to take and share the gospel to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:18-20). A kingdom mindset emphasizes that the gospel should not be contained in a local church but it is to be shared throughout the earth. Does your church have a kingdom mindset? It should!
These three leading Pastors chose to train the present young people in their congregations to take the gospel outside their local settings and in order to see what that looked like, they chose to do a conference and invite 700 young people.
The Pastors new that a gathering of 700 people would not escape the knowledge of the government and would cause their own imprisonment. The three Pastors KNEW that they would go to jail if they had this gathering. What blew me away was that these Pastors had determined to stand for the name of Jesus and suffer so that others would get a better picture of kingdom work.
Each young person who was invited and gathered at the conference had to reveal how much bible knowledge they had in spite of the fact none of them had ever owned a bible. They would gather in small groups and see how much of the four gospels they could reconstruct accurately. At the end of the conference the combined efforts of all the small groups had recreated the four gospels with ONLY 12 minor mistakes. They also had also recreated the lyrics of over 1000 songs from memory. YES from memory. Do you think they took their bibles seriously?
This is how the bible is able to thrive and sustain people in the midst of oppression. People have to take the word of God seriously, memorize it and remain faithful to God’s word. Not just hearing it but living it out, made the word of God real and profitable.
In the United States we have such an indifference to Gods word. We put it on par with the tabloids. We choose alternative activities over gathering with our brothers and sisters. We fail to use the bible in our daily lives. We allow the pursuit of prosperity to dull Gods call to be missionaries in our own communities. Ultimately when trials come many crumble.
What holds you together when your faith is challenged? Is it the word of God? My faith is encouraged on account of reading of the perseverance of those who have suffered for their faith. Suffering promotes blessing. Our church is going to show the movie form of the book.
On November 13th, I invite you to come out to our church Redemption Fellowship Church of Fall River on 385 Pleasant Street in Fall River, next Sunday night from 7-8:30pm and watch this simulcast movie. It has been shown in only select theatres around the country and will be offered for one night here in Fall River. If you have any questions go to www.redemptionfellowship.net
I believe if you step in that night, your life and faith might be challenged BUT changed. Many will walk away changed by the power of God moving in the midst of intense suffering. Yes, you will see God is able to hold others up in the difficulties that adversary sent them. God can hold you up. Come see God work in hardship and be inspired!



Pride comes before the fall

September 24, 2016

I have a t-shirt in my room that says on the back “Cougar Pride”. I sometimes wince when I wear it. I worked as a Physical Education teacher for 14 years almost half of them at Wake Forest Rolesville HS in Wake Forest, North Carolina. They had an exceptional football team that would yearly go deep into the regional playoffs and to inspire their players the coaches gave them a shirt that spoke about pride.
Our society looks at being proud in a positive way, BUT the bible has a different twist to the subject. When you’re proud of something, you elevate it above the common attention it deserves. Where has most of your attention gone to this week? What is most important to you? Is God in the occasion to thank and give glory to?
Webster’s 1828 dictionary gives the primary definition of pride as “inordinate self-esteem; an unusual conceit of one’s own superiority in talents, beauty, wealth, accomplishments, rank or elevation of office, which manifests itself in lofty airs, distance, reserve, and often in contempt of others. The further we look into the secondary definitions of pride; we start to see that it becomes something positive rather than negative. But the bile has a lot to say about pride, always in the negative sense.
Pride is dangerous because it gives too much attention to the things in life that aren’t as important as the things of God. I’m a proud Patriots fan…especially after the whipping of the Houston Texans the other night. I’m proud of accomplishments in life that give me a status. I’m proud of my few abilities. I forget sometimes where every good gift comes from (James 1:17).
Sometimes parents worship their kid’s performance in something and when the kids fail, they become upset. We focused more on the performance than the person. That’s what we do with God. Love him when he performs well for us and become angry at him when he doesn’t give us what we want
Fortunately, everything will be judged perfectly upon the return of Jesus. He will separate those who are his from those who are not. Are you ready?
Is there anything in your life that you love more than the God who created you?
Think about this for a moment. When we give too much attention to something or someone, and they don’t give us what we expect from them, and this will happen, we can become bitter toward God and angry at what disappoints us. It’s called inordinate affection.
There was a King in Israel named Uzziah in the 8th century BC. He was elevated to Kingship at the age of 16. He was by Gods grace able to rule Israel for 52 years. He was elevated to the throne at the early age after civil war had ruined the Southern Kingdom. He developed a strong personal relationship with God with the help of a priest named Zechariah. He honored God and God blessed the nation. It says in 2 Chronicles 26:3-5 “ Uzziah was sixteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. …..And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done.
He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God, and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper”. That was the good news.
But once he became prosperous and successful (comfortable), the scriptures remind us of what happened. It say’s in verse 16 16 but when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the LORD his God and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.
Uzziah became proud. He forgot the God who gave him everything and started to function as IF he was God. He started ruling AND making decisions as if he alone was God.
Sometimes prosperity draws us further from God then hardship. In this instance the greatest challenge in Uzziah’s life was not hardship but prosperity.
The bible reminds us over and over about the destructive nature of pride. The scriptures remind us in Proverbs 11:2 that “when pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom”. Later in Proverbs 16:18 it says that “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall”.
God is not passive when his leaders become proud and arrogant. James 4:6 reminds us that “God opposes or (sets himself up against) the proud but gives grace to the humble”.
We see this theme over and over in the bible. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon forgot to give God the glory for his prosperity and God turned him into a cannery in Daniel 4. King Hezekiah of Israel in 2 Kings 20 took credit rather than God for all the gold in his temple and his last 15 years were the most miserable of his life. Over and over we see that pride leads to destruction even if it doesn’t happen all in one fell swoop.
Why? I believe that once a person loses his relationship with God the only alternative is pride. The only antidote is repentance and renewal in Christ. How is your heart today? Is it tender toward God and his people? Do you seek reconciliation with those you’ve offended or must you always be right?
The beauty in the biblical story or redemption is that God did not wait for us to get right with him before he made a plan. He sent Jesus to prosper us even while we had nothing to offer him. He took our sin upon himself without asking us to do it. He did it because He is the full manifestation of love. He cares for you and I and he demonstrated it. Will you put your pride down repent and trust in him for salvation?



Church Discipline?

May 21, 2016

Growing up I had some really great youth coaches in baseball and basketball. Men like Bob Stafford, Art Shea, Armand Gendreau, and Bob Cabral. At the High School level I was blessed to be taught baseball by Larry Thomas and Jim Sullivan at Somerset High School. What these men understood was the value of discipline.
There are two types of discipline I’d like to speak of. One is formative. It is instruction and mentoring in what to do right. There is also corrective discipline. It points out our error. These men knew what was important to be successful.
I remember Mr. Stafford in Little League yelling at me on the mound over and over “Keep it at the knees Tommy” (FD). Armand Gendreau would take us to Bristol Aggie and teach us lay ups using the correct form. By 9 years old I could make a left handed layup because someone cared enough to correct me IF I did wrong (CD).
In High School one time Jim Sullivan came out to the mound and told me to walk a batter at the end of a game to set up a double play. I told him NO. He rebuked me and said “if you don’t walk him, you’re out of the game”. I humbly honored his request. The next batter hit one back to the mound and a double play ensued ending the ball game and resulted in a win for our team..
Just as discipline helps us in sports it is imperative that discipline exist in the local church. Teams crumble when the players can do as they wish, and churches will eventually crumble when church discipline is not enforced.

The bible speaks of church discipline. Church discipline is put in place when sin is repeatable and repentance is not observable. The key is repentance. When repentance happens the person is humbled, and accountability can help that person move away from certain sins that harm the masses. When it remains and no repentance is made it will eventually destroy the church and must be exposed. This is the job of the local church, NOT the leadership alone.

Matthew 18:15-18 shows us how to practice church discipline. “If your brother sins against you go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”.

The bible tells us that not only is this to be done among the congregants but the leaders can be rebuked IF they do not repent when confronted (1 Timothy 5:19-20). This is put in the place so that the church does not become worldly.
The church is supposed to practice church discipline because it is part of the fabric and character of God and the true church.

The goal in church discipline is not so much to denounce a sinner, but to save a saint. A true follower of Jesus needs accountability because each of us is blind to sin in certain areas of life. A loving friend and church would want to see its members and leaders live holy lives. It preserves the name of Jesus in a society that has thrown off moral constraint.
Through the centuries, the true church of God has drifted from its mission, and at key times God has raised up key people like Martin Luther and Guido de Bres, a preacher of the Reformed churches of the Netherlands, who died a martyr to the faith in the year 1567. These men saved the church from destruction.
De Bres was the primary composer of the Belgic Confession in the midst of a dark period of church history. The confession was sent to King Phillip II in 1561, and those who put together this document stated they were ready to obey the government in anything that was lawful, but that they would “offer their backs to stripes, their tongues to knives, their mouths to gags, and their whole bodies to the fire,” rather than deny the truth expressed in this confession.
The Belgic Confession of 1561 which was the earliest confession of the reformed church mentioned 3 distinguishing marks of the true church. A portion of article 29 says this “The true church can be recognized if it has the following marks:1-The church engages in the pure preaching of the gospel; 2-it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them; 3-it practices church discipline for correcting faults…….As for the false church, it assigns more authority to itself ……..it bases itself on humans, more than on Jesus Christ; it persecutes those who live holy lives according to the Word of God and who rebuke it for its faults, greed, and idolatry”.
Does your church practice these marks? The true church recognizes that without church discipline the church would be just another social institution.
Mark Dever in his small booklet Church Discipline says that churches should practice church discipline for 6 reasons. One, its biblical (Matthew 18:15-18). Second it’s an implication of the gospel, Third it promotes the health of the church. Fourth, it clarifies the churches witness to the nations. Fifth it warns sinners of a greater judgment to come. Last it protects the name and reputation of Jesus Christ on the earth.
I’m glad I had men in my youth who loved me enough to enforce discipline when necessary, and it is imperative for the local church to also practice both formative and corrective discipline.



Revival on the Southcoast

July 2, 2016

I had the privilege of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ this past week up in the Corky Row area of the city with my own church members and a mission’s team from Forest Hills Baptist Church in Nashville Tennessee. We do a program called Vacation Bible School with young children from 4-14. It’s open to the public. Our church children and the children in Corky Row come together for the week and share life together around the person and work of Jesus with songs, stories, games, crafts and other special events.
Forest Hills spends thousands of dollars each year in blessing the young children in this area of the city. They’ve been at it for 4 years. This year we had over 80 children sign up and averaged between 50-60 kids per day in the park. We are praying for revival in the Corky row area of the city
What is revival, or might I say what is biblical revival? The Webster’s dictionary of 1828 gives a good definition. The word revival means to revive, to return, recover, or recall from death to life, or apparent death. In other words, people who are dead spiritually come to life spiritually. It happens when the Holy Spirit of God awakens a soul that is antagonistic to God and gives spiritual life to that person.
How do you know if you are alive spiritually? Let me give you five examples. 1-You desire the things of God, 2-Your ambition is to please God with what you say and do. 3-You emote as Jesus might. He wept when people were taken advantage of and cared for those forsaken. 4-You actually start to think thoughts that come from the bible and 5-You actually start to obey Gods word AND ENJOY IT. IE-you are no longer the most important person in your universe BUT Jesus is.
There are many religious spiritual people in and around Fall River but statistics state less than 10 percent are born again. We taught from John 3 this week. Jesus who the bible declares IS God in flesh (John 1:1; 14) said you must be born again. This was not an option but a command. Are you? Jesus didn’t say you must be Baptist, or Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Methodist, or Catholic. You know IF you are born again. If you don’t………
Many people go to church but they never have come to a place where they have repented of all their sins, trusted in Jesus alone for salvation, and started to obey his word. Many religious people, who are not born again, hate when the bible is shared. It’s because they are not born again. Born again people love the word of God because it speaks truth and it is the word of God that is used in revival.
Often time’s revival is a process. It starts off with a biblical burden. God calls people who pray for God to move on the burden (living bodies/dead souls). In due time the workers plow the ground (start talking about Jesus), like a farmer that casts seed, they water it (share some more), and pray that a harvest will come forth. They are fully dependent on God for the results.
Just as a farmer desires to see a crop come forth, those who pray for revival want to see people come to Jesus and confess him as Lord and follow him in accordance with the scripture as our soul authority.
I have a friend named Marilyn who is in her 9th decade of life. She remembers a time when Christian churches gathered together and shared life together here on the Southcoast. She doesn’t go to my church but she has the same burden I have. She wants people to come to Jesus for eternal life (John 5:11-13).
She is willing to start a prayer group with people from other churches in her home. There are a few ready to join with her. If it grows which I’m praying will happen, our church is available in Fall River, and I’m sure other churches that have the same burden will open their churches to help prayer go forth to the heavens. All you need is one prayer warrior from each church and then they could report BACK to the churches with what’s going on.
Billy Graham, known as the greatest evangelist in the past 100 years would often come to areas with a burden for souls and churches willing to work together.
God doesn’t need a bunch of Pastors to start praying BUT what he does is use common ordinary people with a burden to change the landscape. Neil Damgaard the Pastor of Dartmouth Bible Church in Dartmouth said it eloquently “Anyone with a burden to start a prayer group should just do it”.
I’m glad Marilyn sees value in life with Jesus after 80 and is willing to be part of a future revival here in the Fall River/New Bedford area.
I’ll close with this illustration from the Billy Graham Association on the impact of prayer and proclamation as a result of revival.
Mary Skaggs who is part of a large church, writing to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association explained the power of churches praying and working together for souls, “Recently our pastor asked for a raise of hands of how many accepted Jesus into their heart through Billy Graham’s ministry. Over half the congregation raised their hands…a real tribute to not only the power of Billy’s message but the massive extent of lives touched over the years!”
The Fall River/New Bedford area needs churches working together for the saving of souls. God blesses unity. Jesus prayed that his followers would be one so that the world would know that God had sent him (John 17:21). Our strength and help comes from heaven above. Our cities are in shambles, our cities need Jesus. Will you pray, participate, and proclaim so that others will come together. If you’re interested, please email me at tom.rffr@gmail.com or hit me up on Facebook. Have a great Fourth of July.



New Year, New Opportunity

January 16, 2016

I pray your new year is going well. How are your new year’s resolutions playing out? Are you following through on new promises and new ways?
As usual each and every New Year, I get excited about my bible reading plan. My goal every year is to read through the bible. I want to know God so much that I can start to look a little like the Savior while representing him to a world that desperately needs his mercy and grace. I think that’s a good desire. Not being who I was, but being more like Jesus. Being far from fulfilling that desire does not mean it’s not worth my efforts
I say that because every year as a Christian I make promises to God, to love him and to care for his Kingdom advancement and yet each year I still fail to fulfill my promises. Did you make any promises to God last year that you failed to keep? I failed, but that does not make me a failure.
Today I am no longer a failure because Jesus was a success for me. Because God accepts me each New Year provides new opportunities for me to press in to Jesus so that he can change me. Do you want to go another year and see no significant change in your life?
I came to realize some 20 plus years ago I can’t change myself. I do know that the living presence of the Holy Spirit can change me as I am transformed by his word, and a community that helps me. I was not born again to live independently of the local church
I’m so glad that God has NEVER failed in ONE promise to me. That’s why I read the bible. It keeps me humble. It keeps me needy for God’s mercy and makes me thankful for his ongoing grace. Without them, I would be the basket case I sometimes look like.
Where would we be without this promise, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23).
I believe the bible is not only the greatest story ever told (all about redemption/rescue) but also the most powerful tool to radical change. So many people want a new start or to be different this year, but don’t have the tools to complete the task. That’s why we must be born again. Are you really born again?
The bible tells us when we come to Jesus we become “new” creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). That means I become alive spiritually. The bible tells us that prior to making a decision to trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior I was “dead’ spiritually (Eph 2:1) even thou I was alive physically.
The better news is that when we become born again, our whole being internally and externally changes. I’m not saying you become perfect, but that you are never the same ever again. How can the Holy Spirit live inside of you and there be no ongoing change?
The word of God is powerful enough to make the worst sinner the greatest saint.
Titus 2:11+12 tells us that “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Tit 2:11-12). Two things are mentioned in this verse. They are very important for you and I to see as we start this New Year. First Gods grace trains us to put off old ungodly ways, and second we start to live in a new way, under control, and godly.

Do you have new ambitions? Do you live your life with the hope of pleasing God rather than your fellow man? How do you emote? Have you gotten to the place that things said about God and people in a demeaning way are offensive? Do you desire what God desires…your holiness? How about your thoughts? Do you ever wake up or go through the day and one of Gods promises or commands floats in your mind, convicting or encouraging you of something God wants you to do? And what about your will? Has it been remolded by Gods word to do what he wants you to start doing, without complaining (Phil 2:14). To be born again means you are different NOT perfect! Are you any different in those areas with God?
We can change morally while still having no spiritual desires. The great hymn writer Augustus Toplady once said “a man may reform without true repentance, though no man can truly repent without moral reformation. Reformation white washes the house; regeneration takes the house to pieces and rebuilds it from the ground. Reformation varnishes the outside of the vessel; regeneration melts the vessel down, and casts it into a new mold”.
Which person are you? The one who looks good on the outside but is no different inwardly? The one trying to white wash and varnish or the one who is in a new mold, Jesus Christ!
That’s why repentance and trust alone in Jesus is absolutely necessary for change. Whoever believes (trusts, puts their sole confidence in, relies completely upon) in the Son (Jesus) has eternal life; whoever does not obey (the byproduct of true faith) the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him (Joh 3:36).
We finish a four part series this week “Fan or Follower. I invite you to our church, Redemption Fellowship Church this Sunday at 10:15 AM on 385 Pleasant Street. Hope to meet you!!



February 27, 2016

This past Monday I was out with a friend of mine sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with the citizens of Fall River and something happened to me that I never experienced before.
My friend Rob and I prayed and asked the Lord to send some people to us so that we might minister Jesus . Within two minutes, an acquaintance of mine who grew up in Somerset, who played sports and who seemed outwardly to have it all together got out of his car and walked to the median I was standing in. He immediately told me he was in the grip of addiction, making money ONLY to spend on dope. He was crying out for help. I reminded him that Jesus Christ could change his life.
Next, about 10 minutes later a young man with Rhode Island plates drove to the inside lane and told me he wanted to talk to me at the Shell station across the street. He was with three young ladies. He asked me what I was doing. I told him that Jesus was better than the dope he was smoking and that “looking to make some moves” and sell the drugs in his car was NOT in God’s plan for him. He asked me to pray for God’s blessing on his actions. I told him and his friends that God is not in the business of blessing those who live contrary to Gods will. I prayed for him “that the Lord would break his heart and turn it to Jesus”. He didn’t like the prayer, but who likes to be told that they are sinful and under the wrath of God unless they repent and turn to Jesus and trust him as Lord and Savior.
Within 15 minutes a homeless women came up and started to dialogue with me. In the midst of our conversation she mentioned to me that she was struggling with multiple addictions. My heart was broken for her, knowing that her addiction was destroying her life.
As we ended our time, Rob brought a man to me. He was inebriated and had been for about one week. He would be crying one minute and then be laughing the next. He was delusional. Addicted to alcohol and helpless.
Last as we were putting away our crosses, another young man in his twenties started sharing his story. He asked for a ride to the hospital. Rob drove one man home and I drove this young man to meet his girlfriend. In the midst of our ride I sensed he was doing drugs and I asked him how much he spent daily. His response was “I spend about $150 per day on the stuff. I buy some, I shoot some, and I sell some. Five people within an hour, all struggling with addiction and all in desperate need of Jesus.
I went home broken and thankful. It was only 21 years ago that I was delivered from the effects of alcohol. I wasn’t addicted to alcohol, BUT used it as a comfort and it was destroying my life. I found radical change not in a program BUT in a person. That person is Jesus Christ. I’m not against programs and I believe they have their place in recovery, but here is the reality. Whenever you empty your life of something you fill it up with something else. What are you filling your life with?
I found out that in receiving Jesus as Lord, in following him (learning who he is what he has done, and who I am) through a personal relationship found in God’s word, and being involved in a church family, it has changed me beyond what I ever could do on my own.
Modern psychology tells us that the problem is on the outside and our strength is found within ourselves. Biblical Christianity says that our problem is within (we are our greatest enemy, broken sinners) and the solution is found outside of us (in a person named Jesus).
The bible tells us salvation is found in a person (Acts 4:12). When you put your trust in Jesus rather than in yourself and repent of your sins, God sends the Holy Spirit to live inside of you. He becomes your strength and power to overcome any and all addictions.
How do you know if you have salvation and NEW strength to fight addiction? We are reminded that “he (the Holy Spirit) who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:2-4). God has placed the Holy Spirit in each believer to help them say no to drugs and yes to his plan for your life without drugs. In Christ you can say no to drugs and fill your life with Jesus plan for you.
No one does this perfectly. The process is messy, and for many a lifetime of ups and downs. Some fall back BUT they can get back up because they have another friend like Jesus, (the Holy Spirit). He told the Father of the boy with the evil spirit, “All things are possible for one who believes.” (Mark 9:23).
Our church is being burdened to not only offer a Christian program (Celebrate Recovery) but people to walk those who struggle with addiction encouragement. We want to help those who want Jesus understand God’s word and a friend who will remind you of your new identity. This program has helped thousands because it has Christ at the center. With Jesus “all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). Will you pray? Will you participate? Will you send some? Have a great weekend and come visit us during the Easter time as we celebrate the power of the risen Lord in our lives.



Whose Kingdom are you building?

August 13, 2016

I frequently get phone calls from people inquiring about our church and its mission. Redemption Fellowship Church unabashedly affirms that Jesus is the only Savior of the world, that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone and that every person must declare Jesus as Lord if they want to be considered part of Gods eternal family
Our mission is to inform every person that we come in contact with that Jesus is Lord of the universe. Our hearts desire is that through each person we meet and every event we do in and out of the church, to proclaim that God reigns while living like missionaries here and around Fall River for the glory of God.
I’ve been teaching through the book of Acts for the past 3 months. Without the book of Acts the church would not know how the disciples grew the church from a small band of people into a worldwide movement of God. Over and over as I go through this book, I see two things happening.
First the church is expanding, as the gospel is shared. That means that we are called to live out our faith and share it with those in our circles of influence. Second the saints are tested and tried as they go out with this message. Persecution is inevitable. Church life is messy. Is your church a messy place that sinners are welcomed into?
In the interim there is a plea that comes from Peter and John after they are released from jail “Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29).
The apostles didn’t ask to release them from their responsibility, or to take away their attacks BUT to grant them courage/boldness to continue the mission. Peter and John were not educated men (Acts 4:13), but they had spent three years with Jesus in training to transform the world.
Spending time with Jesus prepared them to face a world that was antagonistic to the gospel message. That ought to remind everyone of us that God is not interested in educated people but humble servants who rely upon him.
I say this because the church to many people today is a hotel. To others it is an option while to many it’s no longer a consideration. To be part of Jesus family means you would desire to follow him wherever you go. It’s not optional. His disciples except for Judas, who proved he was not one of them, were willing to follow him to their death.
In Acts chapter 5 Ananias and Sapphira two early converts are killed by the Holy Spirit for lying about their giving. God is concerned with integrity. God is concerned with how we live as his followers. He’s concerned with how you spend your weekdays and weekends. Worshipping, encouraging, serving, and caring for others are part of the package of being a “follower” of Jesus.
Finally in chapter 6, a man by the name of Stephen comes on the scene. He is living an exemplary life. He is chosen to serve and help others. Our society has taught us to get rather than give. True joy comes not in getting but in giving of your whole being to the things of God. Stephen was doing “great wonders and signs among the people. (Act s 6:8).
Stephen had counted the cost to follow Jesus. He prepared and then he participated with the disciples sharing his faith while being challenged and maligned by the religious people who hated Jesus. They disputed with Stephen concerning his message yet the bible tells us that they could NOT “withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking” (Acts 6:10).
This life of standing for Jesus is not one for Sunday Christians. Sunday Christians come to church, hear a message, sit with their friends, go out for lunch and go about living their lives. Maybe they will come back to church during the week and hear another message BUT investing in others and growing God’s kingdom is the last thing they want to do.
They read right over Luke 9 — “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-26).
Jesus said life is NOT about you but about building my kingdom through the local church.
Unfortunately many Pastors are content with you putting your money in the offering plate and coming back next week. Maybe take a Sunday school class to swell their head. Or raise some money for a need in the church.
The reality is that the Pastor just wants to live comfortably and get others to do what he is unwilling to do himself. That’s what modern day church is about. But it was not what the early church was about. Every Apostle not only was willing to die but did die for their testimony that Jesus rose from the grave. With the exception of John who was sent to the island of Patmos, everyone gave their lives for Jesus.
I challenged my people last Sunday after finishing Acts chapter 6 to take ONE step toward kingdom life. Every one of us should be taking steps of faith toward Jesus and away from selfish living.
If you call me in the future I’ll ask you how you are laying your life down for Jesus. Whose Kingdom are you building? Your own or the Kingdom of God? It will be what you are judged for as a professing believer.