Articles in 2002

Below is a summary of articles written by Elder Neil Phelan for the Malvern newspaper. They are numbered according to publication order. To see the complete article simply click the title. You can also jump to other newspaper article collections using the menu on the left or search for words in the Google search engine. Soon we will complete a topics page, to help you find articles by subject.

"THE GREATEST GIFT"

"THE GREATEST GIFT"

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Ephes. 2:8

Many valuable gifts have graced the halls of time.  The queen of Sheba brought Solomon 120 talents of gold as well as precious stones.  Empires have been given and even powers bestowed upon individuals as gifts.  Yet, all of these, as wonderful as they may be, are subject to loss and decay.  They are profitable for this life alone.  There is a gift which supercedes all of these.  A gift which imparts eternal life and blessings too wonderful for the mortal tongue to describe.  A gift which can never be taken away.  This is the gift of salvation.

There are many salvations found in the bible.  Peter was saved from drowning as he walked on the water with Jesus and cried, "Lord, save me."  Temporal deliverances are referred to as salvation and this is always a confusing subject for we tend to confuse God's hand of providence in our lives with Christ's completed work upon the cross.  Peter's salvation on the water was a salvation from this world, from the fear of this world and from a lack of faith.  Though sinners may falter in faith and fears, what Jesus has done can never be taken away(John 10:28).    

I have heard it said that this gift is free, all the sinner has to do is reach out and take it.  Surely, we are blind to grace if this is our thinking. Once again, man has exalted himself and forgotten that something is first needed before a reach can be made.  Did we ask for our hand?   We must be given us the arm, the hand and the fingers to reach out and grasp a natural gift.  Spiritually speaking, one must first be given a spiritual will and desire before they will seek after God and His righteousness.  This is grace. 

This gift of salvation is "through faith".  Is this the sinners faith?  If it is then the sinner must buy or trade for his own gift.  And he is in and out of it as his faith waxes and wanes.  No, this faith is of one who sits upon the white horse, who is called "Faithful and True"(Rev 19:11).  The gift of salvation is through the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He was faithful to come to earth as he laid aside His glory.  He was faithful to His disciple, the apostles and prophets.  He was faithful to live a spotless life that He might be a lamb without spot and blemish.  He was faithful when He was questioned by Pilate and His accusers.  He was faithful when they said, "If thou be the son of God, come down from the cross".  He was faithful when our sins were placed upon Him and the sun did not give its light.  He was faithful to return to glory and present our righteousness in Him.  Jesus remains faithful to every heir of promise as He continues to make intercession for us before the Father.  Let us preach the arm of the Lord and not the hand of man!       

Most every gift involves a sacrifice.  We must willing to part with something or do without something to give to another.  This greatest gift required the greatest sacrifice.  God paid the highest price for this salvation, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son."  

Salvation is not a thing that can be touched with the natural senses.  It can not be handled nor seen with the natural eye.  It can not be carried about from place to place by man, by his strength or by his wisdom.  It can neither be commanded to come or go as one pleases.  It can not be purchased if one had every dollar in the universe and it can not be traded by anything the creature possesses.  It is a spiritual blessing.  Wrapped up in salvation are graces such as spiritual life, the fruits of the spirit, eternal life, spiritual gifts, the Lord's hand in our present life and the blessings of the world to come.  How great is this gift!

"Is Doctrine Important" (part 2)

"IS DOCTRINE IMPORTANT"-Continued

"Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners"- I Cor 15:33

Over the centuries, this 15th chapter of I Corinthians has been respected as one of the most important chapters in all of the bible by preachers, pastors and teachers of God's word. The reason is because it contains the bedrock of all that Christians believe: the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. This doctrine is important because every hope, all of our faith and ever other doctrine we hold sacred stands of falls upon the fact that Jesus Christ rose bodily from the grave and is in heaven today with God the Father.

"Evil communications" had become a problem at Corinth.  Evil communications means "false doctrine" and the good manners Paul speaks of is "morality".  Good doctrine produces holiness! Philosophers of the day said the resurrection of the body was metaphysically impossible.  The Sadducees said there was no resurrection and other teachers said the resurrection was past already.  Paul reveals the impact this false doctrine would have upon God's people: "let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die".  In other words, lets fill our cup of lust to the brim for this life is all we have.  Paul put it in perspective by reminding them of the importance of this doctrine.  If Jesus did not rise bodily from the grave then preaching is worthless, we are liars, your loved ones who professed Christ are perished forever, your faith is worthless and you are still in your sin(v.12-19).  But if He did rise from the dead, preaching is profitable, we are honorable men who tell the truth, your loved ones are with Jesus, your faith is powerful and your sins have been atoned. This chapter reveals more about the resurrection, about the resurrected bodies of the saints and the end times than any other chapter in the bible.  It comforts the soul because it demands that none of God's children will be left behind.  That they will not disappear, they will all be resurrected at the same time.  It tells us that when people die, they will immediately go to one of two places, heaven or hell.  There is no purgatory.  That dead spirits do not have the opportunity to walk around scaring people as the satanic and sadistic movies and documentaries would like for people to believe.  This doctrine demands the deity of Jesus Christ, that He was and is God.  It demands that He won the victory over death, hell and the grave.  It demands that all He died for will rise again on resurrection morning.  My, what a contrast!

You see, the Church was founded upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Paul, nor any of the apostles and preachers of that day would have baptized anyone who did not believe this cardinal doctrine.  It was the doctrine most declared in the beginning of the church.  Peter preached it at Pentecost, Paul preached it and it is the cornerstone of all that we believe.  If there is not an empty tomb at Jerusalem all we believe is a hoax. Yet, Christianity is not founded upon a hoax.  It is founded upon firm evidence that Paul reminds the Corinthians of.  That same Jesus that walked the shores of Galilee and healed the sick, raised the dead and preached His own gospel was the same Jesus that rose from the dead.  Paul confessed that he saw the resurrected Christ, Peter saw Him and over 500 brethren at one time saw that same Jesus.  Surely, that would be enough evidence to convince any judge or jury!  Yet, they made up stories saying that His body was stolen, that he just swooned and never died, that the people a hallucination and really did not see Jesus.  Yet, the most powerful evidence is found in the heart.  As the hymn goes, "He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today; He walks with me, He talks with me along life's narrow way...you ask me how I know He lives; He lives within my heart".  Every believer today is a walking testimony of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Their lives have been raised to a higher, more noble, more holy walk because He lives within them.  Is this doctrine important?  You bet it is!

Is doctrine that important? (part 1)

Is doctrine that important?

"And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine"-Mark 11:18

When we worship the Lord Jesus Christ, is doctrine important?  Apparently it was to Jesus.  He taught doctrine.  It was from His life and teaching that the apostles learned doctrine and taught it to the infant church.  When Jesus came, the doctrine of God's people had become so shifted, so vague, that those professing godliness were "astonished at His doctrine".  They were so astonished, that He was an offense to them and they were willing to kill Jesus to keep their doctrine.

I have always loved the illustration that Charles H. Spurgeon gave as an encouragement for people to know what they believed and be able to explain it scripturally.  It goes something like this: "I asked a man what he believed and he said, 'I believe what the church believes'.  I then asked him what his church believed and he said, 'They believe what I believe'.  I then asked him what he and his church believed and he said, 'We both believe the same thing'.

Fuzzy ideas, found somewhere in the bible given from a mouth but unfound by scripture will never comfort a troubled soul.  Is this something we should be concerned about?  Is doctrine that important?  Are we expected as Christians to be able to explain what we believe?  Are there doctrines that we should feel strongly about, even become dogmatic and passionate about?  People are dogmatic and passionate about many things that contradict scripture.  Surely, Christians today should be dogmatic about things that we can prove to be basic bible doctrines and point our finger to the verse where it can be found.   I know that it is said that we should not talk about politics and religion.  Jesus talked about both and I am glad He did!

It is true, we are living in a day in which people are less concerned about doctrine than in a former time.  Some even choose a church by the sign in the front yard, by the entertainment it provides, by the size of the church, by the physical appearance, by the musical attractions, by what is provided for children or by what the church can do for them rather than what they can do for the Lord.  Truth is somewhere below all of this.  Historically speaking, and even biblically speaking, doctrine has always been the most important facet of the church.  Historically, an accurate doctrine has been the desire of the church and the comfort of God's people.  Ministers have always been identified and ordained by the gift that God has given them to understand and proclaim the great doctrines of scripture.  Today, men graduate from seminaries who openly deny the deity of Jesus Christ.  A desire for clarity and accuracy of doctrine has caused some of the greatest uproars in the church since Christ.  The first great controversy in the church is found in Acts 15 and it was over doctrine.  Thus, the apostles deemed doctrine to be worthy of controversy in an environment in which peace was necessary for prosperity.  The reason was because they knew that doctrine separated the church from the world.  Leave off doctrine, and the church becomes like the world.  It is doctrine that allows our beliefs to become bonded to something that God has said.  It is doctrine that transforms vague ideas found somewhere in the bible into firm facts.  When doctrine is respected, it should produce holiness, it should promote a change in a persons life.  It is doctrine that gives a face to the church, the face of Jesus Christ.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to use some ink to teach some basic bible doctrines, doctrines taught by Jesus and the apostles, and share with our readers the importance of these cardinal truths given by One Shepherd.  Get out your bibles!

CONSIDER THE MIRACLE

CONSIDER THE MIRACLE

"For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened"-Mark 6:52.

Today, our message centers around the spiritual subject of miracles.  I say spiritual, because that is what a miracle is.  It has to do with Jesus Christ.  A miracle is a Holy Hand in an unholy world.  It is when the Lord performs or achieves something that man can not do; when He reaches in and changes things, alters the normal course of nature, makes things happen that naturally would never have happened.   It is not luck, chance or accidental.  It is on purpose, for a purpose, the answer of a prayer, mercy performed for one of His children, a rescuing angel sent unawares, a gift bestowed by grace, or something done to bring about a predicted historical event predetermined of God.  Though God is actively involved in every aspect of creation, a miracle is above and beyond what is normally and usually expected and seen.

     I believe in miracles and I believe miracles are performed by the Lord every day by the billions.  Yet, we are like the disciples.  We consider not the miracles, because our hearts are hardened.  Yes, even the disciples, who had just witnessed the miracle of Jesus feeding over 5,000 with five loaves and two fishes had forgotten His miraculous power.  In less than twenty-four hours they needed another miracle as their ship was sinking in the storm.  Here comes Jesus, walking on the water and they knew Him not.  When He calmed their storm they were amazed beyond measure, and wondered.  Why did they wonder, why were they amazed?  Because their heart was hardened, the world had already crept in.   Jesus and the spiritual realm was all but forgotten and they saw the world void of Jesus and His miracles.

     Today, let us consider His miracles!  As we do I must confess that I am not an expert on miracles.  I also know that many of His miracles are unseen and unknown.  Like the car that could have swerved, but didn't; the timing changed to alter our course; the weather that changed the outcome of a battle; good advice given in the nick of time; the encouragement given when our ship was ready to sink; the love bestowed when our hopes were near gone; the job opening; the things lost for the best; even unanswered prayers that would have resulted in our own ruin are all found in this category hidden by a blanket of worldliness.  If the Lord had not informed us by His word, we would have attributed the calming of the disciples storm to mere chance.  Daniel's rescue from the lions would have been the result of some sick lions and the parting of the Red Sea was a freak accident of nature.  Miracles are revealed in the Bible to expose God's care for His people and remind the hard heart that He is a miracle worker and in control.

     Now, what about us?  Have we enjoyed miracles in our lives?  Every child of God will experience at least one miracle and that is the new birth.  As Paul wrote, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." Do you enjoy good preaching and are you hungry and thirsty for spiritual things?  This is an evidence of spiritual life, you have had an experience with the Holy Ghost.  This is truly a miracle.  As Paul wrote, "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance."  This is a gift, a desire given from above that not every mortal enjoys.  It is a miracle just to understand who Jesus is and have a desire to be with Him. 

     Life itself is a great miracle.  All life emanates from God and the fact that you are alive is a miracle of His grace. You are not a chance, an accident, an animal without a purpose, you are created of God, a miracle. As the spiritual hymn goes: "Here it is I find my heaven, while upon the Lamb I gaze; Love I much? I've much forgiven; I'm a miracle of grace". Sin forgiven is a miracle.  The work of Christ was the greatest miracle this world has ever seen.  Love bestowed upon undeserving sinners is a miracle. Creation itself, is a miracle.  It is not an accident of evolution, it is a creative miracle of God, just like your life.  When I hear a bird sing or a hummingbird zip from flower to flower, when I see the sun rise and the beautiful sunset I see a miracle from God.  If it is not so, let man paint his own sky and raise his own sun.  All of these miracles glorify God.  Let us consider them today!

Come and worship with us at Harmony Primitive Baptist Church.  Singing begins at 10:30 each Sunday morning followed by preaching at 11:00.

By His mercy and grace, Neil Phelan, Jr.,  Pastor.


"GOD'S TEMPLE"

"GOD'S TEMPLE"

Corinth was a city of sin.  The temple of Aphrodite was there, a temple dedicated to this goddess of fertility.  Over one-thousand consecrated temple prostitutes plied their trade among the inhabitants and visitors of Corinth and it was here that the Lord placed one of His churches to shine a light in the midst of the darkness.  To shine their light, this church must not conform to the world.  Worldly wisdom had permeated their ranks and there were those who were advocating that it really did not matter how a person lived, how they used their bodies.  Fornication was the chief sin of Corinth, people living together outside the bonds of sacred matrimony, husbands and wives unfaithful to one another and sexual misconduct in the grosses terns.  Such would be expected from the world but not from professing Christians, so Paul writes this letter to them and brings before them a truth, a theological perspective that they needed to know.  He brought it before them in the form of a question: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?"  Aphrodite is not God's temple, you are!

PERSPECTIVE

Here we find a Christian perspective, a world view that may only be experienced through the light of a spiritual mind: A person who is born of the spirit of God is not an isle unto themselves,  God dwells within them, their body is God's temple.  The Lord is vitally concerned with what goes on with His temple.  This truth should be contemplated by every Christian every day, every moment.  I am sure that it would become a safeguard to our spirit and a guide for our carnal appetites.  Paul taught this truth to most, if not all of the churches with language like: "Christ I you, the hope of glory"(Col. 1:27); "And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin"(Rom. 8:10); "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure"(Phil. 2:13); "I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people(II Cor. 6:16)."  If we are a child of God, our body has been purchased with the blood of Jesus Christ.  As Paul said again, "You are not your own, you are bought with a price".  What happens to and with the body is God's business.

This perspective of our bodies is interesting for our body is that thing that we think the most about; spend the most time on; worry the most about; the thing we fix up; repair; primp; pluck; paint; build; feed; entertain; the thing we want to look better than anything else in the world: our bodies.  What a difference it would make if we spent as much time contemplating the fact that our body is God's temple as we do fixing it up.  Sure, we should strive to keep it healthy, clean and commendable but that should not be the primary focus of the body.  Paul wanted the brethren to know that their body was God's temple, that the Lord dwelt within them, that they carried the Lord with them wherever they went and that they should be cognizant of His divine presence at all times.  

How contemporary this  book is to our present day. Professing Christians who do the same should "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?"-2 Cor 13:5.  Perhaps you have never been saved and you have deceived yourself and those around you.  The message is so strong that Paul writes, "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy".  Though Hollywood never writes it into their scripts, misusing God's temple has consequences.  Much depression and anxiety of heart comes from abusing God's temple.  Paul would have them purge their conscience from dead works to serve the living God by prayer and repentance for if we are honest, we would have to say that our greatest pain has come from the misuse of God's temple.  I find the happiest people in the world are those who live with this knowledge: "Your body is a temple of the Holy Ghost."      

Come and worship with us at Harmony Primitive Baptist Church.  Singing begins at 10:30 each Sunday morning followed by preaching at 11:00.

By His mercy and grace, Neil Phelan, Jr.,  Pastor.


"THE TELLER"

"THE TELLER"

"He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names"-Psalms 147:4

How great is our Lord, who telleth the number of the stars.  As man sends out his cameras to discover new stars, the Lord watches with perfect knowledge of their number and placement.  I have heard of people who have attempted to count the stars but all attempts have been in vain.  Only He who created them knows that number.  Surely, this contrast should provide a glimpse of God's knowledge and wisdom compared to man's .  As man vainly tries to discover every nook and cranny of the universe, the Lord knows it as well as we know the pocket on our shirt.  It is a vain attempt for man to dethrone the Lord.  Yet, that is what he tries to do when man says that the Lord did not create the universe.  This one verse should show how silly man is as he makes such statements.  Today, we will ask those who advocate this idea of evolution to tell us how many stars there are in the sky.  We do not want an estimate, we want perfect knowledge.  Then, tell us the secret of every star.  Tell us the gasses, the molecules, the atoms and every chemical reaction that brought about its being.  Only the Great Teller has this knowledge.  As we gaze into the vast expanse of the sky we gain some insight into the greatness of our Lord and His beautiful majesty.

Yet, with all this knowledge, beauty and majesty we find something that is equally wonderful.  We also find a personal Lord: "He calleth them all by their names."  I love this thought for it reveals the loving character of our Lord.  The gods of the heathen, the gods that man has made up in his own mind might be depicted as strong and powerful, but the One and Only true God is the one who has named every individual star.  As a boy might name the marbles in his bag or a girl her dolls, the Lord places names on those twinkling orbs in the sky.  Perhaps the way they twinkle gives them their peculiar name or the placement they have in the sky.  Whatever it is, it will be wonderful to know when we get to glory.

Yet, there is more to this telling, this naming than just stars.  Surely, this is written for the encouragement of His people.  If the Lord knows every star, if He has a name for each one, surely He knows His people and has a special, caring, loving name for each one. These names of His people are continually before His eye, as the prophet has said, "Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me"-Isaiah 49:16.  Whatever the Lord stretches forth His hands to accomplish, His people are continually before His eyes.  

It also tells us that heaven is going to be a big place……that Jesus got more than the devil. The Lord told Abraham, "And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed"-Genesis 26:4.  This promise must have been in the Psalmist mind as he wrote of the Lord telling the stars.  It embraces all nations, all tongues, all families and all people of the earth.  It is a sad attempt for man give a number of those going to heaven.  We should ask them to number the stars in the sky if they attempt to do so.  It is just as vain for man to point out who is going to heaven.  Though we might have some idea by their twinkle, only the Lord can look upon the heart!  I am thankful all of this is in the hands of a merciful "Teller".  Man would either make it too small and only include his particular click of religion, or make it too big and take in the devil himself.  

The great "Teller" knows all, created all and will one day Tell the secrets of the universe to His own.  Today, let us rejoice in our Lord who "Telleth the number of the stars."

Come and worship with us at Harmony Primitive Baptist Church.  Singing begins at 10:30 each Sunday morning followed by preaching at 11:00.

By His mercy and grace, Neil Phelan, Jr.,  Pastor.



"Where Is Mother"

"WHERE IS MOTHER"

Laura Ingalls Wilder said, "The older we grow the more precious become the recollections of our childhood days, especially our memories of mother.  Her love and care halo her memory with brighter radiance, for we have discovered that nowhere else in the world is such loving self-sacrifice to be found; her counsels and instructions appeal to us with greater force than when we received them because our knowledge of the world and our experience of life have proved their worth.  Dearer even than mother's teachings are little, personal memories of her, different in each case but essentially the same-mother's face, mother's touch, mother's voice..."

I see a great sadness in our society today.  It is a kind of bitterness toward motherhood, as if this were some mundane lifestyle that only the boring and uneducated are forced to enjoy.  Yet, I find the true blue mother, the one who knows her calling and seeks to do a good job, accomplishing things that movie stars and those appearing with the rich an famous seem to miss.  It is this kind of mother that sets the example of virtue.  

Virtue is not just good morals.  Though it does mean that, in scripture, it adds the dynamics of force and power.  It takes a Godly force to give children the correct answer in the right spirit, at the right time and live the answer.  It takes a force unknown to the world to be the heart of a home rather than the action of the world.  This is Christ-likeness, a self denying principle that has been spited by politicians and worldly women.  Their view of motherhood has had an adverse effect on many mothers leading them away from their source of joy……..their home.  Their problem is not with motherhood in general, it is with God and his intended purpose for mothers.  As the angels left their first estate, so have many mothers.  I have never heard a mother say, on her deathbed, "I wish I had spent less time with my children and family and more time at the job, at the club, at the sports event, at the shopping mall, at the card game, with the soap operas and etc."

On a personal note, I must say that one of the greatest things about motherhood that I remember was the security of knowing that mother was there, on site, ever present for my largest and smallest needs. Just the presence of a mother sends worries and cares packing to unknown places.  Whether it was a band aid or a problem, there was a sounding board, a voice that loved me above every other thing in the world that belonged to me.  For the mature Christian, just knowing that God is ever present and knows our needs is a joy and comfort.  This same security, joy, comfort is found in the arms of a loving mother.  In one sense, the mother is the stepping stone to the Lord Himself on whom we come to rely.  All of what I have said is found in the Bible in these few words that speak of a mother, "To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed"-Titus 2:5.

For those who believe that motherhood is boring, mundane and lacking in personal fulfillment I encourage the following that will produce joy and meaning in a mother's life:  Pray over each child every day.  Ask the Lord what they need and how you can fill the void.  Pray with each child every day.  Have at least one meaningful conversation with each child every day.  Tell each child you love them every day.  Turn off the phone and t.v. and listen to every child every day and get to know them.  Share their daily experiences with them when they come home from school.  Talk of the Lord often and His blessings.  Let them know He is your source of strength.  Live what you tell them to do.  Do things with them however small.  Prioritize their existence, be present when they are home.  Pray for God's assistance!  When one begins this God given calling, other things will become less important and the true joy of motherhood will be found.

I believe that in the heart of every mother is the cry, "I need a mother."  "But what kind of mother do I need?", should be the obvious reply. The answer to that question should pierce the heart and become the looking glass for every mother to look into every morning. 

Come and worship with us at Harmony Primitive Baptist Church.  Singing begins at 10:30 each Sunday morning followed by preaching at 11:00.

By His mercy and grace, Neil Phelan, Jr.,  Pastor.


"LIGHT AFFLICTION"

"LIGHT AFFLICTION"

"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory"- 2 Corinthians 4:17

Afflictions come in all shapes and sizes.  Physical problems, financial disasters, family problems, heartaches and depressions are all common to man.  Rich and poor all meet together in the furnace of affliction, none are exempt.  As the book of Job says, "Man that is born of a woman is few days, and full of trouble"   and again, "Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward".  But do we see God's hand in afflictions as well as the blessings?

It has occurred to me that this is one of the most perplexing experiences known to man.  We have a tendency to judge others and justify self when it comes to afflictions. When they come our way we might say, "It is just a fluke, a chance of life," not realizing that if God did not bring it, He must have at least allowed it. Yet, when it comes to others, we wonder what deep, dark sin they are hiding and why God is punishing them for it.   The veil of afflictions are uncovered when we learn they are not always a rod of correction.  Most afflictions come our way to bring us closer, make us more reliant up the Lord, turn our heart away from the world and make better disciples.  In this, God gets the glory!  We can sit around perplexed about it all or we can be as Job when he said, "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord."  He saw the Lord in it all and grew closer!    

The book of Job is an illustration of God getting glory by a faithful man who is afflicted.  Perplexing it was, even to his best friends.  They came to comfort him and did a pretty good job when they sat silent.  But they became full blown Pharisees in the end, accusing him of some sin:  "Come on Job, cough it up, confess it, what have you done in your secret life to bring all this on your own head".  That was the sentiment of their comforts and Job was right when he labeled them, "Miserable comforters."  It was perplexing to them because Job's afflictions were not the result of sin.  God allowed Satan to vex Job.  In the midst of it all, God received the glory for Job's faithfulness, Satan was judged, Job learned a lot about God, himself and the people around him, and his friends learned that they did not know as much about God as they thought they did.  We need to be careful how we judge other people's problems and how we should view our own.  Perhaps the Lord is molding one of His children in the furnace for their good and His glory.

  It is wisdom when we learn that afflictions are actually good for us: as Paul writes, they work "for us".  Though we would not admit it, most of the time we go along with the idea that we need no afflictions.  I am sure if you took a survey, few children and teenagers would admit they needed any discipline or direction whatsoever.  Yet, without it a life is wasted and the arrow falls short of the mark.  In the Lord's eyes, we are always "children" and need afflictive guidance. 

The biblical perspective of affliction is given in many places.  It is the fire which consumes he dross and refines the silver and gold.  Dross is worldliness or sin.  Worldly wisdom denies the existence of such things….God continues to afflict. When the Lord gets ready to begin His refining, He turns the heat up.  Surely, this can occur with our knowledge of what He is doing, or without it.  Wisdom is to understand God's purpose in it.  As we grow older, these old bodies begin to fail we look more upon eternal things and less on the world.  Affliction!    

Paul speaks of these afflictions as "light afflictions".  They are not "light" by measurement of pain experienced, but rather by time experienced.  Paul considered the afflictions of his whole life as nothing compared to the "eternal weight of glory." Compared to an eternity with the Lord, earthly afflictions are just for "a moment", a wink of the eye or a flash in the pan.  They may be for sin or they may be for further learning or a drawing closer.  Whatever our circumstance may be, let us look for the Lord in the furnace and say with David, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes"-Psalm 119:71.

Come and worship with us at Harmony Primitive Baptist Church.  Singing begins at 10:30 each Sunday morning followed by preaching at 11:00.

By His mercy and grace, Neil Phelan, Jr.,  Pastor.


"REMEMBRANCE"

"REMEMBRANCE"

One of the most difficult tasks of the ministry is the funeral service.  As Paul wrote, "Who is sufficient for these things".  We find our words shallow and our efforts weak as we try to comfort the families of those who have lost precious loved ones from the shores of this life.  Who can say all that needs to be said?  What man can reach the soul and calm the troubles waters?  During these services I have noticed the crowds of those who have met to remember and honor their loved one at the last service performed in their name.  One thing that I have noticed is that those who loved the most draw the nearest.  Most of the time, they are most attentive to the preachers words, they linger closer to the casket.  At the graveside, they are usually the ones that leave last.  In the Church, there is a similar service performed for the death of a loved One.  Though we know that He "ever liveth to make intercession for us", we have been encouraged to remember His death lest we forget what it was for and our need for Him ever day.  I speak of the death of Jesus.

The time of communion is a time of remembrance. It was in the upper room that our Lord first instituted this ordinance in the New Testament Church.  From the bitter herbs of the Old Law service, to the bread and the wine that represented His body and blood, the apostles were transported.  Their eyes were lifted above the law, the tables of stone, to view the now revealed mystery of Jesus Christ and Him crucified for their sins.  He said, "This do in remembrance of me", as they brake the bread and passed the cup that symbolized His body and blood.  Here, too, I find similar postures as at the funeral services.  Those who love Jesus best, those who appreciate His death and sufferings most, are those who attend the solemn service.  They attend the words spoken about their loved One, consider the sacred emblems of His body and blood and desire a parting embrace from their family members.  It is true, as John leaned on Jesus' breast, Judas departed.      

This time of remembrance is one that we both revere, yet anticipate with great joy.  We revere it because it is a time that we remember Jesus' death and the pain He suffered upon the cross as our sins were placed upon Him.  Once again, our tongues are unworthy of the occasion.  Surely, the merits of His death deserve an eternity of memorial services.  One day we will enter the unending praise!  We also dread it because we know we could spend our whole life preparing ourselves for this service and yet find ourselves undone and unworthy to drink the cup and break the bread.  Yet, let us rejoice, for we, as sinners, have been greatly honored.  We have been personally invited by the One who died to His memorial service.  This is the only time that the One who died, Has risen to invite His family to remember His death.    We approach the solemn service with joy because we view the merits of His death: our reproach is taken away; our sins are atoned; and Jesus, our conquering King is seated at the right hand of our Father making intercession for us even unto this present hour. Surely, there is a lot to remember when we remember the death of Jesus!   

It was that same night, in the upper room, that Jesus knelt at the feet of His disciples and washed their feet.  What a scene!  The perfect One, humbled Himself at the feet of sinners, and washed their feet.  This must be one of the things that the "angels desire to look into".  Why would Jesus adore sinners over angels?  As He did so, Jesus said, "Ye ought also to wash one another feet".  The Bible is not hard to understand, it is just hard for pride and ego to obey.  The hard heart and the bitter spirit is dissolved in this service.  That is why He began it.  If the perfect One could bow before the feet of sinners, surely we should forgive the imperfections of brothers and sisters in Christ's family.  

As in the ten commandments, our vertical relationship with our Lord and our horizontal relationship with our brethren, is reflected in this service: we are servants to both.  Though some may say that they can be right with God and at variance with their brethren, both law and grace deny it.  So we see the importance of the service and the urgency of the commandment, "This do in remembrance of me."

Come and worship with us at Harmony Primitive Baptist Church.  Singing begins at 10:30 each Sunday morning followed by preaching at 11:00.

By His mercy and grace, Neil Phelan, Jr.,  Pastor.

  

"EVIDENCE"

"EVIDENCE"

The Lord's people love evidence of their calling.  A prayer answered or a genuine experience with the Lord serve as "handfuls of purpose" to increase our strength and revive our hope for tomorrow.  Our Lord has also been gracious to provide many evidences of our calling in sacred writ.  Sprinkled amidst the numerous verses of scripture, the Lord has given abundant proofs of our calling that serve to be just as dynamic as prayer answered or miracles observed.  Sometimes, they are so simply stated, we might overlook the evidence.  One of the most powerful is John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

When Jesus quoted what we now refer to as John 3:16, He was not presenting a condition for sinners to meet to be born again or to become part of the world He spoke of. One who is dead in trespasses and in sin can do nothing.  Life, whether natural or spiritual, may only be given by the Lord.  Man did not invent life and man has never had the ability to take either up by his own power.  Yet, there are many evidences of life.  When a baby is born, the most wonderful sound in the mother's ear is the cry of the infant.  The cry did not give life…. it was evidence  of life.  Like the infant's cry, prayer is an evidence of spiritual life.  Who would call upon One in whom they did not believe?  As one preacher said, "I can not go back far enough into my experience to a time that I did not call upon God nor believe in Him."  These are not the words of a fool for "the fool has said in his heart, there is no God."  No, Jesus was not holding something impossible before fallen sinners to give life.  He was providing His sheep with security…..hope…..evidence

WHICH WORLD

John 3:16 presents evidence that is simple for the believer to discover, yet impossible for the infidel.   "Whosoever believeth" is not something that everyone can do.  It is evidence for the world and an offense to the world.  We are not confused when we say this, we just need to identify which world is which.  "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son" tells us that Jesus died for a world.  Which world? It was not terra firma, the earth, which is spoken of as the whole wide world.  It could not be the world of all creatures, for satan and the fallen angels have no redeemer.  It could not be every human being or Jesus would be a failure for all men have not faith and say "there is no God."  In his day, Caesar decreed "that all the world should be taxed".  The taxed world could not be the world that Jesus died for.  John wrote, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world."  Here is a world we are commanded not to love.  Obviously, the world means many things in scripture.  So, the question arises: what world did Jesus die for?  Was it a particular band of believers?  Does it hinge on a certain ordinance?  Must a certain phrase be quoted to obtain it?  Is the giving of this special world placed in the hands of certain men? How can we know?  Look at the evidence.  Do you believe in Jesus?  If you do then you have the evidence and the answer:  Jesus died for the world of believers and if you believe in Him you are of that chosen world.  The evidence is in your own heart, given freely by God.   

  Jesus knew that the journey is long and that if we are honest, many times we are made to wonder and doubt the awesome majesty of God and the Spiritual world.  There are times that our hope grows dim and we are made to cry with the apostles, "Lord, increase our faith."  At times like these, let us go to John 3:16 and ask, "Do I believe in Jesus, that He is the Son of God; that He died for my sins upon the cross; that He rose victorious over the grave; that He is seated at the right hand of the Father today; that I am a sinner and all my hope of heaven is in His finished works?"  The question should not be, "Do you accept Jesus" for that is nowhere to be found in scripture.  The question should be , "Do you believe in Jesus?" If we can answer in the affirmative we have firm evidence that He died for us and one day we will be with Him.

Come and worship with us at Harmony Primitive Baptist Church.  Singing begins at 10:30 each Sunday morning followed by preaching at 11:00.

By His mercy and grace, Neil Phelan, Jr.,  Pastor.

"COME THOU WITH US, AND WE WILL DO THEE GOOD"

"COME THOU WITH US, AND WE WILL DO THEE GOOD"

One of the greatest joys in life is sharing the things most dear to our hearts with people we love.  To the Christian, it is the Lord, His house and the fellowship of the saints.  Grateful, thankful, excited about God's presence among his people, full of love for the Lord, Moses wanted to share his experience with others.  To his brother in law, Hobab, he would say, "We are journeying unto the place of which the LORD said, I will give it you: come thou with us, and we will do thee good: for the LORD hath spoken good concerning Israel"-Numbers 10:29.

An invitation to God's house has always reflected a kindness towards another.  "We will do the good" carries the thought of:  "I want to share something with you that I hold dear to my heart.  If you find what I have found, you too will find great blessings.  I will help you with your burdens, you help me with mine.  Come, let us go with the Lord."  This sentiment is found in the Christian invitation.  Perhaps it is to one who has gone astray; perhaps to keep one from going astray; it might be to one who is strong and could be a great blessing to the cause; it could be to a friend whose company around the throne of grace is sought after; it could be to help a marriage; a child; or a simple opening of a door for a seeker.  All of this and much more is found in the word come.  

It was nothing in himself, or even the chosen people of God, that moved Moses to invite Hobab.  His confidence was solely because "the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel".  God's promise, not his own faithfulness, was the foundation of his hopeful invitation.  The Lord has promised to go with us, tabernacle with us, protect us, feed us, water us, love us and finally receive us unto Himself on high where He dwells with the Cherubim and the redeemed family of God.  When God blesses us, you will be blessed.  Come with us, Hobab, we will do thee good.

Surely, this must be the driving force behind every true preacher and evangelist.  They have tasted the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  They have savored his mercy, his grace and his loving kindness.  They are like Jonathan who said, "see, I pray you, how mine eyes have been enlightened, because I tasted a little of this honey"-1 Samuel 14:29.  If they are sincere, they are not after your money or to add another number to their list of admirers.  They want to share what they have found to be the greatest blessing in their lives, something sweet, the glory of the Lord. This is the true spirit of evangelism.  It is not expensive.  Yet, it is dynamic.  It is not selfish.  As one preacher put it: "It is one hobo inviting another hobo to dinner."

We would not dwell upon the negative, but we must contrast this invitation to that of the world.  The world will invite God children to "come with us" but they have no intention of doing thee good.  Misery loves company.  If friends of the world can make one more miserable than they are, they are happy.  The credit card companies say, "come with us" .  Will they do thee good?  The race track and the gambling casinos will say, "Come with us" while we take your savings and the money to feed your family.  Will they do thee good?  On Sunday morning the world is screaming, "Come thou with us".  Who will really do thee good?

The greatest blessing to a mother, a father or a grandparent is sharing the Lord and His house with their family.  This blessing will eclipse all others in our earthly pilgrimage.  To be present in the Lord's house and share the message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, to feel His presence in the song and prayer is the best of the best.  It is the oasis in this desert that many have sought after and are seeking today.  To those hungry and thirsty we will say, "Come thou with us, and we will do thee good."

Come and worship with us at Harmony Primitive Baptist Church.  Singing begins at 10:30 each Sunday morning followed by preaching at 11:00.

By His mercy and grace, Neil Phelan, Jr.,  Pastor.

"KEEP YOUR NETS MENDED"

"KEEP YOUR NETS MENDED"

When Paul wrote I Corinthians, he wrote to a house divided.  Corinth was plagued with many problems causing a rift among God's people. In his opening remarks, Paul beseeched the brethren to "be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement(1:10)."  The words, "perfectly joined together" were words the Corinthians well understood.  They were words that referred to the mending of torn fishing nets.  Paul was saying to them, "If you want to catch fish, keep your nets mended."

Division is satan's greatest tool……it always has been.  Since he is no match for the King of Kings, satan cowardly divides families, nations and God's people by lies, deceit and whatever fleshly motive he might generate.  Every military leader well knows the phrase, "Divide and conquer" as well as "United we stand, divided we fall."  If an army can be divided, they are weakened. How could the U.S.A. have faced Nazi Germany without oneness of mind and spirit? Satan will use politics, race, grace or any thing to divide.  One of the saddest statements in the Bible is I Kings 16:21, "Then were the people of Israel divided into two parts".  It would only be a matter of time before they would hang their harps on the willows before a chiding enemy. God divided the light from the darkness, but He never divided light from light.  He will one day divide the sheep from the goats and put His sheep in one fold.  Division is the most used, most effective weapon of our sworn enemy.  Let us keep our nets mended.

When the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out devils by the chief of devils, Jesus said something that should be a constant reminder to net mending.  He said, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand". This principle applies in a church a marriage, friendships and wherever God has stamped the word "unity".  If parents do not agree in the home, the little fish escape Godly advice.  It is sad, yet true, satan is always looking for those without the home or parental judgement.  So many fall prey to his schemes of division. Teenagers are prone to divide themselves from the home.  Satan may use a boy, a girl, or a friend to separate children from loving arms. Let us be wise.

At Corinth, Paul knew at least four reasons their Church needed to keep their nets mended: (1)God will not honor a divided house because it was a contradiction to Christ; (2)Corinth would lose their ability to judge and make decisions that would honor Christ; (3) Division would bring reproach upon God's people in the minds of the people around them; (4) It would weaken their testimony.

Among the many causes of division at Corinth, it seems that pride was their first and foremost problem.  How well Solomon's words applied: "Only by pride cometh contention"-Prov. 13:10a.  Some were proud of their knowledge, some their name, some the person who baptized them, some of their standing in the community.  They had forgotten they were nothing without Jesus. In Him they were all equal: "joint heirs". 

How do we keep our nets mended?  By keeping Christ first.  By keeping His cause, His principles, His authority, His purpose first in our lives. In the first chapter of this letter, Paul used the word Jesus or Christ 18 times. He beseeched them by the name of Jesus, "If you will not do it for Paul who gave his life to preach to you, will you do it for Jesus who died for your sins?" Mending nets was a tedious, tiresome and never-ending process.  Each day, when the ship returned to harbor, the nets had to be checked for tears and mended for the next days venture out to sea. That is what Peter, Andrew, James and John were doing when Jesus called them to follow Him.  It took a lot of time, yet it was necessary for the success of their occupation.  Let us prepare at once for tomorrow!

Come and worship with us at Harmony Primitive Baptist Church, at Donaldson, where God is sovereign, and salvation is by His abundant and amazing grace.  Services begin at 10:30 each Sunday morning.

By His mercy and grace,  Neil Phelan, Jr.,  Pastor.

"FORGET NOT ALL HIS BENEFITS"

"FORGET NOT ALL HIS BENEFITS"

Today we would pose a question to all: "Is there a benefit in serving God: is there a benefit in going to God's house; is there a benefit in reading His word; is there a benefit in prayer; in private devotions; to Christian living?"  How do you feel about it?  What is your opinion?  We pose the question not to condemn those who would answer in the negative.  Rather, we pose the question as an encouragement to those who feel in their hearts that there is a benefit in serving God for there are times of wonder and amazement when we notice as Job did that, "The tabernacles of robbers prosper".  In times of wonder and trials let us not become discouraged and forget the Lord's benefits.  David wrote a song for his people to remind them of the many benefits of the Lord for he knew quite well that they might look at the world and begin to envy those who knew not their God, "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits"-Psalm 103:2.  

The first benefit he writes of is dear to us all, "Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases". There is no greater topic to the Christian than the forgiveness of sin.  It is the benefit most cherished. Worldly treasures found in the tabernacles of robbers will never compare to this benefit for they will perish with time.  God's gifts are everlasting.  Forgiveness is the out-flowing of redemption, the cross, the blood of Christ, the covenant of grace.  I have heard the preachers say, "There are only two kinds of sinners: those who know they are sinners and those who know not."  Those whose eyes have been opened appreciate the benefit.  Let us not forget it.  Let it be as sweet to us today as when we first learned that Jesus was the friend of sinners.  

We love the word ALL: "healeth all thy diseases." Surely, the psalmist refers to our iniquity as he writes of disease for many physical maladies haunt the souls of God's people today.  Physical disease is a result of Adam's transgress while the healing of all sin is the result of Christ's obedience.  Every germ of sin has been taken care of by the Master Physician.  Let us consider the benefit of God's spiritual health care plan for His redeemed family.  

David continues to write, "Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies".  Kindness is appreciated from all of society, but lovingkindness is a benefit from one who knows His children well.  Lovingkindness is the motivation behind redemption.  It is the crown the great King places upon the head of all of His children that Paul spoke of, a crown equal for all and boasted by none but the giver.  Surely, it is a tender mercy, a benefit that we should remember daily.    

He also wrote of the Lord's daily benefits, :"Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah"-Psalm 68:19.  Every day, there are benefits both known and unknown to God's people.  If we only knew how many times we or our loved ones have been saved from an accident, a disease, wickedness and even our own selves we would be surprised at the daily benefits.  Though we may see the fun and frolic in the lifestyle of the rich and famous, yet, in the Christian home I see benefits of far greater value.  Yes, there is great benefit in serving God.  He is "a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."   Today, we encourage all who call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord to press into the kingdom, fight the good fight of faith, contend for the faith once delivered to the saints, endure hardness as a good soldier.  Our King is coming back and His reward is in His hand!  Think upon His benefits and ask, "What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me?"-Psalm 16:12.

Come and worship with us at Harmony Primitive Baptist Church, at Donaldson, where God is sovereign, and salvation is by His abundant and amazing grace.  Services begin at 10:30 each Sunday morning.

By His mercy and grace,  Neil Phelan, Jr.,  Pastor.




"ENCOURAGEMENT FOR THE BEREAVED"

"ENCOURAGEMENT FOR THE BEREAVED"

One of the greatest sorrows known to God's children is the loss of a loved one from this life.  Today, let us consider some of the great promises our Lord has given His children for encouragement during the times of such great loss.  

In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul wrote, "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as other which have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him"(4:13,14). Many times, we forget the purpose of Jesus' death.  It was that His people would live with Him forever in glory.  He paid the price for an eternity of bliss for His people.  

Our greatest encouragement stems from a knowledge of Jesus' death, "if we believe that Jesus died and rose again."  If we believe in the resurrection of Jesus, that He rose bodily from the grave, we should also believe that our loved ones will too.  They will come back with Jesus when He returns, "will God bring with Him".  Yes, we will see them again! It could be tomorrow or even next week.  What a day that will be when all the redeemed host come together with Jesus.  It is always good to remember that the best is yet to come for God's children.  When Mary and Martha lost their brother Lazarus, Martha said to Jesus, "I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day"-John 11:24.  Though her loss was great, her knowledge of the resurrection gave her great hope.  Her hope was realized sooner than expected as Jesus commanded the body of Lazarus from the tomb.  This was just a glimpse of the wonders of resurrection day.  

Our belief that "Jesus died and rose again" is the anchor of the soul when a loved one passes from this life.  The loss of a loved one would be a hopeless experience if it were not for our knowledge of Jesus who was triumphant over death, hell and the grave.  Just to know that King Jesus reigns triumphant over all things, death included, instills hope that our loved ones continue to live, only in another place, far better than this.  Paul said of this anchor hope, "Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus…"-Hebrews 6:19-20.  When the soul is tossed to and fro in a dark storm of sorrow, there is no greater anchor than hope. Paul's language is very figurative.  The forerunner was the ship that escorted the heavy laden vessel into the harbor and carried its anchor into the safe haven and dropped it.  Jesus is our forerunner.  Our hope is within the veil(heaven), firmly attached to Jesus.  His people are attached firmly to Him by His love and drawn to Him by His grace.  Thankfully, the line between the anchor and the ship is His faithfulness and not our own.  Though our hope may seem so little from time to time, His faithfulness is unfailing, "sure and stedfast".

Surely, God's promises give great consolation and instill hope in the heart of the believer.  No, Paul did not say that we should not sorrow.  Sorrow is a spiritual exercise of the soul.  It is the God prescribed means of venting a loving heart exploding with sorrow.  Even Solomon wrote, there is "a time to mourn".  That time is best spent in communion with the Lord who made the promises; the one who safely keeps our loved ones in His beloved company.  Let us go to Him with our sorrow and speak of the resurrection as Martha did.  He will have compassion.  "Jesus wept".

Come and worship with us at Harmony Primitive Baptist Church, at Donaldson, where God is sovereign, and salvation is by His abundant and amazing grace.  Services begin at 10:30 each Sunday morning.

By His mercy and grace,  Neil Phelan, Jr.,  Pastor.


"COME BEFORE HIS PRESENCE WITH SINGING"

"A JOYFUL NOISE"

"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.  Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing"-Psalm 100:1,2

Music has a profound influence upon the soul.  It affects our emotions, our feelings and has the power to change our mood in a heartbeat.  Just by adding music to the score of a movie, producers can dictate how the audience should feel about a particular scene.  A song can take us back in time to people and places long forgotten.  Music can lift us up and it can bring us down.  Yet, there are different kinds of music.  There is noise and there is "joyful noise".  There is music and there is worshipful music.  There is music that affects the flesh, the natural emotions, and there is music that moves the spirit within the born again child of God.  The latter would be classified as worshipful music.  To God it would be called "a joyful noise".  

It is a sad reflection upon Christianity when worship music resembles worldly music; when it stirs the flesh and not the spirit; when it sounds like the music on the juke box only with the words changed; when it attracts the world and not the elect.  There IS a difference.  To this same schism, Charles Spurgeon addressed the music of his day: "God's house is meant to be sacred unto himself, but too often it is made an opera house, and Christians form an audience, not an adoring assembly.  We come not together to amuse ourselves, to display our powers of melody, or our aptness in creating harmony.  We come to pay our adoration a the foot stool of the great King, to whom alone be glory forever and forever"(17.663).  He also said, "Singing should be congregational…..when your heart is full of Christ, you will want to sing."  To his sentiments we must agree.

In New Testament terms, "a joyful sound" in God's ears is not produced by a musical instrument.  It is not even produced by a beautiful voice or by the harmony of many voices.  He who constantly enjoys an angelic chorus is not impressed with human ability.  The only instrument than will ever produce a joyful noise in God's ears is the heart……a quickened heart that resonates with love and affection for its Redeemer.  Every child of God possesses this instrument.  It is said that the greatest sound to a violin makers ear is the music produced from an instrument of his own making.  Surely, if the Lord quickened the heart it would give Him great pleasure to hear it echo His praise.  The heart is the focus of New Testament worship!  

Addressing the heart, Paul wrote, "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord"(Eph 5:19).  Notice, the focus is the heart…not an instrument, not a voice. Though a person may not be able to carry a tune in a wash-tub, just reciting the words with a heart in communion with God is just as beautiful in God's hears as Placido Domingo or Luciano Pavarotti.  None are spectators in this kind of worship! In I Corinthians 14:15, Paul gives the recipe for heart worship, "I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also". Spiritual understanding is heart melody.  The natural man can not play this instrument(I Cor 2:14).  It is possible for one to sing "Amazing grace" ever so beautifully, and never recognize that they are a wretch in need of God's grace!  Spiritual songs are both experimental and doctrinal.  They agree with the Bible and teach it in song.  That is the modus operandi of "teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." The heart gives assent to the truth offered up to God.  Spiritual songs are sermons sang from breast to breast in the solemn assembly.

The born again heart is the fulfillment of the Old Testament types and shadows.  The many instruments in David's choir were only shadows of many quickened hearts in the New.  If I could paint a picture of the assembly joined together in song, I would paint a picture of a troubadour, seated beneath the balcony of his love.  His heart is afire with one desire: that his beauty would present herself for just a little while.  Christ is the great love of the Church.  We should sing that He would present Himself for just a little while in our services. "Come thou almighty King!" 

Come and worship with us at Harmony Primitive Baptist Church, at Donaldson, where God is sovereign, and salvation is by His abundant and amazing grace.  Services begin at 10:30 each Sunday morning.

By His mercy and grace,  Neil Phelan, Jr.,  Pastor.


"LOVEST THOU ME"-John 21:15

"LOVEST THOU ME"-John 21:15

Today we focus our attention to a most heart searching question concerning our love for Jesus.  As our Lord questioned the heart of the apostle, let Him equally question ours today.  Try to imagine that Jesus is sitting next to you and has spoken the same words to you as He did to Peter: "Lovest thou me?"

Peter was of the highest office in the church.  The question was not to a nominal follower of Christ.  It is indeed a question for us all.  Those who have sacrificed much are not exempt from the question for Peter had "Left all" to follow Jesus.  Even the most zealous are subject to the inquiry for at one point, Peter was willing to follow Jesus, even to death.  And even if we pressed the question to the point of being painful, we could not be censured, for Jesus asked Peter until it "grieved" him.  It is good to comfort God's people, but many times heart searching grief is the ointment of the apothecary for our fickle hearts.  As our Lord asked Peter the question, He called him by his unconverted name, Simon, reminding him of what grace had done for him.  The question is fraught with suggestions and gets right down to what Christianity is all about.  Lovest thou me?

Loving Jesus is the funnel through which all of Christianity must flow.  Jesus didn't say, "Are you sorry for denying me?  Have you repented?  Nor did He ask Peter what his future plans were.  If Peter truly loved Jesus all of this would fall into place.  He didn't ask Peter if he loved the church, the ordinances, the music or even the doctrine.  For all of what we should do and be revolves around this one question, "Lovest thou me?"  It is possible that we could love the wedding and forget all about the bridegroom; we could love the sanctuary and ignore the Light of it; we could love the feast and not hunger for the Bread of Life. We could go to the sanctuary because we would feel guilty if we didn't instead of going because we love Jesus.  Yes, to all of the Peters who read this, our preaching, our praying and all of doing must be because we love Jesus.  It is the best way to judge our own hearts and should be the motivating factor for any thing we do in the name of Christ and His cause.

Our love for Christ is the root of our love for other Christians.  No person is a Christian who does not love other Christians for "If a man say, I love God, and hateth is brother, he is a liar(I John 4:20).  The apostle of love saw this to be true of the first Christians.  Loving other children of God is one of the greatest evidences of our calling for "We know we that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren."  Is there a hand we can not shake or a soul that we can not plead for.  Lovest thou me?  Our love for Christ is the wellspring for all true obedience "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments(I John 5:3).  Our love is measured by the degree of our obedience, or walking in the light we have been given.  Our good works can never pay for our sin, only the blood of Christ can do that, yet those who truly love Jesus will be sure to perform them out of love.  Yes, Jesus knew that Peter loved him before the three fold answer was given.  Yet, he allowed Peter the opportunity to tell Him to His face.  And knowing that Peter loved Him thus, He knew that Peter would want to do something for Him who had done so much for Peter.  Thus He replied, "Feed my sheep".  He has given all of His Peters churches to attend, songs to sing and brothers and sisters to pray for and minister to.  Lovest thou me?

#168 "ADDICTED"

"ADDICTED"

"I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)"-1 Corinthians 16:15

What a beautiful thought we have before us today, of the house of Stephanas, who were "addicted" to the ministry of the saints". It is common to hear of those addicted to drugs, to alcohol, to tobacco, to television, to gambling and to certain kinds of music.  So seldom do we hear of those addicted to ministering to the saints.

Addiction goes like this: Whatever thing or substance one becomes addicted to, they have surrendered to it and it has become their greatest source of pleasure.  This house of Stephanas  had surrendered themselves to the Lord and His followers. Ministering to them was their greatest source of pleasure.  As we said, a beautiful thought.

And what is ministering anyway?  Simply put, it is doing something for someone else expecting nothing in return.  I am sure we must become smaller in our own eyes to become so addicted. It must involve self emptying, just as Paul described Jesus, "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves"-Philippians 2:3.  This is diametrically opposed to the thinking of the world, to the flesh and to our natural instinct.  But the joy of this posture is beyond description.  We find Jesus in such a posture as He washed the disciples feet.  He told His disciples, "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them."  The happiest people I know, and very probably that you know, are like this.  They constantly wait on others and minister to their needs.  Joy is found in this addiction.

There is much left unsaid in this scripture, for we are made to wonder how many were involved in this house…..wife, children, servants?  Yet, they were all of one mind and one heart.  Stephanas must have been a good example to all his house!

And how did they minister we should also wonder?  Was it of their substance, their carnal things, food, clothing, encouragement.  Surely, all that was left unsaid is as profitable for us to consider as what is said for it allows us to consider the many ways of ministering to others.  Equally, it allows us to examine our own ministering.

Apparently, the Lord was well pleased with this addiction.  They have found their place in His book of remembrance.  May their tribe increase!!  

#167 "ENCOURAGEMENT FOR MARRIAGE"

"ENCOURAGEMENT FOR MARRIAGE"

One of my favorite preachers once said, "A man who says he never had a fight with his wife will lie about other things to."  Surely, it is a challenge for two sinners to live together under the same roof for years and foster an atmosphere of peace and harmony.  Yet, this is God's design and we should not be totally discouraged if disagreements arise from time to time.  

God is interested in every marriage.  Whatever we do, we do it not only for self, for children, for family, but also to honor the Lord Jesus Christ.  That is why the old prophet said: "…..take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away…...Malachi 2:15-16.  The Lord has made provisions for putting away in the case of infidelity, abandonment and physical abuse.  But trading in for a newer model or personal freedoms can expect the chastening hand.  In "A Report from Family Scholars, Why Marriage Matters", these conclusions were found: 1) Marriage increases the likelihood that fathers have good relationships with their children; 2) Cohabitation is not the functional equivalent of marriage; 3) Growing up outside an intact marriage increases the likelihood that children will themselves divorce or become unwed parents; 4) Parental divorce (or failure to marry) appears to increase children's risk of school failure; 5) Children who live with their own two married parents enjoy better physical health, on average, than do children in other family forms; 6) Marriage is associated with reduced rates of alcohol and substance abuse for both adults and teens; 7) Children whose parents divorce have higher rates of psychological distress and mental illness; 8) Divorce appears significantly to increase the risk of suicide; 9) Married mothers have lower rates of depression than do single or cohabiting mothers; 10) Boys raised in single-parent families are more likely to engage in delinquent and criminal behavior."  From "Does Divorce Make People Happy?", from the Institute for American Values, this information was taken from 645 spouses out of 5,232 married adults: "Unhappily married adults who divorced or separated were no happier, on average, than unhappily married adults who stayed married; two out of three unhappily married adults who avoided divorce or separation ended up happily married five years later."  I find a lack of God's blessings where this sacred commitment is abandoned.  Innocent bystanders, children and even innocent spouses are seriously affected for life by decisions that are not God honoring.

Marriage is like a sacred ball that two people carry. Two people promise God that they will pick up this ball and carry it the distance.  Oh, they love to carry it at first.  Just to look at that person on the other side is heavenly.  Walking along side that other person is easy, the weight is light.  Yet, as they go the distance many obstacle are placed in the way by Satan and the world to cause one or both to stumble.  Sometimes, it seems that we are carrying most of the weight ourselves.  But when the other one lifts their hand from the task we find we were not carrying as much as we thought we were.  Inside the ball?  Inside this ball is everything that is important: love, children, a home, a family, warmth, identity and support. When the ball is dropped, all the contents spill out into the world, attachments are torn and….Jesus put it this way: "And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it"-Matthew 7:27. 

#166 "THE END OF THE WORLD"

"THE END OF THE WORLD"

There are a lot of theories concerning the end of the world.  The reason I say "theories", is because there is nowhere in scripture that many of the ideas commonly advanced are really spelled out.  Some say, that when Jesus returns, He is going to set up a kingdom which will continue for one-thousand years during which time those who are not saved will have a second chance.  Others say that the kingdom will begin one-thousand years before Jesus comes.  Various ideas of what will happen during these "millennial reigns" are given, which get so confusing that I have yet to hear two people explain it in the exact same way.  Usually, during the explanation, they end up in the book of Revelation or Daniel's seventy weeks, using some figures and types and when you ask them to explain all the surrounding texts the explanations become just as bizarre.  

I believe in the simple format that Paul, Peter and other writers present concerning the end of this world.  When Jesus preached, "even the common people heard him gladly."  Consider these biblical explanations of "the end of the world."

Jesus is King today.  If He is King today, He must have a kingdom. To those who refused to believe that Jesus was King and had a kingdom He said, "The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it"-Luke 16:16.  Thus, there was a kingdom that began with the preaching of John the Baptist and God's elect were pressing into it by faith even then. Another time, Jesus said, "But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you"-Matthew 12:28.  It is certain that Jesus was casting out devils by God's Spirit, thus the kingdom had come.  Therefore, the kingdom is not coming, it is here.  It is the Church of Jesus Christ.  

In I Thessalonians 4:14-18, Paul gives us some comforting words concerning the end of he world and the visible return of Jesus. He is not trying to scare people, he would rather comfort them.  In this passage of scripture, Paul tells us that when Jesus returns, He will bring those that have died in Christ with Him.  Jesus is not coming to set up a kingdom, He is coming to get His kingdom, His bride, and take her home.  Paul says nothing about Jesus setting up a kingdom, he says, "We which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."  Thus, when the end comes, when Jesus comes back, His people are leaving with him "in the air."  That is heaven my friends.  What a glorious day that will be!!

Peter tells us what will happen to the rest of creation when Jesus takes His redeemed family home:  "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent hat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up"-2 Peter 3:10.  Yes, all the money, the gold, the castles, the empires, all will be burned because they will no longer be needed.  Here we find no place for a kingdom either here or on the moon.  The elect will all be a the greatest worship service imaginable surrounding the throne of the Lamb of God.  

Simple, yet profound, so I teach.  Jesus said, "It is finished", thus He is not coming back to finish a job He did not complete.  Salvation is not a chance, it is as sure as the blood of Christ!  Let us joyfully anticipate the King's return!

#165 "REMEMBERING JESUS"

"REMEMBERING JESUS"

"Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me"

We have all heard stories of people who have been rescued from burning buildings or snatched from twisted and burning heaps of wreckage along the interstate by some brave and caring individual.  It seems that the hearts and souls of those who were rescued were knit to their savior, as Jonathan's soul was knit to David's, when he slew Israel's giant enemy. In many cases, some sense of appreciation or gratitude for life seems to move the would be victim to stay in touch and communicate with their rescuer. I remember the movie, "Saving Private Ryan", and the last words of Tom Hanks was something like, "Make it count".  The soldier that he and others gave their lives for was seen visiting his grave and remembering his death all of his life. Surely, this kind of thankfulness, appreciation, love and communion is manifested among the Lord's people as they meet together to remember their Savior, who saved them, not from burning buildings or burning wreckage, but from a burning and eternal place of torment. 

Many of the early disciples knew Jesus personally in the days of His earthly ministry.  As the infant church gathered together to break the bread, they remembered their friend who walked with them, talked with them, taught them, healed them, and ultimately died for their transgressions.  As the bread was crushed and broken in their hands, their minds and hearts were upon the body of their friend whose body was crushed and broken for their sin.  Oh, that we might break the bread with such affection today!

It is difficult to tell just how frequently they observed their Lord's body in this way.  At Troas, they came together to break bread upon the first day of the week (Acts 20:7).  In another place we read where they, "continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart"(Acts 2:46).  As we read such passages, we find their fellowship so closely knit that it is difficult to tell where the Lord's supper ended and their regular meals began.  Much of the time, their circumstance required the early Christians to meet in their own homes to worship together and break the bread.  As they brake the bread from "house to house" I can almost hear them say: "I want to observe the master's death at my house".  To them, it was a blessed privilege to observe such a service in the confines of their personal dwellings.  What a testimony it must have been to their immediate family and their neighbors as they worshiped the Lord and brake the bread and told the story of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  Every baptized believer should  joyfully anticipate that special time when the saints of God gather together and remember Jesus in that sacred ordinance of "the breaking of bread".

Symbolically, the manna in the wilderness represented the body of Christ, his life, his doctrine, his suffering, his body broken for the sins of His people.  This "manna" in the wilderness provided sustenance and strength for the Lord's people.  As we journey through the wilderness of this world, the doctrine of Christ crucified is now as strengthening and comforting to a believer as ever it was.  As the manna was sweet in taste and sustaining to the natural body so is this "living bread" to the hungry soul.  We enjoy the sweetness of his fruits, His word, His doctrine and ordinances; those meats which includes in them all happiness.  They looked for this manna daily and so should we for He strengthens our soul and causes us to rejoice!

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#164 No Fear

"NO FEAR"

"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love"-1 John 4:18

There are two kinds of fear.  There is a terrible fear, a fear of some horrible thing happening to us.  Then, there is also a reverential fear, a proper fear, a respectful fear tempered with knowledge with an eye upon someone or something that will mete out justice for offences.

To further illustrate these two kinds of fear we might compare September, 11th of last year to the terrible fear.  This kind of fear 'torments' the soul.  When we think of our heavenly father, John would not have us think this way.  Our God is loving, caring and He does not torment His children.  He loves them with an everlasting love and though He may chasten them as a father would his son(Hebrews 12:5), it is always for their good. It is this kind of fear that Solomon referred to when he wrote: "The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom"(Proverbs 9:10), and he also said, "The fear of God is the beginning of knowledge(Proverbs 1:7)".   Here is the balance, the harmonizing of scripture.  Reverential fear is healthy and one of the greatest evidences of son-ship: to know that we belong to our Father.  It is evidence proper that we are interested in pleasing Him, evidence that we love Him and evidence that we believe that He exists.      

This brings us to a beautiful thought concerning a very real fear, the fear of hell.  It always reminds me of the story of the little boy who could not sleep because he was afraid, afraid that if he died in his sleep he would go to hell.  After sobbing on his pillow for what seemed to be hours, he went into his mother's bedroom to confess his fears.  Usually a happy child, the mother was shocked to see her baby in such a sad state.  "What is wrong with you", was her immediate response.  The tearstained reply was "I'm afraid if I die in my sleep I will go to hell."  As the mother, too, began to weep, the child knew only too well his sin was known to all, even to his mother, and she way crying over his hopeless estate.  "She knows it too", were his little thoughts, "she knows I deserve nothing less than hell. I have been mean to my brother, I have not obeyed my parents as I should." Though his sins were small compared to the atrocities of the world, the quickened heart had been made tender by God's grace.  He had little to compare his faults with, he just knew he was a sinner. But he had to ask his mother for the final sentence, "Why are you crying mom?"  To his utter surprise, the most joyful news came from her mouth……something unexpected….. "If you were not a child of God, you would not be worried about it", was the reply.  EVIDENCE!!  Suddenly, the tormenting fear was gone as he carefully examined the evidence: "Why would I think myself to be a sinner if God had not shown me.  Why would He show me if He did not love me.  Why would I feel this way if I were not in God's family?"  Peace was given by the Prince of Peace.  Even a child can understand God's grace.  It takes adults to put a price on it, add some ceremonies to it and make it complicated.

There is "no fear" in perfect love.  It is the gospel that calms the tormented heart and the fear of hell.  That is why it is called the "good news" and "glad tidings of good things".  Jesus has risen from the grave and conquered death.  He has redeemed His people with His own blood.  They now belong to Him and none can pluck them from His hands. Christian, is your love perfect?  If it is then death has lost its sting and the future is not so fearful. "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool"-Isaiah 1:18.

#163 "FOLLOWING JESUS"

"FOLLOWING JESUS"

"Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ"-1 Corinthians 11:1

Paul would have his Corinthian brethren follow him as he followed Christ.  To be a follower in this passage means to imitate or to act and behave like Jesus.  In a nutshell, that is genuine Christianity. 

Some might say, "I know that I can not be just like Jesus.  Why try to be something or do something that I know is beyond my ability?"  I have a lot of fond memories of grade school.  We had some wonderful teachers in our little school at Donaldson, Arkansas.  Our fourth grade teach, Mrs. Herrington, would let us sit on her lap and talk to her.  In that simple day, we had many outings.  One that sticks in my memory most was a trip to Gulfa Gorge, in Hot Springs.  This was a quiet little picnic spot at the foot of the Ouachita Mountains, with a stream running between the campground and the mountain, with the neatest hiking trail up the mountain.  We all crossed the stream, one by one, and headed up the hiking trail.  After several hikes up the trial, our initial excitement had worn down, as well as our energy level.  It was then that we noticed a solitary painter perched in a corner of the campground with canvas on easel facing the mountain and stream.  Of course, we had to check it out.  What was he doing with that thing in front of him?  Several of us stood behind him and watched his gentle strokes upon the canvas as he portrayed, to the best of his ability, the beautiful scene before us.  I began to compare his work with the Master's work. One glance at the canvas, one glance at God's creation.  Over and over I compared the two.  After several comparisons I noticed he had purposely omitted an ugly telephone pole, wire and an old black pipe running across the stream.  I can't remember if the question came from my mouth, the mouth of another classmate, or if it just stuck in my mind, "Why did you leave those things out."  Nor do I remember if the answer came from the painter or from something already realized from the art.  He would capture the beauty and leave off the scar that man had made upon God's portrait.  It suddenly occurred to me that I had not noticed the pole, the wire or the black pipe until I saw his imitation of God's majestic beauty!  

No, in this life we can not become just like Jesus.  Though, the artist may try, the exact beauty of God's creation can never be captured on canvas, by a Nikon, or a camcorder.  Yet, we can be like the painter.  We can, stroke by stroke, to the best of our ability, by the light we have been given, try to paint as beautiful a picture as possible.  We can paint over, blend colors and work on our copy daily.  As the painter loves to paint, they get better at it.  So, the Christian must love their Lord and practice to imitate Him.  Prayer, reading the scriptures and church attendance keep our eyes upon the beauty we would imitate. We may also look at other canvases daily and learn.  We can look at other imitators and see God's beauty in them. This is a slice of humility: to focus on the good in others, rather than their faults.   It is like the painter, who did not paint the pole and the pipe, but focused on the beauty of God's workmanship. The first attempt on the canvas will definitely be lacking. Yet, we have the Spirit to become more like him,  "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord"-2 Corinthains 3:18.

#162 "A WAY OF ESCAPE"

"A WAY OF ESCAPE"

"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it"-I Corinthians 10:13

If you have lived very long, you have faced some temptations in your life.  Trials and tests they are, strewn along the pathway of life.  Though there are more kinds of temptations and tests than man can number, they come in two basic categories.  

One test comes from the desk of God.  We read, "God did tempt Abraham"-Genesis 22:1.  Abraham's faithfulness was tested in a request that we might think to be unreasonable:  "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest… and offer him there for a burnt offering".  God saw the end, he would stay Abraham's hand.  Yet, He tried or tested Abraham to see if he would do it.  Dear Christian, many of our trials are the same.  The request seems to be greater than we can bear yet the end is blessed.  The purpose for such trials is obvious.  They make us grow as our faith becomes stronger; they prove to our own selves what we are and that our love for the Lord is genuine; and they bear fruit unto our heavenly Father.

The other kind of temptation comes not from God though He can restrain the degree of it.  They come from the devil, referred to in scripture as "The tempter".  His method is different as well as his purpose.  He tempts with evil, with sin and his purpose is to destroy lives, families, homes, churches and to divide God's people in general.  God does not tempt His own people with evil(James 1:13).  You can be sure that the devil was present when David cast his eyes on Bathsheba and when Eve ate of the forbidden fruit.  Do you see the difference?  Not only has the fool said in his heart, "There is no God".  He has also said, "There is no devil."    Temptation is his "worm on the hook".  The frying pan is hot and he can't wait for the fish to bite.

Yet, in the midst of these temptations we find great promises.  One is this: no matter what we face, it is "Common to man".  Though we might sing "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen, Nobody knows my sorrow"……they have!  Somewhere, at some other time, another weary worn pilgrim has faced the exact trial, test, temptation you are facing today.  Surely, this must be a comfort.  And it tells us something of the devil.  He can not come up with any thing new.  He is using the same techniques: anger, jealousy, hatred, pride, lust, fear, sloth, bitterness, wrath, idolatry, adultery, fornication, drunkenness and murder(Galatians 5:19-21) to divide and destroy.  Now, if one of these come before us, we do not have to be as they say, "a rocket scientist", to figure out who is behind it.  We must seek God's strength to avoid it which brings us to the next promise: "God is faithful".   Surely He knows about it and He will not suffer his children to be tempted above the strength He gives them. Though the devil is allowed to tempt, he is also on a chain and the Lord can pull him in as He wishes.  But let us be careful as we smile at God's greatness.  We are reminded that the Lord will make 'A' "way to escape", not many ways.  This way must be a way that will cause us to "seek His face" for our way of escape. If we find it, the trial will become sweet as we gain a victory over the tempter and draw closer to the Lord.    

Yes, every Christian will look back and say, "I wish I had that to do over again".  I remember a few basketball shots I would like to take again.  The second putt is always the better and the scope is always adjusted a little after the miss.  Yet, we learn even then.  We may fail some important trials, yet, the battle is the Lord's.  Redemption belongs to Christ.

Lord, help us to face our trials with this knowledge and when we come to the end of life's journey let us sweetly sing, "My latest sun is sinking fast, My race is nearly run, my strongest trials now are past, my triumph is begun"-Angel Band.

#161 Walking with Jesus

"WALKING WITH JESUS"

"And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus…Jesus himself drew near, and went with them-Luke 24:13-15

Today our mind is focused on the distinct effort our Lord made to be with two lonely travelers on their way to Emmaus. Since He was, and is, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, He could have been anywhere He wanted to be.  He could have been in Caesar's castle, on the Caribbean or just visiting with a few angels.  But He chose to be with two confused travelers on their walk to Emmaus. Is not God's electing grace beautiful?  He is sovereign in His choice.  It is not based upon money, titles and position.  He chooses those He loves, those in need and those who can never pay Him back.  And many times His visits are unexpected!

As Jesus walked with them, He opened up the scriptures to them, "they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?"- Luke 24:32  Surely, this is how we know we have had an experience with Jesus.  Our heart burns with us and He opens up the scriptures for poor, pitiful blind people who can not open them by themselves.  It seems to me that when we are with some of the Lord's special people, we feel the same way.  We look back on the experience and our heart burns to be with those people again.  They, too, play their part in opening up the scriptures for us.  Pastors, preachers, evangelists and friends all have a part in this ministry.  John wrote, "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren"- 1 John 3:14a.  We love to be with those who love our Lord. We always look forward to another opportunity to be with them again.  It seems to me that Satan has succeeded in dividing Christians.  Many times we hide behind our manmade traditions and doctrines and separate ourselves from others who love and honor our Lord Jesus Christ.  Let it not be so.  Let us look for Christ in others and love them for Christ's sake.  If He loves them, and takes the time to walk with them, should we not as well?  This is always a good rule.  Those that we see walking with Jesus, we will walk with as well.  Perhaps something will be opened up unto us!

Thou we may not realize it, when we minister to others, we become like our Lord.  Any thing that we can do for another, expecting nothing in return, is ministering.  Just to walk with them, talk with them, listen to their troubles and cares is a step away from self towards another's needs.  So it was on that special day with our Lord and His two travelers.   

As our Lord departed from His friends at Emmaus, they knew they had been highly favored.  They knew their Lord had walked with them that day.  Today, I hope He walks with you!


#159 "HE IS ABLE"

"HE IS ABLE"

"I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day"-2 Timothy 1:12

An able man is always the best man for the most difficult task.  When it is fourth down and one yard to go, let us give the ball to the man who has proved his ability to blast through the line.  When there are only a few seconds on the clock and a three pointer will win the game, let the player who has proved his ability take the last shot.  The anchor man must be sure footed and able to carry the baton through the ribbon before his opponents and so we would say concerning natural ability.  But let us carry this truth beyond the natural into a spiritual realm that goes beyond natural ability or even earthly forces. Paul writes of Jesus, the One who is "able to save to the uttermost."  

Many things could be said concerning what the apostle, as well as ourselves, should commit to Jesus.  One thing he must have committed was full payment for his sin.  Here, Jesus was able to do something that man could not.  He could become man and life a spotless life.  Thus, a perfect sacrifice for sin.  Let us commit the full price of our redemption to Jesus Christ for "all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags"-Isaiah 64:6.  Certainly our Lord is well pleased with our righteous efforts to serve Him.  Yet, when we hold those labors up to the Father's face to pay for or trade off our sin they are offensive to Him, they are as filthy rags.  Did not His own precious Son die for the sins of His people?  Nothing else is pleasing to the Father than the suffering of His Son. Even an apostle must confess his own weakness and commit his salvation to a faithful creator. Let us commit this unto Jesus.  He is good for the debt. 

 Jesus was able to die upon a cross and live again.  Paul believed the words of Jesus upon the cross when He said, "It is finished".  A job committed to a faithful man is finished when He says it is finished. I have seen a lot of jobs that were not finished when people said they were.  Perhaps a misunderstanding of what the job was all about or even the inability to complete the task.  Yet, salvation is of the Lord.

Paul must have also committed his security from falling to Jesus. How confidently he could write, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?"  In other words, "Take it up with Jesus, He is my intercessor, my ransom, my payment and my Savior.  I have committed all things to Him." 

Dear friend, are you worried about tomorrow, the problems with the world, the stock market, the condition of the country.  Paul was suffering the pains of persecution when he wrote this letter, yet he had committed the pains and sufferings of this life to Jesus as well.  We must commit each day to Jesus.  Day by day, let us look to one who does not change like the world, to one who is able to keep us from sinking in the stormy waves about us.  He walks on the water, in the furnace opens prison gates and raises the dead.  He is able.  

We close today with the words of the great Puritan writer, Thomas Brooks, "The child can not better secure any precious thing it has, than by putting it into the father's hands to keep.  Our mercies are always safest and surest when they are out of our hands, and in the hands of God.  We trust as we love, and we trust where we love; where we love much, we trust much; much trust speaks out much love; if we love Christ much, surely we shall trust him much."  He is able!

#158 "HOW LONG"

"HOW LONG"

"How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?-Psalm 13:1-2

Patience is a virtue that is hard to come by, molded by the hand of tribulation, for 'tribulation worketh patience'.  It is most commonly found with the hoary head.  Parents might identify with "how long" on some long trip in the car.  Before we get out of town we hear from the back seat, "How much longer daddy?" and we know that tribulation and patience are making their mark upon young and old.  How long is the class, how long is the book, how long is the work day, how long is the wait in the doctors office, how long before vacation, how long before supper, how long is the sermon, how long before payday, how long till this job is over, how long till this day is over, this month, this year, this semester, how long till retirement, how long till this feeling is past, this trouble, this heartache…..?  This desire to be exactly where we want to be in life, and doing exactly what we want to be doing, and feeling exactly how we want to feel, and with the people and places we want to be doing it all with is a mark of impatience, the feeling we are wasting our lives, precious time that, we think, could be better spent.  It is from this attitude that the psalmist, David, writes what is usually referred to as the "HOW LONG" psalm as he seeks the Lord's face for his petitions to be answered…….right now.

He begins his petition with an assumption, a confused feeling that we all experience in our tribulations, "How long wilt thou forget me?"  And then he gives the Lord the answer, "Forever".  That is why we love David so much, his prayers are ours.  Many times, his words express what we feel in our own hearts.  And in our tribulation, we all feel to be forgotten by our Lord, He is wasting our time by not answering us immediately and we suffer needlessly.  Yet, if we will stop and allow our thoughts to ascend to the right hand of the Father, we will find a great King and Lord that watches over His own every moment, every day.  Even David, when thinking aright, wrote in the 139th Psalm that His Lord knew when he sat down, when he got up, what he was thinking, what he was about to say and that his Lord was present with him ever moment.  "He that keepeth thee does not slumber" and He is not afflicted with alzheimers, He does not forget anything, especially the His beloved, the sheep of His pasture.

Knowing the character of our Lord, there is much we might consider in our unanswered petitions.  It may be that Lord is saying the same thing, "How long before you cease from man whose breath is in his nostrils, how long before you quit trusting in horses in chariots that can not deliver, how long before you turn from your idols, how long before you give up your sin, how long before you get back in Church, read my word and call upon me in prosperity?" and we find the truth of the matter: He has not forgotten us, we have forgotten Him.  Surely, David's "How long" questions should cause deep meditations of our own conscience.  Perhaps our unanswered petition is one of love, to draw us closer, to humble us.  Perhaps we ask for something amiss, unreasonable and our thinking is not right in our petition and it is not His will at all.  Perhaps, we want our life to be like we want it and not what He has chosen for us.  Perhaps it is to teach us patience, the answer will be in His own time and in His own way.  Perhaps, we have jumped in the pit of our own making and we must live out what we did not ask the Lord about in the beginning.  Many reasons may be found for "how long" and it does not mean that the Lord has forgotten us.  Let Satan not put these words in our mind or our mouths.  But let us try to do this regardless of our unanswered petitions: While we are anxious for the answer, for the arrival, for the climatic event to unfold, let us not miss out on some precious moments for fellowship with the Lord and the opportunity to grow in grace and say with the patience of Job, "Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the LORD hath wrought this?"-Job 12:9.

#157 "FOUNDATIONS"

"FOUNDATIONS"

"If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?"-Psalm 11:3

Today, our message centers around the recent decision handed down by the appellate court that their children can no longer say, "One nation under God".  Thankfully, we have seen many leaders of our land rise up in protest to this attack upon God, the foundation of our great country.

Though the pens of historians and journalists are doing their best to change the truth into a lie, this country was founded upon God's word, by men and women seeking religious freedom.  They were seeking a place that they could worship the Lord without government interference. This can not be questioned. On our coins we read, "In God We Trust".  When we read the words of the early lawmakers, their language is pregnant with the name of God; we hold our hand on the Bible in court and solemnly swear to God; the word "pray" is used on most forms of legal titles and notes. From the mouths of our founding fathers we read their thoughts of  the sacred words of God.  George Washington said,  "It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible".  Abraham Lincoln said, "I am profitably engaged in reading the Bible.  Take all of this Book upon reason that you can, and the balance by faith, and you will live and die a better man." Herbert Hoover said, "The whole of the inspirations of our civilization springs from the teachings of Christ and the lessons of the Prophets.  To read the Bible for these fundamentals is a necessity of American life."  J. Edgar Hoover said, "The Bible is the unfailing guide which points the way for men to the perfect life.  The lessons of charity, justice and equality which enrich its pages should be learned well by all men in order that greed, avarice, and inequity can be blotted out." This is our foundation!

It is from this foundation that the kindness of God has been extended to poor people from other countries seeking refuge.  This foundation has provided great wealth and prosperity, it has amassed the greatest military force known to man and food enough to feed the needy in far away places.  Yet, there are those that would remove this foundation, God, and in doing so they will be to blame for the downfall of all the good we have seen.  They may as well erase every bird that sings and every flower that blooms if they will erase God from the earth, yet, He can be removed as the foundation of a nation.  As Jeremiah wept over his people, as Jesus wept over Jerusalem, many Christians have wept over this erosion of God in our country.

 I well remember Junior High, when our home room teacher would get out the old King James, and read a scripture.  We all took turns and we were just as obliged to do this as read from the literature book.  Though some read, Jesus Wept", because it was the shortest verse in the Bible, it was read none the less.  Then it was really a public school, not a government school.  God-fearing parents had more of an input.  Christ in most commonly found in the hearts of mothers and father, workers and poor people.  It is spiritual wickedness in high places that would destroy the foundation of America, the God that my grandfather, my great-grandfather and their children worshipped.  Henry Ford said, "All the sense of integrity, honor, and service I have in my heart I got from hearing the Bible read by a school teacher in the three years I was privileged to go to a little, old-fashioned grammar school.  The teacher read the Bible every morning to start the day right.  I got a great deal out of that influence." Surely, if evidence means anything, anyone can see the effect that God and prayer has upon the conscience of America.   

Come and worship with us at Harmony Primitive Baptist Church.  Singing begins at 10:30 each Sunday morning followed by preaching at 11:00.

By His mercy and grace, Neil Phelan, Jr.,  Pastor.

 

#156 "HAVE I EVER SEEN A CHRISTIAN

"HAVE I EVER SEEN A CHRISTIAN?"

There is the story of the little boy who asked his father what a Christian was.  After the father had given his explanation his little boy looked up into his face and asked, "Father, have I ever seen a Christian?"  The question pierced the father's heart as we would imagine, but the illustration is good and serves as an exercise of our own conscience as fathers.  And though Father's Day is past, these words are an excerpt from our sermon last Sunday and we felt them to be important enough to share with every father today.  

To be a father is a high calling of God which carries with it many responsibilities.  According to scripture, the greatest of these callings is to teach our children about the Lord Jesus Christ and to nurture a genuine faith in Him and a love for His principles, to hand these principles down from father do son to the future generations: The psalmist has written, "Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my moth.  I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark saying of old: Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.  We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done"-Psalm 78:1-4.  The psalmist has hit the nail on the head.  The high calling of the father is to teach their own children about the Lord.  It is to be handed down from father to son, from father to son.  In their day, the conquests of their people, the parting of the Red Sea, the manna in the wilderness, the mighty works of God.  Many truths had become dark sayings because of broken links in the chain.

The heart of the father can be easily sidetracked concerning this calling.  He can become more interested in teaching the child sports and human knowledge than about Christ.  It seems that this kind of man, the spiritual father, is all but forgotten in our culture today. Yet, some of the strongest men in history were lovers and worshipers of God.  Joshua, whose sword drove out the Canaanites said, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."  Here is a real man that we would all desire to live up to.  He was not a puppet to lust or pleasure, he was strong in the Lord.  I believe in the heart of every child is the desire to have a Godly father.  Though the feeling may be hidden beneath layers of the world, in this the child finds confidence and stability.  By a father's actions, the child is taught.  Every father should come to this sober judgement of self: he should be a living example of what he wants his child to be.  He must call evil, evil and good, good. I find this to be a daily struggle in every category.  If the father lives apart from God, he must expect his child to do so.  We realize there are great instances of grace as with Abraham who was called away from the idolaters in his family, or Gideon who was raised up to tear down his family idols.  We also know that some of the best parental efforts have been thwarted by the devil.  Yet, that does not take away from responsibility.  One day, the crop will mature.  Let us not say "I did it my way."  Let us say, "I did it God's way." Some might think by our preaching that we look at ourselves as the perfect father. Yet, many lessons are learned by mistakes and experience.  I wish I had set my heart to this truth years ago.  A poor man can only give what he has today, not what he did not have yesterday and it is to the benefit of others that we give, both father and child. Come and worship with us at Harmony Primitive Baptist Church.  Singing begins at 10:30 each Sunday morning followed by preaching at 11:00.By His mercy and grace, Neil Phelan, Jr.,  Pastor

#160 "GRACE: FRUSTRATED OR AMAZING

"GRACE: FRUSTRATED OR AMAZING?"

"I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain"-GALATIANS 2:21

John Newton had it right, grace is amazing.  It is a total contradiction to the human mind that a holy, righteous, perfect God would take notice of man, love them, send His own beloved Son to die for them, and that He would want to spend eternity with them in paradise.  Surely, this is amazing.

Yet, it gets even more amazing.  These sinners did nothing to deserve this grace.  Man will do something for someone for something in return; for reward or a kickback.  But God is pleased to bless those who can give Him nothing in return.  Ages ago, it was grace that declared, "I have loved them with an everlasting love" before they were born.  It was grace that marked them out and chose them "in him before the foundation of the world."  Grace was displayed upon the cross when Jesus "Laid down his life for His friends."  And it will be grace when Jesus returns to gather together from the four corners of the earth and heaven his elect to live with him in glory.  Surely, this is amazing grace, so amazing that we might begin to doubt the reality of reality of it!

Though the Galatians had been established on these principles of grace, there came in among them certain ones who had declared that they might gain heaven by their walk, their talk, their ceremonies and their traditions.  Even Paul marveled, "that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel."  It is easy to frustrate this grace.  After all, it was done by the congregation of one of the first churches.  It happens when we confuse what we should do with what Christ has done.  To be concise, it is when Christian warfare is confused with the warfare of the Lamb.

Christian warfare goes on in the trenches of every day life.  We must take on the "whole armor of God" to fight this battle.  It involves our witness to the world, how we live and represent Jesus in our lives.  As one person wrote, "Preach Christ-use words if you must."  It is letting our light shine before men.  It is becoming salt and light.  It is a Holy desire to become better for Christ's sake and to represent Him in a dark and sinful world.  This is our part.

The battle of the Lamb was accomplished about 2000 years ago upon a Roman cross by or Lord Jesus Christ.  We can neither add to it or take away from it.  None shall be lost.  Holy declarations like: "It is finished"; "He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied"; "He shall save His people from their sins"; "He hath made us accepted in the beloved" mean something.  They mean that Jesus won His battle!  He did for His people what they could not, by their works, their traditions and even good intentions, do for themselves.  If our righteousness could come by keeping the law, then Christ died a needless death(in vain).  Our great Conqueror, Mighty to save, trod the winepress alone as the sins of His precious elect were placed upon Him.  His suffering was unimaginable.  His greatest pain was not the spikes in His hands and feet; it was not the cruelty dealt out to Him in slanders, spitting and slapping.  My dear friend, it was my sin and yours placed upon His pristine perfection that dealt the death blow to the Holy One.  The tongues of angels and men can never adequately describe the agony.  We will have the pleasure of spending eternity praising Him for it. Our conqueroring Lord ascended victoriously to His Father and ours presenting the royal family before the throne washed in His blood.  Spotless and Holy they stand before His Father and ours.  O foolish Galatians, why do you try to claim a part in this victory.  Give Him the glory for it.  Claim His blood and live to show the Son in you.  Do not frustrate His grace!

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