Friday, September 28, 2007

Stand Up!

Preachers seldom face as large an audience as confronted Dudley A. Tyng on a March day in 1858. More than five thousand men were gathered in Jaynes' Hall in Philadelphia to hear the beloved preacher. At the time, the city was being stirred by a great revival. There was a certain charm and appeal about this speaker. He seemed to find just the right words to stir his listeners. He was so moving and convincing in his message that he drew thousands to those gatherings.

Three weeks later, he was dead. The city was shocked when it read of the accident that had claimed him as its victim. Mr. Tyng had gone to his home at Brookfield, near Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately Mr. Tyng suffered a fatal accident on his farm. Shortly before he passed away, he was briefly conscious. Those by the bedside heard him whisper, "Tell them to stand up for Jesus." Undoubtedly, it was the message he wanted carried to his friends in the minister's union who were conducting the city-wide revival.
There was one acquaintance in particular, to whom these words came as a challenge. George Duffield, pastor of the Fifth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, had been the late preacher's intimate associate and close fellow worker. To him it hardly seemed possible that one so beautiful in spirit and so dedicated to the Master's cause could have passed so abruptly from the scene. He began thinking that Mr. Tyng's final words should be translated into some enduring form of memorial.

The following Sunday, when the time came for the sermon in his own church, Mr. Duffield preached from the text in Ephesians 6:14: "Stand therefore." At the close he read a poem he had written, "Stand Up! Stand Up for Jesus!"Probably he never dreamed that he had written a great hymn. A copy of the lines was given to his Sunday school superintendent, who in turn had them printed on a special leaflet so that they could be sung by all the children.It could not stop there. The words seemed to fire men's souls throughout the land. When George Duffield made a trip to the battlefront in Virginia a few years later, he was deeply stirred as he heard thousands of army men sing "Stand Up! Stand Up for Jesus!"

The lyrics to a song from several years ago say “You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.” Truly if we do not stand for Christ then we will fall to all the temptations and tricks that Satan can muster. Standing for Christ means just what Ephesians 6:13 says; “Take up the whole armor of God”.

Each day we must “put on” this “armor”. The interesting thing is that even the knights of old could not put on their armor themselves. They had to have a page or servant help them. We cannot obviously put on righteousness ourselves; we must have God’s help. We would not dream of adorning ourselves with our own salvation, truth, and shield. All of these things comes from God, and He alone will make sure that we are ready to be able to stand for Him.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, stand in His strength alone;The arm of flesh will fail you, ye dare not trust your own.Put on the Gospel armor, each piece put on with prayer;Where duty calls or danger, be never wanting there.
George Duf­field, Jr.

Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Ephesians 6:11-13

Thursday, September 20, 2007


My daughter was watching the original Disney Winnie the Pooh video the other day. You know the one; Pooh meets Tigger for the first time, they have a blustery day, and Pooh has a nightmare about Heffalumps and Woozles. I loved Winnie the Pooh stories when I was a child, and I think I love them even more today.

I remember back in the days of only three channels on television, this same Winnie the Pooh came on for several years as a “Special Program”. It came on about the same time each year and I always looked forward to it. There was no such thing as a VCR, so if you were going to watch something, you had to wait on it to make its annual appearance.

The same thing was true of several other shows. Gone With The Wind, The Wizard of Oz, The Ten Commandments, and of course all of the Christmas and other holiday shows all came on television regularly and you actually waited for them to air.

There was something magical about those nights when you finally got to see that one show you had looked forward to all year. Sometimes the wait was hard, but it was always worth it.

Somewhere along the way, we became a world of convenience. Jiffy Pop gave in to Orville Redenbacher microwave popcorn; going to the movies gave in to renting the latest feature and watching it in bed; going to the bank gave in to the ATM and online banking; the Sears catalog gave in to internet shopping, and the evening supper gave in to the drive-thru. We just can’t seem to tolerate waiting for anything anymore.

One of the biggest problems with this is when we try to apply it to our Christian walk. We want instant answers and instant results from God. When God doesn’t answer our prayers right away we tend to do one of two things. Either we begin to doubt His involvement in our lives or even His very existence, or we try to fix things ourselves. Either way we are on the road to failure.

But what do we expect when we do not give God our time that seems to be so precious to us. We seem to find the time to spend hours per week at football games, dance recitals, the lake, the woods, the gym, or the party down the street. However, we just can’t seem to squeeze a few minutes each day to read God’s word and speak with Him.

We think that we can just cruise all week and not even give God a second thought and it will all be OK on Sunday. Sunday morning worship has become a Christian drive-thru where we get just enough to get us through until the next week. However, we are getting no real nutrition because we are not feeding from the bread of life. We are not drinking from the living water that Jesus promised would make us never thirst again. We believe we just don’t have time to fill our hearts and souls with the spiritual nourishment that He so longs to give us, so we run by church for a quick fix.

If you think you are short on time, you are correct. All of you who are reading this are running out of time. You are running out of time to tell someone you love them, to forgive those who have wronged you, to spend a few precious moments with your children or to see a sunset. But most of all, you are running out of time to serve the One who gave His life so that you could live, and to share that good news with others.

Make the commitment today to spend more quality time with God this week. It will make His week to hear from you, and just might make your eternity.

"At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their
lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five
were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.
The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a
long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. "At
midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' "Then
all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the
wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.' " 'No,' they replied,
'there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil
and buy some for yourselves.' "But while they were on their way to buy the oil,
the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the
wedding banquet. And the door was shut. "Later the others also came. 'Sir! Sir!'
they said. 'Open the door for us!' "But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I
don't know you.' "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the
hour. (Matthew 25:1-13)

He who testifies to these things says,
“Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of
our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. (Revelation 22:20-21)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Light your space

At one of the institutions of higher learning that I attended, I decided to take tennis for PE credit. I really did want to learn to play. My mother plays very well. She has competed in many tournaments and hates to lose. She bought me a very nice racket and had me ready for my class.

The first day of class, our instructor (who was a member of the tennis team) had us hit the ball back and forth. We worked on nothing else all day, but getting the ball over the net. I assumed the mechanics of the class would come later. After the first class was over, he called us aside and told us that he would work with anyone who was genuinely interested, but if we did not want to return, he would make sure we got credit for the class.

Which do you think everyone chose? Of course! There was not a single person who ever returned to that tennis court for class. We all got an “A” for that class and we were happy. However, I never picked up my racket again except to pack it when I moved. It is still somewhere among my possessions to remind me that I never reached my potential because it was convenient for me to do nothing.

Several centuries ago in a mountain village in Europe, a wealthy nobleman wondered what legacy he should leave to his townspeople. He made a good decision. He decided to build them a church. No one was permitted to see the plans or the inside of the church until it was finished. At its grand opening, the people gathered and marveled at the beauty of the new church. Everything had been thought of and included. It was a masterpiece.

But then someone said, "Wait a minute! Where are the lamps? It is really quite dark in here. How will the church be lighted?" The nobleman pointed to some brackets in the walls, and then he gave each family a lamp, which they were to bring with them each time they came to worship."Each time you are here'" the nobleman said, "The place where you are seated will be lighted. Each time you are not here, that place will be dark. This is to remind you that whenever you fail to come to church, some part of God's house will be dark".That's a poignant story, isn't it? And it makes a very significant point about the importance of our commitment and loyalty to the church.

The poet Edward Everett Hale put it this way:
I am only one,but still I am one.
I cannot do everything,But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.

I have no idea if there ever was such a church as the one described in the story above. I do know that if it happened today there would be a lot of “dark” places in the church. I don’t necessarily mean in the church building itself. I mean in the church as a whole: the church that Jesus said He would build, against which the “gates of hell would not prevail”. (Matthew 16:18) When we choose to not let our light shine before all, we darken a little bit of God’s kingdom.

What kind of church member are you? Are you completely satisfied just sitting in the pew Sunday after Sunday, being “spoon-fed” the Gospel? Are you doing all that you can to ensure that the message of Christ is lived out in your life both inside the walls of our church and out in the community? What if every single member of Edgefield First Baptist served our church, attended our church, loved our church, shared our church, and gave to our church exactly as you do? What kind of church would this be?

I believe that God is blessing our church right now because of the faith and courage of some. However, what would happen if everyone became engaged and impassioned about the work of God’s Kingdom? It starts with you. Will you be obedient to Him and light your space in this church and in His kingdom?

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be
hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand,
and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before
men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
(Matthew 5:14-16)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Football Weekend

OK, I’ll admit it. I am very excited. Nothing energizes and excites me like football season. I was definitely not disappointed this weekend! I watched Strom Thurmond defeat Batesburg-Leesville in a dramatic way, I was thrilled to see Appalachian State upset Michigan (with the help of one of Edgefield’s own, number 16, CoCo Hillary), I appreciated South Carolina’s stunning win over Louisiana Lafayette, and was on the edge of my seat for the entire Clemson vs. Florida State game.

Basically, all my teams won this weekend. That doesn’t happen often. Therefore, I just know this will be a great week!

I guess I’ll join the rest of the world and give a nod to the Appalachian State Mountaineers. Who in the world would have thought that Michigan, who was ranked number 5 in the nation, could fall to Appalachian State? I don’t think anyone questioned the validity of the football program at Appalachian State. They are a great football team. However, when it comes to match-ups like this one, the larger schools have more players that usually can out last and wear out even great smaller school teams.

There were Saturdays in recent years when I was afraid Furman might walk out of Death Valley (In SC, not Louisiana) with a win. The Tigers just wore down the smaller school by the third quarter and pulled out the win.

“What does any of this have to do with anything?” you may ask. I say it has a great deal to do with our world and how we view things. We tend to think all of the power, prestige, and influence goes to the strong, wealthy and persuasive. We tend to think that there is no hope for the “little people” anymore.

How many businesses just give up because Wal-Mart comes into town? How many battles are lost because the enemy looks too large or powerful? How many situations in our lives are not resolved because we think we are not skilled enough to handle them?

Because of this we cheer wildly when the “underdog” wins because we would like to overcome the greater enemy ourselves. We have hope that we can rise to greatness in our own situation. If Appalachian State can beat Michigan, then we see many things as possibilities that we may have thought to be impossible before.

Jesus said many times that the last shall be first and the first shall become last. (Matthew 19:30, 20:16; Mark 9:35, 10:31; Luke 13:30) God also doesn’t like the proud. In the Bible, those who think too highly of themselves usually do not fare very well in the long run.

Consider what we call “The Beatitudes” in Matthew chapter 5. Jesus says that the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake are the blessed ones. Isn’t it interesting also, that Jesus reserves His most biting words for those who were in the most powerful positions of those days?

Imagine this. On one side of this contest is an empire that covers almost the entire known world. There is an advanced form of government, an elevated, intelligent society, and a military that was unstoppable. Within this larger body is a religious group that has aligned itself with the government to maximize its influence and power. This group not only has the power to dictate morality and political allegiance to those who follow it, but also is given the authority by the larger government to carry out justice as deemed necessary to its people.

On the opposing side of this conflict is a thirty-something year-old carpenter’s son, and a ragtag group of twelve men. One of whom is a traitor, and the rest are undependable at best. In fact, when the real contest begins, they all run away to hide, leaving only this one, solitary man against the mighty Roman Empire and the Jewish Sanhedrin.

Some would say He lost the contest, because they killed Him. However, just as the last seconds were ticking off the clock for the end of the game, the ground rumbles, the stone was rolled away, and our Savior burst forth from the tomb in a glorious way.

What in your life seems too big to handle? Can you truly say that it is greater than the monumental test that Jesus faced? If God fought for Him to save you, do you not think He will stand with you as well?

He will. I’ve read the end of the book.

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more
death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former
things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)