I delivered the following address at the COVID-19 Candlelight Service service at Forrest General Hospital, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on March 11, 2021, marking the one-year anniversary of the first case of COVID-19 in Mississippi:
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love… – Romans 8:35, 37-38, NLT.
We are here today to look back and remember, to look around in unity, and to look forward in hope.
We look back and remember. We look at our calendars, and we remember that one year ago today, the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in Mississippi. We look back over that year, and remember those who died, those who
survived, their families and friends, and how all of us have been affected. Let us reflect back at how all of us have been changed, in ways often painful, but we are not defeated– “overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” So we light a candle to remember.
We look around in unity. We look around this room, look at our co-workers, look to our families and our community, and we see that we are standing together. We are all unique individuals, but we come together, because we have a
common calling to care for people. In a few minutes, we will light candles together. Let us look around and draw strength from one another. “Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.” So we light a candle in unity.
We look forward in hope. We look forward, just as the darkness is broken at dawn by the rising sun. In a few weeks, we will celebrate Easter, when we who are Christians celebrate the rising of the Son of God. We have many reasons for hope. Amazingly, in less than a year since the first case of COVID, there are now three vaccines available, the number of virus cases is declining, and look at us—we are still here. We have made it “through the valley of the shadow of death.” So we light a candle of hope.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me. – Psalm 23:4, KJV
Jim Newheiser has a wonderful acrostic to help husbands and wives remember what Ephesians 5 teaches us to give to one another. He tells husbands to give their wives TULIPs and wives to give their husbands HONOR.
HUSBANDS, GIVE YOUR WIVES TULIPs:
Totally committed to her in love.
Unconditionally sacrifice yourself for her.
Limit yourself to her alone.
Irresistibly draw her with a love that purifies.
Persevere in meeting her every need.
WIVES, GIVE YOUR HUSBANDS HONOR:
Hold fast to the role God has given you.
Obey your husband’s leadership for the Lord’s sake.
Notice how you can be his helper and do good.
Organize your life around your responsibilities at home.
Restore your husband when he strays from the Lord.
Listen to the Newheiser’s teaching to husbands here.
Listen to Newheiser’s teaching to wives here.
Article copyright by Bob Rogers.
It was the second game of the 2019 football season, and the New Orleans Saints were looking to get revenge on the Los Angeles Rams, the team that had eliminated them from going to the Super Bowl the previous year in a controversial game featuring a no-call by the refs.
Instead of getting revenge, the unthinkable happened. The Saints’ future Hall of Fame quarterback, Drew Brees, injured his thumb on his throwing hand, causing him to be sidelined for that game and for weeks on end. Backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater finished the game, but the Saints lost to the Rams. Sports analyst Stephen A. Smith said, “The Saints are done without Drew Brees. Period.”
Fast-forward six weeks later, and the Saints have not lost a single game since losing Drew Brees! Teddy Bridgewater has stepped up to the task and led the team to victory after victory, allowing Brees to rest and rehab.
This sports story should be a valuable reminder to our own stories. Nobody is indispensable! In the Bible, when Moses died, the Lord told Joshua to put Moses in the past, and go conquer the Promised Land (Joshua 1:2)! When King Uzziah died after a long reign, the prophet Isaiah may have feared for the future, but God gave him a vision: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up…” (Isaiah 6:1, ESV). The king was dead, but the King of kings was still on His throne.
Richard and Henry Blackaby, commenting on how the prophet Elisha continued the work of Elijah, said it well: “God has limitless ways to accomplish His will… We deceive ourselves if we think we are indispensable to God. Service to the Lord is an honor He bestows on us, not a favor we do for Him. If you are mourning the loss of one of your leaders, do not despair. God has another leader, for He will see that His will is carried out. It may even be that He has been preparing you to be that leader” (Blackaby, Experiencing God Day by Day, devotional for July 29).
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m happy for Teddy Bridgewater and the New Orleans Saints, and I hope that Drew Brees gets to play again. But God is more interested in His saints than those Saints. So let’s keep these truths in balance: God may use you or me at any time He wants, but when He does, let us serve with humility and gratitude, and remember that none of us are indispensable or irreplaceable. I’m sure that Drew and Teddy would agree.
Article copyright by Bob Rogers.
When someone falls into sin, we often speak about repentance and a “restoration process.” But what should the restoration process look like? Having been through the process myself, I believe that it requires three things:
1. The restoration process requires a balance of grace and truth. See Psalm 85:10-11. This usually means counseling (strong on grace) and accountability (strong on truth). It is imperative that the fallen person have people pour both grace and truth into their lives very early in the restoration process. They must be called to repentance, but they also need to be given hope that repentance leads to restoration.
2. The restoration process requires a “renewing of the mind” (Romans 12:2). This is the literal meaning of the Greek word for repentance, metanoia. There are three parts to this new way of thinking:
A. First, one learns to focus on praising God, which lifts from depression. See Psalm 42.
B. Second, one learns to forgive oneself. This usually takes time. C.S. Lewis said, “If God forgives us, we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it’s like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.”
C. Third, one learns to reject living in the past. See Philippians 3:13-14. Frank Pollard says, “To dwell on past sins is to invite one of two things: thinking about it will lead you to sin again, or you will spend your time in self-destructive despair. God has placed our sins in the sea of His forgetfulness and has put up a sign: ‘No Fishing Here.’”
3. The restoration process requires activity. A fall into sin usually results in being cut off from an activity the person loved; the sinner is acutely conscious of what he or she can no longer do. Within a few weeks of the fall, they must become busy doing something good to replace the former activity; otherwise, they can fall from idleness to depression and worse sin. This is the replacement principle found in Matthew 12:43-45. For example, a fallen coach can volunteer to help Little League baseball, a fallen pastor can volunteer to teach the Bible at a prison. Charles Spurgeon said, “Sedentary habits have a tendency to despondency.”
The restoration process can reclaim fallen people to service. Just ask Moses, David, Peter and Paul! But it will take time and personal investment in their lives.
Copyright 2017 by Bill Hurt
(Dr. Bill Hurt is the senior pastor of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, Columbus, Mississippi. When he posted the following thoughts on Facebook, I found them so profound that I asked his permission to share it as a guest blog post, and he graciously agreed.)
The other day I shook hands with an individual and they commented on the softness of mine. They went on to say: “I bet those hands have never seen a hard day’s work.”
In some ways that statement is true, and it got me thinking about these hands of mine. They’ve never overhauled an engine on a car. Never plowed a field. Never hoed a garden. Never worked on an assembly line.
There are a lot of hard working activities these hands have never done, but they have taken a lifeless baby from the arms of a broken mother. They have taken a gun out of the hand of a man about to end his life. They have taken a bottle from an individual who was drinking their life away. They have raised and lowered children and adults in the baptismal waters. They have written numerous sermons. They have joined couples in matrimony. They have built churches on foreign soil. They have held the hands of the dying. They have received strangers into the Kingdom. They have dedicated and blessed countless babies. They have wiped the tears from grieving parents, spouses, and children. They have shaken the hands of the upper, middle, and lower class of society. They have held the hands of those who have prayed to receive Christ. They have removed debris from the rubble of destroyed churches. They have welcomed the homeless and offered them a place to sleep. I’m no different from any other preacher out there. Our hands are used quite frequently to serve. The endurance and strength to do these things come from another set of hands which happen to be nail pierced. After all, we’re called to be his hands and feet. I guess these hands are soft, but they are forgiven and ready for service.
“God…rewards those who seek Him.” – Hebrews 11:6b, HCSB
I like rewards.
I’m a member of the Holiday Inn Priority Club, and I like getting rewards for staying at the Holiday Inn. They give me a gift bag when I arrive. They let me check out late. I earn points and occasionally get to stay one night free.
But no rewards program can compare with God’s rewards program. Yes, we’re saved by grace, not by good deeds. The greatest reward is our salvation and eternal life in heaven. However, God also grants amazing rewards for serving Him. Here’s my top ten:
1. Reward for good deeds. First Corinthians 3:11-15 says that Jesus is the foundation of salvation, but if anybody builds on that foundation, “he will receive a reward” (v. 14).
2. Reward for giving up sin. Moses gave up “the fleeting pleasures of sin” for Christ, “for he was looking to the reward” (Hebrews 11:24-26).
3. Reward for humility. Jesus repeatedly said that if we do our good deeds humbly and in secret, that “your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18).
4. Reward for generosity. Jesus said that if you invite the poor, crippled, lame and blind to dinner instead of your friends, family or rich neighbors, “you will be repaid at the resurrection” (Luke 14:12-14).
5. Reward for discipline. The apostle Paul said that athletes receive a temporary crown that fades away, but if we live a disciplined Christian life, we receive an “imperishable” crown (1 Corinthians 14:12-14).
6. Reward for service. Colossians 3:23-24 says that if you work heartily for the Lord, “you will receive the inheritance as your reward.”
7. Reward for enduring trials. The “crown of life” is mentioned twice in scripture (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10) for the one “who remains steadfast under trial.”
8. The prophet’s reward. The shepherd (pastor) of the flock of God is promised “the unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:1-4). Jesus says this reward is also available to all, for “The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward” (Matthew 10:41).
9. Reward for looking forward to the Second Coming. “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord… will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).
10. Reward for leaving a legacy. Abraham, the father of faith, was told, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” Think of Abraham’s legacy of faith as Father of the Hebrew nation, ancestor of Jesus, and role model of faith for all people. There can be no greater reward than a legacy of faith that leads others to faith. There can be no greater reward than seeing others in heaven because we shared our faith with them on earth.
How about you? Are you in God’s reward program?
Article Copyright 2017 by Bob Rogers
Once I met a guy in the gym who had muscles of steel. I was amazed when he told me that he used to be fat, until he decided to get into shape.
First Timothy 4:7-8 says, “Train yourself in godliness, for the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Many of us are spiritually fat. But just as my friend got physically fit, you can get into spiritual shape. Here’s how:
I. Put your heart into it.
Dotsie Bausch was riding a mountain bike one day when a group of competitive road cyclists flew past her. Dotsie chased them and stayed on their heels for two miles. That night, she told a friend, “This cycling thing, I’m actually pretty decent at it.” Four years later she was on the U.S. national cycling team. Her heart was all in. (Evan Miller, “Dotsie Bausch: Cycling,” Guideposts, July 2012, p. 47-49.)
Ezekiel 18:31. “Throw off all the transgressions you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.” You must put your heart into it.
II. Remove hindrances.
In football, the offense has a big obstacle. It’s called the defense.
In the spiritual life, sinful obstacles block us, too.
Hebrews 12:1: “… let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us.”
Choose to remove the hindrances to your spiritual life, especially sinful lifestyles that have been dragging you down. Do it!
III. Exercise your spirit daily.
There are two major types of exercise: cardiovascular exercise, also known as aerobic exercise, and strength training, which is usually by lifting weights. Healthy athletes have a balance of both. Likewise, you need a balance of spiritual exercises, often called the “spiritual disciplines.” These include Bible reading and prayer, but they also include meditation and memorization of scripture, service and stewardship, worship and witness. A healthy spiritual life develops from regular practice of these spiritual disciplines.
As the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:26-27: “Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
IV. Keep your eyes on the prize.
Hebrews 12:2 says, “Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith…”
In 2008, I was about 35 pounds overweight. I was breathing hard just walking to the second floor. My pants were too tight. I didn’t like how I looked. I made a decision to change, and put my heart into it. It was a lifestyle change, as I got serious about exercise, eating right, and sticking with it. Over a year, I took off the weight. Today, nine years later, I have maintained my lower weight and healthier lifestyle.
I had tried fad diets before, but I finally had success when I kept my focus on a goal and stuck with it.
In a much greater way, the same principle applies to your spiritual life.
How about you? Are you getting into spiritual shape? It’s got to start with a change of heart. Are you ready to begin the journey?
I have read about 20 books by Max Lucado. I love his gift for telling a story and turning a phrase. However, after reading so many of his works, I began to feel that if I’ve read one of his books, I’ve read them all. So when I got a copy of Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference, I let it sit on my bookshelf for over three years.
Recently, some circumstances in my own life drew me again to the title. I’d like for my life to make more of a difference, so I decided to see what Max had to say. I was deeply moved– to take action.
This book uses the familiar writing style of Lucado that has made him one of the bestselling Christian authors of modern times: vivid storytelling with a surprise ending, and clever, poetic phraseology. For example, he described the apostle Peter’s reaction to the vision to eat unclean food by saying, “Peter was pondering the pigs in the blanket when he heard a knock at the door” (p. 146). He also follows a Biblical theme, as he does in most of his books. This one focuses on stories in the Acts of the Apostles to encourage Christian readers to make a difference in their world, the way the early disciples did.
What really stands out in this book, however, is how boldly Lucado calls on Christians to be involved in social action. Again and again, he urges Christians to help the poor, care for orphans, feed the hungry, etc. He is very specific in examples of how to do that, more so than any other book of his that I have read to date. He does so without abandoning the gospel message. In fact, chapter four, “Don’t Forget the Bread,” stresses that if we help the needy and don’t share the gospel, we are like he was when his wife sent him to buy bread at the grocery store and he came home with everything else and forgot the main thing: the bread.
Each of Lucado’s books include a discussion guide at the end, but this book has a “Discussion and Action Guide” (emphasis mine). America’s most inspirational author intends not only to inspire, but to move the reader to action. For this reader, he succeeded.
(If you see a video ad below this post, please understand that I have no control over these ads, and that I do not necessarily endorse the product.)
I was asked to read Mother Teresa: A Simple Path, to see if it should be placed in our church library. I am recommending that we do put it in the library because of its positive elements and for the Christian reader to be informed about her historical work, but with a statement of caution in the flyleaf. Why is that?
Mother Teresa is well known for her work with “the poorest of the poor” in Calcutta, India and around the world, for which she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. This book is a collection of thoughts by Mother Teresa and her followers on her philosophy of life and ministry. This path is summed up on page 1 of the book this way: “The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, and the fruit of service is peace.”
The book is inspiring in its devotion to love the poor by loving Jesus Christ through the poor. There are many inspiring testimonies from volunteers, prayers, and simple statements that show how she kept her focus on her mission. She had a wonderful appreciation for the value of every human life, including the unborn. On p. 55 she asks why people worry about children being killed in wars but do not oppose mothers killing their own children.
I hesitate to say anything critical about Mother Teresa, because she has done far more for the needy in the name of Jesus than I have. However, I must point out that while she was a devoted follower of Christ, she encouraged people to follow whatever religion they were in, rather than convert to Christianity. For example, on p. 31 she says, “I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic.” This same philosophy is found throughout her book:
“I have never found a problem with people from different religions praying together. What I have found is that people are just hungry for God, and be they Christian or Muslim we invite them to pray with us…”
“God is not separate from the Church as He is everywhere and in everything and we are all His children– Hindu, Muslim, or Christian…”
“Anyone is capable of going to Heaven…” In this passage, she does not clarify that going to Heaven is by faith in Christ.
(Mother Teresa, A Simple Path, p. 31-32, 59, 73.)
Mother Teresa says that she is saved through Jesus, but she believed that Muslims and Hindus can be saved through Jesus, while remaining Muslims and Hindus.
This contradicts the words of Jesus, who said He was the only way to the Father (John 14:6), and the words of the apostle Paul, who said that there is salvation in no other name than the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12). We should not be surprised that Mother Teresa takes this viewpoint, as Roman Catholic theology generally teaches that the cross of Jesus Christ saves people who follow their own consciences and own religions, even if they never declare faith in Christ. (See statement by Pope John Paul II in Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue – Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Instruction Dialogue and Proclamation, 19 May 1991, n. 29; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 1 July 1991, p. III; and Catechism #841.)
Mother Teresa’s work is truly inspiring and deserving of recognition. However, her teaching about salvation sadly follows the typical Roman Catholic viewpoint of salvation, a viewpoint that falls short of the teachings of the Bible. Let us be inspired by Mother Teresa’s devotion, but cautious of her as a theologian.
(This is a guest blog from my cousin, Brad Alford, shown here with his fiance, Laura Tucker. Brad is a Lieutenant in the United States Army, and veteran of Afghanistan. A big thanks to Brad for taking time to write his thoughts, and most of all for his service to our country.)
Memorial Day is definitely a day to sit and enjoy time with family. This is my first Memorial Day since my tour to Afghanistan. I can tell you that as a veteran now, holidays are much more special. Memorial Day is a day that is reserved for those who have fought but more importantly to me it is reserved for those who have died for our nation and its freedoms. I am currently out at a lake in Campbellsville, KY with my fiance and family. I couldn’t be happier than where I am at currently in my life. Holidays are important to enjoy with friends and family, but it is important to remember the reason for the holiday. Like Christmas, it is very much distorted sometimes into what is more convenient for everyone.
For me, Memorial Day is a day for me to spend time with family and friends, relax and take time away from the daily grind of work. Last year, I was in the middle of Kajran, Daykundi Province, Afghanistan. We were on a 2 day mission out to the district center to spread democracy and security for the locals. We would have weekly, sometimes bi weekly, shura’s about local security. No matter the pain of what I went through last year in Afghanistan, while a great sacrifice, pales in comparison to the ultimate sacrifice that those before me made and those after me will continue to make.
Some 400 members of First Baptist Church of Rincon wore their blue jeans and t-shirts to Sunday morning worship on February 12, because they came ready to go out and work in the community that afternoon.
Members spent the afternoon doing 15 different community service projects that touched over a thousand lives all over Effingham County, Georgia. “Too often, the world hears what we are against,” said the pastor, Dr. Bob Rogers. “We want them to hear loud and clear what we are for. We are for Jesus, we are for love and we are for loving our community personally in the name of Jesus. That’s why this is called ‘Love Out Loud: Face to Face.'”
With that in mind, everything was done for free. Free food was distributed to first responders. There was a free car wash and vehicle safety check on the church grounds– no money accepted. Several people offered the volunteers money, but they politely refused, explaining it was an illustration of God’s grace, that we cannot earn.
Some members went to local laundromats and offered to pay for people’s laundry, while others washed windshields for free at a local drive-in restaurant. Still others grabbed rakes and gloves and cleaned the yards of the sick and elderly, or took their tools to do minor repairs in homes of those in need. Back at the church, a group of volunteers were giving a party for special needs children, while a large host of volunteers descended on the local nursing home and retirement home, visiting the residents, and giving cards and goody bags to the workers.
Some volunteers focused specifically on spiritual and emotional needs, praying with people in homes where volunteer work was being done, as well as making numerous visits to the homebound. One family who has to stay at home due to illness was visited, and said, “We are blessed to be members of such an awesome church who reaches out to our community.” Free Bibles were given away in many different sites, both in English and Spanish. Volunteers from the church’s Hispanic mission participated in several of the projects.
Even though this is the third year that the church has done a “Love Out Loud” day near Valentine’s, it still required weeks of preparation, led by coordinators Beth Pye and Sherri Gordy. A group of volunteers who gave away handmade cards and goody bags, spent hours in preparation before the day of distribution. Organizers had to prepare hundreds of box lunches that could be distributed quickly, so that volunteers had time to eat and go out to serve.
Members of First Baptist Rincon who participated seemed to feel as blessed as those they helped. Kim Callahan said, “First time doing Love Out Loud. It was awesome.” Angie Griffin said, “Our trip to the nursing home was so amazing. Our grandson Carson said after we left, ‘Meme, I feel so good coming here today and spreading Gods love.'” Leonard Zeigler visited the county jail to pray with inmates, and found he was deeply moved by one inmate as they stood on opposite sides of the glass, hands touching the same window, until he saw condensation start rolling down the window.
Kim Weaver, a beautician who helped cut hair for free that day, said, “We let God out of the box.” Joseph Douberly drove around with a team that randomly approached people and offered to pray for them. While some people refused, others were eager for prayer, even calling family out of their homes to join them in prayer. Douberly said that he got “way outside my comfort zone.”
A teenager who participated was inspired to keep serving even after the day was over. Ryan Cole shared, “I had fun washing cars, trucks and our two fire trucks. At the end of church on my way home I saw a lady who needed help. No one stopped to help so I stopped; she was very nice.”
Team coordinator Beth Pye said, “It’s exciting to be part of a church family that actively takes Christ into the community. When we get out there and get involved in other people’s lives, share their pain and their joy, we’re giving them a glimpse of how God can be the fundamental source of their strength and life.”
Logistics coordinator Sherri Gordy said, “It is one thing to talk about “helping people” but that never compares with the feeling of actually reaching down, out, and over to help another person. Love out Loud crosses age, race, denomination, and does exactly what Jesus does for us, if we let Him work in our lives.”
At least five people allowed God to work in their lives in a very personal way, praying to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.
I am a soldier in the army of my God. The Lord Jesus Christ is my Commanding Officer.
The Holy Bible is my code of conduct. Faith, prayer and the Word are my weapons of warfare. I have been taught by the Holy Spirit, trained by experience, tried by adversity and tested by fire.
I am a volunteer in this army, and I am enlisted for eternity. I will either retire in this army at the Rapture or die in this army. But I will not get out, sell out, be talked out or pushed out. I am faithful, reliable, capable and dependable. If my God needs me I am there. If He needs me in the Sunday school, to teach the children, work with the youth, help adults or just sit and learn, He can use me because I am there!
I am a soldier. I am not a baby. I do not need to be pampered, petted, primed up, pumped up, picked up or pepped up. I am a soldier. No one has to call me, remind me, write me, visit me, entice me or lure me. I am a soldier. I am not a wimp. I am in place, saluting my King, obeying His orders, praising His name and building His kingdom! No one has to send me flowers, gifts, food, cards or candy, or give me handouts. I do not need to be cuddled, cradled, cared for or catered to. I am committed. I cannot have my feelings hurt bad enough to turn me around. I cannot be discouraged enough to turn me aside. I cannot lose enough to cause me to quit.
When Jesus called me into this army, I had nothing. If I end up with nothing, I will still come out ahead. I will win. My God has and will continue to supply all of my need. I am more than a conqueror. I will always triumph. I can do all things through Christ. The devil cannot defeat me. People cannot disillusion me. Weather cannot weary me. Sickness cannot stop me. Battles cannot beat me. Money cannot buy me. Governments cannot silence me, and hell cannot handle me. I am a soldier. Even death cannot destroy me. For when my Commander calls me from His battlefield, He will promote me to captain and then allow me to rule with Him. I am a soldier in the army, and I’m marching claiming victory. I will not give up. I will not turn around.
I am a soldier, marching heavenbound.
Here I stand! Will you stand with me? (Stand Firm, June 2001)