2017Spring-header-birds

The Story of the Birds

I am glad to say that I was greatly influenced by radio legend Paul Harvey for more than 20 years of my life. In my opinion, Paul Harvey was the greatest radio newscaster and commentator of the 20th century. His daily broadcasts were the top three broadcasts for many years. He received numerous awards in his lifetime, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civil award. Everyone knew that Paul Harvey was a patriot who loved America, and most knew that he was a Bible-believing Christian, as was evidenced by his holiday broadcasts. Though Paul Harvey was silenced by the grave in 2009, many of us can still hear his voice as we read his favorite Easter story once again.

A Boston preacher, Dr. S.D. Gordon, placed a beatup, bent, rusted old birdcage beside his pulpit when he told this story….An unkempt, unwashed little lad about 10 years old was coming up the alley swinging this old caved-in birdcage with several tiny birds shivering on the floor of it. The compassionate Dr. Gordon asked the boy where he got the birds. He said he trapped them. Dr. Gordon asked what he was going to do with them. The boy said he was going to play with them and have fun with them. The preacher said, “Sooner or later you’ll get tired of them. Then what are you going to do with them?” The lad said, “I have some cats at home. They like birds. I’ll feed them to my cats.” Dr. Gordon said, “Son, how much do you want for the birds?” The boy, surprised, hesitated and said, “Mister, you don’t want these birds. They’re just plain old field birds. They can’t even sing. They’re ugly.” The preacher said, “Just tell me. How much do you want?” The grubby little lad thought about it. He squinted up one eye. He calculated and hesitated and said, “Two dollars?” To the boy’s surprise, Dr. Gordon reached into his pocket and handed the boy two one-dollar bills. The preacher took the cage. The boy, in a wink, hurried up the alley. In a sheltered crevice between buildings, Dr. Gordon opened the door of the cage, and, tapping on the rusty exterior, he encouraged the little birds, one at a time, to find their way out through the narrow door and fly away.

Thus having accounted for the empty birdcage beside his pulpit, the preacher went on to tell what seemed, at first, like a separate story. Once upon a time, Jesus and the Devil had engaged in a negotiation. Satan had boasted how he’d baited a trap in Eden’s garden and caught himself a world full of people. “What are you going to do with all those people in your cage?” Jesus wanted to know. The Devil said, “I’m going to play with ’em, tease ’em. Make them marry and divorce and fight and kill one another. I’m going to teach them to throw bombs on one another. I’m going to have fun with them!” Jesus said, “You can’t have fun with them forever. When you get tired of playing, what are you going to do with them?” Satan said, “Damn them! They’re no good anyway! Damn them! Kill them!” Jesus said, “How much do you want for them?” Satan said, “You can’t be serious! If I sell them to you, they’ll just spit on you. They’ll hate you. They’ll hit you and beat you. They’ll hammer nails into you! They’re no good.” Jesus said, “How much?” Satan said, “All of your tears and all of your blood. That’s the price.” Jesus took the cage, and paid the price, and opened the door.

Yes, all of us who truly believe on Jesus Christ for our salvation are truly free. Jesus said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” John 8:32.

God is NOT Angry at You

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We have all met people who don’t understand God. They think wrong thoughts about God; they say wrong words about God. God gets blamed for a lot of things He has nothing to do with – like sin and death. So many people think that God kills everybody. They say, “Well, the Lord took Uncle John.” God didn’t take him – he died. Death took him. Now God took his soul and spirit to heaven – if he knew the Lord. But God didn’t kill him. Death doesn’t come from God. He created the world without death in it. In fact, Jesus Christ came to save us and destroy death – which is the last enemy, I Cor. 15:26. People who think God is angry with them are ignorant of God.

What is Ignorance?

Ignorance is “a lack of knowledge, understanding, or education; to be uninformed.” We are all ignorant from birth – we lack knowledge, understanding, and education. As we go through life we learn about the world around us and we overcome ignorance on various topics. Yet there are many things we will remain ignorant of our entire life. And that’s okay! There are so many things that it does not matter if we learn about them or not. But there is an ignorance that is dangerous. The Greatest Ignorance is to NOT know God and His Truth. This is ignorance at its worst point. Ignorance by itself is not a sin, but ignorance of God and His laws will quickly result in sin.

I wish everyone knew that God is NOT angry with them; He loves them. God is not mad at you, and He does not Hate you. He cares for you! He sent His Son, not to condemn you, but to save you. But He will not forgive you unless you by faith turn away from sin and to Him. How do we do that? Understand the bad news – we are already condemned by sin. Believe the good news – put your trust in Jesus Christ who died in your place and rose again. If you want to be forgiven of all of your sins – become a genuine follower of Christ.

Many people believe that God is going to condemn them. And if they go to church, they are sure they will feel guilty and uncomfortable. Many wrongly conclude, “If I go to church they are going to criticize the way I live and I’m just going to feel even more guilty than I already am. Why go to church if it is going to make me feel miserable!”

Jesus did not come to condemn us. Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:17, “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” We know this is true because that is exactly what Jesus did for 3 ½ years. He reached out to everyone – the rich and the poor; the weak and the powerful; the sick and the healthy.

God does not condemn people; Jesus does not condemn people. Why? For the simple reason – we are already condemned, John 3:18. He doesn’t need to condemn us. You don’t become condemned because one day you say, “Well, I don’t believe in Jesus Christ.” If in your life you ever came to that conclusion, you were already condemned.

Where is the evidence or proof that we are condemned? Is it because everyone is evil and wicked? No – there are a lot of decent people in the world. There are many unbelievers who do kind things for others. How do we know that all people are condemned – including myself? We die. We are all going to die. The focus of Jesus life was His death and resurrection. He said, “because I live, ye shall live also” John 14:19. The good news – the greatest news – is that our Savior arose from the dead and lives today. We do not have to live with feelings of condemnation or false guilt. When we give our hearts to Christ, we are completely forgiven of every sin we have ever committed – past, present, and future. The focus of the disciples’ message was not Jesus’ teachings or miracles, but rather that He died and rose again for us. This is great news for all of us!!! I wish everybody knew!

How to Deal with Doubts?

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Has there ever been a time that you doubted your salvation? Have you ever wondered – “Did I say the right words… Did I pray the right prayer…. Was I was sincere enough?”

I asked the Lord to come into my heart at the age of 15 in the fall of 1975. We had been attending church for about 4 months and the Holy Spirit had been convicting me of my sin and during an invitation prayer, I prayed to receive the Lord as my Savior. I was baptized and began growing in my faith. At the age of 16 I read through my Bible for the first time. A year later an evangelist visited our church who said, “If you don’t know the date of your salvation, you’re probably not saved.” That made me think, “What was the date of my salvation?” I had no clue – I could only remember that it was in the Fall.

For the first time, I began to doubt my salvation. I began to think these thoughts:
• Am I really saved?
• Will Jesus say to me, “I never knew you!”?
It really bothered me – deeply. I remember getting on my knees by my bed and praying, “Lord, I love you. I believe Jesus died for me and rose again. If I’m not saved, I trust in you right now. I believe in Jesus Christ. Please give me assurance of my salvation and peace in my heart.” Do you know what? He did. But I didn’t write that date down either. But I know that I’m saved.

In 2 Corinthians 13:5 Paul says, “Examine yourselves; Test yourselves… to make sure that your faith is real – make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t just pretend that you are a Christian; make sure you really are on the road to heaven!” There are only two kinds of people in the world – saved and lost; believers and unbelievers. Jesus said, “Those on the narrow road are headed to heaven; and those on the broad road are headed for hell.” Matthew 7:13-14. He couldn’t be any more clear! You were not born a Christian. Getting baptized does NOT make you a Christian. You become a Christian by calling on the Lord, making a personal commitment to follow the Lord, and trust in Him and only Him for forgiveness.

Sadly, many churches deny the Bible’s teaching on assurance of salvation. They claim that if you say you are going to heaven with confidence, then you are prideful or presumptuous. Nothing could be further from the truth. God says, “I am giving you MY PROMISE that ye – you MAY KNOW that you have eternal life” (I John 5:13).

What if I doubt my salvation – does that mean I’m not saved? The answer is NO. Doubt can show up as fear, anxiety, and worry. How many of us have been on a plane, and for whatever reason, we had some worry that the plane was not going to make it safely to its landing. Years ago we had two young couples flying back from vacation and their plane was hit by lightning. That will make you think twice about your safety. They did make it back safely. But their worry or fear did not jeopardize the integrity of the plane or the skill of the pilot. All those passengers were safe, even though the storm and the turbulence made them feel unsafe.

So why do Christians doubt if they are really saved?

A.They are NOT genuinely saved.
If you are not truly born again, that will make you doubt your salvation… because you don’t have it.

B. Lack of Bible Knowledge/False Teaching
This one hit me. I was given wrong information – “You have to know the date of your salvation to be saved.” That’s not true. There are some religious teachers who believe that you can lose your salvation. But Ephesians 4:30 promises that we “are sealed unto the day of redemption [the return of Christ].”

C. A Strained Relationship with your Parents.
Our first impression of God the Father is from our earthly father. Some of you have great impressions of God the Father from your dads, but some of you project a false view on God that you picked up at home. It is easy to confuse conditional love from your earthly parents with your unconditional love from your heavenly father.

D. Sin
As a Christian, sin breaks my fellowship and sweet communion with God. If I don’t regularly practice I John 1:9 and regularly confess my sin to God, then I will feel distant from the Lord and begin to doubt my salvation.

E. Memory – “I was so young I can’t remember it.”

F. An Overly Sensitive Conscience
An overly sensitive conscience can result from several things: influence of parents, reading the wrong materials, a lack of faith to fully accept and embrace God’s forgiveness. The key to being spiritually healthy and rejoicing in Christ is to know the truth about God and yourself.
Truth – God loves you and Christ died for you.
Truth – God will save you when you trust Christ alone.
Truth – you cannot lose your salvation.
Truth – You don’t deserve to be saved, but you sure you live with peace, confidence, assurance and joy everyday you live.

God wants us to live with peace and assurance, yet we live in a world that has so many voices that tell us to doubt and deny Christ.

What’s the Truth about Doubt?

For some Christians, having doubts creates a crisis for them. They begin to wonder if they can truly be Christians with the doubts they are feeling. Do these doubts mean they are not Christians? As a result, some Christians are afraid to express their doubts.

A. Don’t confuse faith with feelings.
Some people mistakenly think that faith means a continuous religious high. When that religious high or feeling wears off, and it will, these people begin to doubt whether their faith is real. They begin to think, “Maybe I don’t have faith, because my feeling of euphoria is gone.” As we deal with doubts, don’t confuse faith with feelings.

B. It’s okay to ask honest questions.
Some people think we should never ask questions about our faith, but that is wrong. Jesus did not rebuke John the Baptist as he expressed his doubts and questions in Matthew 11:1-11. John had sincere questions and Jesus answered those doubts by telling his disciples to return to John and tell him about all the miracles they had seen which verified that Jesus was the Messiah.

Sometimes doubt is intellectual.
John may have needed simple reassurance over the puzzling questions he had. Why isn’t Jesus overthrowing the Roman government?

Sometimes doubt is emotional.
Perhaps John wanted to know the answer to a few “why” questions? John may have been thinking, “I was the forerunner and yet I have been arrested for my faith?” If you’ve had plaguing doubts, I recommend two books to you by Lee Strobel: The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith.

C. Doubt is not the problem, but unbelief.
There is a difference between doubt and unbelief. “Doubt is can’t believe; unbelief is won’t believe. Doubt is honesty; unbelief is obstinacy. Doubt is looking for light; unbelief is content with darkness.”

While some people have legitimate doubts, others hide behind their doubts while trying to poke holes in Christianity because they don’t want it to be true. Their “doubts” are not honest. The reason that they doubt is that IF they discover Christianity is true, their immoral, and selfish lifestyle would have to change.

Jesus is not the least bit afraid of honest doubters. I see Jesus coming to honest doubters like Thomas, and John the Baptist and answering their questions. Christianity is not so fragile that it can’t stand up to a few questions. Questions CANNOT poke real holes in something that is true.

The apostle Paul is challenging every Christian to “prove ourselves.” What’s the proof? Let me share four evidences that are in the life of a genuine Christian:

Do I have a Desire…
A. To Confess my Sin?
“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 5:3. People in the kingdom of heaven are poor in spirit. That means we have a sense of our own spiritual bankruptcy and spiritual poverty.

B. For Righteousness?
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled” Matthew 5:6. Genuine Christians desire to be like their Lord and Master who is holy.

C. To Obey God?
“If ye love me keep my commandments” John 14:15.
Is there a compelling desire in your heart to submit to divine authority?

D. To Love
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” John 13:35

God wants you to live with Assurance of Heaven

“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” I John 5:13

What is the Next Step? Share your Good News. If God gave you assurance of salvation, share it. If God saved you, then get baptized in a Bible believing church, Acts 2:41. Don’t drift along spiritually taking everything for granted. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.

To watch the entire message “Is your Faith Real?” which includes 10 tests of salvation from I John. Go to www.thecaringchurch.com/media/services/sunday-morning/. Choose January 24, 2016.

Are you Full of God?

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I would like to share a picture that has really help me understand priorities. It’s a multi-tiered fountain.
I want you to see your life as a fountain, and each one of these levels are your priorities – God, your mate, your family, your work, your ministry, your friends, and your recreation. Let the top pool of this fountain represent your walk with God. When the top bowl gets full of water, it will naturally overflow into the next bowl and so on. When you view your priorities as a list, something always goes wrong – there’s always a crisis that throws my priorities out of whack. I need to begin with God – my walk with God is at the top.

Speaking to the woman at the well Jesus said, “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:14

Here’s how our priorities actually work. Living in the soul of every Christian is the Spirit of God. Paul said, “Christ (is) in you” Colosians 1:27. He says, “Dwelling in you is the same power that raised Christ from the dead.” And this is what our priorities are really all about. We need a walk with God, so that when we are full of Him, it can overflow into your relationship with our mate, family, co-workers, and friends. God shows us what that looks like. It’s Ephesians 5:18 – “Be not drunk with wine, where in is excess, but be (ye continually) filled with the Holy Spirit.” The filling of the Holy Spirit overflows into everything else – marriage, family, work, worship, friendships.

How much time do I need to be full of God? It’s different for every person. Think about the marriage relationship. I mean, my poor wife, she married this super needy high maintenance guy – ME. When I come home, I am looking for my wife. I’m looking for a kiss, a hug, food, and fellowship. Kind of in that order! After dinner, I want to know how her day went and I want to tell her how my day went. I’ve seen couples that have a couple of good talks a week; and they’re both doing great. Not me. I want time with my wife. And she’s the same way! I’ve got to have one date a week. A couple of times a year, I want to get away with her. Our relationship takes time!

What do you need with God? Is it 15 minutes in the morning in the presence of God? A half an hour? Is it 20 minutes at night? I don’t know what you need, but I know you need Him! Time in His Word, time to pray, time to fellowship with believers at church, and living in obedience to what you get from His Word. When you walk with Christ, it overflows in how you treat your mate, your kids, your siblings, your co-workers, and your friends. Why? You are empowered by the Holy Spirit.

If the top of your fountain is empty, if it is dry, I am warning you:

– You will be empty and unfulfilled in your soul.
– You will have difficulty being close with family members.
– You will have tension with your boss and co-workers.
– You will have regular catfights with your “friends.”

Make sure you are full of God – everyday, Matthew 6:33!

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Revival? In America?

This last week it was a joy to see the Spirit of God touch hearts and bring a revival to Christians and draw the unsaved into the family of God. But the capstone of the week was a teen outreach with Dr. Tom Farrell. After weeks of invitations to a dodge ball tournament, over 180 teenagers attended consuming 45 pizzas. 100 of the teens were visitors. What happened next reminded us of something that we saw in “Facing the Giants” when an elderly prayer warrior told the coach to “prepare his fields for rain!”

On Wednesday and Thursday many of our teens skipped lunch and fasted and prayed – most fasting for the first time in their life. Here is an email I received the day of the outreach from Brandon Joyner, our youth director, to our staff:

“After our prayer time with the teens last night, I have received nonstop emails and texts from people letting me know that they are bringing visitors. John Caras said that he has received text messages all morning from kids at Spring-ford High School wanting to know if they can come. I ordered an additional 25 pizzas. Please take a moment and pray for the hearts of the teens. God is working. This reminds me of two farmers that prayed for rain. One prayed and went inside and waited for the rain, the other prepared his field for the rain. We are preparing our field for the rain. Glory to God, Brandon Joyner.”

After the tournament, Br. Farrell preached a lengthy salvation message to these young people. He then led them in the salvation prayer and asked if they were serious to follow him to the back to receive Christian literature and assurance verses. 67 teens followed him to the back. More than a dozen youth leaders took small groups to talk to these teens about their decision for the Lord.

What is the fruit of all of this? Our VFBT teens have never been more excited about seeing the power of God in their lives. One of the girls, who was saved that night, led an unsaved friend to Christ this week and asked if her Christian friend would lead a Bible study at the lunch at the public school. Yes, God is still at work in America. He has not abandoned us – let’s make sure we don’t abandon Him or His work!

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What is a Church Supposed to Do?

A mission statement has become a popular tool for businesses to clearly communicate the purpose of their existence.  Here are some of the mission statements of some of the largest companies in the world.

Mission Statements of Businesses:

Google:  Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Facebook:  Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.

Microsoft:  Microsoft’s mission is to enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential.

Skype:  Skype’s mission is to be the fabric of real-time communication on the web.

Disney:  The mission of the Walt Disney Co. is to be one of the world’s leading producers of entertainment and information… we seek to develop the most creative, innovative, and profitable entertainment experiences.

Many in the secular world have the ability to clearly communicate their mission.  The Lord Jesus Christ had this same ability when He gave His disciples their mission statement.  The mission of the church is to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18-20).  Over the years many followers of Christ have redefined His mission.  Christians belong to Jesus Christ – we are His followers, not the other way around.  We have “no right” to redefine the purpose of the church.  Our responsibility is to believe and obey His Great Commission!

What is the Great Mission of the church?

If the Great Commission is to “Make Disciples” (followers of Jesus Christ), how do we do that?
In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus used three participles to explain how to make a follower of Christ:  going, baptizing, and teaching.  For someone to become a follower of Christ, it is not enough to just become a Christian, nor is it enough to get baptized.  A true follower/disciple of Christ is someone who has made a commitment to follow Christ (be saved), then get baptized after making that commitment (Acts 2:41), and then to continually grow spiritually by learning the Word of God.

Simply Put

One of the clearest ways to define what a church family is supposed to do is: evangelism and edification.  Every Christian is to be involved in fulfilling the Great Commission.

Evangelism = Soul Winning                   Edification = Soul Building

On April 30th- May 4th, Valley Forge Baptist will be hosting our 25th Annual Missions Conference.  It truly is our most important week of the year for our church family.  Someone wisely said, “A missions conference is a church in a business meeting deciding the fate of the heathen.”  How will you vote?  Come meet some very special people who are willing to leave all that is familiar in our country to take the Gospel to those in foreign lands.
It’s going to take the love of God and the power of the Holy Spirit to get the job done of reaching our world with the Gospel.
A man strolling on the beach spotted a young boy who was tossing starfish back into the ocean.  Along the shore were many starfish that had been washed up by the tide and were sure to die before the tide returned.  He watched as the little fella picked up another of the dying starfish that had washed ashore.  He chided the boy, ““I have been watching what you are doing, son. You have a good heart, and I know you mean well, but you’ll never save all those starfish.  Does it really make any difference what you’re doing?”  The little boy looked up from the starfish he held in his hand and as he gently tossed it back into the ocean, he said, “It makes a difference to this one!”

Like this boy, what you do with your life does make a difference in reaching the world with the Gospel. The question is….  Will you make a difference with your life?  Will you be a part of what the church is supposed to do?