Christian Parents – But Lost Children!

Carlson-Family_Sitting-in-Church_Mac-CoB-3297One of the saddest thoughts in the world is that Christian parents, who have been genuinely born again and are on their way to heaven, will raise children who will end up dying and going to hell.

Is this possible? Of course it is. Salvation is not hereditary. We are not saved because our parents or grandparents are saved. It is not something we inherit. We are not Christians because our family members are Christians. Salvation is entirely personal. God does not have any grandchildren – only children, those who have personally received Jesus Christ as their own Saviour. Without that personal faith, there has been no regeneration, no salvation, no giving or receiving of eternal life.

  • John 1:12-13 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: (13) Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

It is foolish and unbiblical for the Christian parent to believe that his or her child will go to heaven (of course!) without a personal salvation experience. My children were born sinners and needed the same salvation as every other sinner who has ever lived; the only thing they inherited from me was a sinful nature (Romans 5:12). The reason my kids are saved today is, first of all, by the grace of God; but humanly speaking, it is because they were taught the scriptures, kept in an environment that emphasized salvation, and when they understood the gospel each one made the decision to receive Jesus personally and individually.

Sadly, however, many parents do not show much concern for the eternal well-being of their children (and even their grandchildren to come). The parents are saved, but they are out of church. The parents heard the gospel, but the kids never do. Oh, maybe they drop in somewhere for Easter or Christmas – but this often only serves to harden the heart, equating religiosity with repentance and regeneration.

  • 2 Timothy 1:5 When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.
  • 2 Timothy 3:14-15 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; (15) And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Timothy was saved because his mother and grandmother kept him in the scriptures, which made him wise unto salvation. His mother and grandmother took responsibility for his eternal well-being, and made the difference.

How can we raise up our children so that they will be wise unto salvation?

I.TAKE YOUR CHILDREN TO CHURCH.

Start this Sunday. Put them in Sunday School. Put them under the influence of godly people and a constant gospel message.

II. KEEP YOUR CHILDREN IN CHURCH.

I believe in childhood conversions. I also believe that some childhood conversions are as worthless as monopoly money at Walmart (frankly, some adult “conversions” are as well). I know this because many times these kids, as teenagers, while at youth camp or in a revival, suddenly get convicted and saved, and then say that sometimes they can’t even remember what happened when they were little kids.

The sad thing is that some young parents stay around church just long enough for their five year old to make a profession of faith – and then they drop out of church.

My children have grown up in church and all made early professions of faith – but I kept praying for them as they got older – just in case! I prayed that if their childhood professions were not real that they would come to a place where they truly exercised repentance and faith. I know that goes against the philosophies of some, but when it comes to my own child’s eternal destiny, I wanted them to BE SURE. And to know it, and not spend years doubting it. Or worse, to not get saved at all, and just grow up to be an unsaved Baptist. I believe some of the prodigals we pray for are not really prodigals – they are not saved. We ought to be praying for their salvation, but instead we are trying to pray lost people back into our church memberships.

I have seen teenagers come under conviction, say that they were not saved and needed to be saved, and get genuinely saved – only to hear the parent say, “Oh no, he got saved when he was four – I have the baptism certificate to prove it!” Oh, we must be careful when it comes to the souls of our children!

Keep your kids in church. Keep them under gospel preaching, and take them to revivals, and send them to youth camp. I want my kids to hear as much Bible preaching and as many gospel invitations as possible.

III. HAVE A CHRIST-HONORING AND GODLY HOME.

It’s not just going to church. Just going to church produces hypocrites, if we aren’t practicing anything at home. Set the example for your kids.

IV. KEEP PRAYING FOR YOUR CHILDREN.

Never, never, never get so lukewarm and backslidden that you cannot or do not pray for your children.

How awful to be a born again Christian, and not to be concerned about the eternal welfare of our own children! If you are out of church, I encourage you to get back into a good Bible-preaching church immediately. Get in and stay in. Make the difference for your children and grandchildren, like Timothy’s mother and grandmother.

Thank you for reading. God bless.

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Divine Arithmetic In The Church

arithmeticIn a recent message, we touched on some of the different ways in which the Holy Spirit works in the local church. We make a mistake when we think that God only grows the church in one direction. Many grow discouraged when they do not see that one dimension of growth. In the church of Jerusalem, often the model of church growth, we see the Holy Spirit working in four different ways, which we call His “divine arithmetic.” Consider:

I. ADDITION.

  • Acts 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
  • Acts 2:47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
  • Acts 5:14 And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.

This is an exciting time in any church – when people are getting saved, baptized and added to the church. It is always a blessing to see people added to the Lord, being saved from their sins and born into God’s family. It is also exciting to see people joining the church and increasing the membership. If a church doesn’t grow, it will die or at least become stagnant.

II. SUBTRACTION.

  • Acts 5:5-10 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. (6) And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. (7) And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in…(10) Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.

Here, we have a situation in which God subtracted two from the church membership – by death! It certainly caused quite a stir. A righteous fear of God filled the church. We know of other situations in the New Testament in which members were excluded because of sin (such as the young adulterer in 1 Corinthians 5).

But not all subtractions are negative. God can remove people from a church for various reasons. Sometimes, people move away, and it is the will of God.  Perhaps God wants to use them in another church. Sometimes it is the best thing for the church (if the person is a bad influence), sometimes it is the best thing for the member being moved (if the current situation is not healthy for them), and sometimes it is to be a blessing in another church (where they are “added”). As a pastor, I have always enjoyed people moving to my church more than people moving away, but sometimes God does work by subtraction. (Of course, so does the devil, and many people simply backslide out of God’s will for their lives, or are mislead by others.)

Sometimes, preachers and church members get discouraged when the attendance trends downward for a time (“it ain’t what it used to be!”) – but we should understand that such times happen in churches and we should trust God and work harder to see addition.

III. MULTIPLICATION.

  • Acts 6:1 And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied…
  • Acts 6:7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.

When a church goes from simply adding people here and there, to actually doubling and tripling in size, it is an amazing time. God can still do it!

IV. DIVISION.

  • Acts 8:1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

For six chapters, the church of Jerusalem was added to, subtracted from, and then multiplied – and then God split it and scattered the members abroad. This resulted in many new churches being started in Judea, Samaria, and many other areas. In another example, in the great church of Antioch, the Holy Spirit divided Paul and Barnabas from the church and sent them to the mission field.

Certainly, Satan is also in the church dividing business – but his divisions come from heresy, hard hearts or the works of the flesh. When God divides a church, it is for the furtherance of the gospel.

What is our part in all of this? To seek to carry out the Lord’s Great Commission, to be His witnesses, to preach the Bible and do all we can to win souls, baptize believers, and train disciples. The Holy Spirit, the Administer of the churches, will do His work – adding to, sometimes taking from, sometimes multiplying, and sometimes dividing.

After 15 years at LBC, we’ve seen all of the above. We have seen constant additions (not every day, or every Sunday perhaps, but constantly and consistently over the years, including this year). Every year, our church directory includes new names. We have seen subtractions. Every year, our directory takes a few names off. There have been times when our church has doubled or more than doubled in a short amount of time. And we have seen times of division, including recently, when the Holy Spirit divided a good family from our church to start a new church in a growing area.

Don’t be discouraged. Keep on pressing on and trust God! God wants to grow His churches, although His ways are not always the ways we might choose for ourselves.

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DO RIGHT – AND THEN LEAVE IT IN GOD’S HANDS

186There is an old and admittedly cynical saying that “no good deed goes unpunished.” Though it is certainly not absolute truth (many good deeds certainly are rewarded), it certainly feels true sometimes.

Joseph-in-the-pitSuch a thought may have entered Joseph’s mind during his 13 years of trials and hardships, from the Pit to Potiphar to Prison and finally to Pharaoh’s throne. Had Joseph done wrong by being the good son in a family of reprobates? No, but his good deeds led him to be betrayed by his brethren and sold into slavery.

Had Joseph done wrong when he steadfastly refused to commit adultery with Potiphar’s wife? No – but his refusal led to a false charge of attempted rape and a prison sentence.

Did Joseph do wrong when he cared about the butler and sought to encourage him by interpreting his dream? No, but the butler forgot his promise for twenty four more months. Joseph may have scratched 728 more marks on his cell wall, one for each day from the time that the butler forgot him to the day that he was suddenly called to Pharaoh’s office. The next day, he was Vice Pharaoh over all Egypt!

David did right, and behaved prudently (1 Sam 18:14) – and yet was hated by jealous Saul, who even sought to have him murdered. Seven years of David’s life were spent in the wilderness, as a fugitive, simply because he had done right. Twice, he could have killed Saul and refused to do so. Doing right may have prolonged his situation – but God worked it out for the best in the end.

Jesus went about doing good – but people still hated Him Continue reading

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It’s More Fun To Give To The Grateful

teaching-gratitudeLuke 17:11-19 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. (12) And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: (13) And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. (14) And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. (15) And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, (16) And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. (17) And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? (18) There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. (19) And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

In this familiar story, the Lord was very gracious to heal this group of ten lepers, but was very disappointed when only one bothered to return and give thanks; the other nine went on their way, healed – but apparently ungrateful. All received the same blessing, but only one was a blessing back to the Lord Jesus through the return gift of gratitude.

Paul reminded us of what has been called “the forgotten beatitude” –  “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive,” (Acts 20:35). It is more blessed to be the giver than the receiver.

When I was a child, I looked forward to Christmas, primarily for what I hoped to receive. As an adult and a father, I look forward to Christmas primarily for the joy of watching my children receive their gifts. It is more blessed to be on the giving end. It is a real joy to see my kids enjoying their present – and I sure do like it when they give me a hug and say “thank you!”

However, when there is no gratitude rendered, much of the joy of giving is lost. Jesus should have received thanks from ten men, but only got a tithe of what He deserved – one man’s gratitude.

It’s more fun to give to those who express gratitude. To be sure, we should give whether people are grateful or not (Jesus DID heal the nine), but it is much more enjoyable when people express gratitude. It makes you want to give them more! Conversely, when people are not grateful, it makes us want to give them less!

Is there not a spiritual lesson here for us? God loads us daily with benefits – but do we give Him thanks? Are we grateful – and do we express it? The nine healed lepers may have felt gratitude for their sudden good fortune, but they did not express it to Jesus. Gratitude must be expressed personally, and not just on Thanksgiving Day as we rush to eat our turkey and dressing.

Do we rob God the Father of some of the blessing of giving to us when we do not give thanks daily and for all His blessings? Do we miss out on blessings simply because we are not more grateful? Only the one leper who returned gave glory to God and received the extra word of assurance – “Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.”

Gratitude is not just an attitude – it is a duty, an obligation, a sign of good character. It is something to be expressed. Do you say “Thank you?” Are you fun to bless?

Just a thought. Thank you for reading and MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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21 Lessons From 21 Years Of Marriage (And Ministry)

img009Proverbs 18:22 Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.

This Thursday, Mrs. Raz and I will celebrate 21 years of marriage. We were 19 years old. We got married in the church we were saved at, and immediately began serving the Lord in that church, teaching Sunday School and working a van route. 15 years ago, we started Lighthouse Baptist Church together. We have four wonderful kids, the oldest of which will soon be enrolling at Heartland Baptist Bible College, and the youngest of which just entered our youth group. Our whole adult life has been spend together, serving the Lord, and I can testify that it is a great way to live – and has the best benefits.

So, to celebrate 21 years of marriage and almost 15 years as pastor and wife, Continue reading

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Dear Churches – Don’t Close The Doors, Give Them Away!

church saleRecent statistics show that approximately 3500 churches close down every year in the United States, for many different reasons. Churches grow old and towns die off. Poor leadership, splits, and other problems have caused many churches to decline to the point of bare survival. Too often, these churches close their doors and then sell them – to bars, coffee shops, mosques, bargain stores, or to be bulldozed for commercial use.

Perhaps you are in this situation yourself and do not know what to do. Last year, we had the privilege of meeting with a deacon in a rural church south of our city. His son attends our church, and through him we learned of the church’s situation. It had dwindled down to 2-3 people, and had a bad name in the community. They did not know what to do, but they were considering selling their property to a lumber yard. At a meeting to discuss their future, another pastor and I emphasized that the property was good property, and had been bought with God’s money for God’s work, and ought to be used for God’s purpose. Long story short, that church called a friend of mine to be their pastor – they reorganized, got a new name and some good leadership, and they are now doing well. A new church was born in the old location.

auctionA friend of mine down in Florida has been meeting in a community center while starting a new church in an expensive city. Just this week, a struggling church gave them their property, 100% free. Now, the Word of God will continue to be preached from the pulpit, souls will be saved, and a new church will prosper and grow.

I recently read of a new church in California that was given a beautiful property from a church in its last days. This property would have sold for a lot of money, but the remaining members of that church obviously had deeper spiritual priorities.

Before closing the doors, why not consider giving them away? Is there a new church in the area that could use the property for the glory of God? What if you have a mortgage? Can the new church take over payments, or buy it outright? That is what we did here in Wylie, purchasing this property from a Church of God that was relocating to the country. The pastor then told me, “We just feel that God’s money was used to build this place and it ought to continue on being used for God.”

Why not pray about it? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see the empty pews filled with new people – to know a man of God is preaching the gospel in the pulpit, and that the Bible is being taught in the Sunday School classrooms again?

Thanks for reading. God bless.

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So, You’ve Graduated from Bible College – Now What?

College-GraduationMay means Bible college graduation across America, and it is an exciting time. I remember when I graduated from the Norris Bible Baptist Institute in 1997; I was 22 years old and ready to attack hell with a squirt gun. After years of 7 am classes and all-night work shifts in warehouses and freight docks, and then squeezing a couple of hours of sleep in during the afternoon (and maybe some in class), I was ready to be in “the ministry.” I wanted to pastor or serve on staff somewhere, and start putting my all that knowledge to work.

However, no staff positions came my way, and churches weren’t looking for 22 year old pastors (at least, none called me). Anyway, it was my goal to start a church, Continue reading

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