Thursday, July 26, 2007

Gospel Lessons from Court

I blush to admit that I had to go to court one night this week. Last month a police officer interpreted the speed of my vehicle as beyond the prescribed limit and he pulled me over. Though he did not cite me for the speeding violation, he did cite me for not having my current insurance card in the vehicle. Thus, I had to go to court and straighten it out.

Court is an interesting place. I have not had occasion to be there often. I sat and watched several men and one woman in handcuffs march into the courtroom and sit down under the watchful eye of law enforcement officers. There were Moms and Dads there with their teens. There were single men and women. There was an elderly couple. There were people of various skin tones present. It was an interesting mix of people.

In addition to the variety of people present, there were a variety of charges against them. One fellow stood before the judge to answer for possession of methamphetamine. Another stood to answer for domestic assault. More than one was in court because of driving on a suspended license. Others were answering for DUI charges. Another person was there for a restitution case.

And then there was me. I found myself looking around and saying to myself, "I don't belong here. I am a stable person with a solid family. I come from a good home. I don't drink or do drugs. I haven't beaten anyone. I have never been in jail. What is a guy like me doing here with these people?" In that moment, the Spirit of God nudged me with some biblical truth.

I was reminded that in spite of the varied backgrounds, looks, and lifestyles of all these people we were all there for the same basic reason. We failed to keep the law. My infraction was minor compared to most present in court. Yet, it was still a failure to keep the law. I was guilty. I deserved to be there.

There are a lot of people like me who look around at others and think they don't deserve to stand before the Judge of all the universe. After all, they are not "big" sinners. Their infractions are minor in comparison to everyone else. The problem is that we are not measured against a comparative standard. We are measured against the absolute standard of God's holy perfection. If we fail at one small point, it is as if we had broken the whole law of God (James 2:10). The law of God shuts all of our mouths before the Perfect Judge (Romans 3:19) because none of us are able to keep it perfectly.

I sat in court that night and thanked God that Jesus Christ perfectly fulfilled the law of God in my place. Not only that, but He also served my sentence on the cross where the full justice of God was vented upon Him in all its fury (Isaiah 53:4-10; Rom. 3:25). I thanked God that the moment I trusted in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, His righteousness was credited to me because my sins were credited to Him (2 Cor. 5:21). Now, I may stand justified before God because Jesus' death paid my sin debt and Jesus' righteousness is credited as my own (Rom. 5:1).

There is a hymn by Isaac Watts we rarely, if ever, sing. It was redone by Caedmon's Call in a more popular form. It captures the lessons I learned in court very well.

No more, my God, I boast no more Of all the duties I have done;
I quit the hopes I held before, To trust the merits of thy Son.

Now, for the love I bear his name, What was my gain I count my loss;
My former pride I call my shame, And nail my glory to his cross.

Yes, and I must and will esteem All things but loss for Jesus' sake:
O may my soul be found in him, And of his righteousness partake!

The best obedience of my hands Dares not appear before thy throne;
But faith can answer thy demands By pleading what my Lord has done.

Monday, July 23, 2007

In and Out for a While

Dear Readers,
You have no doubt noticed that my posting has been somewhat erratic of late. The month of July has been a whirlwind of activity with one week spent in Mexico on a mission trip and another week spent at Super Summer with the teens from our church. Both of these experiences were very enjoyable (yes, even the camp). At the same time, our church is in the process of seeking to fill two full-time staff positions and one part-time position. There are, of course, the weekly pastoral duties and deadlines which are ever present. In addition, my family and I will be taking a week of vacation the first week of August.

Over the past three weeks some interesting things have happened. While in Mexico, I was mistaken for Dr. Phil by a man from Norway. I gave my first commencement address at a seminary in Mexico. I also was chosen as a mascot for the Green Team at Super Summer. This involved creating a costume which consisted of tree branches, a cardboard sword, a leafy wreath on my head, and green glittery eye shadow. Needless to say, it has been an interesting three weeks.

I am providing this brief overview of my recent and upcoming calendar simply to say that my posting here on the blog will continue to be erratic until the middle of August. I realize that this information is not going to cause any great tremors in the blogosphere. However, for my handful of faithful readers (thanks Mom), I thought this information might be pertinent.

It is my ongoing desire that the postings on this blog will be as interesting and edifying for you to read as they have been enjoyable and edifying for me to write. In my absence, I encourage you to read the blogs which are linked here at Ecclesiophilist. Speaking of links to blogs, Nine Marks Ministries has begun a new blog which may be of interest to some of you. It is called Church Matters. I recommend it.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Back from Mexico

I returned last Friday from a week of mission work in Mexico. Since 1999, our church has been going to the state of Guerrero, Mexico to work with local churches and a seminary. Our group conducted two Vacation Bible Schools, worked on a new construction project at the seminary, and attended a graduation at the seminary. It was a wonderful week of serving Christ and sowing the seed of the gospel.

The picture above shows the Rock of Eternity Baptist Church in Palos Blancos. We assisted this church with VBS and I had the privilege of preaching the gospel here on a Sunday morning. This church is located in a small community that has been a stronghold of Jehovah's Witnesses for many years. It is a difficult field where a faithful pastor (Jose) has been serving for six years. As I mentioned, I preached here on Sunday morning and we showed the Jesus Film on Sunday evening. Our group visited door to door in this community and conducted VBS with the leaders from the church.

One of the highlights of our week was to see our friend Robb Hazen graduate from the seminary. Robb went on mission trips with our church early in our Mexico work. He felt the call of God on his life to plant churches in Mexico. So, he left the USA, enrolled in the seminary in San Jeronimito, Geurrero, and is now a graduate of that institution.

Robb left his job as a mail carrier for the USPS, moved to Mexico, and started school with limited knowledge of Spanish. Now, three years later, he is married to a wonderful girl named Vicky and they have a son, Isaias. They will be traveling to another town where there is no evangelical church to begin a church plant in August.

The seminary (Seminario Teologico Bautista del Sur - STBS) we have been supporting and working with in Geurrero is a strategic place indeed. Most of the pastors we have networked with over the years are graduates of this institution. They are training pastors, musicians, missionaries, and other church leaders. Two years ago they began two extension centers beyond the main campus. These extension centers have enabled STBS to deliver theological education to non-traditional students who cannot attend seminary.

Our group assisted the seminary with a project on some new married student apartments. Over the years STBS has had to turn away prospective students because of a lack of housing options. With these new apartments, they will be able to increase their enrollment and train more students for ministry. During our week in Mexico, a group of our high school young men and an adult sponsor sealed the concrete and prepared it for painting both inside and out. It is a great privilege to partner with STBS in these kingdom endeavors.

Now that I'm back into my normal routine, I hope to post more regularly again on Ecclesiophilist. I just wanted you to know why I had gone away for a few days.