Buying Christmas Gifts

What was the most expensive Christmas gift you purchased last year?

I challenge those I pastor each year to take the cost of the most expensive Christmas gift they purchase, add at least a dollar to it, and give that amount of money to them. That way the biggest Christmas gift they give each year is to those people!

I ask our church members each year to give their largest Christmas gift to our missionaries who make great sacrifices to share the greatest story ever told, the gospel, the story of Jesus Christ dying for our sin and rising from the dead so we can have a relationship with the Father and eternal life!

To summarize Acts 13-14: it’s the first time a church sent out missionaries.

Today Balboa Baptist Church and our 50,000 sister churches support about 3,800 full time international missionaries. We support them all year long, but in December we collect the largest single offering of the year to support them.

I’m amazed at their commitment. They leave hometowns where they grew up. Husbands and wives move with their children, spend years in seminary training, and learning a new language. Then they live with the people of another country, assimilate into their culture, and seek to tell the gospel in their heart language.

I grew up hearing their stories, watching their slide shows, and touching the native artifacts of the culture where they live. I pray for them. I give so they can keep doing the work Jesus commanded.

I want my biggest Christmas gift not to go to myself or a family member, but to God’s work. I like to think of it as giving God my most expensive gift each Christmas.

Many retailers’ survival depend on consumers piling up debt on plastic cards to give gifts to family and friends. Making sure I at least give my biggest gift outside of all the hoopla is a small way to stay focused on what is really important.

Father, please bless our missionaries around the world as they tell the greatest news of salvation in Jesus Christ and as they make disciples who follow Him.

Here’s a great resource for praying for the needs of our 3,800 International missionaries: 16 WAYS TO PRAY FOR MISSIONARIES

Thanks

“Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.” Luke 17:15-16 ESV

I try not to raise my voice, but sometimes I do. I try to be patient and use my teaching voice instead of an angry voice. I know he’s just immature, but sometimes I forget and say it a little too harshly.

Our four-year-old grandson often points out the one thing at meal time that he doesn’t like. When Gram (my wife) sets the plate in front of him, he might say, “But I don’t like peas!” Or he might respond, “But I didn’t want a red plate, I want a blue plate!” So sometimes he loudly points out the one thing he doesn’t like.

So I (Pawpa) will sometimes use my patient, teaching voice and sometimes I will use my exasperated, impatient voice and say, “Asher, tell Gram thank-you for preparing your meal.” And reluctantly he’ll say , “Thank-you Gram for preparing this meal,” with a moaning in his voice that there’s still something he doesn’t like.

“Jesus asked, ‘Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” Luke 17: 17-18 NLT

Jesus has just given a tremendous gift to ten men. He healed them of the horrifying, flesh-eating disease, leprosy. Only one returned to say “Thank-you.”

How often I act like a four-year-old and complain about the “peas” when God has given me a smorgasbord of blessings that I have to ignore in order to do my griping.

And what did Jesus say to the only man out of ten who returned to give Him thanks? Perhaps this is the most important part of the story. “And Jesus said to the man, ‘Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.'” Luke 17:19 NLT

Could it be that the one thing you and I moan about the most could actually be healed if we would just stop, turn around, and go tell God “thanks” for what He has so graciously given to us? Could it be this man’s faith that brought healing was ignited by a “thank-you?” Can gratitude be that powerful?

Our sins have brought a massive corruption to every part of this world! We can complain, work hard to make it a better world, or get angry and blame others. Perhaps one of the best things we can do is say to God a big “Thank-you” for the sacrifice He made of His Son Jesus on the cross to provide once-and-for-all the answer for our sin problem, His forgiveness and His presence.

“Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.” Luke 17:15-16 ESV

May your Thanksgiving holiday be filled with … well … thanksgiving!

Father, THANK-YOU for preparing the meals we eat and forgive us when we gripe about the peas or the green plate. You, Oh Lord God, are SO gracious and kind. Thank-you for salvation through Your Son Jesus Christ!

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Amen.

November 8, 2016

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Acts 4:12 ESV

Last Tuesday, November 8, 2016 is a day I will remember for a long time. It was my Mom’s birthday! On Monday we celebrated at my home church in Glenwood, Arkansas her home-going to heaven. We had a funeral for one of the most significant persons in my life. We celebrated her life and grieved deeply at the same time.

Oh yes, an historic election concluded that day too. This election day shocked both sides of the political aisle. Both celebration and grieving ensured just as it would have if the election had gone the other way.

Sometimes life drops an anvil on your head. Perspective gets locked-in until something jolts it. When someone like Laquita Joy Wright, who influenced me for 80 years like she did, suddenly dies due to complications unrelated to her current medical condition, it shakes me up a bit.

When she could not be roused out of sleep last Thursday morning, she was rushed by ambulance to St. Vincent’s in Hot Springs where she immediately got excellent care. But infection had already permeated her blood stream and the next day she died.

In the course of history leaders have come and gone thousands of times. Reagan, Clinton, Bush, Obama, and now Trump are names that will endure for the rest of human history. But there’s only one name that will endure for eternity, Jesus Christ, the Lord of heaven and earth.

So what did November 8, 2016 with all its jolting emotions personally and politically produce in me? The only thing that really mattered that Election Day was that my mother had placed her faith in Jesus Christ for her eternal salvation. An historic election was peanuts compared to that monumental assurance!

No POTUS is a savior. Every President does some good and does some bad. So pray for the new President, this is what Scripture commands. But of much greater significance than who is your President for the next four years, who is your Savior for eternity?

The apostle Peter stated to the political leaders of his day why he followed Jesus the Christ regardless of the consequences.

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Acts 4:12 ESV

Please, please, please don’t believe the lie that all beliefs are the same and eventually will get you to heaven. God has gone to great lengths to provide the Way. His name is Jesus the Christ. Please commit your life to Him before your funeral.

The jolt has produced in me a fresh desire to share the Good News of salvation in Jesus alone! Want to know it? Go to www.PeacewithGod.net or give me a call at 501.922.0155 or email me at dwrightbalboa@gmail.com.

Our Father, please guide the new President with Your wisdom. Please bring more people to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Amen.

Holdouts

World War II ended when the Japanese surrendered in August 1945. Yet dozens of Japanese soldiers held out for years, not knowing or not believing the war was over. The last two confirmed holdouts surrendered 29 years later!

Intelligence officer Hiroo Onoda was relieved of duty by his former commanding officer on Lubang Island in the Philippines in March 1974. Teruo Nakamaura, who was stationed on Morotaie Island in Indonesia surrendered in December 1974. These were the last confirmed holdouts. Rumors persisted of others. (Source: Wikipedia)

Here’s a story even more amazing. The Creator of the universe about 2000 years ago conceived in a young woman named Mary his very own son. The fully human and fully divine boy grew up to live a perfect life. Around the age of 30 he set out on a three-year public campaign of teaching, healing, walking on water, raising the dead, turning water into wine, and announcing he was the Son of God.

Of course, the authorities killed this crazy man. But during his Roman crucifixion, an earthquake occurred, the sun went dark for three hours (an eclipse only lasts seconds), and an old hardened Roman soldier who had seen it all proclaimed that this crucified man must have been the Son of God. Jesus died.

A soldier thrust a spear into the chest cavity to make sure he was dead. Blood and a clear substance poured out. Caring people took him down from the cross, quickly prepared him for burial, and placed him into a tomb with a large stone rolled in front of it. Officials posted trained guards there who faced execution themselves if they allowed anyone to steal the body.

Three days later, on a Sunday morning, an angel of God flicked that stone over revealing that He was not there and he had risen from the dead! The victory had been won once and for all. The war was over! Salvation is provided for all you will believe in Him. For forty days The Overcomer appeared to hundreds of eye witnesses. He ascended to heaven ready to return at any moment. (Source: Bible)

That’s why Jesus said: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33 NLT

It is astonishing that a Japanese soldier would holdout in a cave for thirty years and refuse to believe the war was over!

Are you still a holdout? Is that cave of spiritual darkness getting old? Is fighting a war Jesus has already won seeming ridiculous? There’s a whole new world out there called heaven, are you about to miss it?

Jesus, the Overcomer, asks, “Do you finally believe?'”

John 16:31 NLT

Our Father, open up caves of disbelief, reveal to many that the war is over, and Jesus has won the battle against sin and death. Help believers to have Your peace in the many trials and sorrows this world provides. Thank-you for Jesus who is The Overcomer!

God & Government

They tried to trap Jesus between politics and faith, between government and God. “Jesus, should we pay taxes?” It’s a simple question, yes or no?

This strategy tried to get Jesus into a legal quagmire. If Jesus said they ought to pay taxes to Caesar, then that would put Him in trouble with the religious authorities. If He said they should not pay taxes, then those loyal to the Roman government would arrest Him for treason.

“Jesus said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they marveled at him,” Mark 12:17 ESV.  We should be good citizens and at the same time be loyal to God. Most of the time we can do both without contradiction.

But when government requires disobedience to God, then we must obey God rather than men. Hobby Lobby refused to violate the sanctity of human life by providing birth control that caused an abortion. The Supreme Court agreed. Christians in China must disobey the government in order to obey Jesus when they seek to lead others to be Christ’s disciples, which often results in a three-year prison sentence.

Our culture is pressuring us to express our faith privately, but don’t express it at school, work, or the public square. For example, Martin Castro, chairman of the Civil Rights Commission said, “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.”

So now if I claim my constitutional right to ‘religious freedom,’ it will be assumed by many that it is a “code word” for hate.  To proclaim Jesus Christ as the way, the truth, and the life is now considered an unacceptable “form of intolerance” or “Christian supremacy.”

Disciples of Jesus, stay true to your Lord, endure the rejection, and keep sharing the love of Jesus. The world rejected Jesus and the world continues to reject His followers.

Our Father, thank-you for loving us so much that you provided your Son as a sacrifice for our sins so we can be put in right relationship with You through faith in Jesus Christ.

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Amen.