November 10

William Cate was born in 1807 in Jefferson County, Tennessee.   At the time, the religious condition of East Tennessee was said to be deplorable – overrun with lifeless paedobaptists.  Nevertheless, here and there souls were saved by the grace of God, and among them was William Cate. On this day (November 10) in 1837 he and his wife were immersed in water and joined the local Baptist Church.  Two and half years later Bro. Cates was ordained to the gospel ministry.  Instead of becoming a pastor, his first year was spent in itinerant preaching.  After twelve months he reported that he had preached about 200 sermons in 23 protracted meetings, and approximately 500 people had been saved.  Then he started working as a missionary. By 1842 he organized churches in Jonesboro, Elizabethton and Blountsville.  Later there were also new churches s in Rogersville, New Salem and Bristol.  For 18 years he pastored in Jonesboro, and at the close of his life, the membership stood at 170.  It is said that Bro. Cate was not a remarkable preacher – he lacked a solid education, but the Lord trained his mind and guided his heart. In 1851 he was scheduled to preach at the Baptist church at Dumplin, east of Knoxville.  Just prior to the meetings there was a notice posted on a tree close to the church-house which read, “Mr. William Cate.  It is generally believed you had better not come to this camp-meeting at Dumplin, lest you cause sinners to be lost; for they have no confidence in you.  They believe you are not seeking souls, but money.  Now...

What Must I do to be Saved? – Acts 16:25-31

Last Wednesday, I was reminded how busy Brother Fulton is right now.  He just got back from 11 days in Kentucky which included preaching in several churches and being in a missions conference.  Yesterday he and Rachel hosted a House-warming party which we forced on them, and then last night they drove three and half hours down to TriCities where he is preaching this morning.  Tuesday he leaves for the Conference in Oklahoma, for which he has had only had a few days to prepare several messages.  With that in mind, last Thursday, I texted him, telling him that if preaching tonight was too much, I would be happy to withdraw my offer, and I’d take both services.  He replied, telling me he’d love to preach, giving me the title “What men must do to be saved.” Did you read the title to my message when you picked up the bulletin this morning?  Did you pay attention to the scripture which we read a few minutes ago?  The Philippian jailor asked Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” Immediately after that exchange of texts, Austin and I got on the phone and began comparing notes.  I cannot remember from where it came, but the idea for my message has been sitting on my desk for several weeks.  I believe it came up in the course of my reading, but I may be mistaken; that’s not a part of my notes.  Thursday before our texting, I began working on this message.  But after hearing what Austin planned to preach, I told him I’d find something else.  Then it occurred...

November 3

Richard Miller did nothing to become famous among God’s servants on this earth.  But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been rewarded in Glory for his sacrifice and service to the Lord. Richard M. Miller was born in Seveir County, Tennessee on this day in 1815.  While a teenager he was born again.  When his family moved to Missouri, he joined the only Baptist church in the area.  Although with little formal education, the Lord called him into His service, first as a witness of God’s saving grace and then as a preacher.  Feeling self-conscious of his limitations, he confined his ministry to the backwoods. The Union Baptist Church in Osage County called for his ordination on July 8, 1843, and he became their pastor, but he soon extended his work into Johnson, Cass, Miller, Maries and Pulaski counties as well. At the time there was not a single major community in any of this region, nevertheless, Bro. Miller was able to gather a good number of converts in Pisgah, Pulaski county, and it was there he and his family eventually  settled. Miller preached the gospel on Sundays, visited the lost in the evenings and worked on his farm during the day.  One day while working in his field, he suffered a stroke.  His wife found him on the ground helpless and nearly speechless. Three days later he passed into the presence of the Lord. Today’s vignette could have been about Roger Williams who was banished from Massachusetts on this day in 1635.  Or we might have examined I.J. Stottard who set sail to become a missionary in Assam on...

Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 27:12

There are several books in the Old Testament from which it is easy to preach the gospel.  Isaiah is the first to come to mind; Isaiah 53 for example – “Surely he (Christ Jesus) hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”  Chapter 53 is not the only place in Isaiah from which to preach the gospel.  Following that there are many verses and passages in Psalms which point us to Christ.  We could also start with Genesis and Deuteronomy among others.  The minister who neglects the Old Testament in his gospel preaching is not as diligent as he ought to be. As I was reading through Proverbs 27, asking the Lord for a message for this evening, my heart landed on a verse which could easily be taken for the text of a gospel sermon.  And that led me to consider a couple of questions.  “How many of these Proverbs open the door to a message of salvation through Christ?”  And second, “How many times have I used Proverbs to begin a gospel message?” As to the second question, I went to my notes for the messages I’ve preached over the last 45 years.  I have listed slightly more than 400...

Faithful to God – I Corinthians 15:51-58

This morning we looked at the somewhat unusual idea of the faithfulness of God.   It is unusual only in that we have almost always skipped over those Biblical statements which declare it.  It is strange to our ears, only because it is so much a part of the nature of God that it seems silly to think of God as any less than absolutely faithful in every respect.  This evening let’s think about a corollary to the faithfulness of God – our faithfulness to Him. Bro. E.L. Bynum was preaching for us in Deming, N.M., years ago, just after a trip to England and Wales.  He spoke about visiting Old Grey Friars church in Edinburgh and seeing the grave of “Bobby.”  In 1864 an elder widower died, and the chief mourner that followed the hearse was a dog named “Bobby.”  After the funeral the few mourners went home, all except for Bobby – He refused to leave.  In fact he stayed at that grave site day and night for months, then years; in fact, for over 14 years.  Some of the locals knew the deceased and his dog; so instead of bringing flowers they brought dog food.  When the dog died in 1878, a noble lady saw to it that he was buried next to his master with a marker which read: “Bobby, the faithful dog.”  Some dogs make excellent illustrations of the word “faithfulness.”  Some are faithful even though starved, beaten, or completely neglected.  I’ve known some Christians who were real “dogs.” That God expects us to be faithful to Him is obvious from the scripture.   “Well done...

The Faithfulness of God – I Corinthians 10:11-13; 1:4-9

Have you ever felt betrayed?  Perhaps you shared an intimate secret with someone you trusted, but that person then shared it with others, causing you personal shame or harm.  Or perhaps you asked someone to help you in an important matter, and they promised to do so, but when the time came, they didn’t.  From time to time we enter into relationships where faithfulness is expected, but that trust is broken – a business agreement or sharing the expenses of some joint project.  One of the highest of those relationships is marriage.  When someone breaks their wedding vows, we say that he or she has been “unfaithful.” People handle the unfaithfulness of others in different ways.  And we shouldn’t condemn a person because he deals with betrayal differently than we do.  Maybe you have become hard and cynical, learning to expect others to put themselves first at your expense, so their betrayal is not quite the surprise to you that it is to someone else.  Not you of course, but some might have this cynical outlook, because they themselves aren’t to be trusted.  Then there are some, especially the young and inexperienced, who are surprised by their friends’ unfaithfulness, and they are crushed by it.  They divorce their unfaithful spouse rather than trying to “forgive and forget.” To both kinds of people, I would like to say, there is someone you can FULLY trust – ALWAYS trust – and you can even put your life in His hands.  “There is a friend who sticketh closer than a brother.”  And to you who understand what I am saying, there is...

October 27

Vavsor Powell was born into one of the leading families in North Wales.  He was given an excellent education, graduating from Jesus College, Oxford.  As an unsaved man he was ordained an Anglican minister.  Then one day a Puritan found him breaking the Sabbath by playing in some sort of sport and he soundly condemned him.  This lead to two years of mental agony over his sins.  By reading Puritan books and listening to their sermons the Lord gave Powell a new heart.  He left the Church of England, becoming an Independent and preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. In 1642 Brother Powell joined the parliamentary army as a chaplain.  Following the war he returned to Wales with papers accrediting him as a Presbyterian minister.  For fourteen years there was scarcely a church, chapel, market place or field where he did not preach Christ. But then in 1656 he came to understand that the Bible taught Baptist doctrine, and he was immersed.  This brought about almost instant persecution.  On one occasion he along with fifty or sixty of his hearers were locked inside a church building at Brecknockshire, confined there for the night.  At midnight he preached from the text “Fear not them who kill the body.”  Not only were his friends stirred by the message, but so were their captors.  The next morning he was taken to the house of justice where a crowd gathered to condemn him.  But the judge was delayed.  While waiting for his arrival, Powell preached again.  The justice was indignant to find his house turned into a church, and even more...

Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 27:1

I wonder if the Lord with His perfect record-keeping will ever tell me how many times I have quoted this verse.  I won’t even venture a guess, and probably the number doesn’t really matter.  It contains is a very good thought which demands to be a part of a great many gospel messages. I have quoted this verse a great many times, but I have never taken this verse as my primary text.  Let’s correct that oversight this evening – though this will not be a deep theological discussion. “Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” A good student might be able to incorporate a number of verses from Proverbs 26 and 27 to augment this statement. “Whosover diggeth a pit shall fall therein” – it might be today or maybe tomorrow – so don’t boast in either. “As snow in summer… so honour is not seemly for a fool.”  Do you mean it might snow in July? Yes, so don’t boast about tomorrow’s weather. “The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool and rewardeth the righteous.”  That righteous judgment or  “reward” may come tonight while we are sleeping, or tomorrow at breakfast.  “Boast not thyself of tomorrow;  “Let another man praise thee (if it is appropriate) …” but remember it may not come today.  “Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds,” because “thou knowest not what tonight may bring forth.” This sort of verse-toverse comparison might be a profitable study.  But I’ve chosen a different path for tonight’s...

Gideon’s Sword – Judges 7:9-22

This afternoon I’d like to take a favorite children’s story and try to look at it from an adult’s perspective.  Most kids raised in Sunday School know the story of Gideon.  They know that he was a timid man, living in trying times, risking his life just to keep his family alive.  An enemy had occupied Israel, terrorizing the people and making day-to-day life extremely dangerous.  One day, while Gideon was trying to thresh out a little wheat, while hiding from the enemy, the angel of the Lord visited, ordering him to prepare a small offering – and then God raise up miraculous fire to consumed it.  Emboldened by this, Gideon proceeded to destroy one of the local altars dedicated to idolatry.  Following that, at the command of God, he called for an Israelite army to drive out the idolatrous Midianites. Many kids know the story of Gideon testing the will of God with the woolen fleece.  “Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said.”  The Lord patiently and graciously gave the man His answer.  “And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water.”  Then just to make sure, Gideon asked God to reverse the miracle the next night.  “And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the...

The Central Point of Christianity – I Corinthians 1:17-24

We haven’t done this before, but I’d like you to go back to the scripture we read earlier in our service.  It’s not that I’ve slipped a mental cog, or I have had a problem with the earlier reading.  It’s that I’d like you to realize there is more than one way to read the scriptures.  We can sincerely and honestly read the words, or we can more slowly read the intent of those words. I believe that in I Corinthians 1 Paul points to the core of Christianity – its essence, its central point.  If we don’t understand Paul’s theme; if we don’t realize the importance of his subject, then no matter what we might profess about our religion, we are not Christians.  The crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ is single most important event in history, in eternity and potentially, in your life. Let’s re-read our scripture and let Paul’s intent sink in – which of course is the intent of the Holy Spirit.  “For Christ sent me not to baptize,”  Paul’s commission from God was not to administer the external details of religion – no matter how good and important they might be.  It might be argued that baptism is a part of our overall commission, but it was not the key element in Paul’s.  “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel:”   Paul was a preacher – he was called to the noble ministry of authoritatively declaring the gospel.  Yes, he was a teacher, and yes, he wrote important letters, but first and foremost he was a preacher of the gospel. ...