Monday, December 21, 2009

Joy to the World

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:"Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel", which means, God with us.” (Matthew 1:21-23)

These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
(John 15:11)

In a few days, you will gather around your family tree. Many of you will read the precious story of Christmas and spend several moments reflecting on the good gifts of God, prior to opening the first present. Some of you will simply pray together in a spirit of joy and then open gifts. Some of you will ravage the boxes under the tree until your craving for all the stuff is satisfied. Either way, the wrapping paper will be destroyed in a “second coming” moment. You know what I mean: “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, for presents will be ripped open and we shall be - changed?”

This is my last Monday Morning Manna for 2009. When you read this I will be on vacation. I will, however, experience the joy of performing the wedding ceremony for Gary Brittain and Donna Shugarts on the 22nd, and then our Christmas Eve services (4:00 PM at the south campus and 5:30 PM at the north campus). I look forward to both these events, not as pastoral “business”, but as a Christian overwhelmed with joy for my dear friends the soon-to-be “Brittain’s”, and the great joy of our incredible Christmas Eve worship as a church family. We will be leaving for Kentucky on Christmas Day to spend the holidays with my family.

In my absence, you will be blessed with the incredible preaching of Dr. Rick Lance, the executive director/state missionary of our Alabama Baptist Convention. He will be preaching in all three of our services on the 27th. My only regret is that I will not get to hear him. The last time Dr. Lance was with us was when we dedicated our south campus in May of 08. I know you will welcome him with open hands and loving hearts.

As I reflect on this Christmas and the joy of knowing that Christ is Immanuel, “God with us.” Because God is with us we have:

· An inheritance that can never be lost. (I Peter 1:3-5)

· A deliverance that can never be outdone. (2 Cor. l:10)

· A grace that can never be limited. (2 Cor. 12:9)

· A hope that can never be disappointed. (Heb. 6:18-19)

· A peace that can never be disturbed. (John 14:27)

· A righteousness that can never be tarnished. (2 Cor. 5:21)

· A salvation that can never be canceled. (Heb. 5:9)

· And a joy that need never be diminished. (John 15:11)

These are but a few of the blessings that are ours, because God was made like us so that we could be made like Him. Rejoice today! Here are the words from Isaac Watts, written in 1719, that bless our hearts today:

Joy To The World

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Merry Christmas,

Dr. Derek

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Faithful to the End

“You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live and we are not given a minute longer.” (Job 14:5)

Many of you have asked me about the Stams’ illustration that I used yesterday at the South Campus. Here is a brief summary as is recorded in Christian History, p. 682-683:

John and Betty Stam met at Moody Bible Institute while both were studying to become missionaries to China. After going there separately under the China Inland Mission (CIM), they were unexpectedly reunited and a year later were married. On Sept. 11, 1934, their daughter Helen was born, and by the end of November the Stams were installed in their new post in Tsingteh. Only 27 and 28 years old, with a newborn baby, they seemed at the beginning of their ministry, but on Dec. 6, 1934, communist soldiers swept into Tsingteh and arrested the Stams.

John wrote to the CIM: “My wife, baby, and myself are today in the hands of the Communists, in the city of Tsingteh. Their demand is $20,000 for our release. God grant you wisdom in what you do, and us fortitude, courage and peace of heart. The Lord bless and guide you, and as for us, may God be glorified whether by life or by death.”

The Stams were forced to make a difficult march to the town of Miao-shou. Physically exhausted, they were horrified to hear the soldiers discuss plans to murder their baby to make the trip easier. Witnesses said that an old farmer stepped forward to object. When challenged by the soldiers to take Helen’s place, the man agreed and was shot on the spot. Little Helen’s life was miraculously spared.

Arriving in Miao-shou, the Stams were imprisoned until morning. Then soldiers bound them both and forced them to leave their baby behind. As they were marching through the streets, the soldiers called people to witness their execution. On a hill outside the village a local Christian doctor stepped forward to beg for their lives. The soldiers condemned him to die as well, and when John asked for mercy for the doctor, he was immediately beheaded. Betty fell on her knees beside John and was beheaded as well.

A Chinese evangelist named Lo was hiding with his family outside the village. Hearing of the executions, he came secretly into town where villagers pointed toward a silent house. Entering it, Lo found baby Helen, not yet 3 months old, miraculously safe after 30 hours alone.

Taking her with him, he went to the hill and found her parents’ bodies. Hastily organizing his friends’ burial, he spoke to the people who had gathered: “You have seen these wounded bodies, and you pity our friends for their suffering and death. But you should know they are children of God. Their spirits are unharmed and are at the moment in the presence of their Heavenly Father. They came here not for themselves, but for you, to tell you about the great love of God, that you might believe in the Lord Jesus and be eternally saved. You have heard their message. Remember, it is true. Their death proves it so. Do not forget what they told you – repent, and believe the Gospel.”

The Lo family managed to escape with baby Helen and made the 100 mile journey to safety. The news of the “Miracle Baby” and her parents’ martyrdom spread around the world. In response, many hundreds pledged their lives to missionary service and the CIM. A missionary in China wrote Betty’s parents: “A life which had the longest span of years might not have been able to do one-hundredth of the work for Christ which they have done in a day.”

John and Betty Stams remind us that our lives, indeed our time on this earth is in God’s hands. He has numbered our days. Since we are not sovereign, and cannot see past the end of our nose, we must commit every breath to serving our King, who alone holds the keys to eternal life. This is especially relevant now as we are in a season of fulfilling our earthly wants. Let’s keep these things in perspective and truly worship our King, firmly “taking hold of that which is life indeed.”

Until Next Week,

Dr. Derek

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Wonderful Season

This Friday night at Celebrate Recovery we will experience something unprecedented in the 173 year history of our church. We will baptize three ladies and in the process witness something never before accomplished in the long history of our church. Our church has never seen this number of people (46) profess faith in Christ and follow in believer’s baptism in one year. The wonderful part is that we still have more to baptize this year. Oh, What A Savior!!

We will begin decorating our sanctuary for Christmas with our “Hanging of the Green” service this Wednesday night at 6:00 PM. This Sunday, we will begin our “The Joy of Christmas” message series that leads up to our two Christmas Eve services (4:00 at our south campus and 5:30 at our north campus). What a time to praise His name!

The Christmas holidays also provide us with some wonderful opportunities for ministry that you will not want to miss. Here are just a few:

Lottie Moon Christmas Offering – Our Christmas offering (above and beyond our regular tithes) will go to support over 5000 missionaries around the world. We are off to a great start as we collected over $4000.00 during our “Christmas in August” offering. I want to encourage you to prayerfully make a generous gift this year. Paul said to the Corinthian believers: “Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). As pastor, I want to say “thank you” for your cheerful faithfulness to give and to go!

The Coat Project – Our partnership with Grace Baptist Church in Ogdensburg, NY is off to a fast start. The Coat Project is designed to help pastor Don and Grace Baptist Church impact their community in a real point of need. Ogdensburg, right on the St. Lawrence River, gets about 300+ inches of snow each year. Did you hear that! 300 inches! It will get as cold as -40 degrees F in the dead of winter.

Over the next 3 weeks, we will be collecting new or in really good condition coats, gloves, and sock hats for children, teens, and adults. Then, Don Henderson and Marty Boyles have volunteered to transport our gifts to Ogdensburg and Grace Baptist Church for their congregation to minister to the needs of their community. You might think these guys are crazy. I would agree with you that crazy fits, but not the way you think. I call it “Crazy Love”!


As we begin this Christmas season I beseech (now there’s a good King James word) you to experience these days with your “eyes wide open.” Look for opportunities to share the love of Christ. We are in a “season of self” when we make our wants list and hope for the best. Will you be selfless in these days by the love you display to others? Will you look for the needs and opportunities around you: (down the street, across the room, in the office, around the corner, across the shopping aisle)? Let’s make the most of our time by shouting out with our lives the Amazing Love of God!

A Thanksgiving Proclamation

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1: 11-14)

I thought you might enjoy reading George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation before we jump into Christmas devotions. George Washington wrote:

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been able to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted' for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have show kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3rd day of October, A.D. 1789.

(signed) G. Washington

Happy Thanksgiving,

Dr. Derek