Pastor’s Blog

 

Pastor David Bramble serves as the Senior Pastor of Northside Baptist Church, where he has been on staff since July 1999.  His life verse is found in 1st Cor. 15:10a “by the grace of God I am what I am”; ascribing any and all blessings in life and ministry to God’s indescribable and undeserved grace.

How do we respond to COVID-19

 

I have told the church repeatedly that:

– We are not to be Scared.  (Jn. 14:27 CSB, JN. 16:33 CSB;  Phil. 4:6-7 CSB)

– We are not to be Senseless.  (Prov. 3:13-27 CSB)

– This is our opportunity to Shine!  (Matt. 5:14-16 CSB)

God has given all believers a Spirit of Peace, a Gift of Wisdom, and an opportunity to shine this time of worldly darkness.  Take this opportunity to rest in His peace, grow in His wisdom, and be a blessing to others.  If you’ve ever used the excuse, “I just don’t have time to pray or have a devotion.”; that likely isn’t the case today.  I think it also safe to say you’ve never had a greater opportunity to share about Jesus with others.  Remember, missions begin at home, in your neighborhood, at your school, and in your workplace.  You don’t have to travel to be a missionary.  Look at this encounter with Jesus:

Mark 8:22–26 (CSB)  22 They came to Bethsaida. They brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and brought him out of the village. Spitting on his eyes and laying his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?”

24 He looked up and said, “I see people—they look like trees walking.”

25 Again Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes. The man looked intently and his sight was restored and he saw everything clearly. 26 Then he sent him home, saying, “Don’t even go into the village.”

Notice that after the man had encountered Jesus and received his healing; Jesus “sent him home”.  Even told the man “Don’t even go into the village.”  It seems like Jesus would want the man to go everywhere, telling everyone about his encounter with Jesus.  But that was not the case.  Why?  I think two factors come into play here:

  1. I believe Jesus may have been protecting this man from the same abuse the blind man from John 9 CSB faced.
  2. I believe we see a purposeful pattern of taking the message of Jesus to those closest to us first.  Andrew told his brother, Simon (Jn. 1:41 CSB); The woman at the well told her entire town (Jn. 4:28-30 CSB, JN. 4:39 CSB); Demon possessed man (Mk. 5:19 CSB)

Let me encourage you to look at those closest to you and share all that Jesus has done for you.

Christianity: Narrow-Minded or Wide-Open?

Christians often get labeled as “narrow-minded,” simply because we say that Jesus is the only way to God.  I often use the illustration of a funnel.  On one end of the funnel, you have a narrow opening; however, on the other end, you have an extremely wide opening.  Whether or not the funnel is restrictive, comes down to how you look at the funnel.  Certainly, if using it correctly, you place the wide-open end up, so that everything you are pouring makes it to the appropriate destination (regardless of what is being poured through it).  I think too many people view Christianity upside down.  Let’s look at several verses:

Matthew 7:13-14 (CSB) tells us the gate/road that leads to eternal life is narrow, and most don’t choose it (Christ).

However, only a few verses prior, Jesus says:

Matthew 7:7–8 (CSB)

“Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Paul reminds us in his letter to the church at Rome:

Romans 10:13 (CSB)

13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

 

You see, like a funnel, Christianity – the gospel of Jesus – is open to everyone!  Regardless of age, color, ability, nationality, or even “goodness.”  No one deserves the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ; however, it is available to everyone!  All you have to do is receive the gift that God has for you.  Yes, there is only one way to eternal life, but that way is free and open to everyone – does this sound close-minded?

If we look back to the gate illustration (Jesus spoke of), would you rather have a huge gate that is only opened to some, or a narrow gate that anyone can have a key?  If you desire that all would come in, you would prefer a narrow, but open gate as opposed to a wide, but locked gate.

Friend, to receive a key to the gate of eternal life, all you have to do is ask Jesus to be your Savior.

The Reason for the Season

It is often said at Christmas time, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”  This is a statement that is meant to help us keep our focus on Christ and not get wrapped up (no pun intended) in all of the commercialized activities of Christmas.  It is so easy for us to get focused on gift-buying, party-planning, and dessert-baking that we lose sight of the Advent of Christ altogether.  In fact, a Dec. 6, 2018 article on Fox News Live (Holidays stress out 88% of Americans) says that an overwhelming number of Americans have anything but Peace, Hope, Love, and Joy during the Christmas Season.  With that in mind, it seems like a great reminder: “Jesus is the reason for the season.”

However, that is not what was on the lips of the angel, at the proclamation of the birth of Jesus.

Luke 2:8–12 (CSB)
8In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger.”

The angel proclaimed the “YOU” are the reason for the season!  Jesus was born for you.  And Jesus was born to die for you.  That is the reason He came – for “ALL” people.

May we all remember that, while we celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas, He came for your sake.  He left heaven to be born in the most humble of places so that He could be your substitutionary atonement – to die on the cross for you.

So perhaps it’s best to say, “We are the Reason for the Season!”

Did Jesus Baptize?

The Bible is not definitive whether or not Jesus ever Baptized anyone.  It is clear that up until John 4:2, He had not baptized anyone.

It is my personal belief; however, that Jesus never baptized.  My reasoning for this belief falls to two primary points:

  1. Jesus always made it clear that He was sent from the Father in Heaven, and the Bible clearly states that He baptized with Spirit (Matt. 3:11).
  2. Jesus regularly dealt with disciples wanting to be greater than one another (Luke 9:46, Mark 9:34, Matt. 10:37, 20:21, etc.).  Paul also dealt with a similar issue in 1 Cor. 1:12-15.

There is no doubt that if Jesus Himself had baptized someone, they would feel (and likely be treated) as though they were more special than others.  It would be credited to them, to have a baptism that no one else can achieve.  This contradicts what we know to be true; that all believers are equal as adopted children of God.

Galatians 3:27–28 (CSB)

27 For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. 28 There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus.

 

Does God Answer Every Prayer?

Over the past few weeks I have heard, from different church members, variations of the following questions and statements:
“Does God really hear my prayers?”  &  “I don’t think God hears me when I pray.”

“Does God answer every prayer?”  &  “God either says yes or no to every prayer.”

One person mentioned they were bothered by the phrase “unanswered prayer.” Their reason was that God answers every prayer; however, most people don’t understand that “no” is an answer as much as “yes” is.  To this person’s point, indeed, people often feel their prayers are only answered if God gives them what they want.

I do believe that God hears the prayers of those who call Him Father (1 John 5:14 CSB).  Unfortunately, we associate, “I didn’t get what I want” with “I didn’t get an answer at all.”

While it is true that “no” is as a much answer as “yes”; it is also true that God has no obligation for an immediate response at all.

Perhaps our biggest misconception is in God’s silence.  We do see in scripture where God is, at times, silent.  Take the Israelites while being captive in Egypt (Exodus), or Job 30:20 just to name a couple.  What we see is that usually, this period of silence (short in God’s eyes) is a time of preparation for the believer.  God neither says “yes” or “no”, but says nothing for a time.  It’s in His silence; however, He is preparing us for what He is about to do either in or through us.  While we are waiting, we exercise our faith in believing, trusting, and continual prayer.  In fact, I think God is more active while we are waiting than when He answers (whether yes or no).  We should likewise be more active while we are waiting as well.

There are some things that I have been praying for quite some time, and I don’t believe that God has said “Yes” or “No” just quite yet, but I trust and know that He hears my request/s and He is up to something while I am waiting.  His answer is worth waiting for!

Psalm 130:5 (The Message)

I pray to God—my life a prayer—and wait for what he’ll say and do.

The Trinity – Father, Son, Holy Spirit

I was reading in the book of John today and was reminded of the beauty and yet complexity of the Trinity.  As I type this post, I realize that I could never fully explain the doctrine of the Trinity (entire books are written to merely scratch the surface).  Nor is it even possible for my finite brain to wrap itself entirely around an infinite God.  It is in this revelation, however, that I am all the more convinced of the reality of the Trinity – no one would ever even consider such a relationship, in a man-made religion.

So how do we best understand the Trinity?  Let me give you several things to consider.

First, there are the practical illustrations:

The H2O analogy

In the winter, H2O falls the earth in the form of snow.  As the days get warmer, the H2O melts and becomes water.  As the days get even warmer, the H2O evaporates and becomes vapor.  Snow – Water – Vapor are all merely different forms of water.  They use this illustration to say that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all different forms of God.

The US Government analogy

In the United States, we have three branches of “one” government.  We have the Legislative Branch, which makes laws.  We have the Executive Branch, which carries out the laws.  Finally, we have the Judicial Branch, which interprets the laws.  Each branch is necessary and unique in its role, but all part of the same, single government.  Just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all God, but with unique characteristics.

While both of these illustrations are often used, and easy to understand, they merely teach that trichotomies exist and don’t really offer any explanation of the Holy Trinity.

Things to consider:

Christians are monotheistic, which means we believe in One God.

Christianity also teaches a Trinitarian Doctrine, which states that while God is One (Deut. 6:4-9; 1 Tim. 2:5); the Father is God (Jn. 6.27; 1 Peter 1:2), the Son is God (John 1:1-18, 5:18, 10:30; Col. 1:15-20; Phil. 5-11), and the Holy Spirit is God (1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Thes. 2:13; 2 Peter 1:21).  God is One and God is Three, and all Three were in the beginning (“Let us make man in our image” Gen. 1:26).

So what is the necessity of the Trinity?  Why and not just one?

It’s all about God’s indescribable love for you and me (1 Jn. 4:7-21), which is completely underserved!  The Bible teaches us that God the Father loved us so much, that He sent His Son to live and die for us (Jn. 3:16).  In fact, God’s love is so great for us, that His Son ascended to heaven in order to prepare a place for those who would believe in Him (Jn. 14:3).  My friend, it gets even better – God loves us so much, that He gave us the Holy Spirit to be in us, to empower and guide us in His indescribable love (Jn. 14:26).

Faith & Works

James 2:14 says, “What good is it, my brothers & sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can such faith save him?”

This passage has proven to be difficult for those (myself included) who adhere to a doctrine of Sola Fide (Latin: by faith alone), also known as justification by faith alone, as taught in Ephesians 2:8.

There are two essential things to consider with this text.  First, James says, “if someone claims to have faith.”  He does not say “those who have faith.”  I can claim to be a bald eagle, but no matter how adamant I am; I will never be able to flap my arms and take flight.  Many people claim to be a Christian, but only God knows the heart.  Secondly, James reminds us that you cannot have one without the other. While faith alone saves you, saving faith will never be alone.

James is ultimately saying that if you have to tell people that you’re a Christian, maybe your not.  But if you are a believer and understand all that Jesus has done for you – then you should have a desire to do for others, namely sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ!

Perplexing Quote

Saw the following quote today (Reuters) from Disney CEO Bob Iger: “it would be ‘very difficult’ for the media company to keep filming in Georgia if a new abortion law takes effect because many people will not want to work in the state”

Seems to be quite a shift from Walt Disney’s famous quote: “Our greatest natural resource is the minds of our children.”

Psalm 139:13-14

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