Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Guarantee of God's Word

You’ve probably seen them in hotel rooms, waiting rooms and hospital rooms. They come in different shapes and sizes. They’ve been places some of us could never go—prisons, battlefields, third-world countries we can’t even pronounce. According to their stats, 2 billion have been handed out in over 200 countries around the globe.[1] Like Jesus’ miracle banquet of fishes and loaves, Gideon Bibles have been multiplied and handed-out over and over again.

Recently, I heard a story of how a pocket-sized Gideon New Testament saved a life. When Eli Fangidae, an Indonesian businessman, decided to take his own life, a friend found him dangling by a rope and cut him loose. Afterward, in protective custody, Eli decided to try again; at that moment, his attention was drawn to a nearby Gideon New Testament. Out of curiosity, he opened it and read: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him” (1 Cor. 3:16).

“How could the page be opened at that very moment when I was going to commit suicide?” Eli later said. “There were no earmarks, nor were the verses underlined. When I thought of those verses given me by God, I knelt down and cried, ‘Oh God, forgive me. Have mercy on me.’”[2] Eli’s life was changed forever and today he is a Christian praising God for a scripture which led to salvation.   

When I read that story I was reminded of what God told the prophet Isaiah. The Lord made an analogy between His Word and the refreshing effect of rain on a dry and parched land:  

“As the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Is. 55:10-11).

That’s an amazing promise. God’s Word is a seed that always sprouts when it is sown, an arrow that always finds its mark, a package that always arrives right on time. God’s Word is never wasted; His promises always prosper; His agenda will be accomplished. Whether His Word is proclaimed by tongue or by pen, there is a guaranteed a return on investment.      

In the beginning, God’s word was used to create the universe from nothing. He spoke to the faithful—Abraham, Moses, Elijah. Eventually, God’s Word became flesh, through His Son.  And God used His words through the early Christians and forefathers to spread and embody the Gospel. God’s Word has created, called, convicted, comforted and one day it will be completed!

Thake heart dear friend—if you are involved in disseminating God’s word your work will be rewarded. That sermon that you thought flopped, actually had a purpose. That devotional you wrote, and you thought no one read, may have not arrived at its destination. That Sunday school lesson you taught where you thought no one was paying attention, may be lodged deeper in their mind than you think. Just keep sowing the Word, “for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9). -DM

[1] <https://www2.gideons.org/>
[2] Adapted from Converted and Called (Nashville: The Gideons International, 2003), 37-38.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Meanest Man in Texas

Clyde Thompson grew up in a Christian family. His father was a Bible salesman, but when he was old enough to stay home alone, he began refusing to go to church with the rest of the family. Most Sundays, while his family was in church, Clyde was out hunting.

One Sunday afternoon in 1929, when he was 17 years old, he met two other boys in the woods, an argument broke out between the men and Clyde shot them both. So Clyde was the youngest man in Texas history to be sentenced to death in the electric chair. Two years later, he became the youngest man on death row at Huntsville Penitentiary.

As the date of his execution neared, Clyde listened to a radio preacher and asked for the man to come to the prison and baptize him. The preacher came and Clyde was baptized, but all this appeared to be just “jailhouse religion.”  Desperate for release, Clyde began trying to escape and he was shot through the shoulder in one of the attempts. While on death row he got into a fight and killed two other prisoners, making a total of four people he had murdered.


As the years passed, Clyde Thompson was tagged by his own prison mates as “The Meanest Man in the State of Texas.” He developed such a terrible reputation inside death row that they put him in isolation. Clyde was housed in an old building that used to be the prison morgue. A steel door was put in place and the only opening was about a foot square with bars. There was no running water, no electricity and only six hours of sunlight each day.

After being in the isolation for 2 or 3 months, Clyde asked a guard to bring him a Bible. He knew they wouldn't give him anything else to read, but he was bored. He just wanted something to read. He decided he would try to prove the Bible wasn’t from God because it was full of contradictions—at least that's what he had heard. But the more he studied it, the more he became convinced it was God's truth. He came to realize that Christianity was man’s only hope and he repented in tears on his knees day and night for months.

A change began to come over Clyde Thompson. The guards noticed it. Later, he was released from the morgue to return to death row. There, on death row, he taught and baptized eight other prisoners. Then one day amazing and inexplicable news came. The warden came in and told Clyde that the Governor decided to commute the sentence of death to life imprisonment.

Clyde was flabbergasted! As he continued his Bible study and prison ministry, he made such an impression on prison administration that they finally let him go among the general population. Clyde’s faith in Christ grew and grew when he took a two-year Bible course from a college in TN. He became the chaplain’s right-hand man. Eventually, after more than 28 years in prison, the State of Texas gave him a life-time parole.

On the outside, Clyde went straight to the Lubbock County Jail, one of the largest county jails in Texas and he began a chaplaincy program there. Clyde died of a heart attack in July of 1979.[1]

                                                                        Clyde Thompson 

Clyde Thompson will go down in God's record book as one of the greatest soul winners. It was “The Meanest Man in the State of Texas,” who was transformed by God’s glorious Gospel and led hundreds of hardened criminals to the foot of the Cross.

Clyde’s testimony reminds me of Paul’s word’s 1 Cor. 6:9-11, “9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Notice the little phrase, “And such were some of you. But . . .” Thank God for the “buts” of the Bible. Great doors swing open on those coordinating conjunctions. Doors which open up the endless storehouses of God’s grace and mercy. I once was lost but now I'm found, was blind, but now I see. Justice called, but mercy answered. I deserved hell, but Christ offered heaven.

[1] Thompson, Clyde. "I Was Sentenced to Death in the Electric Chair - A True Story." Christian Courier. Access date: July 19, 2016 <https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1377-i-was-sentenced-to-death-in-the-electric-chair-a-true-story>

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Heaven and the Lost Opportunities of Earth

The genius Renaissance artist Leonard Da Vinci once remarked, “Art is never finished only abandoned.” Artists fail to complete their work for many reasons. Sometimes outside events intervene. Other times they lose the spark of inspiration and creativity. In some instances, they may deliberately leave their work unfinished in order to make an artistic statement.

For every great work of art, literature, or music that gets completed, there are probably just as many that are abandoned and left unfinished because of wars, political strife, lack of funding, or the death of the artist. Most of these works are lost and forgotten, but some of these instances of “art interrupted” are still considered incomplete masterpieces.

Speaking of Da Vinci, his most famous piece of unfinished art was left undone due to circumstances outside his control. In the 15th century, Da Vinci was commissioned by the Duke of Milan to build a statue of a horse to honor his father. Da Vinci spent twelve years working on the statue, and in 1492 he unveiled the 23-foot tall clay model of his “Gran Cavallo,” which was praised by many as one of the most beautiful works of art ever created. But before the mold of the horse could be cast in bronze, war broke out between France and Italy. The Duke then decided to donate the 200,000 pounds of metal intended for the horse to the military, which used it to build cannons. Da Vinci’s massive horse statue was never completed, and it is said that the invading French archers later used his clay horse model for target practice.

                                                              Da Vinci's "Gran Cavallo"

Then there is Mozart’s Requiem. Shortly before his death in 1791, the famed composer was contacted by a mysterious stranger and commissioned to write a Requiem to be played at a ceremony for the man’s deceased wife. Mozart, who was ailing from an unidentified illness, supposedly took the task as a sign of his own impending mortality, and even came to believe that the piece he was composing was actually a requiem for his own funeral. Mozart died before the piece could be completed, and the missing movements were finished by one of his students, Franz Sussmayr. The haunting melodies of the Requiem are still touching lives today.[1]


In 1945 while vacationing in Warm Springs, Ga. at his part-time home, The Little White House, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt agreed to sit for a portrait. The artist, Elizabeth Shoumatoff, decided to portray a highly flattering depiction of the President, who was emaciated and obviously ill at the time. On April 12, 1945, her second day of painting the President, Shoumatoff was filling in the outlines of his face and shoulders. Roosevelt experienced a severe pain in the back of his head and collapsed. He died three hours later in his bed. As a result, the painting was never finished. It remains on display in the Little White House, a testament to the vagaries of fate.[2]


These instances of unfinished work are a sad reality of this fallen planet. We all have instances of dashed hopes, dreams deferred and nagging thoughts of what might have been. The unpredictable nature of this life robs us of the opportunities to reach our fullest potential.

Yet, as I open the pages of Scripture I find that this is an incredibly compelling reason for the hope of heaven. Notice the promise tagged on the end of this verse in Rev. 22:3, “And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.” Take notice of Jesus’ words concerning heavenly stewardship in Matt. 25:23, “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’”

Contrary to what you might have been taught to believe, in heaven we will not be sitting on clouds, strumming harps and eating bon-bons with the angels. According to the Bible, we will be serving Christ and ruling over the New Heavens and New Earth as His stewards. One thing is for sure, heaven will not be boring. And I believe that God promises to make up for the heartbreak of this earth by giving us the chance to regain what was lost in this life. In heaven the curse of sin will be totally reversed (Rev. 22:3). The blight of this curse is far-reaching but in heaven I believe we will recover lost time, talents, relationships, resources and opportunities.


Study this excerpt from Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven: “Are you living with the disappointment of unfulfilled dreams? In heaven you’ll find their fulfillment. Did poverty, poor health, war or lack of time prevent you from pursuing an adventure or dream? Did you never get to finish building that boat or painting that picture or writing that book—or reading that pile of books? Good news. On the New Earth you will have a second chance to do what you dreamed of doing—and far more besides . . . The smartest person God ever created in this world may have never learned to read because he or she had no opportunity. The most musically gifted person may never have touched an instrument. The greatest athlete may never have competed in a game. The sport your best at may be a sport you’ve never tried, because your favorite hobby is one that you’ve thought of. The reversing of the Curse, and the resurrection of our bodies and our Earth, mean we’ll regain lost opportunities and inherit many more.”[3]

Let this hope fill your heart, child of God (Col. 3:2). Your best days have yet to arrive. Your perfect body is waiting. Your heavenly home is being prepared (John 14:3). Your ashes will become something beautiful. Your Savior is making all things new (Rev. 21:5). -DM    

[1] <http://www.toptenz.net/top-10-unfinished-works-of-art.php>
[2] < http://www.artsheaven.com/art-interrupted-the-5-most-famous-unfinished-paintings.html>
[3] Randy Alcorn, Heaven (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2004), 433-434. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Hope of His Appearing

One of the great benefits of studying Bible prophecy is that it infuses God’s people with boundless hope. We know that one day justice will be meted out, righteousness will rule, the last shall be first and good will triumph over evil. In fact, notice how the theme of hope percolates to the top of these verses which speak of Christ’s Second Coming:

·         In Titus 2:13 Paul admonishes the church to be, “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ . . .”

·         In 1 Peter 1:3-5 we are told that God, “has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” and that we are look expectantly for Christ’s return as “a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

·         In 1 John 3:2-3 we read, “Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

As believers in Christ we are not just hoping in hope. No, our hope is grounded is in a person—Jesus, who has already fulfilled hundreds of specific prophecies and because He never left one jot or tittle unfinished concerning His first coming, then we know He will do the same in His Second Coming. As Vance Havner once said, “The early believers were not looking for something to happen, but Someone to come! Looking for a train to arrive is one thing, but looking for someone we love to come on that train is another matter.”[1] 

Dr. R.G. Lee (1886-1978), who was the eloquent pastor of First Baptist Dallas for many years, once told the story about his childhood on the family farm. He said his farm was so poor “that you couldn’t raise a umbrella much less a mortgage.” One day, R.G. and his mother were on the front porch of their house. She was sitting in a rocking chair and he was on the floor and that’s when he asked, “Mama tell me about the happiest moment of your life.”

She said, “Son, you’ve asked a hard question. But I remember when I was a girl the ‘War Between the States’ made for hard days. One day we got the news that Daddy, your grandfather, had been killed in battle. As you might imagine, this news killed Mama and I could hear her sobbing into her pillow every night.”

She continued, “One day, mama was sitting on the front porch breaking beans and I was sitting on the floor helping her, much like you’re sitting at my feet right now. Suddenly, a figure appeared in the field. My Mama turned to me and said, ‘Elizabeth, I declare than man walks just like your daddy’ as she kept snapping beans. I said, ‘Mama, now don’t get all excited. We all know that Daddy is dead and gone.’”


(Dr. R.G. Lee in his study)

R.G.’s mother then had a tear run down her cheek, “The figure coming across the cotton field drew closer and closer and came into view. My mother exclaimed, ‘Elizabeth, that is your daddy coming home!’ She threw her bowl on beans in the air, lifted her skirt and ran out into the cotton field to throw her arms around daddy. Son, we laughed and cried and hugged and kissed for at least an hour. Son, I believe that was the happiest day of my life!”

Dr. Lee concluded the story by saying, “As good as it was for Mama to see her daddy, who was thought to be dead actually alive, that day will pale in insignificance when the world sees Jesus who they thought was dead really alive and coming with the clouds of heaven to judge the quick and the dead.”[2]     

Our hope is in Christ because when He returns the church will be glorified with Him as we take off into clouds to be transformed (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Our hope is in Christ, because when He returns the Jews—God’s covenant people—will have the scales of blindness removed and they will receive Him as their Messiah (Rev. 1:7). Our hope is in Christ because when He returns there will finally be peace on the earth as the Prince of Peace rules with complete authority (Is. 2:4, 9:6-7). Our hope is in Christ, because when He returns the curse of sin will be reversed and creation will also be redeemed (Rom. 8:19-22). Our hope is in Christ, because when He returns, Satan will get what he finally has coming to him—defeat and doom (Rom. 16:20; Rev. 20:10). Finally, our hope is in Christ because when He returns, He will receive the glory, honor and worship that He rightfully deserves as the King of Kings (Ps. 2:7-9; Phil 2:9-11). –DM

[1] Dennis J. Hester, Vance Havner Quote Book, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1986), 205.
[2] Adrian Rogers, Unveiling the End Times in Our Times (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2004), 283-285.