The Art of Preaching with David Poole – Part 4

This episode of the Art of Preaching is the final segment of an interview I did with Pastor David Poole.  He shares some final thoughts on the subject of preaching as well as telling us a little about his wife’s cajun cooking!

If the Art of Preaching has been a help to you, please share this video!  Thanks for tuning in today!

~Matthew Ball

The Message of Christmas: Don’t Miss His Coming!

ChristmasLook! Can you see it?

A stable.

An earthen floor of soil and small stones.

An oil lamp flame dancing with its shadow on wall.

Wooden boards with an occasional knothole or crack allowing the beams of moonlight to shine in.

Sniff….Can you smell it?

A sweet waft of fresh hay.

The earthy scent of soil and wood.

The animals.  A lamb, a donkey, a goat.

Listen….Can you hear it?

The crickets’ nighttime melodies.

The bleating of a sheep disturbed by approaching visitors.

An occasional stomp of the donkey’s hoof against the ground as it shakes and lowers its head and gets another mouthful of hay.

If you’re quiet enough….shhh….

The sound of Joseph moving hay across the ground to make a soft place for Mary to lie down.

The occasional groan of this young girl as the labor pains intensify.

The prayers of Joseph.

A baby’s cry.

A father’s praise to God.

A thankful mother’s sigh.

The Incarnation

Christmas

This was a night unlike any other. The Savior of mankind was born. God wrapped Himself in a garment of flesh and was born of a virgin in Bethlehem.

Gabriel had been chosen to deliver the Christmas announcement.  Never before had an angel received a more blessed and joyous assignment.  Luke tells us how it unfolded, first to a group of shepherds in field:

Luke 2:9-11:  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Before the shepherds could fully comprehend the magnitude of Gabriel’s words, a heavenly choir of angels, too great to number, appeared with Gabriel and erupted into song…

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men…”

The events surrounding the birth of Jesus were miraculous – as if to awaken all creation to the fact that Heaven had touched earth.  God had come to man.

Why was it the event of the ages?  Why was it so important?  Listen to the words of the angel:

Luke 2:11: For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

The angel told Joseph:

Matthew 1:21: And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 

Immanuel

What’s so remarkable about the birth of Christ?  It is the story of God stepping into the story of man. When man couldn’t save himself, God stepped in and saved the day. We were powerless to lift ourselves out of sin.  We were hopelessly lost – utterly fallen.  And when we couldn’t get to Him, God came to us!  

No wonder sing the Christmas carol:

Christ by highest heav’n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

The Jews Missed It

What’s remarkable about the Christmas story is that the Jews missed His coming!  John said it like this:

John 1:11 –  He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

He came to His own people – the Jews. But they failed to recognize Him. Their Messiah had come, but they didn’t realize it was Him.

Jesus said to the religious Jews who opposed Him:

John 5:39: 39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

The Old Testament scriptures testified that Jesus was the Christ.  But though their prophets spoke of Him, they failed to recognize their Christ.  Even with 333 specific messianic prophecies, the Jews couldn’t fathom that Jesus was their Messiah.

Luke 19:41-44 records Jesus weeping over the city of Jerusalem. He wept because the Jews missed their moment.  Oh the things Jesus wanted to do for them, but they missed their hour of visitation.

The Savior of the world was born but to many it was just business as usual.  God had come to walk among men but to many it was just another day.  All the grand prophetic words were, on this day of Christ’s birth, being fulfilled, but most were clueless about the significance of the hour.

Jesus was born in a stable because there wasn’t room in the inn. The innkeeper failed to realize who was standing at his door. Had he known, he would have made room. But it wasn’t only the innkeeper – most all of Israel failed to realize who was standing at their door!

Do We Miss it Today?

We fault the Jews.  We say, “How could they be so blind?”  Yet we are often blind to His coming!  You say, “No! We’re celebrating Christmas!  We know He was the Messiah!”

Yes, I know we recognize that Jesus was God come in the flesh.  Yes, I know we celebrate Christmas – the fact that over 2000 years ago He was born in a manger in Bethlehem.

But HE IS STILL COMING.  And many of us today are missing His coming.

We talk about His soon return to the earth.  We talk about how we’d better be ready, watchful, and sober as we look for His return.  And as true as that is, it’s not what I’m referring to.  I’m not talking about His coming 2000 years ago to Bethlehem nor His soon return to the earth.  It’s today that I’m talking about.  He’s coming today.

He knocks at our door every day.  He calls to us every day.  He’s calling us to draw closer to Him.

Our Prophetic Hour

We fault the Jews for missing it.  We talk about all the prophecies they knew well yet couldn’t see Him as the Christ.  But what about all the prophecies about our hour?  What about all the things the scriptures declare God wants to do in His church in our day?  This is a prophetic hour!  We are in the last days!  God wants to pour His Spirit out.  God wants to do mighty wonders among His church.

But are we missing it?  Are we, like the innkeeper, so preoccupied with life that we don’t even realize it when God knocks?  Are we so preoccupied with the cares of life that we relegate Him to the stable because we have no room in our lives?

I don’t want Jesus to look over the church and weep like He wept over Jerusalem.  I don’t want Him say of us, “You missed your hour of visitation.”  We fault the Jews saying, “He came to His own, but His own received Him not!”  But we are His Bride.  He still coming to His own.

During this Christmas season, remember that He’s coming to us now.  He comes with revival, restoration, and renewal.  He’s knocking at our door calling us to open and let Him come in. He’s calling us to deeper prayer, greater devotion, and more focused purpose.  Are we recognizing His coming?

He’s knocking on your door right now.  He’s calling you – drawing you.  Don’t miss your moment this Christmas or any season of the year.

~Matthew Ball

Excerpt from Missionary Carlos Grant’s History of the Philippine Church

I was unsuccessful in holding back the tears I as read this at the coffee shop this afternoon.  I felt compelled to share this story of Rev. Carlos C. Grant, missionary to the Philippines.  Here is an excerpt from his book, “The History of the Philippine Church”:

Arriving in the Philippines

missionaryLeaving Hong Kong, now we were on the last short leg of our journey. In about thirty-four to thirty-six hours we could see the great city called THE PEARL OF THE ORIENT, MANILA, PHILIPPINES.

We arrived on August 15, 1957, at approximately nine o’clock in the morning, in a torrential rain, a monsoon. It never stopped for days.  As there had been no funds received by us from the United Pentecostal headquarters, we were very low, and facing we knew not what. $108.00 is not very much money.

Well to make it short, the custom officials took it all and left me with not a cent to use, and we set foot on the shore. We finished up our custom and immigration clearance, and stepped ashore at approximately eleven o’clock in the morning the same day. As we drew near the great Dewey Boulevard along the shore of Manila Bay, I looked at such a large city, knowing in my heart a part of the vast area was to be our particular vineyard to labor in.

I could only stand and tremble at the task ahead. In my soul I cried, “I am not big enough for this job.” Then the promise made in Menlo, Park, California on that eventful night when we were in despair came to me! I will never leave you or forsake you.” Many times that has been my only life-line to remember when the hours were darkest in trials and persecutions which later came so very cruel.

What Now?

As I stood there with fifteen pieces of baggage, my wife and three-year old daughter, Sis. Grant looked at me and said, “Now, what do we do?” I answered her, ”I do not know.” Our daughter began to cry, since she grew very wet with no umbrella, as we had none.   All we could do was cry in our souls, “Oh, Lord, Lord, why, why? How can we manage?”

After a time we were approached by a Filipino man, who asked where we were going. And I told him I did not know. “What are you?” he asked. We said we were missionaries for the name of Jesus Christ. He wanted to know if we wished him to take us to a good hotel, and when I answered, We have not a penny to our name,” he shook his head and laughed. Not at our calamity, but at the absurdity of an American being in the country with no money. Because in the eyes of the Asians and foreigners, all Americans are rich.

missionaryHe said he knew the manager of the Bay view Hotel very well, and he will help us. So we agreed to go. There was not much else we could do.  This man paid our taxi fare and spoke to the manager for us. We registered and got into our room everything we had. So wet we were about ready to cry, and so frustrated we hardly knew which way to turn. By evening, we were about dried out and were now more comfortable. But we had no money to buy food to eat. How do you explain to a three-year-old child that Jesus promised to supply every need?

There are just no words or ways to explain against an empty stomach. Finally, we made ready for bed, prayed, and tried to comfort her. I told Sis. Grant that the next morning I would go on the street and sell our personal things to feed the baby. We could fast and hold out.

The Miracle

About ten o’clock in the evening, just as we were all set for the night, there came a knock on our door. What now? What could this be? No one knew us. No one was expecting us. Could this be the manager to question us or put us out? In fear and anxiety I opened the door. There was a lady standing there. She was a passenger on the same boat we had sailed on, and was one of the passengers who caught the chicken pox from our daughter, who had taken them following her bout with the measles.

She smiled and said, “You are Rev. Grant?” I said yes and invited her to come in. She entered, Sis. Grant arose and came into the room. We could not figure why the lady had come because we hardly saw her on the boat and then not to visit with. Yet God keeps His promises. Praise His Name!

After a short time, she brought forth the reason for her late visit to us. Knowing nothing about us, she had been on the boat bound for a missionary home for Presbyterians, as she was a returning missionary teacher, located in Marawi City in Mindanao. Going to bed she became troubled and grew worse and worse until she prayed, “Lord, what Is wrong?” She told us that God spoke to her. “My servants, Carlos Grant and family are in need. Go help him.” She could not understand. She kept trying to lay it aside, yet finally “Lord, I don’t even know where they are. What can I do?” He impressed her, “The Bayview Hotel, Go. Go.”

She arose, dressed, took a taxi, came and asked for us. She was bewildered as we were. Now she wanted to know what we needed. Have you ever been faced with such a situation? You are ashamed to let anyone know of your circumstances, so I at first answered, “We are fine and we do appreciate your concern.” But she came back at me. “Then if you are alright and everything’s fine, why has God got me out of bed and sent me across Manila tonight to help you?”

I could only look at her and shake my head. “Woman, we need help of any kind. Forgive me for what I said, I am ashamed to receive help from you as we are almost strangers.”  Nevertheless, she took out a cheque book, wrote a cheque for $200.00 and said, “This will help you.”  

Well, what would your answer be? Mine was the same. “Surely we appreciate it and will return it to you as soon as we can get in touch with our home office.”  After a short while and we in tears, she left. And from that day till now, we have never seen her again. Later we wrote and sent her money, and we received an answer of thanks. But I do know that somewhere, God’s reward will be great.

The angels of the Lord encampeth about them who love him. Surely she was an angel sent by the Lord to help us. Taking the cheque to the manager’s office for security, I was able to get food for all of us and we had a good night’s rest, after a time of worship and thanks to the ONE WHO can never fail. 

Understanding Seasons

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: (Ecclesiastes 3:1)  

To everything there is a season.  “Season” simply means a period of time.  A season is a period of time for a certain activity.

We are in the full swing of the Christmas season.  It’s a period of time – a period of time when we, as Christians, focus on the birth of Christ. Although this period of time seems to lengthen each year, thanks to ambitious retailers, the Christmas season is roughly from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.

My wife likes the football season.  It’s the period of time that runs from early fall to January.  In our household, there is some minor grieving after the Super Bowl because football season is over until the next September!

seasonsWhen you think of the seasons, you likely think of spring, summer, fall and winter.  I love spring and summer because I enjoy the sun and warm weather.  I know fall is beautiful, but I have a hard time enjoying it because I know what season is coming next!

Seasons are inevitable.  They are painted onto the canvas of creation.  They are ordered by God, Himself:

Genesis 1:14 (KJV) – 14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:

Gen 8:22 – While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease. KJV

How long will there be seasons?  As long as the earth exists there will be seasons.  It’s inevitable.  It’s inescapable.

In as much as seasons are inescapable and permanent, the seasons themselves are only temporary.  A season is just that – a season.  And whatever the season is, it will always change and a new season will come.

If you’re a scrooge and don’t like Christmas, be patient, the season will be over soon.  The decorations will come down and the Christmas music on the radio will change.

I hate the winter.  But during the cold I remind myself, “This, too, shall pass.” Spring will come.  80 degree days will return!  The only thing permanent about seasons is that the season itself is NOT permanent.

Hope

It’s important to understand seasons.  When you understand seasons, it brings you hope.  The understanding of seasons brings hope when I’m going through difficulty.  That understanding reminds me that my season won’t last forever.  That understanding brings me some comfort and encouragement.  I’m reminded that a new season will come.

Psalm 30:5… Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

I may be in a season of distress right now.   I may be weeping now – but it’s just a season!  It may be nighttime right now, but the light of dawn will come!

This understanding brings me hope.  If you don’t understand seasons, you might lose your mind.  You might give up and quit.  You might give in to the discouraging voice of the enemy that says, “Just curse God and die.

But if you understand seasons, then you say to yourself, “Morning will come.”  “I may be weeping now, but it’s just a season.  And, because you have that understanding, you press on!  You say to yourself:

  • I’m going to make it!
  • I’m going to persevere!
  • I’m going walk and not faint!
You’re Going to Make It!

I can make it if I know there is light at the end of the tunnel!  And that is what understanding seasons gives me: light at the end of the tunnel.  I can make it if I know my trial has an expiration date.

When you’re in the middle of a crisis, discouragement and hopelessness come knocking.  The enemy tells you to give up.  He says you’ll never make it.  He tries to get you to surrender your hope and faith.  But when you understand seasons, then you remind yourself that your trial won’t last forever. What I’m going through is tough, but I’m gonna to get to the other side of this storm.

Jesus told His disciples, ““Let us pass over unto the other side.”  Between here and seasonsthere, we’ll face a storm, but we are going to the other side.  The storm is just a season.  Remember –  the storm is only temporary.  No matter how fierce the winds and waves, they won’t last forever.  The sun is going to shine again.  The clouds will soon dissipate.

What are you telling me?  I’m giving you hope!  I’m encouraging you today to hold on to God and keep walking.  Whatever season you’re in, remember it won’t last forever.  Whatever adversity has you stressed, be faithful to God – you will come through.  The storm you’re braving has an end.

Affliction is Only for a Season

Remember what Paul told the Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 4:17 – 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory…

Our light affliction is but for a moment – a season.  It’s important to understand seasons.  Affliction doesn’t last forever.   It will pass.  Not only is affliction temporary, but affliction is working for me, not against me. (But that’s another message for another time!)

If I lived in Barrow, Alaska, I might lose my mind!  If I knew that it would never get above 30 degrees and that most days of the year it will be well below zero, then I’d probably go crazy.  In Indiana, I just remind myself as I’m scraping the ice and snow off my windshield, “It’s just a season.  Spring will come.”

Whatever difficulty you are going through, my friend, remember that it’s just a season.

~Matthew Ball

Philippians on Friday: Count it all Loss

Thanks again for reading this week’s, Philippians on Friday! In our last devotion we discussed Paul’s blistering condemnation of the Jews who trusted in their own works rather than the righteousness of Christ. This week’s passage is a continuation of that same theme:

Philippians 3:4-6:  Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

PhilippiansIn the proceeding verses, Paul called the Jew’s act of circumcision, simply the “concision.” He was pointing out the fallacy of thinking one can be righteous through the works of the flesh.

In today’s passage, Paul is saying if that were possible, then he of all people would qualify as righteous. If strict adherence to the Law could make one righteous, then Paul has us all beat!

…If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more…

What a Résumé!

Look at Paul’s résumé of good works:

  • Circumcised according to the law
  • A citizen of the nation of Israel
  • Of the tribe of Benjamin
  • A Hebrew of Hebrews
  • A Pharisee who was trained in the Law
  • Zealous for Judaism as demonstrated by his persecuting of the church
  • Blameless concerning his personal adherence to the Law

Do you realize what Paul is saying to the Philippians? No one could top Paul when it came to pointing to one’s own righteousness and good works. If one’s own righteousness made us holy in God’s eyes, then Paul would certainly qualify to stand justified before God. But look what Paul says:

But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ…

It’s About His Work Not Ours!

If a man’s own righteousness could save him, then Paul didn’t need Christ nor His Cross.  If confidence in one’s own works could justify, then Paul didn’t need a Damascus-road conversion.

Paul shares a joyous truth with the Philippians and each of us. We are saved by PhilippiansChrist’s work, not ours! We are saved by His righteousness, not ours. All our good works will never be enough to save us. We must have faith in Jesus Christ.  When we are born again of water and Spirit we are putting our faith in Jesus’ Death, Burial and Resurrection – We are trusting in what He has done!

Paul said, I count it all loss. What does that mean? All his attempts to be justified before God through his own works fell miserably short. Before his conversion it was gain to him – it was valuable to him. He trusted in those things.

But when He met Jesus Christ, his valuation of those things changed. What was valuable (gain) became loss. He counted those as dung – something utterly worthless and filthy.   He used to say, “Look what I have done!” Now he says, “Look what Christ has done!”

Holy living is our necessary response to Christ’s salvation, not our own attempt to earn it.

Paul was not boasting by listing his fleshly accomplieshments. He was actually doing just the opposite. Paul was showing the folly of trusting in human achievement. He was deliberately mentioning all his so-called accomplishments to show how that none of those things truly justified him in the eyes of God. He mentioned his accomplishments only to say:

If a man could be justified by his own works, then I would be considered justified.

But all those things that were feathers in my cap, I now count as loss. My confidence is in Jesus Christ. My righteousness is in Him.

Why a Loss?

Why did Paul consider his own righteousness as loss?

1 – It didn’t bring true justification

2 – It detracted from the power of the Cross and of faith in Jesus Christ

3 – It led to emphasizing the person rather than the Savior

4 – It bred hypocrisy and judgmentalism

5 – It actually lead Paul farther from God, not closer! (He persecuted the true church, not recognizing it was the Body of Christ)

Holy living is our necessary response to Christ’s salvation, not our own attempt to earn it.  If it were possible for a man’s own holiness to ever be sufficient, then Paul’s own righteousness certainly would have been sufficient.  But the apostle Paul trusted in “Nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”  And so should we.

~Matthew Ball