Hello, my name is Seba. I lived in the days of Noah and I want to share my tragic story. We watched the old man and his family build the huge boat and thought he had lost his mind. For years and years Noah was the laughing stock of the entire region.

“Something, though, troubled me deep down. When Noah spoke of turning from sin and looking to God, I knew he was speaking truth. Everyone admitted our culture was wicked… but who wanted to change? I actually seriously talked to my wife about joining Noah, but she did not want to lose all our friends.

“When the animals started walking up the ramp into the ark, I once again knew in my heart that Noah’s preaching was true. I came so close to repenting and asking God to forgive me… but, again, I failed to act. When the door shut and the rain began… it was too late.”

Hello, my name is Timon. I lived in the days of Peter and heard him speak on the Day of Pentecost, shortly after the man named Jesus had been crucified. The fisherman spoke with passion and power and though some said he was drunk, I knew he was not. When he proclaimed Jesus to be Messiah, my heart sensed it was true… but I suppressed the thought.

“Even as thousands responded to Peter’s message and were baptized in the name of the Nazarene, I resisted the urge to join them. I was a young man with a young wife and infant son. I had witnessed the way our elders disdained the followers of Jesus and did not want my family to be targeted.

“Shortly after, it looked like I had made the right decision. Followers of Jesus were persecuted mercilessly. Most fled Jerusalem and scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. I thought: ‘Whew… if I had responded to Peter’s invitation on Pentecost, we too would be fleeing.’ Little did I know what was to come.

“My wife of forty years, my children, and my grandchildren were my pride and joy. When the Romans surrounded the Holy City, I knew we were doomed. How I wished I had chosen differently on the day I heard the truth.”

Hello, my name is Lewis. I am also living in unprecedented times… but I do not want to be like Seba and Timon. Of course, it would be easy to go their same route and ignore God. Confined to our houses, it is tempting to watch the news constantly with only one consuming question: ‘When are things going to get back to normal?’

“But a friend of mine challenged my thinking. He says sin is far more deadly than any virus. I first thought: ‘Please… don’t use this crisis as an excuse to push your religion,’ but deep down, I know my friend tells the truth. I have always thought there must be a God, but now I am determined to seek Him.

“My friend says he is not promoting a religion… but a Person. He says Jesus is really who He says He is… the Son of God. So I have been reading the Bible… about a Creator who has made a way to restore sinful mankind back to Him. The One named Jesus is the main message of the Book… He is the Good News. Jesus desires all to know Him… and His Father… and the Holy Spirit.

“So I have decided to follow Jesus Christ. I am calling on His Name and asking Him to take over my life. I believe in my heart He died for us all and then rose from the dead. I am confessing Jesus as Lord and I am planning to do everything He tells me. We’ll see what happens next…”

“Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.” Joel 3:14

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A long, long time ago, an imperfect man was given strange instructions from God. Noah started building an ark long before the floods came. People probably made fun of him… but Noah and his family kept working. Noah also warned others. Peter called him a ‘preacher of righteousness,’ and while we have no record of his exact words or conversations, perhaps a skeptic once asked: “So Noah, if the world as we know it is one day going to end, is there any hope?”

Noah surely would have replied: “Absolutely! Turn from your wicked ways and get right with God! When destruction comes, there will be only one safe place… and you are welcome to join my family. But only if you believe and repent and come…”

No one repented. After God shut the door of the ark, it was too late to enter the safe place. The floods came and only eight people and the animals survived.

A long time ago, an imperfect man was given a message to preach in Jerusalem. People made fun of him and some accused him of being drunk. Much of his Pentecost message is recorded in Acts 2. He recounted history, quoted prophecy, and proclaimed the Messiah had come. The proof his message was true, Peter claimed, was that Jesus was no longer in the tomb. King David died, but his bones were still in the grave. Because of love, Jesus died on a Roman cross and was buried. But He rose from the dead on the third day and later, after being seen by many witnesses, ascended to join His Father.

The people heard and many were convicted. They cried: “What shall we do?” Peter answered: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:37-39)

Perhaps Peter sometimes talked about Jesus’ prediction of the future destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem. The Romans fulfilled the prophecy forty years later in 70 AD as Titus surrounded the city three days before Passover. Jerusalem was destroyed and a million Jews were slaughtered. If someone had heard such grim news, he might have asked: “Is there any hope?”

The apostle surely would have answered: “Absolutely! The hope is the same Person I’ve been proclaiming! Jesus offers salvation and everything we need to live boldly in a dangerous world. He is the only safe place and the ones who overcome will be those who abide in Him. Put your faith in Jesus! He is the Way and the Truth and the Life.”

Now a fearful world asks: “Is there any hope?” Jesus answers: “Absolutely! All hope is in Me! Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Come to Me, all who are paralyzed with fear. Turn from wrong and come to Me! I have already paid the price for your sin. Redemption has been accomplished… but you must receive it. Forgiveness is only found in Me. Repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Spirit, trust Me, trust My Father, receive My life and help others find God. I am the Way… no one comes to the Father except through Me. My Father loved the world so much He sent Me to save it. Hear my invitation and come!”

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

“Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” Hebrews 4:7

Happy Easter!

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It is not good to compare ourselves with others, but it is wise to learn from others. Paul wrote: “Imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.” (I Cor 11:1) It is interesting to examine reasons for words and actions. Of course, God alone knows hearts… and what He has accomplished in hearts.

For example, Peter gave the Good Confession when Jesus asked what people were saying about Him: “Who do you say I am?” “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus blessed Peter… but He knew the reason for his friend’s perfect answer: “This was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in heaven.” (see Matt 16:13-20) In other words: “Right answer, Peter! But don’t take credit for it…”

Mary poured out the precious content of her alabaster jar despite the criticism of other believers in the room. Why did she do this? Perhaps Mary was so grateful her brother Lazarus had been raised from the dead that she was willing to offer her most treasured possession. Or perhaps God had revealed the true worth of His Son to Mary because she had once chosen simply to sit at the Master’s feet. (see Luke 10:38-42) Jesus gave another reason for Mary’s extravagant action: “Leave her alone… It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.”(John 12:7)

Sometimes the best examples to follow are those who humbly choose simply to abide in Christ… with no fanfare. Such disciples tend to have an ever-increasing appreciation of God’s amazing work and a willingness to ‘become nothing’ so Jesus can become ‘everything.’ Paul knew he had not arrived (see Phil 3:12-14), but he gave the reason for living the way he did: “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) In other words: Jesus is the Reason.

One day God will honor His children who aimed to listen to the Master’s voice and follow Him. They will be caught off guard by the praise of the King: “But Lord, when did we do this? We only did what You led us to do. Any reason for good in our lives on earth came directly from You. We did not realize when we loved a homeless person, or visited a guy in prison, or took care of a sick friend, or helped feed the hungry or cared for the orphan or served the widow… we were actually serving You. Jesus, You are our Reason… and You deserve all the glory.”

“Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me… Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.” (Matt 25:34-40)

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IMG_1613This past Saturday, our oldest grandchild Wilkes turned 5! Celebration adjustments had to be made, but it was a wonderful day. We are so thankful!

IMG_1524 Eighty-two years and two days earlier, my daddy was born. Rex Davis had his 87th birthday this past week! We are so thankful!

A couple of weekends ago, Susan and I made a day trip to Foley, Alabama to celebrate another March birthday. John Turner turned 16! It was a fun celebration with Bar-B-Q, cake, and reminiscing.

I was privileged to officiate John’s mom Terri’s wedding with Daniel LaCoste almost four years ago in this town close to the coast, so we knew most of the people at the surprise party. Susan deserves the credit for loving Terri, John, all the extended family, and so many others we’ve met over the past 16 years. When Susu becomes your friend, it is for a lifetime.

We were in the next room signing a large poster for John when I overheard Terri’s conversation with a guy in the kitchen: “They drove down from Atlanta this morning.” The friend said, “Wow, that’s a long drive for a birthday party.” Terri said, “You know they took John into their home when he was three days old. They took care of him for seven months, until I got out of jail. Then I also lived with them for two more years.” The friend replied, “Terri, this is what I love: you overcame your past. Look at you now!” She replied, “But I’ve messed up a lot more… and still do…”

IMG_1603God is always working. It is important to look back and remember the highs and lows, the successes and failures, and the power of the Father’s love — exhibited by Himself and His people. He is able to enter any hopeless situation; He can redeem any lost soul; nothing is impossible for Him. And He invites us to be a part of the story… with our own weaknesses and imperfections. “Visit her; take care of a baby; give of yourself and your emotions; forgive; pray; invite your community of believers to join in — you will need them; notice how I work through My people; marvel at the power of love; learn how ‘I never stop working.’”

“So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute Him. In His defense Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I, too, am working.’” John 5:16-17

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I’ve talked with my students this semester about persecution many have undergone and still endure for the cause of Christ since Jesus overcame death. On the last day of school before we shifted to online teaching, a friend and co-worker shared some of his experiences growing up in Bulgaria, one of the many European countries overtaken by Communism in the last century.

img_1606The boys listened intently to Filip as he spoke of a land with little freedom and encouraged us to realize the blessings we so often take for granted. When asked how many times he had been arrested, Filip could not be exact: “There were too many times for me to count.” Guns were held to his head, threats were made to his family, and once he was attacked by being rammed while driving in his town. His vehicle was totally destroyed and Filip was left for dead inside the crumpled car. “I don’t know how it happened, but God rescued me and saved my life.”

I asked, “Why would you keep risking your life to share with others about Jesus when you knew the grave danger?” He replied: “My people have no hope outside of Christ. They were taught there is no God, so they had no future, and no purpose in life. Jesus called me to tell them the Good News. You cannot say ‘no’ to such a command. I knew He was with me… and if I died, I would be with Him forever. When God is with you, you have courage.”

Just as we receive peace as a gift from God, so we may also receive His courage. First steps of faith might be tentative, emotions don’t always disappear, the enemy often whispers fear and doubt… “But if God is for us, who can be against us?” Our God is perfect love… and “perfect love casts out fear.” (I John 4:18) “We will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea…” (see Psalm 46) “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.” (Mark 6:50) “Yes, be patient. And take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.” (James 5:8 – Living Bible)

Richard Wurmbrand was arrested in Romania on February 29, 1948. He remembered from his studies as a pastor that “Do not be afraid” is recorded 366 times in Scripture… once for every day of the calendar, including Leap Year, the day he was arrested. He spent 14 years in prison. God is kind to give such thoughts in the midst of our trials. We, in turn, can speak boldly to a confused, fearful world in search of hope: ‘Look to God! He has provided everlasting hope and life through His Son Jesus Christ. Turn away from all wrong, receive His love… live in Him!’

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered,’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31-39

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