The Gift of Altar Call

Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. Romans 12:1 Amplified Bible

John Brown* stood about 5’5” in his stocking feet but he was a spiritual giant in our lives while he, was our pastor. Though he had been through all the same training as other pastors in our denomination, his sermons always had the earthiness of the potato farm he had grown up on in Maine. I still remember his messages about the work of harvest and the barns filled with potatoes drying on the shelves. But of all the talents that Pastor Brown brought to the table, his gift of altar call outshone them all!

The root of why he delivered an impassioned altar call each week was rooted in his experience while he served overseas in the military as a young man. To outward appearances all was well. He had a good home a bright future and his whole life lay ahead of him. But despite what others thought, during that time, he felt lost and lonely, wondering what was the purpose of it all. He told us that his loneliness turned to despondency and depression till finally one evening he sat with a revolver in his hands wondering if it would be better to simply end things there. When he was at his lowest point, Jesus spoke to his heart, and gave him hope. Right there, John dedicated his heart and life to the Lord and to his service and made a promise that whenever he had opportunity to preach that he would always give people the opportunity to come to the Lord in prayer.

Though I myself responded a number of times to those altar calls for various struggles in my own life, I simply took his gift for granted, till, one Sunday when a visiting evangelist was preaching. I have no idea what the guest speaker preached on that day, but at the end, he gave an altar call, just as our pastor normally did but no one came forward. Now at that time our church had close to a thousand in attendance on any average Sunday morning. The organist continued playing softly for a while, and the choir sat quietly in their places, yet the altar still remained empty. A bit embarrassed, the evangelist turned and asked Pastor Brown if he could dismiss us in prayer. I had already begun wondering what was for lunch and was gathering our bibles when our diminutive pastor stepped up to the microphone, cleared his throat and began, “Now I don’t think some of you people were listening much to the sermon this morning.” Pastor Brown began. He went on to impress upon us our need for responding to the message, and before you could bat an eye there were twenty folks at the front asking for prayer. Now that’s the gift of altar call, and I am so glad that our pastor had it in spades!  He taught us that no one can tell from the outside what is hidden inside our hearts. How about you? Are you ready and willing to open your heart to the Lord today? God is listening and able to help you and I right now – but He will never drag us to the altar. He is leaving the choice to us!

* The name has been changed to preserve the privacy of his family.

Blessed Assurance

Yes the parades, with green hair, green beer and even a green river here in Tampa are past, but Saint Patrick’s day is not till this Thursday. It is interesting to remember that Saint Patrick wasn’t even Irish! The best part of his story did not even begin until after being kidnapped and enslaved, then escaping back to England when he committed his life to Christ. Later Patrick returned to Ireland with the message of the gospel and his story is in many ways like each of ours. Like Patrick we have plenty of unexpected and unwanted events that happen to us. But whatever difficulties we face that keep us up at night we can also have that same blessed assurance when we choose to follow Jesus. We will never know just where He will send us with His message of hope and grace until we surrender to Him and receive His Blessed Assurance in our soul.

Return from Lo Debar – Part 2

Return From Lo Debar – Part 2

And David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.” 2 Samuel 9:7 ESV

This verse paints us a beautiful picture of the restoration of Mephibosheth, but he is not the focus of the story. The return from Lo Debar begins in the heart of David keeping his promise to a friend. In the same way, restoration in our lives begins in the heart of God. In our culture today, it is common to say that people are special and that on their birthday we celebrate their “special” day. We pay more to go to doctors who are specialists and pour resources into programs to help people with “special needs.” Of course, there is nothing wrong with encouraging people to think they have special value, but it is dangerous to make any person the center of our lives. The reality is, that only God is special and that everything good flows from making Him and His love the center of our story. So, let’s look at the wonderful things that happened to our friend Mephibosheth as his life was changed forever by the kindness of King David.

First, Mephibosheth was given everything that his grandfather had lost by sin and rebellion against God. Instead of digging up past failures, David focused on giving his friend’s son a fresh start. In the process of fleeing to Lo Debar Mephibosheth had been crippled by a fall. The society of his day considered him no more important than a common beggar. But David didn’t look down on Mephibosheth, instead he provided him with a life of dignity and respect. Secondly, David was not satisfied with just blessing Mephibosheth. He also wanted Mephibosheth to be close to him. While many generals, wealthy merchants and priests were held in high esteem by the people, only a select few could sit down and have dinner with David. In the same way, God invites you and I to sit close to Him. God wants to do more than just bless us. He wants to be our closest friend! But we will never fully know Him until we know that returning from Lo Debar is about more than only blessings. It is about sitting down at the table with Jesus every day and getting to know Him better and better every day of our lives!

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