“¡Viva el Papa! ¡Viva el Papa! ¡Viva el Papa! ¡Viva el Papa!”
I tuned in yesterday afternoon in time to hear multitudes of Catholics from all over the world chanting in expectation of their new leader. Flags were waving all over the Vatican. The cry of the crowd was a cry of enthusiasm, expectation and energy as the new pope was to be revealed.
Then, as the curtains were pulled back, it was announced that the pope was none other than Argentine Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name Pope Francis. Indeed, this man is the first Latin American to ever be chosen as Catholicism’s Papal leader.
He is a simple man, choosing to be as much among the people as possible, live a simple life, help the poor and deny many of life’s dainties for the “greater good.”
He led the people in reciting the Lord’s Prayer, then a prayer to Mary.
You could see expressions of hope on the faces of all who listened.
…But is there hope in the pope?
I need to be careful here, because my intention is not to carelessly offend those that hold to the catholic teachings. But could I be so bold as to say, Catholicism, at its core teaching, is leading over a billion people to hell.
Why is that?
Don’t Catholics believe in God? Don’t they believe in the Bible? Don’t they believe that Jesus died on the cross?
Yes, they believe all of these truths.
But what is different between biblical Christianity and catholic teaching? Simply put, it’s a matter of do vs. done.
The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Christian initiation is accomplished by means of the sacraments which establish the foundations of Christian life. The faithful born anew by Baptism are strengthened by Confirmation and are then nourished by the Eucharist.”
Their teachings go on to express that there are 7 sacraments of the church, and in keeping these sacraments you will have favor with God and earn salvation.
But ask any catholic if they know where they will spend eternity and they always reply, “I don’t know” or “you can’t know” or “I won’t know until after I die.”
Why is that? Because salvation is depending on what they do. They are initiated into the church as a baby when they are baptized, they go through confirmation as a child or young adult, and they take the communion. They confess their sins to the priest, pray to Mary, pray to the saints and other idols, and help the poor, but it comes down to one question: What is their salvation depending on? DO or DONE!?
Friend, there is no hope in the pope. He is just a man. He may be a nice man, but he is a man who is leading people down a religious road straight to an eternity that is separated from God.
Salvation is only by grace through faith. It is either grace or it is works. It cannot be both. Jesus already bought our salvation, and offers it as a gift to all who will believe on him. Why are you trying so hard to earn it?
If you have never been biblically saved, if you are still trying to work your way to God, if you don’t know for sure if you’re eternity will be Heaven or Hell, I challenge you to do one thing. Repent.
Repent of your sin and your faith in works or religion. Then believe on Jesus. Run to Jesus. Throw out any other hope that you have and cling to the cross where Jesus paid for your sins. He says he will forgive you. He will accept you. He will make you his child and an heir to all promises. He promises to give you life. Don’t wait any longer.
The Bible says in John 5:24 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
You have God’s word on it. He never breaks his promises. Don’t wait any longer. Believe on Jesus.
Christian, maybe you agree with all that I’ve written here. Would you pray with me for the billions around the world that are deceived by religion? Would you pray with me that God would raise up more laborers to take the GOOD NEWS to them, that Jesus paid it all? Would you pray that God would open their eyes, that they would know the truth, and this truth would make them free?
“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;” 1 Timothy 1:12
My heart is full today.
I feel blessed far beyond what I deserve.
Last night, at our home church, 18 men gathered around me for several hours to encourage me, bless me, lay their hands on me, and ordain me into the Gospel ministry. These men have had, collectively, hundreds of years in the ministry. I was so humbled to be surrounded by these giants of the faith, and to hear of their recognition of God’s hand in my life.
I would like to thank the following men for not only having a part in my ordination, but for investing in my life. God has used you!
- Charles Blackstock — My pastor and close mentor and friend. (over 30 years of ministry)
- Carl Braswell — Church planter for years and now missionary with Macedonia World Baptist Missions. (over 50 years of ministry)
- Jeff Bush — Missionary to Argentina and now Director of Vision Baptist Missions. (over 10 years of ministry)
- Robert Canfield — Assistant pastor at Vision Baptist Church. (about 5 years of ministry)
- Trent Cornwell — Assistant pastor at Vision Baptist Church. (about 7 years of ministry)
- Mark Coffey — Missionary to South Africa with Vision Baptist Missions. (about 10 years of ministry)
- Austin Gardner — Close mentor and friend. Pastor of Vision Baptist Church and missionary to Peru for many years. (almost 40 years of ministry)
- David Gates — Close friend and missionary to Egypt with Macedonia World Baptist Missions. (about 5 years of ministry)
- Alfonso Gonzalez — My assistant while I pastored the Spanish church in GA, now pastor of Iglesia Bautista El Faro. (about 3 years of ministry)
- Kevin Hall — Missionary to South Africa with Vision Baptist Missions. (about 10 years of ministry)
- Brandon Mayes — Missionary to China and now Deputation Director for Macedonia World Baptist Missions. (about 15 years of ministry)
- Rex McPherson — Missionary in Wales and now Pastor of Galilean Baptist Church. (about 30 years of ministry)
- Larry Monroe — Pastored for many years now assistant pastor at my home church. (about 20 years of ministry)
- Cory Sexton — Friend for years and now pastor of The Church at Hoschton. (about 10 years of ministry)
- Donald Swaim — My grandfather and missionary to Mexico and US hispanics with BIMI. (about 30 years of ministry)
- Richard Vance — My dad and missionary printer with Macedonia World Baptist Missions. (about 18 years of ministry)
- Thurman Wade — Pastor for several years, now Director of Macedonia World Baptist Missions. (about 50 years of ministry)
- Frank Whitmire — Pastor for several years, now assistant pastor at my home church. (about 30 years of ministry)
For years, I have seen God do great things over and over again in my life, and I’m constantly reminded that it’s not about me… it’s all about HIM! I’m just an earthen vessel, he’s the real treasure. Knowing this humbles me. It is an honor to serve the King of Kings. It is a privilege that God would see it fit to put me in ministry. It is a joy to be his voice in this world.
I want to also express my love and gratitude for the one that is by my side — that is, my wife, Aubrie. There’s no one else that has loved me more, encouraged me more, inspired me more, helped me more and will ever be with me more than her. Ministry can come and go, but she will be with me until the end. I tell you, God has been super good to this ol’ boy!
Recently a good friend and one of my mentors, Austin Gardner, began a podcast on leadership. It has quickly become one of the things I look forward to most each week! I encourage you, if you are in any type of Christian leadership role or desire to be some day, check it out! It will be a great investment of your time. Each week for 10-20 minutes you will hear loads of practical & biblical advice. This is one of those things that will be invaluable in ministry.
You can check the website above for updates each week or subscribe for free in iTunes by clicking here.
The Spanish podcast, which is also helpful and sometimes deals with different issues, can be found here.
Over the course of 7 sell-out evenings, more than 3,500 people walked through this outdoor reality drama depicting the end times. Many of these people left eternally changed. All of these people left challenged.
This October, you will have a chance to experience that same heart-pounding, thrilling journey of Biblical proportions. If you live anywhere near Atlanta or North Georgia, you MUST plan to be there. Bring a friend. Bring your family. Bring your church. You don’t want to miss it.
In anticipation of larger crowds, this event has been expanded to 11 nights. For detailed information and to buy individual or group tickets, visit: http://www.hellsgates.com/
If you are not able to attend, please pray that God does a magnificent work for his eternal glory.
Celebration of Independence
Yesterday, July 20th, Colombia celebrated 202 years of independence from Spain. Colombians all around the country demonstrated their patriotic loyalty much like we do for our 4th of July celebrations in the USA. They enjoyed a day off from work, parades, time with family, massive feasts, and giving thanks for their freedom.
The story of their independence is a rather interesting one, revolving around a Venezuelan-born man named Simon Bolivar (who spent most of his time in Colombia and liberated 6 countries from Spain), and more interestingly, a conflict about a flower vase. Yes, a flower vase! You can read about that story here.
The battle for freedom in Colombia wages on.
I’m not talking about simply freedom from oppression from rebel groups, violence and political uprisings. Yes, that is what many focus on, but I’m talking about the freedom that Jesus speaks of in the Bible.
“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32
You see, Colombia, just like the rest of the world, has a root need for eternal freedom. If you look at the entire passage there in John 8, Jesus was speaking to the Jews who were religious. They had the right family heritage, being sons of Abraham. They had the law. They had the right customs and practices and they didn’t see their need for being made free.
But Jesus saw that they were indeed servants and slaves to sin, and of their father the Devil.
Pretty harsh words, aren’t they?
Set Free or Made Free?
No matter how hard we try, in our own effort, the best we can do is to be “set free” from sin. There’s a difference between that and what Jesus actually said. He said he would make us free!
Here’s a good way to picture it… If you were in prison paying for a crime that you committed and I came by with a bomb and blew the wall off to let you out, I would have set you free. The problem with that is, eventually they are going to come looking for you (and me) again to throw us both back behind bars. It would be a temporary fix.
But, what if I go and pay your penalty for you. I can then walk in the front doors with the warden, who reaches for his keys and lets you out, now a free person. You’ve been made free. There is a great difference! Because, now, there is no more condemnation (See Romans 8:1).
How are we made free? By Jesus Christ! He paid our penalty 100%. As long as we try to work our way to God, the best we can do is break free for a little bit. We can’t get completely free from sin, and we can’t get completely free from eternal condemnation.
But, thanks be to Jesus, he has already paid the price and offers to MAKE us free! The Bible calls that Justification. My record is cleaned. God’s books show that I am free. There is no more punishment for my sin. No condemnation.
Do you see the difference? That’s what Colombia (and the rest of the world) need to hear.
What about you?
Have you let Jesus make you free or are you still struggling along, trying to make it on your own. If you were to die today, would you spend eternity with God, or would you be found guilty. It all goes back to what you’re depending on. Are you depending on your works? Your religion? Your effort? Your family?
Jesus Christ died on the cross to buy your freedom. Why don’t you believe in that today? Don’t just believe that it happened, but put all your faith in what He has done and repent of your own effort. He said he’d make you free.
“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:36
If you need help or if you have questions about salvation and being made free, I and my family would love to help you and answer your questions. Leave a comment, send me a message or give me a call. I promise to respond because Jesus loves you, and I do too.