Wow, what a great VBS we have had this week at First Baptist Church of Cape Coral! I love VBS. I have been intimately involved in VBS for years. Our family pastor, Jonathan Phillips, has done a masterful job of organizing VBS, and we have had an outstanding team of volunteers.
We have the best attendance we have had in the 6 summers I have been here at First Baptist Cape Coral. Our missions offering for Brazil has been excellent. And we have seen a remarkable number of children come to Christ as their personal Savior!
Thank God for VBS!
Wow, what a great week we had with our Upward Basketball camp here at First Baptist Church of Cape Coral. The atmosphere was festive. We had four basketball teams of children. It was boisterous, exciting and happenin’! We had a full-house Friday for the closing banquet and play-off.
Our family pastor, Jonathan Phillips, and his entire team did a great job! Pastor Jonathan clearly presented the gospel, and a number of young people opened their hearts to Christ. Hugh Morgan put on an outstanding Friday evening banquet.
What a week! We give God all the glory for what He is doing here at First Baptist.
As we celebrate Memorial Day and look forward to the anniversary of D-Day, we can learn much about leadership in history from both our military and political leaders. Four quick points on leadership:
- General Dwight Eisenhower, later President, led the D-Day invasion at Normandy Beach in June of 1944. The success of the invasion was not happen-stance. Eisenhower was known for attention to detail. As weather was a key to the invasion, he completely questioned his meteorologist until he understood every nuance of the weather himself.
- Eisenhower also depended upon flexibility. While he believed planning was essential to military success, once the battle began flexibility was paramount.
- Like, Eisenhower, President Woodrow Wilson, who led our country during World War I, believed in solitude in decision making. He sought all manner of advice and discussion but would seclude himself to think an issue through and arrive at his decision.
- One of America’s greatest leaders was J. Edgar Hoover, who literally built the modern FBI. Hoover took over a weak and somewhat inept agency and built it into the greatest law enforcement agency in the world. He was known for his enthusiasm. It was said he would try anything once — always striving to inspire, improve and do better.
Each of us is a leader in some capacity. You may only be leading a small child or grandchild, but you are leading someone. We never quit learning effective ways of exercising leadership. In the Bible Joshua was a great leader. He exhibited these traits of leadership.
The Bible gives us 3 Christian exercises, which are largely to be done in secret. In other words, we should serve God not to be seen of man. There are times when we should not let the right hand know what the left hand is doing.
- Giving. Jesus said, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise, you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 6:1-4 says our giving should be done in secret, and that God will reward us openly. I have found through the years that most generous givers do not want to be recognized in public. They want to follow this Scripture.
- Prayer. In Matthew 6:5-7, Jesus tells us not to pray to be seen of men but to pray in secret. Obviously, we are also commanded to pray together as believers. But his emphasis here is that we pray quietly alone to God, not with a motive for others to see how much we pray or to hear so-called flowery words of prayer. And He will answer such prayers.
- Fasting. In Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus tells us to fast quietly — not to be noticed by people. Sometimes this is difficult, because people who care about us are always trying to see that we have something to eat. But the best we can, we should fast secretly, not to impress people.
God promises He will bless us when we do these things “in secret.”
Here at First Baptist Church of Cape Coral we have just concluded a series of life-lessons on the ministry and miracles of Elisha, the dominant Old Testament prophet of his time. His last miracle here on earth was fascinating. It occurred after he died. When the Moabites sent raiders invading the land, the Israelites hurriedly tossed the body of a dead Israelite soldier into the tomb of Elisha. When the body of the soldier touched the corpse of Elisha, the soldier revived and came back to life. Wow, what a miracle — even after Elisha was dead! It was one of the most astonishing one-of-a-kind miracles in all the pages of the Bible.
Elisha died by what the Scripture calls the “sickness” (or illness) by which he was to die. (II Kings 13:14) Scripture teaches that there are 3 kinds of sicknesses:
- Sickness unto chastisement, whereby God chastens us and gets our attention through illness. We need to respond with confession and faith, so that we do not die a premature death. I Corinthians 11:27-32
- Sickness unto the glory of God, which has a two-fold nature. The man blind from birth in John 9 was healed by Christ. That certainly brought glory to God — John 9. The Apostle Paul, on the other hand, suffered through a “thorn in the flesh,” which God did not take away. God told Paul that His grace was sufficent — II Corinthians 12:7-10. We can bring glory to God through patience and faith in the face of suffering.
- Sickness unto death, such as Elisha’s in II Kings 13:14. Unless the Lord returns first, any or all of us will eventually be subject to the illness that takes our life.
No matter what sickness we face, we are in God’s hands. And none of our lives will end until God’s purpose for us here on earth is completed. The Psalmist said, “My times are in Your hands!” The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes says there is “a time to be born and a time to die.” Revelation, chapter 1, tells us that Jesus Christ holds the keys to life and death.
In Elisha’s case, his ministry and life here on earth were complete. So, God took Him home to heaven. But then a miracle followed here on earth. Our influence and affect on others will also follow here on earth — even after God takes us to heaven!
Have you ever heard a sermon on Gehazi? I have preached on Elisha before, but never on Gehazi. In reviewing the life and miracles of Elisha, I thought we need to focus on what happened to Elisha’s assistant, Gehazi. So, last weekend I preached for the first time ever on Gehazi.
Gehazi in the Old Testament book of II Kings was the assistant to Elisha. There was an assumption that Gehazi would have succeeded Elisha, as the dominant prophet of his time, just as Elisha had succeeded Elijah. When the Shunnamite woman’s son died, it was Gehazi who took Elisha’s staff and raced ahead to reach the boy, even before Elisha did.
But Gehazi got in trouble. We see this happen all too often among Christians, even among Christian leaders in ministry, in our day. There is a lesson to learn from Gehazi. When God used Elisha to heal the Syrian army commander, Naaman, of leprosy and to bring Naaman to faith in the true God, in return Naaman offered to pay Elisha a substantial amount of wealth. However, Elisha refused. He said, “As the Lord lives,” I will not receive it. There would have been nothing wrong with receiving the offering, but God led Elisha to make it crystal clear to Naaman that you cannot purchase healing or salvation — but that both were all and only by God’s grace.
Observing all this, Gehazi decided to go after Naaman. He made up a false story of how they needed some of his offering after all — a considerable sum which Gehazi was going to keep for himself — unethically profiting from the ministry. What is even more interesting is that Gehazi used the same words, “as the Lord lives,” as had Elisha. How often do we see people do that? Are we ever guilty of assuming the Holy Spirit will lead us to do wrong? Or that God will be with us in doing something unbiblical?
Well, God called Gehazi on it. God revealed to Elisha what had happened, and God judged Gehazi immediately with the very leprosy from which Naaman had been healed.
Scripture warns us, “Be sure your sin will find you out.” What a warning from the life of Gehazi!