Along with many college basketball fans, I enjoy “March Madness” — the annual NCAA basketball tournament. From basketball, there are a number of analogies to the Christian life. Here are a few:
- “One-on-one” — when one player on offense is isolated with one player on defense. LeBron James in the NBA often does this to take the ball to the basket. In the Christian life, we need to learn to witness one-on-one. Many more people will come to Christ through all of our personal one-on-one witness than the work of any one evangelist or missionary. The biblical example is set in John, chapter 1, where one by one Andrew comes to Christ, then brings Peter to Christ, then Philip comes to Christ, and then Philip witnesses to Nathaniel, who comes to Christ — each of them through one-on-onewitness.
- “Upset” — Always in the NCAA basketball tournament there are upsets — where the underdog team upsets a greater team. Well, you and I are the underdogs — the little guy. And “greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” We do not have greater power than Satan in and of ourselves, but through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit we do have greater power and can upset the world, the flesh and the devil against us.
- “Home court advantage” — While the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) and the NBA all permit home court advantage, the NCAA tournament does not. All their games are played on neutral courts. But what an advantage you and I have in the Christian life — if we utilize “home court advantage” by staying out of the wrong places, running with the right crowd and being in the right places. This does not mean we will not attack the “gates of hell” by being a witness in the world. But we need to prepare ourselves with Scripture and prayer, so that we always have “home court advantage.” I have seen this first-hand. Years ago a U.S. presidential candidate visited our church. The assembled national news media — network TV, AP, etc. — were all on their best behavior, because they were in a church. We had “home court advantage.” The AP reporter sought me out afterward to tell me how impressed he was that I preached the gospel and baptized while the candidate and the media all listened and waited.
We need to do all we can to be effective witnesses for Christ. Meanwhile, if you like basketball, enjoy “March Madness.” My alma mater, Ohio State, plays today (as I write this), and then hopefully again!
Our church supports an outstanding missionary in Athens, Greece. Emmanuel Negru is with Word of Life Greece. The primary ministry of he and his wife, Theresa, is reaching college students on the campuses of Athens. This young man is one of the most outstanding missionaries I have known in 40 years. He is on fire for God! (And so is his wife!)
There are now about 1-million Muslims residing in Athens. Many of them came in in 2015 and 2016. During those days, missionary Negru went down to the main port of entry and handed out thousands of gospel flyers to the incoming Muslims. Naturally, he ran into resistance. The overall view of the Greek government and society was that the Muslims have their own religion, so let them be as they wish. Some of the Muslims resisted Negru’s efforts.
But with the boldness we see in the Book of Acts, Emmanuel Negru continued to hand out gospel literature by the thousands. And finally he saw some fruit. God has blessed his efforts. He is an outstanding young missionary.
We are ordaining two deacons tonight at our church. The Bible says in Acts 6 that we are to choose men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom — and ready to serve God and the church. We have good deacons here at First Baptist Church of Cape Coral. Our deacons are ready to serve in a sincere and humble spirit.
I have had the privilege through the years of working with some very fine deacons. I thank God for our deacons!
Probably I should not have a “favorite” deacon. But I do. Our deacon chairman for years in Orlando at Delaney Street Baptist Church was a man named Bob Claudy. I guess Bob and I became very close because almost every Thursday afternoon we would visit together. Usually we would take communion to our shut-ins, our homebound people. I cherished my days with Bob Claudy, a good man.
And there have been any number of other very good men with whom I have had the privilege to serve God.
When the prophet Elisha succeeded Elijah as the dominant prophet of his era in the Old Testament, Elisha asked Elijah if he could have a double portion of the power of God that Elijah had. It was granted to Elisha. Interestingly, there are twice as many miracles of Elisha recorded in the Bible as were recorded for Elijah.
Only two times among the many miracles of Elisha does he actually stop and pray. Most miracles he simply responds with the power and will of God. Elisha walked with God. He was in constant touch with God. It was almost like he received immediate tweets or instant messages from God. There was one occasion where he shut the door and got alone with God to pray, to seek His will and to see God answer in a miraculous way. But usually Elisha responded immediately with the power and will of God.
Elisha lived with a God awareness at all times. Elisha walked with God. What an example!
We lost Billy Graham this week, as the world famous evangelist graduated to heaven at age 99. When I came to Christ in 1974, Billy Graham was at the height of his popularity — holding city-wide evangelistic crusades around the world and preaching to millions on TV and radio. Because of his mass evangelism, it is quite possible that no man in history has preached the gospel to more people or pointed more people to faith in Christ than Billy Graham.
I never met Billy Graham, nor did I ever attend one of his crusades. I certainly watched him preach on TV multiple times. I remember his Sunday night half-hour weekly radio broadcast as well. While I was still in journalism as God called me to preach at college, one of my close friends covered a Billy Graham crusade in Cleveland, Ohio. She did not meet him either, but she was down front interviewing people who came forward. I almost met Billy Graham in Tampa years ago.
Billy Graham was bigger than life. He was faithful to the truth of the gospel, and he was faithful to the call of God. Scandals which so often surround celebrities in every walk of life — including the ministry — never touched Billy Graham. My pastor, the late Rev. William E. Allen of Mansfield, OH, once filled in for Billy Graham in a preaching appointment. Pastor Allen was always proud of Billy Graham’s commitment to the truth and to setting a good moral and ethical example in his own life.
We salute Billy Graham. Our loss is heaven’s gain.
We believe in missions at First Baptist Cape Coral. We believe in the global call of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This weekend marks our 3rd annual Faith Promise missions conference. Our main speakers will be Gary Frazier of Israel and Alan Green of Word of Life Hungary. Also represented at our missions conference will be Lifeline, our local pregnancy care ministry, and Joel Breidenbaugh, planting a new church in Central Florida.
Our church has responded well to Faith Promise missions. Currently we support Southern Baptist missions, as well as Abraham Thomas in India, Emmanuel Negru with Word of Life Greece, Oleg Turlac in Russia, and Jonathan Mathews in Brazil, as well as Lifeline.
Missions is dear to the heart of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” I John 2:2 makes it clear that Christ died for the sins of the whole world. It is our goal to proclaim the gospel worldwide, so that as many as possible will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.