The Pursuit


Several years ago while Catherine and I (Pastor Turner) were involved in planting a new church in Albany, NY, we were blessed to be given a gift to purchase a building for the new work. The check, surprisingly, didn’t come in a certified letter, or registered mail. Just a plain white envelope. I opened the envelope, and there was a cashier’s check for $150,000. It was incredible. At that point in my life, I didn’t even know they made checks big enough to put that many zeroes on it!

It was so exciting. Except for one thing. By the end of the day I had lost the check. Lost it! A cashier’s check (as good as money) for $150,000! You would not believe how hard I began to search! There wasn’t a drawer in my desk that I didn’t open multiple times. There wasn’t a paper on my desk I didn’t touch and move multiple times. I scoured my car. I retraced my steps. To me, something that approached infinite value was missing. Something valuable was lost. The pursuit was on.

As intensely as I pursued that check, let me be clear, it is nothing in comparison how passionately I would pursue a search if one of my children was missing. There is no mountain I wouldn’t climb, no river I would cross, no door I wouldn’t knock down, no wall I would go through. There is no cost I wouldn’t pay, no pain I wouldn’t endure, no loss I wouldn’t take, even if it meant my life in exchange for theirs! Nothing. Nothing. Nothing could stop me from pursuing the safe return of my child. Why? Because they are truly of infinite value to me. They matter to me. They mean the world to me.

The intensity of a search reveals the value of what is being sought after.

In Luke 15, Jesus shared three parables about something that was lost, the passionate pursuit for that which was lost, and the celebration that followed the successful pursuit. The three parables all reveal one big idea: God is a seeker of the lost, and His love for the lost is so great that He goes out of His way to pursue their rescue. And from this, there is one very practical application: God is calling us to passionately pursue people with the Good News of Jesus Christ so that the lost may be found.

And yes, if you are still wondering, after passionately pursuing the “lost check,” I eventually found that it had slipped between the seats of my car. And yes, there was definitely a celebration when that which was lost was found!

Under God


Standing tall above this great land of ours has always been the Twin Sisters of Liberty and Law. Like majestic gold statues glimmering in the noon-day sun, Law and Liberty for generations shed light upon the course of the American Experience.

The immigrants that left behind the tyranny of the motherland, to board upon vessels and brave the dangers of the ocean passage, were emboldened as they pursued liberty under the protection of the law. As the pioneers trudged and trekked Westward, they carried these same values with them, over the mountains, and across the plains, pushing ever westward as they pursued their dreams.

Still today, we sing in our Patriotic songs, like “America the Beautiful:” “O beautiful for pilgrim feet, whose stern impassioned stress, a thoroughfare for freedom beat, across the wilderness. America! America! God mend thy every flaw. Confirm they soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law.” Or, “My country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Long may our land be bright, with freedom’s holy light; protect us by Thy might, Great God, our King.”

Law and liberty are interwoven into the American experience. But when we look carefully at the anthems that we sing, we realize that our song-writers are not assuming the blessings of God, but rather beseeching God to bless America despite our flaws and mistakes. Is it possible that in our pursuit of Liberty and Law we have forgotten our Lord? Are we still a nation that is Under God? Join us Sunday, November 12, at 11 AM as we consider the topic “Under God?”




Family Talk


And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut. 6:6-9)

Many people have a “Family Plan” for the cellphone service. But do you have a “Family Plan” for your spiritual development? Nothing could be more important!

Join Emmanuel Baptist Church for a special talk about the family, Sunday, August 27, at 11 AM. Pastors Douglas and David will be presenting recent findings about the families of EBC, and will point out the pillars upon which to build the home. You don’t want to miss this special service! Everyone is welcome. Please bring a friend!


Transformed 3

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification… (1 Thessalonians 4)

The Christian walk is a process. Slowly God takes us and shapes us until we are Transformed into the image of Christ. Join us for a sermon series, “Transformed,” beginning July 2, 11 AM at EBC. Exploring 1 Thessalonians 4, we will consider:

July 2 — Your Potential
July 9 — Your Progress
July 16 — Your Purity
July 23 — Your Passion
July 30 — Your Perfection

Our music is contemporary. Our atmosphere is friendly. Our messages are relevant. There is a place for you to belong!


Compassion.jpgCan one person make a difference? The answer is “yes.” William Wilberforce made a difference. John Newton made a difference. Abraham Lincoln made a difference. Gandhi made a difference. Martin Luther King, Jr. made a difference. Nelson Mandela made a difference. Esther made a difference. And so can you. The real question is not whether you can make a difference or not; the real question is, will you make a difference or not.

You can make a difference! What the world needs now is for people just like you and me who are willing and ready to think, say, and do what is right, regardless of the cost.

See something

It all begins by opening your eyes. Look around you. What is wrong with the world? What is broken? What is unjust? What is improper? Look. See. Cut through the haze of day to day surviving and see the world the way that it really is.

Put aside your preconceptions and prejudices and just look. It won’t take you long to see things are not the way they should be. Don’t turn a blind eye. Don’t look the other way. Don’t ignore. See it, even if it is difficult to see.

I want to tell you something that may be hard for you to hear, and harder for you to believe. But it is true. God is not frustrated with the candidates for the November elections. God is not frustrated over whether the states are Blue or Red. God is not frustrated over whether you are registered Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian. God is not frustrated over a 29% increase in Obamacare Insurance Premiums. God is not frustrated over fracking. God is not frustrated with Wall Street. God is not frustrated with the economy.

But God is grieved that just down the road there are neglected widows. Just down the street there are hungry children. Just over the River there is incest. Just up the Parkway there is a Boy’s Home filled with orphans. Just across town there is an abused woman. Just across the street there is a school filled with children who don’t know Jesus.

Listen to me. Listen well. We are overly concerned with Macro problems, while God is concerned with micro-possibilities. Let me simplify. We care about the big. God cares about the small. To my knowledge, God has never called His people to win a Presidential Election! God has never called His people to win the House or the Senate. God has never called His People to increase international trade agreements.

But God has called His people…

  • To care for the widow
  • To care for the orphan
  • To feed the hungry
  • To care for the alien, and the refugee
  • To clothe the naked
  • To give cold water to the thirsty
  • To bandage the wounds of the injured
  • To visit those in prison

You may not change the whole world, but when you change the destiny of one person you change their whole world! Stop worrying about Macro problems and see micro-possibilities!

Feel something

Having seen, feel. Having opened your eyes, open your heart. Opening your eyes brings consciousness. Opening your heart brings compassion. Feel something. If there is hurt around you, then feel the hurt. If there is brokenness, then feel broken. If there is injustice, feel aggrieved. Awareness of injustice without emotion breeds condescension. Awareness of injustice with emotion births compassion. Compassion brings action.

There is no such thing as compassion without action. Compassion moves you inwardly to act outwardly. But you will not do something great outwardly until you feel something great inwardly. Think about the world. What wretches your gut? What leaves you wide-eyed until the wee hours of the morning? What turns your stomach? What makes your heart race?

Find something. Then feel something.

Do something

When you have seen and when you have felt, do something. Doing nothing is an option, but it is not a very good option! Act. Even if you act alone. Listen, as your pastor I am not seeking to recruit more people to carry our more programs for our church. I am seeking more people who are willing to go into this broken world and BE the church!

Act. Even if you act alone. Be courageous—no matter the cost.

On April 18, 1521 at the Diet of Worms, Martin Luther took a stand against the ills he saw. He said, “Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me. Amen.” The Roman Church hated him for his staunch stand against their ways. They wanted to kill him, but they couldn’t, so they settled for excommunicating him. Nevertheless, there he stood. God helped him. All by himself raised a torch that lit the fires of churches like ours today. Would you have done that? Would you have had the guts to do something?When Mother Theresa, the compassionate nun of Calcutta, spoke before an audience on sophisticated Washington D.C., she addressed a deep concern of hers: the sanctity of life. As a pro-abortion President of the USA sat behind her, she boldly announced, “Send me your babies.” Would you have the guts to say what she said in the company in which she said it?

We cannot be known for what we stand against until we take an active stand for what we believe. Martin Luther saw something, felt something, and did something. Mother Teresa saw something, felt something, and did something. Mordecai saw something, felt something, did something. Esther saw something, felt something, did something.

Having a belief is not the same as taking a stand. Convictions without action are really just theories. Theories without action are just fantasies. Theories with action become realities. Realities can change destinies. Changed destinies change eternities.

Lives are never changed by privately held opinions. Lives are changed when people put their opinions into action. See something. Feel something. Do something. Regardless of the consequences.

The Glory of God


The modern presentation of the Gospel often becomes a man-centered, save yourself, get out of eternal punishment offer. We have watered down the Gospel to make it nothing more than a cosmic fire-escape. But the Gospel is the story of the love of God for Himself. The gospel, though it extends grace to humanity, is ultimately an expression of the desire to fill the whole earth with the Glory of God. Many say that it was love for the sinner that compelled Christ to climb Calvary’s Mount, but in actuality, it is God’s love for Himself which saw Christ endure the crucifixion.

John 12:27 says, “Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father save me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”

The word for “troubled” literally means “deeply stirred and agitated.”

  • Jesus did not walk casually to the cross
  • Jesus did not walk coldly to the cross
  • Jesus did not walk callously to the cross

Love for the Glory of the Father compelled Jesus to walk to the cross. So why was Jesus troubled?

  • Was Jesus troubled about the pain to be endured?
  • Was Jesus troubled about the process to be encountered?
  • Was Jesus troubled about the price to be executed?
NO! Jesus was troubled because the Father was not receiving all the glory He deserved! Hear the words of Henry Blackaby: “The story of the Bible is the story of God’s glory! The mission of God is that all people glorify Him. Glorifying God is God-centered, not people-centered. All the wonderful things you experience–your redemption, your salvation, and your understanding of His love–are for the purpose of glorifying Him” (On Mission with God, 21).
Pastor, theologian, and author John Piper has made famous this concept with a phrase that he coined: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” In his work Let the Nations be Glad, Piper expanded upon this idea. “God is glorified precisely when we are satisfied in him–when we delight in his presence, when we like to be around him, when we treasure his fellowship” (27).
In John 12:12, the crowds in Jerusalem shouted to receive an earthly Messiah. But just a few days later, these same people would cry, “Crucify him.” This troubled the heart of Jesus, because He knew they were not glorifying the Father.
In John 12:37, it says, “Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him…” This troubled the heart of Jesus! The soul of Jesus was troubled because He knew that so many would not accept the truth that God deserves to be glorified! That is why we see two bookends around this section of God’s Word. John 12:28 says, “Father, glorify your name,” then in John 12:43 it says, “They loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”
Christ was on a mission to glorify the Father. “But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father glorify your name!” For Jesus, the glory of the Father was preeminent. For Jesus, the glory of the Father to precedence, and priority! But Jesus was saddened by the selfish choice of so many to glorify themselves.
The Son of God, Jesus, came to make God look great in salvation. When man choses to make God great, man is glad! God is glad when sinners are rescued. God is glorified when sinners are saved. God is grieved when sinners chose their own glory over His.
What about you? What are you glorifying? Yourself, or God? The decision makes all the difference in your destiny! Though your heart may be troubled today, do not forget the troubled heart of Jesus who was willing to die so that the glory of the Father might live in you!

The Light of the World


John 8:12-30

I love campfires. It’s not just the smell of burning wood, or the prospect of s’mores. It’s not just the sound of crackling wood or the blast of warm air against my face in the midst of a crisp evening. It’s the light. It’s captivating. It’s mesmerizing. It’s attractive. It brings a sense of safety in the midst of darkness.

Announcing the Light

Watch now. Verse 12 of John 8 declares, “When Jesus spoke again to the people…” At first this may seem as an unimportant introduction to a passage. But I want you to look with me at an important question. Where was Jesus speaking to the people? Let me show you how the context of this passage can shed light onto our text.

Please skip ahead to verse 20 of John 8 with me. “He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings where put.” The Scripture tells you that Jesus was speaking in a portion of the temple that was known as the Treasury. The Treasury was located in a part of the temple known as the Court of Women. This Court contained two enormous menorahs. Menorah is the Jewish word for candle stand. It is said that when these menorahs were lit, there was not a court in the Temple of Jerusalem that was not illuminated. In fact, you could see the light of the temple from any part of the city.

The second important question I would like for you to consider is, “When was Jesus speaking to the people.” Please flip back with me to John 7:2. “But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, ‘You ought to leave here and go to Judea..’” But Jesus responded in verse 6, “The right time for me has not yet come…”

John 7:14 says, “Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and began to teach.”

Skip ahead to John 8:2. “At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people sat down to teach them.” And this brings us back to 8:12. “When Jesus spoke again to the people…”

  • Where was Jesus teaching? The Treasury in the Court of Women.
  • When was Jesus teaching? At the close of the Feast of Tabernacles.

The Feast of Tabernacles was an annual Jewish celebration. The purpose of the feast was to Celebrate God’s miraculous provision in protecting and guiding the Jewish people through the Wilderness during their Exodus from Egypt. During the Feast, the Jews lit enormous candelabras each evening to remember the brilliant pillar of fire that led the Jews through the wilderness by night. “The great candelabra were close behind Him, fifty cubits [6 feet] high and sumptuously gilded. Every night these lights were lit and shed their soft light all over the city. Here, the people joined in festive dances to the sound of the flutes and other music and the Levites chanted the Songs of Degrees [Pss. 120-134].” (J. W. Shepard, The Christ of the Gospels, (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids: 1939), 352.)

On the last night of the Feast, the candelabras were extinguished. With all this as a background, I believe Jesus stood in this court that had been so brilliantly illuminated for days but now was dark and declared, “I am the Light of the World…” This must have been such shock to the senses of the Jews that were gathered there. The light of the candelabras was still fresh in their memories. The darkness of the night was enveloping them. And Jesus declares, “I am the Light of the World.”

My friends there is a darkness that is enveloping the world around us. Immorality, promiscuity, pornography, homosexuality, and all manner of evil casts its shade over the landscape of our nation. But the light of Jesus Christ shines into the darkness!

The Permanence of the Light     

The Lights of the candelabras were extinguished, but Jesus is the Light that shines for eternity. The pillar of fire was extinguished after the Jews reached the Promised Land; the candelabras were extinguished at the end of the Feast of Lights, but Jesus Christ burns brightly for eternity.

  • His Light will never dim
  • His Light will never darken
  • His Light will never diminish

Satan is seeking to do all that He can to snuff the Light of God. But Satan can’t touch, tarnish, or tamper with the Light of God. The brilliant light of Jesus Christ is greater than light for the temple, or light for a city: it is the light of the world! Jesus shines brightly for eternity. He is shining brightly in the World today. I know that there is violence in the Middle East, fighting in Iraq, troops in the Afghanistan, economic difficulty in American, and drugs in our schools, but the Light of God is still shining!

It is shining brightly and brilliantly in the world today. I’ve seen His light in my life, I’ve seen His light in my marriage, I’ve seen His light in my kids, and I’ve seen His light shine in you!

  • His Light has led some of you out of sin
  • His Light has led some of you through suffering
  • His Light has brought some of you sickness

The Extent of the Light

But notice please, that this Light isn’t just for you and me. Jesus says that He is the “Light of the world.” Jesus is not just a Light to the Jews. He is a light to the African, the Oriental, the Westerner, the Easterner, the Northerner and the Southerner. He’s a light to the privileged, and to the poor. He’s a light to the respected, and to the reviled. He’s a light to old and to the young. My Jesus is a Light to the whole world.

Please look at verse 12 again. “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus picks up on the symbolism of the people wandering in the wilderness.  Remember, the feast of tabernacles was the celebration of when God brought His people out of wilderness during the great Exodus. Imagine nearly one million people lost in the wilderness, wandering around with no one to guide them, no map to lead them, no cloud to guide them by day and no pillar of fire to guide them by night. They wouldn’t get very far would they. They would have been lost in the wilderness.

Today, it is not 1 million people lost in the wilderness; it is 6 Billion people lost in spiritual wilderness! They are fumbling around aimlessly, hoping to stumble upon a path that will lead them out of the defeat they are experiencing. They are hopeless, hapless, and helpless. Friends, without a light to guide you, you will remain lost in the wilderness. But in the light of God you can have all the guidance and protection that you need. Go and spread His light, for you “are the light of the world!”


JonahImmediately when someone begins to talk about Jonah, someone else is bound to get all worked up about the great ship, or the great storm or the great fish. The message of Jonah is not about a whale; it is a message about witnessing. The message is not about a devouring humungous fish; it is a message about a devoted heavenly father. The truth of the matter is that Jonah is not so much about a reluctant prophet as it is about a compassionate God. You see the message of Jonah is really about a Great God with a Great Love for a Great Big World!

When you study the book of Jonah, the underlying theme is that God loves all the people of the world. The God who loves the world, wants the whole world to hear the message of the Gospel. But it must be said, that Jonah is a disobedient prophet because he was unwilling to tell the people of Nineveh that there was a loving God that wants to save them.

There are three imperatives (commands) that God gives to Jonah. These underscore the urgency of the call of God. It is a very plain call. It is a very clear call found in Jonah 1:1…

  • Arise
  • Go
  • Cry

Stated another way, God said…

  • Get UP
  • Go UP
  • Speak UP!

But what did Jonah do? Jonah RAN! Jonah 1:3 says, “Jonah rose to FLEE to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went DOWN to Joppa…” Then Jonah 1:5 says, “But Jonah went DOWN to the inner part of the ship and had laid DOWN and was fast asleep…”

Jonah was so reluctant to see the salvation of Nineveh that he arose and fled. He headed for Tarshish. As far as we can determine, Tarshish was on the coast of Spain. It was thought of as the end of the earth. It was more than 2000 miles in the wrong direction. How foolish is it that a man thinks that he can run from God?

The Bible says that Jonah paid the fare to Tarshish! When you run from God you always pay the price! It is a bit remarkable that a prophet had enough money available for a 2000-mile journey. But listen, whenever you run from the will of God, the devil will always provide the transportation and the fare. Any time you want to run from God, the devil will open the door. Whenever you run from the will of God, you will always pay the fare. There is always a price to pay when you get outside the will of God.

Sin take you farther than you want to go. Sin will teach you more than you want to know. Sin will keep you longer than you want to stay. Sin will cost you more than you want to pay. There are no free rides on the devil’s transportation system. You always pay the fare. On the other hand, when you follow the will of God, HE will always pay the fare.

  • He paid the fare for our sin debt
  • He paid the fare for our salvation
  • He paid the fare for death
  • He paid the fare for the grave

If you will go God’s way, He will pay the fare. He will take care of you.

If you have experienced the mercy of a Great God, He has a call on your life: Get UP, Go UP, and Speak UP to those who have yet to experience His mercy. Don’t run from God. Run with Him, to a world desperately in need of the hope and mercy and grace He offers! Jonah ran…don’t make the same mistake, or you may find yourself in a whale of a mess!