Who needs to go to a Christian music concert when you can attend Gospel Light Bible Baptist Church in Gates, NY. If you want to talk “talent”, God has richly blessed a large portion of our church members with various musically skills, especially with their voices. Not only was that depth of talent on display this Wednesday evening, but our guest preacher, Pastor Tony Shirley joined in. Leading off with our musical specials was the trio of Leah and Peter B. and Michael G., who sang in 3-part harmony, “I Will Meet You in the Morning”. After a session of prayer, Grayson K. stepped forward to play “I’ll Fly Away” on his banjo, a performance that made our guest Bro. Shirley, who was raised in Kentucky, feel right at home. Next in line to sing praises were Melody and Joe C. Accompanied by Julia G. on piano, they sang “The Blood Fell” in wonderful harmony. Brother Shirley then sat at the piano to touchingly sing and play three songs: “He’s Been There”, “I Know the Peace Speaker”, and “Please Forgive Me”. During his songs, many from the congregation came forward in prayer at the urging of Pastor Giardino.
Brother Tony Shirley is the pastor at New Manna Baptist Church in Marion, NC. He enjoyed the hymns, but jokingly expressed confusion over what to shout, saying “If there is any shouting going on, I want in on it!” It turns out that shouting “sure” is popular back home for Bro. Shirley. However, they pronounce it “shore” and it is what they shout after the preacher says, “It’s good to be saved”.
To warm up his audience, Bro. Shirley told us a very funny story about an old Kentucky farmer. It seems that a Philadelphia lawyer, having heard that rural Kentucky was a great place for duck hunting, had shot a duck in flight, but the duck landed beyond a fence. Not being familiar with the area, the lawyer climbed over the fence to retrieve the duck. Upon reaching for the fowl, he suddenly heard, “Hey, put that duck down.” The voice was that of the old farmer and the land was his. After a bit of an argument over who’s duck it was, the lawyer threatened to sue, but the farmer countered by saying that things are decided in Kentucky by the “3-kick rule”. The farmer explained: “First I kick you 3 times and then you kick me 3 times, and so on, back and forth until someone gives up”. The lawyer agreed, having seen that he was in much better shape than the old man. The farmer struck first, kicking the lawyer first in the gut, doubling him over. His next kick bloodied the lawyer’s nose, who fell to the ground after the third kick struck him in the legs. As the bruised lawyer rose and brushed himself off, the farmer said, “I give up. Here’s the duck.”
I suppose one might ponder how Brother Shirley might top his “duck” story, seeing that the purpose of his visit was to preach a sermon after all. No need to wonder as Bro. Shirley provided valuable insight on the obstructive techniques of those who would be enemies to the purposes of God. Opening to Ezra 4:1-5, we read about the adversaries of God’s people. The nation of Israel had been taken into Babylonian captivity because they had strayed from God. God’s heart had softened toward Israel and a God-ordained plan was underway to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. A remnant of the nation was allowed to return there. The enemies of Israel, however, endeavored to make tough the work of God “to frustrate their purpose” Ezra 4:5.
Brother Shirley explained that attacks by the adversaries of God often take place after there has been a great revival, as was happening with the nation of Israel. He drew a parallel between the attacks on the building of the temple and the hurdles being faced at Gospel Light in attempting to prepare for Friday’s Youth Rally. “Whenever the people do the work of God for the glory of God, then the adversaries come out to frustrate it”, he said. Bro. Shirley was careful to point out that the enemy can rise up to frustrate God’s purposes but can never stop them. With the aim of teaching us the techniques employed by the enemies of God, Bro. Shirley highlighted the malicious tactics used in Ezra chapter 4 against Israel.
1. Manipulation – “Let us build with you”, said the adversaries of Israel (Ezra 4:2). However, their intent was to hinder the work. Their rationale was that they also worship the God of Israel, but they also worshiped many other gods as well. In today’s world, our enemies will deceptively say, “We’re all the same”, blurring and diluting the distinctions between faiths. Brother Shirley gave many example of this, but warned that we can not risk truth in favor of getting along with other faiths.
2. Accusation – The nation of Israel faced many false accusations (see Ezra 4:12 and 16), being called a rebellious and bad city. Bro. Shirley warned that our enemies will “come at you personally”, criticizing your standards and doctrines. They will criticize your motives and they will criticize you to the people around you. How we handle ourselves in the midst of attack, we were told, will determine whether we are frustrated. “You don’t have to answer back!”, Bro. Shirley advised, “Don’t be ignorant of their devices … it happens because you are serving God.” When you make a stand because your heart is right, darts will begin to be thrown.
3. Confrontation – Israel was made to “cease by force and power” Ezra 4:23. “Then ceased the work of the house of God” Ezra 4:24. Americans have not had to face as much confrontation because of their faith as what occurs in other countries. However, times are quickly changing. Brother Shirley gave several recent examples of government authorities attempting to take away religious liberties. “You need to make a stand when authority tries to block you”, he exhorted. We are not to let fear destroy our service to God. Confrontation takes the opposition to another level, but it can not stop the work of God. God is able to take the workings of evil and turn it around for good. Brother Shirley urged us to “press on”, to stay in the Word, and to make sure we are right with God. And when the work of God is finished, even our enemies will marvel.