19 February 2017
Some of the simplest concepts are the most profound. We teach our children a simple song in Sunday school settings. The premise is really easy to learn. The song title is “Praise Him All Ye Little Children” and each succeeding verse simply changes one word to advance the song. As the title suggests, we praise Him. Then the song admonishes us to love, and then to serve, Him. And we do all of this because “God is love.”
We know that God loves us. How can we respond appropriately? We love Him. And how can our love be made evident in our lives? We offer praise to Him from the heart, and let that praise spill over into our lives as we serve Him by our obedience to Him.
Since our focus is on love this month, sing the second verse with me:
Love Him, love Him all ye little children
God is love, God is love;
Love Him, love Him all ye little children
God is love, God is love.
“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” – Jesus, John 14:23
12 February 2017
Greeting card manufacturers, candy makers, florists, and jewelers. What do these people have in common? At this time of year, our go to answer would probably be “Valentine’s Day.” Some of the more argumentative among us might claim that St. Valentine’s Day was created by the card and candy industry to make more sales, but that misses the point of the celebration altogether. Inspired by the legend of a third century martyr (Valentinus) who taught of the love of God. St. Valentine has since been a symbol for and inspiration of love.
At this time of year, we like to remind each other of our feelings of love and goodwill. We send special gifts and messages signed with the legendary greeting “From Your Valentine.” The greatest valentine or love letter ever sent was the one that God sent because He loved the world that He had created, He loved the people who had rejected Him through sin and disobedience. That valentine bore the cloak of Jesus of Nazareth, and He brought with Him the greatest love as well as the grandest reason to celebrate love that ever was—God’s everlasting, redeeming, unrelenting, irreplaceable Love.
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.” — John 3:16, The Message
5 February 2017
From time to time I will hear someone say, “It’s all good.” In my observation, the person quoting this euphemism has just experienced something that either didn’t go as planned, turned out badly, or disappointed in some significant way. In which case, the meaning of the quip is: I’ll cope, we can get through this, or at least nobody was hurt badly.
The truth that Christ-followers can hold onto though is that even when it’s not all good, goodness can still prevail. And that happens because of Christ and His influence in life. No longer does the believer have to put on a brave face in the midst of a crisis, or “buck up and take it like a man.” We will weather storms; we will encounter some situations which can never fall into the “good” category. At the end of the day there is an assurance that, whether the good comes, or the bad, Christ makes of it all a beauty that is really good—and not just a platitude.
“Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.” – Psalm 73:1
29 January 2017
In the devotional book, Voices of the Faithful, a missionary shares how her prayer in the midst of a dark-of-night burglary (that could have and probably would have ended in her physical violation and even death) was answered by God striking fear into the hearts of her assailants. Although bruised and scratched from the encounter, she remained alive with her purity intact. Her faith had grown to the point that she shares, “Even if I had not been delivered, He is still trustworthy and faithful.” (p. 33)
Where is our faith and commitment today? Are we ready, in the middle of a dark moment, to pray for deliverance? Even more, can my commitment to God hold fast if He chooses a different path for me than deliverance as I understand it?
Graciously, most of us will not be face to face with death by a violent means. My prayer is that we, in even our simply uncomfortable tests of commitment, will join this Christian worker in the understanding that God is trustworthy and faithful even when deliverance this side of Glory does not look like we expect it to look.
“But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Daniel 3:18
22 January 2017
[Please note: this article is a follow-up to last week’s. I have been posting to coincide with weekly sermons at FBC Mulberry Grove, and due to a slipping accident, a dear friend preached in my stead last Sunday. To provide continuity, I will be preaching “All Things through Christ” from Philippians 4 that I had planned for Jan. 15. This article is related to that message (as was last week’s post).]
As I have paid attention to our national history being made this week with the instatement of our 45th president, it dawned on me that as divisive and derisive as our nation’s politics has become, neither our outgoing leader nor our incoming administrator has the capability of “saving” our country—not even from ourselves.
Regardless of my ideology, or your theology, our true help comes from a place of higher standards, a Person of higher power. If this life is to find meaning; if the tough questions are to be answered; if any good is to ever be seen on this or the other side of eternity, our hope must find this higher resting place: God Almighty.
So many things are out of our reach; so many goals unattainable; so many dreams unachievable. And then there is Jesus. As we step out into the unknown thing we call “future” let us hold a firm grasp in the hand that holds more firmly onto us. Trust in Jesus for a future. Trust in God to be your Guide.
“What is impossible with man is possible with God.” – Jesus, in answer to the question, “Who can be saved?” Luke 18:27
15 January 2017
Drawing a straight line is really kind of difficult to do. Most of us can take a pencil and paper and draw something fairly close to a straight line, but if examined in detail, we’d find that the pencil moved and wriggled a bit in our hand as we worked on our line. How can we make it work out better then? With a little help from a ruler it can be done. Just place the ruler on top of the paper and keep the point of the pencil up next to the edge of the ruler, and our shakiness is removed.
Sometimes we need a little help to do the things that need to be done. Even the Lone Ranger really wasn’t alone—he had help from his faithful Indian companion Tonto.
God, who is in the habit of giving extraordinary assignments to His people, knows that we are often shaky in our attempts to accomplish the tasks that are handed to us. But we need not fear because the God who made the assignments also gives us help—more than a little help for that matter. He has equipped us with the talent and skill to fit the assignment. He has granted us friends and co-laborers to help ease the task. But best of all, He has determined to help us complete the assignment given, and all we have to do is ask for His aid!
“I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1:6
8 January 2017
[There is a message that is centered on Christ Jesus. It is the same today as it was 2000 years ago. It will continue to be the same 2000 years hence. What is my role as a Christian and a pastor in this ever-changing, always-corrupt world in which we live? To make that message known, to make the message clear, to shine a spotlight on the relevance of Jesus Christ to every age.]
As a high school senior, I was assigned to memorize the preamble to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in old English. Although it was English it looked and sounded like gibberish to me. Reading and reciting the words meant nothing to me—just like my dad’s toolbox. Today we should make the message make sense for those around us to hear and understand.
When I was growing up, I thought that my dad could do anything. And rarely was I ever disappointed when I asked him for help or even just to do something for me. He was what many people would call a “jack of all trades.” He could figure things out; he could make things work; he could take things apart and put them back together again. He just knew stuff.
While I have not inherited his ability to work on machinery, and I don’t often have the patience to try and figure out how something works, I can take a lesson from my father’s life. That lesson is: do what is necessary. As we walk through this world living our Christian lives, it is important for us to figure out how to make the message plain for the world to hear.
In our world today, people are not hearing the Word of God, not because the Word is no longer relevant, but because we’ve packaged the Word in a way that does not get through.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” – Hebrews 13:8