Monday, December 29, 2014

BEGINNING A NEW YEAR.... Starting anything new can cause us to be anxious. All of us have had such experiences in our lives. However, life is always changing, facing new challenges, meeting new people, and causing us to think about our choices and directions. A new year ahead of us is a wonderful time to ask ourselves about our relationship to the Lord and what we plan to do for His glory in the days ahead. We were made for Him and John reminds us that everything exists because of Him. Each of us have received a gift from the Lord that He has specifically given to us (I Cor. 12) and that gift is meant to bring glory to Him while maturing us in our faith. Let's commit ourselves to exercise our gift whatever it may be. Scripture gives us instructions on the gifts He gives each person though they are all different, according to His Sovereign purpose. And lest we think that we don't have a gift, it's important we believe the One who grants them. He HAS given you something to use for His glory and you CAN bear fruit for Him in the new year. Step out on faith, look for God-given opportunities that come your way, and act! What a year is coming. Rejoice!!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


From discussions with friends and some other pastors, it is becoming increasingly evident today that much of what the church is doing could be done without God's help.  A. W. Tozer once remarked that the Holy Spirit could withdraw from many congregations and business would go on much the same as it always has been done.  He was right.
      What has happened to our dependence on God?  There is no end to books, conferences, and a host of other media materials on how to "succeed in business" without absolute dependence on God.  In Zechariah 4, we are reminded of God's Word: "It is not by might nor by power but by My Spirit says the Lord."  We must be so abandoned to the will of the Lord that the ONLY explanation for what occurs is Him and NOTHING of us.  When we get to the place in our Christian life and in the life of the body of Christ that the ONLY thing that matters is God's glory and honoring Christ Jesus, we have finally been captured by the Spirit of God. 
     Too often today I get the impression that all we have to do is put another nickel in the machine and we'll get the same song, second verse.  The great hymn of the past says it well: "Let me lose my life and find it Lord in Thee; May all self be slain, my friends see only Thee.  Though it cost me grief and pain, I will find my life again; when I lose my life, I find it Lord in Thee."   THAT SHOULD BE OUR DESIRE AND PLEA.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

     I've recently had two occasions in which I heard someone speak about justice and helping those who have been marginalized.  I'm not exactly sure what the speaker was trying to say but very often those who shout the loudest and most frequently about "justice" for everyone are the very people who show the least sensitivity to those who are in need, whatever the need.
     The area where the speaker lives is one of the nicer areas of our city.  However, I doubt if he would live in our neighborhood which is a neighborhood that is quickly changing, has very modest homes (no granite counter tops,) and where there are many dysfunctional families.  Life can be harsh for many people but preaching sermons on helping people and then running away from where they are living  is contrary to what one is preaching.  Benevolence, helping others, becoming a sounding board for those with burdens cannot be done at a distance.
     Jesus, God in the flesh, rubbed shoulders with sinners, ate with sinners, showed compassion to everyone and died for our sins.  If the Eternal God of the universe could humble Himself (Phil. 2) and run shoulders with those like ourselves, surely we can do the same.  James reminds us that "...not the hearers of the Word but the doers are justified before God..."  Believing God's truth is the foundation of our faith but serving Him by serving others is the building we erect on the foundation which is Christ Himself.

     The Bible study group that meets in our home each Sunday evening recently considered I Corinthians 5 as we were proceeding through that epistle.  Paul is addressing a moral problem in the Corinthian congregation and concludes his remarks by noting in 5:12 that believers are to judge those within the church and not the outsiders.
     The verses in the fifth chapter may be a clear reminder to those of us who have named the name of Christ to ask ourselves some questions.  If we are opposed to abortion, for instance, should we not be teaching our children the doctrine of creation because it is estimated that one out of six abortions are performed for professed believers?
     Or, if we are concerned about the lack of prayer in the public domain, have we taken time to pray with our children before school and at home as a family?  And, if we are concerned about the lack of morals in the public realm, what are we teaching our families and our congregations about sin and redemption and the person and work of Christ?
     Every Christian is responsible to know what he or she believes and to obey God's truth, with the help of the Spirit that was given to us upon our conversion.  To talk of the conflicts and immorality of our society without looking at ourselves is diverting attention from self.  There will always be a difference between those who are in Christ and those who are in the world.  Our calling, as believers, is to uphold the truth about God, Christ, and the church.  We are to "let our light shine..." so that God alone may be glorified!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Happiness or Joy?
     The media here in our area is continually broadcasting appeals to people to help others have a "happy" Christmas season.  Obviously, by "happy" they mean a Christmas filled with toys for children, food for the family, and other gifts. 
     I am certainly no scrooge when it comes to giving.  We never pass one of the kettles outside our grocery store or any other store but we reach for folding money.  My wife has reminded all of our family that because God is providing food for us, we ought to share with others.  In addition, our local church is providing food for many during this time of the year and we have shared in that ministry.
     As I think on the society's search for happiness, however, I am reminded that the real word used in Scripture is not happiness but joy.   I've often remarked that "happiness depends on what happens but joy depends on Jesus."
     The apostle Paul includes joy as one of the "fruits of the Spirit" in Galatians 5.  The Old Testament writer reminds us that "...the joy of the Lord is our strength."  Happenings come and go.  Some are good and some are unpleasant but what Jesus gives us when we come to Him in faith is not only forgiveness of sins but the very indwelling of His Spirit.  The result of the Spirit's work in us is, among other things, joy.
     This is a good time in our lives to be reflecting on the things that matter most.  One of our granddaughters remarked recently that little children often open a package, look at the new toy, and then play with the box in which it had been wrapped.  I remember our sons having more fun with a cardboard and wood-framed box that a home freezer came in than anything we could have spent money on that year. 
     Let's commit ourselves to discernment between happiness and joy.  One comes and goes.  What Jesus gives (real joy) never leaves.   Have a JOYFUL Christmas.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Lesson From My Grandson

I recently took my grandson to brunch at a local restaurant and afterwards, we had coffee at a well-known coffee shop.  He's about to turn sixteen and the thrill of having coffee is a kind of adult passage.  I reminded him I didn't have coffee until college because my parents considered coffee an "adult drink."
   While I paid for the late breakfast, he insisted on paying for the coffee.  He went to the counter, ordered two cups of coffee and help up his cell phone to a device on the counter and paid for the coffee.  Was I surprised!!  Once again, technology ruled the day and I learned how very "hip" he is about electronic devices and how I'm way behind the curve.
    Thinking about the experience brings pleasant thoughts because we enjoyed a good conversation, he educated me about the cell phone, and we had two great leather chairs to sit in while watching the world go by.  It was wonderful.   However, I don't know if I'll ever catch on to the changes in communication.  
     What I am certain of in this age of continuing change is that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Heaven and earth may pass away and the world change but God's love and the work of Christ on the cross will always be the same.  His love and grace are unchanging and no matter what may come, Jesus never fails.   Today is another day to matter the changes that seem to affect the older generation the most.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pruning in Our Lives

    I often get moments of reflection or inspiration while working in my yard.  I have had a growing love for gardening and often remark that the first man was a gardener.  In fact, George comes from the Greek word for "tiller of the soil" or, as we'd say it, farmer.
    Just earlier this week I spent some time "dead-heading" the spent rose blossoms in our yard.  We had thirteen rose bushes and eleven of them are climbing roses.  When we arrived home from our trips to Minnesota and Texas in May, our bushes were in full bloom.  Now, however, many of those once beautiful roses have died and new blooms are coming.  The task of anyone who cares for roses is cutting off the old blossoms who are no longer blooming.
     In John 15:2, Jesus told the disciples that every branch that did not bear fruit would be taken away BUT that every branch that bore fruit would be pruned so that it would bear more fruit.  It is the same with our lives.
     Every life is a mixture of "toil with peace and rest" as the old Swedish hymn records.  Life is not one continual high without any discomfort.  In a world where entitlements have become something of the "new normal", Jesus speaks clearly to us to say that even when we bear fruit there will be pruning in our lives so that we can bear more fruit.
     I love reading biographies of believers who have gone before us.  One of the common marks of their experiences is the disappointments, tragedies, and moments of waiting each of them experienced in their lives.  Contrary to what some believers would suggest about the Christian life, there will be times of "pruning" in which what appears at the moment to be a step backwards, turns out to be preparation for something better to come.
     Today you and I can rejoice that the One who redeemed us is ready and able to sustain us through any dark moment and is "behind the scenes" to bring glory to Himself and blessing to us.  Our responsibility is to continue abiding in the Vine because without Him we cnanot bear more fruit.  Praise God for His provision for our lives!!!