Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christ, the Light!

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:9-13)

My daughter is accustomed to having a nightlight burning in her room at night when she sleeps. There is a measure of comfort to her to know that the light is burning. Occasionally the bulb in the nightlight will burn out. For my daughter it is a frightening experience when this happens at night-time. If she wakes and the light is not there she calls out to let me know that something is wrong. By replacing the bulb, her fears are calmed and the whole household can return to sleep.

Jesus tells us that he himself is the light of the world. Without this light, we cannot see, we cannot find comfort. With the light of Christ we are comforted and we can enjoy life calmly. The light was first introduced into the world at the first Christmas. Today, Christ-followers carry the light of Jesus in their spirits. While the light will not burn out (like a nightlight’s bulb), we must let it shine out through the things that we do, and the way that we live.

This is the message of Christmas—Let your light shine!

Father, shine the light of Jesus brightly this Christmas, and throughout the new year. Amen

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Joy

And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." (Luke 2:10-12)


Join me in singing the following old hymn:


There’s within my heart a melody

Jesus whispers sweet and low,

“Fear not, I am with thee; Peace be still

In all of life’s ebb and flow.”


Songs like this fill my heart with the same thrill that strikes me when I think about the Nativity. That thrill can be described in one word: JOY.

The old preacher said that Christians should live a life that is guided by joy. He explained that meant that we should approach life in the following manner:


o Jesus

o Others

o Yourself


This Christmas season, let us put J. O. Y. into practical use in our lives.

Heavenly Father, remind us of the joy that came down at Christmas. Help us to make that joy the hallmark of our life. In the name of Christ we pray, Amen.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Love

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17)

I love Mexican food. It doesn’t always love me back (especially if it’s spicy), but I love Mexican food. I believe that I could eat Mexican food at least five times a week if my stomach would hold out. But my love for Mexican food is simply a passing thought when I think of love.

The movies have taught us that love is something that can develop overnight, or something that we fall into, like a vat of goo. We have so cheapened love that we don’t really know what love is.

Christ taught us what love is: He left all the glory that belongs to him to become a simple man living simply in a simpler time than our own. He made his first cradle in a manger, in a stall that was probably located behind a house in a crowded city. And he did all this for the express purpose of taking my place in death for my sins. That is love—true love. That is the love we sing about and remember at Christmas. Share it this season!


Father, Help us love one another enough to tell each other about your love for us. Amen.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Peace

You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3)

One of the verses of a favorite children’s song says,

I have the Peace that passes understanding
Down in my heart;
Down in my heart;
Down in my heart;
I have the Peace that passes understanding
Down in my heart;
Down in my heart to stay.

It’s that peace that, sometimes confusing to the world, is so much a part of life with Jesus Christ. It is a peace that came to Earth in the form of a Baby in an out of the way place. It is that same peace that is deposited in the hearts and lives of everyone who trusts the Savior that the Baby was and is.

This season let us spread the peace that passes all understanding.

Dear Father, May your peace be in, around, and through us this day, and throughout this season. Amen.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hope

And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you. (Psalm 39:7)


It’s an interesting word. We so often misuse it. We say things like, “I hope he calls today,” or “I hope I get a raise,” or “I hope my package comes today.” These statements are not really statements of hope, but personal wishes or desires.

True hope is that thing that we know for sure is going to happen, and it makes us thrill at the thought of its occurrence. Hope is more concrete than a wishy-washy wish. Hope is foundational. Hope springs from Jesus Christ. Our hope is not to see him, or even to be with him at some future date. No, He is our hope.

This season, when we think about His coming and why He even bothered to become a man to dwell among us, let us remember that our hope is set in Christ Jesus. He is our truth and our way—He is the truth and the way. Hope is that knot that we can tie on the end of a rope and hold to, when we’ve reached the end of ours.


Set our hope on You, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Advent

On this Thanksgiving Day, I would like to invite you to begin thinking about the Advent of our Lord, Jesus Christ. The Advent season begins this Sunday and I will once again be offering weekly Advent thoughts to ponder. If you would like to get a head-start on the Advent season, you may want to see last year's entries.

Enjoy the reruns and come back each Sunday (and on Christmas Eve) in 2008 to Worship the Christ and His Advent with us.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thankful for . . . Faith

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

Faith does so much for the follower of Christ. It is the beginning point of real life; it is the hope for a future; it is the redemption of past mistakes. Faith exercised builds more faith. Faith itself is the pinnacle of all that can be said about a Christ follower.

In the words of hymn writer John Yates:

Encamped along the hills of light,
Ye Christian soldiers, rise.
And press the battle ere the night
Shall veil the glowing skies.
Against the foe in vales below
Let all our strength be hurled.
Faith is the victory, we know,
That overcomes the world.

Faith is the victory! Faith is the victory!
O glorious victory, that overcomes the world.
(“Faith is the Victory”)

Father, increase our faith. Amen.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thankful for . . . Family

I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (II Timothy 1:3-7)


My family of origin may be somewhat like yours. Then again, maybe not. My father was a preacher of the gospel—Baptist by tradition and choice. He was a man full of faith, and that helped to instill in me a desire to follow the same road. My mother was a school teacher, sometimes by choice, sometimes by necessity. In any case, she was always quietly living the faith before my siblings and me.

One reason that I’m thankful for family is the strong ties to faith that were given to me—even as a youngster. Not everyone has those memories or those roots. Here is a list of the things that family often brings to a person:

Love

Belonging

Care

Friendship

The list could grow and grow. This week let us be thankful for our family—the one we have by birth or by choice.

Father, thank you that you created family, and that you blessed the institution of family. Amen.


[Please feel free to add to the list of thankful reasons for family in the comment section.]

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thankful for . . . Church

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:18)

With all the faults that people both without and within the church it is still the greatest place to be. Some of my fondest memories are of the church. It happened to be one of my favorite destinations as a child, and throughout my life.

A group that we had for small children was called “Sunbeams.” I have two basic memories from this group:
  1. Graham crackers are for dunking in red Kool-Aid®, and
  2. Before the end of the meeting, you must sing the song –
Jesus wants me for a sunbeam,
To shine for Him each day;
In every way try to please Him,
At home, at school, at play.

A sunbeam, a sunbeam,
Jesus wants me for a sunbeam;
A sunbeam, a sunbeam,
I’ll be a sunbeam for Him.
(Nellie Talbot, “I’ll Be a Sunbeam”)

Father, may we always be excited about what goes on in Your church, Amen.

[Feel free to post a comment with your favorite memories from church.]

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Thankful for . . . Country

Jesus said to them, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s." And they marveled at him. (Mark 12:17)


At a loss to say it better than the poet of old, here is a statement of my thankfulness for my country:

America

My country,' tis of thee, 
sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing; 
land where my fathers died, 
land of the pilgrims' pride, 
from every mountainside let freedom ring! 
 
My native country, thee, 
land of the noble free, thy name I love; 
I love thy rocks and rills, 
thy woods and templed hills; 
my heart with rapture thrills, like that above. 
 
Let music swell the breeze, 
and ring from all the trees sweet freedom's song; 
let mortal tongues awake; 
let all that breathe partake; 
let rocks their silence break, the sound prolong. 
 
Our fathers' God, to thee, 
author of liberty, to thee we sing; 
long may our land be bright 
with freedom's holy light; 
protect us by thy might, great God, our King.

(Samuel F. Smith)

My prayer is that you are as thankful for your country as I am for mine.

Lord, thank you for providing a safe country in which to live. Help us to all be as conscientious with our citizenship as you call us to be. Amen.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

I Am Thankful for . . .


November is the month of Thanksgiving. Over the next few weeks we at Mulberry Moments will be posting devotions telling things we are thankful for. We invite our readers to participate. You may do this in one of two ways:
  1. Post a comment in response to our devotional thought for the week in the “Comments” section, responding to the “Thankful” thought for the week, or
  2. Emailing your own “Thankful” devotional to me at the following address – office(at)fbcmulberrygrove(dot)com

Our weeks will be arranged as follows:
  • November 2-8: Country
  • November 9-15: Church
  • November 16-22: Family
  • November 23-29: Faith
Thank you for participating.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Grass Is Always Greener . . .



Mat 14:27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
Mat 14:28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee upon the waters.
Mat 14:29 And he said, Come. And Peter went down from the boat, and walked upon the waters to come to Jesus.
Mat 14:30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, Lord, save me.
Mat 14:31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and took hold of him, and saith unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

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According to the website www.deproverbio.com, that old proverb "The Grass Is Always Greener on the Other Side of the Fence!" dates back in American form to 1957. In other sentence structures and words, similar phrases date to the late 1800's and a Latin derivative was stated by Erasmus of Rotterdam and put into English in 1545 by Richard Taverner. But common American usage is said to come from 1957.

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In 1983, James Pomerantz proved that optical and perceptual laws alone will make the grass at a distance look greener to the human eye than the blades of grass perpendicular to the ground. (ibid) It is suggested that even horses and cows prove this to be true when you watch their behavior in pastures seeking out the most tasty grass (as far as the cows are concerned, but not for me!)

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Of course, the truth of the proverb holds so true for each of us. We are constantly seeking the new job that will be just perfect. It, of course, fails to meet expectation when we have been there at least 8 hours. And, why is it, that after the first mortgage payment, something seems to be wrong with that house that seemed so perfect when the realtor opened the door the very first time? And that new car or electronic toy--after a couple of hours of fiddling with it, your spouse wonders why you got that thing anyway because you complain and whine when the newness wears off.

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Peter was excited with the prospect of walking on the water when he saw Jesus. It could have been the excitement of seeing Jesus or perhaps it was just stepping out into the vast unknown, where no man, but Jesus, had gone before. But for Peter, when reality stepped in, faith stepped out. He found himself splashing in the waves in a very undignified and fearful position, as the excitement of the moment was gone.

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"Death and the grave are never satisfied, and neither are we," says Proverbs 27:20 (CEV) Maybe we should be! We love desserts, but when we know we can't have them, we can be satisfied because we made up our mind. I can't afford that new car in this economy--so I will get to work in the car I have or one that will make do. Wanting is all a state of mind! Even when the grass looks greener, it really isn't. Just like the grass in the proverb, it's an illusion. Christians don't have to fall for it. Christians just need to trust God a little more and themselves a little less. Funny how that always works out!!!

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Dear God, teach me to be happy with what I have! You always know what I need and you are all I need! Thank you for the death of Jesus and the life it brings! May it always be enough for me! In Jesus' name, Amen!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Conversations Over Coleslaw

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18
(16) For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
(17) After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
(18) Therefore encourage each other with these words.






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I think we should popularize the idea of getting a cup of coleslaw and talking to each other. I know coleslaw doesn't have the same image as a cup of fine roast coffee and in most places coleslaw doesn't cost $3-$5 a cup. Of course, it isn't good with cinnamon and whipped creme and all the latte flavors. But still, some interesting conversations can be had over coleslaw.

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Let me see if I can explain myself. Obviously, coleslaw is made from cabbage and vegetables just don't have the appeals that a steaming hot cup of coffee has, especially served in an atmosphere with tall tables and light conversation. But, perhaps my recent experience will connect with you.

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Just yesterday I was working with one of my fellow employees at our local fish emporium, otherwise known as Long John Silvers. Our job was to make coleslaw for the next day. The gleaming white slaw making tub was scoured and sanitized and waiting for the crisp fresh cabbage and carrots to be added, along with the creamy sauce that gives LJS slaw its unique and delicate flavor. (That's an awfully flowery statement for slaw, isn't it?) As she was adding the cabbage and carrots we began to strike up a conversation! And our attention turned toward the state of the world and many people that we knew. In a God-moment I felt the Holy Spirit prompt me to say that our hope is in Jesus Christ and one of these days, HE IS COMING AGAIN! She looked over the top of her glasses a moment and in a profound tone of voice said something like this, "Yes, and I think it is going to be soon, very soon!" This conversation of encouragement about the Lord's return continued right through the slaw making process. And we both felt significantly encouraged that we might make it through another day of work and another day of life by God's grace; we just needed to hold on to the hope of Jesus and remember that what we are experiencing here "ain't all there is"!

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It doesn't take a coleslaw party to encourage people with the return of Christ! It can be over the waterfountain at your job, a piece of pie at the end of supper, or even a simple text message over the phone. You know, as well as I do, we are living in an age when we see things falling apart. The stock market on which we have relied is nosediving one day and surging the next. Leaders are not trusted. And most of all, we feel so insecure! We can take hope. Heaven may or may not be a lot like earth. But my hope is this: I trust Christ! Whatever happens, WHATEVER happens, He will be there to support us in difficult times. I kind of like that. Jesus is NOT a crutch; He gives strength to my legs to make the most of these days for Him. I trust He will so work in your life as well.

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Father God, we haven't a clue about what will happen tomorrow. We don't know if we will have money or if we will all be poor! But help us to realize that we will always be rich in Jesus Christ; that when the money fails, He will always be there. It is a difficult thing for the world to accept, but yet the truth is so good! In Jesus name, Amen!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

You've Got the Power


Act 4:29-31
(29) And now, Lord, take notice of the threats they have made, and allow us, your servants, to speak your message with all boldness.
(30) Reach out your hand to heal, and grant that wonders and miracles may be performed through the name of your holy Servant Jesus."
(31) When they finished praying, the place where they were meeting was shaken. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to proclaim God's message with boldness.

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We are churches so powerless? I wonder if it is because those people who claim to love the Lord are stymied into believing there is nothing to stand firm for. This is a short thought, but yet so true -- the early church prayed for the ability to do miracles to glorify and testify to the amazing power of God in Jesus Christ. I wonder if we believe that modern day (?) church can have that same power or if folks believe we are just powerless and can't do a thing. As our special guest preacher said this morning, "It's time to get up off our butts and get busy!"
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My 5 year old granddaughter told me that some of those words might not be appropriate! But in all honesty some of our so called Christian actions aren't appropriate either -- especially when it involves not serving God when we know better!
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Dear God, please remove the blinders from our eyes and the doubt from our minds and help us to serve you with our whole hearts! Help us to honor you and honor Christ our Savior and may the world learn of Him through us. In Jesus name, Amen!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Jesus Wept

Jesus Wept -- John 11:35

What a simple verse! As a matter of fact, it is often one that I encourage small children to memorize first because of its simplicity, its truth, and its hope.
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Let me see if I can explain its importance this way. On Monday, Lord willing, I am going to Indiana to share in a memorial service for my wife's neice's family. The guest of honor is a man I would guess to be around 50. He tripped going down a set of stairs and hit his head causing internal damage and, sadly, he died from his injuries. To complicate the story even more, the family no longer has a local church. As I understand it, though these folks were involved in a church at one time, some rather unChristlike actions from within drove them away. How sad the story!!! How many times it happens that way!!!
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What I want to share with the family is that while man may let you down, Jesus will never let you down. His love never gives up, even when we often fail and have to hurt His Heart of Love.
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What a great example is seen as Jesus wept in this passage. He did not weep because of death, because Jesus is the Lord of Life and Death. He did not weep out of hopelessness because the word does not exist in his vocabulary. Jesus wept because He understood those around Him were hurting. And as Hebrews reminds us, we have a GREAT HIGH PRIEST who understands things just like we do. What a Savior! I hope you will trust Him to meet those empty moments in your life.
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Father, it is no secret that we need you. We need you in our strength and in our weekness; we need you in our sadness and our joy; we need you when it seems everyone else has left us. Thank you for your unending love, no matter what circumstances befall us! In Jesus' name, Amen!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

One Body of Christ

I Corinthians 12:12-20, 26-27
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body.

If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.


We all have different understandings about the meaning of scripture. We all have different views on what the church should be and how it should operate, otherwise we would just be one church. It is possible that Jesus had intended that we would be one church, but I doubt it. He did understand human nature after all.

When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness he quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3 saying, “Man does not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” If we are the body of Christ and his body lives on every word that comes from God, then we can expect to understand those words differently.

Bread is very different to the eye than to the tongue; different to the stomach than the tongue and so on. We are different parts of the body of Christ and we understand God’s words differently just as our body parts understand bread differently. The eye cannot say that the stomach is wrong about bread so why would any of us say that another faith community is wrong about God’s word?

I do not agree with some of the Roman Catholic church’s understanding of God’s word. But that does not make them wrong. I do not agree with their holding to the traditions of men rather than the teaching of God. But I do not agree with the United Methodist church on that issue either. It really does not matter.

Every Christian church and all Christians are all parts of Christ’s body. As Paul said: “If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it; if one part is praised all the other parts share its happiness.”

In this community we are all strengthened by each other’s ministry. When one of us suffers the others help. When one is successful, all rejoice. We are partners in ministry not competitors. The competition is all around us – the devil and his workers. When we work together in ministry we can beat the competition.


Lord, help us show the competition just what your body can do. Help us take your light to people in darkness. Amen.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Come to the Table – And Dine


Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26 ESV)

This Sunday one of the ladies of our congregation shared with me this picture. It immediately brought two verses to mind. Today’s meditation and Psalm 23 – 1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Bringing those thoughts on God’s provision to mind reminded me how we often lose sight of all that He does provide. Are we truly thankful for what we have? We have shelter, clothing, transportation. We live in a country where we can enjoy an open worship service in honor of God—or not, as the case may be. Let us not forget Who is sovereign in all that we have or will have. Let us come to the table, let us dine sumptuously for He has provided.

For that which You have provided, make us truly thankful. Amen.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Taking the Word and Being the Church

Luke 9:6-- Commissioned, they left. They traveled from town to town telling the latest news of God, the Message, and curing people everywhere they went.
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Worked at Long John Silver's tonight! The store has been remodeled the last few days and tonight was clean up night. I guess this is the place where preachers are supposed to come up with some great parallel to the remodeled store and the new and remodeled life in Jesus Christ. Or maybe, "behold, I make all things new" should crop up there somewhere. You know, preachers are supposed to make those really profound theological illustrations and then we all go home happy that we had a sermon.
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Truth is, I can't do that tonight. The evening proceeded much differently. For just a few minutes, I was standing beside the boss of the boss's boss, or something like that. She was busy working on cooking equipment and I confided that I really found that piece of equipment interesting. She kept intently working on the equipment, knowing that a marvelously theological person was standing next to her, intently staring over her shoulder. Whether it was just to strike up conversation or bring up the inevitable discussion I don't know, but she asked me where I was a preacher (everybody knows by now!). I told her where it was. She worked on for a moment and I asked her the question I am sure she was poised for from the beginning. "Do you have a church home somewhere," came the words. She worked on, but her honest reply came quickly, "I have a brother who is studying to become a preacher. But, I really haven't been to church in a long time." I commented that I was sure in her line of work, she probably had to work a lot of Sundays. In a moment the Holy Spirit had to lead, my mouth began to speak these words, "Well, I guess if we are just looking for something to do, we could go to church; but how many people are really looking for something to do in our busy world. I guess, however, that when we really appreciate what the Lord has done for us, it makes our whole motive for going to church much different." Thoughtfully she replied, "You know, that's really what it's all about isn't it?"
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We are all old enough and mature enough to know that storks really don't bring babies. And our kids get old enough to realize about Easter bunnies and Santa Clause. The truth is that church, in and of itself, is just a social organization designed to take up time if we don't realize that the church is the body of Christ who loved it enough to lay down His life for it. And the motive of being together is the one motive that will put us in the pews every week, make us give from the overtaxed and overextended parts of our budget, and help us through the turmoil of life. And besides, if we don't go to church and do Christian things because we love the Lord, we are demeaning what God wanted the church to be.
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Starting today, would you join me in getting a new vision for what we are to be, loving Jesus Christ with all of our hearts and realizing he is the one that makes everything unique, new, and special.
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Father, please teach us to love Jesus and take Him out everywhere we go. Let us love the church because of the one who died to make it special. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Story of King Neptune





Matthew 20:28 -- even as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.
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I don't know if you ever heard of an Illinois folk hero of several years ago. As a matter of fact, he was almost a household name in the part of Illinois from U. S. 40 down to Cairo. His name was King Neptune. He lived in the Shawneetown-Golconda-Harrisburg area. And as odd as it is, Joe Aaron, a writer for the Evansville, Indiana, Courier, reports in his book, 100 Miles From Home, that the local media of the area existant back during World War 2, had almost no reports of King Neptune. See, King Neptune almost single-handedly raised nearly $19 million dollars in WAR BONDS in the Southern Illinois area and across America. If there were movie stars in the area, King Neptune was almost always on stage with them. He made lots of personal appearances and people were just crazy to see this very famous servant working against Hitler and the Axis mob. Yep, King Neptune was a local folk hero. He was also a pig!
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That's right. He was a pig. A famous pig and how he gained that notoriety is probably a question we will never know in our day. His tomb stone relates how he was busy serving his country from 1942 until 1946, maybe playing as important a role as any combat troop, fighting the enemy. And at the ripe old age of 9, King Neptune was buried along Illinois Highway 146 just a short distance from Anna, Illinois. Today, it is said you can still go and stretch your legs and read a bit about this American servant. My next trip that way will be to check it out.
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I guess this might sound a little silly, but give me a moment before you toss this whole idea out as farmyard lunacy. If a pig can raise $19 million for the war effort of WW2, what can people who love the Lord do when they decide they want to be servants, no matter the cost, no matter the job, NO MATTER. . . simply because they love the Lord!!! Make all the puns you want about the pig. . .he really brought home the bacon; that pig knew how to ham it up . . .but whatever, he served a purpose in his day. Like Queen Esther, we have no idea except that we might be called to serve God in such a time as this. YOU ARE NEEDED! Come to the front, pick up the battle cry, serve the risen Savior who is in the world today!
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Dear God, often times we know this a need to serve, but our hearts aren't right and our choices are sometimes less desirable. Teach us to number our days in service to the King of Kings who died for us on the cross and who lives again. In Jesus name, Amen!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Everyone Did As He Saw Fit

"In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit." -- Judges 21:25

The last 5 chapters of Judges show us how bad the world can become when people quit looking to God as the source of reason and purpose for living.
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Chapters 17-18 tells the story of Micah, not to be confused with the prophet Micah, a man who built his own idols, hired his own priest, and set about taking worship from Shiloh where the ark of the covenant was and bringing it to his own house. Of course he was excited to have his own personal priest to go to the Lord on his behalf. The confusing situation that arose allowed the Danites to take everything from Micah, all that he had made and accumulated for himself, and left him with nothing. The Danites were war driven because their purpose had become hazy and eventually they turned to the same idolatry Micah had known -- all because there was no king and everyone did as they saw fit.
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Chapters 19-21 tell of the wickedness of the Benjamites and how they supported people in their land given to sexual promiscuity and homosexuality. Eventually, the raped concubine of the main character in the story died on the doorstep of the house where the master had thrown her out to assuage the passion of lust of the wicked men in the town. And it is fair to note that the woman had been unfaithful to the man; he had come to taker her home; and wound up with this fate. All this happened because there was no king and everyone did as they saw fit.
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Fast forward to 2008. It is odd to note that we have rulers, though not kings. We have religious leaders of all sorts and types and yet we are a little different people from the days we saw when Israel had no king and everyone did as they saw fit; they just plain do as they see fit.
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Evidence exhibit 1: Look at the number of people who have been part of Christianity who choose not to be. They choose not to take a stand with their lives, and even with their Sundays.
Evidence exhibit 2: What about the murders and theft that have lately seen in our world.
Evidence exhibit 3: What about homosexuality and the way it has won over the world though nobody really seems to like it except the homosexuals.
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We can go on to Evidence exhibit "next", as Perry Mason says in the made for TV movies, and keep going on to the next and many people don't seem to care. And it is the result of people doing what they see fit. What a shame? Where is the church in taking a stand before the world in these matters?
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Sure, we might be laughed at; but the power of God still stands and we must to. We know the end will come and we have God's assurances that things will go strangely. May we make a difference always and be visible on behalf of the kingdom.
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Dear God, we live in a strange world where the right is called wrong and the wrong is called right. Help us to get our priorities straight and serve Jesus. In His name, Amen.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Into the Cold

"And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many will become cold." --Matthew 24:12
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I hate winter! I know when I was a child it was a different story. I could play for hours in the freezing cold, not caring at all where my mittens were or if my hat was on. I just knew that when it was cold, there was snow; that meant snow people to build, snow wars to fight, and snow angels to make. That was fine. In my youthful ignorance, I never thought a bit about frostbite, cold hands, or even freezing to death.
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Biologists tell us that the cold is a subtle thing. One story that was making its way around the web had to do with a park ranger in the Yosemite Mountains who was gone all day; at night he went into his cabin and was so tired he never lighted a fire. A rescue dog happened by the cabin and discovered the man, nearly froze to death. The dog licked the man and snuggled up next to him to warm the cold body. Later, the man commented the dog saved his life. He concluded the story by saying that the cold was so subtle. He did not realize it but in starting to freeze, the cold washed over him creating a warmth the man could not imagine. He never would have known he was freezing to death because it hit him slowly.
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I guess you could say that because of the iniquity (wicked lifestyles) that is going on around us, it is easy to get sucked into its lifestyle without a thought. A small thought originally passed off, develops into full-blown sin and one sin after another, without a moment of discernment, drops off into the pit of iniquity and we are lost in it.
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M*A*S*H was one of my favorite TV shows. Simply put, it lulled me into its hedonistic message--booze, cheap sex, and popularity are what you need in the world and you don't need much else. It later became small mini-dramas about values, but even then those values were much more worldly than the normal Christian can handle. The popularity of "Sex and the City" and the premium TV channels brought more iniquity into our homes; the lack of our Bible reading and prayer lives didn't help. And Satan began the barn dance that two-steps into the pits of hell for eternity.
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It's not a popular message. But it is one we must carefully evaluate and measure every day as we walk the Christian life. Eyes are watching us, even when we don't think about it, measuring our integrity against our words. May they find us faithful and not sinking slowly into the cold.
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Father God, thank you for the warning signs you put out before us. Help us to see the danger of slipping into the crevass that Satan has put before us, baited with things beautiful to the eye. Help us to keep walking in the steps of Jesus. In His name, Amen.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Ready to Harvest Fields?

Mat 9:37-38--Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."

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Our church just finished up its Vacation Bible School for 2008, the first school we have had in several years. We had a lot of new workers along with those who have done VBS many times before. The one thing that seemed to be on their hearts was, "How can we touch kids?" I saw one lady who was hardly able get up as she moved around to the songs and encouraged the kids and the adults. It was a treat. I saw a man pick up a child in a laundry basket and run that child to the finish line. I saw children learn lessons about service and then set out to serve their family and their friends and their community and most of all Jesus.
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The key ingredient in our VBS was service, and not just service to be busy, but service with a purpose. My friends, if you are taking time to read this, I hope you'll add a couple of seconds to your time to pray for the community of Mulberry Grove which needs served in Jesus' name so that people can find Jesus. It was really no surprise that 1/3 of the kids who came to our VBS don't have a church home; they come for special programs but they get no guidance from their parents in terms of spiritual things. That doesn't surprise me either after I met the father in town who said he didn't want to influence his child's view on religion; he wanted the child to make up his own mind; the child was 5. I have a feeling the child would have picked Jesus anyway!
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It is now time to make a difference, whether it is the church I preach to or any other church in town or anywhere around us. I should think watching the dismal failure of our economy, the politcal confusion and unrest, the meltdown of world leadership, and the more than adequate reminders of God's power acting on the weather and tectonic plates of our world, should point us back to Christ.
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Can we learn a lesson from the 16,500 native missionaries serving Asia under the Gospel for Asia banner? Catastrophies have hit their world like megaton bombs -- but yet they still go after the harvest! It's hard work; but they press on. Thank you, native missionaries, for helping us see what we need to be reminded of--get the folks at home!

Father, at times we forget because of the world around us; help us to remember to take the world for Jesus. And be with the folks in our community that their hearts will be open and that we will be ready to take them the message. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Monday, June 2, 2008

To Look But Not to Touch!

Deu 32:48-52 On that same day the LORD spoke to Moses, (49) "Go up Mount Nebo in the Abarim range in the land of Moab, across from Jericho, and view the land of Canaan I am giving the Israelites as a possession. (50) Then you will die on the mountain that you go up, and you will be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people. (51) For both of you broke faith with Me among the Israelites at the waters of Meribath-kadesh in the Wilderness of Zin by failing to treat Me as holy in their presence. (52) Although you will view the land from a distance, which I am giving the Israelites, you will not go there."
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Maybe you remember as I do walking into the house right after mom had finished baking the world's most beautiful chocolate chip cookies, or maybe oatmeal and raisin, or quite possibly her world famous snickerdoodles (or at least I thought so). You know what I mean, the smell of the brown sugar and butter simply filled the house. And just as you were ready to try to sneak one off the plate, mom said that you were not able to have one. They were for some special event a little bit later.
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Can you imagine what it would have been like for Moses? For all those years he had put up with those people. And now, there was to be no reward for him because he had forgotten to keep God holy in front of the children of Israel. Can you imagine how heavy his steps must have been up the mountain? Can you imagine the bittersweet joy tears and sorrow tears he shed because he realized the error he had made, perhaps and probably thoughtlessly and carelessly in the moment and passion of anger? And even then, God buried him. Imagine going to your grave knowing that no man would ever pass by where you were, knowingly at least, when you should have been a national hero enshrined in front of the world for all of known time. Or at least many of us would think that way!
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My mind runs in a hundred different ways as I consider the lesson of the moment. But if I had to choose one, it would be this one. Ignorant and passionate mistakes still have consequences. Just because our heart is right does not allow open rebellion against God to be passed off as just a moment of humaness and we need to understand that right now. We must press on toward the mark of the high calling of God and our personal moments of weakness may be forgiven but never accepted. Every moment of weakness we find ourselves in, every time we are forced to take a heavy step in sorry, every incident we find ourselves lacking in needs the forgiveness of Christ and strength of the Holy Spirit. May we never be satisfied with our human frailties but may we always look like Christ or at least strive our best to that end.
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Father God, thank you for your grace and love. Though we know we will falter in our steps, and though you know we will falter in our steps, forgive us, please. And never let us be happy about our ways until they reflect the steps of Jesus. In His name, Amen.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Spread the Word

Matthew 28:16-20 - 16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

There are some late first century or early second century Christian relics that were recently discovered in archaeological digs in Northern Europe. I wondered how Christian relics got to Northern Europe around the same time that Christianity spread to Turkey. There is no record of any of the Apostles going that far North and there was not much trade from the Mediterranean area. I doubt that there is proof yet, but I wonder if it was from Roman soldiers.

Maybe one Centurion finished his tour in Jerusalem and was transferred to Germany. Maybe another was transferred to England. What if the first told his men: "I was guarding the governor while he interrogated a Jewish rebel and I was amazed. The rebel refused to answer a single question! He never insisted on his innocence or plead for mercy. Nothing! My men whipped him and turned him over to others to carry out his sentence. Three days later I heard that his followers said he was alive and was the Son of God and I believe them.

Maybe the other told his men: "My men and I were watching a Jewish rebel dying on the cross and he said "Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing." The sky turned black as night and the big curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom like someone getting out. When the rebel died I said "Surely this man is the Son of God."

What if the men responsible for whipping and crucifying Jesus were the same ones who spread the good news to Northern Europe? If they did they certainly did not know the full story of what Jesus did in Galilee or what he said when teaching in the temple. But they told the story they knew.

Disciples are made by people like you and me who take time to tell someone the story they know. Don't wait until you understand all scripture. Don't wait until you have a great message memorized. Be ready to tell someone the story you know of why you go to church and what God has done in your life.

Lord God I thank you that we only have to tell the story we know and let you take it from there. Help us find people who need to hear the story. Amen.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pray!

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, ESV)

Thursday, May 1, 2008, has been designated as the National Day of Prayer. It is an opportunity for all Americans of faith to join together in approaching the throne of Glory in petition for our country, its leaders, and for our world and its existence. Here is a prayer for this week that we can apply to ourselves, our churches, our country:

Lord, make our hearts turn toward you

Without malice for our fellowman

Without haughtiness within


Cleanse us from our selfish approach to your work

With understanding and compassion

With love and grace


Send us forward for kingdom strengthening

With understanding and compassion

With grace and love.

May it be so on our lips, in our minds and from our hearts. Amen.

Friday, April 11, 2008

How Long is God's Arm?

The Lord answered Moses, "Is the Lord's arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you." -- Numbers 11:23
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It was just a normal day for Moses! Fire had consumed the outskirts of the camp. He had two million people to take care of for which he truly needed help. And now the rabble, the non-Israelites who had come out of Egypt with the Israelites, had taken up the "O Unhappy Day Chorus" because of the rations that had been set before them. Their complaint was a simple one: they needed some variety in their diet.
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And, true to form, they swayed the crowd to begin to complain about the food. Numbers 11 records in verse 4-6, "If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost (emphasis mine) --also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!" They forgot how hard the food was to come by and how depressing their work was!
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And now Moses has another problem. God isn't happy with these people. And when God ain't happy, nobody's happy. Moses is disturbed as well by the attitude of these people. And in all the chaos of the day, God, though not really thrilled about the rebellion of His people against His provision, promises to provide meat for His people, enough meat that they will be up to their ears in what will soon become foul fowl!
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Moses then asks, I think out of both curiosity and disbelief, a long question that essentially boils down to, "How are you going to do that?" And God's answer is a simple one that challenges both Moses' inquisitiveness and his doubting, "Is the Lord's arm too short?"

Bingo! There it is! Moses had seen everything that had happened, from the plagues to the Passover, from the burning bush to the burning sky, from no people to tons of people, and he still asks God if he can do it!
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Moral to the story for you and me: If God says He will do it, He will do it and He has more than enough power to do what He says. I sometimes wonder how God can help little churches keep afloat and how He can take care of thousands of missionaries in hostile lands. I wonder how He can heal the sick, while some we pray for so diligently pass away from this life. I wonder how I will survive from day to day. But I often miss the fact that all of this, every little iota of it all, is God's planning and work. So, next time we don't see how something is going to happen we need to remember this lesson from the life of Moses. Love the Lord and have a normal day -- God will still be in it.

Father, I confess my ignorance to the might and majesty of your ways. Forgive me when I doubt you and help me to accept your blessings, even if they aren't what I think I need. I know you know all about me. And thank you, for Jesus, the greatest blessing of all. He really is what I need. When I act ignorantly, please forgive me, put my feet on the right path, and help me press on. In Jesus name, Amen!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Foolishness for April Fools’ Day

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
(1 Corinthians 1:18-25, ESV)

Today of all days we ought to charge the world with the message that is to them foolishness. Instead of attacking others with pranks and backhanded compliments, we ought to approach the world outside the church with the wisdom of the gospel. How often we try to impress the world with our intelligence. I recall the time a young man commenting on a movie that a group was watching together. “This is set in Seattle,” he announced. “You can go anywhere by bus in Seattle.” Most of us were from a more southerly environment and had no knowledge of the great coffee city of the northwest. In fact we were in awe of the metropolitan knowledge of the young man.

And then another of the group intoned, “No, you can’t.” and a minor argument followed.

“Yes, you can,” the first speaker insisted. “In Seattle, you can go anywhere by bus.”

“No,” his opponent countered, “you can’t go to Sidney.”

Suddenly the intelligence of the first young man was deflated. His wisdom turned into foolishness right in front of him. Of course, everyone understood (as you do) that the well-traveled young man was speaking about traveling within the city of Seattle. And quite possibly they have such a spectacular mass transit system that no part of the city is unreached by the web of bus routes. Sadly, whenever both young men were at a gathering after that the first young man was afraid to speak because he would be made to look foolish by the second.

Too often this is our own approach to sharing Christ with the world around us. We are afraid of appearing foolish. Think of the message—the sinless one would leave all the comforts of heaven (not just a comfy position, but heaven), become a man with limits heretofore unknown to Him, die to pay for the sins that others committed, and offer the payment so that the actual sinners might avoid death. It bears a strong resemblance to the three-dollar bill. But this foolishness is just what we are called to spread.

How about it? Have you been foolish today? Will you?

Father, strengthen our resolve to be willing to look foolish for your wisdom that others might know you. Amen.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Will You Stand Against the Storm?



I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you to walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called -- Ephesians 4:1
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The bird in this picture may be hard to see. But he is sitting on rocks jutting out into the Gulf of Mexico. Little was he aware of the storm that would later hit this very place, as a hurricane blew in and the winds buffeted his home. In the picture, he was caught up in the quiet of the morning.
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It is unfortunate that many of the people who claim to be God's people are just as ignorant of the spiritual storm that is brewing. For a few minutes earlier today, I sat and talked with a very nice young woman about her life. She told me of talking to the dead and the fear that someone she knew was involved in black magic. Of course,she didn't want to talk to just anybody when she spoke to the dead, for fear they were wicked! She told me of visions and nightmares and dreams. I tried my best to explain that this was not what God wanted His people to do. I appealed to the scripture and encouraged her to surrender her life to Christ. Her look at me was a blank stare as she tried to explain to me that she operated her life under certain principles which she felt were right, which in my observation, have been very destructive to her. Much to my pain, I had taught her in church camp!
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I guess we can't be too hard on her. Many people today, some who have been strong in the faith in the past, are finding it hard to deal with Christianity and standing firm--and none of us are perfect, I know that only too well. Maybe we can't be too hard on her, based on our personal examples, but she still isn't right in terms of God's word and that she flatly rejected! And she must answer to God for those decisions and choices, as will we all.
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A. W. Tozer, a 20th century preacher, quoted in "Against the Wind" by K. P. Yohannon, p. 20, notes the following: "That this world is a playground instead of a battleground has now been accepted in practice by the vast majority of fundamentalist Christians . . . Our religious mood is social instead of spiritual. We have lost the art of worship. We are not producing saints. Our models are successful business men, celebrated athletes and theatrical personalities. . . Our literature is shallow and our hymnody borders on sacrilege. And scarcely anyone appears to care."
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Folks, are you the bird on the rock? The waves will come, the winds will blow and the tides will challenge our strength. We must be ready, able, and willing to stand firm in this day. We will be threatened and sometimes we might waver in the wind. But we can be victorious if we follow Jesus, the leader and his way, and not try to make it on our own, because we can't anyway!
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Father God, in the face of adversity, help us to be strong. Help us to realize that it is not how much fun we have, how much the music touches us, or what people think of us that matters. We know trying times will come and we will face storms. Simply, help us to be faithful and to live that faith out in front of those around us. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Thoughts (3)

And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” (Luke 24:5-7, ESV)

In an old spiritual we find these words:

Hallelujah! He is coming!
Hallelujah! He is here!
Hallelujah! He is coming!
Hallelujah! He is here!

This song about the birth, death and resurrection of Christ speaks volumes to those of us who follow Him. He is here. He is here because He is not there—in the tomb that is. He has risen and this gives us reason to rejoice.

Say it with me, say it out loud, “Hallelujah! He is risen!”

Father, make us bold to shout your rising to the world around us.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Easter Thoughts (2)

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30, ESV)

It’s Good Friday—the day that Jesus was Crucified.

How? You ask. How can it be “good” if it is the day commemorating such a heinous death penalty? As a matter of fact, how can any death be looked upon and seen as good? The answer to this important question is in what happened on that first Good Friday. I’ll not go into detail about how awful the practice of Roman crucifixion was. Plenty of preachers have done that in the past. If you really want to know the cruelty of this form of punishment find a copy of The Passion of the Christ and watch it.

It isn’t that Jesus was crucified that makes today such a good day, but why He died and what He accomplished by going to the cross. Simply put, people are sinners. We are born that way. We can’t avoid it any more than I can avoid having blue eyes and curly hair. It is part of who we are. We defy and disobey God every opportunity that we get. The price of that sin is death, our death. Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross (because He was sinless) paid the price of our sin for us.

Why “Good Friday”? Because on the Good Friday Jesus made the escape from sin punishment possible. So celebrate! Sin is conquered through the crucifixion of Christ. It is Good Friday!

Father, Thank you for sending Jesus to make my sin payment and conquering my sin when He died.

Easter Thoughts (1)

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it." (Luke 22:7-8, ESV)


Today is the day that Jesus met in an upper room with the disciples. The room prepared for the observance of the Passover feast. In that room, Jesus made the Passover come to life. In that room He explained that to the Twelve that He would die. Not only would He die, but He would be sent to His death by the betrayal of one of them there.

They did not understand all that happened as Jesus taught them lessons. Lessons about serving one another, lessons about the payment for sin, lessons that would become real to them in a few short days.

The Passover meal was one that was to remind the Israelites how God rescued them from their bondage to slavery in Egypt. What we call “the Lord’s Supper” is a reminder to us that through the death of Jesus (the perfect Passover Lamb) God would rescue us from our bondage to slavery in Sin. During this most holy of remembrances, think about what Jesus did on that night—giving a visual representation of the breaking of His body not one day later.

Toward the end of the meal, Jesus sent His betrayer away to make the final arrangements. Afterwards the rest of the disciples accompanied Jesus to a garden to pray—a time of dedication in preparation for the miracle that was to come. It was here that Jesus was arrested.

Today is a day of remembrance, a day to consider what this season’s payment is for us all.

Father, teach us again what you did on the first Easter weekend.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Taking Ownership of the Gospel

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel,. . . -- 2 Timothy 2:8

This past Sunday, my 10 year old grandson decided that he wanted to use my camera to take the photograph of two of our church ladies. He didn't ask; he just grabbed the camera. And then when the picture was done, he wanted to make a copy of the picture. And, not only a 4x6 inch picture, but also an 8 x 10 picture as well. He can be very forceful sometimes.
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I thought about his insistence for a moment and then I realized why it was so important to him to finish that picture and deliver it in just exactly what he thought was the right way. It is for the same reason that Paul uses the next to the last word above; that word is "my"!
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It is so important in our day and age for people to take ownership in what they are doing. My grandson saw it as his purpose in life to bless the two ladies with the picture. Paul thought it was significant to share the gospel and he emphasized that he believed it was necessary by calling it "my" gospel -- not about Paul but rather what he took ownership of.
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Here is the point: when we are willing to take ownership in what is happening in our churches and we have it in our heart and in our actions to make our service for the kingdom of God the most important thing, then things will happen for the kingdom. And so we close this devotion with this thought: what is important to you, so important you would do it above all else? What a difference can you make in your community and your church if you take ownership of the gospel and touch of the lives of people for Jesus?
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Dear God, sometimes I get so preoccupied when I see the barricades the devil puts before me. Help me to decide what is the most important things I should be doing. Give me a vision and a challenge and help me to take ownership of the gospel and desire to serve others for the kingdom. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

What Offends You?




Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you? -- John 6:61
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Just a few years ago, on one of our last trips to Six Flags Amusement Park in St. Louis, an astounding, somewhat amusing, almost ridiculous thing happened to us. My wife was wearing a witness t-shirt that talked about the love of Jesus. A young person, somewhere between 9 and 13 I would say, walked right up to her, looked her in the face, and said, "Your shirt offends me; I am Jewish!" Then the young lady seemed to disappear.
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It would almost be laughable if that weren't a major problem in the world today. Everybody is offened by everybody else, both from within and without the church. You don't think so? Consider this. How many church people are offended by the music of the church, both traditional and contemporary, if we might use those labels? How many people are offened by the Bible version we use? How many people are offended when they don't get their way in some happening in the church family? How many people are offened if they are forgotten accidentally during some thank you or sharing time? The list goes on! And on! And on!
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In the scripture passage in John 6, which I cited above, the disciples of Jesus were offened because Jesus was teaching about his body being food indeed and his blood drink indeed. Most people, at least, understand this to be a pre-direction for the Lord's Supper. But they looked at it as cannibalism -- how could anyone eat Jesus' body. And so, they left--offended!
Jesus' question to the rest of disciples is one we need to answer today as well. Are we offened by Jesus' expecation for us as His people? Are we offened by our brothers and sisters? Are we big enough to forgive and press on and not miss the importance of obeying and following as the scriptures suggestion?
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I can only ask the questions? The answer must come from you!!
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Father, it is human nature to be offened when things don't go our way. You have called us to a life of self-disciple which includes learning how to handle offenses. Help us not to be offened by you or by another. Especially, help us not to be offened by the cross! Help us to pursue each day as important for the you and the Kingdom. Help us to realize we are servants on a unique mission to help the world see you. Help us to realize that offense builds up walls against kingdom work and we should be doing everything in our power to tear them down and build unity by being of the same mind. In Jesus name, Amen!