Saturday, April 29, 2017

My Hero

A blogger friend spoke recently about her young son, coming from his room one morning wearing a Superman cape, a Spiderman body suit, and an Iron Man mask.  As ridiculous as he looked, he still considered himself "All Man."

Her blog continued with a confession that she realized she was trying to be the same thing, and it's not really possible.   How about you?  Do you find yourself so wrapped up in saving this or that situation, or solving problems for this person or that person, or even being a helper in the completion of every project or job that comes along?  If you answer in the positive, then you have a huge following. 

For those who find themselves in such a dilemma, you already know you cannot accomplish everything by yourself.  As much as you might like to be Superman, you will eventually get tired.  Even Spiderman has his limitations.  

All this leads me to thinking about those in the church who are so energetic and volunteer for everything that comes along, but then are spread so thin with their time they cannot be successful in accomplishing  anything.  I know this describes lots of lives.......even mine.  We have the tendency to want to be "Mr. Hero" in everything!

Allow me to insert here that in the church, the whole body functioning and working together is still the way Paul says right things get done and good things happen for every member of the body.  Danger enters the picture when we overload ourselves, trying to make sure nothing happens without our involvement. 

The New Testament explains the spiritual gifts we are given and expected to use for the benefit of the whole church family.  It further details our gifts as being "gifts that differ."  Some members will be talented in one area while other members are motivated to serve in other areas.  This is not to say we only have one spiritual gift.  Some may be gifted in several areas, so they should be actively using their talents and gifts.  Remember, it's not so we can be Mr. Hero in everything, but that we can give glory to God for the accomplishments which are made. 

From 1 Corinthians 12 (The Message), "…your body has many parts - but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body.
we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which 
He has the final say in everything.”

May God bless your work in His Kingdom.  Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2:10, "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

How Old is Old?

Maybe you have heard in the news about Margaret Dunning, of Michigan.  She became newsworthy by entering her car in a car show in Canton, Ohio.  What makes it newsworthy is Margaret is 102 years of age and is believed to be the driver license record holder in the United States.  She learned to drive when she was 8 years old, and became the youngest licensed driver at the age of 12 after the death of her father.  Margaret was the only person in her family that knew how to drive and with some string-pulling from the prominent family, she was issued a driver license.

Margaret has several automobiles, currently driving a Cadillac.  Her claim to fame is enhanced greatly with the 1930 Packard Roadster, the car she entered in the car show. She purchased the car in 1949 and completely restored it to original, and brags that she still changes the oil and spark plugs as well as all other maintenance on the car.  She is also well known among local radar cops for all the speeding tickets she has on her traffic record. 

I saw the picture of Margaret sitting on the running board of her 1930 Packard, and spent some time thinking of how much fun it would be to drive a car like that. No doubt she has turned down numerous offers to sell the car.  It's her pride and joy.  So she made the national news, a 102 year old woman driving an 82 year old car.  There are probably not many people you know that are older than the car they drive. 

Stories like this encourage those of us who are in our "senior" years.  When we hear stories like that we wonder if someone like Margaret has the same painful and stiff joints we have.  Surely, she must have led a sheltered life with no major problems or illnesses. I don't know anything from the story about her physical ailments, but she did work hard all her life, never marrying, but quite successful in banking and in retail sales. 

If Margaret were in your home church today, would she be active in the sewing circle?  Would she teach  a ladies class?  Would she busy herself trying to be a good example to the younger women in things about success and purity? Those are questions I cannot answer, but they start me to thinking about the place senior citizens have in most churches. In a time when the emphasis is on young families  we expect the older folks to slow down in their involvement, Margaret is the example of perseverance. Still going strong. Never giving up. 

If you are a younger person, spend some time with the older folks in the church. Learn from their example, their wisdom, and especially their love of the church.  If you are older, determine that you will continue to be a good example to those who are younger. Share your stories with them. Encourage them to keep pressing forward, to be steadfast in the Lord. 

Revelation 2:10, toward the end of the verse says, "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life." Regardless of our age, that is a promise of God we should all claim. 


Monday, April 24, 2017

My Only Comfort

In his book, REFORMED SPIRITUALITY, Howard L. Rice begins his introduction of the book with the question taken from The Heidelberg Catechism, "What is your only comfort in life and in death?"  He takes the next paragraph to quote this profound answer. 

"That I belong--body and soul, in life and in death--not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who at the cost of his own blood has fully paid for all my sins and has completely freed me from the dominion of the devil; that he protects me so well that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that everything must fit his purpose for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him."

Many people in today's world are searching for something.  They want to find those things that will sustain them while they are living and giving solid assurances for the afterlife. Even the church leaders of old recognized the need for mankind to seek and find Jesus Christ for that sustaining power during our lives, and the assurance of eternal life after we die. 

The points of emphasis which are presented in the answer to the question asked earlier, focus on Jesus and the supportive description of his work on earth. "At the cost of his own blood he has fully paid for all my sins and has completely freed me from the dominion of the devil."

If you have never committed a sin, then you can skip that part. The truth, however, is given in scripture, "We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."  So the blood of Jesus, freely given for us, pays for our sins and delivers us from the dominion of Satan.  Just that truth should make us shout for joy and devote ourselves to serving the Lord. But there is more.

The life that is devoted to Jesus lives under loving and tender care. That protective care from above is seen in that not even a hair can fall from our heads without the will of the Father. Remember Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, talked about this care when he mentioned the lilies of the field and the birds of the air being cared for by God. And if He cares for them, we have his assurance he will care for us.

Because of all these things God does for us through Jesus Christ, the word "therefore" brings us to the final points of the answer. Read again the final sentence, "Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him."  When we consider all that Jesus accomplished throughout his earthly ministry, and ultimately his defeat of Satan and victory over the grave, we can know with great assurance eternal life is ours.  I am reminded of Paul writing to the Ephesian church, telling them the Holy Spirit is given to us as a guarantee. 

May we remind ourselves daily of the great cost which brought about our salvation, and may we wholeheartedly devote ourselves to live for our Lord. Everything fits into his purpose for our salvation.


Thursday, April 20, 2017


Hebrews 12:5-11
 "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."

It may be difficult to believe, but discipline is an example of love. If you are like me, when discipline comes my way I am not feeling very loved. However, if we are to believe the above verses, then we come to know God the Father as one who "disciplines those he loves."  Not only that, the scripture lets us know that God "punishes everyone he accepts as a son."

Most of the time when we think of discipline, we think in terms of parent's role to discipline their children.  The Bible does address that and there are verses to support the concept of parental discipline.

 Proverbs 13:24, TLB. "If you refuse to discipline your son, it proves you don't love him; for if you love him, you will be prompt to punish him."
Proverbs 19:18, TLB. "Discipline your son in his early years while there is hope. If you don't you will ruin his life."

Certainly the discipline of children is a responsibility parents cannot deny nor avoid. As parents we understand these actions are based on our love for children as they learn and mature. And remember, the Bible says if we don't discipline our children we will be responsible for ruining their lives.
In like manner, God administers his discipline on his children, and it is always for their own good. While discipline hurts, we are encouraged to accept it because it is God treating us as sons. It becomes easy to understand if God withholds his discipline, we are like the child from the Proverbs, and our lives will be ruined. 

Look at it like this, if God loves you enough to give his Son to die for you, then he loves you enough to discipline you.  Here is the good part. The scripture from Hebrews assures us that God's discipline is for "our good, that we may share in his holiness."  And then," Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Lord Your God

Isaiah 43:1-3
 But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

At the time these words were given through Isaiah, the children of Israel were in Babylonian captivity. We probably could not understand all the difficulties associated with being held captive, as individuals and as a nation of people.  Even though these people had a history of unfaithfulness to God, always leading them to troublesome times, the verses above are words of assurance from God who continues to love them. 

Comforting words are always appreciated when we are in trouble. None could be more comforting than words like, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you: I have summoned you by name; you are mine."  While I can only speak for myself, I hope you can sense during difficult times in your life, you also would welcome the message from God that he knows your trouble, he cares, and he claims you as belonging to him.  That is the message God longs for us to grasp in faith, no matter how dismal our situation. It doesn't even matter to him that most of our problems are the result of our own doing. 

While those words from Isaiah 43:1 bring assurance from a God who loves us, verse 2 gives us a glimpse of the great degree of that love.  Spoken in a way that there will be no doubt, God wanted them to know his presence is with them when they pass through the waters.  Further, when they pass through the rivers, they will not be overtaken, and when they walk through the fire, they will not be burned. The flames will not set them on fire. 

Perhaps we can visualize our difficult times, like Israel's, as devastating as passing through rushing water, forging the force of a river swollen out of its banks, or even walking through fire, surrounded by flames that could bring our demise.  God says, these things shall not overtake you. 

The first part of verse 3 was the promise to Israel, and now to us. "For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."  Trust in his promises through all your times of trouble. 


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

After Easter

I usually enter the days following the Easter season with a greater realization of the sacrifice of Jesus, mixed with my promise to make the power of the resurrection more of a focus in my Christian experience.  While such aspirations may bring the approval of God I must also admit the human tendency for us  to soon forget God's Son has paid the ultimate price with his own life.

There are several ways to see this happening, the obvious being the number of worshipers attending our worship assemblies this past Sunday, compared to the attendance totals of this coming Sunday.  While I sincerely appreciate and encourage every worshiper to draw closer to God I would say this comparison will be the norm for just about any and all churches.

As long as I can remember there have always been those who gather for worship in greater numbers around Christmas and Easter.  It's true, we have worked hard to bring the importance of the mission of Jesus by joining in the world's highlight of him around these two holidays.

 Now that Easter has passed, let's follow the the Son of God to see his ascension back into heaven and the lives of those who heard Peter's message of the Good News of God's people living and sharing the spread of Christianity.  Such events of those lives described in the Book of Acts are more than stories.  They lead us to see the joy and the even the difficulties of those who now carry with them the importance of the church whose members experienced the presence of the living Lord in their hearts.

We have the opportunity and the responsibility to be obedient to the plan of Jesus as he encouraged us with his great commission.  We share in the spreading gospel message to all parts of the world. Just as the Lord's church grew throughout the world and the work of Jesus' followers continues even to this day, our constant attention continues to be on Jesus and the salvation which is offered through him.

Making the good news of the gospel available to all is in being the hands and feet of Jesus, and a  growing part of God's Family, the church.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


Learn and celebrate Jesus through worship and praise this weekend.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Strengthened By God's Grace

Hebrews 13 is loaded with exhortations for us to lead the right kind of life. There are numerous challenges for us if we read the entire list, but such a reading brings a necessary evaluation if we choose to look inwardly and see where we are in our standing with God. There is one phrase in there that I keep coming back to. It is not only an exhortation but an informative way for us to be built up and receive strength in our relationship with God and others.

Hebrews 13:9
Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace.

Important verses like Ephesians 2:8-9 tell us the role of grace in our salvation. Here in Hebrews it's an attitude of grace that strengthens us and is good for the heart. Think of ways you can respond to God and to others with grace.

This exhortation is included in a list which names things like loving each other, remembering those in prison, and refraining from the love of money, to name a few. In your life, how does the instruction to be strengthened by grace fit into such a list, in order of importance?

Think in terms of your life being strengthened by grace, and read verse 20 in this 13th chapter of Hebrews.


Monday, April 10, 2017

The Arrest of Jesus

When Jesus was arrested he was taken before several high ranking officials as the Jews were seeking support for their claims that he had committed violations of their laws and traditions.  Remember, Jesus was aware of every event that had happened, and he knew of his impending death on the cross.
We might wonder what was happening with his followers. Were they going to do anything to try and rescue him from this fate? We noticed yesterday that Peter tried to come to the Lord's defense by attacking the servant of the high priest. Jesus had stopped Peter by reminding him that all these happenings were in the plan of God. 

Before long we see Peter doing exactly what Jesus said he would do. He was denying that he even knew Jesus. Human nature back then was a lot like today, when the heat gets turned up, people grow weak in their allegiance to the Lord.  So while Peter is denying his association with Jesus, and listening to a rooster crow, Jesus was having his initial encounter with the government officials. From John 18;

12 Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him 13 and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people.

So Jesus went before Annas, and from there was taken before Caiaphas the high priest. Still bound with shackles, he was then taken to the palace of the Roman governor. Verses 29 and 30 show the shallow charges which are brought against him. 

"29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?” 30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”

Pilate reminded them of the custom of releasing a prisoner during Passover, and suggested that Jesus be the one that was released. Pilate himself confessed that he had found nothing to support the charges the Jews were bringing. However, since the crowd asked for the release of Barabbas, and overwhelmingly chose to crucify Jesus, Pilate went along with the desires of the crowd. 

The story of these events even includes description of the way Pilate even tried to release Jesus, but the Jews kept up their insistence that he be crucified. These people would not give up. Their cries of "Crucify him, Crucify him," were answered by Pilate with these words from John 19:16, "Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified."

In looking through the four gospel accounts, the details of the crucifixion are gruesome, humiliating, painful,  and filled with sorrow. Tomorrow, we shall look specifically at John's account of the crucifixion experience.  Hopefully you will read these words and appreciate the seriousness of the event. This is the basis for your hope of eternal life. This is the greatest demonstration of God's love for you. Jesus is about to take the entire load of guilt and punishment which belongs to all mankind, and face the punishment alone. So when we read these truths, may we all realize Jesus is dying and shedding his blood for us. 


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

He Takes Our Place

I always struggle this time of year to come up with a more effective way to explain the sacrifice of Jesus dying on the cross.  We have all read the biblical accounts of Jesus' last days and the brutal treatment he experienced on the way to his execution.  My struggle is not in accepting and believing the story, but in my sharing the gospel message with those I may encounter.

Let me emphatically declare my belief in the life, death, burial and resurrection of my Lord, Jesus Christ.  Those books in the New Testament which we call the gospel narratives continue to draw us even closer to the truth that God's son actually went to the cross and carried with him every sin.  It's a story that will allow us to personally identify with Jesus' death as payment for the sins of every human.  That includes your sins and mine.

We who deserve immediate and eternal condemnation because we are sinners, can claim eternal salvation and it's all because God loves us.  Every violation of the will of God must be punished.  Nothing has escaped God's notice.  God cannot be God if he doesn't hold us accountable for the sins we have committed.  Yet his love for us is the very reason he gave his Son to pay the price which we could never pay ourselves. When Jesus suffered and bled and died, he was paying a debt which we could not pay.

It's difficult for us to see the story of Jesus' death as a love story, but in reality it's the greatest love story ever written. We blame the Roman soldiers for his execution and often hide behind our own self-righteousness, but your sins put Jesus on the cross just as if you were the one driving the nails.

This week we will take several looks into the story of the cross so there are some things I encourage to watch for.  First of all, be aware of your sin.  This is not the time for us to blame our sin on something or someone else.  "We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

Second, recognize your inability to save yourself.  We are on dangerous ground if we think we are going to accomplish eternal life based on our own ability, popularity, strength or goodness. Regardless of who we are, we need Jesus.

Third, learn to understand how the plan of God to save us, is based on the greatest demonstration of love our world has ever known.  It's God's love for you and me that caused him to give his only Son.  We are called upon to believe it and accept it and become obedient followers.  From the heart of God comes the eternal love of the Father, just for you.  From the death of Jesus comes his blood which washes us clean and makes us new.

Spend some time in prayer as we seek to become the person Jesus gave his life for us to become.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Above all else...

My son, pay attention to what I say;
    turn your ear to my words.
21 Do not let them out of your sight,
    keep them within your heart;
22 for they are life to those who find them
    and health to one’s whole body.
23 Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it.
24 Keep your mouth free of perversity;
    keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead;
    fix your gaze directly before you.
26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
    and be steadfast in all your ways.
27 Do not turn to the right or the left;
    keep your foot from evil.

                   Proverbs 4:20-27

Solomon was a man of great wisdom.  Some would call than an under statement, but I feel good about simply recognizing his wisdom.  The text above is an example.  We parents can read verses like those and only hope our children and grandchildren can be successful in following the wise advice.

Attention to the importance of scriptural admonition is always recommended, and Solomon desires complete attention from his readers, especially emphasizing these words are "life to those who find them and health to one's whole body."  Read the verses again, not only to see the life they contain, but also our desire for our loved ones to live the life they contain.

Here is good, sound advice: Guard your heart. Don't speak perversity. Stay free of corrupt talk. Look straight ahead, fixing your gaze before you. Consider carefully the paths you take. Be steadfast. Keep yourself from evil. 

Too many times, reading a list like that brings us to believe those really are words of wisdom, but they are pictured to us like an unattainable goal. I find myself reading the list and trying to determine a strong point or two, for me, then recognizing the ones which uncover some of my weaknesses.   I am thinking now the best way for us to teach the words of wisdom to others is through memorization. Please join me in memorizing these few verses, while sharing them with someone you know will appreciate the wisdom of the message they bring.

My favorite line, and perhaps the one we should all work on first is this one:
"Above all else, guard your heart,  for everything you do flows from it."