Monday, December 31, 2012

Count Your Blessings 12/31/2012 (rp)

"Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Matt 6:31-33

Anyone who even casually examines his or her life must acknowledge that they are blessed. Our Father is so benevolent, so kind, so long suffering, so gracious and so merciful, how could any deny it? How could anyone miss it?

In reality, we miss it all the time. We miss it because of God's over abundance (Eph 3:20-21). This gives us the very interesting trait of focusing on the things that are wrong, challenging, inconvenient, painful or wanting in our lives. It is as if we expect to lead lives where every whim is satisfied, and every desire is delivered. That is just not reality for anyone. The more we get the more we want and are thus never satisfied.

What is in fact reality is that all of us could lead lives that are far worse, regardless of our current circumstance. Fortunately we serve a God who not only knows our needs, but supplies them (and ever so many of our wants). Who do you know that is without food, drink, clothing and shelter, even if it is supplied by others?

If we would take the time to count our blessings, we would see how vastly they outweigh the things we think are wanting. We serve a glorious Creator. How could we do anything less than seek His righteousness and His kingdom?

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Friday, December 28, 2012

"New" 12/28/2012

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."  2 Cor 5:17

As we prepare to say goodbye to the old year and welcome the new, we are often filled with both optimism and determination concerning our soon to be renewed opportunity to start afresh.  We make resolutions to be better than we have been in order to become better than we are.  Whether it is to lead a healthier life, improve relationships, be smarter about finances or even read the bible more, many of us use this time of year as a point of demarcation with hopes of having accomplished our goals this time next year.

Beloved it is a wonderful thing to resolve to be better.  This demonstrates our awareness that we are but fragile creatures who are prone to make mistakes and live beneath our potential.  It is this humility that makes it possible to improve.  Without regard to the time of year, the best example of this is when we became Christians.  We clearly knew that we were outside of where we wanted and needed to be.  When we learned about Christ, each of us was introduced to a way for us to become better.  Through God's grace we were given a chance to become new.  This was not, however, a destination, but the beginning of the journey toward perfection (completion) in Christ.  We are on a path to becoming what we were created to be.

Let us then be mindful of the opportunity we have been given to be made new.  Let us also look not just to the first day of a new year but to every day we wake and draw breath as an opportunity to renew our efforts to please God and spend eternity with Him.  Surely we will become better along the journey.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Don't Fire God 12/27/2012

"So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah.  They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” 1 Sam 8:4-5

The people of Israel looked around at all of the other nations and decided they wanted a king to rule them.  To this point God had been king, provider, benefactor, protector, friend and father, even while they continually went after other gods.  He even selected representatives to lead them in His ways, nevertheless they remained obstinate with an eye always toward what others who were not of God were doing.

We continue to have this problem today.  We have a kind and gracious Father who loves us deeply, yet our eyes are so often cast toward the world and the perceived benefits of living a godless life.  There are those who have it fixed in their minds that Christianity is restrictive and no fun but that without it, all of life can be enjoyed.  Most of us, however, will not totally reject Him but will try to eat our cake and still have it.  We show up at worship on Sunday, pray, give, sing and commune and then it is right back to the base detours of life.  In essence, we have fired God from headship of our lives in favor of having what we perceive everyone else has.

Beloved we need to know what the people of the time should have known: God is in control.  Deciding to reject Him does not diminish Him in any way.  Doing so will only reveal that base living, as was demonstrated at Sodom and Gomorrah, has its consequences but godly living has the ultimate benefit.  Understanding this will lead to the knowledge that Christian living is not restrictive and no fun but freeing and joyous.  Most of the things we would do if we were not Christians (or that we do anyway) is bad for our health, finances, relationships and mental state, not to mention our spirituality.  The loving and obedient life is good for every aspect of life.

Yes God had given us free will with which can we reject Him, but He is still God and we will all someday meet him, some as friends and some as enemies. Choose wisely.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wealth and Redemption 12/26/2012

"They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him:"  Psa 49:6-7

In these days of conspicuous consumption, many hold riches as their god.  It is not that people gather themselves into opulent buildings and worship currency on a prepared altar.  The literal meaning of the word is to "prostrate oneself in homage."  Today we tend to think of it as something which is indicative of reverence, strong emotion and the expenditure of a great deal of time, effort and resources.  It is this that we do in pursuit of claiming riches for ourselves.  It is perhaps human nature to always want more.  If we are not able to obtain it for ourselves, we elevate those who have by being successful in lucrative fields.  Even in the first century church, members were chastised for giving undue honor to those of means.

Beloved, though wealth is not in and of itself evil and much good is accomplished with it, no amount of it can save even one of us.  What amount of currency, gold or jewels can we give to the very Maker of the earth to purchase our own salvation? It is more likely that the love of wealth will prevent us from gaining heaven than cause it.

There has only ever been one payment that would redeem mankind and that is the sacrifice of Jesus, "in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according tot he riches of his grace" Eph 1:7.  It is not wealth itself, nor those who have amassed it who are to be worshipped, but him who paid the ultimate price to accomplish the ultimate good.  "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!"

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Friday, December 21, 2012

Advent 12/21/2012 (rp)

"For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace." Isa 9:6

It is this, a scripture that is among the greatest and most important prophecies of all time, that heralds the coming of the Messiah: the Savior of all mankind. During this time of year, more than any other time of the year, most of the world turns it's thoughts to the birth of Christ.

Beloved the goal is not to debate the timing of the birth of Christ. The bible gives us clues that it probably did not occur during the winter, but does not reveal to us the date or time of his advent. This being the case, it can only be taken that the information is not critical to our salvation or our relationship with the Lord. The relevant issue is that he was born. His birth and life, death and resurrection fulfilled all scripture.

Beloved, regardless of when we mark the time of his arrival, we should always celebrate the fact and more importantly, the result, in our hearts. He came that we might have life and that more abundantly. He came to seek and save the lost. He came to feed, heal and teach. And he came to prepare us. He came to love.

This (and all) season(s), let us give glory and honor to God for his bountiful gift of the son.

Rejoicing in the Lord,

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Knowing Relationships 12/19/2012

"I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better."  Eph 1:17 (NIV)

One of the greatest things about relationships is the acquiring and possession of knowledge regarding another person.  When the relationship is new, it is filled with excitement by the knowledge and information gathering process.  Think of budding romantic relationships where all of life is a distraction that hinders contact with the object of your affection.  As much time as possible is spent together both in person and on the phone.  Poems are written, song lyrics are dedicated and through it all, learning takes place.

Later, this foundational knowledge is used to make continued interaction as enjoyable and successful as possible.  A wife has learned to read a husband's facial expressions and determine his mood.  A husband has learned how special certain occasions are and to be sure not to miss them.  In stages later still, the frantic chatter of getting to know one another has given way to companionable silence that rest in the peace derived from a life time together and the knowledge that the other is always there and ever shall be until the Lord calls them home.

It must also be said that gaining knowledge of another with whom you are in a relationship almost always lends itself to greater knowledge of yourself.  It is unavoidable to learn about what you do well and areas that could use some work.

Beloved our relationship with Jesus has many of these same attributes.  For almost all of us, when we begin our relationship with him, we laud it as the best decision we've ever made and the best thing that has ever happened to us.  We spend all kinds of time in prayer, bible study and worship.  We seek him out in everything we do and we live our lives according to his word.  In so doing, we also learn quite a bit about ourselves.  Our shortcomings become obvious but our desire to improve them, based on our knowledge of Jesus, becomes paramount.  As our relationship with him matures, however, our desire to know him continues to grow and it is we who have become better by conforming to him.

Let us always pursue our relationship with the Lord.  Even as we continue to learn more about those with whom we are in a relationship, there is always something fascinating and new to learn about our Savior.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Difference of Light 12/18/2012

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus." Titus 2:11-13

There ought to be a difference between those who are the children of God and those who are not.  That difference should be able to seen in behavior and readily apparent to all who observe carefully.  This is not to say that we should walk around evaluating one another but that the things we choose to say and do should be indicative of our status as members of the family of God.  Regardless of what was thought about Jesus, the fact that he healed the sick, fed the hungry, preached love, reached out to the poor and hopeless, and helped those in need (rather than judge them) was undeniable to all who observed him.  Even his enemies dealt very carefully with him so as not to incite an insurrection against themselves by the recipients of his goodness.

Beloved we are called to be the presence of the Lord on earth.  Jesus has said to us and of us, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;  nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" Matt 5:14-16.  The light that comes from him yet shines through his own is to be a beacon to those who are seeking love, truth, peace and salvation.  Let us not ever send mixed messages.  Let us not be confused with those who do not know God.  We should strive to be different because, through His grace, we are different.  Let that difference attract others even as they were when The Light shone among men.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Monday, December 17, 2012

Let Love Rule (A Memorial) 12/17/2012

"Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law." Rom 13:8

In the aftermath of the horrific shooting that victimized 26 teachers and students at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut on December 14, 2012, a six year old girl was quoted as asking, "The little children, are they with the angels?" 

This tragedy defies explanation.  As a community, a state, a nation and perhaps the world attempts to process what has happened, we are all left diminished and feeling less safe in the world.  Reporters and commentators will spend days and weeks discussing, rehashing and uncovering information in an attempt to reason out what has happened.  In the end, however, no answers will suffice and none will bring back a single victim.  In many ways we are all victims.  We are victims of evil.

Beloved nothing will be solved in this brief expression of hurt, anger, grief and outrage.  The least and the most that can be offered here is prayers for the affected families, hope that love will ultimately prevail in this world and an encouragement to have faith in God, who in His own time, will do away with all evil.  As mind numbing as this attack was, it is merely the latest example of man's inhumanity to man that began with Cain and Abel.  On the same date as the Sandy Hook murders, 22 children and an elderly woman were stabbed in an elementary school by a knife wielding man in China.  This mirrors a spate of such attacks that took place there in 2010.  This is not an American problem.  It is a human problem.  It is an evil problem.  The only thing that can and will overcome it is the precious and powerful love of God.

The little children, are they with the angels?  They are surely in the hands of a just God.

We grieve.  We pray.  We hope.

In faith,


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Living By Faith 12/13/2012

"All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth."  Heb 11:13

One of my most fond memories growing up was going on family vacations.  More to the point, it was the anticipation of going on family vacations.  Once Dad would announce that we were going to Disney or Six Flags or wherever it happened to be that year, the excitement was immediately established and continued to build over time until the day came.  I remember talking about it...a lot!  I told all my friends and teachers, my sister and I chattered with one another constantly and I'm sure I bugged my dad quite a bit about the details, timing and what all we were going to do when we got there.  And of course my behavior was extra good because I in no way wanted to jeopardize that which was to come. I enjoyed that feeling so much that I've built it into my own parenting.

Beloved this is the way we ought to feel about heaven.  More to the point, we should literally vibrate with the excitement associated with one day meeting the Lord face to face.  The Old Testament saints did not have the same advantages that we have today.  The coming of the savior was still in their future.  As we wait for the second coming, imagine what it must have been like for them to look for the first AND, ultimately, the second.  Nevertheless, they lived faithful lives, anticipating that great day that remains yet in all of our futures.  Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses' parents, Moses, Rahab and so many others served God through faith.  In other words, faith provided the "substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen" Heb 11:1.  They are thus memorialized in the "faith hall of fame."

If they had enough love for and faith in God to live godly lives in anticipation of their great reward, should we not much more?  Be encouraged my friends.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In Praise of Marriage 12/12/2012

"Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE,  and said, 'FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH'?   "So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate."  Matt 19:4-7

It was the Pharisees, in one of their many attempts to test Jesus, that put forth the question, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all (v. 3)?"  That same question is still being asked today.  Even more tragically, the question is rarely asked any more.  The papers are just drafted and that at about a 50% rate.

Beloved, this is not to criticize anyone who has ever gotten a divorce.  This is to remind us of why God instituted marriage in the first place.  The family, beginning with a man and a woman, is the foundation of every relationship.  He established this as one of His first acts of creation.  In Gen 9:7, God told Noah and his family, "As for you, be fruitful and multiply; populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it." Even Christ compared the relationship between a husband and wife with that of his relationship with the church.  There is great value in family and great strength to be derived from it.

I must admit to you, faithful reader, that there is a reason this subject is on my mind today.  If you will forgive the indulgence, on this date 20 years ago, it was God that spoke when Michelle Elaine Lindo said, "I do" to becoming Michelle Elaine Lewis. Since that day she has been everything a man could want in a woman, everything a husband could want in a wife and everything a friend could want in a best friend. For that, I will be eternally grateful to the God that spoke all things into existence and to to Michelle for saying yes, for building a family with me and for her unflinching and constant support, compassion and love. Happy Anniversary honey! 

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Monday, December 10, 2012

Beginning with Jesus 12/10/2012 (rp)

"A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse — after hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak. For she thought, "If I just touch His garments, I will get well." Immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction." Mark 5:25-29

There is so much available in Jesus. Unfortunately many of us do not realize this until we are at the bitter end of what is available in and of ourselves. Far too often we start with us rather than Jesus. Case in point is the hemorrhagic woman. She had suffered for years, gone to many doctors, exhausted all of her funds and found herself down to no options except one.

Beloved think of the pain, suffering, heartache and utter despair that could be saved by beginning with Jesus. He has been described as a heart fixer, a mind regulator, a balm in Gilead and the Great Physician. There is no ill that we suffer that Jesus cannot fix. We should endeavor to begin with faith strong enough to call on him and believe that he what we need is available in him rather than arriving at that point when there is nothing else we can do. This is the true essence and benefit of a relationship with the Savior.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Promise is a Promise 12/5/2012

"In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us." Heb 6:17-18

  Throughout history there have been attempts to gain assurances regarding the reliability of a person's word.  We are familiar with handshakes, blood oaths and even "pinkie swears" which are popular with pre-teens today.  Biblically, it was customary to swear by someone or something greater than oneself though Christ encouraged saying simply "yes" or "no" rather than making oaths at all ( Matt 5:33-37).  But we all know what it is like to have someone make assurances and promises but fail to deliver.

Beloved we can rejoice today because we serve a God that is not subject to the fickleness and failings of men and women.  It is good to know that it is beyond His capability to lie and that therefore, He will do what He says He will do.  God has an amazing track record.  Within the context of the Hebrews passage, the Bible indicates that he made promises to Abraham but "since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself" Heb 6:13.  Remember that he promised to make an old man and his barren wife the parents of descendants as numerous as the stars.  Even we are products of that promise.

Let us then be grateful that God is true.  Let us be encouraged by the things he has promised.  Let us look forward with hope and faith to the day that the promises he has made regarding our living ever with him will come to pass.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


P.S.  Thanks to all for the wonderful birthday wishes.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

On Aging 12/4/1962

“Listen to Me, O house of Jacob,
And all the remnant of the house of Israel,
You who have been borne by Me from birth
And have been carried from the womb;
Even to your old age I will be the same,
And even to your graying years I will bear you!
I have done it, and I will carry you;
And I will bear you and I will deliver you.
Isaiah 46:3-4

As the Lord continues to cause us to rise each and every day, we, by the very passage of time, age.  Thoughts of our mortality are typically brought on by the graying of hair, diminished physical and mental capability, the need for medicines and visits to our physicians and a younger generation that seems unaware of the values of our youth.  For these and many other reasons, we view aging as a negative and as we see the days approaching, we attempt to hold them off as long as we can through our clothing choices, activities, plastic surgeries, sports car purchases and the like.  We have even labeled the advent of mid-life a crisis.

Beloved we must realize that aging is a privilege and a gift.  By God's graciousness we are able to see the growth and development of our children.  We usher them into their own adulthood and committed relationships.  We see the birth and the growth of our grand children and great grand children, often delighting in how they vex their parents as they once vexed us.  Life slows down and after decades of toiling to provide we are finally able to rest a bit and take time to enjoy God's great creation.  Yes the hair grays but it is a sign of life lived and a symbol wisdom gained through experience.  So many of the youth's current cares are no longer ours and the ones we have are put into their proper perspective.  Only after we have lived a long time do we truly realize how short life is and how important it is to enjoy it.  Through it all, God bears us, carries us and delivers us.

If all else fails, keep in mind this humorous but profound saying: "The only way to avoid getting old is to die young."  I don't know about you but I'll take the gray hair, doctor visits and my grandson on my knee.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Monday, December 3, 2012

Faithful Help 12/3/2012

"Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.  But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Heb 3:12-13

We all know people who at one time seemed to be devout Christians full of the love of God who then began to drift and ultimately fall away all together.  This is a bigger tragedy than if they had never met the Lord in the first place.

There are many things that could account for such a tragedy.  Some have bad experiences in their church, experienced soured relationships or the loss or departure of a loved one or distraction by the world.  These and other events and circumstances are not uncommon occurrences and when we see them happening to our brothers and sisters, it is incumbent upon us to be hyper vigilant to encourage, refresh and relieve.

Departing from God is called apostasy.  It is in effect, turning one's back on Him and no longer acknowledging him as Father and Creator.  It is a complete rejection of the Divine.  The consequences for such a decision are unimaginable and should be avoided at all costs.

Beloved it is true that sometimes the going gets tough.  Christ himself warned of this truth.  But our relationship with God is made for such times.  It is He who provides comfort, reassurance and peace (if we will allow it).  It is He that holds us up when we are unable to stand on our own.  It is He who is the compassionate one.  Part of his provision are those who are strong in the faith.  He has commissioned us to be His presence in a time of need.

Let us pursue with all vigor the dual responsibilities of remaining faithful and doing all we can to help others do likewise.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Friday, November 30, 2012

Choosing to be Godly 11/30/2012 (rp)

"The Lord said to Satan, 'Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.'" Job 1:8

Most of us are familiar with Job. His name is synonymous with patience, virtue and suffering with grace. Many of us turn to the pages on which his story is recorded for inspiration and reassurance during times of trouble.

Though the answer may seem to be obvious, have we really ever considered Job? Satan accused God of protecting him and thereby allowing him to maintain such integrity. I believe his statements were tantamount to saying that Job had been made that way by God. This is proven not to be the case. God merely identified him as a unique individual among all men. Noah was so identified in his time as well. They were both men that chose to lead godly lives and in Job's case, continued to make that choice under the most extreme conditions.

Beloved we all have trials and tribulations that we endure in this life. We suffer discomfort, want and loss at various times throughout our lives. Who among us, however, can claim to have endured what Job did? And if any among us can, who can claim to have steadfastly maintained such a beautiful perspective on his relationship with God and the realities of life? Who among us has avoided sin regardless of those trials and tribulations?

We all have the same ability to choose. We all serve that very same God. We can all look forward to the same rewards. Why do we seem to wilt under much lighter circumstances? Was Job anything special? Being just a man who made the ultimate choice to remain faithful no matter what, I would say so. But you and I have that same ability.

One last thought: It is amazing that Job lived such a life among men that it was known in heaven and offered as proof that we as His creation have the ability to truly live and serve as intended. Further, God had so much confidence in Job and his steadfastness that He allowed him to be tested severely. As much confidence as we have in God, can you imagine what it would be like for God to have that much confidence in you?

It could happen.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sacrifice and Salvation 11/29/2012

"So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him."  Heb 9:28

In the times of the Old Testament, it was necessary for animal sacrifices involving much blood to be made for the inadvertent sins of the people.  It was a fairly complicated process that involved the high priest going into what was called the Holiest of Holies to render sacrifice to God.  He had to first do so for himself and his family and then for all of Israel.  This sacrifice of atonement as it was known, allowed the high priest to approach the very earthly presence of God (located in the Holiest of Holies) just once per year but it had to be done each year.  This was done not to forgive his sins and that of the people, but was done merely as a reminder of sins.  "It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins."  Heb 10:3-4.

Beloved the sobering fact is that there was indeed a sacrifice that could take away sins and it was made by Jesus.  It is only through his perfect obedience to God, his perfect and sinless life and the perfect nature of his sacrifice that we have access to salvation.  His sacrifice ushered in a new covenant between God and man that did away with ritual offerings and provided the availability of a clear conscience for those who fear God as well as direct access to him through Jesus.  Whereas formerly, only the high priest could  approach the presence of God once a year and that with blood, we can all now approach God any time through the shedding of Christ's blood.

This act and this fact is nothing less than the very foundation of Christianity.  And since he has given us access, we can take confidence in knowing that when he returns, it will be not to suffer as he has already done, but to receive those who have received him.  Have you truly received Jesus?

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Still Thankful 11/27/2012

"Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary."
Ps 107:1-2

For the Christian, giving thanks to God neither begins, culminates or ends on a man inspired day to do so.  Giving thanks is a way of life.  It is a daily, even hourly habit that supersedes that of even brushing of teeth and washing of face.

There are a plethora of reasons to stop and give thanks throughout the day.  None who give the smallest effort should have difficulty identifying reason after reason for doing so.  The psalmist provides many reasons (which come from his close, warm, personal relationship with God).  In particular, he lists the redemption, even salvation, from those who are arrayed against us.  This could be anyone from a bad boss to Satan himself.  Where as we were under the burden of slavery to our situation, habits, circumstances or enemies, God laid out a clear path inviting us to peace and prosperity.  Jesus said, "Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest" Matt 11:28.  We did and he has.

Beloved, we as Christians should be the first in line to proclaim thanks to God and to tell His story to others.  There are many who continued to be lost.  There are many that continue to struggle daily with their various adversaries.  And their yet remains One who can deliver them even as He has delivered us.  Let us continue to give thanks day by day, hour by hour and minute by minute.  One day we will all be able to stand united around the throne of grace and proclaim as the psalmist has:

"I will give You thanks forever, because You have done it,
And I will wait on Your name, for it is good, in the presence of Your godly ones"
Ps 52:9.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks 11/21/2012 (rp)

"Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations." Ps 100:4-5

We are taught from the earliest age to simply say "thank you" when anyone gives to us or does for us. Michelle and I have a 20 month old grandson who is still formulating his vocabulary but "thank you" can already be found in his limited repetoire. It is one of the most polite yet fundamental things we can say in response to everything from the a "God bless you" when we sneeze to the very sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.

Beloved as our nation and much of the world has set aside tomorrow to stop, reflect and be thankful, let us as Christians, in our own way, lead this effort. Let us do so by placing our thanks where they belong, at the God's throne of grace. Let us do so by encouraging one another to count blessings rather than complaints. Let us give as we have been given. And let us do so not just on the 3rd Thurssday of November, but every moment of our lives. Surely God blesses us so.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Think to Thank 11/20/2012

"Then Jesus answered and said, 'Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?'  And He said to him, 'Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.'”  Luke 17:17-19

There were ten who were suffering from leprosy who, against all social and legal conventions of the time, put themselves in proximity to Jesus and cried out loudly for relief of their suffering to the only one who could provide it.  Jesus heard their cries had mercy on them and gave them instructions on how to become cleansed.  Once accomplished, just one returned to give thanks while the others went their merry way.  The one who returned was not one of God's own but a Samaritan, a traditional adversary of God's people.

Beloved how often have we found ourselves in the most heartfelt and desperate need?  Be it physical, financial, psychological or relational, we have all been there at one time or another.  We all know what it is like to need relief from an affliction, malady or situation.  We then, like the lepers, cry out for help. 
We may pursue our own means but sooner or later we get around to the Lord, placing ourselves at His mercy, begging for assistance.  He is faithful and just and hears our cries to which He always responds.  This can be said with confidence because none of us is suffering from the same malady as yesterday.

Since He comes to our aid just as Jesus came to the aid of the lepers, let us not be as those who went their merry way.  Let us be as the one who came back, threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him.  Remember that this man was not of the people of God.  May it never be said that those who are the children of God are less praising and thankful than those who are not.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Monday, November 19, 2012

This Little Light of Mine 11/19/2012

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;  nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." Matt 5:14-16

It is important for Christians to know that being a child of God is not simply a status, but a calling with a purpose and with responsibilities.  It is true that there is a great inheritance reserved for us, however there is a great work we must do until such time as that inheritance is received.  This work is not done in order to receive, but because it has already been set aside against the day of God's timing.

Beloved, we are God's advertising campaign.  Though the majesty of His creation shouts His existence and love, we are the ones who are charged to tell the story, make the introductions and invite the world into a relationship with its creator.  All that we say or do should be seasoned with that purpose in mind.  We are advocates, representatives, ambassadors, samples and examples.  It is only through His blessed family that others can and will come to Him.  Let us engage in activities and behaviors that would draw all not to ourselves but to Him who made us all.  Let us allow our light to shine brightly thus illuminating the very love of God.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Be Encouraged 11/15/2012

"In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;" 1 Pet 1:6-7

There is not one among us who does not at one time or the other experience problems, difficulties, tragedies and loss.  Issues come up in personal relationships, work situations, neighborhood interactions, finances and even misunderstandings among those with whom we worship.  Speaking of worship, there may even be times that we are subjected to persecution because of our beliefs.  None of us should be shocked by this.  In fact this situations should actually encourage us and give us cause to rejoice.

Beloved, as Christians, we are called upon to be a different type of person with different beliefs, hopes, dreams, perspectives and certainly different responses to trials and difficulties.  Our savior has taught us by his word and his example that life and reality are bigger than our current circumstances. There is an entire eternity before us against which many of the things we endure today diminish into triviality.  We are sons and daughters of the living God!  That must mean something to us and by extension, those who come into contact with us.  We must look at these events, situations and circumstances as simply faith builders (our faith being more precious than pure and refined gold).  Think about it this way: there is not a single situation out of which God has not delivered you or is not currently in the process of doing so.  Not one.  When he delivers us, our faith that he will do so the next time and the time after that and the time after that grows.  We will eventually come to rely on him completely and begin to accept trials with joy, knowing that God has us now as He always has.

There is one more thing that helps us grow into this mindset and this truth: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" 1 Pet 1:3-5 (emphasis mine).  We have every reason to be encouraged, even in the midst of the worse life has to offer.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Monday, November 12, 2012

Pursuing Happiness 11/12/12

"He who gives attention to the word will find good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord."  Prov 16:20

Sadness and sorrow are big and weighty subjects with many reasons and causes.  The same can be said for joy and happiness.  There is not a person alive who would not rather be happy than sad so let us consider ways to secure happiness.

The author of the proverb first suggest attending to the word of God.  Matthew states that it is not bread alone that sustains us but "every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" Matt 4:4.  God being our manufacturer has supplied us with a manual for life.  In it contains all we need to know about Him, His expectations and provisions and directions regarding how to lead a happy and successful life.  If we would simply follow the instructions, we would learn to experience joy and happiness even in the most challenging times.  This is possible because the word also gives us instructions on how to endure difficulties and also supplies information about the promise or everlasting peace and presence with God for all who are His.

Having attended to His word, trust in God is a logical outcome.  An even casual survey of humanity's history reveals the presence and the activity of the Lord.  This leads to an examination of our own lives where the presence of God can also be readily seen.  He has done and continues to do all that He promised.  It is up to us to constantly seek nearness with Him.  In so doing, we will be blessed or as it is otherwise translated, happy.

Beloved, we were created to be a happy, joyous, content and praising people.  Our great God has put everything in place in order to make this possible.  Each of us must decide whether that is our desire.  If so, let us attend to His word and trust Him.  He takes care of everything else.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Friday, November 9, 2012

The Purpose of the Thorn 11/9/2012 (rp)

"And by reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations, that I should not be exalted overmuch, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, that I should not be exalted overmuch." 2 Cor 12:7

Most Christians and many non-Christians are familiar with the plight of Paul's thorn in the flesh. He attributes it to having visited heaven and witnessed things too amazing to describe. He then specifically states that the discomfort he was given (not a literal thorn in literal flesh) was given, for all intents and purposes, to keep him humble.

Beloved there are at least two messages here. To the Christian, the benefits of a relationship with God should be obvious. In fact, it would exceed the available space to even try to list them all, however, this would be a great place to pause and give quiet thought to how good God has been to you throughout your lifetime. That done, none of us have to look far to see those who have been so blessed by God that they think they have accomplished and acquired everything in and of themselves and therefore do not need God. These folks have missed the point entirely. In situations like this, it would be better to have some sort of reminder of both the hierarchy associated with our very existence and the source of every blessing than to lose sight of both because of His overwhelming goodness. One might think, "Why does such a reminder necessarily involve pain?" We should not assume that Paul's malady involved pain, however we know that whatever it was not only kept him in line but served as an example to others and glorified God. Have you ever been inspired by the faith of someone less fortunate than you?

To the non-Christian considering membership in God's family, it should be known that it is not all cookies and cream. God never promised us an easy row to hoe. In fact, there is full disclosure given regarding the difficulties that can be expected from faithfully living the Christian life. Our purpose in life is to glorify Him through our praise, worship, love, obedience and sharing with others. In so doing, we may become scuffed or inconvenienced, but the benefits of being a child of God are beyond imagination and eternal. Paul experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows, but learned ultimately to depend on God for everything and accept His will in all things. That is the purpose of the thorn.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

God and Governments 11/7/2012

"Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.  Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.  For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same;  for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.  Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake.  For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.   Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due;  custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor."  Rom 13:1-7

Today I ask you to forgive not the usage of the word of God (as the consideration of Scripture is the whole reason for this meditation), but the unusual length of the passage.  Yesterday, citizens of the United States, as many countries do according to their own timing, played an active role in choosing leaders of its government.  It is important to the Christian to know where God is in the results and more accurately, where we as members of a nation are in God's overall plan.

As has been the case many times before, the country is sharply divided over its choice of leadership.  There is a constant ebb and flow of power and position between political parties, ideologies, visions and methods.  Each group feels that its way is best and right and that there is little of interest or merit to those who do not share its convictions.  Inevitably, when a leader is chosen, as much as half of the the electorate can (and in today's case does) feel disappointed, distraught and disenfranchised.  Almost immediately, the effort begins to "correct the problem" by identifying and preparing those associated with the ideology that did not prevail this time for success next time, hence the ebb and flow of power and position between parties.

Beloved there is much to say about this process but not nearly enough of it involves the sovereignty of the Almighty Creator of the universe.  We do not always understand what possible good it accomplishes or how it fits within God's will to have particular individuals elected to office, particularly given the stated position of some that do not reflect Christian values.  Submitted for your consideration this day are two things about which to think.  First, consider that God always intended to be (and ultimately is) the government of all mankind.  The initial rebellion and rejection of this authority occurred in the Garden of Eden and later, among the then chosen people of God, at the choosing of an earthly king.  Second, God has provided for us His own values and directed us to live, move, breath, think and make choices based on them.  Difficulty occurs when godly people are swayed by godless society to begin adopting stances that are ungodly and begin making choices that reflect this shift.  Two obvious examples are the choosing of leaders that have legislated prayer right out of schools and the appointment of a judiciary that have upheld laws that do not value the sanctity of God given life.

Why does God allow these things to be?  It is because He gave each of us free will.  Some freely choose his ways while others do not.  How does this impact His sovereignty regarding leaders among men?  It does not.  Our choices have never impacted his sovereignty in any way.  Having foreknowledge of all things, God ultimately uses all things to His own glory and through all things ultimate good is accomplished for all those that love Him and are the called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28), though we may not be able to fully understand or even see that purpose in the present.

On this day after a historic election (and they are all historic in one way or another), let us not focus on the winners and losers.  Let us focus on the word, will and way of God.  Let us be comforted in knowing that he remains in charge whatever our choice or that of the citizenry at large.  Let us as Christians reexamine and reflect on his values and the choices we make as a nation and as individuals regarding them.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Monday, November 5, 2012

Wake Up! 11/5/2012

"These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead." Revelation 3:1 

Early in the book of Revelation, the Lord writes letters to seven congregations.  Interpretations of these letters range from them being specific messages to specific and actual churches to being metaphors of the state of "the church" through the ages.  Without regard to where one stands on this and many other controversial issues involving Revelation, there is still a word from God to be heard by each of us.

In the case of the letter to the church at Sardis, the Lord has an indictment.  It is stated that the church enjoys a reputation for things that are no longer the case.  In short, he describes them as being dead.  Of course there would be no need to write a letter to those who are not alive to read it.  What is meant is that the "life" has gone out of their worship and their relationship with God.  Whereas they were once known for the fire and passion associated with Christian living, there is no longer anything observable that can substantiate this image.

Beloved, we must not only be aware of this pitfall in our congregational life, we must be aware of it in our personal lives.  Reflections of our individuality can be seen in our corporate settings.  Each must consider what is being done or what is failing that would cause the Lord to describe us as being dead.  Are we attending worship regularly?  Our we studying the word daily?  Are we giving like we should?  Are we putting others before ourselves?  Are we sharing the gospel with the people we meet? We then must look at our congregation and make the same evaluation. 

Jesus has given us a twofold solution to this critical problem.  First he says, "Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God" (v. 2).  As long as we have life, we are not dead yet, however, the first step in correcting a problem is to recognize it.  Waking up involves a sincere and honest self assessment.  Secondly he says, "Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent" (v. 3).  We must be willing to turn from our "dead" ways, remind ourselves both of what God had done for us and requires of us and get to work.  If we our successful, the Lord has promised that he will never blot out our names from the book of life and will acknowledge our names before God and the heavenly host.

Wake up!

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Friday, November 2, 2012

How is Your Portfolio? 11/2/2012 (rp)

"By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward." Heb 11:24-26

There are many who look at the Christian life as one of restriction and denial of many things to which all people are entitled. As times continue to advance, it seems that society allows more and more of the things that are counter to the teaching of Christ and to the very commands of God. Of course these things are not new. There has been sin and debauchery virtually since the creation of man. The enjoyment of these things creates a natural division between those who are endeavoring to live according to God's word and those who are not.

The focus today is not on those who are not, but those who are. Paul said in 1Cor 6:12 that all things were lawful to him but not expedient (profitable). We all have the ability and the right to go out and do whatever we want but would things contrary to leading godly lives be profitable? I submit to you that they in fact could be extremely costly.

As a member of Pharaoh's household, Moses might have enjoyed a life filled with luxury, wealth and the satisfaction of the slightest whim throughout all the days of his life. He clearly realized that compared with eternity, the pleasures of this world are insignificant. He was willing to invest in the Lord and His guarantees of the ultimate return. How is your spiritual portfolio?

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Power Over Your Life 11/1/2012

"Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult."  Prov 12:16 (NIV)

Have you ever noticed how quick we can be to respond to an offense?  Why do you suppose that is?  Clearly no on desires to be badly treated, insulted, taken advantage of or abused, however, we must consider our response to these inevitable occurrences.

It is important to determine how much power we give other people over our lives.  If you are having a great day and someone even offhandedly says the "wrong" thing to you and your day goes into a nose dive, you have relinquished power over your life.  Consider Jesus.  Immediately after what could arguably be considered his best day (the day of his baptism and identification by God as his own), he went into the wilderness and was tempted by Satan.  Despite all Satan tried to do, Jesus simply replied with the word of God and more importantly, resisted.  On arguably his worst day (the day of his crucifixion), he withstood insult, beatings, false accusations, being spat upon and the rest of the well documented horror associated with the day, yet he said not a word and humbled himself at the cross.

Beloved, this was within Jesus' ability to accomplish because of one simple fact.  This fact is born out throughout his life and is demonstrated at many times and many ways, but perhaps most when he voluntarily lowered himself to perform a task of the lowest of the low slaves and washed his disciple's feet.  Of this occasion, Scriptures says of him, "Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God" John 13:3.  In other words, he knew who he was in God and that he was destined to return to his rightful place at God's right hand. 

We should be similarly motivated when the world does not treat us well.  We are God's own and we are destined to be with Him throughout eternity.  With this perspective, we can stand any temporary and relatively meaningless insult or offence because we know whose we are and who we are in Him.  With this knowledge, we can maintain Holy Spirit derived power over our own lives and reactions rather than giving it away to those who would abuse it.

Rejoicing in the Lord


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Acting Childish 10/30/2012

"But Jesus called for them, saying, 'Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.'"  Luke 18:16-17

By this time, Jesus had become quite famous.  Everywhere he went he attracted both detractors and the hopeful.  In this case, worried and distraught parents were bringing their children to him to be blessed and healed.  Unfortunately, it was Jesus' own disciples that took on the role of security guards (rather than facilitators) when they began to rebuke the parents for presumably wasting the Savior's time.  Jesus used this opportunity as an object lesson for all.

Children are so wide eyed as they experience the world.  There's is a faith that is so fundamental that they are not even aware of alternative explanations or perspectives.  Their entire point of view is a combination of their own experience and what they have been told by loving parents.  Based on these two things, they just accept.  Watch small children as they interact with others like themselves on the playground or in the play room and you will see love and sharing.  It is also at this stage of life when they are the most obedient and have not yet learned to talk back or premeditatedly misbehave.  And finally, they are completely dependent upon their parents for everything from the basics of food, water, clothing and shelter to education, health care, affection and love.  It is all a little one needs.

Beloved, when Jesus mentions receiving the kingdom of God like a child, he is talking about nothing less than these things.  As adults and followers of Christ, we must shed our rebellion and faithlessness and understand that he provides for every one of our needs.  We must love the Lord with the nearly blind faith and absoluteness of a child.  All other alternatives must seem otherworldly.  To do less than this endangers our ability to gain the heaven we all seek.  If there is any area in which a grown, hard working, responsible adult should be childish, this is most certainly it.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Monday, October 29, 2012

The Best Predictor of Future Performance 10/29/2012 (rp)

"Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying." Matt 28:5-6

One of the many responsibilities of human resources professionals is to evaluate candidates for potential employment. This is a critical task in every business. The HR professional must evaluate a previously unknown individual to determine whether they would be an asset or a liability to the company. One of the most important tools used to accomplish this is known as behavioral interviewing. The theory behind this practice is, "The best predictor of future performance is past performance."

Beloved, we play the role of HR professional in our lives every day. The only reason we get on planes is because we've seen them take off and more importantly, land safely. We eat at restaurants where we do not actually see our food being prepared, because of the health department rating in every window. We believe in Jesus because he did what he said he would.

Jesus frequently told his disciples that he would give up his life but that he would take it up again. Though they did not fully understand it at the time (and Thomas not believing it all until he saw the ressurected Savior), they continued to follow him. They had seen him heal the sick, feed the hungry, minister to those in need, withstand hypocritical authorities and perform miracles never before seen. His performance lead to the establishment of their faith. They believed him so much that they completely changed their lives and began to live for him.

Jesus has said, "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also." John 14:2-3. On those rare occasions when your faith may get a little shaky, remember his past performance and look forward to his future performance. Jesus will do just what he said he would just as he always has.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Friday, October 26, 2012

Upgrade 10/26/2012 (rp)

"For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven." 2 Cor 5:1-2

It is no secret to any of us that we are but mortals. None of us in our current form will live forever. In fact, death is as much a part of life as living is. Though we experience fear, mourning, despair and sorrow at the thought of passing from this life, we also know that it is necessary in order to gain the next. The interesting thing is that as much as we may fear leaving this life, so many of us are dissatisfied with it.

Beloved, Jesus has told us that he has gone to prepare a place for us. Paul has informed us that the "perishable must put on the imperishable" in order to gain heaven. These two facts alone should fill us with confidence that where we are now is not where we will ultimately be. Though we were placed on this earth for a time and given things we must accomplish in the service of the Lord, this life is nowhere near what is ultimately meant for the Christian.

Let us remember that these fallible bodies, subject to all kinds of defects and breakdowns are temporary vessels to one day be replaced with perfect ones. The pains of this world will not last always. Let us remember that this fallible existence full of all kinds of discomforts, temptations and unwholesome desires will be replaced by the presence of the Father. Let us look forward to an upgrade that is out of this world.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Forgiven!! 10/25/2012

"There sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.  And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary." Heb 10:17-18

If we were to think about our needs and think beyond those things pertaining to the body such as food, air, water and shelter, we would sooner or later get around to our critical need for forgiveness.  Once we become aware that God exists and that He has expectations for us and once we realize that we operate outside of those expectations, we realize that we need forgiveness.  Once we fall in love with Him and realize He loved us since before we existed, we realize that we need forgiveness.  Once we realize that there are benefits for obedience and consequences for a lack of obedience, we realize that we need forgiveness.

In ancient times, this realization existed among the Hebrews.  Once understood, they obeyed God by sacrificing bulls, goats and birds to mitigate their sin.  It is important to know that full forgiveness was not yet available to them but simply rolled forward for them.  These practices were designed to pave the way for the coming and sacrificing of the Messiah, the only Sacrifice adequate enough to create the possibility of forgiveness.

Beloved, the amazing news is that Jesus the Messiah did come and did provide the ultimate sacrifice.  In so doing, he did away with the need to slaughter animals to mitigate our sins.  His one time sacrifice was perfect for all time and covers all who avail themselves of it by giving Christ headship over their lives.  When this is sincerely done through hearing the word, believing it, recognizing that we sin and repenting of it, confessing that Jesus is the son of God and our savior and being baptized for the remission of those sins, we do indeed receive forgiveness of those sins and become members of God's family. Once done, forgiveness becomes perpetual as long as we continue to pursue godly lives.  What blessed peace there is in knowing that our greatest need has been provided for by our heavenly Father.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Monday, October 22, 2012

Good News and Better News 10/22/2012

"So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him." Heb 9:28 (NIV)

It is difficult for any human being to look upon Jesus' suffering on the cross as good news.  The gospel account is actually quite horrifying and humiliating.  Nevertheless, without it, humanity would be doomed to an an irreversible destruction. It is only because of our Savior's great sacrifice that we can be reconciled to the God who made us.

The one thing that mitigates the sorrowful treatment of God's son is the fact that he took up his life again.  With resurrection power, he arose and walked out of his borrowed tomb to verify the truth of his words and spread the good news of their meaning.  Having completed his work on earth, he returned to the heaven from which he came and now sits on the right hand of God.

Beloved, all of this is as if a cure has been discovered for a terrible disease to which we are all subject.  The goodness of the news does not reach its zenith until we are ourselves inoculated.  This will take place when the same Savior who rose into the clouds comes back in those clouds and reaps the harvest of all he has planted on earth.  That is when good news will get even better.

Let us be sure that we are part of that harvest.  Though he will return for those who are waiting for him, remember that we must be prepared in our waiting.  As the wise virgins had their lamps filled with oil, ready for the bridegroom to arrive despite not knowing the hour, we too must have our lives in order.  Only then we will be able to take advantage of the best news possible: the announcement that it is time to go home.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Friday, October 19, 2012

Who is Jesus? 10/19/2012

"And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high." Heb 1:3

Most who call upon the name of Christ have a working knowledge of who he is. We understand what he has done and is doing for us, that he loves us and that we should love and obey him. But do we ever go beyond those surface facts. Scripture reveals some very powerful truths about our Savior.

It is important to know that Jesus is God in the flesh. There are many scriptures that bear out this critical fact. One well known example can be found in Phi 2:5-8. You are encouraged to examine this for yourself. This means that Jesus was not and is not just a "good man," "an excellent teacher," or a "wise prophet."

Jesus is God the Son and is able to, as the scripture says, uphold all things by the word of His power." For further insight into what this means, read John 1:1-3. Once this has been done, journey to verse 14 of the same book and chapter to understand who wields this power and to know that our Savior is indeed King of Kings who loved us enough to put on flesh and live among us.

Understanding these things, we must then become convinced that only his death could pay the price of our sin. The sacrificing of animals and agricultural products could never do. The death of any other person, no matter how righteous would accomplish nothing for him or herself nor the human race. Only God could accomplish such a thing. And now, his earthly work done, he has returned to the heaven which he left for us, and is preparing a place for us to be there with him.

Beloved let us always keep in mind that Jesus is not just a slogan, an idea, a historical figure or a quaint notion. He is the Master of the universe and the personal savior of all who call upon him.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Thursday, October 18, 2012

GPS 10/18/2012 (rp)

"And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

We live in a choice driven world. Everyone seems to want to either blaze their own trail and go their own way or chose from a plethora of trails to get to a common destination. We seek to distinguish ourselves by being different than the next person. For this reason standards become diluted. Whereas this human trait may be responsible for many of the advances we have achieved, when it comes to salvation, there has only ever been one way.

Beloved, Jesus is the doorway through which we must enter in order to gain our heavenly home. He emphatically states in Jn 14:6, "I am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the Father except through me." Though we change, the Way does not. The Hebrew writer offers, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." The standard has been established and is accessible to everyone who chooses to follow Him. Many will espouse different ways to reach paradise but make no mistake, the only road map, established by God, gives one route and one route only. Let us follow the ultimate GPS (God Positioning System) and share the directions with others.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Works Do Not Save 10/16/2012 (rp)

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." Eph 2:8-9

For those who know me personally, you are aware that I am currently pursuing a Masters of Arts in Religion with an emphasis in Biblical Studies. With all of my other responsibilities, you might correctly imagine that it is very demanding. So if you see a tad bit of inconsistency in timing and delivery or an an unusual amount of reposts, prayerfully you will understand why. I give praise to God, however, that I am learning something new every day. Some of that learning is shared with you through this and other forums.  Thankfully, I am very near the finish line.

Having said all of that beloved, I thought I'd share with you a not untypical assignment from a course on apologetics. My classmates and I were asked to discuss the relationship between works and salvation from an apologists (evangelistic) point of view.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


If works do not provide salvation, then what role do they play in the Christian life?

Most individuals are taught from an early age that in order to obtain a desired thing, status or way of life, it must be earned through work. After the fall in the Garden of Eden, God established the necessity to work, even to eat, when He said to Adam, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground.”[1] The desire of the eye, the needs of the body, and the demands of the ego are not to be confused with the way to salvation. Despite the fact that some teach that salvation is to be earned through works, no works can be done that can accomplish what Jesus has already done, however works can and should be done because of salvation and these will be rewarded on earth and in heaven.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses boast a membership of over six and a half million.[2] Each of these individuals have been taught that, “Door-to-door witnessing, conducting Bible ‘studies’ and remaining obedient to the ‘faithful and discreet servants’ (leadership of the Watchtower) are all necessary for salvation.”[3] The Jehovah’s Witnesses are just one example of a salvation by works theology. An examination of the scriptures reveals this type of doctrine to be false.

It is only through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus the Christ that salvation can be obtained. Romans 5:8-9 reveals that it was Christ’s death that provides us with justification and salvation from the wrath of God. Further, Paul writes, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”[4] Isaiah presses the point of the uselessness of righteous acts by stating, all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.”[5] Scripture frequently points out that salvation cannot be earned by human effort but only through that which Jesus accomplished on our behalf.

Though works themselves do not save, works can and should be pursued because of salvation. Paul wrote to the saved Christians at Philippi with instructions to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purposes.” The Greek word for “work out” (katergazomai) means to fashion or render one fit for a thing. In essence, Paul, in his letter to the congregation is telling them that while he is gone, they are to continue doing the things that God has placed in them as His children that He may be pleased and that they may be an example. This would help them live up to the salvation which they had already received.

Although works do not save, there is a beneficial earthly and heavenly reward that can be obtained through them. Timothy was told to, “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasures for themselves as a firm foundation for that coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”[6] By doing good works, Christians not only obtain the good feeling of helping others, they also add to their promised reward. The point is further made in Eph 6:7-8 when Paul writes, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.”

There is certainly a value to doing good works; however, salvation is not the result of them. An everlasting existence with the Father is only available through the atoning work of Jesus, but works should be pursued because of salvation, as well as the earthly and heavenly benefit. The human psychology of earning what a person gets is admirable. This is also a biblical teaching in that it is written, “if any would not work, neither should he eat.”[7] This doctrine does not, however, extend to salvation. To teach that it does devalues the life, teaching, death, burial and resurrection of the son of God.


Hindson, Ed, and Ergun Caner, eds. The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Horton, David, ed. The Portable Seminary. Grand Rapids: Bethany House, 2006.


[1] Gen 3:19 (NIV).

[2]David Horton, ed., The Portable Seminary (Grand Rapids: Bethany House, 2006), 419.

[3]Ed Hindson and Ergun Caner, eds., The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2008), 292.

[4]Titus 3:5.

[5]Isa 64:6.

[6]1 Tim 6:18-19.

[7]2 Thes 3:10.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Maturing in the Faith 10/9/2012

"And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." Phi 1:9-11

Are you still believing and doing the same things you did yesterday? Do you still think what you thought a year or two or five ago? Are you still running with the same crowd and getting into the same stuff you always did? These may be strange questions to ask the Christian because a "yes" to any or all of them could be a good thing. In fact, a "yes" could also be a bad thing. A "yes" means that there may have been no growth in your spiritual life.

Paul first tells the church at Philipi that he prays for their growth in knowledge and discernment. The only way that we can acquire more knowledge is to seek it by studying our bibles, attending classes and worship services and surrounding ourselves with the spiritually mature. This will in turn give us a greater ability to know how to recognize and navigate around stumbling blocks that could trip us up. This discernment will also give us the ability to gravitate toward that which is godly and to make wise choices concerning our opinions, activities, habits and relationships that will reflect his presence in our lives. Achieving this (which is a constant process), we can be fully prepared for the return of our savior and please God in the process.

Beloved, it is not enough to sit on the pew on Sunday and simply nod at all the things the preacher says with which we agree. It is imperative to pursue a personal relationship with the Lord and to grow that relationship every day. In so doing, we prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God, Rom 12:2.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Monday, October 8, 2012

The Outer Expression of Inner Truth 10/8/2012

"If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit." Gal 5:25

One of the hottest singing groups in the 80's was a duo called Milli Vanilli. Their first album went 6 times platinum and they won a Grammy that year for Best New Artist. The only problem was that the members of the group were not the actual singers. This was discovered during a concert at which the recording jammed and continued to play the same line over and over. The duo continued to lip sync for a while but ultimately ran off stage in humiliation. It was the scandal of the decade in the music industry.

Beloved, as Christians, it is critical that our Christian faith not be just a profession but a heartfelt Spirit filled lifestyle. Otherwise put, our video must always match our audio. To proclaim a relationship with the living God but live a life that is outside of His will and way is hypocrisy that does not fool God at all despite the fact that others may be influenced and enamored by what they see.

More important than what others think is being honest with one's self. Paul affirms that if we "walk in the Spirit, we will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want" Gal 5:16-17.

In short, if we claim to be children of God, let it be true on the inside and shown on the outside in both word and deed.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Friday, October 5, 2012

Watch Your Mouth 10/5/2012

"But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matt 12:36-37

Most of it find it entertaining, telling or even tragic when one of our political leaders is caught saying something we would not normally associate with them near an open microphone. Many have been embarrassed by such utterances and find themselves having to spend a lot of time spinning the statement or doing damage control. The truth is, once something has been said, it can never be unsaid.

It is not just those who are in the public eye that are subject to these dangers; in fact, we all are. It is important that Christians know and understand that God is omniscient and omnipresent. "And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do" Heb 4:13. In short, God sees and hears everything.

Beloved we must be thoughtful about the things we choose to say. It is not nearly as much of the purposeful things we say as the idle ones that indicate our character. Have you ever been walking down the street, seen some one poorly dressed or in a diminished state of hygiene and said something derogatory about them to a companion? Are you critical of and vocal about others who may not agree with you? Do you engage in gossip? These words ultimately condemn the speaker rather than the object of them. Paul said, "Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person" Col 4:6. We are children of God and ambassadors of heaven. Every word that proceeds from our mouths should reflect this.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Will You Be Healed? 10/4/2012

"When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, 'Do you wish to get well?' The sick man answered Him, 'Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.'” John 5:6-7

Jesus comes upon a desperate man who had been suffering for thirty eight years. What must have been maddeningly and tragically frustrating is that he was in close proximity to a cure but it might just have been a million miles away. Scripture states that there was a pool in a place called Bethesda that an angel would visit from time to time and disturb the water. The first person into the water would be healed. The Great Physician asks if he desires to get better and the man begins to explain the situation. Some might otherwise term this "making excuses."

Beloved, Jesus asks us that same question today; "do you wish to get well?" Do you wish to be freed from the slavery of sin? Do you wish to have peace in a world full of turmoil? Do you wish to stop the aching in your soul that comes from a lack of connection with your Maker? Do you wish to be free of that which corrupts? Do you wish to be made whole spiritually? When considering these questions, too often we begin to explain the situation. We tell the Lord we are not good enough, not ready, unable or that we do not know how. These are all excuses. Jesus is not taking a survey, he is offering healing. All that it is necessary to do is to say yes. He is making a house call. We just need to let him in.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Admitting When You Are Wrong 10/3/2012

"Then the men became extremely frightened and they said to him, " How could you do this?" For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. So they said to him, "What should we do to you that the sea may become calm for us?" — for the sea was becoming increasingly stormy. He said to them, "Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you." Jonah 1:10-12

Have you ever been dead wrong and known it? Of course this is a rhetorical question. We all have at some point in our lives and this has surely happened multiple times. The real question is about how we handle it. For many, the automatic response is to continue to bull our way through and stand on our manufactured correctness no matter what. It must be asked what this accomplishes. Among the answers are estrangement, deterioration of trust and credibility, damaging of relationships, ostracisation and being labeled a liar.

Suppose instead that we humble ourselves and admit our error? We are all human and subject to the same mistakes. 1 Cor 10:13 reveals to us that "no temptation has overtaken us except that which is common to man." None of us are busy creating new ways to be wrong. Character and integrity, however, are revealed in how we handle the realization that we are outside of where we need to be.

Beloved, Johan knew that he was wrong. Seeing the affect of his actions on others, he immediately owned the problem by identifying himself and explaining that he was to blame. Further, he accepted responsibility by instructing his shipmates to throw him overboard and let God deal with him. In so doing, he confined punishment to where it belonged, upon himself. He caused the lives of the innocent to be spared. He gave them information that influenced them to worship God. And he ultimately received forgiveness for the mistake that he made.

Let us always pursue the freedom that accompanies truth by acknowledging our errors, admitting our fault and taking responsibility for our actions. God blesses these humble acts with forgiveness. We may similarly find that our neighbors will too.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Monday, October 1, 2012

A Little Help From Our Friends 10/1/2012 (rp)

"My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." James 5:19-20

The Beatles are famous for penning a lyric that states, "I get by with a little help from my friends." This points to the fact that none of us exists on an island or in a bubble. By necessity, we interact with and depend on one another. This is true of people that we know as well as those with whom we may not be acquainted. In Christian relationships, the importance of this increases exponentially. Why? Because we are talking about nothing less than our relationship with God and our eternal souls.

Beloved, God placed us in each other's lives for a reason. As siblings, we are to be a family. As His family, we are to care for one another in as near an approximation as we can to how He cares for us. We need to both celebrate and sorrow with one another. We need to fellowship in the glow of having Jesus in common. We need encourage one another. And sometimes we need to save each other.

Like the lost sheep that has wondered away from the flock, Christian family members sometimes go astray. It is at times like these when a little help is needed. Gal 6:1 famously says that "If a man be overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness." In so doing, we prevent one who has been won from being lost again. Not only is it important that we provide this loving and compassionate service to our brothers and sisters but we truly need to count on the same from them if and when we find ourselves going a bit astray.

When we realize that any of us at any time is subject to losing our grip on constantly living a godly life, a little help from our friends is more valuable than gold and is as critical as breathing. Once restored to the fold, we can pick up the Beatles' next bit of wisdom, "I'm gonna try with a little help from my friends."

Rejoicing in the Lord,

Friday, September 28, 2012

Your "Golden" Calf 9/28/2012

"Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, "Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him." Ex 32:1

As Christians, we have the potential to become distracted and to develop spiritual amnesia more quickly than we think. We can be bull headed, impatient and greedy. During the course of the 40 days Moses was on the mountain communing with God, the Hebrews evidently forgot the most amazing site every seen by anyone: the parting of the Red Sea. Because they were exposed to so many gods in Egypt, they were not satisfied with the one true and living God, but manufactured a facsimile of Him made of gold and credited it with their deliverance.

Beloved, this tragedy still happens daily. Yahweh, the sustainer of our souls and the source of our provision delivers us daily. However, if He does not perform according to our schedule or meet our momentary wants (vs. needs), we resort to other means and credit ourselves if and when it works out. As it was for the Hebrews, this continues to be a recipe for disaster. Any god that we must manufacture is no god at all, especially if it is ourselves. Trust in the one true God.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

It's Not About You 9/26/2012 (rp)

"And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.' "But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. "But he answered and said to his father, 'Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends;" Luke 15:27-29

You may recognize this interchange as what happens at the end of the story about the prodigal son. The larger context here is that Jesus' adversaries, the scribes and Pharisees, were grumbling against him for receiving and interacting with sinners. Jesus relates three stories featuring different views on recovering that which was lost. In this last rendering, he is specifically referring to the scribes and Pharisees in the person of the son who stayed.

Beloved so often we think of ourselves in situations that involve others. When we are learning lessons that will keep us on the path of righteousness, that is a good thing. When we are providing the lessons through our own failures, well, you get the point. The son in this story was focused on the wrong thing. Though his younger brother displayed incredibly bad judgment, he was returned to the family. His return should have elicited joy. Not only was his flesh and blood sibling with whom he had grown up safe, sound and home, the "loyal" son's standing was not in any way affected. He was more concerned about a party than the weightier matter of a family reunion.

This story was a message to Jesus' adversaries. By entertaining sinners, Jesus was doing what he came to do. He was seeking and saving the lost. In this case, the sinners in question were not Gentiles, but members of the house of Israel. Whereas the scribes and Pharisees should have been rejoicing at the possibility of their brethren being saved (something they should have been pursuing themselves), they were focused on maintaining their own standing and being critical of Jesus, the one whose sacrifice would make salvation possible for even them. Let us learn from their mistakes. Sometimes, it's just not about us.

Loving Like Jesus,