Monday, April 30, 2012

The Invincible Love of God-4/30/2012

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom 8:38-39

Think about the quality of human love. It can be compassionate, caring, giving, self-sacrificing, emotional and much, much more. But it can also be tragically temporary, conditional and even false. Many of us have endured profound hurts because of the sometimes unreliability of human love. There is a love, however, that is perfect.

Consider the love parents have for their newborn child. The child has done nothing to deserve such love. In fact the child has done nothing at all, yet the entirety of the parent's life becomes oriented to that child. A nursery is built, the home is made safe, resources are expended to provide appropriate clothing and food and needs are met 24 hours a day. As the child advances into the infant and toddler stages, they begin to discover the world for themselves and sometimes begin doing unlovable things, yet the parents continue to love them with their whole hearts.

Beloved this is the way that God loves us. We are His children, made in His own image. He blew His own breath into us that we may have life. Those who accept this love are infused with holiness and righteousness that we do not innately possess in and of ourselves (justification). This gives us an unbreakable bond with our heavenly Father. It is a love from which we can never be separated.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Friday, April 27, 2012

Obeying the Law-4/27/2012

"Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men." Titus 3:1-2

I once said in a sermon (with tongue firmly planted in cheek), "Christians do not need radar detectors." The statment was designed to use humor to make the serious point that we of all people should obey the law. The Lord is quite specific in His commands about this issue. The Holy Spirit inspired Peter to provide the "what" and the "why" by writing, "Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men," 1 Peter 2:13-15. Believe it or not, this sentiment even includes obeying the speed limit.

Beloved, many of us focus on what we consider spiritual laws, commands and ordinances but do not link them to the human law. I submit to you that they are an extension of His requirements of us. Romans 13 tells us that our civic and political leaders are ordained by Him (no matter whether we agree with a particular person's politics or not) and referred to as His ministers. As unpopular as it may be, it even says that we should pay our taxes (vs. 6-7). By this, God is telling us to be good citizens of the earth. As U.S. ambassadors are expected to observe the laws of the countries in which they represent us, we as ambassadors of heaven are expected to observe the laws of the land. Ultimately, God is Lord of all and we, His childre, should be the first to obey.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Of God or Men?-4/25/2012

"For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ." Gal 1:10

How much of our daily lives are driven by what other people think? Does it affect what we wear, where we go, who we associate with or what we say? What affect does it have on our Christian lives (which should be indistinguishable from our "daily lives")?

The apostle Paul is making the case that there are those in the Galatian church who have turned away from the true gospel he shared with them in favor of a corrupted gospel shared with them by others with questionable motives. They were called Judaizers and they taught that it was necessary to commit to Jewish custom and law to become a Christian. These same people are the ones who caused Peter to turn away from eating with Gentiles with whom he was sharing the gospel because he did not want to be known for associating with them. Paul publicly chastised him for this behavior because he was more interested in pleasing certain people than in doing the work of the Lord.

Beloved, the gospel message and the Christian life it espouses is not going to be popular with everyone. There are those who look with derision on people of faith. This can be a challenging thing for those who are not yet strong in their faith. So called friends and associates attempt to lead them back into the darkness from which they were saved. Even those who are strong in the faith can be subject to pleasing man rather than God. We must remain ever vigilant in setting the example of godliness rather than following the example of ungodliness. To do anything less would mean that we would "not be a bond-servant of Christ."

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Benefits of Godly Living-4/24/2012 (rp)

"When a man's ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him." Prov 16:7

When we think about the distinguishing characteristics of the faith to which we are called, we must surely realize the transformative effects it has on lives truly immersed in it.

First, we become more loving. Love in its most important aspects involve action. Its expression is manifest in the eyes of all who both participate in it and observe it. Love causes us to think less and less of ourselves and more and more of others. We give when we used to hold. We seek when we used to hide. We sacrifice when we used to gather for ourselves.

Then, we live our lives according to the will of One greater than us all. God has given us His commands and laws and they are not burdensome. When we live our lives according to the godly code and are obedient to those things He requires, we have order, protection (from internal and external threats), provision and peace. With this comes, among other things, morality and an understanding of right and wrong.

Finally, we are blessed with optimism and the ability to rise above our circumstances because of our long term view. Our God has promised us an eternity with Him. Believing this deeply within our hearts gives us an indescribable hope and resilience in the face of trials and tribulations. We know that whatever the circumstance, things will be greater later.

Beloved, when we embody these and many other beneficial qualities of being a child of God, there is little for anyone to hate and so much to love. The light of the Lord can be seen in our lives and this light calls to those who are trapped in darkness. The benefit of living lives pleasing to the Lord is the expansion of the body, even as it was when your addition accomplished this.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Monday, April 23, 2012

Living in Denial-4/23/2012

"Jesus said to him, 'Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.' Peter said to Him, 'Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.' All the disciples said the same thing too." Matt 26:34-35

Peter's denial of Jesus is one of the most sobering and tragic narratives in the New Testament Scriptures. The argument could easily be made that Peter was the Lord's closest companion and most staunch supporter. He was always one who seemed to take the lead among the apostles, the one whose faith allowed him to walk on water and the one who used violence to defend him in the Garden of Gethsemane. How then could it be that he would be the one whose denial is graphically documented for all time?

Beloved a better question is "Have I denied Jesus?" Our knee jerk reaction is "No!" We may, however, need to rest our knees and give the question some serious thought. Denials can take many forms. Have you ever taken a position contrary to what the bible teaches? Have you ever said or done anything that is counter to your faith. Have you failed to stand up for what you know is right or looked the other way when you saw someone in obvious need? Do your friends know you as one person and your church family knows you as another? Peter is certainly the poster child for such denial, but all of the other apostles made the same claim of fidelity and each of them, except John, abandoned him in his greatest our of need.

In truth, none of us are exempt from this great sin. Despite our occasional lack of faith, it is important to know that we serve a loving and forgiving Lord. Peter was famously restored to fellowship and standing among the apostles when Jesus asked him three times, "Do you love me?" His answer was in the affirmative then Jesus said, "Follow me."

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Loving God-4/19/2012

"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." Matt 22:37

We tend to use the word "love" in a lot of different ways and we apply it to a lot of different things. C. S. Lewis wrote that there are four different types of love: storge (a fondness due to familiarity, especially for family), phillia (that which is associated with strong friendships), eros (romantic emotions) and agape (unconditional, also known as the greatest love). There may not even be a word for the type of love we assign to objects, foods, songs, books, movies, places and instances ("I love it when a plan comes together").

There is no need to be coy about which of these applies to God's love for us or which of these the savior uses in this command. 1 John 4:8 tells us that God is love. He is the very embodiment, the very concept and that love is absolutely unconditional.

Beloved it is not a matter of whether we should love God. It is a matter of how. We should be consumed with it. It should be our essence. It should permeate every fiber of our being, every hope, every dream and every thought. We should pursue it mentally, emotionally and energetically. Our love for Him should never be relegated to a paper thin surface acknowledgement. It should resonate deep in our souls and govern everything we say, think and do. It should exceed the greatest love we have ever had for a human, be it parent, spouse, child or friend, in ways that stretch the bounds of imagination. As God is love, we should be love for Him.

God loved us so much that even as unrepentant sinners, He gave the life of His Only Begotten that we might have life we forfeited long ago. How do you live your love for Him?

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wake Up!-4/18/2012 (rp)

"Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." Matt 26:41

Famously, Jesus is at his most emotionally tormented in the Garden of Gethsemane. The time of his Passion finally arriving, he took his closest friends with him to watch with him while he prayed. While he did so, however, his friends slipped into slumber. Since he had explained what he was about to do, they were aware of the significance of the time and desirous to support their Lord and friend but could not remain diligent.

Beloved we must examine our lives to determine whether we are sleeping when we should be watching. There are matters of great importance happening all around us. All that Jesus represents is under threat and we who are his own have been given a great charge. We must be awake to repel the influence of Satan. We must be awake to see that others are dying in their unrighteousness. We must be awake to protect each other from falling asleep. And we must be awake to avoid temptation.

In our innermost being, we are all willing, but the creature is subject to spiritual fatigue and eyelids are us made heavy by the lulling effect of pleasure driven living. We must be on guard against those things that would cause to be unconscious to the commands of our living Lord. He is depending on us to watch.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Living By Faith-4/17/2012

"Behold, as for the proud one,His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith." Hab 2:4

None of us are strangers to the word "faith." We have faith in something or someone. We "step out on faith." And of course we have faith in God. But are we strangers to what faith means? More to the point, do we understand what it means to live by that faith?

Beloved, most simply put, faith is belief and the actions that are taken or avoided because of it. The 11th chapter of the book of Hebrews outlines some amazing things that people have done because of their faith in God and His promises. The question is, how is it manifested in our daily lives? How do we "live by faith?" To be sure, the answer to such questions could be a list that is as long as the day. Everything on that list, however, can be summed up in one thought: live every moment of your life as if God is physically with you every step of the way. How would that change what you think about? How would that change what you do, where you go, who you see and how you interact with others? What would you learn from spending time with God? How much of a better person would you be? What would happen to your love and your peace of mind?

The righteous live this way and already know the answers to these questions.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Friday, April 13, 2012

Warning vs. Timing-4/13/2012

"So they went into the ark to Noah, by twos of all flesh in which was the breath of life. Those that entered, male and female of all flesh, entered as God had commanded him; and the LORD closed it behind him." Gen 7:15-16

Most everyone is familiar with the famous story of Noah and the ark. It serves as a cautionary tale for several subjects including the wrath of God, the power of God, the mercy of God and even the tender heart of God. What moved my spirit today, however, are the warnings of God and the timing of God.

Theories range from 40 to 120 years between the time that God instructed Noah to begin building the ark and the time that the rains came. Noah, also referred to as a preacher, used this time to let his neighbors know what was to come. In the end, only Noah and his family were inside the ark when the door was shut by God Himself.

Beloved, as the people of Noah's time were warned, so are we. None should be surprised when the Lord comes. Yes He is to come as a thief in the night, but we are told in Matt 24:43-44 "But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will." As the saying goes, to be forewarned is to be fore armed.

Though we do not know the specific time, God has been gracious enough to warn us of the fact. Are we wise enough to be prepared?

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Thursday, April 12, 2012

God's Great Question-4/12/2012

"Thus says the LORD,'What injustice did your fathers find in Me,that they went far from Me and walked after emptiness and became empty?'" Jer 2:5

The prophet Jeremiah had been pressed into service by God to deliver a message to the people of God. It seems that they had gone widely astray by worshipping other gods, participating in immoral activities and refusing to be obedient to the covenant that was established.

Beloved, God's heartbreak is so obvious in this passage. He longs for us. He mourns for us. The passage comes across as both appealing to logic and emotion, asking in effect, "What did I do to cause you to reject me so?" As we run this Christian race, let us always keep in mind the loving tenderness of our Father. Let us always love Him enough to be obedient to His word for it is surely what is best for us. Though we may come up with reasons and excuses for doing things outside of His will, the heavy questions will always remain. Have I not provided for you? Did I not sacrifice my Son for you? Have I ever forsaken you?

Let us rededicate our lives to the one who supplied them every day.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Good Side-4/11/2012 (rp)

"Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Ps 139:23-24

It is human nature to put our best foot forward for examination while our worst foot lags behind attempting to remain unnoticed. While being photographed, we want to make sure our "good side" is captured and our blemished "other side" is kept from view. Who among us does not desire to be well thought of by all? We invest a lot of time and energy into managing our image in the minds of others. To be sure, that image rarely represents the whole of us but in fact just the parts that make us attractive both inwardly and outwardly in our own minds.

Contextually, this is David's appeal to God to vindicate him in the face of accusations by his enemies. Think of the 139th Psalm as an extended, "God is my witness." There is much to be learned from his thought process and prayer.

Beloved, aside from the face we wear in public, we should always live lives that withstand the scrutiny of God. None of us lives sinless lives, but God is a discerner of the heart and pure hearts are certainly within our grasp. Do we offer ourselves up to his scrutiny (even though He knows all) or do we constantly push more skeleton bones in the closet? Are our minds and hearts open to correction from God or do we accept only that which is convenient and consistent with our own desires? Do we seek His help to improve or do we make excuses for ourselves?

David understood that it is not about the temporal and sensual pleasures that can be derived from this life, but the glorious and everlasting promise of a life our limited minds cannot imagine. Nothing should hinder us from laying hold of an eternity with Him who made us.

Interestingly enough, a life lived in obedience to God will lead to our whole selves being our good side, both feet being our best feet and the need to in any way to obscure will give way to freedom from shame. Give it a try!

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Monday, April 9, 2012

Follow the Light-4/9/2012

"From Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." Psa 119:104-105

There are so many today who are lost within their own lives. A variety of decisions, circumstances and situations have put us all where we are but what next? We sometimes stumble around in darkness thinking we know the well worn path only to bump into an obstacle for which we did not account.

Beloved there is a light that shines brightly. That light provides guidance in the middle of the night, illumination in the middle of confusion and direction in the middle of uncertainty. It identifies obstacles and makes the way forward obvious. It is the word of God that shows us the way that we should go. Just as we would grab a flashlight in the nighttime wilderness or turn on a light in our home in the middle of the night, let us always avail ourselves of the brightness of His word to guide our every step.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Friday, April 6, 2012

The Ultimate Sacrifice 4/6/2012 (rp)

"At the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?' which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Mark 15:34

Jesus was anticipating his Passion when he began the true Lord's prayer (one he prayed himself) in John 17. He said, I glorified you on the earth, having accomplished the work which you have given me to do. And now, Father, glorify me with your own self with the glory which I had with You before the world was." This points to an idyllic existence in which God, in his plurality was self contained, self sufficient and complete. There was utter perfection because God was from eternity past, all that existed. Everything changed, however, when He decided to create. It was known that creation would need a Savior. Acts 2:23 refers to Jesus when he is spoken of as being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, that the wicked have crucified and killed him.

One can only imagine the conversation between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit when it was decided who would save man and by extension, all of creation. One can almost hear Jesus originating the words eons later credited to Isaiah, "Here am I Lord. Send me." And so he left unimaginable perfection and completeness with the Godhead (retaining his perfection), put on flesh and was incarnated on earth to be the sacrifice for man's great sin in the garden.

During this time, he walked with both man and God, teaching, feeding, healing and providing example for the one and loving, obeying, communicating with and representing the Other. Since time immemorial, however, he knew that he must, in his fleshly state, die. He loved his creation (John 1:3) so much that he was willing to commit his life for our salvation.

Beloved, what has become known to the world as the Easter season, the word in fact being a translation of Passover, is all about this sacrifice. Though we spend lots of time going along with the worldy traditions of "easter" eggs, chocolate bunnies, baskets of gifts and new clothing, we spend little time focusing on what this time is really all about. We were never commanded to observe his birth, but our salvation is found in his death, burial and resurrection. In fact, we celebrate the Lord's Supper every Lord's day by partaking of the bread representing his broken body and the fruit of the vine which represents the blood spilled on our behalf. We do this because our Deliverer said, "this do in remembrance of me."

Remember the idyllic perfection of our triune God's existence? When Jesus was brutally persecuted, beaten, ridiculed and hung on the cross, he willingly took on the sins of the entire world. These sins were all those ever committed, those being presently committed and those that would yet be committed. God, in His perfection, cannot be where sin is. It was necessary at that time, that He seperate Himself from that part of himself that was being sacrificed for sin. As terrible as the entire ordeal of Christ's Passion was, the absolute worst part of it all was this separation. For the first time in eternity, God the son was without God the Father. He was utterly alone, ashamed, unclean and the embodiment of sin. And then he died a painful, humiliating and brutal death at the hands of the very hands of all of us whom he came to save and be a part of the idyllic existence.

There is Good Friday for you.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Think and Thank-4/5/2012

"In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety." Ps 4:8

A couple of weeks ago I spoke on faith and used air travel as an example. The gist of it was that our belief is shown in our actions. As counterintuitive as it is to believe that something the size of an airplane can take off safely, fly safely and land safely, it can and we believe it, so we purchase tickets and go to airports.

Beloved, my faith is not in man or machines today, but God. I believe it was He who made sure that we landed safely after a 3000 mile flight, mostly across nothing but water. There was virtually no anxiety in that I slept most of the way, fully relying upon Him to take care of me. Even if it was not in his will to cause this to be so, my faith in Him gives me confidence that He will deliver me to a much better destination; one with an eternal address.

This same God does so much more than deliver every day miracles regarding air travel. He is involved in every breath, every bodily movement, every bite of food and every distance traveled whether across the room or across the globe. Today I have reason to both think and thank. How about you?

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Awesomeness of God-4/4/201

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Gen 1:1

As Michelle and I cast our eyes homeward from a wonderful time in Hawaii we are still awed by the things we have seen since we have been here. We have taken tours that have educated us about the broad diversity of cultures that exist in the family of God. We've met people from places of which we were scarecely aware that brothers and sisters in Christ: Tongans, Samoans, Hawaaiians, Fijians and those native to New Zealand. Each of them are different in their own way but the same in all the ways that matter the most. What a rich cultural experience!

We also were privileged to see some of the most beautiful places on earth. We were educated by knowledgable tour guides regarding the flora and fauna of the islands as well as how much of the life here came to be here. There were trees native to Africa, plants from other Polynesian islands and birds from South America. The first residents here truly lived off the land, God providing EVERYTHING that was needed.

Lastly, we spent yesterday in Volcano National Park. It is difficult to convey the awesome majesty of God's work here. We were above the clouds at 14,000 feet and had the opportunity to see the top of the world's tallest mountain (measured from base to peak), Mauna Kea. We were able to see both ancient and new lava flows as well as the currently erupting Kilauea. The locals say we were standing on some of the world's newest land. God is still creating.

Beloved, tourism aside, I was struck by the absolute expansiveness of God's work, be it in man, other living things or the very planet on which he has placed us. It has truly been a humbling and moving experience. It is difficult to put into words the things that have been seen. They really are indescribable. This morning I woke with even more perspective. Hawaii is just a small archipelego of islands 2500 miles from anywhere and we just visited parts of two. It is a tiny place in the grand scheme of things. That means that this is just the smallest thumbnail afterthought of a Creator who spoke this whole planet, solar system, galaxy, universe and the heavenly realm into existence! His work speaks for itself. You wil hear it if you listen.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


P.S. Feel free to follow me on Facebook if you would like to see some preliminary images. In coming days and weeks I will post the better ones on my website at

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Carpe Diem-4/3/2012

"This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it." Ps 118:24

Read by itself, one can hardly get the sense of the exuberance that fills Ps 118:24. Even a casual reading of the context reveals that the writer is celebrating the goodness of God. He revels in the loving kindness of the Lord. He gives thanks for the rescue the Lord has performed during times of distress. He trumpets God's protective nature and endorses Him over all others in whom we might otherwise place our trust. He even thanks God for his discipline because he knows (and anticipates) that salvation is found in Him.

Beloved, what is our outlook on the days of our lives? Are we consumed with its problems or are we thankful for its opportunities? Do we lament our lot in life, or do we praise God for that which we have? Do we focus on the earthly or cast our eyes heavenward?

We of all people, the privilege children of the Almighty have every reason to wake up each morning with a shout of triumph, not that we have accomplished anything, but that He has accomplished everything. Each day we are given a new opportunity to praise Him and enjoy his many bountiful blessings. Each day we anticipate the promised inheritance. Each day we are closer to seeing the Savior's face. Yes, this is THE day the Lord has made. Let us always remember to praise Him and to rejoice!

Rejoicing in the Lord,