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,