Monday, December 15, 2014

Words To The Beloved- 2014

Dearest Beloved,

It brings me great pleasure to share with you that Words to the Beloved, the book whose parent is this very blog, has seen the first anniversary of its release. Over the past year I have received many correspondences from readers about the difference the book has made in their lives.  Some read it in their leisure while others followed the daily discipline with which it was written.  Either way, there are many reports of readers being educated, encouraged and edified.

Today I'm writing to issue a heartfelt thanks to those of you who have made the now four year journey with me and were the first and most fervent supporters of the fruit of this labor.  As you know, you were mentioned in the introduction.  I truly appreciate you and thank God for you.

I also want to remind you that Words to the Beloved continues to be available.  In this gift giving season, I humbly suggest it as a stocking stuffer or outright gift for family, friends, loved ones and those with whom you may be sharing the gospel.  It really is the gift that continues to give.  If you are interested in obtaining copies, they can be acquired at, and

I pray that it will be a blessing to your life and to the lives of those with whom you share it.



Here is the link to a few photos from the book release at the O'Fallon Church of Christ:!/lee.lewis.7509/media_set?set=a.10152077045104049.576434048&type=3

Monday, December 1, 2014

Handling the Little Things 12/1/2014

"He said, " Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God." Job 1:21-22

Most everyone is familiar with the story of Job. We seek or are referred to his story during times of duress and great tribulation. We are fascinated by the depth and breadth of his calamities. We are also fascinated by the grace and humility with which he faced them. He always kept God at the forefront. These thousands of years later, we still draw strength from his life.

This is presented not to give us inspiration to endure our lowest lows, but to cast in relief our smaller trials. Let us consider the things that send us off the deep end. We are subject to road rage in traffic. We often argue with the ones we love over trivialities. We are ready to feud if someone slights us socially. If the boss has a less than complementary word for us, it turns into a bad day for everyone with whom we come into contact. If our child has a disappointing showing on the field of play, we forget how proud we are to have them as flesh of our flesh.

Beloved, we spend an inordinate amount of our time majoring in minor. Let us not allow the smaller things to be blown out of proportion. To be sure, the significant accidents, diagnoses, employment situations, losses, etc., will come to us personally or to someone with whom we are close. Proportional reactions in those case would be able to be understood by anyone. Remember, however, the grace with which Job handled the worst incidents imaginable. Consider then, how would he have handled the smaller things.



Monday, November 24, 2014

Knowing and Doing Better 11/24/2014

"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

My mom used to say all of the time, "Son, when you know better, do better." At the time,the only thing I could take from that was that I had done something wrong. This was one of her gentler ways of letting me know that her expectations of me were higher than my performance. It was only with age and experience that I came to realize the import and the impact of what she was saying.

Beloved, God has a similar message for us today. There is not one who calls upon the name of Christ that does not know life before him and all that it entailed. The apostle Peter wrote, "For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries," 1 Pet 4:3. In other words, we have been there, done that, and some of us have bought the t-shirt. Now that we are children of God, we are called to a higher standard. We are called to this because we have become educated about who God is, what He provides and what He expects. There was so little benefit to the lives we were living previously. Now our path is set, our destination is sure and the benefit is out of this world.

Now that we know better, let us diligently pursue doing better and being better.



Monday, November 17, 2014

(Don't) Leave Us Alone 11/17/2014 (rp)

"Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, ' Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians'? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness." Exodus 14:12

After 430 years of crying out to God for relief from the brutality and imprisonment of slavery, in His own time and in His own way through His chosen agency, God responded by freeing His people from Pharaoh's grip. As it would happen, Pharaoh experienced a bit of a change of mind and famously came after them. It was in the midst of this perceived threat (and I say perceived because God was with them) that the Hebrews apparently changed their minds and decided that slavery was not so bad after all.

Human nature can be both amazingly wonderful and tragically flawed. We have the strength, intelligence and fortitude to go from building the pyramids to going to the moon, but often times lack simple patience and faith. How could it be that the people, after crying out to God for so long, lose sight of His chosen deliverer, the miracle of the plagues (particularly the last one), be allowed to leave with the plunder of all of Egypt and think that all estimated two million of them (or even one of them for that matter) would be destroyed in the midst of God's hand? It is fascinating that not only do we want to be delivered from our negative circumstances, but that we want it done in a particular time frame, by particular means, in a particular manner. Otherwise we throw up our hands and seek our own means or reconcile ourselves to our situations. In other words, we sometimes would rather enjoy the "luxuries" of slavery than the "inconveniences" of freedom.

Beloved, faith is believing and trusting God. It means that when we pray for deliverance, we leave the who, what, why and where to Him. And if we happen to look out the window and see a threat coming our way, let us look away from that threat and look back at God. He is in control and we are not. And if the day would ever come when we could determine the conditions and features of our own deliverance by dictating them to Him, who then would be God?

Consider this wise piece of advice: "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths" Proverbs 3:5-6 (KJV).



Monday, November 3, 2014

A God of Second Chances 11/3/2014 (rp)

"Then Samson called to the Lord and said, 'O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O God, that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.'” Judges 16:28

This simple passage of Scripture does not readily reveal the profound impact of repentance and the amazing forgiveness of God, but careful study of the story and the man, Samson, will leave the fervent seeker awestruck, humbled and grateful.

In those days, the people of Israel were in a wretched cycle of being blessed by God, turning their backs on Him in favor of other gods, being subjected by force to the whims of other nations, crying out to God for relief and being rescued by Him. On this particular occasion, the people had been under the subjugation of the Philistines for 40 years. God, in His infinite mercy, sent his angel to a woman and, among other things, instructed her that she would bear a son and that through him, Israel would begin to be "saved from the hands of the Philistines," Judges 13:5. This was the beginning of the story and purpose of Samson.

Now the rest of his story is well known. He was born a Nazirite (one who is particularly dedicated to God, typically by vow and the observance of certain habits and restrictions), grew in supernatural strength, became a judge of the people and famously fought and defeated the Philistines on numerous occasions. It is also well known that Samson was a very flawed man. He had habits and desires that were not in keeping with his calling. He frequently made mistakes in judgment and failed to comport himself at some critical times and was known to visit prostitutes. He is perhaps best known for his involvement with the treacherous Philistine woman, Delilah. It is to her that, despite proving herself unworthy of his trust on at least three occasions that might have resulted in his death, he reveals the secret of his strength resulting in the breaking of his Nazarite vow and the loss of his power.

Beloved, it is easy for us to sit in judgment of Samson. We ask ourselves how he could have been so stupid, thereby inferring that we could never be guilty of such transgression and lack of good decision making. But is that strictly true? Has not God created each of us for His own glory? Has he not instructed us in His ways and given us a mission to do battle with the enemy? Have we not been distracted by the perceived benefits of that same enemy and actually done business with him? In some ways, times and situations, we are all Samson.

That said, we serve the same God as Samson. When he had come to fully understand the error of his ways, he remembered his purpose, he remembered his God given ability and he remembered his God. Through His amazing love and forgiveness, God came to the aid of Samson, even as He had to the people of Israel through Samson, and strengthened him for his original intended purpose. God never forsakes us. It is we who leave Him. But just as the father of the prodigal son, He constantly awaits our return and receives us when we come. All praises to Him for being a God of second (and third and fourth and fifth...) chances.



Monday, October 27, 2014

The Ancient Path 10/27/2014

"Thus says the Lord, 'Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths,
Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls.'
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’"
Jeremiah 6:16

These days, it seems that humanity is moving at nearly the speed of light. There are technological advances announced just about every day. New developments in medicine, health, electronics, communication, transportation, business and education boggle the mind compared to what was available just 10-15 years ago. As a result, there is an increasing appetite for the newest and latest thing when it comes to just about everything we need and desire. Those who are first to the market with their offerings typically are greatly rewarded, which in turn speeds the cycle even faster.

This can cause the older among us to say "Whoa. Slow down." We become nostalgic for the simpler times and ways of yesteryear and wonder if the world has forgotten about the things that are really important like loving God, loving your neighbor, taking care of one another, hard work and being kind. We wonder what happened to morality, common sense and just trying to be the best people we can be.

Beloved, these are not new musings. In 626 BC, the prophet Jeremiah was called into service by God. He was charged with preaching and prophesying to the people of God regarding the dark future they were bringing upon themselves. It seems that the God's own were not satisfied with the tried, true and righteous, but instead ran to new and different "gods" and the pagan and idolatrous behaviors that accompanied their worship. These things were preferred by those who should have known better. For as many warnings that were delivered by many prophets, the people were more interested in the latest than they were in what was right and who had fed, freed and sustained them in the midst of all of their enemies.

As we look around today, we might see the same things that Jeremiah saw and lamented. Like Israel, we are being warned. Like Israel, we have a choice. Like Israel, God loves us and desires the ultimate good for us. There is nothing wrong with technology, new methods and new thinking, but we must use these things for good and continue to adhere to the same message. We must not allow ourselves to be carried off by pursuit of the new, bright and shiny things that only appear to be Light but lead ultimately to destruction. Instead, let us follow the ancient path. We know exactly where and to whom it leads.



Monday, October 20, 2014

Trusting God in the Worst Times 10/20/2014

"'And behold, a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people and they died, and I alone have escaped to tell you.' Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, 'Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.' Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God." Job 1:19-22

It is a fact of life that bad things happen to good people. There is no way around it. Our views, thoughts and how we handle such situations, however, vary widely. When more of the story is read, it is revealed that job lost the animals that represent his livelihood, his servants that represent his workforce, his sheep which represent his ability to feed and clothe himself, and his children. All of these things happened and were reported in rapid succession. It is difficult to imagine experiencing greater losses in worse ways than these. What is more difficult to imagine is his attitude.

When most would criticize and become angry at God, Job worshiped and praised Him. Astoundingly, he acknowledged that he was born with nothing, that God had given him all that he had and that God had the right to take it all away. Given human nature, this is the rarest of all possible responses to such calamity.

Beloved, achieving Job's attitude (at this particular point in time) must be the goal of all Christians. So often, we put ahead of God the blessings of employment, possessions, material goods and family that He has so graciously provided. When we become consumed by the acquisition, maintaining or loss of them, we are in effect exchanging the one true God for idols. This is not to say that we should not be great stewards of what we are given or that we should not mourn loss but that we should trust God completely and rely upon Him to keep us in and through all situations, be they favorable or not.

We know that Job would later wrestle a bit with the things that were happening when they got even worse, but he remained faithful, he kept his trust in God and was eventually restored in a way that multiplied his original position in life. It should further be stated that the reason these things happened is because God had faith in him. Can He have that kind of faith in us?



Monday, October 6, 2014

Childlike Faith 10/6/2014

"'Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.' And David said, 'The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.' And Saul said to David, 'Go, and may the Lord be with you.'” 1 Samuel 17:36-37

There is scarcely anyone who is unfamiliar with the famous story of David and Goliath. And though we are familiar with the larger lesson and the greater details, there are other noteworthy aspects of the story that bear amplification.

First, the army of Israel was absolutely immobilized in the face of a 9 ft. giant who taunted and harassed them every day for more than a month. The challenge involved having just two men fight rather than both full armies in a "winner take all" contest. No one but David, as it turns out, was willing to step up to the task.

Second, David was harshly criticized for his youthful exuberance. His own brother chastised him and accused him of both being arrogant and being a bit of a rubbernecker. He resisted these charges and continued to inquire about the situation and what was to be done for the person who could defeat the enemy.

Once commanded to appear by the king, who himself seemed to be immobilized, David was reminded that he was just a child and that Goliath had been a warrior from his youth. David responded by sharing his experiences with the king. He had killed both lion and bear using, among other things, his bare hands when they threatened him and his sheep. This he claimed to do through the power of God, indicating that he could not sit idly by and allow the insult to God or his people. He was also confident that this same God would protect him as he had done in the past.

Having convinced the king to allow him to go, he was supplied with armor and a sword but rejected them in favor of 5 smooth stones and a leather sling to fight the heavily armed giant.

Beloved, David was just a child but his absolute faith in God gave him strength and courage that was apparently available nowhere else in all of Israel. There are many lessons that can be learned from the faith of someone so young. We should know and believe that we will face adversaries and adverse situations that are bigger than we are but none that are bigger than God. We will endure discouragement from those who are cowering in fear instead of standing tall in the Lord. We will never be at a loss of those who will remind us of the impossibility of the task, particularly in view of what they perceive to be our shortcomings, yet we can rely on what we know our God can do through us. And finally, there will always be those who will weigh us down with what they think we need when we know that God has already equipped us with everything we require to be successful in his name.

We all know that David prevailed but the number one lesson to be learned is that there is nothing, no matter how daunting, that we cannot overcome through a childlike faith and through the power of Almighty God. Let us always remember to "be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil," Ephesians 6:10-11.



Monday, September 29, 2014

Are You As Happy As You Think You Are? 9/29/2014

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

More and more it seems that society equivocates on religion or rejects it altogether. Of course there are many reasons for this but among them have to be the perception that a relationship with God is too restrictive and too burdensome. There are so many bright, shiny, comfortable and sensually pleasurable things out there that seem to be prohibited by the Christian faith that many people are more interested in fulfilling their desires than securing their eternity.

A closer look reveals that the pursuit of pleasure and the rejection of structure and discipline come with their own cages and are often difficult and costly to maintain in more than a senses of the words. When we make our interpersonal relationships our number one priority, there is no one who does not know the effort this can take and the heartbreak that it can involve. It is only Jesus who has truthfully said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you," Hebrews 13:5. When we make working our priority for the sole purpose of gaining more and more and then conspicuously consuming it, we find that it is never enough and become trapped in a cycle of trying to protect what we've accumulated while attempting to gain even more. Jesus asked the question, "For what will it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose or forfeits himself [his soul]," Luke 9:25. Lastly, what of the things that look, feel and taste good to us? Does not the pursuit and enjoyment of some of these things cost us dearly in health, relationships, finances, time and even inner peace? It is written, "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?" James 4:1.

Beloved, a relationship with the Lord and membership in his body is not the trap that some would make it out to be. It is submitted to you that living outside of him is the true trap. All of the things outside of him that are dangled in front of us are merely bait designed to trap us and keep us imprisoned. Jesus offers freedom: freedom from worry, stress, strife, consequences of our sin and everlasting destruction. Are there observances that we must maintain, obey and respect? Absolutely, just as there are with everything from traffic laws, to work policies and procedures to family rules. None, however, are more beneficial than Jesus' offer of rest from the burdens and weariness generated by the choices we make and an easier yoke with a lighter burden. Let all who have ears hear and let all that hear understand.



Monday, September 22, 2014

Spiritual ADD 9/22/2014 (rp)


Last week, the family and I took a well needed vacation. Thanks to those who offered prayers for our safety and rest. As it would happen, our favorite way to vacation is on a cruise. Being on the ship reminded me of a time a few years ago when we went with members of our congregation. From this wonderful time together came a series of lessons called the "Water Gospels." As the Lord has conducted us safely back home, I thought it was worth a look back and reflect on both the goodness and the lessons of God.


"Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me." But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. The Lord hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up. Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god, and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep." Jonah 1:2-5

Oftentimes, we as Christians suffer from spiritual Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). With our minds and mouths we acknowledge God as the King of our lives, our Creator, the Almighty and our Father. We are His people and we know it. We are to be obedient and we know it. He loves us and wants the best for us and we know it. Our actions from time to time, however, belie these truths. In fact, we will sometimes go out of our way to be out of His way.

Jonah was a prophet of God. His whole reason for existing was to impart God's word to those whom he was charged to give it. That said, not only did he refuse direct instructions from God to preach to a people desperately in need of the word, he actually paid money to get on a ship headed the opposite direction.

As we continue in our "Water Gospels" during our study time on the St. Louis Area Family Gospel Cruise, note that it was on the water that God got Jonah's attention. The bible said that a great storm came upon the ship causing all to fear and seek out divine intervention.

Beloved we all have storms in our lives. They come in a variety of guises, but none of us is ignorant of a storm when we are in one. During these storms, we must ask ourselves if God is trying to get our attention.

It is interesting to know that once guilt ridden Jonah was thrown overboard at his own request, the storm that was afflicting the innocent around him ceased immediately. Further, Jonah spent the next three days in the belly of a fish. This was plenty of time to contemplate both the benefits of obedience and his relationship with God.

What will it take for God to get your attention?



Monday, September 8, 2014

Alignment 9/8/2014 (rp)

"If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;" 1 John 1:6

Let's face it. Not everyone who claims to be a Christian behaves like one should. If the estimated 247 million Christians in the US alone truly reflected the teachings of Jesus in word, thought and deed, Christianity would not be experiencing the decline that has been documented. Our children would not be leaving the church as they enter adulthood at the levels they are. And our country would not be in the state of moral degradation that it clearly is. But this is not about what others are or are not doing. This is about self examination.

Beloved, the questions about why things are as they are must begin with a long look in the mirror of Scripture. We as individuals must make an honest determination about how much the word and will of God exists in our lives. It is the easiest thing in the world to do to cast stones at others or point out the "motes of dust" in their eyes, but are we as quick to recognize deficiencies in our own lives? The Scripture says, "For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does," James 1:23-25.

It is beyond both our ability and our commission to "fix" the whole world. That is strictly within the purview of God. We can, however, do all within our ability to be in alignment with His will as reveled in His word in our own lives. It would be amazing how "fixed" the world would become if everyone focused on ensuring the orderliness of their own houses.



Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Encouragement for Troubled Times 9/2/2014

"For son treats father contemptuously,
Daughter rises up against her mother,
Daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
A man’s enemies are the men of his own household.

But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord;
I will wait for the God of my salvation.
My God will hear me."
Micah 7:6-7

There is no one that needs me to tell them that we are enduring tough times. The news is filled the heinous crimes ideological extremists are perpetrating against humanity in general and Christians specifically in the Middle East. Planes full of innocents have been shot down in the Ukraine by one government that wants to overtake another. And in the bread basket of our own country, riots reminiscent of some of America's most turbulent times are playing out right before our eyes.

Times like these can seem so hopeless. One wonders what is the source of all of this conflict and more to the point, what is the solution? Why does it seem that war is so easily engaged while attaining peace is among the most difficult endeavors known to man.

Conflict is older than humanity itself. Though it may seem simplistic to the non-believer, Satan rebelled against God before we were created. Soon after we were created, humanity was influenced by Satan to also rebel against God. Not long after this, a man took the life of his brother and we have been warring against one another ever since.

Though we must deal with the conflict that exist between us, starting with that between ourselves and members of our own households, it is important to know that the struggle is larger than any of us. It is written that, "...our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places," Ephesians 6:12. The age old battle between good and evil continues and we have become part of it. We are not, however, without recourse.

Beloved, though there are many things from the word of God that can be offered for our instruction and consolation, think on these three things:

"Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians 6:13-17

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-7

"‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’" Matthew 22:37-39



Monday, August 25, 2014

Follow Me 8/25/2014 (rp)

"The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." Philipians 4:9

In today's social media driven world, one of the things by which people are known and sometimes evaluated is by how many followers they have. Whether it is the number of friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter, it says something about your fame and popularity (or lack thereof). For this reason, we are constantly invited to "friend," "like," or "follow" individuals, companies and institutions. The question, however, is why?

When you follow your favorite athlete, singer or actor, what is the benefit? You may be among the first to know about their next event. You may be a part of the "in crowd" that learns what happens to them before the news media blasts it all over the world. Mostly what you will get are their opinions (qualified or not) about other people and their circumstances. It is virtually an every day occurrence that someone is forced to apologize for something they said about someone else our of anger, retribution, jealousy or influence of substances via social media because so many are following them.

Beloved, the apostle Paul made an audacious yet qualified "follow" request 2000 years before it was the mainstream thing to do. He was able to do this for three very important reasons. First, he was personally commissioned by the Lord to do it (Acts 9:15). Second, the example he offered was one designed to benefit the follower (Galatians 2:20). And finally, the destination of the follow-ship he requested was not himself, but Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Let us be mindful of who we follow, why we follow them and most importantly, where we are allowing ourselves to be led. Jesus once famously said, "If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit" Matthew 15:14b.



Monday, August 18, 2014

Will You Be Made Whole? 8/18/2014

" And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.  When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, 'Wilt thou be made whole?'”  John 5:5-6


I just returned from the International American Medical Mission's latest mission trip to Jamaica.  The theme of the mission and the accompanying gospel meeting was "Will You Be Made Whole?" This was designed to capture IAMM's  goal of promoting and bringing about health, hope and healing.  We accomplish this by building and transporting a team of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and various medical support personnel to meet physical/health needs, counselors to meet psychological and emotional needs and evangelists to meet the spiritual needs of those in the communities and countries to which we travel.

I am pleased to report that 640 were served by medical doctors, 240 by dentists, 78 by counselors and many by ministers (resulting in 2 baptisms with 2 more pending).  The people of New Kingston, Jamaica were very appreciative of the outpouring of love demonstrated by this gifted team of individuals who traveled there at their own expense from all over the US.  In return, they shared their love through hugs, holy kisses, shared lives and stories and some of the best authentic Jamaican food available.

Beloved it was a blessing to be able to leave the confines of the church building and "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all [that was commanded by our Lord Jesus]," Matthew 28:19-20.  It is an awesome privilege and responsibility to do for others what the Lord does for us every day.

Please keep the people of Jamaica, Haiti, Iraq, Ferguson, MO and everyone who desperately needs the healing touch of the Lord, in your prayers.



Monday, August 4, 2014

God Still Speaks 8/4/2014 (rp)

"God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world." Hebrews 1:1-2

Many people claim that God has spoken to them and told them to do this or that. Many more people wonder if God has ever spoken to them. Most people assume that He has not, does not and will not speak to them. In fact, God has a long and varied history of communicating with man. In the Garden of Eden, He spoke with Adam and Eve directly. He spoke similarly to Noah. Abraham was spoken to directly as well as through the angel of the Lord. Moses was spoken to directly and through a burning bush. Joseph was spoken to by dreams and Peter had visions. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but the point is that God speaks to us. And while some would ask, "Of course he spoke to all those guys thousands of years ago but what about me today?", the answer is that He still speaks!

Beloved, God desires that we get to know and love him. The only way to accomplish this is through communication. He has the power to choose whichever means to communicate that suits Him. Some will tell you that He no longer expresses Himself in dreams and visions. I am not prepared to limit God. He can do whatever He wants however He wants to do it to whom He wants to and whenever He wants to. But scripture is clear that despite all other means, discussed or not, He communicates through his word. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is inspired [breathed] by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness." The same breath that made us living souls literally authored the Bible. Further, we know that he has communicated through his son but did you know that Jesus is also known as "the Word?" John 1:1 informs us that, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." It is incontrovertible that God, Jesus and the Word are one. It is through and by this fact that God yet speaks to all of us to this day.

There is more to be said about hearing God's voice through the Spirit, circumstances, the words of others (such as sermons, songs and conversations) and various other ways. We must learn to tune in. Nevertheless, his voice is never farther away than your nearest Bible. Listen to what God has to say to you today.



Monday, July 28, 2014

Sin and Compassion 7/28/2014

"Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, 'Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?'” Matthew 9:10-11

Jesus was never popular with the religious elite of his time. There were groups of scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees, who themselves differed in some very fundamental ways, but together made up the ruling council that governed the religious and social life of the people of God. They criticized everything that Jesus said and did and were constantly seeking opportunity to shame, discredit and ultimately kill him.

The interesting thing about these groups is that what should have been their main concern, in effect, was not. Rather than seeing to the needs of the people and doing all they could to shepherd them to godliness, they were often more concerned with position, pride, pomp and circumstance. When Jesus came along clarifying and advancing the spirit of the Law rather than the letter of the Law to which they so strictly adhered, it created problems that they wanted to resolve in his death. They should have known that that is why the Messiah was to come in the first place.

So it was that when Jesus went about the business of "seeking and saving the lost," those who should have been doing just that in anticipation of his arrival, withstood him for it.

Beloved, as Christians, the people of God, if you will, we should never withstand good being done. We should never judge those who are coming to Christ. Far too often, the church, whose main mission is to seek and save the lost through love and obedience to our heavenly Father, do the opposite by creating barriers to those who would come. Stories abound about homosexuals, fornicators, drunkards, abusers, thieves and other sinners being turned away at the doors of the worship facility because they are sinners. In so doing, we are exemplifying the adversaries of Christ more so than Christ himself. This is not to say that we are to endorse sin or turn a blind eye to it. The word of God is crystal clear about the dangers of sin and the prohibition against it. If we, however, do not display love and compassion toward the lost, how can they possibly be saved? How can we call ourselves Christians? And interestingly enough, there are none of us that were not ourselves bought out of sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

As we model the one who saved us from our sin, let us all endeavor to be more compassionate toward those who have yet to be saved. There is plenty of time and opportunity to teach righteousness but it will not materialize if we are not first welcoming as we ourselves have been welcomed.



Monday, July 21, 2014

Jesus' Priorities For Us 7/21/2014

"Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came to His own city. And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, 'Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.' And some of the scribes said to themselves, 'This fellow blasphemes.' And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, 'Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins'—then He said to the paralytic, 'Get up, pick up your bed and go home.' And he got up and went home." Matthew 9:1-7

Beloved, recently the Lord laid a message on my heart about the priority of the our souls over our bodies, our eternity over our present circumstances. And while all messages that the Lord provides are meaningful to me, I never know how and where they will impact others. Now and then, someone will approach me and let me know that I was preaching to them that day. We smile, hug and thank God together. Yesterday, in perhaps the most profound way that I've ever experienced, one of my brothers in Christ who happens to be a member of our congregation let me know how impactful the word of God was in his life that day. He has given me permission to share with you what he put on his Facebook page.


Steve wrote: Sometimes it seems God knows what is on our hearts and who needs scripture and places it on Lee's heart to preach.

"When you take a look at that piece of scripture [Matthew 9:1-7], it seems Jesus assessed the situation, and took action. And what I found interesting about it church, when I began to study it was that Jesus didn't do what many of us might have done. We may or may not have agreed with the order of events as Jesus performed them. I don't know about you church, but I'm just so glad to be in the hands of the Lord who helps with priorities...I'd like to talk about what Jesus knows. There's a difference between what we think, and what He knows. And then based upon what He knows, what he does." -Lee Lewis

I prayed so hard, so many days and nights for the restoration of my mom's health. Eventually, my prayers turned to "My prayer is for her to be restored, but God, your will be done. If it is your will to take her home, make it so." I fought with the feelings of why my Christian mom, who was a devout servant, could suffer for this long. What was all this for? What Gods goal? "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28 Who could this be good for?

"We sometimes stand against him...these scribes, these pharisees they represent those of us, the parts of us, that doubt and criticize. Have you ever criticized Jesus? Have you ever been in a spot and wondered why he allowed certain things to happen? Why he didn't come directly to your aide on your schedule at your time in the way you proscribed? You ever experience a little bit of doubt in your faith and your spirit?" -Lee Lewis

Yes, Lord. I have. Not a doubt in your power or existence, but a wonder of why. A wonder of direction. A wonder of the need for the suffering.

Well folks, three days after we layed my mom to rest, dad went to church for the first time in years. My prayers turn from the health of my mom, to a more fervent prayer for the spiritual health of my father. May God continue to work in my life, in ways I'll never understand until we meet in heaven.

"Jesus knows it's not about our physical healing on this side of eternity. It's about being made whole for the other side of eternity." -Lee Lewis

God knew his work with mom was done. Now he can continue to work in my life, and my fathers.

[Hear the sermon at this link]




Monday, July 14, 2014

The Gift of Time 7/14/2014

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Pet 3:9

Contextually, Peter is addressing the taunts of those who question, at worst, the existence of God and at best, the prophesied return of the Lord. He reminds his audience that God is not on man’s timetable. Before we ever existed, He created all that there is and that there was never a time that He did not exist. Citing that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day,” he establishes that God is above and beyond time. This said, Peter further relates that God is doing us a tremendous favor by delaying the end of the age.

Beloved, there are some that are anxious for the return of the Lord. Looking as we do at the prevailing condition of this world and the people who occupy it, some are hungry for righteousness and justice to prevail and things to be set right by He who is the Master of the Universe. Others are not so anxious for the day to come due to the root cause of a lack of readiness. Regardless of one’s position, all should rejoice in the wisdom and love of the Lord. For those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, know that the delay is due to God’s fervent desire that none are lost. What could be more righteous? For those who are “not ready” you are the object of His longsuffering. His coming, however, is as certain as the fact that the past has already occurred. In that when the time comes it will take place in an instant and that we do not know when that time will come, we only have this moment to be ready. The next moment is not promised. We therefore must not delay as He has done on our behalf. Surely whatever motives anyone has for doing so are nonsensical. The time He is giving is a gift and that gift has an unknown expiration date. Better use it. Now.



Monday, July 7, 2014

Walking, Standing and Sitting 7/7/2014 (rp)

"How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night." Psa 1:1-2

Though we are taught not to judge unrighteously, you can tell a lot about a person based on how they spend their time and the company they keep.  It is easy to claim what we are all about, but unless our audio matches our video, all we are engaged in is image management.  Depending on the difference between what can be observed and what actually is, that can be a full time job.

Consider the implied admonition of the Lord.  What is walking but our manner of living?  When we are encouraged to "walk in the light as He is in the light" in 1 Jn 1:7, we are being instructed to live our lives in a godly manner.  We are encouraged to be holy as God is holy.  To walk or live according to the ways of the unrighteous is to walk the path to destruction.  Wickedness is all around us and it is easy to get caught in the current of what society not only approves, but will persecute as it relates to any lack of conformity to its deteriorating norms.

We are also encouraged to be mindful of where we plant our flags.  Our position on certain issues often define us more than anything else.  We must ensure that we are correctly positioned concerning things like abortion, abuse, sexual orientation, fornication, fidelity, gossip, morality and the love of money among many others.  It unfortunately is not unusual for the people of God to allow for positions that are inconsistent with his word.  Where we stand should be determined by looking up rather than down.

And what is it to sit but to be found resting?  By the time we have found our seat, we have found our home.  This is indicative of having chosen a position and course and being content with it.  If we have chosen to be godly, it will manifest itself in all we say, think and do, likewise if we have chosen to be ungodly.  Our walking and standing can land us in the potentially dangerous and permanent arena of sitting.

Beloved, God has promised blessings (the ultimate happiness) for those who avoid unrighteous walking, standing and sitting by being found living according to His law.  This is achieved by applying as much of our attention to His word as we do much lesser pursuits such as watching the news, sports, our favorite television programs or favorite music.  Salvation is found in none of these things, but true blessings are found in living life according to the word of God.  We need not be dragged down by society but must fulfill our mission of raising society up.  This can only be done if we are properly positioned and engaged in proper pursuits ourselves.  He has laid out the path for us.  Let us walk it earnestly.



Monday, June 30, 2014

Are You a Secret Disciple? 6/30/2014

"After these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. So he came and took away His body. Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight." John 19:38-39

It is not until the aftermath of Jesus' traumatic sacrifice that we are introduced to Joseph of Arimathea. We are told in Mark's account that he was a prominent member of the council. Though previously introduced, we are also made aware of Nicodemus who himself is a member of the council. There are two other very interesting things that that this duo has in common. One is that they both wanted to take responsibility for the body of Jesus after his death. The other is that they are "secret disciples," Nicodemus having previously come to Jesus under cover of darkness.

The question must be asked, can one truly be a disciple of the Lord in secret? It is true that both of these men are described as lovers of God. It is true that they ultimately acted in the service of the Lord. It is also true, however, that during Christ's ministry, they kept their feelings for him to themselves and did nothing to support his mission. Scriptures reveal that fear was what caused them to remain hidden.

Beloved, we are not in the same place, time, circumstance or culture as these men but so many of us share "secret discipleship" with them. This condition involves internal acknowledgement and perhaps even love for the Savior but little to no external acknowledgement outside the occasional worship attendance and little to no works of service in his name. The "secret disciples" do not share their faith or the gospel out of fear of being ridiculed, ostracized or perhaps fired. Invitations to worship and bible studies are not extended to acquaintances and friends may not even realize that Christianity is part of their lives. Traits like these must beg the question whether a person is a Christian at all.

It is true that Jesus warned his followers that the Christian life would potentially be unpopular among the masses, but he encouraged that we live the Christian life and proclaim the gospel boldly. Most notably, Jesus said in Mark 8:38, "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” I don't know about you church but I want to be claimed by the Lord so I am sure to claim him every day.



Monday, June 23, 2014

Don't Judge Me 6/23/2014 (rp)

"Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”  John 7:24

It is kind of a running joke in my family that when someone makes a goofy mistake, there comes a loud and defensive, albeit joking, "Don't judge me!" by the perpetrator.  The reply, invented by the youngest of the kids is, "It's too late.  You've already been judged."

In Christianity, we advocate the avoidance of judging others and cite scriptures like Matt 7:1-2 but then we do it anyway.  Jesus addressed this contradiction by referencing the fact that there were those who wanted to kill him for miraculously healing someone on the Sabbath, a day on which no work was to be done.  He pointed out that they circumcised babies on the Sabbath when the 8th day after birth fell on that day in order to keep the law but they wanted to destroy him for obeying God's ultimate law of love.

Beloved, it is not that we should not judge, but how we judge, be it favorably or unfavorably.  When Jesus said, "Do not judge so that you will not be judged" in Matt 7:21, he was cautioning against having an attitude that results in unjustly looking upon  the character of another and making rash and unloving judgments about them.  To be sure, we must take a stand for righteousness and be able to correct our brothers and sisters when it is needed (Prov 27:6, Gal 6:1-2); however, we must consider the spirit in which this is done.  Do we jump to uninformed and mean spirited conclusions based on what we see on the surface, or worse, what we have heard from others or do we apply love to the situation and treat others as we would want to be treated?

When Jesus healed despite the Sabbath, the rules of which had been extended far beyond what God stipulated by man, he did so out of love for someone who was hurting.  His adversaries were upset and accused him of having a demon, being a blasphemer and many other things.  This was done out of hatred, using the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law to persecute him.  Worse, it was the law that they set aside or reinterpreted when it was convenient to do so, often for much less noble reasons.  Everything about this type of judgmental behavior is to be avoided.  Jesus has said that when we do that to others, the same will be done to us.



Monday, June 16, 2014

How to Power Through Your Worst Day Ever 6/16/2014

"Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself." John 13:1-4

Life is great. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are all blessed beyond measure. The reality is, however, that there are times when terrible and traumatic things happen within our blessed existence. We lose jobs, relationships fall apart, health fails and we suffer the loss of loved ones. At times like these, we can feel that we are at the very bottom of our existence and are without hope. How do we handle it? How do we survive? What do we do?

Consider Jesus' worst day ever. Unlike most of us, he knew that his worst day was coming for most, if not all of his life, most certainly throughout his 3 year ministry. He repeatedly warned his followers that it would come. He endured betrayal by one of his inner circle. And when he took his closest companions to keep watch with him while he agonized over what was about to happen and they couldn't even stay awake. Of course these and other things are just the preamble to the horror of his trial, scourging and crucifixion. Most of us would have called down the legion of angels or responded in some other way that would have stopped the suffering and closed the disrespectful mouths that taunted him but Jesus did not. How did he do it?

Beloved, there are several keys from which we can learn that Jesus himself revealed in John 13:1-4:

"He knew that his hour had come"-This tells us that Jesus understood his purpose. Not only did he come to "seek and save the lost" but he also came to take on the sins of the world and be the sacrifice for us all, thus making that salvation possible. We too have a purpose. We are to share the good news with the lost and to make ourselves a "living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God." Likewise, we know as he did that tough times will come. We can and should be prepared.

"He loved them to the end"-As Jesus was motivated by love for the Father and love for us in all that he did, we likewise must be ruled by it. Jesus once said, "Love others as I have loved you." He loved sacrificially. As we endure trials, we must keep his love for us and our love for him at the forefront of our minds and hearts. This will help us endure and succeed.

"Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands..."-Jesus had power, might and control of everything. At any time he could have brought all of his suffering to an end but he chose to use that power to endure for the greater good. We may not have power to stop our own suffering but we know that "We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us." We have power. That power can help us endure, succeed and win, all while encouraging others as Christ's example encourages us.

"He had come forth from God and was going back to God"-Jesus was in touch with his identity. He knew exactly who he was and did what was necessary to live up to his name, his purpose and his calling. He also knew his destination and looked forward to returning home. We must likewise know who we are and more importantly whose we are. The Lord has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." When we are in the depth of despair and suffering, we must know and believe that we are not alone but that God is with us every step of the way. We must also know that our Lord has gone to prepare a place for us and will return to collect us. We, like he, have a destination to which to look forward.

When the tough times come, and they inevitably will, let us reflect on the ultimate example of our Savior. He has endured on our behalf and have equipped us to do so for his glory.



Monday, June 9, 2014

The Greener Grass 6/9/2014

"So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward. Thus they separated from each other. Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord." Genesis 13:11-13

Abram, later known as Abraham, obediently followed the word of the Lord when He told him to leave his home and his family and go to a land that would ultimately be given to his descendants. Along the way, he and his nephew, Lot, would become so prosperous that their herdsmen began to fight amongst themselves over grazing and watering their respective herds. Not wanting any strife between the two of them Abram suggested that they separate. He gave Lot the choice. Lot, surveying all in front of him chose the fertile valley (the greener grass if you will). Along with this choice he also put himself and his family in proximity to arguably the worst and most godless people on earth at the time.

Beloved, we make choices every day of our lives. Some are minor and require little thought while others are momentous and should be made after considerable thought, research and prayer. Too often, we choose based on what seems to be most advantageous at the time. And while this may make some sense, prayer and the weighing of all pros and cons will likely produce better choices. Life has given us the colloquialisms that "the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence" and that "all that glitters is not gold." These sayings, no doubt, came from hard lessons experienced by many over a long period of time, yet we continue to fall victim to bad decisions.

Though it may have appeared to be a wise choice at the time (the evil of Sodom notwithstanding), we know that Lot endured kidnapping (Genesis 14:12), the vexing of his righteous soul (2 Peter 2:7) and ultimately the loss of everything, including his wife, during the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Abram, on the other hand, kept his trust in God rather than what he could see and became the father of a nation and the one from whose faith, all believers are descendants.

Let us not make choices based on the greenness of the grass but on the faithfulness of God.



Monday, June 2, 2014

Extending the Invitation 6/2/2014 (rp)

"When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, 'Will you give me a drink?'  (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)  The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)"  Jn 4:7-9 (NIV)

Beloved, the gospel is not a secret and Christianity is not some sort of exclusive club (insofar as that everyone is welcome).  In fact, it could be compared to the Ark on which Noah vigorously invited everyone to join him and his family due to the impending deluge.  Noah cared for his fellow man.  It could just as easily be compared to a hospital where the sick are invited to come for healing (which everyone could use in some form).  Doctors, nurses and hospital staff are dedicated to this pursuit.  The key to both of these analogies is the invitation.  The key to the invitation, with the understanding that love and compassion drives it, is how it is made.

Jesus, our great example and inspiration did three great things to extend the ultimate invitation.  First, he went where he would not normally go.  There was a hundreds of years old schism between Jews and their compromised relatives, the Samaritans.  Samaria was avoided by Jews and the name was often used as an insult.  Samaritans in turn felt the same way about the Jews.  So it was completely out of what would be expected for someone of Jesus' knowledge and de facto authority to even be in Samaria.

Second, Jesus did what he might not normally have done.  It was highly unusual for someone who was considered a rabbi to be in a private conversation with a woman, particularly one who was "involved."  Speaking of involved, Jesus later demonstrates knowledge that she is co-habitating with a man that is not one of the 5 husbands she has had.  Some even accuse her of harlotry.  Added to this, he asked her for a drink.  Because the passage later reveals that he had nothing with which to draw water, he could only have drunk after her or use her vessel.  There are all kinds of ceremonial purity issues here, nevertheless, Jesus, because of his great love, was some place he should not have been, doing something he should not have done.  This is said from the standpoint that once his apostles returned and came upon this scene, they had some serious unarticulated questions, but would not even acknowledge the presence of the woman.

Finally, Jesus met her in the location and the condition that she was.  It was entirely unlikely that she would ever leave her confines to seek Jesus for the truth.  She did not even know who he was and she had her own understanding of truth (vs. 20).  It was therefore necessary that if she was to ever experience the safety of the Ark or the cures associated with the hospital someone had to make the information known.  Someone had to go to where she was and minister to her even in her sinful condition in a loving way.  Jesus has done the same thing for you.  Will you do likewise for someone else?  Will you extend yourself to extend the invitation?



Tuesday, May 27, 2014

In His Image and Likeness 5/27/2014

"Then God said, 'Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.'” Genesis 1:26

Despite the fact that we are always searching for our origins, it is difficult for some to imagine that we are, in fact, created beings.  Further, we are literally created by the hand of God.

Most believers understand that we are created in the image and likeness of God but do we understand what that means?  The word "likeness" comes from a Hebrew word that involves our make up and content.  Otherwise put, we know that God is Spirit.  We also were made of Spirit.  It is true that we were formed by God's own hand from the dust of the ground but our most important component is the breath that he blew into that dust (Genesis 2:7) that caused us to be living souls.  In so doing, part of Him became part of us.  Further, it is written in Ephesians 4:24 that we are to "put on the new self created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."  Is God not holy and righteous?  We are not gods but we were created to consist of some of the "stuff" of God.

Regarding image, the Hebrew word used here speaks to the fact of our appearance.  It is important to note once again that God is Spirit and cannot be confined to any boundaries or manifestations.  That said, we are told throughout Scripture that we resemble Him.  Though it is done as much for our ability to mentally grasp as anything else, He is always spoken of in anthropomorphic (of or having to do with humanity) terms.  And of course, when he took on flesh in the person of Jesus (John 1:18), it was not as a plant, or beast, but as human.  Though He spoke everything into existence, the one being created by His own hand was the human.  Man and woman were formed by Him and resemble Him.  Thus, the definition of the Hebrew word revealed, "resemblance; representative figure" comes into focus.

Beloved, as we go about our lives, it is critical that we understand from whence we come.  We are nothing less than the creation of God with some of the consistency of God, made to look like God.  It is similar to our own children.  They have the same make up as we do and they look like us, but they are not us.  However, they are ours just as we are His.  And when you know who you are, what you are and from whom you come, that ought to affect your life.  Amen?



Friday, May 23, 2014

Believing in God vs. Believing God 5/23/2014 (rp)

"Then Barak said to her, 'If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.'”  Judg 3:8

The context of this admittedly obscure passage of scripture is that a man by the name of Barak was told by God to take ten thousand men to a pre appointed place where He would deliver the enemy of Israel into his hand.  This information was delivered by Deborah, a prophetess and judge of Israel.  God was setting him up for success.

Beloved, it is easy to say that we believe in God.  In fact, if you ask most people in this country whether they believe in the one true God, the answer would be a resounding yes.  Unfortunately, that is where it usually stops.  Believing in God is easy because it is conceptual.  It requires no effort whatsoever to believe in an idea, a perceived fact or even an individual.  Believing God, however, is an entirely different matter.  Believing God means not only accepting as true His existence but conducting your life in accordance with this fact.  It means accepting that if He can create the universe then He can most certainly take on flesh, walk on water, still storms, feed five thousand with a few fish and pieces of bread, call the dead to life, forgive our sins and save our very souls.  It means having confidence that He can and will do what He says and it means conducting our lives in a manner reflective of that. 

It is recorded in scripture, "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.  But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?" James 2:19.  Essentially, believing in God is something even the devil can claim but do we believe Him enough to do what he says?

It is clear that Barak believed in God.  He was of the house of Israel and he gave credence to the words of the one who God placed in a leadership position over them.  It is just as clear that Barak did not believe God would deliver the enemy into his hand, opting instead to allow Deborah to have the preeminence in the situation.  She, on the other hand, believed God would do what he said: "She said, 'I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the honor shall not be yours on the journey that you are about to take, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman.' Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh" Judg 3:9.  The enemy was in fact delivered into the hands of a woman.  Believe God.



Monday, May 19, 2014

The Treasure in Subtleties 5/19/2014

"Commit your works to the Lord and your thoughts will be established."  Proverbs 16:3 (NKJV)

There are subtle nuances in the words we read in today's bible.  Most, however, escape us completely.  The reason for this in large part is due to the fact that we are reading an English translation of another language.  And though translators do the best they can to capture either word for word or thought for thought translation, depending on the version you use, there are times when meanings can only be approximated.

Consider how the above Scripture might be interpreted.  Paul once said, "For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do, this I keep on doing," Romans 7:19 (NIV).  We can all identify with this sentiment.  We were raised to know right from wrong.  Our bible teaches us the difference.  The laws of the land are designed to communicate and enforce behaviors associated with society's definition of right and wrong.  We still, however, find ourselves nudging our cars just over the speed limit.  We still sin, sometimes willfully.  And we still wonder why we do these things when we know better.

The word of the God says that if we just apply our minds to doing the things He has set before us to do, this will give us something good and beneficial to focus on, thus crowding out the desire to do otherwise.  Done long and well enough, it becomes second nature and many unrighteous desires within us will simply fade away.

The word translated as "thoughts" can also be translated as "plans."  Do you have a desire to be successful in any or all of your endeavors?  How do you go about them?  Is God a part of your plans?  Did you seek Him out in prayer?  Are the plans themselves godly?  The word here also says that if you would focus on Him, align your will with His and submit to His commands, He will make your plans successful.  How can you lose with God on your side?

Beloved, the subtleties dovetail in the most delightful ways.  From this short verse alone, we can see the loving kindness of our benevolent God.  We can see the purpose for which we were created.  We can see solutions to our sin problems.  We can see how to regulate our minds and gain focus.  And we can see guarantees of success in whatever we purpose to do that is in keeping with His will.  Just imagine the assurance that can be found in all of the other subtleties that exist in the Scriptures.  We are barely scratching the surface.



Tuesday, May 13, 2014

We Are Family 5/13/2014

"While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him.  Someone said to Him, 'Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.' But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, 'Who is My mother and who are My brothers?'  And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, 'Behold My mother and My brothers!  For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.'” Matthew 12:46-50

Jesus' fame had now grown so much that wherever he went, a crowd gathered.  It is easy to imagine how controversial some of the things he said were because they still are today.  In this case, his adversaries challenged him at nearly every word, even accusing him of being possessed by Satan, yet the crowds still came.  This caused his own family to think that he had literally lost his mind (Mark 3:21) so they went to retrieve him.

Beloved, do members of your blood family think you have lost your mind because of your faith in Christ?  Just as there were those who stood against Jesus and his teaching, there are those who stand against us for our adherence to it.  Today, however, you are encouraged to take heart.  Jesus famously said,  If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you," John 15:18.  In other words, we are in good company.

Further, this common love of our common Savior and our common performance of his word makes us a family whose bond is stronger than blood.  Jesus triumphantly declared that all who believe are in fact, his family.  And if we are his family, we are most assuredly children of the living God.

This is not to say that our blood families are to be disregarded.  There are ample Scriptures that address the fact that we are to honor mother and father and love brothers and sisters.  We are even to love our enemies.  We are uniquely positioned to invite them into the family and have an obligation to do so.  It is, however, of primary importance that we seek, obtain and maintain membership ourselves in the spiritual family.  Let us earnestly desire to be counted among the Savior's brothers, sisters and mothers.



Monday, May 5, 2014

We Need Each Other 5/5/2014

"Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.  For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.  Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone?  And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart." Eccl 4:9-12

Today it seems that all of life is about the individual.  It is all about what "I" think and how "I" express myself.  People are going to greater and greater lengths to distinguish themselves from others.  This neo-individualism manifests itself most tragically as selfishness.  We can become so consumed with satisfying ourselves that we begin to do so at the expense of others.  Adultery is an act of selfishness.  Murder is an act of selfishness.  Theft is an act of selfishness.  And getting behind the wheel of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is an act of selfishness.  The opposite of love is not hate, but selfishness.

Beloved, God's design for humanity is togetherness and selflessness.  It was God who looked down on Adam and decided that he should not be alone.  It was God who told Adam and Eve to populate the earth.  It was God who gathered to himself a people who would carry forth his message of reconciliation to himself and to one another to all peoples.  It was the Lord who said that we should love God with all of ourselves and similarly, love others as we love ourselves.  We have been taught that it is better to give to others than to receive from others and to prefer others over ourselves.

The fact is we need each other.  None of us were designed or destined to be alone.  We heard the good news of the Lord's love from someone who cared and as a result are called to share that same good news with someone else.  The benefit is that we all benefit.  If we would all strive to take care of others, we ourselves would be taken care of by others and we would cease to know need.  More so than ever we must bind ourselves together in the love of the Lord that we might live out his will for our lives and accomplish his good.



Monday, April 28, 2014

Reassurance 4/28/2014 (rp)

"These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life." 1 John 5:13

It is very human to doubt things about which we have no specific and tangible evidence.  Those who believe are no exception.  Upon hearing the claims of his fellow apostles about Jesus' post resurrection visit to them, Thomas famously said, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe,” John 20:25.  Thomas had walked with Jesus, talked with Jesus, was present when Lazarus was called to life from the dead and heard Jesus say that he would return from death, yet even he doubted.  Jesus did indeed return and offered Thomas the opportunity to extract whatever proof he needed.

Beloved, one of the most amazing things about God is His provision of free will to humanity.  This means that we have the ability to choose to believe or choose not to believe.  We can accept God or we can reject Him.  No one has been compelled to believe.  There were some who were born for God's service but departed from Him such as Samson and Saul and others from common walks of life or even enemy status who became integral to the growth and spread of Christianity such as the apostles (including Paul).  The point is that if you, of your own free will, choose to believe in and follow Christ, be 100% committed and assured.  It is only when we fully embrace him that we can truly experience his love and accomplish his work.

Jesus told Thomas, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed,” John 20:29.  Have faith.



Monday, April 21, 2014

The Greatest Story Ever Told 4/21/2014 (rp)

"Why do you seek the living One among the dead? "He is not here, but He has risen." Luke 24:5-6

The greatest story ever told began before time. It began when God the Son made the decision to save a creature that had not yet been created. But that was not the whole story.

The greatest story ever told continued after God blew life into a mound of dirt and
man was created. Man shunned paradise and committed sin. God then assured him that a Savior would one day be sent. But that was not the whole story.

The greatest story ever told continued to build when a young virgin gave birth to the human incarnation of the Creator. The birth was announced by the heavenly host and communicated to the common man. Even the cosmos shared in the great event in the embodiment of a star that lead wise men from the east to the newly born King. But that was not the whole story.

The greatest story ever told took a tragic turn when after years of preaching, teaching, healing and forgiving sin, those whom the Savior came to save turned on him and took the life he willingly gave for us. Though he was innocent, he was brutalized and hung on a cross, open to public shame. It was there, that even God separated from him and he died a terrible death. But that was not the whole story.

Beloved, the greatest truth that ever was culminated when the Savior who died on behalf of all men took up his life again. He rose! He greeted his friends and disciples! He was seen by more than 500 people! And he charged them all to carry the greatest truth ever told forward and share it with all who would ever live. That is the whole story.

On Friday we cried. Today, we rejoice!!



Friday, April 18, 2014

Which One Was My Candle? - A Good Friday Remembrance 4/18/2014

"And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice saying, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?' that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"  Matthew 27:46

Beloved, despite its sad origin, happy Good Friday!  I'd like to share with you an experience I had several years ago on this date that still resonates today.  I suspect we do not meditate on the importance of Good Friday very much these days as we go about our busy lives, but it is my hope that sharing this experience will cause us to reflect, even for a moment, on one of the most important days in all Christendom.


I'd like to share with you one of the most moving experiences of my life. Interestingly enough, it happened quite unexpectedly and even at this writing, some 12 hours later, I'm still a bit numb.

Last night, our youth minister, Chris Hughes, and several of the congregation's young people put together a Good Friday Service. Truth be told, I had never heard of such a thing. But Chris is kind of a spunky guy who has a great love for the Lord and is always wanting to try something new (you know how youth ministers are).

The service began with each person being required to light a candle in the foyer before entering the sanctuary. Once inside, Chris informed those who had gathered about what the service would consist of in pretty specific detail. He warned that it would be a heavy service and that it was not designed to bring joy, but to put us in the place of a disciple during the time of the trial, scourging and crucifixion. The service was to be lit primarily by candle, leaving participants mostly in the dark. I made note that he said that at the conclusion of the service, anyone who had the need or desire to stay could have all the time they needed. Little did I know that I would be the last to leave his seat.

Billed as a multi-sensory experience, the service began with a video montage, consisting primarily of clips from the film, "The Passion." If you've ever seen the movie, you know how much it can move you around emotionally. It started right there for me. It went downhill from there.

A chorus made up of the youth, Chris and the Horn family sang a beautiful song that seemed to both frame and echo the emotional content of the video's last scene; Mary was holding the battered and bleeding corpse of her dead son as the wind whipped her hair and tears cascaded down her face.

There then came a very well done dramatic presentation written by Megan Schwartz that represented the anger, despondency and confusion felt by Christ's apostles immediately after his death. By this point, I was, as the saying goes, all in. I was no longer aware of sitting in the third pew in a business suit, fulfilling my obligation to the members of our congregation by being present to support Chris and his efforts. I was there. 2000 years ago. I was there. It was happening to me. It was as if I had just witnessed the crucifixion of God's son whom I personally knew and had followed for years. It is difficult to explain...and it got worse.

The next portion of the service involved a reading of the account of Christ's ordeal from his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane to the time he hung his head and died. Chris and the kids took turns reading the account. Of course these are passages that we've read dozens or even hundreds of times. I was struck, despite my familiarity with the words, by how they hung in the air, rang in my ears and drilled down to my soul. The words seemed to have come to literal life. Even this was tremendously amplified by the fact that at every juncture in the scripture that an injustice was done or a betrayal committed, a candle on stage was blown out. It was painful to watch and I must admit that my eyes were either closed or looking at my hands the majority of the time. Hearing those words, picturing those images, feeling the weight of what Jesus went through and why, examining my own life and it's place in the scheme of why such a sacrifice was necessary, and watching Samantha Hearn step forward and blow those candles out at juncture after juncture was more than I could stand.

I wondered which candle would have been mine.

By the time the next to last candle had been blown out, I was barely coherent. Chris had earlier explained that when the last candle was blown out, the candle representing Jesus' life, the service would be over. After hearing the words of the soldier's spear piercing Jesus' side, only to find him already dead reverently and somberly read, Samantha approached the last light in the room, which poetically and ironically enough was placed on the altar, and disappeared with it behind the table. For a moment there was a glow that cast shadows...

...and then it was gone.

The sanctuary had fallen into the darkness reminiscent of the darkness that fell on that day 2000 years ago at Golgotha between noon and three.

Chris' voice intoned, "As you leave, note that the only light left is that from the candles you lit in the foyer before you came in. The only light left is the light in you."

I don't know how long I sat there.

I don't know how long I sat there suffering under the weight of it all. There were so many thoughts running through my head. There were so many emotions running through my soul. There was an overwhelming sense of sadness, grief, blame and responsibility. It felt as though I had just experienced a very real personal tragedy. I had. There is one thing I know for sure however; I wanted to go and get that candle back more than I've wanted to do anything in a very long time. But I knew I couldn't. No one could. Not even God would.

When I was able to gather myself (somewhat), I found Chris, grabbed him, held him and thanked him with every word I could muster, which admittedly were very few. I told him how I wanted to go and get that candle and it was about there that I lost it again. He assured me that it would be better Sunday. Knowing he was right, I reluctantly released him, turned, walked past a singing Christiana Horn, left the sanctuary, grabbed my daughter Torri and walked out of the building. I can only hope that the many members who all seemed to be lingering in the foyer didn't think me rude for not staying and chatting. For the first time in a long time, the preacher didn't have the words.