The Road to Peace

It’s been quite a year, hasn’t it? The uncertainty that grips America only grows, it seems to me. The election in November indicated the fear that runs deep among us. In 2008, the mantra that drove a political earthquake was ‘change.’ Two years later, the people abruptly reversed course. Nobody is predicting good times for us any time soon. A decade of war has not produced any kind of security. If anything, the rumbling of the war machines has increased in volume.

Here on the edge of a brand new year, I want to take you to a promise that is a prescription for peace, a reminder for those who love God that He is greater than economic cycles, than men of evil intentions, than disease, than famine and drought. We can choose to live peacefully even in troubled times. No, we are NOT detached from this life, escaping to some retreat in the mountains or hiding in front of our television from the real world. We do not find our peace in denying what is going on around us or even in us. Our serenity comes from faith that is anchored in the eternal love of our Father.

The prince of prophets, Isaiah, who saw the Kingdom of God, who was moved by the Holy Spirit, gives us a word for a New Year.

Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you. …

Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. …

And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” (Isaiah 35:3,5 8-10, NIV)

Here’s what I hold onto from that passage:

God comes to those who love Him.
God restores and renews.
God makes a Way, secure and blessed, for us to go Home!

That, disciple, is the road to peace.

Are you walking the highway of Holiness?
If so, then trust and be at peace.
If not, then take the on ramp through Christ and set your course for Zion, our eternal home!

_______________

Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

Through this world
Of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord,
None but Thee.

When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more;
Guide me gently, safely o’er,
To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore.

© Public Domain

Dead or Alive?

He is a walking dead man. Truth is nothing to him, lying a way of life. He is a parasite who used people simply to survive. He craves acceptance but lives so self-centeredly that others turn away. He is an illustration of the Scripture: “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die…” and that death does not wait until they put a corpse in the ground! Here’s the rest of the story; … “but, if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Romans 8:13-14, NIV) What joy to know that because of the transforming power of the Gospel of Christ, we who were once the walking dead, can be made alive, and not just survivors, but actually turned into noble people who are lovely and beautiful- children of God!

We are mistaken if we think knowing Christ and His salvation is only for Heaven. When we experience His grace and begin to live ‘in Him;’ informed by His Word, empowered by His Spirit, and part of His Community, the Church; we are changed. The Scripture trumpets the wonder of it all – “Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.” (2 Corinthians 3:18, The Message)

Mere religion cannot accomplish this. Baptism and church membership cannot do what the Spirit does when He is invited into our hearts. There are many, many people who call themselves “Christian” who remain mean and miserable. How so? Perhaps by some effort they have curbed the grosser sins of human nature, but essentially they still the walking dead. When pressed, their true Self asserts control and, like a threatened dog, they snarl and snap to protect themselves. But, then there are those who have been converted, who are full of the Spirit. Because their very nature has been changed, they are full of light and love.

What is true of you?
Are you a walking dead man or a son of God?
It’s not a rhetorical question. It demands an answer, especially if you claim to be a follower of Christ. Look at the way you live. What is revealed about the true nature, the core person?

Here’s a word from the Word. Let the Spirit speak to you through it today and be converted – from death to life. “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God.” (Romans 8:5-11, NLT)

_______________

I was sinking deep in sin,
Far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within,
Sinking to rise no more.
But the Master of the sea
Heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me;
Now safe am I.

All my heart to Him I give;
Ever to Him I’ll cling,
In His blessed presence live,
Ever His praises sing.
Love so mighty and so true
Merits my soul’s best songs;
Faithful, loving service, too,
To Him belongs.

Love lifted me!
Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help,
Love lifted me.
Love lifted me.

Souls in danger, look above;
Jesus completely saves.
He will lift you by His love
Out of the angry waves.
He’s the Master of the sea,
Billows His will obey.
He your Savior wants to be,
Be saved today.

Love Lifted Me
Rowe, James / Smith, Howard E.
© Public Domain

Crosswinds and Course Corrections

One sunny afternoon, when I was a student pilot, I set off on a solo flight to an airport 140 miles due west. About a half hour into my flight, a check on maps revealed a disparity between where I thought I was and where I actually was located! In a few moments, I established that I was far from the course that I had planned to fly. My airplane was pointed in the right direction, but because I was a novice, I did not correct for the cross winds that were blowing me far south of my true course. If I had kept my flight charts open and checked them, the need to adjust my course would have been obvious early on.

It is possible to think you’re making great progress while traveling in the wrong direction! At this year’s end, we have the opportunity to check our progress in life. We need to ask ourselves some hard questions, make certain that we are ‘on course.’

Think that your life is going in the right direction because you’re feeling good, having fun, and are self-satisfied? You need a better compass than that!

Nothing compares to the wisdom of the Scripture, the counsel of mature Believers, the guidance of the Spirit, and the practice of regular corporate worship for keeping our lives headed for Heaven, on course with the Lord’s plans. More than just doing ‘good’ things, a disciple is called to live in the purposes of God. Rick Warren coined the phrase, the “purpose driven life.” Instead of letting life happen to us, reacting to situations that develop around us as we drift from day to day, that we learn what God desires of us, set our course, and fulfill His plans. Through the preacher Jeremiah God told His people who had let themselves fall far from their holy calling that He had not forgotten or forsaken them. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13, NIV)

In order to find those plans and that promised destiny, we must commit ourselves to obedience and regular course corrections, asking:

“Am I making the choices God wants me to make or following my own desires?
Am I consistently doing what is right or taking the easy way of expedience?
Am I intentionally growing in character or drifting with the crowd and the current?”

The dawning of a New Year is good time for a course correction. Spend some time prayerfully about your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to make you aware of those choices you’re making that need to be brought into line with the purposes of God. The Bible offers this sobering thought: “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. … how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3, NIV)

Are you tolerating a habit in your life that you know is not pleasing to Him, determine today to change course. Don’t wait until you’re far from the Way! And know this, too; everyone of us, even those who make good God-honoring decisions from day to day, deals with crosswinds. Temptations threaten to blow us off course. Illness, job loss, and internal stress – plus many other factors beyond our control – bring storms that can blow us far from our intended destination in life if we’re just drifting along. If we are guided by the Spirit, they will not take us from His purposes!

Here’s a word from the Word. There is wonderful promise for those who are steady, eyes fixed on the Lord. Let these ancient words speak to you today.

“You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God.
You’re blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him.
That’s right—you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set.

You, God, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it.
Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set;
Then I’d never have any regrets in comparing my life with your counsel.

I thank you for speaking straight from your heart;
I learn the pattern of your righteous ways. ”
(Psalm 119:1-7, The Message)

_______________

Oh, lead me to the place
Where I can find You.
Oh, lead me to the place
Where You’ll be.

Lead me to the cross
Where we first met,
Draw me to my knees
So we can talk.

Let me feel Your breath,
Let me know
You’re here with me.

Oh Lead Me
Smith, Martin
© 1994 Curious? Music UK (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)

CCLI License No. 810055

Who’s looking? Who cares?

When it comes to way they dress, what they choose to eat and drink, or the kind of entertainment they seek – Christians often proclaim, “Well, I don’t care what anyone else thinks of me. I just try to please God.” I’ve said it, and probably so have you.  While correct,  it is not always the right choice. Taking into account how other people think about our faith is a part of our decision-making process that really does matter! We cannot be allow ourselves to become the slave of everybody’s opinions, or be content with merely looking good on the surface. But, we glorify God when we realize that how people see us practice our faith can invite them near to Him OR build walls that keep them from Him.

Paul took up a collection of money from the churches where he traveled that was designated to relieve the poverty of the Believers in Jerusalem. Note what he said about the importance of integrity. “We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.” (2 Corinthians 8:20-21, NIV) It’s an important consideration born of real love, not pride. Though we are free in Christ Jesus from religious regulation that others would lay on us as a condition of God’s acceptance, if we are loving people, we will not use our liberty in a way that distresses others.

On the other side of that coin, as we mature in Christ, we will stop throwing fits when another Christian acts in a way that violates our conscience. The realization that it is ultimately God that we both must please and to Whom we both will give account is a true mark of spiritual maturity. The same apostle who recognized his responsibility to act with open integrity also said “we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves.” (Romans 14:7, NLT) “For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too.” (Romans 14:17-19, NLT) The key in all of this is serving Christ with humility and serving others with love! Our love for community will cause us to voluntarily surrender our insistence on self-expression.

Here’s a word from the Word to chew on today. “We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. For even Christ didn’t live to please himself. As the Scriptures say, “The insults of those who insult you, O God, have fallen on me.”” (Romans 15:1-3, NLT)

From The Message, it reads like this: “Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?” That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out. “I took on the troubles of the troubled,” is the way Scripture puts it.” (Romans 15:1-3, The Message)

I am my brother’s keeper. Are you?

Break out of the Bubble of Blessing

My life is full of good things; love of friends and family, faith that secures my soul, health, peace, being a citizen in a land of plenty! In contrast to my life, millions of people on this planet, find that each day is a desperate struggle merely to survive. Cruelty is a daily experience for those who are powerless. I am disturbed by knowing that thousands (perhaps millions?) of young girls who are exploited in sexual slavery because their poverty leaves them no options. I am tempted to turn my eyes from those who are mentally shattered, addicted, and living in darkness. I am aware that entire nations are held in virtual slavery by evil tyrants who steal the future and the wealth of their countrymen.
Do you know that suffering is real and it’s not just ‘over there, somewhere?’ It may be just across the street or in your brother’s house!
Do you know that there is an answer to human misery and that answer is celebrated this Season? Yes, it is Jesus Christ!

Christ Jesus defeated sin, taught us to live nobly and in love, and gives us hope. The reason my life is full of good things results directly from Him. My country’s greatness, which provides me so many opportunities, resulted from the founder’s respect for and love of Christian principles. (Sadly, we are in rapid decline as we reject that spiritual heritage.) My grandfathers, who were called by the Spirit and who found redemption from sin through salvation in Christ Jesus, created stable homes, freedom from addictions, and a solid work ethic. From that foundation I gained an advantage to enjoy prosperity. Yes, indeed, the Light shined in the darkness and I have benefited. The Word says, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness.” (John 1:4-5, NIV)

But, am I enriched only that I might live in comfort inside a bubble of blessings?
God forgive me if that is my choice! We who are ‘in Christ’ have an obligation to shine brightly, to stand up, to speak out, to share our blessings. We are Light-bearers, taking the Light we have in Him.
Scripture is clear that with God’s blessing comes an obligation to share, not just because of pity, but to lift others, to help them find the same kind of opportunities we have known. Think carefully about this passage. “This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God. Carrying out this social relief work involves far more than helping meet the bare needs of poor Christians. It also produces abundant and bountiful thanksgivings to God. This relief offering is a prod to live at your very best, showing your gratitude to God by being openly obedient to the plain meaning of the Message of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 9:10-13, The Message)

Here’s the most amazing part of generosity- it prepares us to receive more! Ah, disciple, the love and grace of Christ when truly experienced cannot help but make us people of liberality and generosity of every kind. Jesus said it spills over beyond our material goods into our relationships: “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. … Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full-pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” (Luke 6:34-38, NLT)

May the Christ of Christmas fill you with peace, joy, hope, and love! And, may you in turn enrich others by sharing generously of that which you have been given.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

________________________

What Child is this, who laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping?

Why lies He in such mean estate
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him.
The King of kings, salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

What Child Is This
Dix, William Chatterton
© Public Domain

CoffeeBreak With The Word will be sent out after the holidays.
I will be taking time to enjoy my family and friends. Thank you for reading along.

Let the Lord work

Two weeks ago, one of our heating units in our preschool building quit. After a couple of service calls, the tech declared the unit beyond repair. Replacement was estimated to be about $13,000! Like most churches, we’re running lean these days. It seemed prudent to get other estimates on the replacement, but time was stretched thin by other demands. I handed the situation to the Lord in prayer, somewhat desperately.

Sure, it’s not earth-shaking, but I know He’s concerned about those things that concern me! He brought a man to my attention who was willing to invest time to work on a solution to the problem. Chris brought in another tech he knew who delved a little deeper into the unit. Yesterday, Matt and Chris reported that it’s working, that it can be repaired and most likely will give us another 5 years of service for about $2000. Once again, the Lord taught me a lesson in simple faith and patience.

The Lord tells us “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.” (Phil. 4:6 The Message) The invitation of the Lord is not to become childish, turning His promise into an excuse for apathy or failure to take responsibility. What He offers is counsel and care for us who are His beloved children! He offers to share our burden, to make a way through, around, under, or over our situation if we’ll walk faithfully with Him. The key to living in His care is faith that is active all of the time. If we ignore His counsel and walk willfully far from Him, we cannot expect that He will step in and remove the consequences of our sin or silliness.

However, when we are steady in faith, responsive to Him on a daily basis, and circumstances overtake us for which we lack resources, He is there. His solution may not be what we ask for or expect. When our heating unit went down and I prayed about it, what I expected was that He would send a donor to cover the expense! I had no idea that He was already working out another plan. What I knew from experience was that He had an answer for our need and I was willing (with some complaining, I admit) to trust Him even with this mundane problem.

What are you wrestling with today, disciple?
It may be much more significant in the scheme of things than a broken furnace! Maybe you have a heart that crushed with disappointment. He’s the healer of broken hearts. Maybe you’re confronted with temptation to sin that threatens ‘like a roaring lion.’ He’s the Deliverer who equips you with the soul armor of the Spirit. Perhaps you’re looking into the future without hope. He is our Hope- in life and death- the One who knows all our tomorrows!

As Advent draws to a close, bring to conscious memory the Incarnation, God becoming flesh. We are celebrating the fact that God stepped into His Creation, becoming a Man, named Jesus. He did not hold Himself apart. He entered into our world. “When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process.” (Phil 2:7–8 The Message) He did this so that we could trust Him to be our Priest and Advocate. He takes away our sin and carries our burden, knowing our temptations and challenges.

Will you let the Lord work?
Here’s a word from the Word. It is great counsel. Believe it and live in the promise.
“Trust in the LORD and do good; …
Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”
(Psalm 37:3–6, NIV)

Pentathlon Christians

Most Christians work hard at something they call ‘balance.’ They carefully prioritize life: God first, family second, church third, work fourth … and in so doing find themselves in an impossible snare of conflicting responsibilities or seriously deficient in one way or another. If we try to neatly divide our days or weeks into time exclusively given to God, or family, or work, someone or something will be neglected.

Doug Sherman suggests a different model. He says that “the Christian life is similar to the pentathlon. The pentathlon requires the athlete to be proficient in five areas: pistol shooting, epee fencing, horseback riding, swimming, and running. It involves a wide range of skills and knowledge and requires a thoughtful strategy for training. The athlete’s training time must be carefully divided among the events, although some events will take longer than others to train for. The goal is to do well in all areas to win the prize.” (Your Work Matters to God, Navpress, 1990)

Everything we do; yes, all that we are, must be submitted to Jesus Christ! In that sense there is a first line priority. The Scripture commands that “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” (Colossians 3:23, NIV) So, we cannot restrict our “God” to Sunday or times of personal meditation. He is Lord of our marriage, of our Facebook time, of our time at work, of our parenting. Similarly, we need to integrate all parts of our lives in a way that does not lead to conflict, but rather to wise choices of wholeness.

For example, what we do to create an income stream is important! It isn’t fourth or fifth in some imaginary ladder of priorities. Should we allow our occupation to define us? No, but neither should we think that what we do for the company has no relevance to our Christianity or our family life. God has called us to whole lives where His Presence is made known equally in worship, in work, and socially. If we misuse work as a means of finding fulfillment and personal worth, our family will suffer. If we make our family life the idol that we worship, we will be unproductive employees and probably not very useful to the Lord in ministry. If we push worship to the top of the ladder, our children will rightly conclude that we love our church more than we love them.

Becoming a Christian who knows the importance of working hard, relating well to friends, worshipping whole-heartedly, and loving family may sound exhausting, but with time and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, we can learn to live wholly. This honors the Lord! Sherman offers this for our thoughts. “Accept God’s sovereignty over your life and over the time at your disposal. There is just enough time in every day to do what He wants. This does not mean you will accomplish everything you want to accomplish. It does mean that when your head touches the pillow at night you can feel settled in your spirit that you worked hard to honor God with the time and the responsibilities He gave you.”

The Bible says “Unless the LORD builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the LORD protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good. It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.” (Psalm 127:1–2, NLT) Will you let Him make you into a pentathlon Christian, proficient in multiple areas, diligent and disciplined?

“Work is not always required of a man. There is such a thing as sacred idleness, the cultivation of which is now fearfully neglected.” —George MacDonald

________________

Make my life a prayer to You,
I want to do what You want me to.
No empty words, no white lies;
No token prayers, no compromise.
I want to shine the light You gave
Through Your Son You sent to save us,
From ourselves and our despair,
It comforts me to know You’re really there.

Well, I want to thank You now for being patient with me.
Oh, it’s so hard to see when my eyes are on me!
I guess I’ll have to trust and just believe what You say,
Oh, You’re coming again, coming to take me away!

I want to die and let You give
Your life to me that I might live
And share the hope You gave to me
The love that set me free.

– Keith Green

Believe!

Are you a Believer? To be a believer means that you have confidence in the truth or existence of something or someone. A mother of a 10 year old told me that her son is struggling with his belief in Santa Claus. He wants to hang onto the idea that there is a jolly old guy in a red suit who flies around dropping gifts into the homes of good kids, but…. well, you know, it harder all the time to remain convinced that the tale really could be true.

Do you struggle to hang onto your faith in Jesus Christ, trying hard to believe? Does the cruel world beat up on your faith? It is not a terrible thing to admit it! About the worse thing a person who wants to be a Believer can do is to just ‘try harder.’ An examined faith that lets go of immature understanding and settles on those things which are true becomes foundational to life. If Jesus remains the Sunday School figure of your childhood, the ‘magic man’ who makes all your troubles disappear, faith in Him will go the way of believing in old St. Nick! However, if you grow in the knowledge of Who He is and what He promises, faith will deepen, not diminish.

Faith does not grow simpler with maturity, but even in its complexity, it can grow stronger. The Bible says it is the work of godly, gifted Christians to work together until “we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:13–15 (NIV)

I am a Believer! I am convinced by the Scripture, the flow of history, the beauty of universe, and my experience of His Presence that God exists and that Jesus Christ came to be my Savior. I know He holds me in His grip, not because I am good, nor because I am desirable – but because of His love. No, I cannot explain why the Lord allows some things happen, nor can I explain why some prayers appear to be answered more positively than others. But my faith is tested and I believe! Can I prove my faith is true and make it real to you? Yes and no. If you’re demanding that I produce the stones on which the Ten Commandments were etched by the finger of God or a lock of Jesus’ hair, I can’t prove a thing. If you’ll look at the life transformation that loving Him has produced in many people, if you’ll let me tell you the story of God’s love in my life, and if you will begin to learn The Story of God’s will and purposes from the Bible – then you will find reasons to believe.

Here’ a word from the Word. Take it with you today, Believer. “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. … And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. … Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 11:1,6; 12:1 (NLT)

________________

My faith looks up to Thee,
Thou Lamb of Calvary,
Savior divine!
Now hear me while I pray;
Take all my guilt away.
Oh let me from this day
Be wholly Thine!

May Thy rich grace impart
Strength to my fainting heart,
My zeal inspire.
As Thou hast died for me,
Oh may my love to Thee
Pure, warm and changeless be,
A living fire.

While life’s dark maze I tread,
And griefs around me spread
Be Thou my Guide.
Bid darkness turn to day;
Wipe sorrow’s tears away;
Nor let me ever stray
From Thee aside!

My Faith Looks Up To Thee
Palmer, Ray / Mason, Lowell

© Public Domain

See you later, Aunt Jennie

Jennie Dickson was 102! She was one of the founding members of our church ‘way back in 1947, a long-time Sunday School teacher, and a good friend. Well into her 90’s, she drove her car down the mountain and to our front door to worship. And last Sunday, her journey here on earth came to a close. We’ll have her funeral today and then commit her body to the ground, but we won’t say good-bye. Instead, we’ll bid her rest in the arms of her Lord and say, “see you later!”

The hope of our faith is eternal life. I love what Paul says about this…. “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (1 Corinthians 15:17-19, NIV) “But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.” (1 Corinthians 15:20, NLT) The keystone of our faith is the Resurrection! The Cross is the key to our restoration to our Father. The Empty Tomb the proof of our hope, the symbolic doorway to Heaven.

Disciple, we must not only drag this doctrine out of the Bible at funerals and Easter! We need to be Resurrection people, our lives kept on track and focused by this promise. Our reservation is confirmed, our destination certain. This great truth is not only comforting. It is compelling! That great treatise on the Resurrection closes by urging us to stay steady. Keep the Faith! “In a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God! With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.” (1 Corinthians 15:57-58, The Message)

What Aunt Jennie did for the Lord and our church has disappeared under the weight of time. There are perhaps a couple of dozen people left in the congregation who even know her. Few realize the key role she played in bringing the church into existence, her sacrifices of time and resources to make it thrive, her steadiness to the church through it’s up’s and down’s over the years, but God knows and she was welcomed into His house, blessed and honored daughter of the Father.

See you later, Aunt Jennie.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8, NIV)

_________________

When the trumpet
Of the Lord shall sound
Time shall be no more,
And the morning breaks
Eternal bright and fair.
When the saints on earth shall gather
Over all the other shore,
And the roll is called up yonder
I’ll be there.

And on that bright
And cloudless morning
When the dead in Christ shall rise,
And the glory
Of His resurrection share;
When the chosen ones shall gather
To their home beyond the skies,
And the roll is called up yonder
I’ll be there.

So let us labor for the Master
From the dawn ’til setting sun,
Let us talk of all
His wondrous love and care;
And when all of life is over
And our work on earth is done,
And the roll is called up yonder
I’ll be there.

When the roll is called up yonder,
When the roll is called up yonder,
When the roll is called up yonder
I’ll be there.

When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder
Black, James M.

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CCLI License No. 810055

The Irreplaceable Christ

What secures your faith? He’s not what, but Who. His name? Jesus Christ!
What anchors your hope? I pray you’re not falling for silly superstitions for our hope in God is anchored in the the Word.

George Barna, a researcher who studies Christianity in America, reports the following alarming “mega-trend” which creates deep concern in my mind. “What used to be basic, universally-known truths about Christianity are now unknown mysteries to a large and growing share of Americans–especially young adults. For instance, Barna Group studies in 2010 showed that while most people regard Easter as a religious holiday, only a minority of adults associate Easter with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Other examples include the finding that few adults believe that their faith is meant to be the focal point of their life or to be integrated into every aspect of their existence. Further, a growing majority believe the Holy Spirit is a symbol of God’s presence or power, but not a living entity. As the two younger generations (Busters and Mosaics) ascend to numerical and positional supremacy in churches across the nation, the data suggest that biblical literacy is likely to decline significantly. The theological free-for-all that is encroaching in Protestant churches nationwide suggests the coming decade will be a time of unparalleled theological diversity and inconsistency.”
My own observation is that many “Christians” forsake the true Gospel of Jesus Christ for silly superstitions, angel stories, and bizarre worship practices. In a lifetime of pastoral ministry I watched as many fads have come and gone in the Church. I’ve seen many doctrinal aberrations that time has corrected, but nothing I have known compares to what is happening in evangelical and Pentecostal Christian churches now. Because many no longer trust the absolute sufficiency of the Scripture for life and godliness, all manner of dangerous practices and esoteric practices are creeping in.

Our doctrines are shaped by psychology as much as Scripture, by cultural influences more than the truth. Americans love their celebrities and trust a pretty face to advise them about money, sex, and politics! Tragically, the same is true in the Church. An athlete who comes to faith in Christ from a life full of dysfunction is put on the stage in front of thousands of teens within months of his conversion, held up as a role model before the water of his baptism has dried. Our theology is shaped by singers and bands that often have little in the way of sound theological training, but they ‘sound’ relevant, so let their songs teach us.

Even serious disciples are too often distracted by esoteric ideas about demons, angels, and psychic phenomena rather than solid daily application of Jesus’ Gospel to their business practices, financial decisions, and relationships.

Here’s the wonderful Word of the powerful Gospel. “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:14-17, NIV)

Take time this Advent to go back to the Gospel. Read the Jesus story told in Matthew and Luke and let the wonderful Truth inspire you. God became a Man! God, the Creator, mysteriously and wondrously, moved by love entered this world and was born a baby, lived among us teaching us, died to save us from our sins, and rose again to declare His triumph over sin, death, and Hell. Hallelujah, what a Savior.

“I need no other argument,
I need no other plea,
it is enough that Jesus died,
and that He died for me.”
My heart is leaning on the Word,
the written Word of God.
Salvation by my Savior’s name,
salvation through His blood.”