Thursday, April 19, 2018

Day of Praise

Fri, 04/20/18, Easter Day #20, "Day of Praise"

Romans 4:24-25 - "It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification."

Have you ever lost your way? 

When we hear in today's Bible verses that Jesus was "raised for our justification," God's telling us that Jesus was raised from the dead, and is now alive, in order to make things right in the lives of all believers. And one thing that Jesus will do to "justify us" and "make us right" is he will lead us in order to get us on track when we've lost our way.

I remember a time I'd lost my way. I was trying to find a restaurant where my family was meeting for a celebration. My phone had died, and I didn't have a car charger at the time, so I couldn't call for or google directions. So I stopped at a gas station, went inside, and asked nobody in particular, "Does anyone know where Aubrey's Restaurant is?" Immediately, a guy named Lewis said, "Follow me." I suppose that Lewis could've been a serial killer, but, fortunately, Lewis, simply and kindly, just led me straight to Aubrey's, which was tucked away off the road where I'd searched high and low. But just like Jesus, Lewis took me straight to a place that I would never in a million years have found by myself, though I was oblivious to the fact that it was basically right under my nose. 

And that's one of the things that God does constantly in our lives through Jesus to make things right in our lives. He helps us find our way. He sends people to us to help us see things we never would've seen, though they're right there under our nose. He helps us see things that, like that celebration meal, enrich our lives, give us strength, bring us joy, and weave our lives into a rich fellowship of relationships and love, all of which are blessings along the way that God made for us to begin with, but that we often miss because we've lost our way. 

Friends, is something missing from your life and you realize that you don't know what it is? Or maybe you know what it is, but you have no clue how to find it? Well, Jesus is alive; he was "raised for our justification," for making things right in our lives. He wants to lead you straight to the things and places that you yourself are just flat out never going to find on your own. So he invites you to stop, to turn to him and ask, "Do you know how to get to this thing or place that I need but can't find?" Friends, you can trust God and trust God's Word, Jesus! He will lead the way!

Follow Jesus, and you'll see!

Praise God!

Pastor Chris 
"The gospel is the story of Jesus [what God's only Son has done for us that we can't do for ourselves], spoken as a promise." - Robert Jenson

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Day of Praise

Thur, 04/19/18, Easter Day #19, "Day of Praise"

John 20:30-31 - "Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."

Have you ever had something wonderfully strange happen to you, when all the stars align through total "coincidence"? And it's so strange you know it can't be a coincidence; it must be what's called a "sign" in today's Bible verses. 

A "sign" is something that only God can arrange and pull off, and God does it so that we'll "believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:30-31) In other words, when something wonderfully strange happens to you, God's arranging it and pulling it off to give and strengthen faith in Jesus. And note that God's word says that God is seeking to strengthen our faith in who Jesus is moreso than what Jesus does! "Jesus is the Christ," and believing that Jesus is the Christ, believing in who he is, is the way God chooses to give us "life in his name." (John 20:30-31) In sum, as great as God's wonderful signs and deeds are, God does them not so we'll look for more signs and deeds but in order to get us to look for him!

Let me give you an example. The night before a friend of mine and I strangely wound up at the same breakfast table on the anniversary of the death of both our fathers to pray for a sister in Christ whose mom had just died, I was driving from the church to one of our neighborhood groups. As I was pulling out of the parking lot, I noticed what I came to discover were two $20 bills just lying there on the ground. God told me, plain as day, who to give one $20 bill to at the group that I was right then going to attend. When I got there and gave it to them, they basically started crying because they said that $20 was going to be the gas money they needed to get to work and that they'd just literally been praying for. Coincidence? Well, you can believe what you want, but both those people who needed the gas money and also I myself chose to believe that it was a sign from God that, if we'll just have what the world sees as a radical faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, then God will miraculously provide for us. (By the way, the other $20 wound up being part of the money that God obviously provided for us to buy food for their poor next door neighbor whose mom had just died!)

Notice that I did NOT say that, if we'll trust God to provide, then we'll see that Jesus is the Christ. That's what Jesus was talking to Thomas about when Thomas believed because he'd seen a miracle instead of believing in Jesus so he could see the miracle of life in Jesus' name. God's plan is for us to believe in who Jesus is more than we believe in what Jesus does miraculously. In other words, God wants us to fall in love with him moreso than falling in love with his signs and wonders and miracles because the power for our lives and the greatest miracle of all is the life-giving relationship with God through Jesus, which is why today's verse ends with "that by believing you may have life in his name."

So! Is something lacking in your life? Don't look for a miracle; instead look to Jesus. Is something wrong in your life? Don't look for a miracle; instead look to Jesus. The power of God is in Jesus who does the miracles, not in the miracles that are done by Jesus.

Hunh? Maybe that's why I saw another wonderfully strange thing a couple days ago. I saw two families who both are really struggling financially though they work as hard as anybody. And both these families said that, though they've never been poorer financially and struggled so much, they both volunteered that they've rededicated themselves to tithing, to giving the first ten percent of their income to spreading the good news of Jesus in partnership with our church. Why? Because they both have discovered, in their financial poverty, an immeasurable wealth in the person of Jesus, that he truly "is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:30-31)

In sum, God is eager to do physical miracles, as our church experiences regularly, like another person recently who was physically healed of knee and back pain. But as great as those miracles are, God does them to bring us to the greatest miracle, which is the miracle of Almighty God giving us himself, dwelling in our very bodies through Jesus Christ, so that the presence and wisdom and power of God's Holy Spirit can fill and flow through our lives to all the world with the Abundant Life for which every person yearns, now and forevermore!

I know it's a lot to think about. Nevertheless, think about it! Even better, believe it; believe that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:30-31)

Praise God!

Pastor Chris 
"The gospel is the story of Jesus [what God's only Son has done for us that we can't do for ourselves], spoken as a promise." - Robert Jenson

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Day of Praise

Wed, 04/18/18, Easter Day #18, "Day of Praise"

Revelation 7:16-17 - "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

Once upon a time, there was no such thing as the internet. One such year was 1972. In order to get a hotel room in places such as Daytona Beach, FL, a family actually had to drive there from a place like Kingsport, TN and look for a hotel that had a little sign in the window that said "Vacancy." If there was no room in the inn, the hotel would put a sign that said "No" in front of "Vacancy." 

My late father, Ben, Sr., had driven our family of six the long trip from Kingsport to Daytona for a July 4 holiday. He found a place with a "Vacancy," parked the car, and went inside with many other travellers who were seeking a room during that busy holiday. The process of getting a room was taking a while so us four kids, (I was 7 years old), talked my mom into letting us swim in the hotel pool until dad was finished. I myself took off my shirt and exposed my very pale, never-south-of-Tennessee, skin to the scorching Florida sun for 30 minutes while we had an absolute ball in the pool. Bad idea.

I was introduced to my first official sunburn. And it was bad. I was scorched so intensely on my face, arms, chest and back that I had to walk like the Hunchback through the newly built Disney World. As the Haunted House ride went backwards down a steep slope, I held onto the safety bar for dear life because I couldn't lean back against anything without excruciating pain. I had to sleep on hotel floors, lest one of my 3 siblings accidentally turn in the night and touch my sun-scorched body. I literally froze with fever chills as the ceiling fans sent what felt like an Arctic blast in every place we ate. And by the end of the week, I was peeling very large chunks of skin off my body.

This whole recounting is a parable for one of many reasons why I'm a Christian and thankful for my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, namely, that, in the language of today's Bible verse from Revelation 7:16-17, I don't want to be struck by "any scorching heat. For the Lamb [Jesus] in the midst of the throne will be [our] shepherd, and he will guide [us] to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes." 

These words were written to and were a comfort to those who, through faith in Jesus Christ, had endured the great tribulation of suffering from the scorching heat of persecution under Emperor Nero in 60 A.D. and beyond. Every movement of every Christian came with the uncertainty of bumping into and being touched by an unbeliever who would inflict great pain. It would have been difficult to eat or sleep in peace. When discovered, the lashings would cause the loss of large chunks of not just skin but flesh and leave a body scarred for life.

So when God's word says, "the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat" what it means in reality is that, though we are struck by heat and burned on the outside, there is an unmistakable victory on the inside, "For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

In the end, I had a great time in Florida that week with many fond memories from "It's a Small World" in Disney to a Stock Car race at Daytona International Speedway. And I intend to have a great time today, even as we live in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to lives fully devoted to Christ and his ways. 
The Lamb is with you today. Come what may from the scorching heat of your day, trust him to "guide you to springs of living water, and to wipe away every tear." He promises. He will. 

Praise God!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Day of Praise

Tues, 04/17/18, Easter Day #17, "Day of Praise"

2 Corinthians 13:11 - "Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you."

If I aimed and swung a billion times, I could not ever again match the notorious feat. Son, Caden, and I were hitting golf balls in the large, grassy, power-line right-of-way that was behind the houses at one of the grandparent's house. At the same time, younger daughter, Cassidy, was swimming all by herself in the neighborhood pool about a hundred and twenty yards away. 

I myself am not a skilled golfer, so when Caden said, "Dad, don't hit the ball toward Cassidy." I said, "Caden, this ball won't hit your sister in a million years." Well, the moment I hit the golf ball with a 7-iron, we saw that we might just as well have played the lottery that day because the ball went high and true and straight on line toward Cassidy. Caden and I just started both screaming, "Cassidy!" and also sprinting toward the pool as we both had visions of her getting knocked unconscious by a direct hit from the golf ball and then drowning in the pool. And sure enough, the ball hit in the pool parking lot about 20 yards from her, bounced high in the air, and, drawn like a fly to honey, hit her squarely on the top of her head.

God love her! Cass yelled out in pain and started dancing in the pool like Elaine on a Seinfeld episode, i.e. not gracefully at all. Fortunately, she wasn't knocked out. But oooooh, did her head hurt for days. And it was all because of my poor aim, coupled with an unbelief in the possibility. 

And this is why St. Paul is inspired by the Holy Spirit to urge us to aim carefully and thoughtfully with our efforts each day. "Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace," writes Paul in 2 Corinthians 13:11. It's as if Paul is recognizing that, without care and thought in a fallen world, the things we do can all too easily harm and injure other people and whack 'em on the top of the head. So "aim for restoration!"

But Paul closes with a great encouragement, noting "and the God of love and peace will be with you." In essence, Paul's also recognizing that in a fallen world, God is alive and well through the crucified and risen Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. And the reason we need to hear this is because, without such assurance of God's presence, anybody who cared would never do anything. We'd be paralyzed by the fear that every little swing of our club, despite our best aim, was going to wind up hitting and hurting someone. But since "the God of love and peace [is] with [us]," then trusting God to work through all things for good, we're set free to swing away!

So "Aim for restoration" to be sure, but believe all the more that "the God of love and peace [is] with [us]." (2 Corinthians 13:11)

Praise God!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Day of Praise

Mon, 04/16/18, Easter Day #16, "Day of Praise"

1 Corinthians 1:30-31 - "And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, 'Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.'"

Have you ever been proud of and thankful for someone? If so, you carry pictures of them, and you have things about them memorized, like their birthday.

Let's do something like that with Jesus. Let's tuck away some things about Jesus, not in our wallets, but in our hearts, so we can pull those things out at any time and tell those things about the One we're all proud of and thankful for. 

In today's Bible verses, we hear three things that Jesus is for us: righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Let's add seven and learn an even ten so we can walk even more powerfully in Christ. 

Here's an acronym tool to learn ten awesome things that Jesus is for us. Think of our sinful mess as ERR, as in mistakes. Our ERR was dealt with between PA (the Father) and JR (the Son), which gives us PAERRJR. And PA and JR are Always So Good (ASG) for dealing with our ERR, so we have PAERRJRASG. Got it? If not, then reread this paragraph, please!

So what do these ten letters, PAERRJRASG, tell us IN ORDER that Jesus is for us in dealing with our ERR?
P - Propitiation - He absorbs God's wrath against us for sin, which is why Jesus cried out from the cross, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"
A - Atonement - He removes our guilt.
E - Expiation - He removes our sin that causes God's wrath and our guilt.
R - Redemption - He's the ransom payment for our liberty.
R - Righteousness - He fulfills all requirements for restoring us to God. 
J - Justification - He leaves nothing for us to be indicted about before God.
R - Reconciliation - He restores us to God's face and therefore intimate fellowship with God.
A - Adoption - He makes us joint heirs of the PA (Father God) with himself, JR (the Son).
S - Sanctification - He seals aaaaaall the above and matures us in conduct by the power of the Holy Spirit.
G - Glorification - He completes our perfection at his coming again.

Please friends, take time to learn more about the most special One in our lives so that God can be praised and others can meet Jesus through you and you can walk in his power, the power of the Holy Spirit. Put your faith, your plain, simple trust in Jesus Christ, and you will see!

Praise God!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Day of Praise

Sat, 04/14/18, Easter Day #14. "Day of Praise"

John 8:11 - "She said, 'No one, Lord.' And Jesus said, 'Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.'"


Who likes surprises? I guess, for all of us, it depends on what kind of surprise you're talking about. 

My wife, Amanda, and I were once touched by the surprise of credit card fraud before. That's not fun. But you work through it together, and ultimately it's no big deal. 

And then there are pleasant surprises. 

I feel so blessed when someone surprisingly walks into my life for any reason. But, it's always a pleasant surprise when someone walks into your life who is Godly, Christ-centered, Spirit-filled, grace-flowing, relationally-wise, divinely-prioritized, Biblically-valued, humble-AND-meek-bent, long-term-oriented, patiently-persevering, kid-sharing, huge-hearted, sharp-minded, kind-and-compassionate, socially-confident, smoothly-articulate, community-involved, the-more-the-merrier-postured, fun-filled, silly-humored, flower-loving. You, of course, can make your own list of traits that pleasantly surprise you, but that's part of mine. And when I see those traits with someone who I meet in life or who comes to church or who Amanda or our kids tell me they met at work or school, then I'm pleasantly surprised. 

But easily the best possible surprise is when we're met with grace. Grace, by it's nature, is surprising because grace is always undeserved. God's word is clear that God's grace alone makes life worth living. For example, fundamentally, we didn't do anything to be called into being because we didn't exist, so how could we deserve to be created? The very fact that we exist is purely God's grace. It's a surprise. The best surprise.

Today's Bible verse, gives us another example of grace as the best surprise. It's the example of forgiveness. Forgiveness is when an offended party gives up the right to get even with the offender. Though the consequences of sin touch people, all sin is against God because sin, by it's nature, is a rebellion against God, against God's word, and against how God has established life to work. 

So when the woman, caught in adultery, is spared by Jesus's wisdom instead of stoned by the people of the town, she's surprised by his mercy, which means she was surprised that she did not get what she deserved. When Jesus, though, takes it further and doesn't condemn her but forgives her and sends her on her way to live a new life, she's downright shocked. Surprise! The best surprise. The surprise of grace. The surprise of something totally undeserved coming your way.

Friends, I constantly hear people talking about wanting a better world. Well, the power to make it better is in our reach. All it takes is our lifting our hearts and thanking God for his surprising grace. And then, in the strength and power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, passing along his grace. People will be surprised, even shocked, like the woman caught in adultery. And your world, our world, will instantly be a better place!

Let's do it! Wooohooo!

Praise God!

Pastor Chris 
"The gospel is the story of Jesus [what God's only Son has done for us that we can't do for ourselves], spoken as a promise." - Robert Jenson

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Day of Praise

Fri, 04/13/18, Easter Day #13, "Day of Praise"

Matthew 16:3 - "[Jesus said to them, 'You say,] "And in the morning, 'It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times."'"

Here's some Driver's License Test questions: 
A red light means what? 
"Stop", yes! 
A green light means what? 
"Go", yes! 
And a yellow light means what? 
"Floor it!!!" 
Uuuuuh, no, I'm sorry, that's not right. A yellow light means "prepare to stop." And the unwillingness to interpret the sign that is a yellow light as "prepare to stop" has been the cause of many a death.

And that's exactly what Jesus is talking about in today's verse when he says, "You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times." The key sign that Jesus refers to is the sign of Jonah. Jesus even tells us what the sign of Jonah is, namely, that just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a whale, so too will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the belly of the earth. The sign of Jonah is a sign that testifies to the truth that just as Jonah seemed dead in the whale but he was spewed forth by the whale onto dry land, so too Jesus seemed dead in the grave but he was spewed forth by the Living God into the midst of the living.

So why, then, do so many people, many of whom profess to be Christians, continue to live as if Jesus is still dead and in the grave? Tragically, the unwillingness to interpret the sign that is Jesus' resurrection as "live like Jesus is alive" has been the cause of many a death. In other words, everyday, many a Christian approaches a difficult situation as if Jesus is dead by never appealing to the crucified, risen, and living Christ to do something about the situation and then believing that he will do it and looking for him to do it.

God wants us to read the signs of the times correctly so we can live abundantly. When a difficult situation comes up in our lives, it does not mean that we're done for or that we're supposed to deal with it in our own strength. Instead, when we have a difficult situation, it means that Jesus, who conquered the greatest ever difficulty of an unjust death, is about to show you his mighty power and conquer your difficulty too!!!

Let us be found believing, and may God be praised for his victory over every difficulty in our lives by the power of the risen and living Jesus Christ. Can I get an "Amen!"? Aaaaaaaaamen!

Praise God!

Pastor Chris 
"The gospel is the story of Jesus [what God's only Son has done for us that we can't do for ourselves], spoken as a promise." - Robert Jenson

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Day of Praise

Thur, 04/12/18, Easter Day #12, "Day of Praise"

Colossians 1:9-10 - "And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God."

I remember getting tickled once. I drove past a church sign that on two lines read, "Is your life pleasing to God?" And then on the next line, it said, "Zumba - Wednesday 7:30." You can do all sorts of things with the sequence on the sign, but when I first read it driving by, it sounded as if a Zumba exercise class was their suggestion for pleasing God. So I chuckled.

Setting all humor aside, today's verses from Colossians are amongst sixty or so Bible verses that tell us what does and does not please God about our lives. In sum, God is pleased with our lives when we walk with Him and therefore walk in His blessings and from the overflow of blessings, we bear the fruit of sharing Him with others.

Walking with God is not difficult. Walking with God means surrendering to the faithful work of God's Holy Spirit so that we:
1) have faith in Christ, (both in Him personally and in His saving work),
2) listen for Christ's voice (for example, daily Bible reading, prayer, and at least weekly worship), and
3) look for Christ, (for example, look for the many daily chances to serve him by serving other people in WORDS AND DEEDS with God's love).

The result of such a walk with God, according to today's verses, is that we are:
1) filled with Christ and, therefore, his spiritual wisdom and power,
2) increasing in the knowledge of God, and
3) bearing fruit in every good work.
In sum, we are blessed. The result of walking with God is that we are blessed in such a way that we become a blessing to others, a living invitation to Christ for others, and a glory to God.

To bring it full circle, when, through faith in Him, we are a blessing to others and a glory to God, then God is pleased indeed.

Praise God!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Day of Praise

Wed, 04/11/18, Easter Day #11, "Day of Praise"

Matthew 13:23 - "[Jesus said,] 'As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.'"

Okay, Parents, listen up!

Well, as long as you're somebody who cares about somebody else, then you can listen in too.

Okay, here's what I need to tell you. Ready? This is the information that will make you the best parents ever. Ready? Okay!

Here's the info: My grass is growing!

Yep, that's all the info you need to be super-parents.

Oh, I'm not talking about my regular grass. I mean, it's April and, of course, the regular grass is growing. I'm talking about the two square feet of grass in the triangular area enclosed by the concrete of the curb, the sidewalk, and my driveway. That's the grass that's growing! It hasn't grown in a couple years. 

So how could it have grown when it was totally sun scorched and whatever's-in-concrete fed?  Simple! Good soil! A one dollar and thirty-eight cent bag of good ol' top soil that was waiting in my yard bucket to be used. Sprinkle it in; sprinkle it on; and wow, the grass starts to grow. 

Does this surprise us? It shouldn't. Jesus said in today's Bible verse that whatever is sown on good soil will be thirty, sixty, even hundred times more productive.

So what's this got to do with parenting? Simple. In today's verse, Jesus says that good soil is a person, namely, a person "who hears [God's] word and understands it." It's pretty hard for your child to hear God's word and understand it and bear fruit like Jesus describes , if you're never feeding your child both with God's word and an understanding of it. Feeding a child with God's word and an understanding of it so that, all other things being equal, your child can be "thirty, sixty, even hundred times more productive" has nothing to do with seminary training or serving as a pastor. No! Feeding a child with God's word and an understanding of it so that, all other things being equal, your child can be "thirty, sixty, even hundred times more productive" has to do with time. Your time. Your time to daily read a bit of the Bible to your child. Your time to weekly memorize the simplest of Bible verses. Your time to Google just a little bit of understanding from an internet source like And your time to feed that bit of understanding to your child.

I'm a parent. I know it doesn't take that much time to read God's Word to your child and share a bit of understanding with your child. Even five minutes a day in God's Word with your child is better than leaving them out in the elements to get sun scorched and whatever's-in-concrete fed?

Try it! What do you have to lose? How about a little bit of time...and a lot of anxiety over your children's future! After all, God's word will produce untold spiritual fruit...and that's the growth in a child for which every parent yearns!

Praise God!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Day of Praise

Tues, 04/10/18, Easter Day #10, "Day of Praise"

Luke 24:31 - "And their eyes were opened, and they recognized [Jesus]. And he vanished from their sight."

Where did he go?

In today's verse, when we hear that Jesus, having been raised from the dead, "vanished from their sight," where did he go?

Well, in order to answer that question, we need to remember who "they" were. Yes, Jesus "vanished from their sight," but who were "they"? Yes, they were the ones whose "eyes were opened, and they recognized" Jesus, but who were "they"?

To answer that question, we need to look back ten verses from today's verse. And there in verse 21, we see and hear something very important about "them." After the crucified and risen Christ has joined them on the road to Emmaus, they don't realize that it's Jesus who's joined them, and one of the things they say to Jesus is, "we had hoped." In other words, the crucified and risen Christ came to and walked with people who "had hoped" because they'd lost hope. And after walking with and restoring the hope of these who had lost hope, Jesus "vanished from their sight." So, back to the original question, "where did he go?" Well, he went to some more people who have lost hope.

Have you lost hope?

If you have lost hope, Jesus "vanished from their sight" to come to you!

Ya see, God's word plainly tells us many times that God brings hope into the midst of our grief. God brings hope into the midst of our sorrow. God brings hope into the midst of all that would erode and wash away our hope.

Just like a medical doctor works where there are sick people, so too a giver of hope works where there are people who need hope. The crucified and risen Jesus is a giver of hope.

Why have you lost hope? Why do you need hope? Maybe you're amongst the people who have huddled in a hallway or a basement or a locked room to take shelter from a devastating storm literally swirling around your home or maybe from a devastating storm figuratively swirling around your heart.

For whatever reason you've lost hope and need hope, Jesus is coming to you because that's one of the many things that the crucified and risen Christ does. He brings hope into the midst of our grief. He brings hope into the midst of our sorrow. He brings hope into the midst of all that would erode our hope and wash it away.

Believe, dear friends, and look to Jesus. Believe in the midst of your difficulty that Jesus is with you and so are my prayers that you will find comfort and hope in him today.

Praise God!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Day of Praise

Mon, 04/09/18, Easter Day #9, "Day of Praise"

John 11:43 - "When [Jesus] had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out.'"

I love going to Target, ya know the store with clothes and food and stuff.

Generally speaking, people aren't shopping there for extras. They're buying necessities. And because they're buying necessities, there isn't really too much to get excited about. And it shows. 

Boy oh boy, have you seen the look on people's faces while they're shopping for necessities? It's not a happy sight. 99% of the people look like they're the proverbial "this far" from being wrapped in grave clothes and sealed in a tomb. Like Lazarus was in today's Bible verse.

But Jesus had something to say about that. And so do I. Hey, you can join in too, if you want. Jesus said, "Lazarus, come out." Well, actually he didn't say it. What Jesus did was he said it like he meaned it. Yes, meaned it, which, in my experience, is Southern for Jesus said it like he expected it was gonna work. Yes indeed, the Bible says, Jesus "cried out with a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out.'" To be sure, Jesus was speaking to his dear friend, named "Lazarus." But since the name "Lazarus" means "God helps me," then we can responsibly say that Jesus was preaching an invitation to "come out of death and come instead to Jesus" to anybody who looks dead and needs God's help. Ya know, anybody who needs to come to life! To abundant life! To stop focusing on how hard life can be (because it can be hard), and focus on the one who can help. Y'all, God helps. And I can see it when I'm focused on him and not on my attitude of I-still-walk-20-miles-uphill-in-both-directions-in-the-snow-to-school. Jesus calls us out of that weary existence into new life.

And I can do that too, when I believe in the strength of Jesus workin' through me. I just pick me out a person who looks spiritually dead at Target (and there are many to choose from), and I shout at 'em in a loud voice.

Like a couple weeks ago, I said to this employee, "Where are the greeting cards, please?" And she said, "Come right this way." And the next thing I know she's got me walkin' through the women's delicates. And I shouted out in a loud voice, "Lord, lookee where I am, please get me outta here!" And that employee, she just like instantaneously went from death to life. She started laughin'. And I said, "Well, God tells us to be fools for Christ. And I'm lookin' like a fool, so I might as well sound like one too." And we hugged. And she thanked me for makin' her day. And I thanked her for pointin' me toward the greeting cards. And I greeted some other dead people on the way. Really! And most of them came to life too.

See! You can do that! Anybody can act like a fool. All it takes is a little faith, a little silliness, and the ability to say, "Hey!" I mean, who cares if people think you're a fool? If they don't think that, they'll just think that you're dead, just like them. So who cares if they think you're a fool. After all, that's what the Bible people thought Jesus was when he hollered into something like Dixie Caverns to a man who'd been dead for days and told him to come out. They thought Jesus was a fool for thinking that the dead could come to life.

Well, obviously he wasn't.

And neither are we.

So, see ya at Target or Walmart or some necessities store! I shouldn't be hard to spot. I'm the one lookin' and soundin' like a fool for Jesus Christ! Won't you join me?

Praise God!

Friday, April 6, 2018

Day of Praise

Sat, 04/07/18, Easter Day #7, "Day of Praise"

Mark 10:29-30 - "Jesus said, 'Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.'"

I remember a time that I had this beautiful, jumbo, white iris blooming in my yard, and some kid ripped it right off its stem and literally left it wadded up in my yard so that it looked like a wadded up paper towel until I bent over to pick it up out of my grass and realized "Hey, this is not a paper towel; it's my precious, jumbo, white iris that some kid has destroyed." So I threw it back down in my yard, mad as an hornet at the neighbor kids, and stomped away.


I didn't get upset at anybody nor throw anything down nor stomp away. My goodness, at any one time, I have hundreds of beautiful flowers blooming, literally. What is one little, jumbo flower?  
People have given so many kinds of flowers to me through the years that I have literally only spent ten dollars on two weigela plants to have my beautiful yard, or should I say "field," of flowers.

So, why did I tell you I got upset and threw stuff down and stomped away? Because that's, at least, in part what Jesus is talking about in today's verse when he talks about losing fields and houses and relationships.

Ya see, because of sin, we tend to have an unhealthy death grip on the things and people in our lives so that whenever we lose possession of a thing or control over a person, then we get so emotionally bent out of shape about it that we wind up forgetting about our many other blessings, in addition to usually hurting some people in our lives with our sour, stay-away-from-me attitude.

But God wants us to say, "Ok, so I lost a flower, but not only do I have the blessing of hundreds of other flowers, but I'm also blessed to have a neighborhood full of kids who love to play wiffle ball in my yard and climb my trees and jump on my trampoline and swing on my swing and slide on my slide. I'm so blessed that they know they're welcome and their parents trust me for their kids to be here." So now all of a sudden, I have hundreds of fields and nieces and nephews and brothers and sisters and houses where I'm welcome in my land, er, I mean, neighborhood.

But I totally miss out on those hundreds and hundreds of blessings when I protect and hold onto my things and my life with a death grip.

We gotta let go, friends. We gotta let go.

This is what Jesus is talking about. He, who died for us and has been raised, has restored all things to himself and entrusted them anew to us. The question is this? Are we gonna share them, as if they're the Lord's anyway, and therefore enjoy them all as a gift? Or are we going to possess them, as if they're ours to keep, and wind up losing them all not just in the end but right now too?

We are rich, friends. We are rich. Because Jesus is alive and reigns over all and has entrusted the treasure of his kingdom to us, then we are rich, rich, rich, rich, rich, immeasurably rich!

Let us share and gladly lose our bounty because, in so doing, God promises to multiply it a hundred times over. Wow!

Praise God!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Day of Praise

Fri, 04/06/18, Easter Day #6, "Day of Praise"

Luke 5:33 - "And [the Pharisees] said to [Jesus], 'The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.'"

You are about to live a parable. The parable is called Friday.

Let me explain.

A dear friend of mine once told me that the great Warren Wiersbe said, "A parable begins as a picture and then becomes a mirror in which we see ourselves and then, through faith, becomes a window, through which we see God."

So you're about to live the parable called Friday. The picture of Friday is HAPPY! Then that happy picture becomes a mirror, namely, when you look in the mirror on Friday, I bet you see happy a lot more than on Monday! And now the mirror reflecting your Friday happiness becomes a window, through which we see God. 

Don't you see God? That's what today's Bible verse is about. Jesus and his disciples eat and drink. In other words, they're happy, happy, happy! Oh sure, Jesus fasted some, like in the wilderness at the start of his ministry. But Jesus feasted more than he fasted. I mean his first miracle was at a wedding with dancing and laughing where he turned yucky water into 180 gallons of happy, happy, happy wine! How 'bout we say that Jesus made a significant contribution to everyone's happiness at the wedding!

Just as he contributes to ours.

I mean, here's the deal. Jesus is alive, People!!!!!!!!!! He conquered death and sin!!!! They have no power over us anymore. Putting it back in parable form, we can rightly say that Jesus conquered Monday! The parable of Monday has no power over us! Because Jesus rose from the dead, there are no more Mondays! Now everyday can be Friday! Everyday can be happy!

Oh sure, there are times for Monday, times for mourning and grieving and confessing. But because Jesus feasted more than he fasted, you might say that Jesus sprinkled some Friday into Monday and invites us to do the same because whatever life serves up, you can't change the fact that Jesus is alive, transforming grieving into joy and Monday into Friday!

So, Happy Friday today! And Happy Friday tomorrow! And Happy Friday forevermore!

Praise God!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Day of Praise

Thur, 04/05/18, Easter Day #5, "Day of Praise"

2 Chronicles 7:3 - "When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, 'For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.'"

This coming Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter, is sadly known as Low Sunday because historically, throughout the whole church, there are fewer people in worship than on a regular Sunday. It's quite a contrast from the overflow attendance of Easter Sunday. And it's also very sad because God's word tells us in today's verses, and in all the Easter accounts in the New Testament, that the natural response of all who know the love of the Lord and believe the resurrection of the Lord is to fall humbly before the Lord and worship him.

Realistically, Pastors contribute to the sad reality of Low Sunday by often taking vacation the week after Easter Sunday. Additionally, right after Easter Sunday, people in general go into "end of the school year" and "summer" modes, which translates into a different rhythm to the week, so worshiping the Lord is not a priority. I understand these things.

However, I appeal to all of you to recognize that the testimony of God's word never changes as to why our hearts hunger for worship and are motivated to worship:
1) God always remembers us and shows he's with us,
2) In remembering us and visiting with us, God tells us he knows our afflictions, which are all the things that we need God to set straight and provide for in our lives, and
3) God promises to set our afflictions straight.

Hungering for these treasures that God provides and that are emphatically poured out in the cross and resurrection of Jesus, I encourage you not to cut back on your worship of God for the next few months but instead to increase it seven times over. In sum, worship God daily, and, in so doing, feed the hunger of your heart and be ready to feed your family, ball teams, coworkers, and fellow humanity. Read your Bibles together each day in your homes. Take your Bibles with you in your cars to work and to ball games. Tell your coworkers and ball teams when and where you're going to read your Bible out loud and share a prayer so they can join you in your worship. If you're not in your town on the traditional worship days of Sunday and Wednesday, then find and attend another church. 

The bottom line is that your heart is just as hungry for God's remembrance of you, God's knowledge of your woes, and God's promise to minister to you during the days and months after Easter Sunday as your heart is hungry on Easter Sunday itself. So feed on God's word. Bow humbly before the Lord, worship him, and hold fast to his word.

God is alive daily and eager to feed you with his word. Come daily to the table of his presence and eat.

Trust Christ, and you'll see.

Praise God!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Day of Praise

Wed, 04/04/18, Easter Day #4, "Day of Praise"

John 20:22 - "And when [Jesus] had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'"

My mom grew up on a farm. Lots of critters. Though I grew up in a suburban neighborhood, our house was often like a farm. One time, we had 22 critters, counting dogs, cats, gerbils, birds, fish, and rabbits. Recently, I saw a guy who might've grown up on a farm. He sure looked comfortable catching the critter and putting it in his "Animal Control" truck. 

Animal Control is different from Pest Control. Animal Control puts critters back in the right place; Pest Control usually gets rid of critters.

When Jesus breathed Holy Spirit on the disciples in today's verse, he was like Animal Control, not Pest Control. He didn't want to get rid of anybody. He just wanted to get people back in place. That's what Holy Spirit does; he works on us in the Spirit of Christ to get us back where we're supposed to be.

When Jesus breathed Holy Spirit on the disciples in today's verse, they had locked themselves in a room with fear. That's not where they were supposed to be. They were supposed to be out in the world, living in the strength and power and conviction and assurance and love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control of Holy Spirit. So Jesus was kind of like the highest level of Animal Control and sent them on out in the world to live with all that strength and power and conviction and stuff. And immediately that's where they went, out of the locked room and back into the world to make a difference in other people's lives as instruments of Holy Spirit, just like Jesus had done in theirs. Because that's where they were supposed to be. And that's what they were supposed to do. 

Just like us.

So come on, Friends. Let's go have a day like we're supposed to have and be where we're supposed to be and be what we're supposed to be! After all Jesus is alive! And he has poured out Holy Spirit so we can go into the world to live with all that strength and power and conviction and all that other good stuff of Holy Spirit and testify to others that Jesus has a wonderful place in his family and kingdom for them too!

Trust Christ, and you'll see!

Praise God!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Day of Praise

Tues, 04/03/18, Easter Day #3, "Day of Praise"

Psalm 116:2 - "Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live."

Have you ever been talking to someone and it was as if they were looking right through you? Or, with those new cell phone ear buds, have you had someone looking right at you, but they are talking to someone else?

Neither of these ever happen with Jesus.

When Jesus was raised from the dead he showed the disciples that he was listening to them and speaking to them.

Remember yesterday's devotion and the celebration of peace from Christ? Well, right between the two times that he said "Peace be with you," he also breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit!" In other words, Jesus wasn't giving them peace as if he was doling out chocolate bunnies and jelly beans. He was also giving them himself. By the power of the Holy Spirit, which was just as he'd taught them, Jesus was assuring the disciples that he himself was and always would be with the disciples, personally dwelling in all who would believe.

Ya see, when somebody listens to you, that's what they're giving you, namely, themselves. When somebody really speaks to you personally, that's what they're giving you, namely, themselves. It's a rare thing nowadays for someone to take even a short time and give us him or herself. People have so much going on and therefore their hearts and minds are pulled in a million different directions like they're trying to watch every cable channel at once.

But with Jesus, he has one interest, namely, you and your salvation and your network of healthy relationships in the Body of Christ. Jesus is focused on you. He listens to you. And he speaks to you. Always has. Always will. That's why, even long ago, the psalmist was inspired to write in Psalm 116:2, "Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live."

Trust Christ! And you'll see!

Praise God!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Day of Praise

Mon, 04/02/18, Easter Day #2, "Day of Praise"

John 20:21 - "Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you.'"

On the day of his resurrection, the word "again" is just as important in Jesus's encouragement to us as is the word "peace." Very simply, when Jesus says, "Peace be with you" again (and therefore twice) to the disciples, then he's saying that he's determined to give peace to them and to us. Wow!

Friends, with whatever is going on in your life, no matter what is unsettled, no matter how big the storm, you can take this to the bank: Jesus is determined to give you peace in the midst of your storm.

Easter is not a day; it's a reality. And the peace of Christ in the midst of your storms and difficulties is as real as your storms and difficulties. Jesus conquered the ultimate storm, namely, the penalty of the sin of the whole world. So, he is more than capable of breaking into your storm and imparting peace to you too!

Trust him and you'll see!

Praise God!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Day of Praise

Sat, 03/31/18, Holy Saturday, "Day of Praise"

Psalm 74:10 - "How long, O God, is the foe to scoff? Is the enemy to revile your name forever?"

Today is Holy Saturday. In sum, we remember how Jesus lay dead in the grave and the forces of evil thought they'd prevailed. However, the Sovereign God was, is, and always will be Sovereign, so the "victory" of darkness over Jesus would be short-lived. Jesus, the Light of the World, was soon to be raised up by the Glory of the Father.

And so it is true for you who believe in the power and grace of the Living God. There may be something in your life that seems dead in the grave, like your marriage, some other relationship, your job, your own health, a loved one, your peace about life, or your hope for the future. And it may seem as if the forces of evil have prevailed. However, the Sovereign God was, is, and always will be Sovereign, so the "victory" of darkness in your life will be short-lived. Jesus, the Light of the World, was raised up by the Glory of the Father. And He will transform your griefs and sorrows into joy and dancing.

Do not lose heart, friends.

The Lord is near.

Praise God!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Day of Praise

Fri, 03/30/18, Good Friday, "Day of Praise"

Matthew 5:44 - "[Jesus said], But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

Luke 23:34 - "And Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'"

May I be honest? Brutally honest. No, I don't want to tell you about you. I need to tell you about me.

Here's the thing. As I look at my life of fifty plus years, I see that I'm not good at all about loving my enemies. There. Now it's out there. 

Ya see, I hear Jesus telling me in one of today's verses to "love my enemies" (Matthew 5:44). But what I find myself doing is not caring about my enemies. Ya know, I feel good about not being bitter and resentful towards them because I've gotten to a point over time where I don't care about them. Remember, the opposite of love is not hate; it's apathy and not caring. So, I don't really love my enemies, as Jesus commands; I just don't care about them anymore. 

There are two reasons that it's important for me to confess. One is that, I don't know, maybe you need to confess that too, and hearing somebody else confess something sometimes makes it easier for us to confess the same. 

But the other reason to confess it is to point out the contrast. On the one hand, Jesus commands me to love my enemies. He commands me to actually care about my enemies. Ya know, care about their salvation. And I find it hard. I mean, they're my enemy!!! And yet, in contrast, on the other hand, there's Jesus in today's other verse from Luke 23:34, showing that he cares by praying "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Wow! That's amazing. He's hanging on a cross, the cross that I deserve. And he cares. He really cares. To his last breath on the original Good Friday, Jesus cares about his enemies. Jesus cares about us sinners. Man, that's love. True love. Divine love. The kind of love that I'm clearly incapable of. The kind of love that I'm only capable of having come out of me, if Jesus, who is capable, comes into me. So, he loves me, his enemy, so much, that he dies, asking forgiveness for me so that he can come live in me so that I can pass on his love. Because by myself, there's no way I'm passing on his love. But if he'll die so he can pour out his Holy Spirit and come live in me, then he can pass on that amazing love through me.

Try wrapping your head around all this. May I be honest? Brutally honest. You can't. You can't wrap your head around the mystery of Christ's love for you, a sinner and his enemy, on the cross. You just can't.

What you have to do is this. Instead of trying to wrap your mind around his amazing love, you have to believe him in your heart. You have to believe that he cares. That he truly cares about you. That when he prays "Father, forgive them," then he means it. Because he loves you. Because he cares about your soul.

And if you do, if you truly believe that he wants you to be forgiven, then you will be saved. Ya know, from yourself and your sin, sins like not praying for your enemy.

Wow, Jesus cares about me and about you and about all us poor sinners. That's why he prayed "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." And that's why it's called Good Friday.

May God continue to bless you as you take time today, Good Friday, and everyday to remember and believe and pass on God's amazing love for you through Jesus.

Praise God!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Day of Praise

Thur, 03/29/18, Maundy Thursday, "Day of Praise"

Hebrews 12:3 - "Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted."

I was maybe eight years old, so it was four decades and more ago. But I will never forget what I remember as my first Maundy Thursday worship service. There were thirteen men at our church, Holy Trinity Lutheran in Kingsport, Tennessee, who reenacted the Last Supper of Our Lord with his disciples. I especially remember Mr. Frank DeNobriga. He was a tall, big-boned man with a deep voice that filled our beautiful sanctuary when he spoke. Whenever I think of their reenactment, and I have thought of it frequently through the years, it stirs my heart to a warmth and love and thankfulness and inspiration for the amazing sacrificial love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I feel energized to keep looking to Christ and living thankfully for Christ.

And that impact of one night, forty years ago shouldn't surprise. After all, God's promise, in today's Bible verse, is that we will not grow weary whenever we consider the events surrounding the death and resurrection of "him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself." (Hebrews 12:3)

Friends, today is Maundy Thursday. Tomorrow is Good Friday. Find a way to consider him. Emphatically. More than you usually do. Many churches like ours help you to do that with, if I may say so, some amazing and well-prepared and moving considerations of the Passion events of our Lord. If you live in the Birmingham area, just "reply" and I can give you more info. If you live elsewhere, find a church that does something to help you and your community "consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted." (Hebrews 12:3)

May God continue to bless you with strength as you consider the loving sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Praise God!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Day of Praise

Wednesday of Holy Week, 03/28/18, "Day of Praise"

Hebrews 12:1c - "Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us."

Hey, you! Yes, you, the one who's discouraged. The one who's ready to give up and about to throw in the towel. Don't do it. These words are for you! To help you keep going.

I remember a couple years ago, and I distinctly remember it was April 15. Ya know, the income tax filing deadline. I went by the Post Office after our nightly, Holy Week worship to get a mailing box for Easter. But no sooner had I gone in, then there was this stream of people who came in and asked me, "Can I get this postmarked for April 15?" They, of course, had an envelope with their tax return inside. I told them that they'd need to go to the downtown branch, which is only fifteen minutes away. Surprisingly, all but one of them said, "Aaaaaa, I don't care if I get the penalty." And then they just put their tax returns in the mail slot. In other words, they had done all the work to get their taxes in on time, and just fifteen minutes from their goal, they quit. They quit. So close. But they quit.

This is what today's Bible verse is about. God tells us to keep running the race of faith. Run with endurance. Don't quit. Whatever's going on in your life, the Lord is working on it and walking with you. And therefore you are always so close to seeing God's encouragement with your situation and maybe even God's resolution that brings your problem to an end.

So don't just "mail it in." Hang in there. Keep going. The Lord is with you to be your strength so that you can "run with endurance the race that is set before us." (Hebrews 12:1c)

Praise God!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Day of Praise

Tuesday of Holy Week, 03/27/18, My Sweet Wife Amanda's Birthday, "Day of Praise"

Luke 22:19 - "And [Jesus] took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.'"

Yesterday, I saw my brother and me on a neighbor's front lawn, playing catch with a ball and gloves. Well, it wasn't actually us. But that seven year-old boy sure did look the height and build of my brother forty-eight years ago. He was tall and slender. And that five year-old boy sure did look like me. He was, well, not tall and not slender.

Isn't it amazing how we can see something, like kids playing, or smell something, like freshly cut grass, or hear a song, like Paul McCartney's "What the Man Said," and it takes us to a memory as if we are actually in that place in time and with those people that we shared those days?

That's what Jesus established in today's Bible verse, which took place a few days before Jesus's death and resurrection that we remember emphatically this Holy Week. Jesus established a memory. Jesus spoke of bread and how it would be a powerful memory tool when they ate the bread remembering Jesus.

The memory that Jesus established was very much like my seeing those boys playing ball and the flood of memories that spilled forth.

With one huge exception.

Jesus does not tell the disciples that it's as if he is there when they give thanks and eat bread in his memory. Jesus says that he actually is indeed there with them when they give thanks and eat bread in his memory. Note the words in the verse! "And [Jesus] took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body, which is given for you.'" (Luke 22:19)

Friends, may you know Jesus's presence and his fellowship with you as you remember his great love poured out for you both on his cross, once and for all, and also when the fellowship of believers shares the gift of Holy Communion as many Christian congregations do on Sundays and on this coming Maundy Thursday of this special Holy Week.

Praise God!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Day of Praise

Monday of Holy Week, 03/26/18, "Day of Praise"

Leviticus 16:30 - "For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the Lord from all your sins."

I am very grateful for all the people who, in various settings, clean up after me. Really.

The problem sometimes, though, is that I can't find something because I knew where it was, but after somebody cleans up after me, then I don't know where it is. Like one time in our morning worship. I had a scripture sheet in the pulpit that I needed for both worship times. At the beginning of our second worship, I noticed that someone had cleaned up after me. That was a problem because I needed my scripture.

On the other hand, the good thing sometimes is that I can't find something because I knew where it was, but after somebody cleans up after me, then I don't know where it is. Like in today's Bible verse. God tells how he cleans up after me, namely, how he cleans up my sin. My sin was there. But, pooooof!!! God cleans up after me, and it's gone. So I can't find it anymore. Ya know, to worry about it, to feel guilty about it. My sins are gone. I've been set free. My sinless Savior has died for me. And that's a good thing.

Today is Monday of Holy Week, which is the week leading up to Easter Sunday. Many people take each day in Holy Week to focus on the work of Jesus, who went to the cross for us all.

Let's start Holy Week by thinking about and thanking God for cleaning up after us through the cross of Jesus Christ.

Thank you, Jesus.

Praise God!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Day of Praise

Sat, 03/24/18, "Day of Praise"

"The LORD said to Moses, 'Say to the Israelites: "Any man or woman who wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the LORD is guilty and must confess the sin they have committed. They must make full restitution for the wrong they have done, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the person they have wronged."'" - Numbers 5:5-7

Have you ever said, "It's more than I can bear!"? If you haven't, you should. Because it is.

In today's verses, we hear that if you've wronged another person in ANY way (people, that's ANY way!) then you 1) are unfaithful to the LORD, 2) are guilty, 3) must confess that sin, 4) must make full restitution, 5) must ADD a fifth of the value of the offense, and 6) must give all that restitution to the particular person you've wronged.

Moreover, #3's requirement to confess ANY wrong as sin is impossible, for God's word says nobody can even know all their wrongs, as in Psalm 19:12, "But who can discern their own errors?"

It's enough to make us all cry out, "It's more than I can bear!"

Hmm! Sounds like Genesis 4:13, "Cain said to the LORD, 'My punishment is more than I can bear'" or John 16:12 where Jesus said to his followers "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear."

In Psalm 130:3, God gives us another way to speak of our burden, "If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?" Are our knees starting to buckle yet under the weight of sin?

However, God desires not the crushed soul or everlasting death of us poor sinners.

In Psalm 32:1, we hear, "Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered."

"Forgiven," as in 1 John 1:8-9, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

And "covered," as in God got an animal skin, a blood sacrifice, and covered the first sin in Genesis 3.

Through confession that we are sinners and then faith in Jesus Christ and his shed blood on the cross, we are forgiven and covered in his righteous love forever.

Spread the word because there's a lot of people out there who don't know Jesus and are still crying out, "It's more than I can bear!" Tell them, "Jesus is our Savior."

Praise God!

Pastor Chris 
"The gospel is the story of Jesus [what God's only Son has done for us that we can't do for ourselves], spoken as a promise." - Robert Jenson

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Day of Praise

Fri, 03/23/18, "Day of Praise"

"Moses...said to them, '...They are not just idle words for you--they are your life. By them you will live long in the land...'" - Deuteronomy 32:44-47

I wonder if this is where our grandmothers got that old saying. Ya know, "An idle mind is the devil's workshop." I'm not even sure if my two grandmas ever even said it, but the whole world seems to attribute the phrase to "Grandma."

Aaaaanyway, one dictionary, right out of the chute, says that "idle" means "not working or active."

In today's verses, Moses is hilariously plain in saying that the words God gave him to say "are not just idle words." God's words are not "idle." They are not "not working or active."

It's just as God says in Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."

So, what are your "thoughts and attitude" towards God's word? Do you believe God's word is idle? Or do you believe God's word is alive and active? And if you say "alive and active," do you live that attitude? Do you live, believing that God's word is "alive and active"?

I remember the late summer when I'd started my junior year in high school. I was bummed because my brother, Ben, had just gone off to college with my sister, Cathy. I adored and do adore my younger sister, Cheryl, but there's nothing like the bond of brothers.

Aaaaaanyway, I was bummed, and I was mowing our lawn. As I neared the street I saw a wad of paper in the yard. Instead of mowing it and making a mess, I picked it up. Now, I don't care if you think I'm looney-tunes or not; I'll tell you that "a voice" said, "read it." So I unwadded it, and this is what it said, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. - Deuteronomy 31:6"

Where did that note come from? A car passing by or a walker? Or maybe was it as Holy-Spirit-filled author, Bill Johnson, would say, "Feathers from Heaven"? Who knows? But no matter, why would anybody throw a wadded up Bible verse into my yard, and a Bible verse that said just what I needed? Maybe it wasn't ultimately from a car or walker, maybe it actually was "feathers," ya know, like angel wing feathers, from God. In fact, that's what I did believe, and that's what I do believe to this day. And I don't really care what anybody else thinks.

Because my God is not idle.

My God is living and active, just like his word. My God and your God has shown us his face and his heart through Jesus, who is alive and active in our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit. My God and your God is mighty to do supernatural things (like get a wad of paper with an encouraging Bible verse thrown into a lawn in a neighborhood which otherwise has no other litter). My God and your God is mighty to save us from despair with a word of hope when we'd be otherwise bummed out.

So the question remains, "Do you believe?" Are your hearts and minds alive and active, searching for encouragement from the living and active God and his word?

Or has your mind actually become idle in unbelief? Just remember, Grandma has a warning about that, "An idle mind is the devil's workshop." Praise God for Grandma!

Praise God!

Pastor Chris 
"The gospel is the story of Jesus [what God's only Son has done for us that we can't do for ourselves], spoken as a promise." - Robert Jenson

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Day of Praise

Thur, 03/22/18, "Day of Praise"

"Then the LORD said to Joshua, 'Tell the Israelites to designate cities of that anyone who kills a person accidentally and unintentionally may flee there and find protection from the avenger of blood.'" - Joshua 20:1-6

Accidents happen. Even really bad ones.

God understands that there's a difference between accidents and acts of violence that are thought out in advance. So God makes provision of protection and mercy for those who do tragic things accidentally.

I remember when I was a kid. My brother and I were with our family at our grandparents in Pennsylvania. Ben and I were being brothers (translation "wrestling") on a really old bed at our Gram and Pap DeGreen's. The bed wasn't made for wrestling. The ensuing crash just about sent us and the bed through the floor to the downstairs.

We looked at each other like, "Oh, man. We are in big trouble now." And we should've been. In trouble, that is. We never once gave thought to the possibility that anyone would see it as an accident.

But our Pap DeGreen did. He calmly walked in the room. (I still don't know how he got there so fast.) He took apart the bed, calmly telling us what to do to help. Then he put the bed back together, calmly telling us what to do to help.

"Sorry, Pap-pap," we said.

"It's ok," he said. "It was an accident."

Mercy, as from God himself.

Friends, your day today will be filled with real people, who will make mistakes. Accidents will happen.

In the strength and calm of the LORD, let's deal mercifully with others, as God in Christ, (and people like Pap DeGreen), has dealt with us.

Praise God!

Pastor Chris
"The gospel is the story of Jesus [what God's only Son has done for us that we can't do for ourselves], spoken as a promise." - Robert Jenson

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Day of Praise

Wed, 03/21/18, "Day of Praise"

"But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth..." - Exodus 21:23-25

It makes you wonder, doesn't it? Ya know, how could the loving God of the New Testament say such things in the Old Testament? And doesn't Jesus change that in the New Testament.

It's okay. A lot of people wonder.

But don't just wonder, please. Check it out.

In actuality, "life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth" was a very loving thing for God to command at that time. Why? God's people were surrounded by other people who said, "You took my eye, so I'm going to kill you!"

But God said to his people, "Life for eye is not fair; eye for eye is. Life for tooth is not fair; tooth for tooth is." God was teaching his people about justice.

And furthermore, though God had pointed to the Savior Messiah since Genesis 3 when he covered the man and woman with the blood sacrifice of an animal skin and though the prophets would be inspired to foretell of the coming Savior Messiah, God's people had not yet seen the Messiah, our Lord and Savior, Jesus. So being a people of justice was about as much as they could do.

But when God's people saw Jesus, everything could change. So moving is seeing Jesus that Simeon (Luke 2:25+) says, "This is as good as it gets. Now I can die." So moving is seeing Jesus that Saul (Acts 9+) was blinded by holiness, given new "eyes" of faith, and led to see life in a totally new way so that now he'd live as the great Saint Paul. So moving is seeing Jesus that Jesus in essence says (Matthew 5:38+) that we can say, "I know you took my eye, but I don't need your eye. I need to give you the grace that I was given, so I will love those who hurt me by praying for them. I will forgive, letting go of my stranglehold on those who hurt me, as I have been forgiven."

Seeing Jesus, the Messiah who saves, moves us from being the great people of God who give justice even though we're surrounded by injustice to being the great people of God who give grace because we're surrounded by God's grace.

Dear God, we're surrounded by injustice, to be sure in this sinful world but, as with Simeon and as with Saul turned to Paul, give us eyes of faith to see Jesus and your grace so that, even when we must administer justice, we can do it in Christ with your love and grace. Amen.

Praise God! 

Pastor Chris 
"The gospel is the story of Jesus [what God's only Son has done for us that we can't do for ourselves], spoken as a promise." - Robert Jenson

Monday, March 19, 2018

Day of Praise

Tues, 03/20/18, "Day of Praise"

"My father," she replied, "you have given your word to the LORD. Do to me just as you promised, now that the LORD has avenged you of your enemies" - Judges 11:34-40

Malcolm X, in his biography, finished posthumously by Alex Haley, once said, "Never ask a question for which you might get a response that you really don't want."

A slightly different saying can be set forth In today's Bible verses about Jephthah the Gileadite, namely, "Never make a deal or promise that you're not ready to keep."

However, because of Jephthah's daughter's faithfulness to God, Jephthah's promise to God is kept. "My father," she replied, "you have given your word to the LORD. Do to me just as you promised, now that the LORD has avenged you of your enemies". (Judges 11:34-40)

Talk about an unsung hero! We aren't even told her name. Sure we remember Abraham and Isaac and their willingness to do as God commanded with the sacrifice of Isaac, but what about Jephthah and what's-her-name?

They not only did the deed, but it was the innocent child, what's-her-name, who made sure they did!

And just as what's-her-name went to the greatest length to help Jephthah stay faithful to God, there are people in all of our lives who go to great lengths to help us stay faithful too.

Maybe you don't even think about or remember the name of ol' what's-her-name or what's-his-name.

But God does.

How about we all slow down today for a few minutes and ask God to help us remember and give thanks for the what's-her-names in our lives who have helped us have some semblance of faithfulness to God?

Ol' what's-her-name clearly doesn't care from the standpoint of needing to be remembered.

But God does...from the standpoint of wanting us to be people of thanks!

Praise God!

Pastor Chris
"The gospel is the story of Jesus [what God's only Son has done for us that we can't do for ourselves], spoken as a promise." - Robert Jenson

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Day of Praise

Mon, 03/19/18, "Day of Praise"

"But Ruth replied, 'Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.'" - Ruth 1:16

Today's verse has got to be one of the most famous quotes, Biblical or otherwise, in all of human history. The only question is, "Why?" Why are Ruth's words so dear and enduring to humanity?

Do we really need to ask?

We all long for faithful friends, for people who will stick with their commitment through...well, better or worse, richer or poorer, sickness or health.

And, as today's verse and the Bible Book of Ruth make clear, such faithfulness is longed for in every kind of relationship. Our flesh might like affection, but our souls are definitely starving for faithful relationships.

I love contemporary music, but there is nothing like the words of faithful friendship found in the Golden Oldie, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus."

"Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He'll take and shield you,
You will find a solace there."

In today's verse, Ruth embodies, ideally, what Jesus is perfectly, namely, faithful. And because Jesus is perfectly what our souls are starving for, then we can be like Ruth, faithful, to the people in our lives.

Dear God, thank you for Jesus. In him, you give us both the longing of our hearts and also strength to be the same for others, namely, faithful friends. Amen.

Praise God!

Pastor Chris
"The gospel is the story of Jesus [what God's only Son has done for us that we can't do for ourselves], spoken as a promise." - Robert Jenson

Friday, March 16, 2018

Day of Praise

Sat, 03/17/18, St. Patrick's Day, "Day of Praise"

Hebrews 12:1 - "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us."

Hunh! "So great a cloud." In today's tech world, the great cloud is where all your data gets stored safely.

But for those who hunger for peace and heaven and enduring life, the greatest cloud always was, is, and will be where people are witnessing to the greatness of God, which is perfectly revealed in Jesus Christ.

That's what St. Patrick did, always yearning to be an overflowing vessel to others by keeping his eyes on Jesus Christ as testified in his breastplate prayer, which has always meant so much to me and is as follows: Christ be with me, Christ within me. Christ behind me, Christ before me. Christ beside me, Christ to win me. Christ to comfort me and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me. Christ in quiet, Christ in danger. Christ in hearts of all that love me. Christ in mouth of friend or stranger.

Wow! Eyes on Jesus; eyes that then focus on spreading the love to others! 

Each day, it is so easy for us to get caught up in the stuff that needs to get done. And don't get me wrong, it is important for us to tend to our daily responsibilities, just like the man and woman had to tend to the garden way back before sin entered the world in order that the garden would bear fruit. However, if you remember, it was when the desire to be surrounded by a cloud of stuff became greater than the desire to be surrounded by a cloud of witnesses that things went wrong for the first man and woman.

Not long ago, I was at a viewing and funeral, there were two emphatically consistent themes that came out: 
1) The deceased worked extremely hard, faithfully tending to his daily responsibilities, but as he did, he always took time for the people that surrounded him, which were not just clients but also his family, and 
2) A lot of visitors to the family worked extremely hard to both do their responsibilities and also to say to the family, "We remember you and pray for you," using both the cloud of technology like Facebook, texts, and email and also more old-fashioned means like sending flowers or calling or driving long distances.

It was a foretaste of heaven. 

So each day life goes on. And there are responsibilities to tend to. But life is so much better when we notice, acknowledge, and remember the God and the people, who surround us like a cloud, even as we with love surround them too.

Thank you all! I praise God for you!

Praise God!

Pastor Chris 
"The gospel is the story of Jesus [what God's only Son has done for us that we can't do for ourselves], spoken as a promise." - Robert Jenson

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Day of Praise

Fri, 03/16/18, "Day of Praise"

Romans 8:26 - "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans."

I have plans for today. What about you? I have plans and thoughts as to how my day and, on a larger scale, my life should go.

But what do I know? I mean, really, come on now. Do I have a crystal ball into the future? Somebody may, and probably will, cancel or postpone or revise an appointment, or more tasks will come my way, or I'll get something done faster than I expected. Bottom line is that I have a plan for my day, just like you, so we're going to pray right now for our plan to be blessed. 

But God only knows how it's really going to unfold, so God's telling us in today's Bible verse to look to the Holy Spirit to guide our day and therefore our prayers for this day. 

I can plan all I want, but God only knows. So, Lord, please bless this day for whatever you know that it's going to hold. 

Furthermore, to an even greater extent, we're all alike. We all think we know what's good and not so good for us. So we pray for this good thing to happen and that bad thing not to happen. 

But what do I know? I mean, really, come on now. Do I have a crystal ball into the future? I've had days where I dreaded one or more meetings that were scheduled for that day. And, like recently, God did some of the most amazing things through what I had dreaded. Minimally, God effected the old family truth, namely, relationships grow when people work at things together and work through things together. So, people may still not see the matter the same way, but if we keep loving each other and working at it together and working through it together, then God always deepens our relationships. It's just a God thing. 

God tells us to look to the Spirit to guide our prayers because what we think is bad, and therefore pray against, may be the very thing that God chooses to work through for amazing good. 

In the end, pray! Make plans for the day, and pray! Assess the good or bad of what's ahead, and pray! But remember that God's saying today that none of us mortals ultimately know the future or the actual good of what's ahead, so we really don't know "what we ought to pray for." (Romans 8:26) So whatever we may plan and assess and pray for, trust that "the Spirit himself intercedes for us" (Romans 8:26), and believe that God will bless your day and you yourself and all parties involved more than any of us could ever desire or deserve. 

So ultimately, we pray believing the one thing we know for sure through faith in Jesus Christ, namely, God is good!!! All the time!!!

Praise God!!!

Pastor Chris 
"The gospel is the story of Jesus [what God's only Son has done for us that we can't do for ourselves], spoken as a promise." - Robert Jenson